Freddie Wilde analyses the progress of the 18 counties in the T20 Blast.
Lancashire’s run of five consecutive wins was ended this week as they slid to a 16 run defeat against Nottinghamshire before their clash with Worcestershire on Sunday was abandoned. Against Notts Lancashire’s were without Liam Livingstone (injured) and Jos Buttler (international duty), so chasing 196 against Nottinghamshire’s strong bowling attack without their two best batsmen was a tough ask and one they fell short of despite a reduced-overs chase. 196 is the largest total that Lancashire have conceded this season and notably they conceded it in the innings when they bowled their lowest proportion of spin overs with Stephen Parry left out for Graham Onions and Arron Lilley not bowling a single over. Spin has been Lancashire’s strength this year but – perhaps considering the small boundaries at Trent Bridge – they were dissuaded from continuing with it. Given that Onions’ three overs cost 54 it was a decision they may regret.
Sunday’s abandonment against Lancashire meant Worcestershire’s only match of the week was a record-breaking nine wicket win against Northants. Martin Guptill’s 35 ball hundred – the second fastest in domestic T20 in England – powered Worcester’s chase of 187, which having been completed in just 13.1 overs gave them the highest run rate in a T20 total of more than 150, a stunning 14.52 runs per over. It is hard to read too much into performances against Northants, given their woeful form, but Worcester will have been encouraged by the way their young attack pulled Northants back after they’d started well while Guptill’s innings marked a welcome return to form after three single figure scores. 19 year-old seamer Pat Brown, with 15 wickets at a strike rate of 8.8, is now the leading wicket-taker in the Blast this season.
Durham have now won four in a row and are mounting a serious challenge for a top four finish. Their comfortable win against Nottinghamshire was the performance of a confident team who have a settled strategy. Against Notts’ powerful, but misfiring, batting order Durham prepared a pitch with some assistance for the bowlers and clinically exploited it. They bowled with skill and discipline in the Powerplay to reduce the visitors to 29 for 3 before Imran Tahir and Paul Collingwood once against enacted the squeeze in the middle overs. Durham have a solid batting strategy – their balls per dismissal of 24.3 is the second highest in the league and Powerplay balls per dismissal of 50.3 is comfortably the highest. Only a superb Notts bowling performance would have stopped them chasing down 133 with ease. That performance didn’t materialise and Graham Clark and Collingwood guided Durham home.
A rearranged fixture meant Yorkshire played four matches in five days this week. Two wins and two losses represents a satisfactory return from the four matches and one that solidifies their position in the middle of the table. Yorkshire’s two wins underlined what they are good at: their batting is packed with quality and power and totals of 227 and 187 proved too many for Warwickshire and Leicestershire. However, in both matches against Derbyshire cracks in their bowling attack were exposed with Tim Bresnan, Steve Patterson and Azeem Rafiq proving expensive. Strangely for a bowling attack packed with international players Yorkshire have struggled to take wickets this season – they have the second highest strike rate of all teams – this hurt them in both matches against Derbyshire who kept wickets in hand for late assaults. Adil Rashid’s England call-up has robbed Yorkshire of one of their primary wicket-taking threats but if they can make it through to the knock outs Rashid is likely to be available.
Nottinghamshire have now played eight matches this season and the evidence so far suggests they are not the force they were last year when they romped to the title. Although they got back to winning ways against Lancashire on Friday—their first home win of the season—they were brought crashing back down against Durham on Saturday with a 7 wicket defeat. This season Notts have been without Alex Hales at the top of the order and Brendan Taylor in the middle order. In 2017, Hales – with a Powerplay run rate of 12.60, provided Notts with rapid starts and Taylor, with a dismissal rate of 28.2, lent stability to the middle order. This year their Powerplay run rate of 8.82 is the sixth lowest and their middle overs dismissal rate of 16.6 is the second lowest. Against Durham they were restricted to 29 for 3 in the Powerplay before being strangled in the middle overs. Their meek defence of 133 on a difficult pitch was disappointing.
