Installed as pre-tournament favourites, Sussex have made it to Finals Day the hard way. A fantastic start to the competition was disrupted thanks to rain and some disappointing losses leaving the Sharks playing knockout cricket heading into the final week of the Group Stages.
However they won their final three matches to qualify third in the South Group before seeing off Durham in their quarter-final clash.
In the final of a series looking at how all four teams got to Finals Day, we pick out five crucial matches that helped Sussex reach Edgbaston.
The Perfect Start – Sussex Sharks 181-6 beat Essex Eagles 145 all out by 36 runs
A trip to Chelmsford was always going to be a tough challenge for Sussex in their opening match, the ground having become a fortress for Essex in T20 over the years.
So it was mightily impressive how comfortably the Sharks ran out victors to begin their campaign with a bang. Slipping to 32-3 was not the ideal start, but Laurie Evans and Michael Burgess would steady the ship with a partnership of 81 before Jofra Archer and David Wiese provided some late fireworks as a total of 181-6 was posted. Wiese would also contribute with the ball taking 5-24, three of those wickets coming in his final over.
Sussex supporters would also get a first glimpse of Rashid Khan who strangled the Essex batsmen while also taking two wickets. The Eagles bowled out for 145 and already Sussex were living up to their favourites tag rather nicely.
Glamorgan Hammering – Sussex Sharks 186-5 beat Glamorgan 88 all out by 98 runs
Skip forward over a month and despite a good start, Sussex’s hopes of qualifying were hanging by a thread heading into their last three games. Four abandonments part of the reason the Sharks had to be perfect from here on in.
Glamorgan were the first team that needed to be defeated in a televised contest at Hove. Again Laurie Evans impressed with the bat scoring 63 in total of 186-5, but it would be that much feared bowling attack which would be the difference. Glamorgan raced to 50-0 inside five overs but the moment Rashid Khan removed Craig Meschede the game changed.
Glamorgan struggled to 87-5 but then lost five wickets for just one run. Khan took the first two of them and Tymal Mills produced three excellent deliveries to finish off the game with a hat-trick. The best bowling attack in the tournament produced the goods when it mattered.
King Khan – Sussex Sharks 160-6 beat Gloucestershire 159-9 by 4 wickets
The Sharks final two games would be on the road, the first at Bristol where Gloucestershire were the opponents, a team they had already lost to earlier in the competition.
It would turn out to be Rashid Khan’s final game for the club and the Afghanistan spinner departed in the perfect way with another fabulous display. His figures of 3-24 meant he was the pick of the bowlers, as Gloucestershire stuttered to 159-9.
After Phil Salt’s half-century, the rest of the Sussex batsmen made hard work in pursuit of 160 but crucially victory was secured, David Wiese’s 38 seeing his team over the line. Lowly Middlesex were now the only side standing in the way of a quarter-final place.
The Perfect Week – Sussex Sharks 215-5 beat Middlesex 184 all out by 31 runs
Middlesex along with Hampshire and Essex had endured a torrid time in the South Group, so were ideal opponents to face in a must-win clash.
The Sussex batsmen made sure that the host’s bowlers would suffer another frightful evening. Phil Salt hit 66 but it was the returning Luke Wright who played the key innings, contributing 74 in a total of 215-5.
In reply, Middlesex were actually on track to chase down the target early in their innings. Paul Stirling and John Simpson pummelled 121 in 8.1 overs for the second wicket. The pair had done much of the hard work and with Rashid Khan now on international duty any hopes of qualification looked to be fading for Jason Gillespie and his side.
However it would be Khan’s replacement, Will Beer who changed the game, taking the wickets of both Stirling and Simpson. Thereafter Sussex dominated, no other Middlesex batsmen took responsibility for the run-chase and they succumbed by 31 runs. The Sharks had found a way to qualify, they weren’t at their best on the night nor were they throughout the Group Stages but they were in the quarter-finals and that was all that mattered.
Durham Dispatched – Sussex Sharks 144-4 beat Durham Jets 140-7 by 5 wickets
Surprise package Durham were standing in the way of a place at Finals Day. The Jets shocked many to finish second in the North Group and secure a home tie at Emirates Riverside.
Ben Stokes was available and got his team off to a brisk stark, but once he was dismissed for 34 there really was not much more for the home crowd to get excited about. For all the big names in the Sussex fast bowling ranks, it was spinners Beer and Briggs who made the real difference, both going at under five an over but also taking two wickets.
Their efforts were the perfect example of spin bowling in T20. To the surprise of no one Laurie Evans top scored for Sussex, another half-century for the former Warwickshire man. However Delray Rawlins must also take the plaudits for his 42, the youngster showing some real promise. He surely is a future England superstar. A place at Edgbaston was in the bag with more than an over to spare. The Sharks are on a roll, four wins on the bounce and it would be a bold move to bet against them come Saturday.