There’s still plenty to play for heading into the last round of T20 Blast group stage fixtures, with seven teams competing for the last three available quarter-final spots, and only six teams totally out of contention for the knockouts.
First, the basics. The teams are split into three regional groups of six, with the top two teams from each group and the two best third-placed teams making it to the last eight. Should two teams finish level, the tie-breakers will be, in the following order: net run rate, head to head results, wicket-taking strike-rate, drawing lots. With the qualifiers for the Bob Willis Trophy final almost coming down to most wickets taken, you’d be foolish to think at least some of these won’t apply.
Gloucestershire, Notts Outlaws, Lancashire Lightning and Surrey are guaranteed to finish in the top two places in their respective groups, and are therefore assured of a place in the quarters. Kent Spitfires could yet finish third in the South Group, but with 12 points to their name, and the third-place teams in the Central and North Groups currently on nine points, and therefore only capable of reaching at most 11 points, the Spitfires are also into the knockouts.
Now it gets complicated, with two teams, Sussex Sharks in the South Group and Birmingham Bears in the Central Group, tied on 11 points, four sides, Durham and Leicestershire Foxes in the North Group and Somerset and Northamptonshire Steelbacks in the Central Group, tied on nine points, and Glamorgan, on seven points, still theoretically in contention.
It could get very tight. If Northants Steelbacks, Somerset, Durham, Leicestershire Foxes, and Essex all win, there would be six teams tied on 11 points. If Birmingham Bears, Glamorgan, Worcestershire Rapids, Notts Outlaws and Lancashire Lightning win, then five teams would be tied on nine points – this is the only scenario that would see Glamorgan have a chance of progression.
The North Group
Notts Outlaws and Lancashire Lightning are through, as mentioned, with Durham and Leicestershire Foxes tied for third on nine points. Durham’s net run rate is superior to the Foxes, but even though a win would almost guarantee them third place, a big victory could be in order to lift them above Somerset in the Central Group in the event of a tie-breaker. Leicestershire Foxes will need to win and hope results go their way, or smash Lancashire Lightning to give their net run rate, the worst of the contenders bar Birmingham Bears, a big boost.
The Central Group
It really is all to play for in the Midlands.
If Somerset win and Birmingham Bears lose: Somerset, the Bears, and Northants Steelbacks will be tied on 11, and it will come down to the tie-breakers. Somerset’s net run rate is far superior to their rivals, as it stands.
If Somerset win and Birmingham Bears win: Somerset will finish third, the Bears second, and Somerset will be sweating on how Sussex, Durham, and Leicestershire get on in the other groups to see if it will come down to net run rate.
If Somerset lose and Birmingham Bears win: Somerset and Northants will finish joint third, with Somerset’s net run rate currently superior. They would need both Leicestershire and Durham to lose to keep their hopes of progressing to the quarters alive.
If Somerset lose and Birmingham Bears lose: Northants and Birmingham Bears will finish tied on 11 points, though unless there are some truly bizarre net run rate permutations, it will be Northants who take second spot.
Glamorgan’s hopes rest on a big win and the four aforementioned results going their way.
The South Group
The top three are set in stone, with only the jostling for positions left. Should Sussex Sharks win, they will be guaranteed a playoff spot no matter what happens. Should they lose, it could come down to net run rate.