June 14, 2012

Friends Life t20, Thursday June 14

Favourites assessed

Favourites assessed

Despite Surrey’s considerable fast-bowling resources, they again chose to pack their side with spinners against Essex at The Oval. Spin accounted for 14 of Surrey’s overs in their successful defence of 128, mirroring the strategy used in last year’s CB40 success.

While the ever-combative Gareth Batty took 3 for 20, Zafar Ansari’s control stood out, exactly a year after the left-armer made his debut in the equivalent fixture last season.

In prioritising their spin-bowling resources, however, Surrey appeared at least one frontline batsman short. From 68 for 5, only sensible batting from Gary Wilson pushed them up to a defendable total. Alongside their intelligent, varied bowling and uber-athletic fielding, Surrey need a little more common sense and a little less over-ambition in their batting. They go to Lord's tonight for a London Derby.

Third time lucky?

Martin van Jaarsveld’s winter was nothing if not bizarre. It started with him leaving Kent for Leicestershire before, citing "cricket fatigue" and cancelling his Leicestershire contract. He then signed for Glamorgan for Flt20 – but is also playing a little 40-over and, perhaps, Championship cricket too. Tonight he will make his Glamorgan debut against Northants, another county he used to play for.

Still, van Jaarsveld could just be worth the trouble. Only two months ago, he captained Titans to victory in the South African domestic T20 competition, scoring consistently in the middle-order throughout. With van Jaarsveld, 37, and possibly also Robert Croft – a mere 42 – Glamorgan will not be able to blame failure on a lack of experience.

How about a Derby Day? Casual tournament observers would not be much mistaken if they thought the organisers have already given up marketing it properly – that is, if they had ever tried. Take tonight. With Middlesex hosting Surrey and Gloucestershire – regardless of Muttiah Muralitharan’s views – hosting Somerset, it wouldn’t take that much creativity to market the games, especially if the Roses match was also scheduled tonight, as part of a "Derby Day". This could become an annual event with Sky showing back-to-back games. Perhaps, and apologies if this strains credibility, the ECB could release all England players for it.

Where are the highlights? The ECB’s development of short daily videos for all county championship matches has been one of their more impressive enterprises in the last few years. Yet their decision not to put together something similar for the Flt20, much better suited than the Championship to five-minute highlight packages, rather adds to the impression they are better promoting it with their words rather than actions.

Trending: Paul Stirling No one enters this tournament in better T20 form than Irishman Paul Stirling, who was the leading run-scorer in the World Twenty20 qualifiers in March, including a 38-ball 79 in the final against Afghanistan. Stirling’s exceptional hand-eye coordination and the power he generates from his somewhat chunky frame enables him to dominate either with orthodox drives and pulls or his trademark upper-cut over third man. Having scored a century in Middlesex’s last 40-over match, he is increasingly important for them and, providing he avoids the excessive improvisation that led to a disappointing T20 season in 2011, should entertain the Lord’s crowd.

Player of the day: Max Waller, Somerset A leg-spinner who has the chutzpah to flight the ball, Waller impressed Ian Chappell with his performance in the T20 Champions League last year. While George Dockrell’s rise is bad news for his first-class prospects, Waller’s 4 for 16 against Warwickshire showed that spin twins can prosper in T20 at Taunton.

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