Worcestershire take on Surrey at Worcester on Saturday for a place in the Royal London One Day Cup final at Lord’s to be played on 1 July.
The last time the home side reached a semi-final, let alone a final, was as far back as 2004. Since then, too often on the road to Lord’s they have been left stranded on the hard shoulder.
Surrey, on the other hand, are bidding for their third consecutive Royal London final.
Worcestershire will take comfort from home ground advantage. They have won all their home matches in the competition this year, every one against a team from a Test match ground.
Worcestershire topped the North Group with six wins out of eight. Surrey scraped through in third place in the South Group, before defeating Yorkshire on Tuesday in a quarter final game.
Ironically, having to play that game at Headingley could help Surrey by getting them thoroughly back in 50 over mode. By contrast, Worcestershire played their last Royal London game almost exactly a month ago. They will have to make a rapid adjustment.
This game is too close to call. Worcestershire’s home record is formidable but Surrey have a highly talented squad.
It will all come down to who strikes form on the day; and it could just be that Surrey, still on a high from that Headingley win, will hit their stride quicker. Nevertheless, you would have to be nuttier than a squirrel’s picnic to bet heavily on the result.
As a wise politician once said, we had better wait and see.
Getting an important all-rounder back from Champions Trophy duty is a bonus for Worcestershire. Yes, we are talking about John Hastings, the powerful Australian who combines hard hitting in the middle order with canny fast-medium bowling.
Hastings is joint top wicket taker for Worcestershire with ten victims. His useful contributions with the bat have been at a strike rate of 142.85.
Three years ago, Hastings helped Durham to the Royal London final but missed out on playing at Lord’s because of Champions League commitments. “I was absolutely devastated,” he says. “For me to get to a Lord’s final, and stand on that balcony, would be amazing.”
As for Surrey’s key man, he surely can’t do it again, can he? Don’t bet against it. Kumar Sangakkara is having the final season of his dreams.
He averages around 90 in both the Royal London Cup and the County Championship so far with seven hundreds. In his last two Royal London innings, he has scored 245 runs for once out.
Sangakkara’s Headingley century was his 100th in first class and List A matches. Everyone who saw his obvious disappointment when he finally was dismissed for 124 was left in no doubt that his appetite for runs is undiminished.
Worcestershire welcome back not just John Hastings but also Moeen Ali. They will, however, be without their only century maker and top run-scorer in the competition this year, Tom Kohler-Cadmore.
When it was revealed that Kohler-Cadmore intended to join Yorkshire next season, he was somewhat peremptorily told he could go now. So the promising young batsman misses out on a semi-final appearance but Worcestershire will have to do without his runs.
Worcestershire squad: Daryl Mitchell, Moeen Ali, Tom Fell, Joe Clarke, Brett D’Oliveira, Ben Cox (wk), Ross Whiteley, Joe Leach (c), John Hastings, Ed Barnard, Josh Tongue, Jack Shantry, George Rhodes
Surrey welcome back Jason Roy to their squad. He will clearly be eager to end his run drought. Stuart Meaker is also in the Surrey squad together with the eleven who defeated Yorkshire.
Surrey squad: Scott Borthwick, Kumar Sangakkara, Jason Roy, Rory Burns, Ben Foakes(wk), Ollie Pope, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Gareth Batty(c), Ravi Rampaul, Stuart Meaker, Jade Dernbach, Mark Stoneman
Weather and conditions
With a forecast of bright sunshine and a top temperature of 26 degrees, there is no danger of the River Severn overflowing its banks. A large crowd can bask in the sun; and the Ladies Pavilion should do an excellent trade in their famous teas.
On the pitch, teams batting first have averaged just under 300 in their 50 overs this season so spectators should see plenty of runs.
Date: 17 June 2017
Time: 11.00 am
Odds (SkyBet): Worcestershire 5/4; Surrey 8/13