The race for a place in the semi-finals of the Royal London One Day cup begins tomorrow as Essex, Kent, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire all seek Play-Off glory.
We’ll start at Trent Bridge as Nottinghamshire and Kent take the starting gun as they get underway at 11 am, three-hours before Essex tackle the White Rose at Chelmsford in front of the sky-live cameras.
Nottinghamshire enters the encounter fresh from their demolition job on Derbyshire to sneak an unlikely home tie. The defending champions weren’t there usual dominant self and indeed had to rely on other results to even reach this stage of the competition. With five wins out of eight enough to see the Outlaws through to another knockout stage, their latest win an eight-wicket stroll against the Falcons boosted their net run-rate enough to set up this enticing looking encounter with a decent looking Kent side blessed with batting talent throughout.
Joe Denly and Heino Kuhn have impressed through the competition leading the run-scoring charts in the competition. Denly, in particular, has looked in imperious form throughout and his and Kuhn’s rare failure at Chelmsford last week is in small part why they have to travel to the Midlands. The Spitfires looked sure bets entering play on the final game week to be lining up in Canterbury but came short against Essex.
It will be a proper battle between Nottinghamshire’s talented bowling attack and Kent’s star-studded batting line-up, and much will decide on that battle as to who goes on to win this match. Jake Ball and Harry Gurney are always a threat, and with Samit Patel’s spin in the middle overs, the Outlaws are a tough side to dominate.
With bat in hand though, they have the players that can quickly blow a side away. Steven Mullaney – who has recently been named Lions skipper for an upcoming tour is full of talent and can hit some lusty blows at the top of the order, Ross Taylor is one of the best one-day players on the planet, and Riki Wessels can hit a ball a long, long way.
For Kent, a lot will depend on the control that Matt Henry offers with the ball, and the ever-reliable Darren Stevens is always a danger on his day. The evergreen all-rounder will want to have one final day in the sun as his career begins to enter its twilight stage and this could well be the time to produce.
This match has the makings of a belter, but if I was a betting man I have Nottinghamshire to just edge it due to their big match experience in recent years. The winners of this encounter will face Worcestershire in the Semi-Finals.
Elsewhere, Essex makes a rare appearance on Sky Sports as they chase another semi-final place with victory over Yorkshire.
The Eagles were dealt an early blow in the lead up to the match following the news that skipper Ryan ten Doeschate will be banned for this match and one other for breaching ECB rules on the field. Handy time eh Colin? It means that Tom Westley will deputise for the Dutchman as he leads his troops to battle against a weakened Yorkshire side. The Tykes will be missing a number of key men with England now in the midst of a pointless One-Day series with Australia.
Still, Yorkshire’s loss is Essex’s gain, as the hosts welcome back England opener Alastair Cook to the ranks – whether the former England skipper will make the side remains to be seen given the excellent form of Varun Chopra and Adam Wheater in recent weeks. Indeed, the openers have played a substantial part in the Eagles unbeaten run to take them to this stage.
Three wins on the spin have taken them from no-hopers to genuine contenders for the title. At the end of their heavy defeat to Surrey at Chelmsford they looked dead and buried but wins against Glamorgan, Sussex and Kent gave them a home tie against Yorkshire.
Ravi Bopara has also found form with both bat and ball in this competition giving a timely reminder to the England selectors that he may well not be a bad shout for a call-up to the national side given the calamitous batting that England have been offering up recently. Though, you suspect his age may well be a factor that means he falls short of adding to his 100+ ODI caps for England. It is not only his batting that has been impressive, but he has also produced vital wickets for Anthony McGrath’s men on route to this Play-off clash.
For the visitors, they were dealt a blow with the news that none of their international stars will be available for this encounter with Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid and David Willey all missing for the Tykes. It does though give the opportunity for the fringe players to make a name for themselves in their absence.
Ben Coad, Jack Brooks and Tim Bresnan have the task of stopping the Eagles batting line-up at tiny Chelmsford. Though, you would think they would have fond memories of the Chelmsford sun having defeated the Eagles in the County Championship earlier this season.
Their batsmen may not though after they were skittled for a pitiful 50 in the same fixture. One man who will be looking forward to striding to the crease is Harry Brook – who made his maiden century in the second innings of that match and will be hoping to repeat the trick again. Tom Kohler-Cadmore is another man the Essex bowlers will be keen to dismiss cheaply as the former Worcestershire man has found some useful form in recent weeks.
You would think given the weakening of the visitors’ side that Essex would be firm favourites for the clash but write the Tykes off at your peril.
The winners of the match will face Hampshire in the semi-finals
By David Bowden
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