8/18/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Friday night saw a full round of matches in the Vitality Blast to determine the final qualifying places for the Quarter Finals and the crosses between teams. While three teams had qualified in each group before tonight’s games, the actual order of those teams was undecided in both and thus the home/away Quarter Final assignations. For example, Kent and Gloucestershire could have finished anywhere from 1st to 4th in South Group and any one of Sussex (who could finish as high as 2nd, or as low as 5th), Glamorgan and Surrey could take the final Quarter Final place. The North Group started the evening only a little less complicated, also with three teams (Yorkshire Vikings, Notts Outlaws and Birmingham Bears) in with a chance of the final place in the Quarter Finals, with Durham Jets and Worcester Rapids competing for top spot and Lancashire Lightning lying in wait for a home draw if either should slip up.
Meanwhile, rain encroaching from the west gave Birmingham Bears some slim hope that maybe they could get the double-cannon that they needed to qualify, in the form of winning their own game, while the Vikings – Outlaws game failed to give a result.
So, how did the action play out?
Durham Jets v Derbyshire Falcons: Durham’s game was abandoned without a ball bowled. The point ensured Durham a home Quarter-Final, with only Worcestershire Rapids able to overtake them. The equation was simple: if Worcestershire won, they would finish top; otherwise it would be Durham. In the end, Durham were pipped to top spot by 0.039 on NRR, equivalent to 10 runs and will host Sussex in the Quarter Finals.
Yorkshire Vikings v Notts Outlaws: This was the critical game, with the winner guaranteed to qualify for the Quarter Finals whatever the other results were on the night. Yorkshire won the Toss and elected to bat. The start to the innings was explosive, with the first ball of the innings hit for four and then a wicket to the second. Andrew Lyth and David Willey then added 92 at 8-an-over, giving Yorkshire hopes of a total of 190+ but, when Lyth departed to the first ball of the thirteenth over, caught behind for 44 from 36 balls, the momentum slowed. Willey departed for 51 from 40 balls two overs later and with him the hopes of a really imposing total, although Kane Williamson tried to push on, but had little effective support in his 44 from 26 balls, run out from the last ball of the innings. 163-6 was a useful total, but not one that you felt should be impossible for the Outlaws to pass. For the Outlaws, 1-16 from 4 overs of Harry Gurney and 1-2 from Steve Mullaney’s single over were the difference between chasing 164 to win and chasing a total in the range of 180-190.
Rikki Wessels and Alex Hales gave the Outlaws a quick, if rather brief, start, with Willey castling Wessels for 16 to the last ball of the third over, but Alex Hales and Jake Libby kept the Outlaws well ahead of the asking rate. Even though Lyth had Libby stumped for 30, Tom Moores came in and hit powerfully, with Hales acting as the anchor, and the Outlaws cruised to their target with an over to spare. Hale finished with 71 from 56 balls and Moores with 43 from 26, with the margin of victory of 8 wickets every bit as comfortable as it looks on paper.
Birmingham Bears v Worcestershire Rapids: The Bears won the Toss and elected to put in the Rapids, knowing that they had to win and hope that a local deluge rained-off the Vikings – Outlaws game. The Rapids knew that a win should put them ahead of Durham Jets to top the Group on Net Run Rate. Unfortunately for the Bears, they ran into the double-whammy of Moeen Ali in inspired form with the bat and rain in the North that stubbornly refused to reach Leeds. After an opening stand of 80 between Clarke and Moeen at almost 10-an-over, Moeen cut loose with Calum Ferguson as sleeping partner and put on 74 in 38 balls, before adding 30 in 12 balls with Ben Cox before falling stumped for 115 from 56 balls. If Moeen is needed by England, he is in prime form and ready. The chief sufferer was Aaron Thomason, who went for 53 from his three overs. With Moeen’s departure, the scoring rate slowed, and Ben Cox and Ross Whiteley were both run-out from the last two balls of the innings, but 209-5 left the Bears a formidable chase.
