The semi finals are as follows: 11am Birmingham Bears v Glamorgan 2.30pm Hampshire v Nottinghamshire
The semi finals are as follows:
11am Birmingham Bears v Glamorgan
2.30pm Hampshire v Nottinghamshire
The winners meet in the final later in the day
There have been two notable characteristics of this year’s T20 blast.
Firstly it has been high scoring. This season there have been 27 scores of 200 plus including a British record of 254. The most ever in a season before this year was 20 in 2015.In 2016 there were 17. The most likely reason for this is that this year the competition is being played in a block, allowing players to get into a rhythm in one format rather than constantly switching between the four day and twenty over game. Playing in a block has also meant more availability for a number of overseas players (many of whom would previously come over for a few games, and be replaced later in the competition) and these international quality players have been playing more games.
Secondly the huge impact of Kolpak players has been undeniable. A quick refresher on Kolpak, a rule that means that citizens of countries that are part of European Union Association Agreements, which are free trade treaties between the EU and other countries, also have the same right. South Africa is part of a deal called the Cotonou Agreement with the EU. Zimbabwe and several Caribbean nations are also signatories, so their players are eligible for Kolpak deals too.
In 2009, the British Home Office ruled that to sign a Kolpak deal, a player must either have a valid work permit for four years in the UK or have earned a specified number of caps in international cricket.
The four semi-finals contain three sides in the top five of the ante-post betting and Glamorgan, 25-1 outsiders before a ball was bowled. Glamorgan in particular have been Kolpak heavy. Their quarter final side contained four South African Internationals and an Australian. Hampshire fielded four overseas internationals, two from South Africa, one from Pakistan and one from Australia. In these two teams were potential and actual match winners like Colin Ingram, David Miller, Kyle Abbott and Shahid Afridi
The Birmingham Bears have had an interesting season. Initially a very experienced side they began the tournament with Ian Bell captain and opening the batting and 38 year old Rikki Clarke the key all rounder.
By mid tournament (and sitting bottom of the championship table) with inconsistent form, coach Ashley Giles had turned to youth.
Clarke had left for Surrey and top three batsman Dominic Sibley came the other way. Then Bell was dropped from the team after 250 runs in 12 innings and he resigned the captaincy. Stalwarts of the side in all formats such as Porterfield (149 runs in 7 innings) and Rankin (10 wickets in 9 matches but at 8.5 runs per over) were out of the picture too
The side that went to Surrey in the last quarter-final and chased down 205 to reach finals day had a top 4 of Ed Pollock, Sibley, Adam Hose and Sam Hain with an average age of 22. In the bowling line up were Adam Thomason, aged 20 and Olly Stone aged 23. Thomason is already the “death” bowler and Stone is 90mph plus.
These six were joined by new captain Grant Elliott (Kolpak,the match winner in the quarter final), overseas player all-rounder Colin De Grandhomme, wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose, a veteran at 28 years old Oliver Hannon-Dalby (14 wickets in the bast this season at 17 a piece) and probably the best slower bowler in T20 cricket Jeetan Patel who is a key player for finals day. He has 20 wickets in the competition this season at under seven runs an over.
This young side had a markedly different approach than the side fielded earlier in the competition, much more aggressive with the bat will the top four all prepared to go from ball one. This might be seen as a higher variance approach but it has become the norm of the best T20 sides. Making a score in the power-play sets up the rest of the innings and if it doesn’t come off the older heads in the middle of the Birmingham order can rebuild an innings.
Notts, with Hales and Wessels combining for 977 runs in the competition so far, Hales at an incredible strike rate of 206 should be favourites. They also have an experienced bowling attack with five bowlers who have taken 10+ wickets so far in the competition
Hampshire are a talented side, James Vince has scored nearly 500 runs and the combination of young leg spinner Mason Crane and Kyle Abbott have taken 33 wickets
Glamorgan have leant on the batting of Colin Ingram with 451 runs and Jacques Rudolph with 378. Hogan and De Lange have taken 34 wickets between them. These four players are crucial as the domestic players in the team, a second division championship side, aren’t of the quality of the other three sides.
The semi final draw favours the Bears. Glamorgan have a punchers chance if Ingram comes off but Birmingham are at home, and Patel in particular is pre-eminent on the slow and sometimes dry pitches Edgbaston produces. Finally the new fearless approach bodes well for finals day. I think they can win this.
Birmingham Bears to win the Nat West T20 Blast 3/1 Skybet 11/4 Bet365