T20 BLAST QUARTER-FINALS: All you need to know

The Cricketer looks ahead to the four games this week which will decide who makes it to Finals Day on September 21

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Lancashire v Essex

Where: Chester-le-Street

When: Wednesday, September 4. Play begins at 7pm.

Lowdown: The first of the quarter-finals pits North Division winners Lancashire against Essex, who took the final spot available in the South Group thanks to some Ravi Bopara-led performances against Kent and Surrey.

The hosts, who have had to move their home quarter-final to the home of Durham due to the fourth Ashes Test being staged at Old Trafford, lost just once in the group stages, and have been on a real high with consistent performance across the board.

Liam Livingstone and Glenn Maxwell have shone with the bat while leading wicket taker Matthew Parkinson and Saqib Mahmood are two members of the new crop of exciting young English talent.

However, the youth will be put to the test against the experience of Essex, who have the powerful Cameron Delport and Ravi Bopara in their ranks.

One to watch: It has been the Ravi Bopara show in recent games for Essex, and the experienced allrounder has virtually seen his side through to the last eight of the competition.

He was astonishing hitting form as he made a mockery of the Surrey attack before getting close to another fifty as they made 189 against Kent. The scalp of Heino Kuhn in their reply was particularly sweet, and there is a sense that the international stage didn't see the best of Bopara.

But if he is at his best with his seamers and his swinging bat, it could be the undoing of a Lancashire side who have done little wrong in the competition so far.

Weather: A 30 per cent chance of rain forecast for the start of the game but even if there is a slight shower it should clear to give way for a reduced-overs game.

Prediction: Despite their late surge into the quarter-final places, Lancashire start favourites after their near-perfect record in the group stages and are strongly tipped to return to Finals Day for a second consecutive year.

Essex will hope that a home game away from home for Lancashire will work in their favour but the hosts should have enough.

Nottinghamshire v Middlesex

Where: Trent Bridge

When: Thursday, September 5. Play begins at 7pm.

Lowdown: Middlesex turned around their rotten form towards the end of the Blast campaign with a thrilling victory over Somerset at Taunton, where they completed a record chase in the competition's history.

However, they now face a stern test at fortress Trent Bridge, where, having lost two of their opening three home games, have started to show their best form.

With international stars such as Alex Hales, Eoin Morgan and AB de Villiers likely to be on show, it could be a high-scoring affair in Nottingham.

Nottinghamshire, who fell at this stage last year with defeat to Somerset, will hope to make it to Finals Day this time around with the hope of repeating their 2017 success.

One to watch: Eoin Morgan has had quite the summer after England's World Cup glory, but it got even better last week with a scintillating innings of pure hitting and invention at its core.

The England white-ball captain made 83 runs from just 29 deliveries and hit three consecutive sixes off Tom Lammonby to see Middlesex through to this stage of the competition.

However, the onus in the batting department, rather than captaincy, is Morgan's main focus going forward as he attempts to secure further silverware this summer.

Weather: Overcast conditions to start proceedings but we may see the odd outbreak of sunshine before sunset. Little chance of rain disruptions. 

Prediction: Nottinghamshire have been strong on home turf in the Blast, and should just edge out Middlesex despite the power hitters such as Eoin Morgan and AB de Villiers, who will be familiar with conditions at Trent Bridge.

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Ravi Bopara has turned Essex's Blast fortunes around

Sussex v Worcestershire

Where: Hove

When: Friday, September 6. Play begins at 7pm.

Lowdown: The defending champions face another away tie for the second year in a row, and this game takes them to Sussex where they face a Sussex side who topped the South Division.

However, Worcestershire beat Gloucestershire at the 2018 quarter-final stage and will call on all the experience gained from last year's victorious campaign to see them through to victory here.

However, Sussex lost just three times in the Blast group stages and despite having lost some big names, have added some to replace them and their top three are among the most dangerous in the competition.

One to watch: Alex Carey may have been out of the last Blast game due to committments with Australia in their tour game in Derbyshire, the wicketkeeper has been absolutely stunning opening up.

The 28-year-old has hit 256 runs in just nine Blast matches and is certainly one that Worcestershire will have to dismiss early on in proceedings if they are to seize control of the game.

Can he provide Hove with one final innings full of panache to see his side through to Finals Day?

Weather: Likely to be an overcast affair at Hove, with a 20 per cent chance of rain forecast. Temperatures in the high teens.

Prediction: Difficult to see how home advantage will not play a part here. However, Sussex have lost their last two home games and that will encourage Worcestershire, who have been in strong form going into the back end of the group stages. 

However, Sussex will take encouragement from making the final last year and in home conditions will fancy their chances.

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire

Where: Bristol

When: Saturday, September 7. Play begins at 7pm.

Lowdown: Perhaps the most eye-catching of the quarter-finals because of the surprise sprung by Derbyshire in reaching this stage.

Beating otherwise unbeaten Lancashire in their final group game will give the visitors immense confidence, as will the fact that they have lost just twice in their last eight completed Blast games.

However, Gloucestershire lost just two of their home games in the group stages and will be looking to the explosive Miles Hammond and James Bracey to give them a score, and for Andrew Tye to use all his experience to lead the bowling lineup with Ryan Higgins.

A fascinating contest between two sides in Division Two of the County Championship, both will be eager to make a rare appearance at Finals Day.

One to watch: Michael Klinger's hundred last week against Kent demonstrated that he has much more to give despite his impending retirement.

Reinforcing his legendary status as the man with the second most amount of T20 centuries, Klinger will be hoping for one final push at their home ground in Bristol and give him a shot at glory.

An inspirational captain and a bludgeoning batsman, Klinger's story has grabbed the headlines throughout the tournament.

Weather: Cloudy changing to sunny spells by the early evening to give way to a full game.

Prediction: Gloucestershire will be wary of the threat posed by Derbyshire but will back their bowlers to see them through to Finals Day.

The hosts were beaten by eventual winners Worcestershire at this stage last year but will be more buoyant this time around despite Derbyshire's impressive run which has been led by Leus du Plooy and Wayne Madsen.

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