T20 Blast: Who will win the tournament?
Now we are at the business end of the Vitality Blast and the killer question is… Which team will lift the trophy at Edgbaston on September the 15th?
With 5 teams already qualified, others in the hunt include (south group) – Glamorgan, Surrey, Kent and Sussex. For the (north group) – Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Birmingham.
So, let’s look through those teams that have already qualified.
Let’s start in the north group with Worcestershire. Already qualified and currently sitting 3rd in the group with one more match to play. Without any superstars, Worcestershire has a knack of grafting out a win. The inclusion of Moeen Ali (due to not being selected for England) has been a massive help - not just his classy top-order batting and laser accurate off-spin bowling, but also his captaincy with the wealth of knowledge that comes with 82 international ODI caps for England.
They are strong in the bowling department with Daryl Michell's 6 pence medium-paced bowling – with the keeper standing up. Having subtle changes of pace and deadly accurate, the batsmen find him extremely difficult to get away. Mixed in with the quick South African Wayne Parnell who has a highly impressive economy of 6.56 and has already taken 8 wickets in 5 matches. He is proving a real hit for the West Midlands side.
They also have a strong batting line-up with the Australian Callum Ferguson who has a very impressive SR of 146.26. Mix that in with the wristy Brett D’Oliveria and the hard-hitting Ross Whiteley who has hit a gastronomical 25 fours and 13 sixes with a stupendous SR of 176.82. He is sure to make bowlers quake in their boots as they stand at their mark. With Birmingham left to play for (possibly) a home quarter-final, is going to be a difficult one to beat.
My prediction: Quarterfinals
Now to Durham - already qualified and currently sitting top in the north group. Like Worcestershire, Durham don’t, by any means, have the strongest team on paper in the competition but they have a ‘canny’ way of getting over the line like when they played Lancashire last week.
With Lancashire needing only 23 off 22 but Durham pulled it back and won it in the last over thanks to the brilliant captaincy of their New Zealander – Tom Latham who did an exchange with Durham and played in Durham’s youth teams (when he was younger).
Durham have been blessed with Graham Clark, who has been in fantastic form this year and has hit mouth-watering 46 fours and 10 sixes. Couple that with the nouse of the veteran Paul Collingwood at 42 years who has the international T20 winner medal under his belt as he lifted it for England in 2010 and has played a whopping 197 ODIs, his experience will be invaluable to the young Durham side going forward.
As they are top of the group, a home tie is looking likely and playing at the bowler-friendly Riverside, the skilled swing bowler Chris Rushworth will be a daunting task for visiting batsmen. Depending on any action by the ECB on Ben Stokes after the court case concluded this week (which he was found not guilty) the ECB could yet further sanction him, making him unavailable for Durham.
Assuming no action is taken as appears likely and he is available to play, this would be a massive coup for them as he is one of the best cricketers in the world who galvanises the team.
My prediction - (No Stokes) Quarterfinals
Let's discuss Lancashire, having qualified already and looking very strong. They started the competition well, however, when their captain and talisman Liam Livingstone broke his thumb in the roses match last month they took a hit, losing 3 games on the bounce, however it was the introduction of the young Afghani mystery spinner Zahir Khan who revitalised the team as they won two matches back-to-back, with one comprehensive win away at the group leaders Durham.
Batting wise Lancashire are very strong, with Karl Brown who stood in for Livingstone at the top of the order with 192 runs in just 6 matches. And Alex Davies who has the most scores of 50+ in the competition (6) add that to the heavy hitting of Jordan Clark with an average of 53.
But Lancashire’s biggest asset (if they make it to finals day) will be Jos Buttler. Rajasthan Royals fans will know him for him hitting five consecutive 50s in the IPL and he will be a massive boost for Lancashire’s already strong batting line-up.
In the bowling department, Lancashire has every type of spin – right and left arm finger spin, and right and left arm wrist spin. Zahir Khan has been a great asset 6 wickets in 4 matches and even experienced batsmen struggling to pick him. Coupled with the slower but arguably bigger turner of the ball – Mathew Parkinson - has taken 18 wickets in the competition. These two really do put the ‘squeeze’ opposition batsmen. A very strong all-around team.
My prediction – Winners
Now let's look at the remaining teams in the North Group - Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Birmingham.
Yorkshire, who are currently 5th, have been unfortunate with the weather with 3 rain-affected games. However with a full strength team (with players not playing for England) they have Adam Lyth who has a SR of 157.29, David Willey who is a hard hitter at the top of the order with the bat and a skilful white-ball swing bowler and add to that Joe Root who has a ridiculous SR of 231.81 from when he played in the roses match and hit 51* off 22 and Jonny Bairstow who has an average of 50.30 in ODIs.
