Counties up for Twenty20 battle
Sussex hope to build on their outstanding form in the LV County Championship and use it as a platform for success in Twenty20 finals day at Edgbaston.
Thursday’s emphatic victory over rivals Lancashire at Aigburth re-established reigning champions Sussex as table-toppers and gave them the perfect fillip for their first appearance in today’s big event.
It follows a pledge within the Sussex dressing room to put more emphasis on the Twenty20 Cup, the most popular competition in county cricket, having under-performed in recent years.
“We’re trying desperately to go all the way in this competition,” said captain Chris Adams.
“We targeted it at the start of the year and it’s gone very well so far and it’s going to be a fantastic day for us.
“With a bit of luck and a lot of skill, who knows, we could lift the trophy. We’ve been close a couple of times, but this time we got momentum at the right time, at the back end of the group stages whereas in the past we started well and faltered towards the end.”
Sussex’s resurgence in this form of the game followed their success in last season’s C&G Trophy final, when they gave themselves extra bowling options and relied on their top order to score enough runs to make them competitive.
It is a formula they have also used with success in the Twenty20 Cup and Adams admitted: “If you look at our side it’s changed from a few years ago.
“We started off by picking lots of batters who could strike the ball well and just four or five bowlers but this time we’ve filled our team with options with the ball.
“We’ve really relied on four or five guys at the top of the order to score the runs and it’s worked.”
Whether it will be as successful facing the menace of Sri Lankan fast bowler Lasith Malinga remains to be seen after Kent recruited him earlier this week to replace Andrew Hall, who is required back in South Africa for a training camp.
Malinga claimed 5-79 during last year’s tour match against Sussex against a line-up including four players likely to be involved today and has generated a huge amount of excitement in Kent’s prospects.
That semi-final follows the earlier contest between Lancashire and Gloucestershire, who are hoping the pressure on the favourites from Old Trafford can boost their chances of qualifying for the evening semi-final.
“There’s a lot of pressure on the household names of Lancashire,” stressed Gloucestershire coach Mark Alleyne.
“I’m sure they are desperate for a trophy of some sort - they haven’t won anything for a while, so I’m sure they’ll want to win something.
“I’ve been really pleased with what my players have done so far in the competition. They’ve played as a really good unit and won some important games against some really good sides. Lancashire’s another one of those and we hope to do a bit more of the same on Saturday.”
Lancashire will be hoping prolific spinner Muttiah Muralitharan can be as effective after a good night’s rest as he was in their quarter-final victory over Warwickshire after virtually no sleep at all.
Muralitharan flew in from Sri Lanka duty on the morning of the match and, while his Lancashire team-mates warmed up, he slept in the dressing room, only to claim man-of-the-match for his 4-18 once he awoke.
“We try to manage him as best we can and he does bowl a lot of overs in four-day cricket and sometimes he does need a little bit of looking after physically,” explained captain Mark Chilton.
“But, with Twenty20, he’s got four overs to get through and hopefully he’s going to be effective he is as he is in all forms of other cricket.
“I think the quarter-final proved that he can be very effective and spinners are a big weapon in this competition and we’ll be looking for big returns from Murali again.”