Its the final stages of the T20 Cricket Group games, with a full schedule on Friday and then each group has their final games on a seperate day from Sunday onwards. Quarter final places are very much up for grabs in the next few days.
Of these the two most crucial are the table topping clashes in the Midlands group in Cardiff where Glamorgan host Northamptonshire and in the South Group at Southampton where Hampshire host Essex.
It is these games I will focus on as the other games all involve at least one team out of contention for the Quarter finals and it can be difficult to predict team line-up and motivation for these counties in such games, adding unpredictable variables to analysing betting prices and value
Looking first at the game in Cardiff, Northants who are top travel to face second placed Glamorgan. A fortnight ago Northants beat Glamorgan at home off the last ball of the contest. Both are surprise packages, with little prior T20 form before this season. Glamorgan are led from the front by captain Jim Allenby who opens the batting and is having a superb season. Aside from he and the veteran Murray Goodwin though their batting is a bit light and at Cardiff their wins usually come from playing on slow-low pitches and defending low-ish targets
Northants though can play on these slow pitches. They have some of the star performers in this year’s competition. For example David Willey’s match-winning performance against Worcestershire at the weekend took him top of the FTI Most Valuable Player rankings for Friends Life t20 cricket. He has 13 wickets so far in the competition and has also contributed 91 runs off 59 balls, taken three catches, and chipped in with three run-outs. Willey is joined towards the summit of the t20 rankings by fellow team-mates Mohammad Azharullah and Richard Levi. Azharullah has taken 19 wickets at 7.10 while Levi has hit 251 runs, including a century against Gloucestershire, leaving Northants as the only county to have three players in the top ten.
With players in this form, notably hard-hitting batsmen who can clear the rope and bowlers who can defend low totals, Northants are very capable of winning this game, which is priced 10/11 each of two by the bookmakers including BetVictor
At Southampton in the South Group Hampshire, last year’s Champions are top again and hosting second placed Essex. Hampshire are unbeaten at home, often playing on worn pitches and they represent a potent combination of fast scoring batsmen such as Michael Carberry and a group of bowlers who can take the pace off the ball on these pitches and restrict the opposition. Essex’s style is very different with a variety of pace bowlers and big hitters that tend to perform better on faster surfaces
With SkyBet prepared to offer 10/11 each of the two teams, we should take advantage and back Hampshire who to my mind should be favourites for every home game they play such are the conditions they set up and the strengths of their team
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