Ian Bell and Ed Pollock gave the Bears a tremendous start and their opening partnership of 55 was made well in advance of the asking rate. Unfortunately, although the top seven all reached double figures, no one was able to go on and make the sort of contribution that was needed to push the Bears over the line. No one passed Adam Hose’s 45 and, although the scoring rate kept right in touch with the target, wickets kept falling just as it seemed that the Bears were getting on top. Finally, with the batting knowing already that their hopes of qualifying had gone, the chase ran out of steam and 20 were needed from the last over, but Patrick Brown, who finished with 2-23 in a high-scoring match, allowed just 4.
The Rapids just sneaked ahead of Durham Jets on NRR. Had the Bears lost by five runs instead of by 15, it would have been the Jets who topped the group.
Leicestershire Foxes v Northamptonshire Steelbacks: This was a dead rubber, with the Steelbacks, with the worst record in either group, already certain to finish last in the North Group and the Foxes unable to finish any higher than sixth. Northamptonshire won the Toss and elected to put the Foxes in. The Steelbacks had an awful start when, after a quiet first over, Gareth Wade bowled high full tosses with his first and third delivery of the second over and was removed from the attack after just one legitimate delivery. Worse, the legitimate delivery was hit for four, with Wade finishing with the extraordinary figures of 0.1-0-9-0 and his over being completed by James Cobb, who restored sanity by delivering five legitimate deliveries – his only deliveries of the match – and conceding just three singles. From the relatively high point of 24-0 from 2.4 overs, Leicestershire slumped to 37-4 from 6.1 and were never in the match after that. Harry Dearden held the innings together with 61 from 40 balls and, when he was out in the eighteen over 27 came from the last 15 balls of the innings. All in all, 148-7 was a decent recovery, but never likely to be enough.
The Steelbacks needed a start, and Ben Curran (the brother of Sam and Tom) gave it to them in partnership with Ben Duckett, with fifty from the first 29 balls. The back of the chase was broken and, although Ben Curran fell for 29, Ben Duckett and James Cobb kept the run rate close to 10-an-over in a partnership of 40. The fall of the captain, Wakely, in the fourteenth over though led to a horrible wobble as the Steelbacks lost four wickets for 15 runs in 25 balls before Graeme White came in and leathered 2x4 and 2x6 in a 9-ball 21* to see the Steelbacks home for only the second win of the competition.
Sussex Sharks v Middlesex: Middlesex put Sussex in and saw Sussex make a fantastic start, with the score 58-0 after just four overs, with Phil Salt reaching a fifty from 18 balls and then pushing on. Salt fell finally for 66 from 25 balls, but Luke Wright and Laurie Evans took up the charge, leaving horrendous damage to the figures of Tom Barber – 2 overs for 35 – and James Fuller – 4 overs for 53, although he did have the compensation of 3 wickets. It was utter carnage. Thirteen came from the last three balls of the innings and Middlesex’s case was not helped by the amazing total of 19 wides.
215-5 was a formidable total, and the betting was that Middlesex would not be able to get close to it. When Ben Scott fell for a duck to the fourth ball of the innings, the Middlesex supporters could be heard diving behind the sofa. What happened though was a blitz on the Sussex bowlers so brutal that it appeared that Middlesex would win with several overs to spare. Paul Stirling, who has blossomed this season, hit 58 from 29 balls and, in partnership with John Simpson, they put the Sussex bowlers to the sword. Together they put on 122 in 49 balls, leaving a highly gettable 92 from 67 balls for the rest of the batting. At that stage, it seemed that Middlesex were set to end the Sussex chances and with rain at Cardiff, Surrey would sneak into the Quarter Finals by the back door. Even when John Simpson followed soon after for 62 from 29 balls, Middlesex were right on top, and Eoin Morgan kept the scoreboard moving and Middlesex well on target to win.
