Shockingly the Friends Life (not Friends Provident any more) Twenty20 Cup is almost upon us. Things get under way on Thursday against Gloucestershire, here's hoping we do a bit better in that fixture than we did in the corresponding one last year.
So what then should we expect this year? In terms of sheer power our top six is a match for pretty much any in county cricket. Hamilton-Brown, Davies, Roy, de Bruyn, Maynard and Ramprakash are six batsmen capable of batting any side out of a game, equally it's possible that we'll end up (as we did last year) 17-5, but it's worth the gamble if you ask me. I really can say no more than that about our batting, they are a collection of the most talented players currently playing the game.
I think where we do struggle a little is when it comes to the all rounders. Batty is very much a bowling all rounder (and has hit a rocky patch form-wise) and Spriegel, while I have no concerns over his form, can take a few deliveries to get into his stride. He has more than earned his place though and his knock against Scotland this year and against Worcestershire in the CB40 last year show him to have plenty of big-hitting ability once into his stride. His bowling will also be crucial. There is a question as to whether both Batty and Spriegel should play in the same side, as with de Bruyn and Hamilton-Brown in the team there is enough bowling to make up the shortfall in overs that leaving one out would create. I suspect Adams will select both, with Schofield in the mix as well, given that no batsman waiting in the wings is really kicking the door down for this format.
As for the bowlers, the loss of Tremlett and Dernbach to England is a blow of untold proportions. For all his prowess in the Championship people tend to forget quite how magnificent Trem was in the T20s last year, 24 wickets at 17 and an economy rate of 6.8. Dernbach would've been vying with him for top spot were it not for that injury at Lord's. We must make do however, and in Arafat and Dirk Nannes we have two of the most experienced (and successful) T20 bowlers ever. Should Stuart Meaker be fit to return he too will be a handful, perhaps even Matt Dunn too.
So in short we have a team capable of making the latter stages and yes, even winning this competition. Other sides have better bowling (Hampshire's frankly ridiculous battery of spinners springs to mind, and Somerset have an embarrassment of riches), perhaps some have better batting (Somerset again), but there is so much talent in this side that they should quite rightly be aiming very high.
Key players: Zander de Bruyn. His ability to stabilise an innings, or to biff a few to make a decent total into a great total, is something we were sorely lacking last season. His overs will also be crucial, expect full four over spells more often than not. Dirk Nannes. 90mph left armer with a lovely beard. Need I say more?
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