By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
With just eight Royal London One Day Cup games per side, Round 3, with seven games being played on the same day, has two sides are already facing virtual elimination if they lose. With just the top three in each group qualifying, three defeats are almost certainly the maximum that a side can afford and still have a realistic chance of qualifying. Surrey in the South Group and Durham in the North Group have both lost their first two fixtures and are staring the last chance saloon full in the face.
The North Group is hard to call, as eight of the nine sides have won one game, but no team has yet won two – the odd man out is Durham with two defeats.
In the South Group, Somerset looked to be in danger of running away with the group after two, huge wins in their first two games, but a defeat to Sussex has evened things out a little. This round should clarify how the group is panning-out.
As in previous years, the top side in each group has a bye to the Semi-Final, where they will play the winners of the Quarter-Finals of the cross between the second and third teams in the two groups (i.e. the winner of the North Group plays the winner of the play-off between the runner-up in the South Group and third place team in the North Group and vice versa – there is nothing like a simple format and, true to the ECB form, this *is* nothing like a simple format).
Derbyshire v Durham – With two defeats and a massively negative NRR, Durham will be all but eliminated if they lose to Derbyshire, who have won one and lost one. Derbyshire will look to boost their NRR and their chances of a top-three spot with a big win.
Leicestershire v Nottinghamshire – The hosts have only played one game, which they have won by a big margin. Nottinghamshire are the defending Champions but, with one win and one defeat and a negative NRR, will not want to risk a second defeat, which would make it almost impossible for them to top the group.
Northamptonshire v Lancashire – with one win and one defeat and a big, positive NRR, Lancashire top the North Group, although that distinction has little meaning at this stage. Northamptonshire have also won one and lost one, but have a negative NRR. The biggest interest in this match may be the form of Keaton Jennings, with 209 runs so far in his two innings in the competition: another score for Jennings, combined with failure for Mark Stoneman in the 1st Test might make his case impossible to ignore.
Yorkshire v Worcestershire – Worcestershire have had a big win in their only game so far and meet a Yorkshire side who have had a big victory and a defeat so far. Yorkshire’s strength in depth in the squad will see them want to make a statement and give themselves a 2-1 record. Worcestershire, who look odds-on to be relegated in the Championship, need a cup run to kick-start their season.
Hampshire v Essex – Perhaps the pick of the day’s ties. Hants have won both their matches so far, although by rather narrow margins and a third win would put them in a very strong position, especially after Somerset’s slip-up. Essex, with one victory and one defeat, can scarcely afford a further setback. Interest, with Jack Leach and Dom Bess seemingly usurping his position as Test spinner, will be brought by the return of Mason Crane after injury. For Essex, there could be a debut for Dutchman Shane Snater, who has impressed on trial with the Eagles.
Surrey v Gloucestershire – The classic story of “rich man, poor man”, although with the twist that defeat for Surrey will turn them into beggar man, hoping for favours from other sides to reach the knock-out phase, which is hard to believe given the comparative budgets of the two sides. Gloucestershire who, in recent seasons, have depended on runs from Maxi Klinger and wickets from Jack Taylor, have neither this season but seem to be forging a strong team spirit. Surrey have had two big defeats so far, leading to a cripplingly negative NRR. Gloucestershire will hope to become “thief” and steal away from London with the win.
Glamorgan v Middlesex – Neither Glamorgan, with two defeats so far, nor Middlesex with a surprise win over Kent to follow an opening defeat can afford to lose this one, both being in the lower reaches of the South Group table. Limited-overs cricket has been read by Middlesex as fluently as Linear-B in recent seasons… in fact, since 2009. Glamorgan are showing signs of a revival in the Championship, but have lost both ODC games convincingly – this is the sort of game where a cynic might back both teams to lose, but both sides desperately need the win to keep their interest in the competition alive.
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