Victory at Surrey in their final Natwest T20 Blast match could see Gloucestershire become the first team to reach the quarter-finals in a nine-team South Group having won just five games.
Essex managed the feat in 2013, but in a six-team group – this is the sixth year of just two divisions, and Gloucestershire’s achievement would reflect fully how tight the sides are this season, thanks largely to poor weather.
Six teams, the Bristol-based outfit included, are tied on 12 points with either one or two fixtures remaining, leaving it open for anyone to claim a place in the last eight.
Gloucestershire’s trip to The Kia Oval is critical: defeat would see them fall short of back-to-back quarter-finals; victory takes things out of their hands, as other teams’ results and net run-rate – theirs is over a run worse than third placed Middlesex – would come into consideration.
For Surrey, the equation is far simpler, with two wins (they play Kent on Friday) guaranteeing progression but just one likely not enough thanks to a poor net run-rate.
Neither team are in ideal form, with the hosts’ victory over Sussex on Sunday their first in six matches while the visitors have lost their last three, capped off with a 61-run defeat against Middlesex on Tuesday.
And yet, the group as it stands gives both of these sides one final chance to firmly grasp a quarter-final place – but only one will have a chance after their encounter.
Aaron Finch comes into this game on the back of his third T20 century, a blistering 114* against Sussex on Sunday. Surrey’s highest run scorer, Finch is relied upon to kickstart the innings and give the rest of his teammates a platform, from which to build. Unfortunately for him, the middle order has often struggled to impress this season, so if he can bat out of the powerplay then his side will be in a much better position.
Michael Klinger, Gloucestershire’s captain and leading Blast runscorer – although it says plenty about their campaign that he has the second lowest tally to boast that title across the 18 counties – is a fine player to watch whenever he is at the crease. He can dominate an innings with strokes to all parts from the top of the innings, and Gloucestershire will need him at his best if they are to compete for that quarter-final spot.
Surrey squad: TBC
Gloucestershire have named an unchanged 14-man squad from their defeat to Middlesex on Tuesday.
Gloucestershire squad: Michael Klinger (c), Phil Mustard (wk), Cameron Bancroft, Ian Cockbain, George Hankins, Benny Howell, Chris Liddle, Craig Miles, Kieran Noema-Barnett, David Payne, Tom Smith, Jack Taylor, Matthew Taylor, Graeme van Buuren
Weather and conditions
Largely dry in the evening – although showers are expected earlier in the day. The Oval pitch is usually firm and true; runs aplenty should be key.
Date: 17th August 2017
Ground: The Kia Oval
Odds (SkyBet): Surrey 1/2, Gloucestershire 13/8