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Rocket man fired up for finals day

Steve Harmison, Liam Plunkett, Azhar Mahmood, Shaun Udal and James Tredwell – you have been warned.

Essex’s very own “Rocket Man” – Graham Napier – is planning to launch you out of the Rose Bowl at Twenty20 Finals Day tomorrow.

The 28-year-old all-rounder – whose exploits have impressed pop legend Elton John – is planning to launch a one-man assault on all-comers in Southampton as he bids to lead the Eagles to Twenty20 Cup glory against semi-final opponents Kent Spitfires, Middlesex Crusaders and the Durham Dynamos.

“When I’m batting my mindset is such that I don’t care who I am facing,” said Napier, who bludgeoned 16 sixes in a domestic record 152 not out off just 58 balls against Sussex in the group stages.

“If the ball is there I will go for it, but if it is not in my hitting zone I have to keep scoring singles and rotate the strike.

“If it is bowled in my hitting zone I will try and hit anyone for six – whether it’s Muttiah Muralitharan, Brett Lee or Dale Steyn.

“I have always had the capabilities. I have done it at other levels, just not consistently in one-day cricket.”

Should Napier and his team-mates prevail, a place in the inaugural multi-million pound Twenty20 Champions League awaits, as does a £150,000 challenge match against West Indian champions Trinidad and Tobago.

Essex’s new superstar has literally smashed himself to the attention of the cricketing world.

Such has been his impact that Napier has already received offers from the moneybags Indian Premier League (IPL) for next season, forcing the player to employ an agent for the first time in his 12-year career.

But despite his new-found stardom, the Colchester-born player is anxious to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground.

“At the moment everything is still the same, it is just a bit busier than it used to be,” he said, referring to the never-ending stream of interview and autograph requests.

“Hopefully it has the potential to turn my life around and get international recognition. There has been interest in me from the IPL.

“I have never been shopping before and been recognised in the frozen peas section – it is nice, though!”

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