This has been a strange season for the Twenty20 Cup. Overshadowed in June by the World Twenty20, the domestic game's shiniest bauble has been outshone this week by the County Championship, of all things, as attention has focused on the battle for a place in England's squad for next week's decisive Ashes Test.
It has almost been forgotten that the Twenty20 Cup Finals Day takes place at Edgbaston today.
Almost, but not quite. Supporters of the four teams intent on victory in the domestic game's premier cup competition – Kent, Northamptonshire, Somerset and Sussex – certainly know it is happening, even if seat sales have been sluggish by comparison with previous seasons; yesterday morning, Warwickshire were still advertising tickets for sale on their website.
Perhaps that was inevitable in a summer replete with other cricketing attractions. The greatest of those, the Ashes, will cast its sizeable shadow over today's events in the shapes of Marcus Trescothick and Robert Key, two men mentioned in connection with England's fragile batting. Trescothick has already ruled himself out but Key will hope that a successful day in Birmingham could pave his way to South London, even if it does look as if the selectors have decided against him.
Trescothick's and Key's teams – Somerset and Kent respectively – meet in the second semi-final of the day, from which the winner of the competition normally comes. That pattern looks likely to be repeated this year, as Peter Trego, formerly of Kent but now back in his home county of Somerset, points out. "Kent are a formidable outfit," he said of the bookmakers' favourites. "If you had to put money on who would win the trophy, you'd put it on the winner of our semi."
Somerset, for their part, have the sort of batting power that is hard for other sides to deal with while Kent are a hugely experienced side, having been to this stage three years in a row. Indeed, Azhar Mahmood, their 34-year-old all-rounder, will be playing in his sixth finals day, out of seven in total.
This year's event boasts an extra attraction, for three sides at least. Lalit Modi has already indicated that Northamptonshire would not be invited to take part in the Champions League should they qualify – their side has three players associated with the Indian Cricket League – but for the other teams there is the additional lure of the rewards waiting in India between 8 and 23 October.Reuse content