Wins over Leicestershire at home before back-to-back wins over Yorkshire home and away mean Derbyshire have now won four in a row after losing their first four. With Hardus Viljoens, Wahab Riaz and Lockie Ferguson Derbyshire have an exceptionally strong pace bowling attack. Their struggles early in the season related to their batting, and specifically their power batting. Since then they have established a new opening partnership with Billy Godleman and Calum MacLeod and bulked up the middle order by deploying Wahab and Viljoens as pinch hitters. On Friday their pace bowlers restricted Leicestershire to 149 which was chased easily, on Sunday Godleman anchored a chase of 166 with an unbeaten 71 before a stunning assault from Matt Critchley, who took a record-equalling 22 off the last over, hauled them over the line and on Monday pinch-hitter Wahab and Wayne Madsen propelled Derbyshire to 179 in 17 overs. Now their batting is supporting their strong pace bowling Derbyshire are proving hard to beat. Interestingly no team has bowled fewer spin overs than Derbyshire’s 14%.
This was a sobering week for Leicestershire with consecutive defeats dragging them towards the foot of the table after two wins in their previous three matches. In both defeats – at home against Derbyshire and away against Yorkshire – it was their batting that was most disappointing, sliding to 149 and 127. This season Leicestershire’s attacking shot percentage of 72% is the second highest of all teams in the league. The result of their positivity is that their batting returns have been either feast—three scores of more than 190, or famine—four scores of less than 150. Leicestershire’s batting lacks an anchor around which they can build an innings and this season they are one of only two teams—Northants being the other—to have no player with a dismissal rate of more than 20.
Warwickshire’s misery continued this week with a thumping defeat away to Yorkshire after their struggling bowlers conceded a total of more than 200 for the fourth consecutive match. Only in one of those four matches have Warwickshire’s batsmen bailed out their bowlers – and that was against the weakest attack in the league: Northamptonshire, and even then they could only tie the match. Worryingly for Warwickshire this mauling against Yorkshire came despite the presence of Chris Woakes in the attack and Boyd Rankin, who made an impressive return to the team last week. Their attack is conspicuously short of an effective defensive bowler: Jeetan Patel’s economy rate of 8.14 is their lowest this season.
Northants welcomed back their attack leader Richard Gleeson into the team for the first time this season after an injury but his return—despite relatively good match figures of 1 for 35—was not enough to turn Northants dismal season around. Gleeson was the only Northants bowler with an economy rate of less than 13.00 as Worcester razed their target of 187 in just 13.1 overs – a run rate of 14.35 runs per over. Northants’ season economy rate of 11.21 is the worst by any team in a T20 competition ever. Central to their problems has been their shortage of x-factor skills in the bowling department: seamers Rory Kleinveldt, Ben Sanderson and Nathan Buck are neither fast enough or do enough with the ball to complicate matters for attacking batsmen. This season teams have attacked 74% of deliveries against Northants – the equal most in the league.
Gloucestershire’s convincing 30 run victory over Glamorgan means they have now won their last four completed matches and will be eyeing up their second quarter final in three years. The form of 22 year-old Miles Hammond at the top of the order has added an extra dimension to their team this season. Hammond has attacked 85% of his deliveries and scored at 10.44 runs per over. He’s yet to make it out of the Powerplay but his 101 runs have helped Gloucester take advantage of the field restrictions while Michael Klinger has anchored the innings from the other end. Hammond’s 34 off 14 balls and Klinger’s 77 not out off 50 balls laid the foundation for a total of 197 which was defended with ease by Gloucestershire’s canny bowlers: AJ Tye finished with 3 for 17 and Benny Howell with 1 for 23.
2) KENT & 4) SUSSEX
Both Kent and Sussex suffered two No Results this week. On Friday the clash between the two of them at Canterbury was washed out after 9.2 overs and on Sunday their respective matches away to Glamorgan and at home against Hampshire were abandoned without a ball being bowled. Kent – who won three of their first four matches, and Sussex – who won all of their first three matches, were the early frontrunners in the South Group, but in the last two weeks Kent have had three consecutive matches rained off while Sussex have lost one and had two rained off. Kent’s strong batting and Sussex’s strong bowling make them candidates for a top four finish but their season has been robbed of momentum right in the middle of the campaign.
This was a tumultuous week for Somerset who were thrashed in a ten over match away against Surrey on Friday before thrashing Middlesex at home on Sunday. Somerset have had a curious season so far with parts of their team performing spectacularly and other parts struggling, but halfway through the campaign they find themselves in the top half of the table and with favourable remaining fixtures. Throughout the campaign their spinners – Max Waller and Roleof van der Merwe – have been superb, averaging 23.42, but their pace bowlers have struggled hugely, averaging 35.71. With the bat they’ve lost early wickets in all of their seven matches but have regularly been dug out of holes by their powerful middle order. In their last three 20 over matches they have recovered from scores of 59-3, 45-3 and 49-3 to post totals of 178, 190 and 229. Their post-Powerplay run rate of 10.90 is the highest in the league.
