Saturday sees the final big event of the domestic cricket season, as Glamorgan take on Nottinghamshire in the YB40 Final at Lord's. Richard O'Hagan previews the action...
"Allenby, however, has been in impressive form lower down the order and at around 7.06/1 will be a very good price."
Glamorgan v Nottinghamshire
Live on Sky Sports 2
Even the most loyal Welshman must be slightly surprised to find Glamorgan in this final. Perennial underachievers since joining the County Championship in the 1920s, even one day success has been elusive down the years and this is their first final in over a decade. That said, though, no-one expected them to get out of the group stages of this competition, yet they did. And then everyone wrote them off in the semi-final against holders Hampshire, but they went to the Rose Bowl and came back as easy victors.
Key components of their success have been overseas paceman Michael Horgan and vice-captain Jim Allenby. Horgan is the leading wicket taker in the competition this year, whilst Allenby's inspired batting and parsimonious bowling justifiably earned him the Man of the Match award against Hampshire. Throw in former England fast bowler Simon Jones (one of the few actual Welshmen in the side) and a wiley veteran left arm spinner in Dean Cosker and you have a side which will certainly punch above their weight come Saturday.
Nottinghamshire are, understandably, favourites for this game. They breezed through the group stages and then humbled Somerset in the semi-final. They boast England's T20 opening pair at the top of the order, have the mercurial Samit Patel in the middle order and Chris Read is still one of the best one day wicketkeepers around. Oh, and they've been told that they can select England's Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad for this final, too.
That last point might be a double edged sword, though. Does coach Mike Newell risk disrupting a winning side - not to mention team morale - by dropping two players who have seen them this far and parachuting in the county's two bowling superstars? It is a distraction which could just tilt things Glamorgan's way.
Venue & Conditions
Lord's finals in September traditionally favour the side bowling first, with extra swing and movement in the earlier part of the day. After a damp fortnight, though, and with Saturday predicted to be the warmest day so far this week, the pitch could be a challenge for any batsman no matter what time of day they take guard at.
Nottinghamshire are currently 1.4740/85 favourites, with Glamorgan 3.052/1. That's an understandable margin given the relative difference in personnel, but it also makes Glamorgan, the team who have defied the odds throughout this contest, the more attractive bet.
Glamorgan's batting line-up is hardly blessed with stars, which makes picking a top batsman an unpredictable affair. In these circumstances it is always tempting to go for one of the openers, simply on the grounds that they will have more time to make any runs at all. Allenby, however, has been in impressive form lower down the order and at around 7.06/1 will be a very good price.
Hales is the top ranked T20 batsman in the world and always relishes the big occasion (two of the top four T20 scores by an England batsman have been by him). His poor form in four day cricket has kept him out of Nottinghamshire's last two County Championship games, so he should be well rested for this occasion. In addition, the presence of Lumb and Patel will keep his price at a sensible level, around 5.04/1.
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Glamorgan or Nottinghamshire? You decide.