The match turned on the first ball of the fifteenth over, with Middlesex needing 58 from 36 balls and, seemingly, cruising. Danny Briggs bowled to James Fuller, who hit it back towards the bowler. Briggs half-stopped it and tipped the ball onto the stumps, with Eoin Morgan out of his ground. What followed was pure Middlesex: there was plenty of batting left, the target was not a difficult one, but the panicked big time. Three balls later Franklin edged Briggs through to ‘keeper Burgess: 161-5. In the next over, Tymal Mills bowled Steve Eskinazi and, even more critically, had James Fuller, who could have won the match in two overs of clinical hitting, caught: 166-7 and Middlesex sinking fast. Archer bowled Andersson with the last ball of the seventeenth, and it was all over bar the shouting. Middlesex had imploded when it seemed easier to win and, with Middlesex now trying to play out the overs, a noisy crowd celebrated Chris Jordan taking the last two wickets with the third and fourth ball of the final over of the innings. Incredibly, Middlesex had lost by 31 runs and the tones of “Sussex by the Sea” rang out around the ground.
Would this win be enough though to get a home draw in the Quarter Finals? That depended on the goings-on at Canterbury.
Essex Eagles v Kent Spitfires: Kent won the Toss and elected to field only to see Wheater and Chopra end the Power Play 58-0 as the Kent attack struggled to contain the batsmen. 40 for Wheater and 37 for Chopra gave Essex and an excellent start, backed-up by the middle order. Only Matt Coles, who came in for the last four balls of the inning, failed to get into double figures as Essex looked to end a disappointing campaign on a high. The scoring rate had slowed a little in mid-innings, but 25* from 10 balls from Ravi Bopara pushed Essex past 200, and the qualifying scenario for the South Group started to get very interesting, with Sussex looking at the possibility of a wholly unexpected home Quarter-Final.
202 seemed like a big chase, but Denly and Bell-Drummond went off like a train. Shane Snater’s first over went for 23, as Bell-Drummond reached 50 from 27 balls. It looked as if Kent would make light of the target. When Denly fell for 45, the openers had put on 98 in 8.4 overs. Heino Kuhn came and went, bowled cheaply by Ravi Bopara, his dominant form of the One Day Cup long-forgotten. Sam Billings though is a superb limited-overs bat and, with Bell-Drummond, the target was reduced to a seemly simple 51 from 32 balls. Bopara and Snater kept the batsmen to a run-a-ball over the sixteenth and seventeenth overs, and the target started to get just a little tight. It came down to 9 needed from the last over. Bell-Drummond hit the first ball for a boundary but fell to the second for 80 from 51 balls. Coles then limited Gavin Stewart and Dickson to two singles. With three to win from two balls, the pressure was back on Kent to stay calm. Coles bowled the penultimate ball to the hero of the Kent One Day Cup Semi-Final victory, Gavin Stewart, who got the winning boundary and Kent had sealed a home Quarter-Final that looked to have possibly escaped them.
Hampshire v Gloucestershire: Gloucestershire were put in and struggled to time the ball. The outfield was slow, and the batsmen were allowing far too many dot-balls. At the same time, Maxy Klinger seemed to be struggling with his movement with the back injury that he has suffered from throughout the Blast campaign. Hammond and Cockbain fell quickly, leaving Gloucestershire 21-1 from 5 overs, with both out before Klinger had got off the mark and managed just 29-2 from the Power Play overs. In the end, the Shire struggled to 144-8, centred around Maxy Klinger’s 43. The lesson was that anything pitched up was almost impossible to get away, but short deliveries could be dispatched, as reflected by the fact that sixes (eight) in the Gloucestershire innings far exceeded the fours. For Hampshire, Chris Wood took 4-16 from his four overs. Gloucestershire were, quite literally hamstrung by Kieron Noema-Barnett pulling a hamstring badly early in his innings and being unable to bat again; more critically, he would not be able to bowl on a pitch likely to suit his dibbly-dobbly pace.
