Look out for Moeen Ali and Alex Hales trying to grab the headlines on Saturday and Dominic Cork's emergence as a specialist T20 coach, says Jamie Pacheco...
"It’s since been a somewhat mixed set of performances for Hales at Notts with 11 matches in the competition yielding 368 runs, including four fifties. Not bad but not amazing from a man considered to be one of the most explosive openers in T20 cricket, playing at what is obviously a level a few notches below the international game."
Moeen Ali leading by example
The summer wasn't meant to have panned out this way for Moeen Ali. Dropped by England halfway through the World Cup, he wasn't in the playing XI when they won that infamous final. It was a similar story in The Ashes. Two failures in the 1st Test with the bat and a mediocre contribution with the ball saw him dropped from the Test side too after that first game, and he wasn't to return.
England's loss was Worcestershire's gain. He may only have played five matches in the campaign but they were more than enough for him to stamp his authority on the side with his shrewd, relaxed captaincy and disciplined, accurate off-spin bowling that saw him take eight wickets in those games, including 4/18.
But above all it was with the bat that he made his presence felt, standing second on the highest runscorer's list for his team despite playing less than half of the matches that most of the others did. His last four scores in the competition read 85 not out, 23, 51 and 121 not out, that last one in the all-important quarter-final away at Sussex. Best of all is his strike rate: a barely believable 175 from those five games.
It's fair to say that there's no way Worcestershire would be at Finals Day had he not been dropped by England. He may struggle to get that number one spinner slot back from Jack Leach but he'll certainly feel it's all to play for regarding a place in England's T20 side with the World T20 not so far away now.
It's [3.0] that he top scores for his side in the first semi-final against Nottinghamshire and [4.33] that he's their top wicket-taker.
Big-game Hales with plenty to prove
At least Ali got to play some part in the World Cup and the Ashes. Alex Hales' involvement in the former ended as soon as he failed a drugs test showing he had used recreational drugs over the past few weeks and it seems it wasn't the first time that had happened. In truth, he wasn't likely to have been first-choice from the outset at the World Cup but would probably have played when Jason Roy got injured halfway through and missed a few matches.
It's since been a somewhat mixed set of performances for him at Notts with 11 matches in the competition yielding 368 runs, including four fifties. Not bad but not amazing from a man considered to be one of the most explosive openers in T20 cricket, playing at what is obviously a level a few notches below the international game.
At least he saved his best for when it really mattered, hitting 84 not out off just 47 balls as Notts chased Middlesex's 161 without losing a wicket in the quarter-finals. He's since been playing in the CPL but hasn't really got going, including being bowled for a golden duck in his first match for the Barbados Tridents. He's another one thinking about that upcoming World T20.
But he's a big-game player and a fast start from him will massively boost Notts' chances of downing Ali's Worcestershire. It's [3.5] he top scores for his team on the day.
Cork in England contention?
It's not just players who are auditioning for roles. Under Dominic Cork, in his first season as their specialist T20 coach, Derbyshire have made Finals Day for the first time after...16 failed attempts.
Anyone who watched cricket in the 90s will know that few had self-belief and a never-say-die attitude like Cork and it's exactly that mentality that he's been trying to instill on his players.
It's already a massive achievement that they've got this far considering there are no star names at all in the team.
With positions in England's set-up up for grabs now that Trevor Bayliss has left his role as England coach, Cork will certainly feel his name should be in the hat for some sort of gig, maybe as their specialist T20 coach if they decide to go down that route.
Were Derbyshire (the [4.5] outsiders) to go all the way on Saturday, the ECB would certainly have some food for thought.
Bopara the finisher
With 171 games at international across the three formats, Ravi Bopara certainly knows a thing or two about playing for England. At 34 and not having played for his country in over four years, it's highly unlikely he'll be recalled but it's not impossible for him to be offered say a Big Bash or Pakistan Super League contract.
He's been extremely vocal (and not in a good way) about the fact that he's often batted down at six during this T20 campaign but the Essex think-tank seem to know what they're doing. In his new role as 'finisher', he's finished plenty of matches of late. Crucial knocks down the order have seen him top the batting averages (45.60) for his team, also striking at 170.
His cool head and experience will be vital when they play Derbyshire and the [7.0] that he top scores has its dangers- his 'low' batting position- but also plenty of other factors going for it.
Samit's last stand?
If Kevin Pietersen's face didn't fit anymore after that catastrophic Ashes campaign in 2013/14 then with Samit Patel it was always more a case that his body shape wasn't quite right.
Patel would surely argue that however much gym work and however many 10km runs he did, he was never going to look like Ben Stokes or Eoin Morgan. He may also be quick to remind everyone to look at the numbers. 26 first-class hundreds and a further 61 fifties, eight List A centuries and a further 33 half-centuries; 28 T20 fifties. To go with almost 800 career wickets, across all formats.
You could make a case for him being the single-most consistent English performer at county level for the past decade. Almost 35 now and not blessed with the greatest athletic ability as we've seen, one has to wonder how many more seasons he has left in him. This could well be the last time we see him in a major domestic final but if it is, it would be just like him to go out with a bang.
[11.0] looks pretty big on the seasoned campaigner top-scoring for Notts against Worcestershire.