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August 13, 2010
NottinghamshireThe return of Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann to Nottinghamshire's ranks for finals day has left the selectors with the pleasant problem of deciding who will play out of a fearsome bowling pack that also includes Ryan Sidebottom, Dirk Nannes and Darren Pattinson. Their bowling depth rather puts Nottinghamshire's batting in the shadows, although David Hussey certainly brings a touch of Twenty20 pedigree to their middle order. His 497 runs in the competition so far place him fourth in the run-scorers' list, and on finals day only Hampshire's Jimmy Adams will have more competition runs under his belt. Alex Hales has also been in decent nick in the tournament with four half-centuries to his name so far, and although Nottinghamshire stumbled slightly at the tail-end of the competition their early-season form and bowling strength makes them serious contenders for the title.
Watch out for...Nottinghamshire haven't seen much of Graeme Swann in 2010, but despite the fact that Finals Day will be his first Twenty20 match for his county this season he remains a threat, as is evidenced by his 71 T20 wickets at an economy rate of just over a-run-a-ball, and won't be put off by the short boundaries at the Rose Bowl.
SomersetWith a line-up that includes Marcus Trescothick, Craig Kieswetter, James Hildreth and Kieron Pollard, the ability of Somerset's batsmen to clear the boundary was always expected to be their strength. Trescothick continues to show no signs of slowing down, launching Somerset's innings with gusto time and again, and although Kieswetter's form has been disappointing the solidity of the middle order has more than made up for his frailties. Hildreth has proved adept at accumulating runs and rotating the strike, while Pollard has done all that was expected of him in striking his runs at the lofty rate of 174.57, and Jos Buttler is already starting to make a name for himself as an unflustered finisher. But Somerset's bowling also deserves an honourable mention. Alfonso Thomas has been a revelation with the new ball, his skiddy pace bringing him 31 wickets - the most by anyone in the tournament - at barely more than a-run-a-ball. Just behind him is Pollard, proving his allround worth with 28 scalps, and Somerset also have a gaggle of run-choking spinners - most recently the left-arm spin duo of Murali Kartik and Arul Suppiah set up a confidence boosting win over Northants at Taunton by giving away a frugal 29 runs in their combined spells. This will be the third time that Somerset has reached the finals of the Twenty20 Cup and after winning it once in 2005, with no clear chink in their armour, this could well be their year again.
Watch out for...Marcus Trescothick continues to lead Somerset from the front by giving the ball a hefty thump at the top of the order. If he gets anywhere near the brutal form that saw him smash a 27-ball 78 to help Somerset breeze past Hampshire's 216 for 5 with overs to spare at Taunton in July then almost no total will be out of his side's reach.
EssexEssex head to finals day looking to make it third time lucky. Twice they have reached the semi-finals and both times they have failed to progress. After a tricky start to the season - that saw their captain Mark Pettini resign and the team lose three of their first four games - they have been a powerful force. Their strength lies in a batting line-up led by Ravi Bopara, with a resurgent Pettini at the top of the order and an ageless Grant Flower bringing a wealth of experience to the middle. Bopara will be joined by Dwayne Bravo, who was parachuted in for a fleeting finals day visit, Ryan ten Doeschate, who was in sizzling form before tearing a calf muscle two months ago and Alastair Cook. Despite Cook's horrendous Test outings this summer he has had a productive FP t20 competition, making 350 runs at 38.88. The bowling is more of a liability but the imported duo of Bravo and the returning Danish Kaneria could give them a chance. Spinners have proved pivotal in the shortest format and Kaneria has experience and class.
Watch out for...Ravi Bopara's languid talent has never been in doubt. After a stuttering start to his international career, however, he needs to prove he has the temperament to succeed when the pressure is on. He is Essex's leading scorer in the competition with 471 runs and a big score at the top of the order, in front of capacity crowds at the Rose Bowl, will both help silence the doubters and be key to his side's hopes of progressing to the final.
HampshireHampshire are the romantic's team for the finals. A side packed with youngsters and led by a veteran in Dominic Cork, they are looking to become the first host side ever to win on finals day. Winning just eight of their group games Hampshire had been the least impressive of the four semi-finalists and have lost the services of Michael Lumb to a broken foot. They would undoubtedly be strengthened by Kevin Pietersen but the county would rather stick with the players who have got them this far. In Jimmy Adams they have the competition's top scorer and he is backed up Michael Carberry, Neil McKenzie and 19-year-old James Vince. Vince starred with an unbeaten 66 to coolly guide Hampshire past Warwickshire in the quarter-finals and his effortless talent could be a revelation. Behind the evergreen Cork in the bowling ranks, 19-year-old left-arm spinner Danny Briggs could be Hampshire's most potent weapon. He has nous and plenty of audacity and has been in a rich vein of form recently. The captain's relish for the big occasion and home advantage will be in Hampshire's favour.
Watch out for...There are few cricketers in the English game who so instinctively enjoy the attention and pressure of showpiece events as much as Dominic Cork. Though he delivers his verbals quicker than his outswingers these days his competitiveness could make him an irresistible force in front of his home crowd.
Quotes"A lot of our players have had the experience of playing in big finals and hopefully, that experience under pressure, will stand us in good stead."
"I hope that by the end of Saturday we will have our hands on that big silver cup - as well as a couple of bottles of champagne to help us celebrate."
Craig Kieswetter has his eye on the prize.
"A lot of thought has gone in to our limited overs cricket and we began our training last November so it's no fluke that we find ourselves in this position."
Director of Cricket Mick Newell is hoping his best laid plans come to fruition.
"It's been a challenging year for everyone at the club. We're involved on the cricket side and things haven't panned out as we expected but everyone has shown a lot of character and fight."
Giles White, the Hampshire coach, wants Twenty20 success to ease the pain of a frustrating year for the club.
Liam Brickhill and Sahil Dutta are assistant editors at CricinfoFeeds: Sahil Dutta
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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