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Will Ealham get to hit out tonight?

This year's Twenty20 Cup campaign has been bitter-sweet for Notts' veteran all-rounder Mark Ealham.

While he has played his part with the ball, as the Outlaws have marched impressively into the quarter-finals for a second successive year, the success of his top-order team-mates has rendered his contribution with the bat next to nothing.

For a man who had the best strike rate in the country during last season's Twenty20 Cup (215), sitting in the pavilion is not his idea of fun.

But Ealham, 37, knows the nature of Twenty20 cricket means he could get his chance at any moment - especially now the competition has reached the knock-out stages.

Should Notts suffer an early collapse, the big-hitting right-hander will be the man to dig them out of a hole.

Ealham is also just as capable of finishing a game in double quick time, as he illustrated with his 31 off seven balls for the Outlaws (including four sixes and a four) against Leicestershire Foxes last year.

Tonight, his former county Kent Spitfires are the visitors for a game set to be played in front of a Trent Bridge Twenty20 record crowd - weather permitting.

And there is nothing Ashford-born Ealham would love more than to sink his former team-mates with a signature innings to book Notts' place at finals day on August 4 at Edgbaston.

"I have only faced nine or ten balls in Twenty20 all summer, which gives you an indication of how well we have batted," he said.

"The guys up front have done really well and Samit Patel has got himself in a couple of times and stayed in.

"But it's not good for me, because I like to get in and have a slog! I really enjoy the batting side of things in this competition.

"Hopefully, there are still three more games to go and I still have the chance to make up for it. The weather has ruined it a little bit this year because we haven't played that many matches.

"Ready (Chris Read) and Huss (David Hussey) haven't really batted that much either, but if we carry on winning, it doesn't really matter who gets the runs.

"I enjoy playing against Kent. You always try hard, but you do want to do well against your old county and I have had a reasonable success against them.

"I know Ferls (Rob Ferley) will want to do well too because this will be the first time, if selected, he will have played against them since his move."

Ealham earned England selection during his time at Canterbury and was with his home county for more than a decade before signing on at Trent Bridge in 2002.

He still has friends among the Kent team, but admits the whirlwind style of Twenty20 cricket means he is unlikely to get much of an opportunity to catch up with them.

Ealham said: "The players have changed a lot since I was there, but I still know Robert Key, Matthew Walker and Min Patel, who has been injured this summer. With one-day matches you don't get much chance to speak with people, it is usually more for the four-day games.

"But with Twenty20 the game is finished in the blink of an eye and then you move on.

"I do know Kent will be no pushovers. They are a good outfit and are in the quarter-finals for a reason."

Notts have been forced to cope without several front-line pacemen in recent weeks, and openers Ryan Sidebottom (England duty) and Charlie Shreck (knee injury) are definitely unavailable against the Spitfires.

But Ealham says the Outlaws have the bowling options to cope, even though loan signing Kyle Hogg cannot play because he has already appeared for Lancashire Lightning in this season's competition.

"It is not ideal having your big guns out, but you have to soldier on with what you have," he said.

"Most of the time we have tried to take the pace off the ball. We have the resources to play a different type of cricket.

"There are three or four guys who can bowl spin, two of whom are specialists. Then there is Gareth Clough and myself who bowl quite defensively and keep it tight and Franko (Paul Franks) has done well in the games he has played.

"I still think we have enough in the tank to beat Kent if we play well and then hopefully we might have one or two back for the last couple of games."

With Ferley having played only a limited amount of first-team cricket in 2007, Ealham was delighted to see the left-arm spinner bowl Notts to victory in their home group game win over Yorkshire Phoenix.

He believes the Norwich-born player could again be a key man - because he will be playing against his former team-mates.

Ealham said: "Ferls bowled really well against Yorkshire, especially the last over of the game, and he'll be up for this one.

"I think he could be key for us because he will bowl in the middle of the innings when they want to get on with things.

"But they won't want to get out to him and that could slow their scoring rate. He could be a trump card for us."

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