There are only two NatWest T20 Blast matches on Saturday, which makes for a quiet weekend in the county scene in England. Nottinghamshire take on Durham and Worcestershire welcome Northamptonshire.
The first is a good, old-fashioned mismatch. Nottinghamshire remain the favourites for the title, despite them being, at this stage, in a real battle for qualification. They have four wins from their seven results and need to find some consistency.
The layers reckon the tide will turn against Durham, who are having a horrible time of it. They are rock-bottom of the North group with just one win. Notts are no better than -250 (Bet365, William Hill, BetVictor, Paddy Power) with Durham +225 with Stan James.
Ordinarily we would argue getting with such a long shot in this format. That’s because in such a short game of 20 overs each, it doesn’t take much for a favourite to be downed. Only one player need play out of his skin.
But we just can’t see Durham forcing the issue here. If they had one or two solid T20 performers we would take the risk but they don’t.
Fortunately, Northants do provide us with a bet. They are -138 (Marathon) and although that may seem prohibitive, it is arguable they should be shorter to beat a Worcester outfit who have struggled this term.
On Friday night they were battling hard against neighbours Birmingham. But they have won only three of their last ten and we might say this is as big a mismatch as Notts-Durham.
Northants are a very powerful unit and are one of the top three T20 sides in the country. Maybe they are still the best having won this competition last season and been such regular visitors for finals day that it’s like a second home.
They have had a difficult season suffering injuries to key players like Josh Cobb but they won last time out in a nailbiter against Lancashire, holding their nerve in the field like few can.
This is what is so impressive about Northants. They have terrific plans and nous when defending a target so the pressure on their batsmen to go big is released. Often they know 160 will be enough.
Also in Northants’ favour is the belief that they have this Worcester team in their pocket. They dished out a lesson the last time the sides met only a few days ago.
They restricted Worcester to 158 – bowling them out – after nullifying their top order and then set about the bowlers with gusto. They had 14 balls in the locker and the game was over by the first six of the reply.