English cricket's showpiece occasion returns to Edgbaston on Saturday and Matt Harris expects Hampshire's experience in this competition to give them the edge.
"For Surrey, the media attention has predictably been focussed on Kevin Pietersen but the man in form is Jason Roy who was unlucky to miss out on England’s latest ODI squad."
Nat West T20 Blast
August 23, 2014. Starts 11:00
TV: Live on Sky Sports 2
If the shortest form of the game does provide any home advantage then the Bears should benefit from playing on a familiar Edgbaston surface and their record here in the group stages helped them to squeeze home in the final qualifying place in the North Division.
The team more widely known as Warwickshire are outsiders here at 2.226/5 but having already upset the odds in their quarter-final with Essex, Varun Chopra's men can't be ignored. The Bears also have a number of men in form with Rikki Clarke, Tim Ambrose and the skipper himself among the runs in the Nat West Blast and in the 50 over Royal London Cup.
While Ambrose was making 98 against Notts in the Bears' most recent one day game, Jonathan Trott made a welcome century and while the England man is generally overlooked in this format, the Bears do have options. Bowling is a little more vulnerable and much depends on the economy of Jeetan Patel but the Bears have a real chance here.
For Surrey, the media attention has predictably been focussed on Kevin Pietersen but the man in form is Jason Roy who was unlucky to miss out on England's latest ODI squad. After a slow start to the group phase, the opener is currently the highest scorer in this competition with 619 runs at an average of 47.62 - a record that includes eight half centuries.
KP is just returning to form after a subdued 2014 but Roy is the man for the Bears to target. In the bowling department, Surrey use a varied set of spinners who are hard to get away but while they are favourites at 1.84/5 to take this tie, I feel that Birmingham's in-form batsmen are going to cause another upset.
Both sides might consider themselves to be a little lucky to have arrived at Edgbaston after suffering scares in their respective quarter-finals. Having dominated the North Division, Lancs scraped through against Glamorgan by the narrowest of one run margins after their opponents collapsed from 92-2 chasing just 138.
Like Pietersen for Surrey, Andrew Flintoff has captured the headlines for the Lightning but while the former England man has provided useful bowling back up, Lancashire will be more concerned over the fitness of Kabir Ali who is a doubt for Saturday.
Ali and Junaid Khan formed one of the most potent partnerships in the group phase and his potential absence could severely hamper his side's chances of progressing.
As for Hampshire, had Alex Hales held on to a simple chance, early in James Vince's quarter final innings, it's likely that Notts Outlaws would have been lining up here on finals day. However, that costly drop allowed Vince to smash 93 as his team cruised home by five wickets.
The opener is crucial for a Hampshire side who are favourites to take this tie at 1.875/6. It's a strong top order that also includes Michael Carberry and the highly underrated Jimmy Adams and the team can afford to miss Glenn Maxwell who was disappointing in this competition.
The key to this game could lie in Lancashire's England pair of Jos Buttler and James Anderson who have been made available by the ECB. In theory that should strengthen the team and make the Lightning a value pick at 2.1211/10 but Hampshire's resilience makes them my tip.
Surrey are favourites to take the trophy at 3.259/4 but Hampshire's greater experience on finals day makes them my selection at 3.613/5. James Vince's side continue to upset the odds and having won this tournament in 2010 and 2012, I'm backing Hampshire to complete a nice two year symmetry with victory in 2014.
Back Hampshire to win the Nat West T20 Blast at 3.613/5.