Their opponents this week are Derbyshire and Northamptonshire, two Midlands counties that have been above their weight in the Vitality Blast this season. Heading into the final rounds of play, they are third and fifth respectively in the nine-team North group, with the top four qualifying for the quarter-finals.
Derbyshire has named three foreign players in its 16-man roster for Friday-evening’s game, with Hilton Cartwright, the Australian batter, arriving as cover for Masood, but only three are expected in their playing XI. Ticket sales were strong, with less than 1000 left on Thursday night.
“They are the benchmark of international cricket in virtually all formats,” Cartwright told Derbyshire’s YouTube channel. “If you can perform well against them, your game is good. It’s a real challenge to see how far you can test them.”
For Northants, the atmosphere around Sunday’s game will depend a lot on their result against Leicestershire on Friday night. If they lose, they will be eliminated, but if they win, they will rely on results elsewhere on Sunday to help them to the quarter-finals. They have a proud T20 history, winning the trophy in 2013 and 2016, but have struggled over the past five seasons.
Chris Lynn and James Neesham, their foreign players, were their main stars this year but are not expected to participate in Sunday’s game, which has sold out for the past week. Josh Cobb, their captain, has had an excellent bat and ball Blast season, while young players Saif Zaib, Ben Curran – the middle brother, between Tom and Sam – and left arm wrist spinner Freddie Heldreich have all shown glimpses of their talent to see.
Fixtures: July 1 – Derbyshire vs India, The Incora County Ground (7pm), July 3 – Northamptonshire vs India, Wantage Road (2:30pm)
Additional reporting: Nagraj Gollapudic