After an exciting round of quarter-finals earlier this week, we head into the first semi-final at Chelmsford, where Essex host Nottinghamshire Outlaws.
Essex claimed home ground advantage, and direct qualification for this semi, after a group campaign that saw them lose just one game.
Notts took a somewhat rockier path, but capped off a less-than-perfect first stage with a record breaking win against Somerset on Tuesday.
The Outlaws will travel with their usual barrage of strong players, such as Brendan Taylor, Riki Wessels and Samit Patel – an already impressive line-up that is set to be boosted by the return of Jake Ball and Alex Hales, while internationals Stuart Broad and James Pattinson will also be on the scene.
Enviable though their players may be, Notts still had to scrap their way into the knockout stages of this tournament, while Essex seemingly flew through.
The Eagles have some big names of their own, not least Alastair Cook whose 50-over record has been pretty impressive of late.
Add to that list Varun Chopra, Ravi Bopara, Tom Westley, Ashar Zaidi and the always impressive James Foster – who is due to retire at the end of this season and will be eager to go out with a bang – and it becomes rather tough to pick a winner.
With some international talent on show, warm if cloudy weather and a sell-out crowd, we have the makings of a fantastic day’s cricket at Chelmsford.
Picking the former England captain and veteran of 140 Tests may sound a simple choice for key man, but Alastair Cook has earned his own place at the top of the pile.
With Notts boasting an international attack, Test-match mode may be the order of the day despite the slap-dash of the format, with an anchorage innings from Cook the potential difference in the match, particularly if Essex bat first.
His recent RLODC record makes pretty reading too, scoring 54, 65, 67*, 109, 37 and 127 in the last half-dozen outings, with the one effort below 50 the only time Essex have lost in the competition so far. Coincidence? I think not.
With the Outlaws having a side full of stars, it can often be difficult to single out one player. After a fantastic performance with the bat on Tuesday, there are plenty of contenders, but one man has stood out above all others throughout the tournament.
Samit Patel seems to just keeps on improving and impressing as his career goes on, and the quarter-final at Taunton was no exception. Playing second fiddle to Brendan Taylor, as they put on a partnership that went well into three figures, Patel stroked the ball to the boundary time and again with such ease. He then finished the day with a couple of wickets.
In general, Patel’s bowling figures have been less impressive than usual, the batting has been as solid as ever. His 66 against Somerset was just a bit part, but his 103* against Lancashire was key in sending the side to the quarterfinal, and 79 was central to the victory against Leicestershire.
Never showy or verbose, and always reliable, Patel is known for simply getting on with his job.
Chris Silverwood has named a 13-man squad for this meeting. His side will be without bowler Matt Quinn, who suffered a back spasm in a recent SSCC fixture, but otherwise has a fully fit squad to select from.
Essex squad: Ryan ten Doeschate (captain), Ravi Bopara, Varun Chopra, Alastair Cook, James Foster (wk), Simon Harmer, Dan Lawrence, Jamie Porter, Neil Wagner, Paul Walter, Tom Westley, Adam Wheater, Ashar Zaidi
Nottinghamshire welcome Jake Ball and Alex Hales back to the squad, with Luke Wood and Brett Hutton making way for them. Otherwise, they head to Chelmsford with the same squad that made a record number of runs earlier in the week.
Nottinghamshire squad: Chris Read (captain, wicketkeeper), Brendan Taylor, James Pattinson, Steven Mullaney, Stuart Broad, Riki Wessels, Alex Hales, Harry Gurney, Luke Fletcher, Samit Patel, Greg Smith, Jake Ball, Michael Lumb, Billy Root
Essex: WWWWL Nottinghamshire: W NR WLW
Weather and conditions
Like the weather for most of us recently, Chelmsford is set to be warm and cloudy so the ball might swing a little. No rain is forecast, so no interruptions expected
*IF YOU PLAY SMALL LEAGUES, JUST CHANCE CAP TO BOPARA*