Don’t be fooled by the Friends Life T20 competition being barged out of the limelight this summer. What has already been an enthralling tournament reaches its climax this Saturday in Cardiff as three old hands and a new face take part in a three-game bonanza at Sophia Gardens.
We’re live for every ball on Test Match Sofa from 10.45am BST as Sussex take on Yorkshire in the first semi-final at 11am, before Hampshire and Somerset contest the second semi at 2.30pm. With both finalists decided, there’s a short break to catch our breath and restock the beer fridge before the big game starts at 6.45pm.
Here’s a quick look at the contenders for the tenth English T20 crown:
Key Player: Chris Liddle
The Sharks rocketed into finals day on the back of pyrotechnics from Matt Prior, Luke Wright and Scott Styris. The latter’s 100 not out in the quarter-final against Gloucestershire was a 37-ball display of violence to stir even the most obdurate 20-over objector. Why Prior is not in England’s World T20 squad, incidentally, is anyone’s guess.
Oft unnoticed has been their bowling. Captain Michael Yardy’s darts generate four overs of suffocation for the batting side, while Chris Liddle is one of a batch of left-armers to prosper in the competition this year.
They have only reached the final once, beating Somerset in 2009, but they’ve earned the favourites tag this year after going through the group stage and quarter-finals like a dose of salts.
Key Player: Jonny Bairstow
For skipper Andrew Gale, this is about much more than getting the never-having-been-to-finals-day monkey off Yorkshire’s back. The Tykes are boosted by the availability of Jonny Bairstow and David Miller, who have been released from England and South Africa ‘A’ duty respectively.
One blow is that Mitchell Starc, the tournament’s leading wicket taker, is not allowed to rejoin the county. The fit-again Ryan Sidebottom and Tim Bresnan, if the ECB are generous enough to release him, should more than fill the void left by the Australian left-armer, though.
Look out for the brisk fielding of this young side and don’t rule out the fearlessness of youth helping to take them past the favourites Sussex and into a first ever final.
Key Player: Neil McKenzie
The 2010 winners will be without Glenn Maxwell after his efforts in the group stage were rewarded with a call-up to the Australia limited-overs squad. Michael Carberry is fit for battle, though, as is T20 captain Dimitri Mascarenhas, with the Royals looking to avenge last year’s super-over defeat to Somerset in the last four.
21-year-old Danny Briggs has twirled away at a tidy economy rate this year and has no little incentive to impress after his inclusion in England’s squad for the World T20 in September.
They may be outsiders this time, but don’t discount a side that have built momentum quietly throughout the campaign.
Key Player: Marcus Trescothick
The last few years have been successful yet unrewarded ones at Taunton. Losing the 2011 CB40 final to Surrey while also cocking up the T20 final for an infuriating third year running, it seemed the crest of the Ciderboys’ wave was about to break.
But they have reached a fourth successive finals appearance with captain Marcus Trescothick back from injury and belligerent as ever with the bat. Jos Buttler, Craig Kieswetter and Peter Trego are no less liable to blast a game out of reach of any opposition, but stretched bowling resources may be a stumbling block.
If the aforementioned batsmen fire, sparks could fly in an explosive final against Sussex or Yorkshire.
Join us LIVE on Saturday at 10.45am BST for live, interactive ball-by-ball coverage of T20 finals day. Send in your tweets to @testmatchsofa throughout the day to make the conversation your own.