After a group stage that meandered endlessly on, the Friends Provident Twenty20 tournament is about to get serious. The competition has come in for a lot of justified criticism this season – too many matches, a bizarre schedule, high ticket prices – but that won't matter to the eight sides that now stand on the brink of a place at Finals Day, the undoubted highlight of the county season.
One of those teams is Hampshire, whose Rose Bowl ground will host the T20 jamboree. Today they travel to face Warwickshire at Edgbaston and while they are underdogs – the Bears have been one of the best T20 sides this season – Hampshire do have a trump card: batsman Jimmy Adams, the top run-scorer in this year's competition. Adams hit two centuries in the group stages and if he can add another today, the Royals will be hard to stop.
The 29-year-old, though, is taking nothing for granted. He seems somewhat perplexed by his fine form this season, although Adams says it has come about as a result of a change in philosophy. Over the winter, he spent time with batting guru Neil "Noddy" Holder in Perth and has since concentrated on playing more positively.
"In the past, I've always been stuck in four-day mode: nudging and nurdling," he says. "I needed to expand my game. I've taken on a positive approach. I'm never going to be one of these guys that strike the ball really cleanly but I've added stuff to my game that I didn't have in my armoury before. It's been a surprise to me, to be honest. A big surprise, but I've really enjoyed it."
Success has clearly not gone to Adams' head. If anything, he can be too self-critical. "I like to keep things low-key," he said. "It frustrates friends and family but I prefer to scuttle along and do my thing."
None the less, if he continues to perform in this vein he could find himself following team-mate Michael Lumb into the England T20 side. "The prospect of playing for England is something I will always hold on to," Adams says. "Even if I was 35 it would be something I'd want to achieve. But there are a lot of good guys out there. All I can do is keep improving. The England side is a tough, challenging thing to even get close to."
His thoughts at the moment are on today's game. Edgbaston is a ground where he has had success, including a century in a 40-over game earlier this season. "It's a nice place to play; it's great for the batters," he said.
"They're missing some of their best players – Bell, Trott – but it is going to be a tough test. If we play like we did against Sussex [on 18 July, when Hants won by 45 runs], we'll win but if we play like we did three days before [against Middlesex, an eight-wicket defeat] then we won't. T20 is like that; one over or a 10-minute period could be crucial."
As the competition's leading run-scorer, Adams might be expected to speak up against the criticism of this year's competition but he does not feel it is living up to its potential. "The T20 has been a bit weird – at one point, we played two T20s and then went into a four-day game and at the end of that we had another two T20s tagged on," he said. "It would be better with a shorter, more concentrated season. Then there'd be international players available, the crowds would come. If the players are honed into T20 you get a better standard."
Warwickshire v Hampshire (Edgbaston, 4.40pm)
Nottinghamshire v Sussex (Trent Bridge, 7.25pm)
Somerset v Northamptonshire (Taunton, 4.50pm)
Essex v Lancashire (Chelmsford, 7.40pm