Durham Jets can probably boast the longest road to Edgbaston out of all four teams heading to Finals Day – and I don’t just mean how many miles they’ve had to travel.
Scraping through by the skin of their teeth, Durham only made the last eight with a last-game victory, and even then faced the daunting situation of travelling to Gloucestershire, a rampant Gloucestershire at that, for the quarter-final.
One 19-run victory later, and they joined Nottinghamshire Outlaws and Northants Steelbacks at Edgbaston, while the Yorkshire Vikings made it a north sweep 24 hours later.
For the Jets, this day can also mark the end of an era. With T20 stalwarts Mark Stoneman and Phil Mustard leaving the Emirates Riverside this winter – perhaps two of many – this could provide the former in particular a swansong to his time in the north before moving to Surrey.
With that, it’s almost a transition year for Durham – it’s what makes them underdogs, at least for their semi-final against a Yorkshire side bursting at the seams with England internationals.
But Paul Collingwood’s side are no stranger to a lack of expectation – it’s what helped them to County Championship honours in 2013 and the Royal London One-Day Cup a year later. Could they complete the set?
They have beaten all the other semi-finalists in the competition so far, but like Yorkshire have only experience one Finals Day – back in 2008.
How they fared
The Jets were blown away by the Worcestershire Rapids in their first Blast-off of the summer, more specifically downed by om Kohler-Cadmore’s 12.
But, thrashings over holders Lancashire Lightning and table-toppers sent them on their way – despite a hammering of their own against the Birmingham Bears – but did need squeaky-bum victories over the Vikings and Derbyshire Falcons to sneak through.
And by the quarter-final, everything fell in to place. Stoneman got the innings off to a blistering start, making 61 off 41 balls, with all of the top five contributing in making double figures.
Amassing 180-5 largely came down to Michael Richardson’s late cameo, a flurry Gloucestershire couldn’t chase down as they fell short by 19 runs – despite Paul Collingwood bowling three legitimate balls for 22 runs.
Durham will be bolstered by the returns of two England stars from injury, but the key will be whether they can stay fit.
Ben Stokes’ worldly England exploits are well documented, but the all-rounders capabilities with both bat and ball virtually give Durham the feeling of having an extra player on the park. But despite all that, Stokes hasn’t bowled in the tournament yet and averages just five with the bat in as many matches.
But who looks at averages, right?
In Mark Wood, Durham can also boast one of the quickest and most accurate fast bowler around the shires, and it was expressive contribution which was a large factor in their quarter-final win over Gloucestershire.
Had he not suffered injury, Wood would most likely be a mainstay in the England Test XI, but Durham will be hoping he’s come back at just the right time to help them over the line.