Outlaws' batting could be the decisive factor
Bears too reliant on captain Bell
Birmingham v Nottinghamshire
Sky Sports 2, 7pm Saturday
Nottinghamshire Outlaws are Racing Post Sport’s tip to win the T20 Blast and their North Group campaign continues with a trip to Birmingham Bears.
Both sides were playing their opening games of the Twenty20 competition last night – Notts travelled to Yorkshire while Birmingham (the T20 incarnation of Warwickshire) were away at Worcestershire.
The Bears had a modest campaign last summer, missing out on a quarter-final place after winning six and losing seven of their completed group games.
They did beat Notts by six wickets at Trent Bridge – one of only two group-stage defeats for the Outlaws – although they lost the return fixture at Edgbaston by the same margin.
Nottinghamshire’s powerful batting line-up propelled them to victory in the One-Day Cup and the squad for the Yorkshire game included dangerous openers Alex Hales and Michael Lumb as well as middle-order big hitters Steven Mullaney and Australia international Dan Christian.
Notts brought in New Zealand spinner Ish Sodhi for the Blast this season and Birmingham’s line-up could includes Sodhi’s compatriots Jeetan Patel, Colin de Grandhomme and Grant Elliott, a Kolpak signing who is not counted as an overseas player.
The early prices – subject to change after last night’s games – had Notts as 4-6 favourites with Birmingham 6-5 and the visitors merit a small bet.
They earned seven more points than Birmingham in last summer’s North Group, crushed a talented Essex side in the quarter-finals and lost narrowly to champions Northamptonshire in the first semi-final on Finals Day at Edgbaston.
Ian Bell held Birmingham’s batting together in the Blast last summer. Bell made five fifties while his teammates managed only six half-centuries between them – three from players no longer at the club (Luke Ronchi, Matthew Wade and Laurie Evans).
Yorkshire are also expected to go well after losing in the semis last season and they are 8-15 for an away win over Derbyshire.
The hosts started the Blast as 40-1 outsiders despite the signings of international bowlers Imran Tahir (South Africa) and Matt Henry (New Zealand).
Yorkshire look an imposing side with Australia’s Shaun Marsh bolstering the batting and a strong bowling attack including Tim Bresnan, David Willey and Adil Rashid.
1pt 4-6 Betway, Hills