- Birmingham Bears v Essex Eagles
- Vitality Blast, Quarter-Final
- Thursday July 6, 2023, 6.35pm, Sky Sports
This is the first of three home wins I’m expecting across the next two nights as the battle for Blast glory steps up another notch.
I think Birmingham, North Group winners with 11 wins from 14 games, will seal qualification against an Essex side who finished fourth in the South and only just sneaked in with eight wins.
Essex qualified when Feroze Khushi hit a six off the last ball to beat Surrey in the final round of group matches at the Oval on Sunday when three were needed chasing 196.
I just think the Bears will be too strong for the Eagles on this occasion, and I would be taking the 4/6 on them to win in front of the Sky Sports cameras with William Hill.
Led by wicketkeeper opener Alex Davies and with Glenn Maxwell one of their two overseas players, they are on a seven-match winning run in the Blast at present.
When they beat Durham in their final group on Sunday, star batter Sam Hain made a timely return from four weeks out with a hamstring injury. Essex have quality, of course they do. Overseas duo Daniel Sams and Simon Harmer are just two to mention.
But they could be without key man Dan Lawrence should he not be released from England’s Test squad to play. I suspect he may play at Headingley against Australia given Ollie Pope’s shoulder injury.
Happy Edgbaston memories for Harmer - Simon says
I quite like the look of the price boosted 9/2 bet365 are offering on Essex off-spinner Simon Harmer to be his side’s leading wicket-taker in the match.
He has claimed 18 wickets in this season’s competition and returns to the ground where he starred at Finals Day in 2019 as this Eagles won this trophy.
He claimed 4-19 in the semi-final win over Derbyshire and 3-16 in the final win over Worcestershire, him also hitting the winning runs in 18 not out in the latter. He was player of the match in both ties.
Top bat value on offer for both sides
There are two prices in the top run-scorer markers for this fixture which have caught my eye - one for either side. Given the prices, I would be suggesting a low stakes approach.
BetUK have priced up Birmingham’s Chris Benjamin at 5/1 to be their top batter in the match.
He has been batting at number three recently, with a top-score of 46 in the competition. Now, I realise form doesn’t necessarily scream, ‘Get on this price’. But Benjamin is a top quality player capable of winning this bet in a flash if he gets going. And 5/1 seems juicy for someone who could bat three.
There is more form behind my next suggestion. Paul Walter to be Essex’s top batter at 13/2 with the same company.
With 309 runs from number five for the Eagles, Walter is their third leading run-scorer in this season’s Blast behind Michael Pepper and Aussie Sams. But he is joint sixth on the list BetUK have priced up. I think he should be a bit shorter. Maybe 5/1.
Long shot Dan is over-priced
This is a bit of a high priced preview, in truth.
Essex overseas all-rounder Daniel Sams is the fifth most prolific six-hitter in the competition with 24 to his name, yet he is on offer at 5/1 to hit the most sixes of any player in this match.
He bats down the order, but it wouldn’t amaze me in this one if he ends up coming up with plenty of time to bat and a recovery job on his hands. It would be pretty hand if Walter and Sams are the men to lead an Essex fightback.
*Betting odds correct at the time of publication. All odds are subject to changes.