Their opponents this week will be Derbyshire and Northamptonshire, two Midlands counties who have punched above their weight in the Vitality Blast this season. Heading into the final rounds of games, they sit third and fifth respectively in the nine-team North Group, with the top four qualifying for the quarter-finals.
Derbyshire have named three overseas players in their 16-man squad for Friday night’s fixture, with Hilton Cartwright, the Australian batter, arriving as cover for Masood, but they are only expected to field three in their playing XI. Ticket sales have been strong, with fewer than 1000 remaining on Thursday evening.
“They’re the benchmark of international cricket in pretty much all formats,” Cartwright told Derbyshire’s YouTube channel. “If you can perform well against them, your game is in a good place. It’s a real challenge to see how far you can test them.”
For Northants, the atmosphere around Sunday’s game will depend heavily on their result against Leicestershire on Friday night. A defeat will see them eliminated but if they win, they will be relying on results elsewhere on Sunday to help them into the quarter-finals. They have a proud T20 history, lifting the trophy in 2013 and 2016, but have struggled in the last five seasons.
Chris Lynn and James Neesham, their overseas players, have been their main stars this year but are not expected to take part in Sunday’s fixture, which has been sold out for the last week. Josh Cobb, their captain, has had an excellent Blast season with bat and ball while young players Saif Zaib, Ben Curran – the middle brother, between Tom and Sam – and left-arm wristspinner Freddie Heldreich have all shown glimpses of their talent.
Fixtures: July 1 – Derbyshire vs India, The Incora County Ground (7pm), July 3 – Northamptonshire vs India, Wantage Road (2.30pm)
Additional reporting: Nagraj Gollapudi