With only two days of play left in the group stage of the Metro Bank One-Day Cup there are just a couple of qualification spots still up for grabs.
In Group A, Leicestershire seem to have bounced back from the disruption caused by the departure of Paul Nixon and booked themselves a qualification spot with a 23 run win over Middlesex, in a rain affected game decided by the Duckworth–Lewis–Stern method (DLS).
Sol Budinger has been opening the batting alongside Rishi Patel and currently sits third in the runs scored table with 379 at 54.14. Leic’ currently have four of the top 20 run scorers in the competition, although one of those, Colin Ackerman, has been called up to the Hundred.
17-year-old Josh Hull has impressed with his left arm seam. At 6′ 7″ tall, he is an imposing figure and although he has been a tad expensive (5.76 runs/over) he has taken 14 wickets at 22.50. Alongside Chris Wright and Tom Scriven, they pose an effective threat with the ball and will provide any side with a stiff challenge in the knock out stages.
Hampshire swept aside Yorkshire in their last outing and look strong contenders. They are led by Nick Gubbins who sits fifth in the runs scored table with 360 at 60.00 and Fletcha Middleton has 278 at 46.33. In the last game Tom Prest contributed a century when the Hampshire innings was flagging at 233/5 and they also have the explosive talents of Aneurin Donald.
Ian Holland is currently their top wicket-taker with nine at 17.44 and Hampshire have their own young tall seamer in 17-year-old Eddie Jack, who has taken seven wickets at 23.71. It seems unlikely Jack and fellow quick, Dominic Kelly will be available for the knock out games, as they will be involved with England under 19s against Australia starting on 26 August, but Hampshire have a number of bowling options sitting in the wings, including Kyle Abbott, Mohammad Abbas and Keith Barker.
They have two games left and with a good net run rate are very unlikely to be pushed out of a top three spot. It is a battle between them and Leicestershire for an automatic semi-final place and they have games against Surrey and Kent.
The third spot in Group A is a battle between Nottinghamshire, Lancashire, Kent and Yorkshire. Yorkshire and Lancashire can both feel hard done by with the loss of two games to the weather. Yorkshire have the worst net run rate of the four and therefore the toughest job. They have games against Leicestershire and Middlesex, with Leicestershire still looking to secure top spot.
Nottinghamshire are one point ahead of the others in this group of four, but only have one game left to play, against Lancashire, while Lancashire first have to play Middlesex. Kent have to play lowly Essex and then Hampshire. It’s still all to fight for!
In Group B, Warwickshire lead the way with six wins out of six, their latest success being a 24 run win over Northamptonshire in a game reduced to ten overs-a-side. They are now guaranteed a top three spot and with two games left, look odds-on to top the group. Their bowling is particularly strong, Oliver Hannon-Dalby ruling at the top of the wicket-taking table, with 18 at 9.77. Backed up by Ed Barnard, Craig Miles, Rob Yates and Henry Brookes, only Glamorgan have been able to score more than 247 runs against them.
Barnard has moved to the top of the batting order with some success, leading their run scoring with 297 at 74.25. When batting second, they have not had to chase down a large total and much will depend on Will Rhodes and Michael Burgess if the batting is put under pressure.
Gloucestershire and Worcestershire have put themselves in prime position for the other two qualification spots, both with 10 points. Gloucestershire have had comfortable wins against Somerset, Glamorgan and Sussex in their last three games, Ollie Price leading the batting with 109 not out against Glamorgan and 95 in the win at Hove. He has now moved level with Prithvi Shaw as the top run scorers in the competition so far, while James Bracey and Jack Taylor are also in the top eight. Taylor posted a century in their last game against Sussex, who collapsed to 148 all out in pursuit of 312 in 38 overs.
Sussex will be disappointed at their performances as with only George Garton missing from their first choice line up, they would have expected a better return than their current two points from six matches. Paul van Meekeren is Gloucestershire’s leading wicket-taker with 11 at 23.36, ably supported by Tom Price and Matt Taylor, who has recovered from a foot injury. They also have the experienced spin options of Tom Smith and Graeme van Buuren.
Worcestershire bounced back from a heavy defeat at the hands of Warwickshire, with strong wins against another top three contender, Northamptonshire and most recently a 62 run win, in a 30-over match against Derbyshire. Rob Jones, currently on loan from Lancashire before his full move at the end of the season, has been their top run scorer with 275 at 45.83 and Jake Libby continues his fine season with 268 runs at 67.00. 20-year-old slow left armer, Josh Baker is their top wicket-taker with 12 at 25.58, but there is also the seam attack of Joe Leach, Dillon Pennington, Matthew Waite and Pat Brown, with Logan van Beek and Ben Gibbon also in the squad.
Northamptonshire are the only other side still in with a chance of qualification, but defeat in their latest game against Warwickshire has made the task somewhat tougher. They have lost the services of Prithvi Shaw (knee injury) and since his departure have suffered two defeats. His contributions are difficult to replace, having seen them to three wins out of four with 429 runs at 143.00. Sam Whiteman provides the remaining overseas input, but he has had a disappointing tournament with just 92 runs at 18.40.
However, if either Gloucestershire lose to Durham or Worcestershire succumb to Sussex, wins in their two remaining games against Derbyshire and Glamorgan should see Northamptonshire through on superior net run rate. Glamorgan and Durham can no longer attain a top three spot following inconsistent campaigns, particularly with the bat.
At present Leicestershire and Warwickshire look the most likely teams to go straight into the semi finals. Hampshire will go through from Group A, possibly as group winners, with the third place still up for grabs. In Group B Gloucestershire and Worcestershire look odds on to be in the quarter finals.