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Resting your captain for the opening game
The most impressive display of Thursday night was Derbyshire’s successful chase against Lancashire. Knowing the result was likely to be determined by Duckworth-Lewis, Derybshire approached their innings accordingly. Four players contributed at least 16, maintaining a tempo that meant Derbyshire finished 17 runs ahead of the D/L par when the rain came.
Lancashire needed Glen Chapple’s bowling canniness, but had opted to rest him. While there are harder-looking games than Derbyshire in the North Group, it would have made much more sense to wait until Ajmal Shazhad’s imminent return before resting Chapple.
A season for spin – again
An unfortunate effect of the weather has been to make keeping pace off the ball an imperative for sides in T20. The Surrey model – 27 of their 36 overs bowled so far have been spin – may prove increasingly popular. The flip side to spin’s success was apparent in Derbyshire’s win over Lancashire. Finding conditions less than ideal for reverse swing, Naved-ul-Hasan’s four overs went for 56 on his Derbyshire debut.
But it was Sajid Mahmood who endured an even more miserable evening. As his 15 deliveries went for 42 – including 17 from three legitimate balls in his final over - it was hard to believe this was a man Duncan Fletcher really believed could thrive in international limited-overs cricket.
For Mahmood, marginalised somewhat since Shazhad’s arrival, further T20 appearances in this campaign are now far from guaranteed. Out of contract at the end of the season, he has also hinted that he is prepared to move on. “I’m 30 and I want to play cricket, that is my main goal. I don’t want to be carrying the drinks,” Mahmood said.
Ireland’s T20 specialists
One of the by-products of Ireland being denied Test cricket is, out of necessity, their players’ focus moves towards the shortest form of the game. Owing to their ten games in the World Twenty20 qualifiers this year, they will comfortably play more international T20 than any of the full members this year. So it’s hardly a surprise their players are getting pretty good at it.
Of the increasing Ireland contingent in county cricket, Gary Wilson is among the least heralded. For Surrey, he has made only nine runs in Championship or CB40 cricket so far this season. But he’s much more experienced in T20 – having averaged 39 and played a pivotal role in Ireland’s World T20 qualifying victory in March – and has already shown his worth for Surrey, with 33 and 54 not out in his first two games.
Kevin O’Brien is another example that, while Ireland are denied Test cricket, their players will inevitably specialise in the shorter formats. John Mooney, whose nerveless, unbeaten 30-ball 33 sealed victory over England in the World Cup, had a trial with Sussex this year and would be an asset to most county sides in T20.
Trending: Overseas grumblings
Even after just three days of the tournament, a few murmurs about overseas players have begun. For overseas players, especially on short-term contracts, first impressions are critical, or they risk going the way of Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who struggled at Essex and complained about the experience via Twitter last season, leading to his early release.
While some – notably Somerset’s South Africans – have already performed amidst the showers, others have found expectations more difficult to meet. The most egregious example has been Derbyshire’s Rana Naved, unable to locate any control with the ball yesterday, although his 19 not out was later important in ensuring victory. Dirk Nannes, trusted with only four overs in Surrey’s two games, looks less impressive than last season; on days such as Essex’s opening game, James Franklin could easily be mistaken for just another bits-and-pieces player.
Player of the day: Gareth Batty (Surrey)
Much more of this and people will be talking about Gareth Batty playing in the World T20. After taking 3 for 20 against Essex in Surrey’s first game, he took 4 for 13 against Middlesex, claiming three wickets in his first eight balls to decimate another promising run chase. Batty may lack a doosra, but his subtle variations and sheer combativeness make him a formidable T20 offspinner.
North Division: Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire, Trent Bridge, 17:00 Midlands Division: Warwickshire v Worcestershire, Edgbaston, 17:10 North Division: Leicestershire v Lancashire, Grace Road, 17:30 North Division: Yorkshire v Durham, Headingley Carnegie, 17:40
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