In reply, Payne bowled Dickinson from the fifth ball of the first over and, unexpectedly, James Vince did not come out to bat at the fall of the wicket. This was a deliberate tactic ploy as Hampshire set out to swing hard during the Power Play, which was what Gloucestershire had totally failed to do and paid for. Initially, Hampshire found timing just as hard as Gloucestershire had, but then David Payne bowled another poor over (he had been horribly off-colour at Bristol the previous night), and suddenly Hampshire were up and running. Andrew Tye came on to bowl and bowled an equally poor first over. Maxy Klinger was fuming in the field but, with a bowler missing, his options were minimal. Overall, it was a repeat of the previous night at Bristol: poorly directed balls down leg, misfields (sometimes giving away boundaries), dropped catches and a generally shoddy performance. At the end of the Power Play, Gloucestershire had been 29-2, while Hampshire were 67-2. 42 in 18 balls from Rossouw broke the back of the chase and solid scores from Sam Northeast (37) and James Vince (48*) ensured that there was no way back. Even a third wicket in two matches from the previous night’s debutant, Jacob Lintott, was no consolation for a second consecutive pretty desperate performance.
Gloucestershire who before the game last night, must have expected to top the South Group, now face a trip to Worcestershire Rapids and an in-form Moeen Ali with a point to prove.
Glamorgan v Surrey: For both Glamorgan and Surrey, the equation was simple – win and hope that Middlesex could pull off a win at Hove. With both sides needing the win there was some high-octane cricket. The Glamorgan top three all scored at a rate close to or above 200 as the first five overs brought 67 runs. No one though could push on to a decisive score, and wickets fell, bringing the inevitable brake on the headlong scoring. Even though no one in the top six scored fewer than 21, no one could score more than 39 and, from looking set for 225-230 if you double the score at 12 overs, 183-8 was a disappointing effort as the Surrey bowlers hauled their team back into the match. Tom Curran with 3-30 and veteran, Gareth Batty, with 0-23, each from their full stint of four overs, had much to do with the total being at least forty short of what seemed likely at one point.
With the storm clouds gathering from the West and Sussex looking to be on the verge of defeat, Surrey knew that if they could get in five overs, there could pull off an amazing heist. Rain delayed the reply and, with more rain imminent, Burns and Finch needed quick runs to ensure that they would be ahead on Duckworth-Lewis. Aaron Finch scored 44 from just 16 balls as Tim van der Gugten, in particular, was treated brutally, his over going for 24 (3x4, 2x6). The umpires kept the players out, taking them off after the minimum five overs for a result had been completed, at which point Surrey were 60-0, well ahead of the 37 required on Duckworth-Lewis. The rain stopped, a rope went around the field and play was set to re-start, but it started raining again, and the umpires bowed to the inevitable. Surrey, who had the best NRR in the country, missed out on the Quarter Finals by a single win.
The Quarter Final line-up
Worcestershire Rapids v Gloucestershire
Durham Jets v Sussex Sharks
Somerset v Notts Outlaws
Kent Spitfires v Lancashire Lightning
Notts Outlaws, Lancashire Lightning and Birmingham Bears are in a close tussle for the title of Kings of domestic T20 cricket. Interestingly, Durham Jets, who were agonisingly close to winning North Group, have the third-worst record in the country (how many fans would have put Gloucestershire or Glamorgan as one of the three sides with the worst historical record in T20? Most would, I guess, have one of the two in their list). In contrast, despite having won the Blast in 2008, Middlesex are competing with Derbyshire for the title of, historically, the very worst T20 side in the country. While, begging their pardon, not too many people would go to Derby expecting to find a great depth of talent, the fact that year after year, Middlesex sides packed with talent struggle in this format, suggests serious structural problems: the one year that Middlesex won the competition with some gloriously carefree cricket, was the year when the dressing room was, reportedly, riven with strife and the members were in uproar. It is also interesting that Surrey, with traditionally the biggest chequebook in the country and frequently the biggest star names, have not been more successful historically in T20.
