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Below is a list of the day’s fixtures:
Northamptonshire Steelbacks vs Birmingham Bears: 18:30 BST
Middlesex vs Glamorgan – 16:30 BST
Hampshire Hawks vs Surrey – 19:00 BST
NORTHAMPTONSHIRE STEELBACKS VS BIRMINGHAM BEARS
After a terribly slow start to this year’s T20 Blast, Northamptonshire Steelbacks finally got on the board last time out, securing a much-needed victory away at Derbyshire Falcons. Performances and results have drawn criticism from supporters and the capability of head coach John Sadler has been questioned. But a good all-round showing from the top order saw them successfully chase down 152 in Derby with six wickets remaining. Four of the top five contributed scores of over 20, putting into perspective the team effort with no one reaching a half-century.
Northants would no doubt like to see a big innings soon from overseas opener Chris Lynn, the Australian having not yet fired as explosively as he did in his stint at the club last season. But with 11 games to go, time is on his side. They will however, be happy with David Willey’s contribution last time out against the Falcons. One wicket at an economy rate of just 5.25 runs per over was backed up by a solid 31 batting at number three, the same score which Lynn managed opening.
Birmingham Bears are one of the North Group pace-setters and really laid down a marker this past Monday, comprehensively defeating fellow heavy-hitters Lancashire Lightning by seven wickets. That triumph was the Bears’ first straight win of the campaign and they are now one of just two teams remaining in the North Group who still boast a 100% record. The victory over Lancashire was by far the most impressive of Birmingham Bears’ campaign thus far, when taking into account the quality among the Red Rose line-up.
Whilst many expected a formidable Lancashire Lightning batting order to feast on runs as they have done all competition so far, the Bears’ spinners had other ideas, skittling them out for just 98 in 14.5 overs. All 13 wickets taken across the contest fell to spin, Danny Briggs picking up four for the hosts, whilst team-mate Dan Mousley bagged a 3fer. Birmingham Bears chased their modest target of 99 down with seven wickets still in the can, a resounding success against another side expected to be challenging come the business end of the tournament.
As good a team-performance as Northamptonshire Steelbacks showed last time out, they do not boast the all-round quality of personnel skill-wise that Birmingham Bears do. The visitors have all bases well-covered and the momentum they possess as a unit has to be factored into this one. Expect a closer game than the one against Lancashire Lightning, but for Birmingham Bears to come out on top once again.
TIP: BIRMINGHAM BEARS TO WIN
MIDDLESEX VS GLAMORGAN
Middlesex will be wondering how on earth they have ended up with three losses from three T20 Blast fixtures so far, following their latest defeat at the hands of Gloucestershire, nail-biting affair which saw them fall agonisingly short in a run chase of 182. Most frustratingly for Middlesex will have been that they had the game in the palm of their hands, needing just seven runs from the final over. However, a number of missed shots not least from the final ball of the match with three required to win, led to them throwing it away. When you see two good players such as John Simpson and Ryan Higgins failing to put bat on ball, you know the pressure has gotten to them.
This inexperienced Middlesex outfit continues to struggle, with that loss vs Gloucestershire now placed alongside those against Surrey and Hampshire Hawks respectively, which sees them now prop up the South Group table. Stephen Eskinazi struck a half-century last time out and the Middlesex captain has spoken to the media about how their performance was simply not good enough. He will need to now pick up his troops for what feels like a defining fixture. Lose this and it’s likely to be tournament over already.
Glamorgan come into this contest looking to bounce back at the first time of asking after being thoroughly beaten at the hands of Somerset at Taunton this past weekend. Whilst their T20 Blast season will not be defined by losing to the likes of Somerset, Middlesex represents a fixture that they really need to win if they have genuine aspirations of a top four finish in what is a stacked South Group. After already overcoming Gloucestershire, the Welsh county will be confident of further success here.
It was the Somerset openers that nixed any slim hopes Glamorgan had of defending 154, 69 runs being added by Tom Banton and Will Smeed in just 5.3 overs, putting the hosts well ahead of the rate and leaving Glamorgan playing catch up for the rest of the match. Most disappointing though for Glammy will have been their middle order collapse earlier in the piece. To go from 79/3 to 153 all out is a poor effort and those down the order need to offer more significant contributions.
Middlesex should have beaten Gloucestershire, but an awful final over blew it for them with their two players at the crease caving in under pressure. Three defeats from three tells you everything you need to know and confidence within the home camp must be at rock bottom. This doesn’t seem like it’ll change anytime soon and with that in mind, backing Glamorgan to win has to be favoured.
TIP: GLAMORGAN TO WIN
HAMPSHIRE HAWKS VS SURREY
After losing each of their opening four T20 Blast fixtures last season, you can be forgiven for raising an eyebrow when Hampshire Hawks were battered by Somerset at Taunton in their opening game of the campaign and wondering whether history would repeat itself. However, James Vince’s side are made of significantly sturdier stuff that that and the reigning champions quickly got back to winning ways two days later, utilising home conditions well to get the better of Middlesex.
Vince will no doubt be a key part of whether the Hawks are successful again this year. His captaincy is lauded within the county circuit, but he remains comfortably one of the best batters in the competition. He superbly led Hampshire’s run chase against Middlesex, never looking uncomfortable for his 88 not out from just 55 deliveries. With bowler Nathan Ellis back at the club following his IPL commitments, all the ingredients are in place for a significantly better points return after four games this time round.
After winning each of their first two games in the 2023 T20 Blast, Surrey came undone at the weekend at home to Sussex Sharks, losing by five wickets with a ball to spare in one of the closest games to be played so far this season in the T20 Blast. Surrey can only have themselves to blame though, after being bowled out for just 148 in 19.3 overs, their usual big-hitting style of play misfiring on this particular occasion. After a great start with the ball, they lost control later in the Sussex innings, allowing the Sharks to creep home.
The biggest issue at present for Surrey are their missing players and they’ll desperately be hoping that captain Chris Jordan is back available to take his place in the side here. Jason Roy remains out injured and Sean Abbott has joined up with Australia. This has led to player such as Cameron Steel getting a game, which would never usually happen should Surrey have their full squad available to them.
This encounter is certainly the stand-out match of the evening in the T20 Blast. As strong as Surrey appear as a squad, they are missing a selection of key names, which hurt them against Sussex Sharks and probably will again here. No Jason Roy at the top of the order is the biggest blow, whilst recent centurion Sean Abbott is also a significant loss with bat and ball. Expect Hampshire Hawks to take advantage of this and emerge victorious here at home.
TIP: HAMPSHIRE HAWKS TO WIN