Notts Outlaws will be bidding to reach their third consecutive Finals Day when they head to the south-west to face Somerset in the Vitality Blast quarter-final round on Sunday.
The defending champions will be breaking new ground as they look to become the first side to retain the trophy.
In the 16 years of our shortest domestic competition Notts have reached the knock-out stage for a 10th time but this season there is a difference. When they head to Taunton at the weekend it will be the first time they will have faced the prospect of a quarter-final match away from Trent Bridge.
Facing Somerset won’t be a new experience though. This will be the fourth time that the two sides have locked horns in T20, with the Outlaws still licking their wounds from two painful defeats.
At Finals Day in 2010 Notts were on course to chase down Somerset’s 182 for five. They were ahead on Duckworth-Lewis until the start of the 13th over when Kieron Pollard pulled off a sensational leaping boundary catch to dismiss Samit Patel. The calculations were flipped, the rain came – and Notts were out by the narrowest of margins.
One year later Notts were given their chance for revenge. They made 169 for five on their own patch.
Luke Fletcher dismissed Marcus Trescothick early on and when Darren Pattinson removed Craig Kieswetter it seemed as if the Outlaws were there.
Somerset, with half their side already out, still required 65 from 30 balls. That they didn’t need five of them was down to an unbelievable display of shot-making from Pollard – downing the green and golds for a second straight year – and Jos Buttler. They blasted six fours and six sixes between them and the away dressing room was belting out their celebratory ‘Blackbird’ victory song in no time at all.
Last year was different. Third time lucky and all that – as the Outlaws gained a modicum of revenge at the quarter-final stage. Samit Patel, with two for 26 and a stylish 45 runs, claimed the individual honours in a largely one-sided contest.
So now the trilogy becomes a quadrilogy.
Somerset topped the South Group impressively, qualifying with 10 wins from their 14 matches. The Outlaws’ record was less spectacular; seven wins and seven defeats – but, crucially, they finished strongly with three emphatic victories, all once Alex Hales had returned to the side.
So what does the Notts coaching staff make of the forthcoming fixture?
“Everybody knows that Somerset are a strong team,” said Paul Franks. “We go to Taunton, where I’m sure it will be an excellent pitch and we are looking forward to it very much. We’re happy that we’ve played really well in our last three games and hope that will have sent a message.”
The Assistant Head Coach commented on Somerset’s recent fast starts at the top of the order. “Johann Myburgh is somebody I know well,” he revealed. “I played a lot of cricket against hm in our formative years, when he was based in South Africa.
“We know all about him; he likes to get his hands through the ball and get the innings up and running early but we’ll have a plan to try and stop him doing that.”
Notts were without both Tom Moores and Harry Gurney for this week’s Specsavers County Championship match against Hampshire but the club’s Head Coach, Peter Moores, confirmed that both would be available for the knock-out match.
“Both will be fit for the quarter,” he said. “Tom’s got a strain at the top of his thigh. We managed to get him through the last game and we’ll get him through the quarter-final alright and then see how he is for the Surrey match next week.
“Harry was rested really. He’s had a very good white ball season and he we left him behind at Trent Bridge this week to recharge the batteries and do some specific work ready for the quarter.
“Taunton is somewhere we know well. We’ve had some good scraps with them in the past and did well down there in the quarter-final of the Royal London One-Day Cup last year, when we just got over the line,” said Moores.
“It will be a really tough game because Somerset are a good side. We’ll have to play well but we’ll go into it with some really good momentum behind us.
“We’ve just beaten Yorkshire twice and Worcestershire and it feels like we have found a good system, batting-wise, which has given us a little more consistency. All credit to Jake Libby, who has come into the top of the order, so we are confident that if we play well we’ll have a great chance.”