Kent get top Billings
Dave Tickner previews the Royal London One-Day Cup semi-finals and thinks Sam Billings will make an impact for Kent.
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It's Plan B in the Royal London One-Day Cup semi-finals after all four quarter-finals were won by sides from Group B, with the biggest upset coming at Headingley where impressive Group A winners - and County Champions elect - Yorkshire were turned over by Durham.
The upshot, though, is that we have a useful formline for comparing the teams when assessing the semi-finals. And the first thing that jumps out at me is Kent being such big underdogs against Warwickshire at Edgbaston on Thursday.
Kent finished above the Bears in the group section, losing just one of six completed matches while Warwickshire lost three out of seven. (The group game between the pair was a washout.)
The Bears do have home advantage and will be full of confidence after claiming Twenty20 honours as alter-ego the Birmingham Bears. Those factors might just merit favouritism, but don't account for Kent being as big as 11/8.
They were unbeaten in their four away games in the group stage and have been the surprise package of the tournament. They've been under-rated here.
Much of Kent's shock success in this tournament has been built on the astonishing efforts of keeper-batsman Sam Billings. His numbers are simply extraordinary; in six innings he has past 50 five times. His stats for the tournament are 418 runs at an average of 104.50 and an outrageous strike-rate of 162.64.
More importantly from a punting point of view, he has top-scored in three of Kent's seven completed matches despite batting down at number six. He's 7/1 to top score for Kent in this one, and the consistency of his run-scoring allied to that blistering pace means I'm more than happy to look past the usual concerns about backing someone batting that low. The statistics speak for themselves.
Saturday's second semi-final pits Group B winners Notts against Durham at Chester-le-Street. Their respective form in the group stage means Notts are worthy favourites, but Durham will take confidence from dumping Yorkshire out in the previous round.
They also beat these opponents in the Championship this week and won the group game here at a canter, coming out on top by six wickets with over four overs remaining.
Again, it's the outsiders who look the value here at 13/10.
- Preview posted at 1700 BST on 03/09/2014