The T20 Cricket tournament concludes this Saturday with Finals Day in Birmingham. Two semi-finals and a final on the same day, always played in a great atmosphere. Here’s a preview of the games, and betting opportunities

Recommendations

Northants to win outright (previously advised at 8-1) now 4-1

Hampshire v Surrey semi-final

Surrey to win 13-10 Bet365

Glenn Maxwell top Surrey batsman 13/2 Paddy Power

Neil McKenzie top Hampshire Batsman 7/1 Stan James

Northants v Essex Semi-Final

Mohammed Azharullah Top Northants bowler 5/2 Stan James

The semi final ties, with current best prices in brackets, are

Essex (4/5) v Northants (Evens)

Hampshire (8/11) v Surrey (13/10)

The outright betting is

Hampshire 9/5
Essex 3/1
Surrey 100/30
Northants 4/1

We have previously advised Northants at 8/1 before the Quarter-final stage and still feel they are under-rated as we reach Finals Day. In addition to the randomising nature of short format cricket, all the signs are that the weather is poor this weekend and whilst there is a spare day to conclude the competition on Sunday if necessary, the likelihood of interrupted play if not shortened games increases the randomisation, and should make us more wary than usual of backing short favourites in these conditions

Lets look at each semi-final in turn

Hampshire v Surrey

Hampshire are defending champions, and this year finished top of the strong South group, from which three of the final four are drawn. In Carberry, Vince and Mckenzie they have a destructive batting line up and a well balanced bowling attack is suited to almost every playing condition. It is not surprising to see them favourites for the amtch and indeed the T20 overall

Surrey are probably the weakest batting side of the four sides and have reached this stage primarily due to the strength of their “death” bowling from Dernbach and Mahmood which means they routinely defend defend under-par batting totals. They do though have big game players, and are likely to over-perform relative to the qualifying stages. They are also big underdogs and a value price in this format.

My individual selections for this game are two batsmen. For Hampshire, Michael Carberry has scored nearly 500 runs in the competition this season but is priced very short at 9/4 in the top batsman market, especially in conditions likely to favour bowlers. A good alternative is South African Neil McKenzie at a stand out 7/1 with Stan James. A consistently heavy run scorer in the competition over several years, capable of rebuilding poor starts and finishing strong innings’ too

For Surrey Glenn Maxwell returns from an Australia A tour to South Africa, on which he scored heavily. Surrey’s batting line up lacks depth, and its two fastest scorers Davies and Roy rarely make the volume of runs their talent suggests they should. At 13/2 Maxwell is a value alternative.

Essex v Northants

Essex are a big hitting batting side but a tough betting proposition as they are inconsistent and unpredictable. Northants batting is more prosaic but they have the best “death” bowling in competition in Azharullah and Willey. It is priced to be a close game and I favour the more consistent side who maximise their resources and rely less on a few star names performing on the day

In the top Northants Bowler market, Azharullah 24 wickets in 10 competition innings this season including three innings where he has taken four wickets. Willey has 17 wickets in 10 innings. Beyond that no Northants bowler has more than six wickets. Both spinners are there to get through the overs and restrict runs. The third seamers don’t have the range of wicket taking balls the big two have.

This should be a market between Willey and Azharullah Against Essex, a dangerous set of big hitting batsmen, Azharullah’s variations of pace off the ball and yorkers will be the big threat (they have to go after him, and take risks, in most match situations for at least half his overs) and he is to me a warm favourite to top this market. At 5/2 Azharullah in this market with Stan James, this is a favourite price to get stuck into, with so few alternatives to beat him

Recommendations

Northants to win outright (previously advised at 8-1) now 4-1

Hampshire v Surrey semi-final

Surrey to win 13-10 Bet365

Glenn Maxwell top Surrey batsman 13/2 Paddy Power

Neil McKenzie top Hampshire Batsman 7/1 Stan James

Northants v Essex Semi-Final

Mohammed Azharullah Top Northants bowler 5/2 Stan James