A host of England national team players have been made available by the ECB to join their domestic sides involved in the quarter-finals of the Royal London One-Day Cup, which kicks off today with the Worcestershire Rapids traveling to Taunton for a clash with Somerset and the Essex Eagles heading to Edgbaston to take on Warwickshire.
The other two last-eight encounters will see Northamptonshire locking horns with Surrey in Northampton and Yorkshire making a trip to Canterbury to face Kent on Thursday.
Somerset vs Worcestershire
The most dominant team in the group stages of the tournament, Somerset will be riding high on confidence having dropped just one game on their way to the quarterfinals. With six wins and a tie, Somerset clinched the South Group and will now host Worcestershire, who edged out Durham from the fourth spot in the North Group on a dramatic last day.
With 13 points from eight games, Somerset eased into the next round, but their journey was nothing short of entertaining. A heroic 65-run last-wicket stand between No. 10 Jamie Overton (40 off 32 balls) and No. 11 Tim Groenewald (34 off 27 balls) bailed them out against Gloucestershire in a nerve-wracking opener; then a rain-reduced game saw them prevail over Surrey by 9 wickets with 5 balls to spare; another rain-affected game ended in a tie after Essex keeper James Foster rallied his side from 139 for 9 in the 25th over to 176 in 29 overs.
Peter Trego’s brilliant century scripted a 49th-over victory against Middlesex; while, Hampshire came agonizingly close to a target of 251 in the last game, needing a six of the last ball, before Groenewald prevailed and denied Hants a place in the last eight.
Somerset’s only blemish in the tournament was a 95-run drubbing at the hands of Kent.
Lewis Gregory and Groenewald have been Somerset’s best bowlers with 15 wickets each. Behind them is Roelf van der Merwe with 11 scalps. As far as the batting goes, Somerset will heavily rely on the exploits of captain Jim Allenby who has scored 320 runs at an average of 40, which includes 4 fifties. Worcestershire will also be wary of Trego (253 runs) and opener Johann Myburgh (229 runs). Add to that, the experience of Mahela Jayawardene and Somerset are a real force to reckon with.
Worcestershire come into the game with two successive wins behind them. After failing to defend a huge 295 against Derbyshire in the opening game, Worcestershire bowlers hit back with a couple of superlative performances, shutting out Yorkshire for 170 and Durham for 90 in the next two games.
But then an 8-wicket hammering against Warwickshire (a game in which Worcestershire got out for 115) and a 23-run loss to Northamptonshire, meant that the Rapids needed two wins on the trot to ensure qualification. 22-year-old cancer survivor Tom Fell played two defining knocks, a century against Lancashire and a fifty against Nottinghamshire, to take his side through.
Fell who aggregated 237 runs in four matches at an average of 118 will hold the key for Worcestershire, who will also be boosted by the arrival of Moeen Ali, who has scored a couple of fifties and a century in his last four innings for England.
Joe Leach and Ed Bernard have been the top wicket-takers for the team having taken 9 wickets each. Leach has also opened the batting on a few occasions and has scored 142 runs with the best being a 35-ball 63 against Yorkshire.
Warwickshire vs Essex
After being outplayed by Nottinghamshire in the Natwest T20 Blast quarter-finals, Essex now head to Birmingham to take on a dangerous Warwickshire side that finished second in the North Group behind Northamptonshire.
Warwickshire, who got off to a shaky start, have had an inconsistent run so far, trouncing Leicestershire, Worcestershire, Northamptonshire, and Yorkshire, but failing to cross the line against Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, and Durham. The game against Derbyshire got washed out.
The Bears’ biggest strength has been their batting, with the top four delivering in most of the matches. With 424 runs and two centuries in seven innings, Warwickshire opener Sam Hain sits fifth in the list of leading run-scorers in the tournament. Another man in hot form is the former England international Jonathan Trott, who has scored 288 runs in 4 innings, which includes 2 scintillating hundreds.
With wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose totaling 253 runs at an average of 63, William Porterfield accumulating 269 runs at an average 44, and captain Ian Bell aggregating 199 this season, Warwickshire will back their batting to succeed against Essex.
The side will be further bolstered by all-rounder Chris Woakes, who was named England’s player of the series in the recently concluded test series against Pakistan for picking 26 wickets and scoring 177 runs in the series. Woakes’ addition would lend balance to a side that relies on specialists.
Warwickshire’s opponents have been exceptional chasers, hunting down targets of 311 against Hampshire, 272 against Sussex, 286 against Kent, and 325 against Glamorgan in some close finishes. They also pulled off a tie against Somerset from a hopeless situation, showing the grit and depth in the side that backs itself to overhaul any target.
A team full of exceptionally adept all-rounders, Essex has not batted first in this year’s competition and the Bears might well want to exploit the situation by putting the Eagles in if they win the toss.
With 430 runs, 2 centuries and 3 fifties, Jesse Ryder is the team’s top run-getter and fourth in the overall list of top scorers. The team will be looking for yet another inspirational knock from the left-handed Kiwi, and also relying on its captain, Ravi Bopara to lead from the front. Bopara has 10 wickets and 210 runs in the tournament.
Essex have also been helped by some useful contributions from opener Nick Browne, Tom Westley, and James Foster, while Matt Quinn has been the pick of the bowlers. A lot will also be expected from the experienced Ryan ten Doeschate and Ashar Zaidi.
A mouthwatering clash awaits as Essex look to reverse last year’s disappointment, where they were knocked out of the quarters by Yorkshire, however, they will have to do it without Dan Lawrence, who has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.