Worcestershire v Gloucestershire
Worcestershire might be playing the final half of this year's Twenty20 Cup only for pride, but coach Steve Rhodes is still intent on using his team's final four games as a means of preparing for next year.
Rhodes has so far seen the team succumb to tight defeats in three away games with Glamorgan, Gloucester-shire and Northamptonshire which all could have gone either way.
The only serious blot on the landscape was last Friday night's embarrassment when they slumped to 18 for six inside half-an-hour, were bowled out for a record competition-low score of 86 and ended up being badly beaten by Northants.
Four games gone, four losses and even Worcester-shire's director of cricket has given up trying to talk up any slim chance of qualifying for the last eight.
But, ahead of what will be another big New Road crowd for only this summer's second Twenty20 home game for the return with Gloucestershire, Rhodes insists: "It's not all gloom and doom. The important thing is to carry on learning about this competition to try to get it right for next summer. We clearly have not quite found the right formula yet, certainly on the bowling side.
"Daryl Mitchell's experience at Bristol when he bowled superbly for three overs, then went for 21 off his last, has made us realise that nobody manages to get through four on the trot without being punished. We also have to consider making more quick changes, even after just one over, to ensure the batsman is never comfortable."
Having rested Zaheer Khan for Monday evening's return game with Northants at Wantage Road, Rhodes was comforted by Kabir Ali coming back from England duty to prove the county's best bowler on the night.
In what is expected to be an unchanged side, Kabir will continue to act as chief spearhead, with Zaheer again rested and Matt Mason also missing out again. Rhodes is insistent, however, that although Worcestershire have again lost any possible chance of Twenty20 glory this summer, they are not that far away from cracking it.
"I feel quite happy about the way we've played in three of the four games," he said.
"It was only in the home game against Northants in which we played rubbish but it was a brilliant innings by Brendon McCullum that took it away from us at Cardiff, at Bristol we know we should have had it won and at Northampton we were chasing well until they had a purple patch in the middle.
"But that's Twenty20. There are such small margins of error. Whereas in a 50-over game, you've got a chance to rebuild, any sort of spell that doesn't go your way over a three or four-over period in this and you've no chance of recovering.
"We just have to keep taking a look at how other teams play it; Surrey, for instance, who go into it with a relaxed, almost cavalier, approach and they manage to reach the finals every year."