The numbers for historical success and failure are quite interesting. At the conclusion of the 2018 Vitality Blast qualifying, the overall Domestic T20 numbers for the years of competition are as follows:
7/12/2018 1 Comment
Gloucestershire and Kent are building up a fine rivalry. Their fourth meeting of the season was the first of their two Vitality Blast meetings, after Gloucestershire had won an extraordinary home Championship fixture and drew (in extremis) the return, with Kent winning a high-scoring One Day Cup game - the fixture between the two sides so far this season in which the result has not been in doubt almost until the last ball. Last season, Gloucestershire won both Blast games and have continued their domination in this shortest format in another tight encounter. T20 may not be everyone’s cup of tea – it certainly is not mine – but you would have to be a bit of a curmudgeon not to enjoy the games that these two sides, both of which have suffered from hard times in recent years due to near-bankruptcy caused by the need for ground improvements, have been serving-up when they have met. Speaking of curmudgeons, Sir Geoffrey himself would not enjoy the Blast, but you can bet that he is watching how is beloved Yorkshire are getting on from his hospital bed, and we wish him a speedy recovery.
Kent are very much one of the form sides this season, doing well in all three competitions. A game against a Kent side that can boast the incredible run-scoring feats of Heino Kuhn and the extraordinary talents of Joe Denly with his hat-trick and century in the previous Blast game is a severe test for any side. The Blast though is the cricketing equivalent of guerrilla warfare, where two overs of mayhem can turn a result on its head and a mix of skill, luck and power can see a smaller side beating what, on paper, is a much stronger one. Having not been at the races in their first Blast game, against Somerset, Gloucestershire beat Middlesex – their favourite whipping-boys – while Kent have started with good wins against Somerset and Surrey.
This fixture was brought forward several hours on account of another game being played later in the day so, sadly, the crowd was relatively sparse to see what was a humdinger of a match. Gloucestershire started badly with the news that having seen Perera return to Sri Lanka after playing the two games for which they expected to be missing Andrew Tye, the ACB withdrew permission for Tye to play the game as he had only landed in England in the morning. (The fact that the game had also turned into an afternoon rather than an evening fixture may also have influenced). Gloucestershire were thus without an overseas player. With Benny Howell, Gloucestershire’s fixer in T20, injured, it was a return for Graeme van Buuren and Kieron Noema-Barnett.
So far in the Blast, Gloucestershire have relied on a lot of, individually modest, contributions. Yesterday’s game was no exception: the top 6 all got into double figures, but it was Noema-Barnett’s 31 that was the largest individual score. Wickets thus fell regularly and, at 147-6, with just three and a half overs left, there was a danger that the innings could subside to an inadequate total. Enter Jack Taylor at #7, still banned from bowling, but capable of hitting the ball a long way. 42 from 23 balls swung the momentum away from Kent and, just briefly, Gloucestershire were looking at a total around 190. With only 10 – “only ten”; those words would give poor old Sir Geoffrey a relapse – from the last over, following eight from the previous, Gloucestershire were kept to a stiff, but gettable, 184-7. For Kent, Mitch Claydon’s 1-26, with an excellent penultimate over, was probably the difference between 184 and 190+, while Joe Denly opened the bowling for Kent and removed the still dangerous Michael Klinger and Ian Cockbain.
Gloucestershire opened with the fit-again “Sid” Payne and with the recalled Graeme van Buuren. Van Buuren came to Gloucestershire with extraordinary career figures in South Africa but has never really prospered in England. Up against them was a power-packed Kent side that invites the bowler to leave the batsman at the crease because the one who will come in if you take a wicket is even more dangerous! This though was to be one of the days that van Buuren will remember with most affection, as he removed Joe Denly with his third delivery and went on to complete figures of 1-26 from his four overs. It is a measure of the problems that Kent’s rivals face that you get rid of Joe Denly and that only brings in Heino Kuhn. With Kuhn and the equally dangerous Daniel Bell-Drummond bedding-in, Billings and Braithwaite to come, the Power Play ended with Kent 54-1, momentum building and the chase seeming to be well under control.
