June 23, 2012

Friends Life t20, Saturday June 23

Surrey’s victory, of sorts

Surrey’s victory, of sorts

Surrey may have been defeated in a pulsating game by Essex, but theirs was still a victory of sorts. After the desperate tragedy of Tom Maynard’s death they got themselves into a position at Chelmsford when they should have won, only for Essex to muster 26 runs off the last 11 balls. As Chris Adams had predicted, the routine of cricket did provide a form of comfort - this was a rare occasion when the taking part really was what counted.

Tremlett’s outstanding return

There were obviously much greater things to worry about in Surrey’s match, but Chris Tremlett’s performance, in his first senior game for five months, was heartening to those who believe he would still get into England’s first choice Test side when fully fit. Bowling with sustained menace, he claimed 3 for 19, bringing to mind his 4 for 16 last season against Hampshire that was one of the most impressive spells ever seen in this competition.

The game of the season

Ultimately nothing markets T20 quite like close finishes. And there were plenty of those yesterday – with six of the eight completed matches decided by 12 runs or fewer. The best of the lot was at Taunton, when 85 from Shaun Marsh, expertly accelerating after a cautious start, took Glamorgan to 178 and appeared to have set them up for victory. Two early wickets for James Harris and some shrewd bowling from Simon Jones left them overwhelming favourites, before the remarkable intervention of James Hildreth (see player of the day).

Rafiq’s captaincy debut

Owing to an injury to Andrew Gale, Azeem Rafiq became Yorkshire’s youngest competitive captain at the age of 21 in their game against Durham. In a pleasing sign of the times, his age was more noteworthy than him being the first man of Asian origin to skipper the White Rose county.

It represented the culmination of a stunning transformation for Rafiq, who was suspended by Yorkshire in 2010 for a Twitter tirade against the England U-19s management, who had dropped him for inappropriate behaviour. But Rafiq has long had clear leadership skills, and was a success as England U-19 captain. His attempts to be a genuine regular in all three formats are still in their infancy, albeit greatly boosted by the collapse in Adil Rashid’s form. Although his personal performance – 1 for 36 from four overs – was less than outstanding, Rafiq’s captaincy was impressive enough. Most important of all, he began with a win.

Wright gets going

The weather has not been favourable to Luke Wright’s hopes of an England recall, with two of Sussex’s first three games washed out. But a belligerent 91 against Middlesex suggested he may still have an important role to play for England’s T20 side, as he did in their 2010 World T20 victory. While he batted at No. 6 then, opening might represent his best chances of a recall – having hit a century in the Big Bash, Wright is no longer the figure of fun of the past and, aided by his athletic fielding and useful bowling, could replace Alex Hales at the top of the order in England’s side.

Trending: South African imports

South Africans are having quite an impact on this year’s T20, even with Somerset’s pair currently in Zimbabwe for a triangular tournament. Durham’s game with Yorkshire was dominated by South Africans, with David Miller and Herschelle Gibbs both hitting 70s. Miller’s 74 not out off only 35 balls was particularly impressive, marked by four legside sixes off Scott Borthwick’s legspin. With three consecutive victories, Yorkshire have the look of potential tournament winners.

Player of the Day: James Hildreth

For a man who couldn’t even get into the team, there can be few more stunning ripostes than James Hildreth’s century for Somerset against Glamorgan. The unavailability of Richard Levi, Albie Morkel, Craig Kieswetter and Kevin O’Brien – not to mention Marcus Trescothick – gave Hildreth an opportunity against Glamorgan. Coming in at 24-3 in the fifth over, chasing 179 to win, hardly seemed suited to a man of Hildreth’s classical orthodoxy, and mediocre T20 pedigree.

But Hildreth proceeded to play his finest limited overs innings yet. Using the sweep and reverse sweep skillfully against Dean Cosker, Hildreth devastatingly attacked James Harris in the 17th over, hitting five fours. He ultimately finished with 107 not out - 85 more than anyone else – in an innings that reaffirmed the sense Hildreth’s class is such that he will not have fulfilled his potential unless he enjoys a fruitful England career. A few more knocks of equal quality and, at 27, he may yet.

Fixtures Northamptonshire v Worcestershire, Northampton, 15:00 Glamorgan v Gloucestershire, Swalec Stadium, 18:00