An English domestic season which started way back in March will finally come to a conclusion at Lords on Saturday with the showpiece limited overs final. Friends Life T20 winners Hampshire face up to a Warwickshire side who have been worthy winners of the LV County Championship and if the rain stays away, a thrilling game could be in prospect (11.30am BST, Saturday).
Hampshire were consistent performers throughout their CB40 campaign while Warwickshire had to rely on qualification to the final as the best runners-up from the group stages. However, after both teams sealed emphatic wins in their respective semi-finals, the bookmakers consider that this is almost too close to call.
After those semi-finals, the focus returned to first class cricket in England and neither of these teams have played a limited overs match for two weeks now. The form prior to that however, is as evenly matched as those bookmakers’ odds.
On semi-finals day itself, the Warwickshire Bears were drawn against Lancashire who were favourites to lift the trophy at that point after securing the best record of all the teams in the group stages. Batting first, Jim Troughton’s men posted an impressive 250/6 in their 40 overs, thanks largely to a patient 110 by Varun Chopra at the top of the order.
In reply, Lancashire lost early wickets and despite 78 from Paul Horton, they were always behind the rate. Ultimately, figures of 4/38 from the veteran Neil Carter helped to secure a 23 run victory.
Meanwhile, Hampshire were second favourites to win their own semi-final as they took on the Sussex Sharks at Hove. The underdog tag doesn’t bother this side however as they proved on Friends Life T20 finals day, and a comfortable win was sealed on the Sussex Coast.
Despite an excellent hundred from Luke Wright, the Sharks only managed to post a below par total of 222, thanks largely to economical bowling spells from their spinners, Liam Dawson and Danny Briggs.
In reply, Michael Carberry top scored with 68 as the Hawks chased down the total with eight wickets and a full seven overs to spare.
The spinners should have another big part to play in the final although it is doubtful as to whether the Lords pitch will offer too much assistance. Pace off the ball overall will be an important factor for both teams and for Hampshire, all-rounder Sean Ervine could be another key player.
For Warwickshire, Rikki Clarke has enjoyed one of his best seasons and many felt he was unlucky to miss out on a return to the England set-up. Clarke could win the game with bat or ball and is the one to watch from the Bears squad.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Trott will miss the match after sustaining that hand injury with England but Ian Bell should return. Bell, was instrumental in Warwickshire’s 2010 win and his test best form could also turn the match.
However, I would expect the Hawks to keep that one day momentum going while the Bears have come to the end of a long season that may have taken too much out of their side.
Betting Tip Verdict: Hampshire to win @ Even Money (1/1) with Stan James Bookmaker.