Before the penultimate step is taken towards football coming home, Gloucestershire and Kent will square off in what should serve as the perfect warm up to England striving to reach their first World Cup final in 52 years.
The match has been moved to a 3pm start to accommodate the obvious clamour from players and fans alike to watch England’s semi-final, but remains a vitally important fixture as both sides look to gather pace in this season’s Blast, which remains in its infancy.
Gloucestershire began their campaign with a harrowing defeat to local rivals Somerset, but victory at Uxbridge over Middlesex was a great response with Michael Klinger’s half-century helping them chase down 161.
This match, along with Friday’s reverse fixture against Somerset, represents a real opportunity to head into the famous Cheltenham Festival, which begins on Monday, with some real momentum after a difficult season thus far.
While some sides struggle to maintain a challenge across all formats, Kent have done the opposite in 2018. Two wins from two in this competition, have come after reaching the final of the One-Day Cup and a continued promotion push in the Championship.
They seem to have all the ingredients for an excellent T20 side, so it should come as no surprise if they win their third consecutive game on Wednesday.
Overseas stars Adam Milne and Carlos Brathwaite have taken nine wickets between them so far. A top order containing the likes of Heino Kuhn, Sam Billings and of course Joe Denly, who is quickly becoming the unsung hero of County Cricket, mean that reaching finals day is a real possibility.
A plethora of injuries and overseas unavailability leaves Gloucestershire looking particularly short, especially in the bowling ranks for Wednesday’s encounter. Greater responsibility will fall on David Payne therefore, who himself struggled with an ankle problem for much of the first half of the season. The left-arm seamer took 17 wickets in last year’s tournament and his team will need him to replicate that form with the new ball and then at the death if they are going to keep a strong Kent batting line-up at bay.
Kent captain Sam Billings hasn’t played much for his county in 2018 due to IPL and England commitments. He would have been delighted with their successes without him, but will surely want to start making an impact of his own. His 75 in the One-Day Cup final came in defeat to Hampshire but you suspect a winning contribution is what he is looking for and this match is the perfect opportunity for him to provide it.
Gloucestershire’s injury woes have continued with Liam Norwell and Benny Howell both going down injured in their opening two matches, neither are available for Wednesday’s match. Australian Andrew Tye is also not in the squad, the Australian Cricket Board requesting that his first appearance of the tournament be delayed until Friday’s match against Somerset.
Gloucestershire Squad: Michael Klinger (c), Ian Cockbain, Miles Hammond, George Hankins, Ryan Higgins, Chris Liddle, Kieran Noema-Barnett, David Payne, Tom Smith, Jack Taylor, Matt Taylor, Gareth Roderick (wk), Graeme van Buuren.
Kent have no such problems with Matt Walker naming an unchanged squad as his side look to remain unbeaten in the Blast. Harry Podmore and Ivan Thomas were the two left out at Taunton on Sunday but do not be surprised to see either feature in Bristol.
Kent Squad: Sam Billings (c/wk), Daniel Bell-Drummond, Alex Blake, Carlos Brathwaite, Mitch Claydon, Joe Denly, Sean Dickson, Calum Haggett, Heino Kuhn, Adam Milne, Harry Podmore, Ivan Thomas, Imran Qayyum.
Weather and Conditions
The glorious British summer is showing no signs of letting up as the Brightside Ground is set to bask in the sunshine on Wednesday afternoon, as it did for the England v India T20 hosted at the ground on Sunday.
Date: 11th July 2018
Ground: The Brightside Ground, Bristol
Odds (SkyBet): Gloucestershire 5/4, Kent 8/13