Financial necessity has obliged Gloucestershire to trawl the counties for players who have never quite made it elsewhere, but who flourish in the Bristol air. Will Gidman was a classic example. Ryan Higgins is proving very much to be another. Middlesex fans are looking with fascinated horror at the progress of players who they have let escape, such as Harry Podmore and Higgins. Higgins came on, allowed five singles and got rid of Bell-Drummond. Then Klinger, a wise old bird in the captaincy, threw the ball to spinner, Tom Smith. Three dots, three singles and suddenly the Kent momentum was slowing. The run rate required went over 10 and Kent were in need of oxygen on the climb to the summit. Klinger kept switching his bowlers and brought on Matt Taylor. Taylor is genuinely quick, but then so is a paint spray too: when each goes right, both do a superb job but, when they go wrong, the results can be catastrophic. Kuhn and Billings swapped single but, the effect of the over from Taylor was somewhat spoiled by the third and fourth balls being launched into the far distance by Sam Billings. This started an unusual passage of play in which first we had two overs in which a wicket followed a six next ball and then, punctuated by a mean over from van Buuren. We then had two overs that started with a wicket as first Matt Taylor found his range and removed the dangerous Braithwaite and then dear old KNB came on and removed Heino Kuhn caught and bowled with his first ball.
Six overs to go. Kuhn gone. Kent 110-6 and, seemingly, fading fast. 75 from 36 balls or, to put it another way, +39 – that is… a run a ball and 39 more to find from somewhere. Would Kent die quietly? Would they, hell! Dickson and Haggett knew that they had to swing like crazy and it came off. Three overs to go. 34 wanted. Match in the balance again. Back came Ryan Higgins. The conversation with Maxy Klinger probably went something along the lines of:
“Ryan, get out your Superman cape again. This one is getting away from us.”
“OK, Cap. I’ll see what I can do.”
Just four from his first four balls and then Haggett was run out – following fine work from wicket-keeper Roderick. Twenty-eight needed from two overs. Sid Payne limited Kent to nine from the penultimate volley of six.
Higgins to Milne. Nineteen needed. Surely this was all over now?
Disaster! A wide, which the batsmen, with great presence of mind, also managed to run for. Two off the ball. Then another single from the extra ball. Sixteen from five.
Higgins to Milne. Boundary! And again… boundary! Suddenly Kent seemed to be marching unstoppably to a last over heist. Three balls left. Eight to get.
Ryan Higgins came to Bristol looking for 1st XI, big match experience. He was now getting just what he said that he wanted, with his side looking to HIM – yes! Ryan Higgins – to pull this one out of the fire. It cannot be a situation that he faced too often as a Middlesex player in a dressing room full of full internationals and Lions. Mind you, at moments like this; he may have been thinking fondly of the quiet anonymity of the Middlesex 2nd XI.
Fourth ball. Higgins to Milne. Both sides know that if Milne manages a third consecutive boundary, the game is just about over. Milne can only get it away for a single.
Two balls to go. Seven wanted. Whatever you do, Ryan, do NOT bowl a wide or a no ball. Higgins to Dickson. Hits. The batsmen come back for a suicidal second. Run out!
In comes Mitch Claydon. One ball left. Six to win. Five to tie. Who wants to be a hero?
Higgins bowls. Claydon swings. Chaos! Claydon misses. Higgins does too, but Claydon’s bat flies out into the covers as the batsman swings so hard that he loses his grip. Then it appeared that, with Claydon out of his ground and without his bat, he was given out stumped, although it seems that the umpire at the bowling end had called time, as the batsman was not running and the match was over, so the wicket did not go into the scorebook. Shredded nerves all round.
Both sides are now on two wins and one defeat. Sussex top the group with two wins from two games and the best NRR. Kent follow, and Gloucestershire, with a negative NRR, are in third. It is early days yet, with only Kent, Gloucestershire and perennial strugglers in this format, Middlesex, have played three games. But the signs are that Kent look likely Quarter-Finalists and that Michael Klinger, now much more relaxed with the news that his wife’s cancer seems to be cured, is going to produce his usual “quart from a pint pot” miracle with Gloucestershire and have the Shire in the Quarter Final frame too.
Peter Roebuck entitled a piece in his book “Slices of Cricket”, describing a game that I attended, “A Wild, Wild Run Chase”, describing a 40 over Sunday League game at Bristol. This one was a pretty wild run chase too. Do not believe the people who tell you that the Blast is poor-quality cricket (Yes, Toppers, I am looking at YOU!!!) You may not love Whackit, as T20 is often termed, but it can produce some tense, high-quality matches.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
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