The domestic cricket season has one last big day out, as Hampshire and Warwickshire contest the CB40 Final at Lord's. Richard O'Hagan has some thoughts and some tips as the English cricket summer comes to an end.
"Neither side is exactly packed with stars and both have a near-perfect mix of promising youngsters and wily veterans."
It is the final act of the domestic season and, fittingly, the two most successful teams of 2012 will duke it out for one last trophy at the home of cricket.
Hampshire won the Friends Life T20 competition in a thrilling day of cricket, but at a high cost. Dimitri Mascarenhas, their veteran all-rounder, suffered a serious shoulder injury that day and will miss the match on Saturday September 15.
Warwickshire, fresh from winning the County Championship, hope to have former England wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose fit to play after he suffered a freak thigh injury whilst changing for their semi-final game against Lancashire last weekend.
In a twist on the day's events, the game also features two of the contenders to replace Andrew Strauss at the top of the England batting order. Hampshire's Michael Carberry was in imperious form in their semi-final against Sussex, though, blasting 68 from just 36 balls as he and opening partner James Vince (with a relatively sedate 58 from 43 balls) took the game away from Sussex inside the first ten overs.
Varun Chopra of Warwickshire, meanwhile, is the form opening bat in the country. His hundred in Warwickshire's semi-final was a much less frenetic affair than Carberry's innings, but his composure and concentration (he batted for 39 of the 40 overs) allowed his side to score at over six an over and set a target well beyond Lancashire's reach. He then followed that up with 195 in the Bears' championship-winning demolition of Worcestershire this week.
Even without that particular contest, this would be a fascinating final. Neither side is exactly packed with stars and both have a near-perfect mix of promising youngsters and wily veterans. In fact, Warwickshire even added to their veteran corps with the loan signing of former England spinner Ian Blackwell, whilst New Zealand off-spinner Jeetan Patel has returned from international duty to play. Hampshire have less experience in bowling and more in batting, although Sean Ervine, the veteran Zimbabwean all-rounder, remains a vital part of their plans.
The game is without doubt finely balanced, but Warwickshire at [2.0] look the better bet to take home their second trophy of the season.