A number of former and current international stars will walk out onto the pitch for their respective counties at Edgbaston tomorrow for this year’s Natwest T20 Blast finals day. Finals day is arguably one of the biggest and most looked forward to days in the entire cricketing calendar. Fans and players alike have all spoken about the sense of excitement that comes with the day. This year all four sides who have made it through to the finals each have an international gem that could swing it their way.
For the Outlaws that gem is England T20 opener Alex Hales who scored 187 unbeaten in the Royal london One Day Cup final. Hales has been in glorious touch for Notts in the competition racking up 485 runs in only 14 innings just behind the Outlaws leading run scorer fellow opener Riki Wessels. He has managed to get his side off to a lightning quick start on several occassions in this year’s blast competition and at one stage even threatened Chris Gayle’s quickest t20 century record against Durham. Although it hasn’t just been a one man show from Hales, Samit Patel has been in sublime form with bat and ball, captain Dan Christian has lead the team excellently and bowler Harry Gurney has again took wickets on a regular basis. However you feel that Hales is the real weapon for Notts and if he fires then they will be odds on to have three trophies in the bag once the season comes to an end.
It is pretty obvious who Glamorgan’s main weapon is heading into their first finals day in 13 years. South African batsman Colin Ingram has been in devastating form for the Welsh side throughout the campaign with an average of 50.1 in just 13 innings and a strike rate of 167. He has hit 30 sixes so far which has even earned him the nickname “Kingram” in South Wales. Once again he has had support from the likes of Aneurin Donald and David Miller as well as bowlers Michael Hogan and Graeme Wagg. However if Ingram bats like he did when he put Leicestershire to bed in the last eight on his way to a magnificent 71 then Glamorgan will certainly have a chance of staging a pretty big upset and lifting the trophy. The fact that Glamorgan have managed to reach this stage of the competition is a huge achievement on it’s own but if they were to go on and topple Birmingham on their own patch, a side in Notts who have a wealth of batting power and Hampshire who have one of the most economical bowlers in the entire competition it would be simply staggering.Colin Ingram of Glamorgan
At the end of last season things looked pretty bleak for Hampshire narrowly avoiding relegation from Division one due to Durham’s financial troubles and not threatening a trip to Edgbaston for Finals Day. However this camapign has been very different indeed, they were in great form all the way through qualification in the South Group and were even better in their quarter-final meeting with Derbyshire. James Vince and captain George Bailey among others have had great times of it as well as spinner Mason Crane who had the best economy rate in the entire South Group. However Hampshire’s main weapon tomorrow will be the man who’s scintilating innings got them to finals day itself, Shahid Afridi. The experienced Pakistan all rounder was exceptional in the quarter-final scoring 101 of just 42 balls. Despite the fact that Afridi isn’t the most consistent of players he has shown on numerous different occassions both internationally and domestically how big an asset he can be. The fact that Afridi has the ability with both bat and ball makes him even more dangerous and if he gets both of those components of his game right then he could be the difference.
The Bears have been at times brilliant like in their run chase at Surrey in the quarter finals and at times desperately poor like in their 29 run loss at Yorkshire. However they have in recent weeks made signings like Dominic Sibley and Adam Hose that have seen them gain real impetus and now look like a very well drilled and dangerous t20 side. The fact that the finals are taking place on their home ground will undoubtedly be a big boost for them and will likely mean a slightly more raucous crowd. The home atmosphere will be a factor and the other sides will have to be make sure they don’t let it affect them too much. However if the Bears are going to come out on top then they will have to have everyone on their game and in particular spinner Jeetan Patel. He is without doubt the major weapon in this Birmingham side the number of times he has halted teams in their tracks and been the difference in a ten/fifteen run victory for them is staggering. Their have been examples of it this season aswell as he has picked up 20 wickets in 14 matches at an average of just under 20. His grip and turn causes enough problems for teams as it is but on his home ground with a big crowd behind him he could prove to be a very destructive influence indeed.