T20 Blast: Birmingham, Glamorgan, Hampshire & Notts seek Finals Day glory
|NatWest T20 Blast Finals Day|
|Venue: Edgbaston Date: Saturday, 2 September Start: 11:00 BST, final at 18:45|
|Coverage: BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and BBC local radio, plus live text commentary throughout the day on on the BBC Sport website|
On paper, T20 Blast Finals Day appears to have the perfect mix.
A team on their home turf, an outsider, arguably the best side in the competition and Finals Day veterans.
Birmingham Bears, Glamorgan, Notts Outlaws and Hampshire will battle it out for the crown amid the fireworks, fancy dress and frenetic scoring.
But who will lift the trophy under the floodlights at Edgbaston on Saturday? Four BBC cricket commentators mull over the protagonists.
Semi-final 1: Birmingham Bears v Glamorgan (11:00 BST)
|Most runs: Sam Hain - 377||Most wickets: Jeetan Patel - 20|
|Highest total: 207-4 v Surrey||Highest score: Sam Hain - 82*|
Analysis - BBC Coventry & Warwickshire's Clive Eakin:
The Bears have evolved as a T20 team during the course of their 2017 campaign. Some of the 'old guard' like Rikki Clarke, William Porterfield and Ian Bell led the way at the start, but have subsequently made way for players who may be regarded as more in tune with the modern thinking in T20 such as Dominic Sibley, Adam Hose and Ed Pollock.
These young, recent Warwickshire recruits have helped give the batting more power and urgency as illustrated by their county record-breaking run chase of 205 in the quarter-finals against Surrey at The Oval.
Of the new guard Pollock is especially exciting. Plucked out of minor county and second XI cricket, the 22-year-old has been given license to attack with the bat and not worry much about getting out.
He's taken to the task with relish, scoring at a strike rate of over 175. Some of his 14 sixes have been glorious shots which have sailed out of grounds.
Key player - Jeetan Patel
For all the new faces it is the Bears' most seasoned pro who could be the key on Finals Day. New Zealand spinner Jeetan Patel has passed a county record of 100 T20 appearances during the competition and remains their most influential bowler.
Bears also have the added bonus of England all-rounder - and Indian Premier League star - Chris Woakes being available for his first games in this season's competition.
T20 history: Winners in 2014 and runners-up in the competition's first outing in 2003.
|Most runs: Colin Ingram - 451||Most wickets: Michael Hogan 18|
|Highest total: 224-5 v Essex||Highest score: Colin Ingram - 114|
Analysis - BBC Radio Wales' Nick Webb:
This is the best T20 season Glamorgan have enjoyed, though relatively few home fans have witnessed it because of the ridiculous Welsh weather which affected six out of seven home group games.
Nearly all the squad have made significant contributions at some time or other, despite the limelight falling mostly on the high-profile South African contingent.
Colin Ingram has looked capable of winning virtually any match, while Jacques Rudolph has been both foil and aggressor. The addition of David Miller gives them a big-hitting top five, with Graham Wagg adding finishing power.
There is concern about the relatively low number of Welsh players, with five taking the field during the campaign, but Aneurin Donald has got the team off to flyers on a couple of occasions, Lukas Carey has twice chipped in with key wickets, and Andrew Salter has bowled a few vital overs of spin.
With the ball, the raw pace of Marchant de Lange has been a crucial addition to the wiles of Michael Hogan and Craig Meschede - seamers who were key in the quarter-final.
The wheels have only come off so far in both encounters against Hampshire, so it is a relief to avoid them in the semi-final.
Key player - Colin Ingram
Left-hander Colin Ingram comes out blazing at number three, with a record 30 sixes and the nickname 'Kingram' testament to the brutal power of his striking. And that's before you mention his useful leg-spin.
He smashed a century at picturesque Arundel against Sussex, then silenced the partisan Chelmsford crowd with another hundred against Essex and, despite a few mis-fires, made short work of a modest target in the quarter-final against Leicestershire.
Fans watching from mid-wicket, take a helmet!
T20 history: Glamorgan's record is modest at best, with a run to the semi-finals in 2004 their best showing before this season. They have reached the last eight on three other occasions, in 2008, 2014 and 2016.
Semi-final 2: Hampshire v Notts Outlaws (14:30 BST)
|Most runs: James Vince - 486||Most wickets: Mason Crane - 17|
|Highest total: 249-8 v Derbyshire||Highest score: Shahid Afridi - 101|
Analysis - BBC Radio Solent's Kevan James:
One never knows which Hampshire side will turn up on the day.
If it is the team that won their first three group matches, including against group winners Glamorgan, or the one that blew away the Welsh county at the Ageas Bowl in the return fixture and then did the same to Derbyshire in the quarter-finals - then Hampshire will win the competition for a third time.
If it is the team that lost to Essex at Chelmsford by seven wickets where the margin of defeat flattered them, or the side that somehow lost a run chase against Kent needing seven an over off the last 10 overs with eight wickets in hand, then they will leave Edgbaston the same way they have in their last three visits there on Finals Day - straight after the semi-finals.
Key player - Mason Crane
In a T20 season of massive ups and downs to get to this point, Mason Crane has been a shining light in consistency.
He's Hampshire's highest wicket-taker with 17 and his economy rate of 6.7 is the best of any slow bowler in the South Group.
T20 history: Two-time winners Hampshire are one of the most successful teams in the competition having reached six-straight Finals Days from 2010 to 2015.
|Most runs: Riki Wessels - 492||Most wickets: Jake Ball - 18|
|Highest total: 227-3 v Derbyshire||Highest score: Riki Wessels - 110|
Analysis - BBC Radio Nottingham's Dave Bracegirdle:
The temptation was there just to copy last year's Finals Day preview, when Notts Outlaws were again tipped to break their hoodoo and lift their first domestic T20 crown.
As we now know, events in 2016 ran along similar lines to campaigns past, with the Outlaws back on the coach before mid-afternoon.
Things are different this year. For a start, they play in the second semi-final - but most importantly there is an inner belief that has been missing in previous years.
Under Peter Moores - and especially after clinching the Royal London Cup in July - there is a hardened edge to their cricket.
If Hales doesn't get you, then Riki Wessels will. If not him, then look out for Samit Patel, or Dan Christian, or Jake Ball, or Harry Gurney or any one of a side full of match-winners - and all equally desperate to be the one to lead them home.
This is their time.
Key player - Alex Hales
It is staggering that a player so gifted, so full of extraordinary talent, is not being touted as an automatic selection for the forthcoming Ashes.
Yes, his reputation is all about white-ball cricket but Hales is one of the most destructive batsmen of his generation and can take the game away from any side in any match in any format.
His T20 form this season has been exceptional - 101 from 47 balls against Yorkshire and 95 from 30 against Durham being the most eye-catching.
In case anyone had forgotten, his unbeaten 187 almost single-handedly lifted the first trophy of the season. He's keen to be the man again on a ground where he has always excelled, having already hit four career hundreds at Edgbaston.
T20 history: There is just one entry missing on a record that reads nine times quarter-finalists, semi-finalists in 2010 and 2016 and runners-up in 2006.
|England's Twenty20 domestic competition winers|
|2003: Surrey||2008: Middlesex||2013: Northants|
|2004: Leicestershire||2009: Sussex||2014: Birmingham|
|2005: Somerset||2010: Hampshire||2015: Lancashire|
|2006: Leicestershire||2011: Leicestershire||2016: Northants|
|2007: Kent||2012: Hampshire|
Bring a coat, but leave your umbrellas at home!