The second to last night of Vitality Blast action prior to the break for the County Championship takes place on Thursday evening when another five matches get played out across both of the groups as we head towards and beyond the halfway mark of the first phase.
We have a televised match to enjoy over the course of the evening and as has been the case throughout the entirety of the competition, the other four matches will all be shown on the live streams that the counties provide.
Two matches take place in the North Group on Thursday evening as the race to move into the top four comes under the spotlight. Northamptonshire are already there and they will have the chance to not just go into second place but put some distance between themselves and the top four chasers when they play host to a Worcestershire side who are rock bottom in the table and in urgent need of a run of victories. The other match sees Leicestershire looking to move into the top four. They make the short trip to Derbyshire, who can get their qualifying hopes back on track if they win.
The televised action comes from Lord’s where the first London derby of the season takes place as the unbeaten leaders Surrey cross the river to take on a Middlesex outfit whose bright start has fizzled right out. Somerset and Essex sit second and third heading into the night respectively and both of them are on show on Thursday. Somerset make the trip to Bristol to take on local rivals Gloucestershire, who will move above the 2021 finalists if they win the game. Essex head to Southampton to take on a Hampshire side who have the chance to move right back into qualifying contention if they can pick up a third straight win at the Ageas Bowl.
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TV Match Betting
I’m not going to get involved in the outcome of the TV match. You would have to think with the strength of the Surrey side and the differing form of the two teams that Surrey should win and win with a fair bit in hand but these derby matches in this competition can take on a strange path and as ever in this format it only needs someone from Middlesex to have a day out and you just never know. I’m approaching the game as a comfortable Surrey win though.
That leads me to the Middlesex batting which has been very top three heavy so far this season. Only Steven Eskinazi and Joe Cracknell have made 50s in a Middlesex shirt this season and only those two and Max Holden have more than 110 runs for the season. Some of that top three reliance might be levelled out with the return of Eoin Morgan expected for this match but he is said to be nursing fitness issues. It isn’t going to be easy for the top three to get the likes of Reece Topley, Sam Curran and this elite Surrey bowling attack away though so I wonder if this will be an innings that someone down the order comes in and gets a few big swings away and top scores. Chris Green only has 60 runs for the season but his top score was good enough for second place against Sussex and if you go back to the Big Bash, Green top scored in the Sydney Smash with 50 so he can bat. Surrey have had Kent 75/5 and Sussex 77/4 in their last two bowling efforts so there is a chance the top score down the order has every chance. At 45/1 I’ll pay to see how close Green can go.
Other Match Betting
I like two bets elsewhere in the evening with the first of those an exciting Somerset side to beat Gloucestershire at Bristol. I like Gloucestershire and don’t really like taking them on at Bristol but their bowling resources are beginning to get stretched with the injuries and absences of Naseem Shah and Paul van Meekeren and I’d be surprised if Somerset allow Glenn Phillips to take 2/22 from three overs like Glamorgan did last time out. Somerset have this brutal batting unit which bats a heck of a long way down and they have a number of bowling options which should be suited to the Bristol pitch as well as Marchant de Lange who can rip a middle order out. This is probably the match of the evening for me but I like Somerset to come out on top in it with the Gloucester absentees.
I will also take Derbyshire to get the better of Leicestershire. When these two met at Leicester earlier in the season Derbyshire steamrolled them and while I would be surprised if they win as easily here, I do think man for man and balance wise Derbyshire are the better side. They are particularly better with the bat and although their bowling has gone around the park a little at times, it has to be said that the three teams who have got after them did so off the back of blitzes from Alex Hales and Chris Lynn up front and in the other case Chris Benjamin at the death. There is nothing of that power in this Leicestershire side so Derbyshire should be able to control the pace of the game with the ball and use their batting depth to come out on top and complete the double over the Foxes.
Back C.Green Top Middlesex Batter for a 1/10 stake at 46.00 with Betfair
Back Somerset to beat Gloucestershire for a 3/10 stake at 1.83 with BetVictor
Back them here:
Back Derbyshire to beat Leicestershire for a 3/10 stake at 2.10 with Bet365