July 1, 2012

Friends Life t20: Sunday, July 1

Crying out for KP The miserable spectacle of Surrey’s batting collapse against Hampshire – 9 for 4 in the third over and 42 for 6 in the 12th – was proof that their side had a bizarre imbalance

Crying out for KP The miserable spectacle of Surrey’s batting collapse against Hampshire – 9 for 4 in the third over and 42 for 6 in the 12th – was proof that their side had a bizarre imbalance. It consisted of only four specialist batsmen, three spinning allrounders and four specialist bowlers, including Murali Kartik’s left-arm spin. At least another batsman should have been selected, with any of Mark Ramprakash, Zander de Bruyn or Rory Burns each having cases.

But Surrey’s seven-wicket thrashing came, at least, with one consolation. When they play the same opponents at The Oval tomorrow, they will do so with Kevin Pietersen in the side. He will presumably bat at No. 3, the spot ignominiously occupied by Murali Kartik in the last two games: he has recorded consecutive ducks, though considering his T20 career batting average is less than 15 that should hardly be a surprise. Pietersen should be available for all five of Surrey’s games next week, of which they need to win four to have a realistic chance of qualification, and will have the chance to take some focus away from England’s ODI series with Australia. It should be fun.

Northants win – at last There is little doubt Northants are the worst English Twenty20 side. In their last two seasons, they have lost 17 matches in the format, winnings just three. But they did manage a victory yesterday. And you will find few easier ones in T20 than Northants’ nine-wicket win with almost seven overs to spare against Glamorgan.

Rather ironically, it came without a batting contribution from Cameron White whose outstanding return – 224 runs at 74.66 – has proved a reminder of why his hitting power once earned him the Australia T20 captaincy. He has only two more games for Northants to impress to the selectors the reasons why he should be included in Australia’s World T20 squad.

Trending: Hampshire Hampshire recorded their fourth consecutive victory yesterday, with Glen Maxwell contributing yet again. His power and relish for the midwicket boundary, aided by clever offspin, means Shahid Afridi has not been missed. Afridi’s planned T20 stint with Hampshire, scuppered by visa issues, has now officially been cancelled.

Not that Hampshire will mind too much. They are an increasingly confident T20 side and with four consecutive wins have much – even forgetting Maxwell briefly – to cheer heading into the final week. Theirs is a supremely balanced batting order, with three left- and three right-handers in the top six. Yesterday they even allowed Maxwell to come in ahead of Sean Ervine (who hit an unbeaten 75 two games previously) to ensure they continued to have a left and right-hander batting together. At the top of the order, James Vince provides an aesthetic combination of power and orthodoxy, while Simon Katich’s Test-match adhesiveness is replaced by effective innovation in T20.

With the ball, Dimitri Mascarenhas has been outstanding, going for less than six an over so far, aided by Michael Bates’ dexterity standing up. All they need now is for Danny Briggs, yet to claim a T20 wicket this season, to regain form.

Yesterday's star man: Con de Lange Few people were enthused by Northants’ winter signing of Con de Lange – a 31-year-old South African on a Kolpak. With a first-class bowling average only just south of 40, his left-arm spin seemed more serviceable than match winning. This has been true so far in the Championship, in which de Lange has taken only two wickets, but in limited overs cricket his nous has shown through.

Yesterday, cannily exploiting a slow pitch, de Lange claimed 3 for 15, including both Glamorgan’s main scalps. His flight succeeded in tempting Shaun Marsh into hitting to long-on and Martin van Jaarsveld to deep mid-wicket; it was enough to restrict Glamorgan to a meagre 110 and set up Northants’ belated first T20 victory of the season.

Clash of the day: Somerset v Worcestershire Somerset appeared to be cruising towards winning their group before an ignominious nine-wicket defeat to Gloucestershire on Friday, sustained despite having all their stars (bar Marcus Trescothick) available. Today’s game against Worcestershire has thereby acquired new importance, especially as Worcestershire, with three wins and an abandonment from five games, also look likely to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Taunton’s flat track and short boundaries may particularly excite Phil Hughes. Discarded by Australia, his idiosyncratic batting technique, with its emphasis on powerful square play, has underpinned Worcestershire’s charge: he has three fifties and 228 runs in four innings for only twice out, more than twice the total of their next highest run-scorer. It is tempting to distil this game down to Hughes v Richard Levi, Somerset’s belligerent South African hitter, but that would be a mistake. Worcestershire may lack star quality, Hughes aside, but they are a supremely canny T20 side, with Gareth Andrew and Jack Shantry both providing medium-pace parsimony, and few can match their fielding prowess.

No one needs reminding of Somerset’s T20 talents. But if they are to win the group and so earn a home quarter-final, it is time acting skipper Alfonso Thomas reaffirmed his considerable T20 qualities. An economy rate of 9.22 so far reflects that his yorkers and slow deliveries have not been coming out with their usual skill.

Fixtures Durham v Leicestershire, Chester-le-Street, 14:30 Lancashire v Derbyshire, Old Trafford, 14:30 Somerset v Worcestershire, Taunton, 14:30

Points Table

Midlands/Wales/West Group

Teams Mat Won Lost Tied N/R Pts Net RR Somerset 8 4 2 0 2 10 +0.239 Warks 8 4 2 0 2 10 +0.174 Worcs 6 4 1 0 1 9 +1.063 Gloucs 6 2 2 0 2 6 -0.184 Glamorgan 6 1 3 0 2 4 -1.147 Northants 8 1 6 0 1 3 -0.476

North Group

Teams Mat Won Lost Tied N/R Pts Net RR Yorkshire 7 5 1 0 1 11 +0.800 Notts 6 3 0 0 3 9 +2.298 Durham 8 4 4 0 0 8 -0.284 Lancashire 7 3 3 0 1 7 +0.198 Derbyshire 8 2 5 0 1 5 -0.474 Leics 8 2 6 0 0 4 -1.050

South Group

Teams Mat Won Lost Tied N/R Pts Net RR Sussex 7 5 0 0 2 12 +1.395 Hampshire 7 4 2 0 1 9 +0.555 Essex 7 3 4 0 0 6 -0.350 Kent 7 2 4 0 1 5 -0.975 Middlesex 7 2 5 0 0 4 -0.133 Surrey 5 2 3 0 0 4 -0.146