|Vitality T20 Blast|
|Venue: Edgbaston Date: Saturday, 15 September Coverage: Ball-by-ball commentary of all three games on BBC radio on tablets, mobiles, online and the BBC Sport app. In-play highlights and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website.|
And so we usher in another T20 Blast Finals Day, the 16th in the competition’s history, and another showpiece at Edgbaston awaits.
Worcestershire Rapids take on Lancashire Lightning in the first semi-final, while Sussex Sharks later face Somerset.
Lancashire, Somerset and Sussex have all won it before, whereas Worcestershire will be making their first Finals Day appearance.
England duo Alex Hartley and Kate Cross, along with Nottinghamshire captain and 2017 T20 Blast winner Steven Mullaney, have been giving BBC Sport their thoughts before the competition’s showpiece in Birmingham.
The trio will all be in commentating for BBC Radio 5 live sports extra on Saturday, as will England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker James Anderson.
Who will win the semi-finals?
Steven Mullaney: We’ve got a young lad on loan at Worcestershire, Luke Wood, who I would love to go all the way and win it.
But Lancashire look a really strong side with Keaton Jennings and Jos Buttler back and Liam Livingstone back from injury.
For the other game, my gut is saying Somerset. I think there’s a lot of pressure on Laurie Evans, but if they can get him out early then I think there’s holes in the Sussex line-up that can open up. If the Sussex bowlers click, they will be a force to be reckoned with also.
Alex Hartley: I’m going to have to say Lancashire will win the first semi-final, or I might end up single! (Hartley’s partner is Lancashire batsman Alex Davies).
Kate Cross: I genuinely think Lancashire will win the first semi-final. In the second semi-final, I think Sussex will win.
The type of cricket Lancashire have been playing is good and they’ve peaked at the right time in the tournament. They will have Liam Livingstone back and they’re on a good run.
With Sussex, the likes of Jofra Archer have the ability to change the game. I watched quite a lot of the Big Bash League over the winter and I saw how he affected the Hobart Hurricanes. If he has a good game, Sussex could win from anywhere.
Who do you tip to be the overall winner?
SM: I honestly believe if Lancashire get to the final, they will win it. If it was me with that team, I would be comfortable chasing or setting.
KC: I think it will be a Lancashire v Sussex final. I want the winner to be Lancashire but I genuinely think it will be a good game and go down to the wire.
I think there was a little phase of the tournament where Lancashire didn’t know if they’d make Finals Day and then they played out of their skin and got there. I don’t think you make Finals Day in those kinds of circumstances and not go on and do well.
Especially with how they beat Kent away from home, it kind of mirrors how they won the tournament in 2015. Maybe I’m just a romanticist!
Which batsman should we be looking out for?
SM: For Lancashire, Jos Buttler is a world class player and in the form of his life. Alex Davies has also had an unbelievable year and there’s the experience of Keaton Jennings which paid dividends in the quarter-finals.
Sussex’s Laurie Evans has had a fantastic tournament, he’s just been picked up in the Afghan Premier League and quite rightly so. One of the things Somerset have done so well is that Lewis Gregory, down the bottom of the order, has scored quickly and consistently.
At Worcestershire, Callum Ferguson will be a big miss so I think there’s a lot of pressure on Moeen Ali, but Ross Whiteley always comes to the party in big games.
AH: Jos Buttler’s going to showcase what he can do. He’s played two games for Lancashire and not done anything so he’ll be a highly frustrated cricket player. Liam Livingstone is back from injury and we all know how explosive he can be.
They are the obvious ones but are two players have haven’t played much cricket recently so they’re going to want to do well.
KC: Definitely Liam Livingstone. With him having a broken thumb and coming back in, I feel he thinks he has a lot to prove, especially with the form he was in going into the tournament.
Alex Davies as well – he’s been the rock Lancashire have needed.
Delray Rawlins for Sussex is class. I saw him play for the first time at Durham in the quarter-final and I was commentating. He brings so much flair to the tournament.
And which bowler should we be looking out for?
SM: All the talk will be about the Sussex pace – Tymal Mills, Jofra Archer and Chris Jordan. Rashid Khan will be a big miss and I think they would be favourites if he were playing.
Lancashire’s Matt Parkinson has had another stellar year in this competition and Zahir Khan has shown his class. That’s how Finals Day will be won and lost – in how people play spin, because it’s been proven to be a big part in the last few years.
AH: Matt Parkinson has had a fantastic T20 campaign and has shown what he can do. Toby Lester is another young lad who’s come in and taken wickets every game for Lancashire and is bowling pretty quickly. He’s a bowler that I’m excited about for the future.
KC: The Overton brothers for Somerset always take wickets so I think they will do well.
What’s the best thing about Finals Day?
SM: Last year we were lucky enough to win the One-Day Cup and the T20 Blast.
I explain it to my mates and family that the Lord’s final is a bit like your wedding day; very prim and proper and a lovely day out where it’s great to win. T20 Finals Day is a bit like the stag do with a party atmosphere. It’s a great occasion and it’s great fun.
AH: There are four teams that have worked extremely hard to get there and it’s a fantastic occasion. It’s always a sell-out. There’s people in fancy dress.
Lancashire’s fans always try to paint Edgbaston red so it’s something they will do again. Even if you’re not a supporter of the teams in there, it’s an occasion you can enjoy.
KC: I’ve never been to Finals Day and I said to my mum and dad at the start of the year that I’d love to go even if Lancashire didn’t get through.
It’s the fun day of the year. Everyone gets dressed up and has a drink.
Edgbaston has an incredible record in that they’ve never lost a day to weather. I’ve seen the forecast for Saturday and it looks dry so I feel like the atmosphere is that everyone wants to have a good time.
And finally, the most important question of all…
Who will win the mascot race?
SM: I’ll have to go with [Notts mascot] Nuts the Squirrel. He’s looking in good form. I’ve seen him in the warm-ups in our T20 matches at Trent Bridge and he looks in good nick. He’s not let many people beat him in those races.
AH: It won’t be [Lancashire mascot] Lanky Giraffe because his head is too heavy! I’m going to go with Somerset’s mascot [Stumpy].
KC: It won’t be Lanky Giraffe. I’ve worn the costume before and it’s way too heavy to run fast.
I’ve got a theory about the mascot race. It’s the mascots that have proper footwear on. [Yorkshire mascot] Vinny the Viking gets to wear football boots which obviously is a massive advantage, whereas Lanky has these massive things that go over your trainers so they’re really hard to run in. I’m going to go with Vinny the Viking.
Steven Mullaney, Alex Hartley and Kate Cross were speaking to BBC Sport’s Jay Freeman.