Royal London One-Day Cup semifinals preview
Two one-sided affairs followed by two edge-of-the-seat thrillers; this was the story of the Royal London One-Day Cup quarter-finals that were highlighted by a couple of classy centuries, scored in contrasting situations, by two Sri Lankan legends and a stroke of genius from a former England international who has been accumulating runs with a sense of impregnability.
Batsmanship of the highest order was on offer as Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara rolled back time with two imperious centuries crafted with the same finesse and ingenuity that have been associated with them for the past two decades.
Jayawardene’s elegantly constructed 117 set up a thumping 9-wicket win for Somerset over Worcestershire, while Sangakkara’s fearless 130 carried Surrey through in a last-ball finish against Northamptonshire.
The inspirational batting efforts of the two Sri Lankan warhorses were matched by an equally delightful knock of brilliance from Jonathan Trott, who steered Warwickshire into the semis with a 70-run victory over Essex. Enjoying a rich vein of form, a determined Trott dug deep to bring up his third century of the tournament in just his fifth innings.
The three definitive knocks were followed by a lion-hearted bowling display from Yorkshire’s Liam Plunkett and David Willy, who held their nerves to edge out Kent in a tense finish. The semifinals begin today with Yorkshire taking on last year’s runner’s up, Surrey, in Leeds, while Somerset travel to Birmingham for a duel with Warwickshire tomorrow.
Yorkshire vs Surrey
With dreams of a treble dashed against Durham in the semis of the Natwest T20 Blast, Yorkshire will now have sights set on winning the double, as Jason Gillespie’s men prepare for an intriguing semifinal against Surrey.
The White Rose County will heavily rely on the experience of Tim Bresnan, who has picked 8 wickets and scored 293 runs at an average of 58 this season, and Adam Lyth, who struck a masterful 88 in the quarterfinal against Kent.
The opener has amassed 435 runs this season and will be looking for support from Gary Ballance, Alex Lees and Jack Leaning as a depleted Yorkshire side is forced to make five changes to the team that snatched a thrilling win at Canterbury.
Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid, Willey and Plunkett, who were part of the 11-run escape against Kent, are on England duty and will not be available for the clash, meaning a huge responsibility now lies on the young shoulders of Azeem Rafiq, Karl Carver and Will Rhodes.
The bowling will yet again be spearheaded by Steve Patterson.
Surrey, too, will be without the services of the explosive Jason Roy, but with Sangakkara in the mix, the visitors will have a great chance of returning to the final. Chasing 277 against the Northants in the quarterfinals, Surrey found themselves in a spot of bother after they were reduced to 250 for 9 in 47.4 overs.
But with an unfazed Sangakkara still in the crease the game was far from over. Ably supported by a resolute last man, Jade Dernbach, who had earlier picked a four-wicket haul, the Sri Lankan maestro heroically scripted a last-ball victory.
Steven Davis, Rory Burns, Dominic Sibley and Ben Foakes will play around Sangakkara, while brothers Sam and Tom Currans will provide the late-order momentum. The bowling will be led by Dernbach and skipper Gareth Batty with the Currans and Stuart Meeker adding firepower.
An injured Zafar Ansari has not been picked by Surrey, according to their official website, with Gary Wilson and Ravi Rampaul are also away.
Warwickshire vs Somerset
Two teams that demolished their opponents in the quarterfinals will clash Monday for a ticket to Lord’s. While Warwickshire has been helped by the whetted desire of its batsmen to score big runs, Somerset has been held in good stead by captain Jim Allenby, who scored 81 in the quarterfinals and shared a 188-run opening stand with Jayawardene, and all-rounder Peter Trego, whose three-wicket haul broke the back of Worcestershire.
Trego dismissed half-centurions Moeen Ali and Daryl Mitchell and followed up with the wicket of Ross Whiteley as the Rapids, who once looked to reach 300, imploded, setting a target of 211, which was easily eclipsed by Somerset with 9 wickets intact.
With the Sri Lankan great unavailable for the semifinal, Somerset will once again be relying on the exploits of Allenby and Trego. Johann Myburgh, who missed the quarters with injury, could be slotted back in the top order, while more will be expected from James Hildreth and Tom Abell in the middle. Lewis Gregory and Josh Davey will lead the bowling charge.
For Warwickshire, Sam Hain (442 runs at an average of 63), Laurie Evans (238 runs at an average of 79), Tim Ambrose (313 runs at 62.6) and Trott (389 at 77.8) have scored runs at will. With skipper Ian Bell, who has struggled for consistency at times, also capable of tearing apart a bowling attack, this side seems to have the most promising batting order of the four remaining teams.
As far as their bowling goes, it was the three-wicket hauls of spinners Jeetan Patel and Josh Poysden that knocked Essex out of the competition. Yet again there would be a lot expected from the two, particularly the Kiwi, who has picked 15 wickets at an economy of 5.14 this season.
With Rikki Clarke and Atiq Javid providing pace, Warwickshire looks like a team to beat.