Natwest T20 Blast: Semi-Finals Preview

We  take a look at all of the upcoming semi-final action coming your way from England's Natwest T20 Blast.

We're down to the business end of the Natwest T20 Blast with just four teams remaining in the competition.

The first semi-final of the day will see Nottinghamshire take on Northants before Durham and Yorkshire go head to head. As always, there's plenty of value on offer; let's check it out!

To Win Match
Nottinghamshire 11/20| Tie 35/1| Northants 29/20

Nottinghamshire’s chances of a victory have been boosted by the return of Stuart Broad and Alex Hales who have both been allowed to play on Finals Day by the ECB in preparation for the ODI series against Pakistan.

It remains to be seen whether Notts will pick Hales, but if they do they will have to leave out one of Riki Wessels, Michael Lumb, Greg Smith or Steven Mullaney who have all been solid performers this season. Notts outperformed Essex in their quarter final last week and had mainly Smith and Samit Patel to thank for that. Smith was in good form with the bat and hit a round 50 of just 33 balls while Patel bagged four wickets for just twenty runs in his allotted overs.

If Hales does come into the side he may have to slot in at number three because Wessels and Lumb have been quite sensational as a pair this season. There may be a case for Hales replacing Lumb and opening but to break up an opening partnership at this late stage may be a bit of a risk. Dan Christian, the captain, will be looking to perform again as he has done all season, the Aussie all-rounder has been explosive in the middle order this season and will look to capitalise on Northants relatively weak bowling attack.

Broad will be a welcome addition to what is already a very strong bowling line-up. The English seamer should replace Luke Wood which would mean Notts bowling attack would consist of five internationals with Harry Gurney, Jake Ball, Patel and Imran Tahir also in the attack.

Northants received a lift last week when Richard Levi returned from injury. The big hitting forgotten man of South African cricket did not have a huge impact in the game but having him back in the side is a massive boost. Northants won their quarter final against Middlesex quite comfortably thanks largely to the bowling efforts of Rory Kleinveldt, Richard Gleeson and Seekkuge Prasanna who took seven wickets combined in 12 overs for only 64 runs.

Adam Rossington then took the game away from Middlesex with a good score of sixty seven not out. Northants should go into the semi with the same line-up which should hold them in good stead. They will be banking on players such as Levi, Rossington, Josh Cobb, Ben Duckett and Kleinveldt to be at their absolute best. The two sides actually met in the group stage of the tournament and on that occasion Nottinghamshire won comfortably.

Verdict: Nottinghamshire to win at 11/20
Richard Levi is very dodgy against spin bowlers. The last time the sides met, Notts opened the bowling with Samit Patel and he did the trick, getting Levi out LBW. The same tactic will probably be employed on Saturday and if Notts can get early wickets which, with their attack, they should be able to then Northants will be under huge pressure with not much to follow in the batting department after Duckett. The presence of Hales and Broad will be huge for Notts and Broad will be looking to make an impression as he aims to get his limited overs career back on track. Nottinghamshire just have too much about them for Northants to pose a huge threat, but it is finals cricket and a dropped catch or a missed run out can make a huge difference. I’ll be backing Nottinghamshire here though. 

To Win Match
Durham 31/20 | Tie 35/1 | Yorkshire 53/100

Mark Stoneman and Keaton Jennings continued their impressive run as and opening partnership in the quarter final against Gloucestershire last week when they combined for a partnership of ninety six. Stoneman ended up with a well-played sixty one.

Good news for Durham is that Ben Stokes is available and will play so the bowling attack and middle order will be significantly strengthened. Michael Richardson, the keeper, was man of the match in the quarter final for his well-played thirty seven which included three sixes.

Paul Collingwood may not do much in the way of batting or bowling but his presence in the side brings a sense of calm to the side and his wealth of experience is a big bonus. Scott Borthwick and Mark Wood will be looking to up their game on the weekend. Both the bowlers performed well in the quarter final but will have to be at the top of their games against a Yorkshire side that will have an extremely strong batting order. Collingwood may hope he does not have to bowl either, as the five balls he bowled in the quarter final included two no balls and went for 22 runs as Jack Taylor ran riot for Gloucestershire to add some gloss to an otherwise awful batting display.

As things stand it looks as though Yorkshire’s batting line-up may comprise of David Willey, Alex Lees, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Jack Leaning and Will Rhodes. Whether or not one of these players misses out should not matter as their batting line-up will still be incredibly strong.

Willey can take a game away from any side if he comes off at the top and that is exactly what he did against Glamorgan in the quarter final, scoring 79 off just 38 balls. The innings included half a dozen sixes which was twice as many as Glamorgan’s eleven batsmen could manage. The addition of the three England stars will add huge impotence to this already strong line-up.

Bowling wise, Tim Bresnan, Willey, Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid all play - or have played - for England. Rashid got four wickets in the quarter final and will be looking to carry that form into the semi. The bowlers were extremely impressive in the quarter-final as they combined to dismantle Glamorgan for a paltry ninety as they went on to win the quarter final by a huge margin of ninety runs.

Verdict: Yorkshire to win at 11/20
A double may well be on the cards here with Yorkshire and Nottingham looking strong contenders to meet in the final. Interesting to note is that all four teams in the semi-finals came out the North group. The second semi is Yorkshire’s to lose really. They have a better batting line up and their bowlers should be strong enough to peg back Stokes and the rest of Durham’s batsmen. Root and Bairstow will be a big influence on the game as well. Back Yorkshire to win here. 

Written by Dale Vos for @Hollywoodbets.

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