Competition is as tight as ever in the Natwest T20 Blast this year. We enter the final week of the group stages with 16 of the 18 counties still in the hunt for a quarter final place.
Leaders Nottinghamshire and Glamorgan have sealed the first spot in the North and South respectively with Worcestershire and Durham the only sides definitely eliminated at this stage. Even Middlesex, who prop up the South group, are still able to qualify.
With sides having a mix of one or two games to play this week, with the exception of Derbyshire who have three remaining, we look at what each side has to do in order to claim one of those converted top four spots.
Both groups remain tight, and it is likely the calculators will be out on Friday night, with net run-rate the first tiebreaker if teams are level on points – but more on that later.
We start in the North, where Nottinghamshire have come back from three consecutive defeats at the start of the campaign to win five completed games in a row to surge to the top and secure a quarter final with a game to spare.
Victory at home to Leicester on Friday night will confirm a home tie for the Outlaws, but even if they lose, only Derbyshire winning all three of their remaining games, and two Northamptonshire wins, as well as the Steelbacks overturning a net run-rate deficit of 0.544, would see Notts finish outside the top two.
Birmingham Bears currently sit second on 15 points, but with only one game to play – Lancashire away on Friday night – they will be watching results closely this week to know what they need to do going up to Old Trafford.
As it stands, a win would be enough unless all the following were to happen: Northants take at least three points from games against Yorkshire and Durham; Leicestershire beat Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, having lost to Leics, beat Durham and Worcestershire. That scenrio would see three (If Northants win twice, or four should they get a tie/no result in one of their games) level on 17 points, with net run-rate deciding the final two qualifies (Or three depending on Northants).
With Edgbaston hosting Finals Day, the Bears could secure home advantage throughout the knock-out stages with a win, if Northants lose one of their remaining games, or Derybshire win two, in which case it would go down to NRR, or three Derbyshire win would see them take a home tie.
The Bears could also go through with a defeat, but that would likely come down to a net run-rate battle, with the potential for up to six teams all finishing on 15 points.
Northamptonshire Steelbacks have two games to play, traveling to Yorkshire on Thursday before facing Durham on Friday, knowing that two wins will guarantee them a top four spot, as well as a home tie – unless Derbyshire win their three remaining games, and even then a Notts defeat would see net run-rate decide second.
One win from two would be enough for the Steelbacks unless the following was to happen: Birmingham beat Lancashire; Leicestershire beat Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire; and Derbyshire, having lost to Leics, beat Durham and Worcestershire – a scenario that would knock Northants out. Or, should they tie/get a no result and a win, join Birmingham, Derbys and Leics in a four way NRR shoot out for three places behind Notts.
Yorkshire may start the week holding the final qualification place, but they are the most precariously placed with only one game to play – at home to Northants on Thursday, as they miss the final round of fixtures.
Defeat will knock them out, with the winner of Derbyshire v Leicstershire on Thursday – or both if a tie/NR – guaranteed to go above them. Even victory would leave a tense wait on results on Friday, when a Northants victory over Durham, and Derbys and Leics taking at least three points from their remaining fixtures, would knock Yorkshire out.
To qualify outright, Yorkshire would need Northants to lose to Durham, one of Derbyshire and Leicestershire to take no more than a point, and Lancashire to drop a point in their remaining two games, otherwise it will come down to NRR. However, the Vikings do boast the best NRR so far, with 0.639.
Derbyshire are behind Yorkshire only on NRR, with two games in hand after they missed last weekend due to hosting the West Indies in a tour game. Three games in four days represents a tough schedule but they do play both Worcestershire and Durham, who cannot qualify.
Three victories will guarantee both qualification, and a home quarter final, whilst two would also be enough for a top four spot, as long as one of those wins came against Leicestershire on Thursday. Or, if Northants lose to either Yorkshire or Durham, or Birmingham are beaten at Lancashire, and only two Northants wins would deny them a home tie.
Should the Falcons lose to Leicestershire, and beat Worcestershire and Durham, it opens up the possibility of a three or four way tie on 17 points – as explained with Birmingham above – but as with Yorkshire, Derbyshire’s NRR of 0.415 is healthy.
Beating Leicstershire alone could be enough for outright qualification, as long as Lancashire don’t drop a point and Leics go on to lose to Nottinghamshire, but one win would likely see a NRR battle, with up to six teams able to finish on 15 points.
Leicestershire’s campaign looked over after five defeats in a row, but back to back wins over Northants and Yorkshire last weekend kept the Foxes alive, ahead of final week games at home to Derby on Thursday before traveling to Nottinghamshire on Friday.
Two wins will secure qualification unless Northants win both their games. If they do should Derbyshire win their other two, having been beaten by Leicestershire, and Birmingham beat Lancashire, that would see Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Birmingham all level on 17 points battling for two spots, with Leicestershire’s NRR the weakest.
A win against Derbyshire, before losing at Trent Bridge, could be enough for outright qualification, but only if Northants beat Yorkshire, Derbyshire also lose at Worcestershire and Durham, and Lancashire fail to win both their games. More likely is that one Foxes win would see that NRR battle on 15 points.
Lancashire sit seventh on 11 points and know that only two wins will realistically be enough. A tie/no results would only qualify should Leicestershire and Derbyshire take a point against each, and go on to lose their remaining games, and Yorkshire fail to beat Northants, leading to a tie on 14 points for the final spot.
Should Lancashire beat Worcestershire on Wednesday and Birmingham on Friday, both at Old Trafford, 15 points would only qualify outright should the above scenario play out. As long as there is a winner between Derbyshire and Leicestershire, wins for Birmingham and Northants, as well as Derbyshire taking three points, Lancashire would be knocked out. Otherwise they could muscle in on the NRR battle for the final spot.
Click here to see the South Group permutations.