T20 Blast Finals Day: Back talent and experience to prevail

England star Jos Buttler is fit and available for Lancashire
England star Jos Buttler is fit and available for Lancashire

The best day in domestic cricket is upon us and Neil Monnery thinks that the winner will come from the second semi-final...

"Jos Buttler has been released by the ECB and he is a devastating batsman and when you consider that they have one of the pre-eminent finishers in all of cricket in James Faulkner coming in behind him then you know they have serious talent at their disposal."

NatWest T20 Blast
Saturday August 29, 2015. Starts 11:00 
TV: Live on Sky Sports Ashes


Northamptonshire Steelbacks v Birmingham Bears

Reigning champions Birmingham Bears have another chance at glory as they open up T20 Blast Finals Day with a match against the Northamptonshire Steelbacks.

The headline news from this one is superstar Brendon McCullum isn't going to be jetting in for the Bears. The New Zealand captain teased that he would consider it when he joined but he has sat out of his nation's tour of South Africa to fully prepare himself for the New Zealand summer programme. Birmingham though will welcome Ian Bell back into their ranks following his release from the ECB.

Birmingham's strength though is in their depth of talent. With McCullum out they don't have that explosive top of the order bat but they have a lot of players who know how to get the job done. Varun Chopra is their top run scorer throughout the season and he's only the 29th on the list for the season but Will Portfield and Laurie Evans are only just below him.

In terms of a bowling attack they'll look to their 2015 breakout player, Recordo Gordon. The 23-year-old is their top wicket taker and along with the likes of Olly Hannon-Dalby and Rikki Clarke, they have talent that can blunt any attack.

In the other dressing room, the outsiders for the day Northamptonshire Steelbacks pretty much live and die on the back of one player, David Willey. His innings at Hove in the quarter-finals was a thing of brute power and beauty.

Richard Levi has pop at the top of the order and Azharullah has bounced back from a poor 2014 campaign to lead the county in the wickets column but they are the outsiders for a reason. I would expect they wouldn't be favoured against any of the Finals Day counties.

Recommended Bet
Back Birmingham at 1.75/7 to win the first semi


Hampshire v Lancashire Lightning

The second semi-final is a repeat of Finals Day last year as 2010 and 2012 winners Hampshire take on last year's runners-up Lancashire Lightning.

As a Hampshire boy I will concede to some bias but they are the team with the squad that can cope with all conditions. If the pitch is a seamer then expect Fidel Edwards, Yasir Arafat, Chris Wood and Gareth Berg to lead the attack but if it is a turning wicket then the likes of Danny Briggs, Liam Dawson, Will Smith and young Mason Crane will come into their own.

The return of Sean Ervine from injury gives Hampshire much needed batting depth to go alongside Liam Dawson, who having not been picked all season returned in the quarter-final after a good Royal-London Cup campaign.

The strength of Hampshire though is that long-standing opener pairing of Michael Carberry and James Vince. They clobbered Worcestershire in their quarter-final and have the experience and talent to get their side off to a flier.

One thing Hampshire don't have is a superstar parachuting in from England and boy do Lancashire have that. Jos Buttler has been released by the ECB and he is a devastating batsman and when you consider that they have one of the pre-eminent finishers in all of cricket in James Faulkner coming in behind him then you know they have serious talent at their disposal.

In their quarter-final they were cruising at Canterbury before getting jitters more commonly associated with a teenage girl meeting One Direction. They scrambled over the line as they have done previously in this year's tournament and showed that when it comes down to it, they find a way to win. The problem for them is that is Hampshire's calling card as well.

I think the winner of this match does go on to win the final and it is a tough one to call. That fact is reflected in the match odds market where Hampshire are a tad below evens with Lancashire a touch over. This is a toss up game but I'll go with the depth of Hampshire's squad to beat the star power of Lancashire in a thriller but not with much confidence.

Recommended Bet
Back Hampshire at 1.9420/21 to win the second semi


Overall Winner

Sit and wait until after the two semi-finals but then back either Hampshire or Lancashire Lightning to lift the trophy at the end of the day. If they face Birmingham Bears both will be odds against but against Northampshire Steelbacks, they will both be odds-on.


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