Last year’s top two in the North group will do battle on Friday night at the 3aaa County Ground, with both sides desperate for a victory, however for different reasons.
Nottinghamshire will be desperate to win and move themselves to six points and consolidate their place in the top four as they push to retain the trophy they won last Summer. Derbyshire however, having qualified for the quarter-finals last year, now have a taste for knockout cricket and want to return there, but after two games they have failed to record a victory and find themselves languishing in eighth in the table and looking up enviously at their East Midlands rivals above them.
The Falcons have struggled so far this season, although showed improvement in the last game against Worcestershire, with their bowlers showing far more control than in their first match versus Lancashire. They’ve been asked to bat first twice and that has shown the batsmen struggling to set an imposing total and one which their bowlers can defend.
Derbyshire fans, coaches and players will be hoping Gary Wilson will call correctly and have the option to chase a total, something which the Falcons are far more comfortable doing. This may be even more important on Friday night with the threat of inclement weather in Derby and the Duckworth Lewis Stern method in danger of being used, which does generally favour sides batting second.
The Outlaws have batted first in every game they have played in the Blast this season, having won 2 and lost 1, and have shown themselves capable of setting totals which put opposition under immense pressure setting 199 and 218. However without the injured Rikki Wessels they may be less keen to be setting a total and may prefer to put the pressure on the Falcons who have failed batting first twice. Either way, with the quality in the squad, they will feel confident either setting or chasing a total on Friday night.
The Outlaws are clear favourites with the bookies on Friday night and it is more than easy to see why. They are in good form and have a squad of exciting young players guided by some high quality experienced pros. Their opponents too have a squad of exciting young players guided by experienced pros, however they are not in good form and unless this changes the bookies will be proved right and the Outlaws will be traveling back home with two further points under their belts.
As The Falcons look for their first victory they need their multi-dimensional cricketers to perform. Alex Hughes bowled one over in the first game and gave control with his medium pace, in their second game he bowled four overs and gave even more control and variety to the attack. Hughes is a genuine all rounder but his strongest suit is batting and can clear the ropes and manoeuvre the ball for singles as required, scoring quickly and always looks to be positive at the crease. If Hughes performs to his highest level then Derbyshire will stand a far greater chance of beating their local rivals on Friday night.
When T20 cricket started, it was reported that it would sound the death knell for spinners, in fact it has done the complete opposite. The importance of spin bowling has become more and more prevalent and, in Ish Sodhi, the Outlaws have a high quality international spin bowler who can provide control and a genuine wicket threat to the Outlaws having taken four wickets at 23 so far in this competition. If Nottinghamshire are to triumph in this match then, Sodhi will be pivotal in this, if Derbyshire allow him to bowl without disruption then Sodhi will dominate and will push the Outlaws to the verge of victory.
The Falcons name a 15-man for the visit of their nearest rivals, adding batsman Callum Broderick to the squad which has failed to secure a victory in their two games so far. Last time out Viljoen, Sharif, and McKiernan were the men to miss out. However as coach John Wright looks for his first victory of the season he will have lots of things on his mind. Does he need two keepers, could he drop Smit or even his captain Wilson and play an extra bowler, does he want more spin options, so could McKiernan make his debut? Is it time for Shariff a recognised death bowler to be brought in? Did Anuj Dal do enough to keep his place? Is Critchley the best opening option, would he be better coming in lower down the order, if so who opens? All questions which may need asking and answering if Derbyshire are to record their first victory in the Blast this season.
Derbyshire Falcons squad: Gary Wilson (c), Callum Broderick, Matt Critchley, Anuj Dal, 69. Lockie Ferguson, Alex Hughes, Matt McKiernan, Calum MacLeod, Wayne Madsen, Ravi Rampaul, Wahab Riaz, Safyaan Sharif, Ben Slater, Daryn Smit (wk), Hardus Viljoen
Nottinghamshire will be without their hard hitting batsman Rikki Wessells, of which Derbyshire will be happy as he always seems to perform against them. They will also be without their England contingent with Hales and Ball away with the ODI squad. Stuart Broad is also absent which means that there is a youthful feel to the Notts side, however it is still a squad brimming with talent and should not be underestimated. Their slow bowling looks very strong with the irrepressible Samit Patel and excellent Ish Sodhi in their ranks and a pace attack including Gurney and Fletcher is not to be sniffed at.
Nottinghamshire Outlaws squad: Dan Christian (c), Matt Carter, Paul Coughlin, Luke Fletcher, Will Fraine, Harry Gurney, Jake Libby, Matt Milnes, Tom Moores (wk), Steven Mullaney, Samit Patel, Billy Root, Ish Sodhi.
Derbyshire Falcons: LL
Nottinghamshire Outlaws: WWL
Weather and conditions
Depending on which weather forecast you read, Derby is either going to be fine and bright with a small chance of rain, or the ground tomorrow will be knee deep in rain from thunder storms that would normally only be seen in horror films as the heroine cowers helplessly in an abandoned building. The weather prior to Friday has been warm and dry, so expect the pitch to be dry and with a leaning towards spin. The pitches so far this season at the 3aaa County Ground in The T20 Blast have proved trickier to bat on than they looked, although the pitches have improved as the game has gone on and chasing has looked easier.
Date: 13th July 2018
Ground: 3aaa County Ground, Derby
Odds (SkyBet): Derbyshire Falcons 11/8 Nottinghamshire Outlaws 4/7