A first Lord's final since 2001 when we won the B&H Cup against Gloucestershire beckons tomorrow, and wouldn't a win be a nice way to cap a special week?
Chris Adams has rightly stuck with the same basic set of players that have got us to this point, the fourteen brave souls who will go into battle are as follows:
Zander de Bruyn
Bench: Tim Linley, Gary Wilson, Zafar Ansari
The team largely picks itself when you look at recent performances. By and large every one of the top six batsmen have a score to their name of late, the exception being Hamilton-Brown who has tended to get out when well set - he has four scores between 24 and 46 in his last five CB40 games. Spriegel and Schofield's form with the bat has been a real bonus and has allowed Adams the luxury of picking so many allrounders. Spriegel is our third highest scorer with 400 runs and Schofield is averaging 36 - both have strike rates above 100. That said we need our top five to stand up, most of our success in this format over the last two years is built on going hard in the opening overs - don't expect that to change tomorrow. Each one of our top five is a potential game changer if it comes off. Hopefully it will!
The real conundrum comes in the bowling, and specifically which of Tim Linley or Stuart Meaker should play? Neither has really nailed down a spot in the CB40, in stark contrast to their Championship form. I am sure both would do a fine job if called upon tomorrow but what I keep coming back to is that when Stuart Meaker bowls, things happen. It might be a flurry of boundaries, or it might be a flurry of wickets, but things definitely happen. His economy rate of over 6 across this season's CB40 games isn't good, but he's not a bad limited overs bowler - witness his nerveless bowling in the closing overs at Whitgift in the Twenty20 against Sussex game there as proof of that. His tail is up and I think the nature of the game will get him going. As ever it's hard to say which Yasir Arafat will turn up, he's wavered between brilliant and abject at times in this format, but hopefully he'll be on his best behaviour for a final.
The return of Jade Dernbach, motoring down the M4 having bowled for England today, should be a boost of untold proportions. His CB40 returns this season have included analyses of 2-13 and 4-7, all told his 19 wickets have come at a cost of just 15 runs each. If he is on song tomorrow his eight overs could go a long way to deciding the match.
Somerset, perennial finalists but curiously never winners lately, are a seriously good side. A more powerful batting lineup you are not likely to see; Trescothick, Kieswetter, Trego, Buttler, Hildreth...quality, big-hitting batsmen just keep coming at you. If they get off to a good start no total is too big. That said, as Leicestershire proved in the Twenty20 when Claude Henderson tied them down and Josh Cobb cleaned them, they can be tamed. They are perhaps a little bit weak in the bowling where beyond Kirby and Thomas they don't have many experienced seamers, but in Dockrell and Kartik they have two impressive spin options.
After the pressure of having to win our final four Championship games, one 80 over blast ought to be a walk in the park for our merry band of players. Confidence will be at previously unknown highs and as most of these players will not have experienced a domestic final before, they will likely have no fear. Throughout this season Hamilton-Brown and Adams have trumpeted this fearless brand of attacking cricket and I don't expect that to change. I don't think there's a clear favourite for tomorrow, except perhaps the weather, but with the kind of form we've been in for the last month, I certainly wouldn't bet against us.
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