Spinners give Hampshire the edge
Saturday August 26, Edgbaston
1st semi-final: Lancashire v Leicestershire: 11.00am
2nd semi-final: Hampshire v Somerset: 2.30pm
LeicestershireFor Leicestershire this competition is the chance to bring cheer to a very gloomy season. A struggle in the Championship has left them rooted to the foot of the table and they face a fight to keep their major players. Yet - in the brief history of top-level Twenty20 - Leicestershire are titans. They won the tournament in 2004 and 2006 and come to finals day with this year's highest run-scorer in Andrew McDonald (563 runs at 62.55) and the highest wicket-taker of the four finals teams in Harry Gurney. Though they don't possess the stars of Somerset, they have experience of winning which - as their stirring quarter-final chase of 203 against Kent - breeds a less visible but vitally important confidence.
Watch out for..."There are no fairytales in sport," said Steve Waugh. Another of cricket's self-styled hard-men Paul Nixon bows out after 23 years in professional cricket chasing exactly that. Hard working, hard talking and occasionally hard-hitting the grandstand finale is fitting. If he can ride the emotion like he did in the quarter-final win against Kent, Leicestershire might just have the star of the day.
LancashireContrary to the grim expectations of the supporters ahead of the season, the Red Rose has bloomed this summer. Perched at the head of the Championship table Lancashire have their sights set on the grand prize, but if the winning confidence spills over they have the chance of a memorable, cup-and-league double. After finishing third in the North Group they beat Sussex at Hove to reach finals day and after sharing their group-stage duels with Leicestershire 1-1 this match is the decider in so many ways.
Watch out for...In Twenty20 cricket it is often the spinner that makes the telling contribution and in Gary Keedy, Lancashire have one of the best in the circuit. Unlucky to have never been given a game by England, Keedy gets a chance on the big stage to be Lancashire's matchwinner like he was against Sussex in the quarters. Pushing 37-years-old he has nothing to discover about his game and his rock-solid temperament will be crucial.
SomersetThis was supposed to be the season where Somerset righted the triple wrongs of last year. The punters' favourites in all formats they were slow out of the blocks but are on a run of form that might yet give them the titles they just missed out on last season. With Marcus Trescothick, Kieron Pollard and Jos Buttler in the ranks Somerset are bursting with batting stars but their attack is not as strong as their semi-final opponents Hampshire. Lewis Gregory, 19, has been their top wicket-taker but the pressure is on fit-again Murali Kartik and the ever-green Alfonso Thomas.
Watch out for...There aren't many in the English game who strike a cleaner ball than Jos Buttler. He has audacity and adventure, yes, but it is his crispness when hitting that makes Buttler so exciting. Though he has not has as productive a season as last year - with 215 runs from 14 games - he revels in the spotlight and will want to celebrate his England Twenty20 call-up in style.
HampshireIf bowlers win matches Hampshire, reigning champions, start finals day with an advantage. Their attack includes a delicious phalanx of spinners: Shahid Afridi, Imran Tahir and Danny Briggs who has taken 22 wickets in the tournament. It was largely thanks to these bowlers that Hampshire topped the South Group despite a two-point deduction. The batting is led by James Vince who has been far more consistent in this format than he has been in the Championship. Last year they were taken to the title by the bristling competitiveness of Dominic Cork and a vocal home crowd, this year they will have to rely more on their spinners weaving magic at Edgbaston.
Watch out for...It says plenty about Danny Briggs that he has managed to outbowl Imran Tahir and Shahid Afridi at times this season. He has the experience of one finals day behind him and his coolness is very impressive. There are plenty of big names at finals day, but Briggs has it in him to upstage them all.
Quotes"It means a lot to everybody associated with the club and we all want to bring the trophy back to Grace Road."
Andrew McDonald, the Leicestershire vice-captain,knows success here could help ease the pain of a difficult Championship season.
"We have lots of people at the club who have been to finals day before. I am looking forward to having a big crowd there and I think the players will as well. You want to be tested as a coach and a player, it's part of the game"
Peter Moores the Lancashire coach, is banking on his players' experience.
"Finals Day always produces an amazing atmosphere which all Somerset players are desperate to experience, and to go one step further this year"
Marcus Trescothick is wanting his team to break the run of near-misses from last year.
"As defending Champions it was one of our priorities right from the beginning of the season to be at finals day again, so we're over the moon to still be in the mix for a chance to defend our crown at Edgbaston."
Jimmy Adams, the Hampshire opener, hopes to match the performance of last summer.
Sahil Dutta is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo