If the organisers of the Friends Provident t20 had expected a thrilling final round of the group stages yesterday, they would have been disappointed. With six of the eight quarter-final places already filled there was categorically not everything to play for but even those final two slots were filled by the sides in possession at the start of the day, Northamptonshire in the north group and Hampshire in the south. It was a flat finale to what has been a deeply uninspiring campaign.
Northamptonshire's victory over Durham summed up much of what has gone wrong with this competition on the field. They eased to a seven-wicket win with 13 balls to spare after Durham managed just 129 for five from their 20 overs. Low-scoring, one-sided: this is not how Twenty20 is supposed to be.
Indeed, they had looked like winning by an even bigger margin when they were 121 for one with 5.1 overs left but endured a mini-wobble before closing things out.
Hampshire, meanwhile, beat Sussex equally comfortably but at least there were runs a plenty at the Rose Bowl. The Royals ran up 195 for five, the South African Neil McKenzie top-scoring with 67. Sussex, whose Twenty20 campaign looks on the verge of capsizing after a superb start, could only muster 150 all out in reply. Last year's champions are looking longer and longer odds to repeat their triumph.
The team they beat last year at Edgbaston – Somerset – finished top of the south group but their form is nothing to write home about either. They slumped to their worst ever score in this form of the game yesterday against Kent, who appear to have hit their straps having already been eliminated from the competition. Kent managed 141, fuelled by a resurgent Joe Denly top-scoring with 65 before being run-out.
In reply, Somerset never got going – Denly's replacement in the England t20 side Craig Kieswetter's run of bad form continued as he scrapped around for 15 from 29 balls – and were all out for 82.
There was one more issue to be sorted out yesterday, namely who would secure home ties. In the south Somerset and Essex, despite both losing, will be at home after Sussex's defeat while Warwickshire and Nottinghamshire had already secured home advantage before yesterday's games. Nonetheless, Warwickshire – probably the country's form side – ensured momentum going into the knock-out stage with victory over Leicestershire.
Quarter-final draw: Warwickshire v Hampshire, Nottinghamshire v Sussex, Somerset v Northamptonshire, Essex v Lancashire. Fixtures to be played 26th & 27th July