5.30pm Worcestershire v Leicestershire
Worcestershire have made the knockout stages in two of the last three seasons and this young team is having a good season, second in the 4 day championship division and semi finalists in the 50-over one day cup. They were though below par in their opening game loss at home to Warwickshire when only posting 150 which the visitors overhauled easily
A decade ago Leicestershire were a renowned one day side and T20 winners. Since then a lack of resources have meant they have slipped behind the pack. Winning away at Lancashire in their opening game, chasing nearly 175, was a pleasant surprise for the ante-post outsiders of the whole competition. In Luke Ronchi, Mark Cosgrove and Clint McKay they have determined overseas players but the domestic element of the squad lacks match-winners.
The match has been priced up at 10/11 each of two and I favour the home side here, who I think should be firm favourites.
6.30pm Surrey v Kent
I am writing before Surrey’s big London Derby away to Middlesex on Thursday night and so far Surrey have played two, won two. Australian opener Aaron Finch has top scored in both games scoring 56 and 61, setting up two match-winning totals. Recent England one-day debutant Tom Curran meanwhile has bowled key last overs in both victories when the matches were in the balance.
Surrey still have Sangakkara, Pietersen and Foakes to come back into this team and in their absence the side lacks some depth away from the star names. This is notable in the fifth bowler and an absence of late order hitting.
Kent won their first game at the small Beckenham out-ground, chasing a below par 166 for the loss of only three wickets to beat Essex, and again I a writing before their Thursday game, away at Gloucestershire.
Kent are a talented and powerful batting side with young players up top in Bell-Drummond, Northeast and Billings and finishers down the order in the veteran Darren Stevens and Matt Coles.
Surrey are a big name, fashionable team at home which accounts for odds here of Surrey 8/11 Kent 11/10. At the prices Kent’s is the value price in what should be a high scoring game.
7.00pm Hampshire v Middlesex
Hampshire are a consistent strong side in the South Group and have begun this competition this season with two wins out of two, defending 165 against Glamorgan in Cardiff and then 188 against Sussex away on Wednesday night. Hampshire look a strong side top to bottom, with two “Kolpak” South African players plus two overseas players in Roussouw, Abbott, Bailey and Afridi giving the side real potential. They are rightly one of the favourites for the competition.
Middlesex, writing before their Thursday night game, have star power of their own in the top four of their batting order in Brendon McCullum, Paul Stirling, Dawid Malan and Eoin Morgan. They tied their first game chasing 182. Middlesex should be one of the strongest teams in the competition but are perennial under-achievers in it.
At home here in their current form you have to favour Hampshire at 5/6, over Middlesex at 20/21
7.00pm Lancashire v Yorkshire
This is the first T20 Roses derby of the season between these two big rivals in the North Group. Lancashire won their first game by 52 runs against Durham having scored 192 before surprisingly losing at home to Leicestershire. Yorkshire meanwhile scored 227 against Notts, one of the performances of the first week of the tournament and won by over 40 runs.
Lancashire with Jos Buttler available for the whole tournament and a team packed with all rounders should be there or thereabouts by the end of the group stages. Yorkshire are one of the favourites too. For Yorkshire, despite the frequent absence of Root and Bairstow with England, they can call on one of the best overseas signings this year, Australian Shaun Marsh plus a bowling attack featuring David Willey, Tim Bresnan and Adil Rashid one of the most experienced international calibre line ups in the country.
Prices here are interesting. Lancashire are home underdogs at evens, Yorkshire 4/5 probably influenced by Yorkshire’s first performance. At Evens, Lancashire are my bet for value.
7.00pm Warwickshire v Northants
Warwickshire, known as the Birmingham Bears in this competition have played two won two beating Worcestershire away easily and Nottinghamshire at home in a tight game.
One of the most experienced sides in the competition, the Bears can boast the likes of Ian Bell and notably in the bowling line up one of the best T20 Spinners Jeetan Patel.
Northants have won the tournament twice in the last four years, at big odds. One of the smaller counties they have recruited well and performed with admirable team spirit. The defence of their title in the early stages of this season has been mixed with an opening loss to Derbyshire, a win against Durham and then a no result due to weather against Yorkshire.
Prices here reflect current form and home advantage at Birmingham 5/6 Northants 11/10. Northants are a tempting price here, odds against for the Champions.