County cricket’s recent 50-over success stories meet in the shorter format as Durham Jets travel to Gloucestershire in a bid to continue North Group quarter-final dominance.
After wins for both the Nottinghamshire Outlaws and Northants Steelbacks, Gloucestershire almost have the pride of half the country to play for, though it was they who finished top of their respective group in the Natwest T20 Blast.
With 21 points from their 14 games – better than any other county across the divisions – the signs are definitely pointing to last year’s Royal London One-Day Cup success being no mere fluke.
The Bristol outfit lost just three times on route to their first quarter-final since 2012, where they face a Durham side whom they have never met in T20 cricket, a familiar feeling within this last-eight line-up.
With one of those defeats coming in just the very first game – and that by just one run – it’s easy to see why Gloucestershire enter with high confidence. Couple that with the West Countrians boasting the two top run-scorers in Michael Klinger (530) and Ian Cockbain (499) and it’s a challenge steeped in difficulty for Durham.
It’s a test they may also have to face without their leader, Paul Collingwood, while their absence from the Royal London One-Day Cup means defeat in Bristol could be a swansong for Mark Stoneman before his trip to Surrey.
The Jets snuck through by the skin of their teeth, losing as many games they won, to edge through fourth from the North tier. The country’s most northerly side have also tasted the quarter-finals as recently as 2013, where Ben Stokes’ inspiration saw them narrowly miss out to Northants.
Few will have picked the medium-pace of Benny Howell as holding the most wickets thus far in the tournament, but it’s his 23 that sits top of the pile. A best of 3-15 against Middlesex shows just how consistent the canny 27-year-old has operated, also going at less than seven an over.
The all-rounder also has capabilities with the bat, a trait he has yet to show in the tournament, with a top score of 37.
Runs have been at a premium for Durham, with nobody scoring more than Phil Mustard’s 220 who, for the rest of the season, has ironically gone to Gloucestershire.
He’ll be ineligible for the match, but one man looking to sign off on a strong note will be Mark Stoneman. Set to move to Surrey come the season’s end, this could be the last chance to strike a killer blow in front of the television cameras.
Stoneman currently has one half-century to his name in the tournament, an unbeaten 82 which came as part of a vital 13-run win over Derbyshire at the end of last month.
With Gareth Roderick and Chris Dent injured and Phil Mustard ineligible, 19-year-old Academy wicketkeeper Patrick Grieshaber will make his T20 debut on Wednesday. The squad has also been boosted by the news that all-rounder Jack Taylor is clear to bowl again following his suspension by the ECB.
Gloucestershire squad: Michael Klinger (captain), Ian Cockbain, Patrick Grieshaber (wicket-keeper) Benny Howell, Hamish Marshall, Craig Miles, Kieran Noema-Barnett, Liam Norwell, Tom Smith, Jack Taylor, Matt Taylor, Andrew Tye, Graeme van Buuren
Mark Wood is available for Durham, impressing in both Blast fixtures he has played in this year, taking 1/25 & 1/19 against the Leicestershire Foxes and Northants Steelbacks respectively.
Paul Collingwood is also included but faces a fitness test on a calf injury sustained in the Royal London One-Day Cup match against the Yorkshire Vikings, with Keaton Jennings set to captain if absent.
Calum MacLeod is unavailable after choosing to play for Scotland in their Intercontinental Cup clash with the United Arab Emirates.
Durham squad: Paul Collingwood (c), Mark Stoneman, Keaton Jennings, Gordon Muchall, Jack Burnham, Michael Richardson, Ryan Pringle, Stuart Poynter, Scott Borthwick, Paul Coughlin, Usman Arshad, Mark Wood, Chris Rushworth
Date: Wednesday 10th August
Ground: The Brightside Ground, Bristol
Odds: Gloucestershire 8/13, Durham 5/4