Don Topley: We need to rethink scheduling of T20 Finals Day

Sam Billings and Kent were knocked out of the Vitality Blast by Lancashire. Picture: PA SPORT

Sam Billings and Kent were knocked out of the Vitality Blast by Lancashire. Picture: PA SPORT - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

In his latest column, Don Topley offers his views on the scheduling of T20 Finals Day, plus discusses England’s Third Test collapse against India.

England's Jonny Bairstow has a fractured finger - but should he still bat for England in the fourth

England's Jonny Bairstow has a fractured finger - but should he still bat for England in the fourth Test? Don Topley thinks nor. Picture - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

The top eight sides have recently battled it out in the Vitality quarter-finals with Lancashire, Sussex, Worcestershire and Somerset all qualifying for the 2018 Finals Day.

Once again it will be held at Edgbaston but in the middle of September. The date allocated for Finals Day is ridiculously late, in my opinion.

The event begins with three matches of T20 cricket – one in late morning and one in the afternoon – culminating in the final from 7pm on a chilly (possibly damp) evening on Saturday, September 15. Not that any of those four county sides will be moaning as they will be over the moon and excited to make Finals Day.

This summer the 50 Over Cup Final returned to the traditional mid season which was well received by players and fans, similar to the old Benson & Hedges Cup which has its place in our domestic cricket history.

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The Gillette Cup/Nat West Trophy used to be played on the first Saturday in September, but playing a long modern Finals Day two weeks later will test the public and also their changes of attire for the day!

Remember at least a quarter of the public will be there for 11am and the very same supporters will be there at 10pm having won the first sem-final.

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I was seething when I heard that next year the 2019 Finals Day is Saturday 21st September!

With Essex seriously struggling again at T20, my hopes were for Kent and Somerset. The dangerous Kent side, well marshalled by the excellent and ebullient Sam Billings, were defeated by Lancashire.

Billings was cricitial of the pitch Kent prepared, as it aided Lancashire’s spinners. With so much professional cricket being played in this country we do experience many average and tired wickets at this time of the season.

Sussex’s bowlers, even without Rashid Khan, were too strong for the biggest surprise package of the quarter-finals, Durham.

Worcestershire, who have never been to Finals Day, defeated their locals, Gloucestershire, whilst Somerset’s fixture with holders, Nottinghamshire, was the mouthwatering match of the the four.

Somerset, full of strokemakers and aggressive cricketers, defeated Notts – but only after they experienced a washed out day.

I struggle also to understand why these important quarter-finals were played Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with two of those days part of the working week.

Had the rained-off game at Taunton not taken place there would, once again, have been another Bank Holiday Monday without any professional cricket.

MORE: Topley - Ben Stokes should not be playing for England after court case

- I was pleased to see India defeat England which is good for the current Test Match series, but I agree with criticising England for their appalling batting display.

After a good opening start at Trent Bridge, England lost all 10 wickets in about 30 overs. England were chasing the game from that moment. That’s three times in the last 18 months England have capitulated in a Test.

It’s worth pointing out that it has taken India two Test matches to get into a contest in England.

Just like England when touring out in India and Australia recently, there are insufficient practice matches before the real Test series commence.

The ECB and Player’s Unions are keen to ensure their players spend as much family time at home. This is modern international cricket and regretfully, it is wrong to me.

You may recall that India recently down-played their only pre-Test practice match at Chelmsford v Essex. It was relegated from First Class, and reduced from four days down to three, with India using all 18 squad members.

So India approach this week’s Fourth Test at The Ageas Bowl with excitement and confidence whilst England will arrive nervously.

Jonny Bairstow’s fractured digit has caused an issue with the in-form Jos Buttler taking over the gloves. Does Bairstow still play as a batsman? Not in my book, as James Vince should play at his home ground at Southampton.

Bairstow’s hands could do with the rest but should he sustain another bad knock on that digit he may then require surgery and a serious long lay-off – he is too valuable.

England have the forthcoming white ball series in Sri Lanka in October before three Tests in November.

January 2019 heralds the three Tests in Barbados, Antigua and St Lucia, before returning to the UK in March after the Caribbean ODIs, for our county cricket pre-season.

For Bairstow, the merry-go-round just does not stop!

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