Spitfires ready to soar
Our Andy Schooler is backing Kent to beat Gloucestershire in their Royal London One-Day Cup quarter-final on Friday.
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County cricket finally gave itself an understandable schedule this season but the presence of the ongoing England v India one-day series means the quarter-finals of the Royal London One-Day Cup have been staggered.
Nottinghamshire are already into Friday's semi-final draw having beaten Derbyshire on Tuesday but Wednesday's ODI meant the other last-eight ties had to wait until the end of the week. Two of the 50-over games will be played on Thursday and the other on Friday.
Here's Andy Schooler's look at those matches:
Yorkshire v Durham (Thursday, 1030 BST)
Yorkshire start fairly hot favourites for this one and it's easy to see why. No other side won six matches in the group stage and their already-strong line-up has been bolstered by the fact that England have released Gary Ballance to play in this Headingley clash. He has enjoyed a fine season for his country and his county this year and will be welcomed back with open arms. Graeme Swann may not rate him as an ODI player, but he's still very likely to do some damage with quick runs at this level. He and Alex Lees will be key men in the hosts' batting order but it is on the bowling side of things where they've had some real stand-out performers since the competition began in July. Adil Rashid has been one of county cricket's more impressive players this season across all formats and so it's no surprise to see him as the tournament's leading wicket-taker with 19. Another player with international experience, Tim Bresnan, has a none-too-shabby 15 victims. Expect both to get stuck into a Durham side who lost three of their seven completed group games and only just scraped into the last eight. It's a home win for me but the price is hardly mouthwatering.
Essex v Warwickshire (Thursday, 1400 BST)
Essex lost only one match in the group stage - a low-scoring encounter on a unusual Chelmsford pitch - and start this one as favourites. Their strong batting line-up looks capable of chasing down almost anything. Their last three 50-over totals have been 315, 324 and 291 but they showed in T20 cricket that they are more vulnerable when batting first. It is more than noteworthy that Warwickshire won at Chelmsford in the T20 quarter-finals just a few weeks ago with a fine all-round display and that could well be a seed planted in the hosts' heads. The Bears may not have impressed as much in the group stage, losing three times, but they showed in that quarter-final they can rise to the occasion, just as they did at the weekend when they captured the T20 Blast trophy as outsiders - the first of what they hope will be a Treble this season. If any side can thwart the Essex batting, it looks to be the Bears, who did a fine job on that front when last at Chelmsford. Jeetan Patel tied Essex down magnificently that day and although this match is clearly different, the 50-over format actually allows him to offer more of a wicket-taking threat; he has 16 wickets in the competition so far. Bowling colleagues Boyd Rankin and Rikki Clarke both appear inside the top 10 in terms of the tournament's economy rates, while on the batting front opener Varun Chopra has an excellent record against his former county. He's had a strong 50-over season thus far, as has Jonathan Trott. All things considered, the visitors look a spot of value here at 6/5 to me. On a side note, top-bat punters may want to know that Essex's Tom Westley's last four innings in the RLODC have resulted in scores of 84, 111*, 74 and 62. However, the bookies have cottoned on and make him the 7/2 favourite ahead of some of his big-hitting colleagues.
Kent v Gloucestershire (Friday, 1400 BST)
At 8/11, Kent look a strong bet here. Their batting form has been consistently good in the competition thus far with their six completed matches having resulted in totals of 274, 383, 314 and 299. They also chased down 210 with more than six overs to spare, with their least-impressive performance (and only loss) coming after they had already qualified. Gloucester, on the other hand, were only third in their group and come into this one having suffered a significant injury blow with Michael Klinger having broken his arm in their final group match. Not only is Klinger their leading runscorer in the competition at an average of 57, the Australian is also their captain. Apologies if I'm stating the obvious, but that's far from ideal heading into a big match like this. Admittedly, Kent won't have either Doug Bollinger or James Tredwell in their bowling attack - the former has headed back to Hobart to play for the Champions League T20, while the latter is away with England. That's certainly a slight worry for their backers but I'd suggest they won't be too worried given how good they've been with the bat. If they have to chase a few more, so be it. The Spitfires' price looks more than fair from where I'm standing.
Preview posted at 1440 BST on 27/08/14.
- The Essex and Kent matches are both being televised live in the UK on Sky Sports.