Holders Worcestershire Rapids will be bidding to book a return visit to finals day when they take on Sussex Sharks in tomorrow evening’s Vitality Blast quarter-final at the 1st Central County Ground, Hove.
It is a repeat of last year’s final which the Rapids won to lift the coveted T20 trophy for the first time.
Here Rapids First Team Coach Alex Gidman reflects on the current North Group campaign and the preparations ahead of the meeting with the Sharks in a Question And Answer session with the Worcestershire CCC website.
Question: How refreshing has it been to be able to focus on white ball cricket for a few days?
Alex Gidman: “It has been good. We’ve had a great opportunity to prepare really well. The lads had a couple of days away after the Northamptonshire game and got back together with a good week planned up until the Sussex game.
“The lads are really excited, we are all buzzing, and hopefully we can get as ready as we can for what is going to be a really good challenge.”
Question: This has been the first concerted spell of white ball practice you’ve been able to have with the breaks for Championship cricket and the Australia game?
Alex Gidman: “It’s been challenging but we’ve got through it and we’ve done really well to get to this point. We are really looking forward to the Sussex game.
“We’ve had a good week leading up to it and we will go down there hopefully really prepared and full of confidence looking forward to the match.”
Question: You’ve played a lot of good cricket in the group stages?
Alex Gidman: “It is getting tougher and tougher. It is a great competition so any team that qualifies deserves their place and has played really good cricket to get to that point.
“We are no different. We’ve won some really good games. We haven’t played as well as we would have liked in some and still won but that’s the tournament.
“You are not going to play really well all of the time so credit to the lads for performing well enough throughout the competition to earn this spot.
“They thoroughly deserve it and, like the other teams in the quarter-finals, we thoroughly deserve to be there.”
Question: The Blast is a real battle now over 14 games to get to this stage?
Alex Gidman: “It’s tough but that’s what you are here for. The lads love it. It’s a great competition. It’s one of the biggest competitions in the world – and to get to where we have is really satisfying.
“But I know we’ve got a group of players who don’t feel they are quite done yet and are really looking forward to taking on Sussex and giving that a really good go.”
Question: When you say the lads are ‘not quite done yet’ do you mean there is more still in the tank?
Alex Gidman: “I think so. They are pretty excited and looking forward to the opportunity they have created for themselves.
“As I’ve said before, there are 10 other teams that would love to be in the position we are in.
“Everyone has just got that glint in their eye which is a real determination to go down to Sussex and give it a real good go and the result will take care of itself.
“If we try our absolute best, which the lads will do, we will see where it takes us.”
Question: Are things harder when defending a cup?
Alex Gidman: “I think it has been in certain ways. We’ve probably found that teams have been slightly more prepared for us whether that’s individually or as a collective.
“They seem to have had plans or a better idea of how our guys perform which also happened in the days back at Gloucestershire when they had a fine one-day side.
“Teams pay you a bit more respect maybe and they know what to expect which has beee the case with our guys this year.
“I genuinely think we have improved this year because we’ve come over that challenge.”
Question: Moeen Ali says the lads want to be the first side to retain the title?
Alex Gidman: “It is a great motivation for us. It’s an exciting motivation. It’s an opportunity I guess to create a little bit of history.
“Being champions has been tough. There has been a level of expectation on the guys which has been hard in terms of expectation to perform literally week in and week out or game in and game out which is very tough.
“The weather has played a part in the competition as well but Mo is spot on and, as a collective and as a whole club, we feel we’ve got a great opportunity.
“The first hurdle was getting into the knockout stages and now we are looking to perform at our best for one game and, to see if that’s good enough, and then a couple more after that.
“But first it is about going down to Hove and trying our absolute best down there and taking on a team that this year have probably been the form team, probably the best in the whole competition.
“It’s a great challenge for us and one I know the guys are really looking forward to.”
Question: Having Moeen available is a massive bonus?
Alex Gidman: “Mo is a world class player and we all love having him around. He makes a huge difference with a) his character and b) his quality.
“He is an outstanding cricketer so he is going to make a difference to any team.
“But, what I would say is, that we got through more than half of the competition without him which probably shows where the group are at and the fact we have improved again.
“He adds to us obviously and looking forward to more contributions from him and the others around him as well.
“He is the sort of player who drags other guys with him and really excited about how we are hopefully going to perform on Friday.”