Add to that the bowling of Liam Plunkett, the 6.2ft heavy length bowler and the crafty spin of Adil Rashid. Yorkshire certainly have a star-studded line-up and with only having to play rock-bottom Northants in the penultimate fixture they should be confident of another win. They are then favourites for then the decider against Notts. It’s a big week for the white rose county but I expect them to make it through.
My prediction: Semifinal
Nottinghamshire are currently at the 4th place. Whether they qualify or not will depend on either Yorkshire losing against Northants, or if Yorkshire win it will come down to the showdown on Friday against Yorkshire for that last qualifying spot. Being last year’s champions of the T20 Blast and the 50 over competition, they are no strangers to the white ball game. With players like Alex Hales and Samit Patel going well they certainly have international expertise.
My prediction: Group Stages
Birmingham have an extremely slim chance to qualify as the need to win both their games against Lancashire and Worcestershire and now hope that Yorkshire loses to Northants but beat Nottinghamshire. But with Ian Bell - the highest run scorer in the competition, as people say, ‘stranger things have happened’
My prediction – Group Stage
The South Group
Somerset sit top of the group and have already qualified. Being well led by Lewis Gregory who is leading by example by having an outrageous SR of 199.08 and backed up by the wily Peter Trego who has hit 31 fours and 10 sixes. Not just that but Corey Anderson who has 437 runs this year - 6th highest in the competition and he has a competition win rate of 59.6%, while Jamie Overton has taken 19 wickets. Teams certainly won't want to go down to Taunton for the quarterfinals, that’s for sure. However, I feel they lack the X factor of key internationals may hold them back.
Prediction – Quarter-finals
Gloucestershire finished bottom of their group in the 2017 T20 Blast and have not reached Finals Day since 2007. But they are looking to change that. Already qualified and being yet again excellently led by Klinger who never fails to disappoint both in captaincy and batting and has 305 runs this year. Backed up by Ian Cockbain who has hit 31 fours and 13 sixes. However, it's their overseas bowler Andrew Tye who has an economy of 7.86 and has taken 12 wickets that have made the difference. Although in my opinion, I feel that Gloucestershire have peaked too early and will not be able to carry on this form.
My prediction Semi-finals
Kent, currently 3rd, are looking as if they are hotting up at just the right moment. The old-timer Mich Claydon providing reliable seam. Mix that with the spin of Joe Denly who has taken 16 wickets and Imran Qayyum 7. But more potent is the fastest bowler in the competition - the New Zealander Adam Milne. His yorkers are what give batsmen sleepless nights. The ability to dismiss any batsmen is a real asset in T20, particularly at the death. But it is their batting attack that gets the juices flowing. Sam Billings (who was at CSK) has a crazy average of 49.00. Joe Denly who has hit 35 fours and 9 sixes is a serious player. Hino Khun with a SR of 146.73 can hit a long ball. They are the team to watch
My prediction – Runners-up
Glamorgan are currently 4th and have one game left in the group stage, at home to Surrey on Friday. Led from the front by Colin Ingram who has scored massive 407 runs at an average of 58.14 hitting an outrageous 38 fours and 21sixes. followed by Meschede and Cooke who have scored 433 runs between them. However, their bowlers – Wagg, Hogan and Van der Gugten although have taken an impressive 14,13 and 19 wickets have economies of 8.74, 9.00 and 9.67 respectively. But what worries me with Glamorgan is although they are well balanced they don’t have enough firepower in all departments.
My prediction: Group Stage
Sussex are a point of fourth-placed Glamorgan, with a game in hand, sitting currently in 5th. It's hard to see a better T20 domestic bowling attack anywhere. Chris Jordan, Tymal Mills, Jofra Archer and the Rashid Khan. Sussex are the opposite to RCB (in the IPL) earlier this year. Extremely strong at bowling (best in the competition) but very weak at batting, only scoring above 180 twice. However, Sussex, like Kent, have had 4 matches abandoned due to rain. With Sussex, it's very much the hope that they bowl first, bowl the team out cheaply, then knock the runs off. However, one shining star with the bat is Laurie Evans who has scored a mammoth 454 at an average of 90.80. Apart from Evans, no Sussex batsman has scored over 250. So all depends on the toss and whether they can muster a score.
My prediction: Quarter-finals
Fans of Surrey were pleased when they signed Aaron Finch for the T20 Blast for two reasons, one- he is a world-renowned excellent player and two – they get £1000 for catching a 6 in the crowd, many of which have now been paid out. The Australian duo of Finch and Maddinson have put on 682 between them. However, it is their bowling that’s let them down. Granted they play at the Kia Oval where a par score is 200+ but Batty and Dernbach are both going above 8.
My prediction: Group Stages
Who do you think will be lifting the trophy on September the 15th?