After a three-week white ball hiatus since that pulsating quarter-final against Nottinghamshire at Taunton, Somerset will seek to salve the pain of missing out on the Championship by picking up the T20 trophy when they head to Edgbaston tomorrow.
Strangely all four of the counties taking part “prepared” for the weekend with red ball defeats and the other three counties are all pretty much guaranteed second division championship cricket.
Somerset are widely considered to be the strongest T20 outfit in the country after a dominant group stage which finished with them topping the south group. The vagaries of form in the north group meant that Somerset faced, in my view, the strongest T20 outfit from the north in a repeat of last year’s quarter-final.
Somerset were able to reach Birmingham thanks to their continued belief in a policy of all-out attack even when early wickets fall. Yet again Lewis Gregory and the lower middle-order propelled Somerset to a total in excess of 200 which they were able to defend, in the end comfortably. That win also demonstrated Somerset’s superb running between the wickets and out-cricket which were far superior to the reigning champions on the day.
Don’t expect the pitch in Birmingham to be capable of the sort of totals we are used to seeing at Taunton. Edgbaston hasn’t produced batsmen friendly white ball conditions this year and we are now in mid-September. So Somerset will need to adapt their game and be at their best in the disciplines mentioned above.
The problem with T20 is, by its nature the outcome is more unpredictable than the longer form. The Blast has a habit of bringing superior teams down to the level of inferior opponents and winning requires a good deal of luck on the day. But Somerset must go into Saturday feeling confident and as favourites.
Sussex finished fourth in the south group and had a mixed bag of a season with 4 no results but despite this managed to chalk up 7 wins. Their strength is their bowling attack which, despite the loss of Rashid Khan to Asia Cup duties remains formidable. The semi-final as being billed as the best batting line up against the best bowling line up but I think Somerset’s bowlers will be the key in this game. A repeat of the result at Hove in July would be nice but with perhaps a slightly greater margin of victory!
The first semi-final is an all north group affair as Lancashire take on Worcestershire. The form suggests Worcestershire, who topped the group but Lancs weren’t far behind. It could well come down to a straight shootout between Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali and if it does my money is on Jos to see the Red Rose home.
I’ve got to go for a Somerset victory in the semi-final so if that is the case who would we rather face in the final? I’d definitely prefer Worcestershire as I believe we are better than them in all departments but I suspect it will be the Red Rose. The reason I don’t want Lancashire in the final is Jos, simple as that. He is the most experienced T20 player taking part, has experienced every possible situation in T20 and is the one player capable of taking a game away from the opposition on his own (although Jofra Archer is getting that way).
Somerset v Jos? A repeat of the fixture that resulted in a tie last week? Numerous snide comments on Sky about the Taunton pitch? You can see it all can’t you.
But I’ll stick with my gut and say Somerset over Lancashire in the final. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come down to the last ball with one wicket left!