There is one match in the Vitality Blast on Wednesday evening and it comes from the North Group where the teams in third and fourth meet in what could be a defining clash in the competition for both Northamptonshire and Birmingham Bears.
The two head to Wantage Road in Northampton with the home side in third place and the visitors in fourth but despite starting out in third, Northants can go top of the group with a win here. Birmingham will end the evening in third place should they be successful.
Where to watch
Even though the ODI is getting the early TV attention, that finishes in time for this match to be televised and as such it will be shown on the Sky Main Event and Sky Cricket channels. The build-up begins at 6.15pm with the match starting at 6.30pm.
Northamptonshire go into this match having lost their opening match and their last match but in between that they have picked up six wins from the seven completed outings they have been involved in and are very much major players for the remainder of the competition. We shouldn’t necessarily be surprised at that because this is a team who have won this title twice in the last 10 years. Personnel might have changed at Wantage Road but the intent to target this tournament hasn’t.
Northamptonshire’s strength lies with the bat, particularly when Chris Lynn is at the top of their order. They have enough all-rounders in their team that they bat deep so the likes of Lynn and captain Josh Cobb can play to their strengths at the top. If there is a concern over the Steelbacks then it comes in the form of the ball, particularly the longer the innings goes on, but it is hard for any non-Test county to have all bases covered. They get by well though.
The Birmingham Bears are perennial challengers for a place in the knockout stages from the North Group. Their motivation to do well in this competition is obvious with finals day held at their ground every season and they are steadily moulding a decent side without necessarily having to look overseas too much. The Birmingham Bears have six wins and four losses from their 10 matches so far so are probably looking for three wins from their last four to make the knockout stages once again.
Birmingham are involved in a lot of high scoring matches which might well suit them in this one given that the weather is set fair and firm and fast conditions are expected. They have a top five which holds up against most teams in the competition and then with the ball in hand they have some heat up top and a couple of very good spinners to attempt to strangle teams in the middle order. With Edgbaston staging a lot of cricket they often play on short boundaries where the toss is huge but they have a bit more freedom should they lose the toss here.
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Northamptonshire have won matches without Chris Lynn but when he fires they have tended to cruise to victory such is the rate he scores his runs at. The Steelbacks will be looking to their marquee overseas signing to deliver the goods here.
Birmingham Bears may well look to Sam Hain for the goods in this match. He will be seeing the ball like a beach ball with the form he is in and with England limited overs squads to come over the next month a huge display here would do him no harm.
I’ll load up the bet slips with three bets in this match. The first one is over 41.5 boundaries. These are two high scoring teams but even though they bowl a lot of spin in the middle order they can go for runs as well. The outfield at Wantage Road is likely to be lightning fast after a day of temperatures in the high 20s and the pitches tend to be good here because the home side like their batters to be able to be aggressive. Birmingham have already taken this Northants attack to the cleaners at Edgbaston this season but the Northants batters have warmed to the task nicely. I expect this to be a high scoring game and over 41.5 boundaries should land. This line has been covered in three of the five matches here and I expect that to be four from six.
Sam Hain is a player I think will go well in this match. He is in sublime form after hitting a century against Lancashire in the Championship last week before a ton against Nottinghamshire in this competition on Friday night and another unbeaten 70 against Derbyshire on Sunday. He has already scored a brutal 60 against Northants this season and also made a half century on this ground last season. He plays in the number four position for the Bears so he will play the rebuild innings but he’s shown in those last two brutal knocks that he can get on with it as well. He has a run line of 24.5 here and that looks a little low in present form.
The other bet I’ll take is Saif Zaib to be the top Northamptonshire batter for the second evening in succession. The middle order batter must be feeling good about life after a career best at Derby on Tuesday evening and although that was in a losing cause it shows that he belongs in the number four spot. He showed at Derbyshire that he can take an innings by the scruff of the neck and it wasn’t a fluke innings because he scored 57 against Lancashire earlier in the competition. He played the spinners very well then which will be important here with Danny Briggs and Jake Lintott operating in the middle overs. At 17/2 he is a big price.
Back Over 41.5 boundaries for a 3/10 stake at 1.91 with William Hill
Back S.Hain – Over 24.5 runs for a 3/10 stake at 1.83 with William Hill
Back them here:
Back S.Zaib Top Northamptonshire Batter for a 1/10 stake at 9.50 with Betfair