Dougie Brown describes Warwickshire’s Twenty20 quarter-final against Essex on Saturday as a “really exciting prospect”.
And while admitting that his team will be second favourites at Chelmsford, the director of cricket is adamant the Bears are capable of winning through to the Finals Day to be held at their own Edgbaston HQ on August 23.
Warwickshire are one step from ending their long-standing T20 drought. Not since the inaugural tournament in 2003 have they reached Finals Day.
That was at Trent Bridge and in the subsequent decade the Bears have always floundered in the group or quarter-final stages with the struggle given additional irritation in recent years since Edgbaston started hosting Finals Day.
For one of the bigger clubs in county cricket with an international stadium, it has been a most unwelcome hoodoo – and a difficult one to explain as it has threaded through the reigns of successive coaches John Inverarity, Mark Greatbatch, Ashley Giles and Brown.
It is not over yet. A big hurdle remains to be overcome.
But Brown reckons his largely unsung side will give big-hitting Essex plenty to think about on Saturday evening.
“It would be brilliant if we could get through and back to Edgbaston on Finals Day in front of our home crowd,” he said. “But first we have to take on one of the best T20 sides around and that is a really exciting prospect. Essex have pretty much cleaned everybody up in their T20 games at Chelmsford this year. They are the favourites but we have nothing to lose.
“They have got a really good method and are full of superstars whereas we are a workmanlike side. But we have got a good level of momentum going with us into the game.
“We have just won a succession of games against really good sides playing a good brand of cricket and we are learning all the time.
“We are proving to ourselves that we can compete in this form of the game which is something we have not managed to do for a long time.
“Everyone is looking forward to Saturday. It will be 40 overs of cricket and whoever plays the best cricket on the day gets the spoils. Bring it on.”
The remaining obstacle separating Warwickshire from Finals Day is a substantial one. While the Bears sneaked through to the last eight by pipping Yorkshire for fourth place in the North Division in the last round of games, Essex finished top of the South Division.
They won ten of their 14 games thanks mainly to a batting line up which sent a succession of bowling attacks through the mincer.
Also, Warwickshire’s preparation is hardly ideal. They face Essex on Saturday evening (6pm start), less than 48 hours after completing the long return journey from Newcastle where they face Durham today in a 50-over game at South Northumberland Cricket Club.
But the incentives for the Bears to cause an upset at Chelmsford are many. For the players, there is the lure of playing in front of a full house at Edgbaston. For the director or cricket, a nice notch on his CV and vindication of the club’s decision to back him by investing in second overseas player Shoaib Malik for half the group games.
For the club itself and its many supporters, the end of that long barren sequence in the format. And for the powers-that-be at Edgbaston a chance to attend their headquarters for the showpiece as involved supporters rather than envious hosts.
“To get to Finals Day would mean a hell of a lot to the everybody at Warwickshire,” Brown said.
“The club has invested in us as a Twenty20 side and I think this year the players have really embraced what Twenty20 is.
“We always want to compete in championship cricket, of course, and perhaps Twenty20 has been a little bit secondary to that over the years.
“This year we have tried to change people’s thinking and now we have got a really good method.
“The guys have done superbly to qualify from the group, as they fully deserve to do. It would be amazing if we could take it all the way.”