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After a long tussle in the league stage of Vitality T20 Blast which lasted for around 6 weeks, we finally have the quarterfinalists as we move closer to the conclusion of the tournament. Against all odds, Durham have made it to the quarter-finals, in which they'll meet Sussex Sharks at Chester-le-Street on the evening of 24th August. Sussex Sharks just managed to qualify for the playoffs, edging past Surrey Lions, by registering a big win against Middlesex in their last league game. It could well be the last T20 game for Durham and England veteran, Paul Collingwood, and considering that and the semi-final spot at stake, we expect a huge turnout of the crowd to watch this game.
After a dismal last year, winning three games out of fourteen, the improvement in Durham's form in the shortest version of the game has been surprising. Durham retained the top spot in the North group for the most part of the league stage and eventually finished second losing to Worcestershire only on net run rate.
Tom Latham wasn't known to be a big T20 cricketer, but he's had a strong season both as an opening batsman and as a captain. Imran Tahir has been one of their most reliable bowlers. He has picked up fifteen wickets along with having the best economy rate in the season. With pitches slowing down due to extra heat England is receiving this year, he is expected to be even more lethal. Tahir, however, could miss the semi-final which will be a big setback for the Durham Jets.
Durham aren't really known to be a team with too many big names in their lineup. Quality workmanship and strong team play have been their qualities historically and same was the case this year as well. Paul Collingwood's experience and dedication rubbed onto others as well resulting in good results. Ben Stokes was a key figure for them in whichever limited matches he played and he will certainly be missed in the quarter-final game. The Jets had a terrific league group and things are going to get tough from here and if Durham can bring out their top game, it's going to be difficult to stop them.
TWM Latham, Graham Clark, BA Stokes, PD Collingwood, Will Smith, Ryan Davies, Stuart Poynter, M Wood, Nathan Rimmington, Chris Rushworth, Ben whitehead.
Not more than a week ago, the Sharks were languishing near the bottom of the table with the possibility of making it to the final eight being next to negligible. They, however, managed to sneak into the final four in their group with three wins in less than a week.
Just like Durham Jets, the Sharks, too, are set to miss the services of their key spinner. Rashid Khan is away to play for Afghanistan against Ireland and his unavailability has certainly dwarfed the strength of the Sharks' spin attack. Will Beer and Danny Briggs were excellent without him in the last league game and Sussex would want a similar performance from them in their first knockout game.
Their regular skipper, Luke Wright, announced his return to the team with an impressive knock of 74 who was well supported by Phil Salt who scored 66 runs off just 25 deliveries. Sussex consequently scored 215 in their twenty overs riding on a superb opening partnership. Just when Middlesex were looking threatening to chase the target, thanks to brilliant half-centuries by Paul Stirling and John Simpson, Will Beer removed both of them as the Sharks clawed their way back. They dismissed seven Middlesex batsmen in last six overs eventually winning their last league game by 31 runs. They've been in great form in the recent run-up to the playoffs and it's going to be a great match-up with the Jets.
Philip Salt, LJ Wright, Laurie Evans, Delray Rawlins, D Wiese, Michael Burgess , Jofra Chioke Archer, Chris Jordan, Will beer, Danny Briggs, TS Mills.
Both the teams have some common setback to deal with going into the quarterfinal. While Sussex will be without their most successful bowler in Rashid Khan, Imran Tahir and Ben Stokes will be absent from Durham's playing eleven. Luke Wright's return to the team after a back spasm as strengthened Sussex's batting lineup. Durham, apparently, lacks the fire-power in the middle order which might well be an important factor on Chester-le-Street's surface. We expect Sussex to prevail in this important match and advance to the final four.
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