|Date: Thursday, 1 October|
|Coverage: BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, BBC local radio; live text coverage on the BBC Sport website and app|
A shortened T20 Blast competition comes to an end on Saturday with Finals Day, but which four counties will make it to Edgbaston?
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has given this year’s tournament an unfamiliar feel; with few overseas players involved and, for the most part, no crowds at grounds.
BBC Sport previews the four quarter-finals, which all take place on Thursday…
Gloucestershire v Northamptonshire Steelbacks
Bristol County Ground, 14:00 BST
Gloucestershire spinner Tom Smith is the joint-leading wicket-taker in this season’s competition, his 14 scalps helping his side finish top of the Central Group.
The 33-year-old is one of a number of Gloucestershire players to have received assistance from the Professional Cricketers’ Trust, the charitable arm of the Professional Cricketers’ Association, in recent times.
The charity’s fundraising efforts have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but its work will be highlighted on Finals Day.
Smith combines his cricket career with raising his two young daughters, following the death of his wife in August 2018.
Wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick also received support after his father took his own life in 2017, while all-rounder Benny Howell has been helped throughout his career after being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a child.
“All in that one changing room, there has been a lot of very tough experiences,” said Smith. “As a group of players, everyone is extremely emotionally intelligent – they’ve gone through stuff, they’ve supported all of us.
“We’re one big family and to survive all of that as a group of players, it’s a very loving environment.”
He continued: “I talk a lot about feeling five out of 10, and not feeling the big highs and lows. That’s something that after lockdown I really wanted to address, and wanted to make some changes in my life to feel more emotion.
“That’s not going to be an overnight thing, that’s going to be a thing that happens over time. Throughout the tournament I’ve had far more sixes and sevens, not necessarily from my own success but being around a team.
“It’s been a nice journey. All of it was led from lockdown and the darkness of that to the excitement of having cricket back in my life to having a little bit more normality. It’s been really nice.”
Gloucestershire have reached a fourth quarter-final in five years, but have failed to make it to Finals Day since 2007.
Their last-eight opponents Northants, meanwhile, have an excellent recent record in the T20 Blast. They were winners in 2013 and 2016, beaten finalists in 2015 and finished second behind Gloucestershire in the group phase.
Their first scheduled group meeting in Bristol was abandoned without a ball being bowled, but Gloucestershire won the return fixture by 35 runs.
- Tournament best: Runners-up – 2007
- Leading run-scorer in 2020: Ian Cockbain – 369
- Leading wicket-taker in 2020: Tom Smith – 14
- Tournament best: Winners – 2013 and 2016
- Leading run-scorer in 2020: Paul Stirling – 232
- Leading wicket-taker in 2020: Ben Sanderson – 12
Notts Outlaws v Leicestershire Foxes
Trent Bridge, 18:00 BST
Leicestershire still hold the most T20 Blast titles, with three, although all of those came within the first decade after the competition – then called the Twenty20 Cup – was created.
The Foxes had to wait until the final round of group fixtures in this year’s tournament to secure their place in the quarter-finals.
A tense victory over Lancashire saw them go through as one of the third-placed sides thanks to a better net run-rate than Birmingham Bears, who finished third in the Central Group.
Leicestershire look weaker on paper than their East Midlands, with runs and wickets shared around the side, but in such a short format nothing is certain.
The Outlaws side is packed with experience. Openers Alex Hales and Chris Nash have played almost 450 T20 matches between them, while their middle-order of captain Dan Christian, Steven Mullaney and Samit Patel have a combined age of 105 and hundreds of games under their belts.
Notts cantered through to the last eight, topping the North Group and losing just one of their 10 fixtures.
It was one win apiece when the two met in the group. Notts won a low-scoring game at Trent Bridge with five overs to spare as Hales smashed 44 off 16 balls before Colin Ackermann’s unbeaten 67 took Leicestershire to victory off the penultimate ball at Grace Road in the return fixture.
- Tournament best: Winners – 2017
- Leading run-scorer in 2020: Joe Clarke – 316
- Leading wicket-taker in 2020: Jake Ball – 14
- Tournament best: Winners – 2004, 2006 and 2011
- Leading run-scorer in 2020: Arron Lilley – 277
- Leading wicket-taker in 2020: Callum Parkinson – 9
Surrey v Kent Spitfires
Kia Oval, 13:00 BST
Surrey were excellent in the group stage, winning seven matches in a row to top the South Group, while Kent sneaked into the last eight as one of the two best third-placed sides.
It is difficult to read anything from their two T20 Blast meetings already this summer; Kent eased to a five-wicket win at Canterbury, while Surrey had a similarly comfortable six-wicket victory at The Oval thanks to a stand of 135 between Jason Roy and Laurie Evans.
Evans believes there is no reason why they cannot go all the way and win the competition for the first time since 2003.
He said: “We’ve played some great cricket, but seven games counts for nothing now because if we don’t turn up on Thursday, it’ll be over and we’ll be into lockdown and quarantine like everyone else.
“There’s pressure when you’ve won all those games, we saw that last year with Sussex who won 10 games and then lost in the quarter-finals. It’s about putting what’s gone to bed and turning up on Thursday and doing a job.
“We’ve got to take the confidence we’ve created but realise there is a bit of extra pressure after all those wins.”
Both teams are packed with international talent. Surrey have England trio Roy, Rory Burns and Liam Plunkett, alongside former South Africa batsman Hashim Amla – although the 37-year-old has been out with a calf injury. New arrival from Somerset, paceman Jamie Overton, has further strengthened their line-up.
Kent have star names themselves, with perhaps the in-form batsman of the summer, Zak Crawley, lining up alongside Joe Denly and Sam Billings.
- Tournament best: Winners – 2003
- Leading run-scorer in 2020: Laurie Evans – 301
- Leading wicket-taker in 2020: Dan Moriarty – 14
- Tournament best: Winners – 2007
- Leading run-scorer in 2020: Daniel Bell-Drummond – 420
- Leading wicket-taker in 2020: Fred Klaassen – 13
Sussex Sharks v Lancashire Lightning
1st Central County Ground, Hove, 13:00 BST
Sussex and Lancashire both finished second in their respective groups to reach the quarter-final stage.
Lancashire made a wonderful start to the competition, with Keaton Jennings’ century helping them to victory at Durham, and twice beat Roses rivals Yorkshire in the group phase.
Sussex, meanwhile, won their final two games against Middlesex and defending champions Essex to make it to the last eight.
The hosts have plenty of experience in their squad, which has been bolstered this season by the arrival of ex-England all-rounder Ravi Bopara from Essex.
Australia all-rounders James Faulkner and Glenn Maxwell were due to feature for Lancashire as overseas players but, in their absence, captain Dane Vilas has been delighted with how others have stepped up.
“We’ve got one of the youngest squads in the competition so it’s nice that we’ve got a lot of depth coming through and that we’re still able to compete and get to a quarter-final,” he told BBC Radio Lancashire.
- Tournament best: Winners – 2009
- Leading run-scorer in 2020: Luke Wright – 375
- Leading wicket-taker in 2020: Danny Briggs – 12
- Tournament best: Winners – 2015
- Leading run-scorer in 2020: Alex Davies – 268
- Leading wicket-takers in 2020: Tom Bailey, Matt Parkinson – 10