Having finished on top of the North Group, after nine victories in a row, Notts Outlaws must go into Saturday’s first semi-final as favourites. They will be loath to write off their opponents Northants Steelbacks, however, as they finished just behind them in a tight group and have plenty of experience at Finals Days.
The Outlaws have had a few near-miss seasons in the T20 tournament, but this year they showed a fierce determination to get through, their campaign culminating in a 39-run victory over Essex in a home quarter final. They haven’t visited Finals day in six years and have never won it. This year’s performances show that the Outlaws are more than capable of making up for lost time.
Boasting arguably the strongest top order in the competition, and with access to internationals Alex Hales and Stuart Broad for the day, Nottinghamshire will be full of confidence for Saturday’s event.
How they fared:
A couple of early losses and a few washouts made Notts early campaign look shaky, but they soon stamped their feet and made a straight run for the top of the table.
The Outlaws were able to give payback to Birmingham, who had halted their start to the tournament, with a six-wicket victory in the reverse fixture. In July at Trent Bridge, it took the home side fewer than 13 overs to beat Worcestershire by nine wickets, Riki Wessels displaying his usual level of prowess with an unbeaten 80.
With nine straight victories to their name, and only those two losses in their first two games, the Outlaws deserved to finish top and take a home quarter-final. Having managed to put a fairly average 162 on the board against Essex, it was left to the enviable skills of Samit Patel and his team of bowlers to complete the victory.
If Notts have an enviable top order, it’s centred around the powerful opener Riki Wessels. Wessels may have had a disappointing Championship season, but he has been key in the Blast. Quick to settle and difficult to remove, he seems to revel in a run chase and has set up many an innings for his side in this tournament. In the victory against Worcestershire at Trent Bridge, Wessels scored the bulk of the required runs himself. Even in the side’s two defeats, Wessels was able to put runs on the board with 38 against Durham and an explosive 52 in the opening game against Birmingham.
A man who seems continually out of favour with the England selectors, Samit Patel has long been a favourite with the people of Nottingham. Capable with bat and ball, and surprisingly agile in the field, Patel brings stability in the middle order with the bat and keeps a cool head with the ball in his hand. When the top order struggled in the chase against Yorkshire, Patel was perfectly placed to come in and add vital runs. In the quarterfinal against Essex, his four wickets proved the game changer.
The Outlaws captain, Dan Christian, has proven himself a more than capable leader in this year’s Blast. Always calm with the bat, the Australian’s T20 experience has shone through. Almost always putting runs on the board, he proves the perfect safety net if the openers are removed early. Amongst other performances, he made 54 in the Duckworth-Lewis victory against Leicestershire; 56 against Northants and added 34 to Wessels’ already solid innings against Birmingham in the year’s first fixture.
Add Michael Lumb, Greg Smith, Steven Mullaney and, of course, Broad and Hales to those above and it’s easy to see why the Outlaws are looking forward to their visit to Edgbaston.
Semi final: 4/7