By Matt Somerford
Worcestershire Rapids will bid to reach finals day for the first time when they make the daunting trip to the Kia Oval to take on red-hot Surrey tomorrow.
The Rapids are one of just two counties to have never reached the showpiece event of the domestic Twenty20 calendar, having fallen at the quarter-final stage three times.
That is a situation skipper Daryl Mitchell is determined to put right this weekend against last season’s runners-up, who have won six of their seven home games this season.
“Getting to finals day is something we haven’t done before so for the club it would be massive; including the players and supporters,” he told ecb.co.uk.
“Finals day this season is being held only down the road at Edgbaston so it would be a really exciting day out for everyone involved.
“It is something that is missing from my CV and the club’s as well. It’s something we are striving to achieve.”
Worcestershire will arrive in London as underdogs to be feared following a season in which they have built a winning habit.
No team has won more games across all three formats than Worcestershire this season.
They narrowly missed out on a home NatWest T20 Blast quarter-final following a campaign in which they spent long periods in North Group’s the top two, while they are the runaway leaders in the LV= County Championship Division Two.
Mitchell has been at the heart of that success, leading the way with both bat and ball, and believes his players are in the right frame of mind to fully test Surrey's near-flawless home record.
“Confidence is massive in cricket, especially in Twenty20 when you tend to go for more things,” he said.
“Winning games becomes a habit no matter what format it is and we’ve certainly been able to do that this year. We have the belief we can beat the big sides.
“We’ve got nothing to lose. We are probably going to be underdogs but that is a tag we quite like.
“The pressure will be on Surrey in front of their home crowd. Hopefully we can go there and cause a bit of an upset.
“Once you put yourself in the quarter-final you have a one in eight chance of winning it (the competition). That’s how we see it.”
Surrey, however, boast one of the most powerful batting line-ups in the Blast, headlined by opener Jason Roy.
The 24-year-old is the competition’s second-highest runscorer with 567 at an average of 47.25, but it was the consistency with which he got Surrey off to blistering starts that made Roy so valuable.
He passed 50 on seven occasions and, after going at a strike-rate of 148.04, his form has earned him a call-up to the England Lions for their triangular series later this month.
“That is an awesome reward for my form,” Roy said.
“I’ve had a good season, but I have not changed all that much.
“I’ve just been a lot more focused and going out with a game plan. My game plans have been very good and they seem to be working for me so I just have to keep going with them.
“The mental side has been important too when I’m out there I just try and stay relaxed.”
Roy has looked most at ease at the Kia Oval where he has smashed five half-centuries in his past six innings.
With the likes of Tillakarante Dilshan, Kevin Pietersen, Azhar Mahmood and Gary Wilson around him Surrey have been able to burn off visiting teams with the bat.
“I’m very happy to have a home quarter-final with those home comforts,” Roy added.
“Everything about it will be good; hopefully the crowd come in and give us huge support.
“The crowd at the Oval has been quality this season.
“Hopefully we get to another finals day and do one better than last season (when they lost the final to Northants Steelbacks). It’s a huge day for the club on Saturday.
“Worcester are a strong side as they have shown in a few games. They have some very dangerous player so I’m just excited more than anything to get on with it and see what they’ve got.”
Worcestershire will be without mystery spinner Saeed Ajmal, following his return to Pakistan, although in his place they have added New Zealand quick Mitchell McClenaghan.
He lead an attack Rapids skipper Mitchell still believes has the ability to limit Surrey’s brash batting.
“Saeed leaving has changed the dynamic of the team but Mitch is a strike bowler as well, albeit a different kind,” Mitchell added.
“He’ll be looking to take wickets at the top for us and to bowl at the death as well. We’ve got Chris Russell and Jack Shantry who have done well and then part-times like myself and Colin Munro have been able to chip in.
“We have quite a lot of bases covered.”