By Will Jackson & Matt Somerford
Glamorgan opener Jacques Rudolph has warned his side are ready to pull off another away shock when they meet Lancashire Lightning for their NatWest T20 Blast quarter-final.
The Lightning were the stand-out team of the group stage, finishing with the best win-loss record and coasting to the top of the North Division.
Their reward was a first home quarter-final at Emirates Old Trafford since 2009, although lying in wait is a Glamorgan side who have relished slaying the big boys away from home.
After beginning their campaign by beating Hampshire at their Ageas Bowl fortress, the Welsh county ended a 10-year hoodoo at Taunton before also knocking off Surrey at the Kia Oval.
It has meant Glamorgan have got out of their group for the first time in six years while a first finals day since 2004 is also within their grasp.
That turnaround has come as little surprise to Rudolph, who made the move to Glamorgan at the start of the season believing they were capable of making strides forward in the sprint format after reaching the 40-over Lord’s final last term.
“I always knew that it was the type of team that could go on to bigger things,” he told ecb.co.uk.
“I think we have proven that this season. We’ve shown that this season; we’ve knocked down some big sides in the T20.
“I think we do have the firepower to take on big teams and who knows, maybe we get into the finals day and we have a cracking day and we might end up champions.
“I always believe that if you are the underdogs it takes a lot of pressure off the whole squad.
"Also with Jim Allenby as our captain we play for the enjoyment of the game. We don’t play to get too stressed up about things. I think that is the way to play the game and, if you do that against the bigger opponents, we have proven this season that we can beat big teams.
“I know Lancashire have had a great run in the T20, but we have momentum and we will go up to Manchester with a lot of confidence in our ability.”
Rudolph’s opening partnership with Allenby has been at the cornerstone of Glamorgan’s success.
They have been the most prolific opening partnership in the Blast with Allenby just one of four players to score over 500 runs. Rudolph is not far behind, hitting 476 at a healthy average of 52.88 to be sixth on the competition’s runscorer’s list.
“I think it is a key point for any team to get a good platform up front,” Rudolph said.
“We’ve worked pretty well in the fact that we compliment each other well. Jim is more of a free-flowing high strike-rate kind of guy and I’m the guy who keeps things together and on my day I can also go on and score quickly.
“It’s going to be important on Friday to get off to a good start and get the likes of Chris Cooke, who has also played unbelievably well for us in the campaign, to get him in. It’s nice to have Graham Wagg back from injury – he can also slog a few lusty blows.”
Lancashire seamer Kabir Ali admits that his clash with Glamorgan’s opening pair could have a major say in the outcome.
“I enjoy those situations,” he said.
“Their openers have done well, but that’s why we play cricket to showcase your skills and in pressure situations.
“Glamorgan are a good side and they play some good cricket. We definitely won’t be taking them lightly.”
Lancashire will be without their leading wicket-taker Junaid Khan, who has returned to Pakistan ahead of their series against Sri Lanka.
Kabir does not feel any extra pressure to step up in his absence and, after a dominant campaign so far the Lightning have proved they have the depth to cover the loss of any player.
“Junaid is a very good bowler and has done great stuff for us this season,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate that we haven’t got him but we have definitely got guys to replace him and deliver skills.
“Not having him is a big loss but we’re pretty confident we have good back-up. Guys are ready to put their hands up.”
The last time Lancashire hosted a Twenty20 quarter-final their fate was decided in the cruellest of circumstances – a bowl-out defeat to Somerset in the indoor centre at Old Trafford after three days of solid rain.
While the weather forecast is Manchester is not completely encouraging it is perhaps understandable the Lightning have not countenanced such a scenario again.
“We haven’t done anything like that,” Kabir said.
“I’m sure if it looks that way we’ll be getting into the indoor centre!
“Bowls-outs are a bit of luck really aren’t they. I hope it’s not the case. It’s better to show your skills on the pitch than in indoor centres, especially in a quarter-final.”