Ged Scott looks ahead to Barnt Green's big day at cricket's HQ ...
It looks all nicely set up for Richard Illingworth at Lord's today.
In what he hopes is his final season as a club cricketer before joining the first-class umpires' list, following almost two decades' service with Worcestershire and England, Illingworth has the chance to bow out in style.
On his 42nd birthday, Illingworth's Barnt Green take on Sussex Premier League Horsham in the National Club Knockout at Lord's, the perfect stage to remove the tag of being this competition's 'nearly men'.
The Green have reached the semi-finals on five occasions, but this is only the second time that they have made it through to the final. Three years ago, their first final was tinged with disappointment.
Due to building work, the game had been switched to Edgbaston, nowhere near as big a thrill for a Birmingham League side - and that was reflected in the Green's defeat to Saffron Walden.
Now the league leaders have the chance to make amends, to follow in the footsteps of so many other previous winners from the Birmingham League, to complete the first leg of a league and cup double, and to book themselves places in a cricket festival out in Barbados in November.
The bill for that has been footed by the competition's sponsors, Cockspur Rum, who also laid on the traditional dinner involving the two finalists in London last night.
But, while they say that it's not the winning, it's the taking part that counts, 'Illy' knows from bitter personal experience that's just not true.
He was a loser when he played in his first one-day final at Lord's with Worcestershire, when they lost the NatWest Trophy to Middlesex 17 years ago. And, in his first season after taking over the captaincy from Lyndon Jones, he is determined that his Green side should not just be there for the day-out.
"I've had a word with the lads," said Illingworth, "and I've reminded them we're not there for the party the night before. We're there for the one we hopefully have the night we win.
"People say you should just enjoy the atmosphere. But the first final I played in thought it was the worst day of my life.
"We lost comfortably. But that's just the swings and roundabouts of a cricket career. And, at the same time, there's no better feeling than winning at Lord's - at the home of cricket. And that's why I want to help these lads do it too."
Barnt Green are weakened by the loss under the competition's rules of their two county pros, Worcestershire's young pace bowler David Wigley and Gloucestershire allrounder Roger Sillence, who have played regularly for them in league cricket this season.
And they have a doubt over loyal one-club man Simon Froggatt, the star of this year's competition, who had to retire hurt in Saturday's crucial league win over Leamington with a groin strain.
But Illingworth, who was also playing at Lord's yesterday for Wiltshire in the weather-affected final of the MCCA Knockout, is confident that team spirit and the strength in depth they possess from a thriving second team will see them through.
"Everybody gets on with each other," he said. "And that's important whether it's Test cricket, county cricket or club cricket. The best teams are the ones that gel and we've got the right formula at the moment.
"Over the past few seasons, we've not been strong enough in the seam bowling department.
"But this year such has been the quality available, we had a case on Saturday where one of our seamers, Richard Wilkinson, did not even get a bowl.
"We've now got a better squad and we've needed it when people go on holiday or get injured. But we've also got a lot of lads doing well in the second team, who are pushing for first team spots."
That even includes Illingworth's teenage son Miles. Like his dad, he is a spinner, and is already part of Worcestershire's Academy and he comes into contention today.
Horsham have strong family connections too. Their young team contains brothers Chris and Mark Nash, plus identical twins in Paul and Craig Gallagher, which ought to confuse both opposition and umpires.
Thanks to the fact that a Birmingham League umpire was standing in Horsham's semi-final win over Havant, the Green have done their homework.
And Illingworth, also a winner on his one Test appearance at Lord's ten years ago (courtesy of a seven-wicket burst against the West Indies from Dominic Cork) backs his team full of unsung heroes.
"We'll miss Sillence, who's been awesome for us this season. But we have Gareth Williams, who ties one end up, while Kris Howes has come back this season and done very well too," he said.
"And the batting has been very solid. Simon Froggatt has played like we know he can play with three brilliant knocks in the last three rounds."