Mark Butcher and Rob Key evaluate the teams that have reached the day of the Vitality Blast Finals: Sussex, Hampshire, Somerset and Kent
For the first time in tournament history, Vitality Blast Finals Day will be a South Group affair after Sussex, Hampshire, Somerset and Kent fired their North Group counterparts to reserve their spots in this year’s masterpiece.
The two-time winners, Hampshire, face Somerset in Saturday’s opening semifinal, before two of the tournament’s best bowling teams meet, when Kent and Sussex meet.
All four semi-finalists have lifted the title since Blast’s inception in 2003, but now another historic chapter awaits in Edgbaston …
Vitality T20 Blast Cricket Live
September 18, 2021, 10:30 a.m. M.
Hampshire Hawks: The Statistics
|Better T20 Blast performance:||Winners (2010, 2012)|
|Record 2021:||4th place in the South Group|
|Top scorer of the race:||James Vince (371)|
|Leading gate taker:||Scott Currie (17 years old)|
Hampshire were rooted at the end of Group South mid-stage, but a streak of five straight wins saw them sneak into the top four via net run rate, after they chased 187 in just 13 overs to stun. to Glamorgan.
His remarkable risk-taking behavior continued into his quarter-final clash against the defending champions Nottinghamshire Outlaws, who collapsed to a staggering two-run thriller in a low-scoring thriller at Trent Bridge.
The Hawks certainly have momentum on their side, and your hopes may rest on their explosive high-level trio of James Vince, D’Arcy Short and Joe Weatherley.
Seamers Scott Currie and Brad Wheal have caught 33 wickets between them, and English spinners Mason Crane and Liam Dawson will certainly have a pivotal role to play.
Player to watch: James Vince
Vince has already captained Southern Brave to glory at the inaugural Hundred, and is now bidding to complete a limited double at Edgbaston.
It has been an unforgettable summer for the Hawks skipper. He made his first century international against Pakistan after winning an unexpected call-up alongside ODI, and has been in prolific form across all formats.
The 30-year-old has been included as a reserve in next month’s T20 World Cup squad, and he may serve another timely reminder to England’s hierarchy as he guides his team to a third win in Blast.
Somerset: the statistics
|Better T20 Blast performance:||Winners (2005)|
|Record 2021:||2nd place in the South Group|
|Top scorer of the race:||Will Smeed (327)|
|Leading gate taker:||Marchant de Lange (17)|
Somerset has a wealth of talent emerging through the ranks; Despite his nonchalant form, Tom Banton is a match winner, plus Will Smeed, Tom Lammonby and Lewis Goldsworthy have all played leading roles throughout the competition.
The 2005 champions, who defeated Lancashire in the quarter-finals, also have no shortage of experience, with Lewis Gregory, James Hildreth, Tom Abell and Roelof van der Merwe in their ranks.
Somerset captain Tom Abell is confident his team can triumph at the Vitality Blast Finals Day in Edgbaston on Saturday.
They have a multitude of hitting options at their disposal, though they won’t feature New Zealand’s Devon Conway, who logged four half centuries in his eight outings at Blast, compiling 309 runs at a whopping 61.80.
South African sailor Marchant de Lange has been their top quarterback with 17 wickets, while Gregory and England star Craig Overton claimed 12 wickets apiece, but Van der Merwe’s control and cunning were able to keep the key on the ball.
Player to watch: Will Smeed
Having signed his first professional contract with Somerset last summer, Smeed is now touted as one of the most exciting prospects in the country after enjoying a brilliant breakthrough campaign.
The 19-year-old is Somerset’s leading career scorer in the Blast; racking up 327 runs in 11 innings, he was a revelation for Birmingham Phoenix in the Hundred, becoming the youngest male player to appear in the tournament.
The talented teenager acts with refreshing exuberance, and his experience of Edgbaston’s conditions could prove invaluable. You’ve had a dreamy summer, but will it have a fairytale ending?
Vitality T20 Blast Cricket Live
September 18, 2021, 2:30 pm
Kent Spitfires: the stats
|Better T20 Blast performance:||Winners (2007)|
|Record 2021:||1st place in the South Group|
|Top scorer of the race:||Daniel Bell-Drummond (392)|
|Leading gate taker:||Matt Milnes (18 years old)|
The Spitfires topped the Group South table with nine wins from their 14 games, and they quickly progressed to Finals Day with a complete quarter-final victory over the Birmingham Bears.
The formidable trio of Matt Milnes, Freddie Klaassen and Adam Milne has been an integral part of the Spitfires’ success, though Milne’s IPL commitments have ruled him out of Saturday’s masterpiece.
However, Kent’s higher order has shown remarkable consistency throughout the competition, with Daniel Bell-Drummond, Zak Crawley and Jordan Cox surpassing the 300-race mark.
All-rounders Joe Denly, Jack Leaning and evergreen Darren Stevens provide valuable experience, and under the tutelage of Sam Billings, named to England’s 15-man provisional squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup, they pose a major threat.
Player to Watch – Matt Milnes
Milnes has been one of the rising stars in all formats this summer and, in the absence of Adam Milne, he will look to spearhead the Spitfires’ attack on Finals Day.
The 27-year-old enters the season confident, after posting a career-best 6-53 in his recent County Championship win over Leicestershire.
Milnes also went 4-24 in his T20 quarter-final success over Birmingham last month, and as Kent’s leading wicket catcher (18) in the competition, he hopes to inspire the Canterbury team to a first title of T20 since 2007.
Sussex Sharks: The Statistics
|Better T20 Blast performance:||Winners (2009)|
|Record 2021:||3rd place in the South Group|
|Top scorer of the race:||Luke wright (360)|
|Leading gate taker:||Tymal Mills (14)|
The Sharks’ side features a mix of youth and experience, with a number of promising youngsters playing under former England veteran Luke Wright, who has scored 360 runs at 45 this term.
Wright, Phil Salt, Ravi Bopara and Delray Rawlins make up an incredibly destructive top four for the 2018 runners-up, however their reliance on the aforementioned quartet could expose a fragility in the middle order if they lose the top spots.
However, the key to his hopes could lie in his brilliant bowling attack, which includes the trio of Chris Jordan, Tymal Mills and George Garton, who inspired Southern Brave to victory at last month’s Hundred.
They’ve taken a major hit with the absence of the indomitable Rashid Khan, but with 17-year-old Archie Lenham and Will Beer on the side, their front-row turning options can still rival any attack on Finals Day.
Player to Watch – Tymal Mills
Sussex fast pitcher Tymal Mills says he is ‘counting the days’ to the T20 World Cup, having been inducted into England’s 15-man preliminary squad.
Tymal Mills most recent international appearance returned in 2017, although his excellent form for Sussex at Blast and Southern Brave in the Hundred has earned him a sensational retirement for the T20 World Cup.
The 29-year-old was diagnosed with a career-threatening congenital back condition in 2015, yet he has still flourished in the game’s shorter format, with the lowest economy rate of any bowler in death overs. during the Hundred.
It has all the attributes at its disposal: its ability to launch over 90 mph is combined with its slower deceptive deliveries, in addition to its devastating yorkers, and its variety is arguably its most lethal weapon.
Watch Vitality Blast Finals Day live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10.30am on Saturday as Somerset, Hampshire, Kent and Sussex compete for the title.