The game’s intransigent traditionalists are still liable to choke on their G&Ts at the mere mention of T20 cricket, but its mix of pyjamas, cheerleaders, flame throwers and DJs are here to stay.
The eagerly-anticipated party begins at 11 when Birmingham tackle Glamorgan in the first of the day’s semi-finals, not to mention the small matter of home advantage, all suggest it will be the Bears who progress.
Cricket betting expert, Iain Spragg, tells us who his bets are on at Edgbaston.
Birmingham are 7/10 favourites to make the final with the Welshmen 11/10 to unexpectedly edge it at Edgbaston.
The Bears were crowned Blast champions as recently as 2014 (and semi-finalists the following season) while Saturday’s showdown will be the first time Glamorgan have experienced the fever of Finals Day since 2004.
They have never taken the trophy over the border and back to the Principality.
Home hopes will be resting heavily on the experienced shoulders of spinner Jeetan Patel. The veteran Kiwi has more wickets (20) than any other player left standing in the tournament and the 37-year-old is 11/4 favourite to claim the most victims in the first semi-final.
Glamorgan’s six foot five Aussie pace man Michael Hogan has taken 18 scalps of his own this summer and is 3/1 to top the bowling charts while a trio of his team-mates – Marchant de Lange, Colin Ingram and Graham Wagg – are all rated 4/1.
The battle to be the top batsman sees Ingram installed as favourite at 6/1.
The Springbok left-hander has amassed 451 runs already in the competition at a strike rate of 167, including two brilliant centuries, and no-one has muscled more sixes over the ropes than his 30 so far.
Team-mate and fellow South African Jacques Rudolph is 7/1 while the shortest priced Bears batsmen are Ian Bell, Ed Pollock and Dominic Sibley, who are also 7/1. Birmingham T20 skipper Grant Elliott is 9/1 on the back of his match-winning 59 not out in the last eight against Surrey.
Nottinghamshire’s power-packed batting line-up is fancied to prove too strong for Hampshire in the second semi at Edgbaston and the Outlaws are 4/6 to improve on last year’s last four showing and book their place in the final 12 months on.
Hampshire were champions in both 2010 and 2012 but are only rated 6/5 to remain on course for a hat-trick of T20 titles.
Three batsmen with more than 450 runs in the bank in this year’s T20 will be on show in Birmingham in the second semi but the prince among them is the Outlaws’ Riki Wessels who is just eight short of the 500 milestone for the season.
Team-mate Alex Hale (485 runs and counting) however is favourite to top score at Edgbaston at 11/2 with Wessels and Hampshire’s James Vince (486 runs) both 13/2 to wreak the most havoc with the willow.
The seemingly evergreen and enduringly popular Shahid Afridi is 9/2 after smashing a pyrotechnic 42-ball century at the top of the order in Hampshire’s crushing quarter-final victory over Derbyshire.
Spinners dominate the betting on the top bowler with Hampshire leggie Mason Crane 3/1 to make the most inroads into the batting after taking 17 wickets in the T20 in 2017. Team-mate Afridi and Notts’ all-rounder Samit Patel are both 33/10, suggesting Edgbaston will favour the slow bowlers this weekend.
The shortest priced seamer is Jake Ball, the Outlaws’ leading wicket taker in the tournament with 18, at 7/2 while Hampshire’s Kyle Abbott is 4/1. That’s the same price as Stuart Broad, assuming the 31-year-old has recovered mentally and physically to play in the wake of England’s shock defeat to the Windies in the second Test at Headingley on Tuesday.
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