The quarter-finals of the T20 Blast start on Tuesday night as Derbyshire host Hampshire and that's where one of the two best bets lie, says Jamie Pacheco, as he casts his eye over the tournament...
'But it’s the bowling of (yet another South African Kolpak) Hardus Viljoen (14 wickets), Kiwi Matt Henry (14 wickets) and celebration king Imran Tahir (17 wickets, economy rate of 7.19) that really catches the eye. If they bowl well, they’ll make life easy for their batsmen and could upset the odds.'
Not a predictable affair
For all the criticism of English T20 cricket regarding its timing, limits on overseas players and lack of razmatazz, the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that the latter stages are something to look forward to.
Teams who finished highest in the group stages benefit from a home quarter-final then you're through to finals day where the two semi-finals and the final are played on the same day at Edgbaston. And say what you like about it again but it's certainly not a predictable tournament to call; 14 editions have produced 10 different winners. Only Northamptonshire and Hampshire have won it twice, only Leicestershire have won it three times.
Notable absentees in last eight
Derbyshire and Hampshire kick off proceedings tonight from 18:30 (live on Sky Sports) followed by Glamorgan v Leicestershire tomorrow, Nottinghamshire v Somerset on Thursday and then Surrey v Birmingham Bears (or Warwickshire, in old money) on Friday.
Notable absentees include last year's winners Northamptonshire - who adopt a sort of Moneyball approach to the game and recruit unlikely but effective players whilst basing their tactics heavily on data - Lancashire and Yorkshire.
Lancashire were mostly fancied just on the back of their star trio of the big-hitting Jos Buttler, the all-round talents of the experienced South African Ryan McLaren and the wily Pakistan seamer Junaid Khan.
Yorkshire were short in the betting because come Finals Day their side may have included England batting superstars Joe Root and Johnny Bairstow in addition to all-rounder David Willey, Tim Bresnan, Gary Balance, Adil Rashid and star overseas duo Shaun Marsh and Sarfraz Ahmed. But they finished just fifth in the North Group, hurt by a tied game and two no results due to bad weather.
Who are the favourites?
Nottinghamshire are clear favourites at 4.1 and you can see why. They have an easy-looking home quarter-final against Somerset and a side packed with quality T20 players. That includes the hard-hitting openers Alex Hales and Rikki Wesssels, the all-round talents of Samit Patel, reliable Kolpak player Brendan Taylor, Aussie limited-overs star Dan Christian, England man Jake Ball and the excellent Kiwi legbreak bowler Ish Sodhi.
In what is expected to be a high-scoring game at Trent Bridge, they're just 1.558/15 to knock out Somerset. That's too short a price for a T20 match to be backing them but then again, they're by far the stronger side.
Next come Surrey at 6.25/1 and they're another side packed with star names: Aussie double act Aaron Finch and Moises Henriques, England limited-overs opener Jason Roy, the promising Curran brothers Sam and Tim plus the evergreen Gareth Batty and the endless varieties of paceman Jade Dernbach. But they're not for me- they were far too inconsistent all the way through and lack a gun bowler to change the game at crucial times.
Next up are Hampshire at 6.411/2. They recruited well in the overseas department with old heads Shahid Afridi and George Bailey and have other good T20 performers in James Vince, Kolpak man Kyle Abbott and Sean Ervine. Liam Dawson, the occasional England Test spinner, has decided he fancies opening the bowling and his figures on the four occasions he's bowled the first over read 5-0, 2-1, 1-1 and 1-1. That's match winning stuff.
Who's the bet to win it?
Glamorgan have never made a T20 final but this is the best chance they'll have. They have a home tie on Wednesday against a Leicestershire side with a highly respectable Top 4 of Luke Ronchi, Cameron Delport, Mark Cosgrove and Colin Ackerman. The Midlanders also have the highly effective Aussie bowler Clint McKay, who doubles up as captain. But there's not much beyond that and Glamorgan, who topped the Southern Group, should justify odds of 1.768/11 to make it to finals day.
Once there, they will look to their South African trio to take centre stage: the red-hot form of Colin Ingram, the experience of skipper Jacques Rudolph and the raw pace and aggression of Marchant de Lange. They'll need to bat big because they won't be able to rely on their bowlers- no-one has gone at less than 7.8 an over- but they might just pull it off at 7.06/1.
The match bet
Derbyshire look the most attractive prospect at 2.285/4 to beat Hampshire on Tuesday evening. The ace in the pack is coach John Wright, who coached Mumbai Indians to IPL glory earlier this year. The English players are no household names but Luis Reece has 417 runs in the competition at an average of 37 and Wayne Madsen has 13 wickets.
But it's the bowling of (yet another South African Kolpak) Hardus Viljoen (14 wickets), Kiwi Matt Henry (14 wickets) and celebration king Imran Tahir (17 wickets, economy rate of 7.19) that really catches the eye. If they bowl well, they'll make life easy for their batsmen and could upset the odds.
Back Glamorgan to win the T20 Blast @ 7.06/1
Back Derbyshire to beat Hampshire @ 2.285/4