“Essex are favourites to win it for me because they have so much experience in one-day cricket, they have a balanced middle order and a lot of T20 games are won there”
By Ben Kosky
Last Updated: 18/09/19 2:12pm
Owais Shah believes the experience of Ravi Bopara and Ryan ten Doeschate can propel Essex Eagles to glory at Vitality Blast Finals Day.
The former England batsman, who top-scored in the T20 showpiece final as Middlesex defeated Kent in 2008, played alongside Bopara and Ten Doeschate after joining Essex later in his career.
The pair put together an unbroken stand of 60 in five overs to guide Essex to a shock quarter-final win over Lancashire – and Shah has tipped them to shine again when the tournament reaches its climax, live on Sky Sports Cricket on Saturday.
Notts vs Worcs
September 21, 2019, 10:30am
Derbys vs Essex
September 21, 2019, 2:30pm
“What showed there, against a very tough Lancashire team, was the experience of Ravi and Tendo, who stepped up and looked really impressive,” said Shah. “I’ve played with them and I know how they operate.
“Essex are probably favourites to win it for me because they have so much experience in one-day cricket, they have a very balanced middle order and a lot of T20 games are won there.
“When it’s a big day, your big players don’t get nervous and boys like Ravi and Tendo have played in big tournaments all over the world, so they’ll draw on those experiences and they’ll know what’s required.
“It doesn’t matter how talented your team is – it’s about how calm you can remain and your ability to perform in front of 20,000 people. That’s what takes a lot of guts and those boys have it.”
Essex, who take on outsiders Derbyshire Falcons in the second semi-final, have yet to win the trophy despite four previous appearances at Finals Day.
However, the Eagles go into Saturday’s showpiece event with five wins and a tie from their last six games, having recovered from a slow start in their group to squeeze into the knockout stages on run rate.
“Momentum is huge and the way Essex played that quarter-final also makes me think they’ll be tough to beat,” added Shah.
“However, Derbyshire have also been pretty impressive under Dominic Cork and they’ll be out to prove a few people wrong.
“Their captain Billy Godleman’s had a fine summer – he’s leading by example – and Wayne Madsen is also a very good player, as is Ravi Rampaul. He’s been around a while now and I’m sure he’ll step up on the day.”
Holders Worcestershire Rapids face Nottinghamshire Outlaws, who were Blast champions in 2017, in the first semi-final – a clash which brings two recent members of England’s one-day side head to head.
Moeen Ali, who leads the Rapids’ defence of their title, smashed an unbeaten 121 in their quarter-final victory at Sussex, while Alex Hales hammered 83 not out to steer Nottinghamshire into the last four at Middlesex’s expense.
“Obviously it was the Moeen Ali show in the quarter-final,” said Shah. “I’ve not seen anyone hit the ball so far – every time he middled the ball for six it went about 20 rows back rather than just scraping over the boundary.
“Every opportunity he gets to produce the goods on TV, he’ll definitely be stepping up.
“Nottinghamshire beat my old team in the quarter-final and in the end it was a bit of a walkover, really.
“Hales is a quality, quality player and Dan Christian, with a lot of experience in the Big Bash, the IPL, and other tournaments, will make them a very tough team to beat.
“But out of those four teams, I’m going to back Essex to go on and win the tournament – they just have that experienced middle order who are really firing.”
Watch Vitality Blast Finals Day from 10.30am on Saturday on Sky Sports Cricket.