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Faded final still a double chance

ESPNcricinfo previews the Clydesdale Bank 40 final between Hampshire and Warwickshire at Lord's

Alex Winter
Alex Winter
Sean Ervine, who won at Lord's with Hampshire in 2005 and 2009, will hope for another success against Warwickshire  •  Getty Images

Sean Ervine, who won at Lord's with Hampshire in 2005 and 2009, will hope for another success against Warwickshire  •  Getty Images

The decline in attraction of cricket's domestic cup final has parallels with football's FA Cup final - shifting time slots and sponsors, the rising importance of more valuable competitions - but while the Football Association will always be able to shift tickets for Wembley, the ECB has been forced into some blue sky thinking to try and boost the profile of an occasion where not so long ago, the cricket did all the talking.
Friends Life t20 finals day saw a host of comedians keep the crowd chuckling but for the CB40 final, Lord of the Dance will provide the supplementary entertainment. More than 500 young people from schools around the country will perform a "unique choreographed dance routine" - the largest ever staged at Lord's. One can only assume there have been others.
Whoever bats second will be hoping a mass of young children do nothing to affect the condition of the outfield, as chasing has been the path to victory in each of the last four finals. Chasing has also been very successful for Warwickshire; five of their eight victories in the group stage came via bowling first and only one of those pursuits was tight. Only once did they lose batting second.
Their success with the bat has gone hand in hand with Varun Chopra's excellent season. He has made 446 runs at 55.75. Chopra's opening partner William Porterfield has also been in form with 395 runs, although he is at the World Twenty20 with Ireland. When you add Tim Ambrose's average of 59 in eight innings into the order, it is easy to see why they won the second-highest number of games of any team in the group stage. And they needed those wins, qualifying only on countback ahead of Kent - who inflicted Warwickshire's only batting aberration, when the Bears were shot out for 96 at Edgbaston.
The bowling attack also boasts the names that have been lauded as Warwickshire took the County Championship title. Chris Wright's 19 victims have cost 21.15 apiece; Chris Woakes' 13 just 16.92. Spinner Jeetan Patel has also replicated his Championship influence in the CB40, going at fewer than four runs per over and picking up 11 wickets.
The spin department may prove the widest gap between the teams: Hampshire are without Danny Briggs, their leading wicket-taker with 19 victims, who is also at the World T20 in Sri Lanka, with England. But Hampshire do welcome back Neil McKenzie. He flew home after the Friends Life t20 final but has travelled back to try and help Hampshire to a one-day double, which would prove ample compensation, financially if anything, for failing to win promotion in the Championship.
Also missing for Hampshire is Dimitri Mascarenhas, one of their most experienced campaigners. He aggravated an injury in the FLt20 final and is now resting ahead of the T20 Champions League in October.
But Hampshire have become used to the big occasion, winning the FLt20 in two of the last three seasons. Four of this year's squad - Jimmy Adams, Michael Carberry, Sean Ervine and Liam Dawson - also played in their last final appearance in the longer one-day competition, when they beat Sussex to win the 2009 FP Trophy, although talisman Dominic Cork, who took four early wickets that day, is no longer around. Ervine is also a veteran of the 2005 final, in the old 50-over format, and he scored a 93-ball hundred as Hampshire defeated this year's opponents, Warwickshire, by 18 runs.
Also returning from that match is Warwickshire's Neil Carter, hoping for one last tilt at glory. His five-for and pinch-hit 32 were in vain in 2005 but he got his hands on the inaugural CB40 trophy in 2010, when Ian Bell's hundred saw them to victory. And it is the likes of Bell, Chopra, Wright and Woakes - players in form, who have played high-quality cricket all summer - that give Warwickshire the edge. Hampshire, however, will hope their underdog spirit can produce the sparkle this flagging tournament desperately needs.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo