T20 Finals Day: Five things to look out for in the season closing extravaganza
With no more international cricket this summer, all eyes turn to T20 Finals Day. A big-hitting Kiwi, two England stars and Worcestershire's young guns make Jamie Pacheco's list of five things to watch on Saturday...
"It’s a huge ask for them to go all the way here with so much inexperience of the big stages within their ranks and they’re the 4.2 outsiders of the four to do so. But at least they’ve finally got the monkey off their back by just being there."
England pretenders out to impress the selectors
It's not much fun going into Finals Day without the man who more than any other got you there. Sussex's Afghan star spinner Rashid Khan took 17 wickets in just 11 matches at an economy rate of 6.59, but is on international duty at the Asia Cup.
You can't replace the irreplaceable but it may be down to Chris Jordan and Jofra Archer to do the best they can with the ball to make up for the huge loss. Jordan has taken 11 wickets in 11 games, Archer 18 in 13.
Their relationship with the England limited-overs set-up is very different. Jordan has played 31 ODIs and 34 T20s and would be the first to admit he hasn't made the most of his chances. There are no real potential bowling superstars bar Surrey's Curran brothers coming through so he may yet get another chance, but at 29 he may not get that many more.
Archer is a very different story. He's opted out of playing for the Windies and in Graeme Hick-style, decided to wait till 2022-23 until he'll qualify to play for England on residency grounds. Rather like Jordan, he does all three disciplines but is arguably the one with the greatest potential.
You can back Archer at 3/1 to be Sussex's top bowler in the second semi-final against Somerset; Jordan is 4/1.
England stars on show
It's not often that county fans get to see their international stars in action these days. But Worcestershire and Lancashire fans will get to see their 'own' in action on Saturday when Moeen Ali and Jos Buttler make a rare appearance for their domestic employers.
Buttler is fresh from having a highly successful Test series against India. He top-scored for England in the series with 349 runs, kept wicket in the fourth Test and was vice-captain.
Ali was recalled half-way through, was man-of-the-match on his comeback, was promoted to number three from batting at 8 and had a good game in the Fifth Test as well.
Of course, T20 and Tet cricket are polar opposites as far as the game goes. But class is permanent and form is useful. Buttler will take the gloves and open while Ali will open or bat at three and probably bowl his full allocation of overs of off-spin, much improved over the past few weeks.
They go head-to-head in the first semi-final, that Lancashire are marginal [1.86] favourites to win.
Few players were made for the T20 format like New Zealand's Corey Anderson. Resembling the great Richie McCaw in both grizzly good-looks and scarily, physique, his lusty blows, athletic fielding and uncomplicated left-arm bowling make him one of the format's most sought-after all-rounders.
Sadly for Somerset, he hasn't been contributing with the ball, an injury preventing him from bowling at all in the competition. But his batting has more than made up for it. Despite batting at five or six, he's the eighth highest runscorer in this year's edition and the third-highest amongst players still left in the competition. That was aided by a strike rate of 171 and three half-centuries.
As with the likes of Glenn Maxwell, Kieron Pollard and MS Dhoni, you can go right ahead and say it 'No game is over while this man is at the crease." He's 6/1 to top score for Somerset in the second semi-final.
Worcestershire are the only county side who have never been to Finals Day before in almost 15 years of the competition's existence.
It's a minor miracle that this was the year that it happened. They lost their long-serving coach Steve Rhodes last year, star man Ali was only available for half of the campaign and there was further disruption with opener Martin Guptil departing halfway through to give way to bowling all-rounder Wayne Parnell.
But they soldiered on gamely, relying on talented youngsters to come up with the goods. Their second highest run scorer, Joe Clarke, is 22. Patrick Brown, the highest wicket-taker in the whole competition (27 wickets) is just 20. It's a huge ask for them to go all the way here with so much inexperience of the big stages within their ranks and they're the [4.4] outsiders of the four to do so. But at least they've finally got the monkey off their back by just being there.
Plenty going on off the field
T20 cricket has never been just about the cricket. Just look at the IPL or the Big Bash.
And it's a similar story here, especially for those lucky enough to be able to go to Edgbaston for what has become one of the top days out on the sporting calendar in the UK.
There's plenty to eat and drink, there's the mascot race and live entertainment. We wouldn't go as far as calling Andrew Flintoff and David Lloyd's Karaoke sing-off last year 'entertainment' as well but... they mean well.
All that remains to be seen is who is standing on the stage soaking the crowd with champagne when all is said and done.