Essex Eagles will again be able to call on Jesse Ryder’s power at the top of the order as they look to confirm top spot in the NatWest T20 Blast South Group against Hampshire tomorrow evening.
Ryder was absent with a knee injury as the high-flying Eagles lost for just the second time this season, against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham yesterday.
The Eagles’ only other Blast defeat came away to Hampshire, who visit the Essex County Ground looking to try and book a home quarter-final.
The Eagles have already ensured that they will enjoy home comforts in the last eight, but head coach Paul Grayson is wary of any complacency ahead of the knockout stage.
Grayson hopes the defeat at Cheltenham will be a “wake-up call” for his side who have just one more group game, against Sussex Sharks on Friday, after tomorrow night’s high-stakes clash.
"We've got two tough games to come at home this week against Hampshire and then Sussex on Friday night and hopefully, we'll soon have a fully fit squad available for selection,” Grayson said.
“Jesse Ryder would have played at Cheltenham if it had been a quarter- or semi-final but his knee is a little bit sore and we decided not to risk him.
“I thought that it was a cracking game on Sunday and credit to Gloucestershire because they played very well.
"We were probably a bowler light to be honest but all credit to Gloucestershire because I thought they chased down the runs very well.
"The defeat has probably acted as a bit of a wake-up call really because there's been a few games recently where we've won easily and it might just give one or two players a kick up the backside a little bit. But overall, we have been outstanding in this competition so far and I'm more than pleased at the way things are going."
Grayson was able to draw some good news from the Gloucestershire defeat with Kishen Velani, who slotted in for Ryder up the order, smacking 34 from 23 balls.
Grayson added: "One positive to take form the game was the performance of Kishen Velani who showed he is a real talent and I think that we will be seeing plenty of him playing for Essex over the next few years.”
Hampshire booked their place in the quarter-finals for the sixth successive season following a six-run win over the Sharks last Friday night.
Michael Carberry hit a season-high 87 while top run-scorer Jimmy Adams made his third half-century of the competition, although that was almost not enough as Sussex opener Luke Wright plundered an unbeaten 116.
Left-arm spinner Danny Briggs did enough damage at the other end, however, with figures of 4-28 to deny Wright and his side.
Briggs is the third-highest wicket-taker in this season’s Blast with 20 at an average of 16.35.