With t20 Blast action back underway tomorrow, Gabriel Dixon-Hardy previews all four quarter-final clashes.
Surrey vs Kent Spitfires
The t20 Blast’s most ‘in form’ team take on Kent, who have struggled for consistency in their last few matches, in a South East Derby at the Oval. Surrey come into this match having racked up seven straight wins in the Blast, a run stretching back to the start of September. They take plenty of momentum into this match, not least because of their comfortable six wicket win over the Spitfires in their final group game, and will be hoping to progress further into the t20 Blast to compensate for a disappointing Bob Willis Trophy campaign.
Batsman Laurie Evans has been influential, scoring 301 runs at an average of 60.20 while on loan from Sussex, and young all-rounder Will Jacks tops the PCA’s MVP chart for the t20 Blast so far. The bowlers have added responsibility to fill the gaps left by Tom and Sam Curran who are both away at the IPL. Dan Moriarty has taken 14 wickets at an economy of 6.75, Jacks has six wickets to his name while Reece Topley’s 11 wickets so far come off the back of a return to white ball cricket in the England setup. Surrey also have a few injury worries, with experienced players Hashim Amla and Gareth Batty both missing out.
Kent’s recent form has been fickle, having won just two of their last five games. A final ball loss against Middlesex and defeat at Surrey in their last group match won’t fill them with confidence, but a solid victory away at Hampshire where Zak Crawley starred with the bat shows their ability to chase well. Kent also have the honour of being the last team to beat Surrey in this years Blast, taking victory by five wickets at Canterbury back at the start of September. They will have a full line up to pick from, including England internationals Sam Billings and Joe Denly.
Sussex Sharks vs Lancashire Lightning
The runners up from the North and South groups clash in this game, the first meeting of the two sides in a T20 competition since 2011. With four wins in their last six, Sussex come into this match in good form with only a defeat against in form Surrey and an unexpected loss at home to Essex to hold against them.
Captain Luke Wright has led from the front with the bat for Sussex this season, scoring an impressive 375 runs at an average of 37.50, he’s the second highest run scorer of players still in this year’s competition. With the ball, Danny Briggs has taken 12 wickets at an economy of just 6.76, including a game winning spell of 3/17 during a tight match against Hampshire. George Garton has taken 11 wickets, including four in each of the last two group stage matches, so comes into the quarter finals in considerable form. Sussex’s main miss will be Jofra Archer, who is dazzling with bat and ball for the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL.
Lancashire finished runners up behind a rampant Nottinghamshire side in the North group. They secured their quarter final spot with two successive victories over a Covid-hit Yorkshire team in the Roses clashes, but followed their derby successes by being bowled out for 83 during a dismal 74 run defeat to Durham, and a sub-par 22 run defeat to fellow quarter finalists Leicestershire.
Alex Davies is Lancashire’s top scorer with the bat, hitting 268 runs at an average of 33.50, while his opening partner Liam Livingstone has been released from the England bubble and will want to prove his worth to the England selector. Meanwhile, Saqib Mahmood has returned from England duty, and will hope to improve on his two wickets in three games for Lancashire so far. Lightning batsman Keaton Jennings had a good start with the bat but has been missing since picking up an injury against Nottinghamshire, while Jos Buttler is away with Rajasthan in the IPL.
Gloucestershire vs Northamptonshire Steelbacks
Central group runners up Northants will have to be at their very best to beat central group winners Gloucestershire, who come into this quarter-final in great form. Gloucestershire excelled in the central group, comfortably topping the table with seven wins. Despite losing both matches with Glamorgan, they won every other match barring a washout against the Steelbacks. Their other fixture with their quarter-final opponents ended with a comfortable 35 run victory at Northampton, and the Bristol based team have won seven of their last eight matches.
Ian Cockbain has been the focal point of Gloucestershire’s batting, he’s scored 369 runs at an average of 46.12, and striking at a destructive 174. His highest score of 89 was instrumental in their West Country Derby win over Somerset. Captain Christopher Dent has also scored 314 runs opening the batting, routinely setting a solid foundation for Gloucs to build on. Experienced bowler Tom Smith tops Gloucs’ bowling stats with 14 wickets so far, he took 5/16 in a 57-run thrashing of the Birmingham Bears earlier in September. Ryan Higgins has 13 wickets, and David Payne has 11, contributing to one of the more prolific bowling line-ups in this year’s Blast.
Northamptonshire had a strong start to their Blast campaign before a mid-season slump saw them lose four in a row. They needed a stunning rescue mission from debutant Tom Taylor, Rob Keogh and Graeme White in their final group game against the Birmingham Bears, they took Northants from 53/5 to chase down 192 and secure their place in the quarter finals. Irish batsman Paul Stirling is the top scorer for the Steelbacks, he has 232 runs at an average of 29.00. Richard Levi has 182 runs to his name but is badly out of form, he’s gone for single figures in three of his last four matches. You feel pressure will be on the Northants bowling line-up to perform, given the misfiring batting attack recently.
Notts Outlaws vs Leicestershire Foxes
North group winners Notts will be confident of defeating their neighbours Leicestershire, who qualified as a highest scoring third place team from the North Group. Notts took 16 points from their north group matches, a record matched only by Surrey in the quarter finals. Their one defeat came against the Foxes in their penultimate match, but the Outlaws had already qualified before that game. Their earlier meeting at Trent Bridge ended in a comprehensive 5 wicket victory for Notts who chased 124 to win with five overs to spare.
Joe Clarke has been in lethal form for the Outlaws this season, scoring 316 runs at an average of 45.14, as well as striking at 180. He scored a fantastic 100* against Durham at the end of August, and also has two 50’s to his name this Blast. Another batsman in great form for Notts is Ben Duckett, who has three 50’s so far, including two in his last three matches. Jake Ball is the leading wicket taker in the Blast, he’s taken 14 wickets and leads the charts by virtue of his average of 13.71. He has seven wickets in his last three matches and will hope to take that form into the knockout stages.
Leicestershire scraped through to the knockout stages, beating the Birmingham Bears to the final spot on net run rate. The Foxes take momentum into their quarter final though, having won their last two games including a well-timed run chase against Notts, and will hope to continue that run. Arron Lilley leads the Leicestershire batting charts with 277 runs and is in good touch, he has four scores of 30+ in his last five matches. All-rounder Colin Ackermann has also contributed well with the bat scoring 203 runs at an average of 29.00. The South African also had a crucial contribution with the ball, taking three wickets in an over during their crucial final match against Lancashire, and will hope to provide more important wickets during the knockout stages.
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