First in the North group take on fourth in the South group at new Road on Saturday afternoon, which you could be forgiven for assuming points to a home victory and the Rapids securing a first finals day ever. However, in the group stages Worcestershire only won one more game than their opponents and tonight’s contenders may be more evenly matched than it would initially appear.
The Rapids won 9 matches in the group stage, securing top spot with a victory over local rivals Birmingham in their last game. Had they not won this, they would have finished third and level on victories with Gloucestershire.
Gloucestershire, who when I was growing up watching cricket were limited overs masters with John Lewis and Mark Alleyne, have never won the T20 competition and will be looking to put that right this year. They have not visited Finals Day since 2007, when they finished runners up and, before that, losing semi finalists in 2003. This will be something that grates on a county with such a fine limited overs pedigree.
Gloucestershire arrive, unlike their hosts, on the back of a loss in their last game of the group stages, where they succumbed to Hampshire.
Both sides are what you would call “unfashionable” and a lot of neutrals will be hoping they go far in the competition, whoever reaches Finals Day. While the bookies have the home side as favourites, and with Moeen Ali in such fine form at the moment, it is easy to see why.
Ali will be fresh off a double hundred and eight wickets last week and, although it was a different format, his confidence will be high. I am predicting a victory for the visiting side, just like the first two quarterfinals, but the wicket of Ali will be crucial for the men from Gloucester.
Nothing gets the juices flowing like an exciting young fast bowler, and if you’re watching Worcestershire at the moment then you may be gushing with their battery of young quicks. In T20 cricket this year, it has been one of those quicks who has proved key for the Rapids. Pat Brown has taken 27 wickets at a miserly average of 13.26 and an economy rate of 8.11, which for a bowler who bowls the majority of his overs in the powerplay and at the death is an excellent return. If this impressive young man can provide more of the same for the Rapids then their chances of progressing to finals day will be greatly enhanced.
There are said to be two certainties in life: death and taxes. I would add Michael Klingerscoring runs in T20 cricket to that to make a third. In this format the Australian is supreme and has been for many years. This season has seen him amass 407 runs so far, at an average of 37 and a strike rate of 115. He bats at the top of the order and invariably gets the side from Bristol away to a flyer. If he can do this against the Rapids, and go on from there, the side from the Southern group may well be booking their place at Edgbaston on the 15thof September.
Allrounder Brett D’Oliveira is fit and available for selection, which will be a huge boost for the Rapids after an injury scare. Luke wood, on loan from Nottinghamshire, is also available and Moeen Ali, who the Rapids may feel is on loan from England, is also available and will captain the side. There is no place for fit-again Josh Tongue, but leading wicket taker Pat Brown is in the squad as is overseas clubber Callum Ferguson.
Worcestershire Rapids squad:Moeen Ali (c), J Clarke, C Ferguson, T Fell, B D’Oliveira, B Cox (w), R Whiteley, E Barnard, W Parnell, D Mitchell, L Wood, D Pennington, A Carter, P Brown
Gloucestershire have a squad without big household names, but a squad with quiet effectiveness. They will have runs from Michael Klinger and Ian Cockbain, and wickets from the bowling genius of Benny Howell as well as the overseas excellence of Andrew Tye, widely regarded as the best T20 pace bowler in the world.
Gloucestershire squad: M Klinger (c), I Cockbain, C Dent, G Drissell, M Hammond, R Higgins, B Howell, C Liddle, J Lintott, D Payne, G Roderick (wk), J Taylor, M Taylor, A Tye
Weather and conditions
The weather is looking set fair for the match, broken cloud and sunshine forecast with temperatures predicted at around 17 degrees, so it’s definitely jumper weather. New Road isn’t the biggest scoring ground, so don’t expect a run fest, but do expect a good track with something in it for the bowlers and an even contest between bat and ball.
Date: 25thAugust 2018
Ground: Blackfinch County Ground, New Road, Worcester
Odds (SkyBet): Worcestershire Rapids 4/6 Gloucester 6/5