The Friends Provident semi finalists return to the 50 over format this weekend. Which teams can successfully merge the skills required in the Twenty20 cup and county championship to reach the season’s only Lord’s final?
Durham meet Kent in Friday’s first semi final at Chester-le-Street. Both teams topped their respective divisions and will be in Twenty20 cup quarter final action early next week (indeed, all of the semi finalists have reached the last eight of the shorter format tournament).
Proof that this tournament’s contenders are the country’s limited over specialists and both these teams are equipped to pull off the double. Durham claimed their first ever silverware in winning last year’s Friends Provident trophy and I have been tipping Kent for Twenty20 glory since the season started.
Both won their latest county championship assignments, so there will plenty of players in form on display at the Riverside.
It might be a bowler’s day. There have been plenty of low scoring encounters at Durham recently, including their one wicket win over Nottinghamshire in the quarter finals. Steve Harmison has 16 wickets at 20.87 in the tournament to date and could be the home side’s key man.
Kent’s Yasir Arafat is the tournament’s top wicket taker (22 at 13.45) and he is just one of the Spitfires’ many form allrounders. It is a sign of their strength that their century-hitting hero in the quarter final win over Somerset, Neil Dexter, has been loaned out to Essex.
Kent are a well-drilled One Day outfit and this should be a close contest, with Durham my tip for a final place.
Another north vs. south battle takes place at Chelmsford on Saturday as Yorkshire travel to Essex. Both teams are in the Pro40 second division this season and should be expected to be the hunt for promotion, as they have been consistent limited overs performers this term.
Both enjoyed comfortable quarter final wins. Yorkshire eased past Gloucestershire by six wickets with more than five overs remaining, whilst Essex hammered Leicestershire by 118 runs.
That win at Grace Road was based around one of the great domestic one day performances. Ravi Bopara’s unbeaten 201, made off just 138 balls, was only the eighth double ton in limited overs cricket and makes him the man to watch at the Ford county ground.
Bopara played with the freedom that has eluded him at international level and seems to have inspired his team mates with that knock. Graham Napier found some big-hitting form in the Twenty20 cup and in Ryan ten Doeschate Essex have another form batsman capable of clearing the ropes.
However, their bowling is perhaps too reliant on Danish Kaneria and I expect Yorkshire’s experienced line-up, led by the batting of Jacques Rudolph and Anthony McGrath and the bowling of Tim Bresnan, to edge this one.