And then there were eight. The six division one teams plus Sussex and Kent. The three remaining trophies will go to one or more of these eight. The games, scheduled starting today are:
Yorkshire v Sussex
Notts v Hants
Somerset v Lancashire
Kent v Birmingham
It is almost impossible to predict how these games will turn out. The last round of the Blast was over a month ago, we have had test call-ups, some overseas players departing and another competition all interceding to muddy the waters in that time so you can throw the form book out of the window.
If we start with the basic premise that home advantage counts for a lot at this point and assume that the performance in the group phase counts for something that puts Kent and Notts as clear favourites for finals day.
Yorkshire are a curious mix this year. Sometimes very good and sometime horrid. A young Sussex side will travel North with no fear. If the game was at Leeds I would really fancy the home side but the need to relocate to Durham because of the Test makes a Sussex win far more likely.
Which leaves us with what I consider to be the toughest of the four to predict. And it features Somerset!
I’ve looked back at the eight quarter finals Somerset have played since the competition started. This will be the ninth last eight game for Somerset but only the fourth at home. The good news is that Somerset have a 100% record in home T20 quarter finals. Even better Somerset have a 100% record against Lancashire in knockout T20s against next week’s opponents.
The seven wicket win in the 2005 final (James Hildreth was unbeaten at the end with Graeme Smith) was followed by a 5-1 bowl out win in Manchester in 2009. The scorers for Somerset that day were Trego, Thomas (2), Willoughby and Phillips.
Somerset’s eight quarter finals have weirdly been very alphabetically biased. Five have been against teams beginning with an “N” – Nottinghamshire three times and Northamptonshire twice with the only loss coming at Trent Bridge in 2017. Somerset got their revenge in 2018 in a pulsating game at Taunton remembered for Lewis Gregory’s unbeaten 24 ball 60 and Tom Abell’s 46. Set 210 to win Notts appeared to be well in the game at 133-3 in the fourteenth over before Jamie Overton and Max Waller combined three times as Somerset won by 19. Overton ending with the remarkable figures of 5-47 off his four overs.
Other home wins have come against Essex (2012 by 27 runs) and Northants (2010 by 7 wickets). James Hildreth led the way in 2012 with 58 and was unbeaten on 25 against a Northants side for who Jack Brooks took 4-11 in his four overs.
It’s not been all roses for Hildy however he has departed first ball in two quarter finals (2005 and 2017).
But of course none of this helps determine who will prevail this week. Lancashire will miss Saj Mahmood who like Craig Overton is on England duty they still have Liam Livingstone who will be a big danger. I’d like to think Somerset at home will be too strong, and if they can get Livingstone quickly the odds will tilt in Somerset’s favour. But their top six is high quality in white ball cricket and they still have Matt Parkinson who can wreak havoc with the ball on his day.
Devon Conway will be missed but a top seven of perhaps, Banton Davies, Smeed, Hildreth, Abell, Goldsworthy, Gregory has the capability to post something pretty special. It may well come down to Somerset’s bowlers against Lancashire’s batting.