Surrey emphatically disposed of Somerset in a 10 over match on Friday but more significantly failed to defend 195 against a depleted Glamorgan on Tuesday. Surrey’s 194 was led by Nic Maddinson’s 70 and underlined Surrey’s reputation as one of the most dangerous batting teams in the league. However the ease of Glamorgan’s victory – sealed with six balls to spare despite the absence of Colin Ingram and Joe Burns and after Usman Khawaja had fallen cheaply, offers cause for concern. Surrey’s bowling attack is made up of some high quality pace bowlers – Tom Curran, Sam Curran, Jade Dernbach, Matthew Pillans and Rikki Clarke, but is short on spin high quality spinners with Gareth Batty and Scott Borthwick the two main options. On an excellent batting pitch at The Oval their lack of quality spinners is a problem and against Glamorgan it cost them with Batty and Borthwick’s costing 64 in five overs.
On Friday with Colin Ingram, Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja in their team Glamorgan failed to chase 198 against Gloucestershire; but on Tuesday without Ingram and Burns and after Khawaja fell for just 10 they somehow managed to chase 195 against Surrey. Glamorgan’s bowling strategy is predicated on a cohort of canny medium pacers—Tim van der Gugten, Michael Hogan, Graham Wagg and Craig Meschede—exerting control, but their batting strategy is less discernible. Against Surrey, as they also did in their win against Essex earlier in the season, they found a way. In the absence of Ingram and Burns they bolstered the middle order by using Meschede as a pinch-hitter: his 43 off 19 got the chase going, before 20 year-old Kieran Carlson and 35 year-old Wagg scored 63 and 46 not out respectively to take Glamorgan home with six balls to spare. Carlson and Aneurin Donald are two talented young batsmen, Khawaja, Burns and Ingram add international quality – Glamorgan are a patchwork team but a dangerous one.
A spectacular batting collapse by Hampshire, induced by some excellent bowling from Ashton Agar, helped Middlesex claim an improbable home victory on Thursday, defending 165 after Hampshire had been 89 for 1. Their joy was short-lived however because on Sunday they were thrashed away to Somerset – a result that leaves their season hanging by a thread. Although their bowling attack, missing Steve Finn, Tom Helm and Nathan Sowter to injury and Dwayne Bravo to the CPL, was severely depleted, they will have been furious to have conceded 229 after a fiery spell from Tom Barber reduced Somerset 29 for 3 in three overs. It was a target that proved too many for Middlesex’s mis-firing batting order. After their comeback win on Thursday a trio of injuries to key bowlers was a cruel blow at a critical juncture in the season.
At 89 for 1 chasing Middlesex’s 166 Hampshire were 77 runs away from their second win in three matches, and having tied the fixture in-between their season was almost up and running. A spectacular collapse, in which they lost 9 for 55 ensured that wasn’t the case and frankly they deserve nothing more. A slew of irresponsible shots from the middle order carelessly through away a position of great strength. This has been the story of Hampshire’s season with the bat. Of their star-studded top four of James Vince, Colin Munro, Sam Northeast and Rilee Rossouw, only Munro – with 200 runs at 9.75 runs per over – has shouldered any responsibility. Careless cricket from the other three players has left Hampshire’s weak middle and lower order with too much work to do. This season Vince has scored 61 runs in six innings, Rossouw 75 runs in six innings and Northeast 138 runs in six innings but at a run rate of only 7.32 runs per over. That isn’t good enough from three senior players and Hampshire’s abandoned match against Sussex on Sunday makes a top four finish for one of the pre-season favourites highly unlikely.
Essex did not play this week.
- Overall run rate is 9.01 (2017 run rate 8.61)
- Attacking shot percentage is 63% (2017 attacking shot percentage 69%)
- 31% of overs bowled by spin (2017 spin overs 32%)
- 25 of the 62 toss winners (40%) have won the match
- 42 of the 62 toss winners (67%) have elected to chase
- 25 of the 62 chasing teams (40%) have won
- 25 of the 62 matches (40%) have been won by the home team
Freddie Wilde is an analyst at CricViz. @fwildecricket