July 7, 2012

Friends Life t20, Saturday July 7 2012

Jon Culley
Matt Prior blasted 81 off 37 balls, Hampshire v Sussex, FLt20 South Group, West End
Matt Prior continued his excellent form in Flt20 for Sussex  © Getty Images
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Gould heightens T20 debate

Richard Gould, Surrey's chief executive, has heightened the debate about the future of England's T20 competition, calling for matches to be spread over the whole of the summer. Read his views here

The magnificent seven -- how the drama unfolded

As the nation reeled from yet another meteorological kick in the bread basket, leaving most cricket fans with little to do beyond pondering the effect of one point each on the quarterfinal equations, you might have thought that even Twenty20, that peerless purveyor of manufactured excitement, had met its match.

You'd be wrong. As you stared out at the rain bouncing off the tarmac, reluctantly conceding that there was more chance of Bob Diamond getting a knighthood than there was of seeing a ball bowled, a day of drama was unfolding in which Derbyshire claimed the first significant achievement -- and which ended with a new entry in the record books.

Thanks to the sterling efforts of East Midlands-based umpire David Millns, who had paused only to make sure the soft top on his Merc was properly battened down before rushing down the A52 to the County Ground, the abandonment of Derbyshire's match against Nottinghamshire was announced on the county's official website at 10.21am -- some eight hours and 39 minutes ahead of the scheduled start time.

If this was not the earliest call-off in the history of the competition, it has to be close to it.

But that wasn't the end of the excitement. On no. It takes more than a biblical deluge to dampen competitive spirits. Now the race was on to be second, with the waterlogged Midlands trio of Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Leicestershire all in with a shout.

The smart money was on Worcestershire, for obvious reasons, but it was at Grace Road where the no-play verdict was delivered next, the clash with Durham knocked on the head by 12.30pm, five hours before the start time.

Supporters bound for New Road and Edgbaston were told not to bother at around 1.45pm. Lancashire, in need of points and revenue, kept their fingers crossed for the Roses match at Old Trafford for as long as optimism would allow but a torrential downpour in Manchester turned a 4.30pm inspection into a formality and when umpires Neil Bainton and Mark Benson gave up the ghost on Glamorgan against Somerset at 7pm -- an hour after they were supposed to have begun -- the score had increased to six games off.

This was equal to the previous record for the most 'no results' in a single day, set on June 17 last year, and given that all six this time were total washouts -- two more than last year -- it could be argued already that this was the most rain-affected day in English t20's 10-year history.

Yet there were still three games in the South Group with potential to add to the tally. All three got under way -- but then a cloudburst over Hampshire stopped Sussex in their tracks 17.4 overs into their innings at West End and it was not long before Jeremy Lloyds and Peter Willey decided enough was enough, bringing up a magnificent seven and no doubt sparking wild celebrations, with glasses raised again to the wonderful English summer. What a day!

State of play

As a consequence of the rash of 'no results', the qualifiers from FLt20's North Group are confirmed as Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, with the White Rose favourites for a home quarter-final to aid their prospects of reaching finals day for the first time.

With one round of group matches left -- tomorrow, weather permitting -- the picture elsewhere is less clear. Hampshire's 12 points are enough to take them into the last eight along with South Group winners Sussex, at least as one of the two third-placed teams with the best records, even if they lose their final match at home to Essex, whose victory over Kent at Canterbury keeps them in with a chance.

But the Midlands/Wales/West Group remains wide open, with Worcestershire and Somerset -- due to face each other at New Road -- currently in a three-way tie with Warwickshire on 11 points, a point ahead of Gloucestershire. All four could finish with 12 points with final placings determined by run rate, which would be bad luck on whoever finishes fourth.

Smith back in the spotlight

Left-arm spinner Tom Smith was dubbed the invisible man after he was picked for Middlesex's final home South Group match against Hampshire last month but was not required to bowl a single ball.

The 24-year-old has been Middlesex's leading wicket-taker in the short format over the last three seasons, claiming 38 victims, including impressive figures of 5-24 against Kent at Lord's in 2010. His contribution this season has been rather less spectacular -- he had taken only four wickets before the Hampshire match -- but to be selected and then not used seemed odd nonetheless.

He may feel he has made a point in the last two matches, then. Given the chance to bowl against Essex in Chelmsford on Thursday, he finished with 3 for 24 from four overs. It was not enough to win the match as Middlesex's elimination was confirmed but, in front of a 15,000 crowd at The Oval last night, Smith was the man of the moment with bat in hand the game produced one of the season's rare dramatic finishes.

Coming in at No 11 after Middlesex, chasing 155 to beat their arch rivals, had lost their eighth and ninth wickets in the first three balls of the final over with three still to get, Smith was unfazed by the prospect of facing the fearsome Dirk Nannes and smacked the only ball he faced to the long-on boundary, giving his side a one-wicket win with one delivery to spare.

Trending: Reece Topley

After making such a startling impact on his debut season, when he took 14 wickets in his first three Championship matches while still studying for his A-levels, beanpole Essex fast bowler Reece Topley has needed patience as an ally after failing so far to add to his nine first-class appearances.

Perhaps he will not have to wait much longer. Selected for a one-day match against the touring Australians last month, the 6ft 7ins left-armer took 4-46, following that with 3-19 as Essex kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the FLt20 and ended Kent's, in the process consolidating his position as the leading Essex wicket-taker in the competition in 2012 with 14 scalps.

Player of the day: Matt Prior

...by some distance, the England Test wicket-keeper raising more questions over why he is not in England's t20 side by smiting 81 off just 37 deliveries for Sussex before the heavens opened in Hampshire. The runs came at a strike rate of 218.91 as Sussex threatened to post the highest total of the season, following on from his 46 off 20 balls (SR 230.00) against Kent last week, giving him 187 runs in four innings at 217.44.

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Posted by IanS on (July 7, 2012, 21:50 GMT)

Reece Topley's omission from the Essex' CC matches is (according ECCC) down to ECB deciding when he can play. He is young with a vulnerable body but playing one dayers and 2nd XI cricket seems an odd way of developing his undoubted talent

Posted by Graem on (July 7, 2012, 19:15 GMT)

Is there a better top 3 in the FL T20 than Nash, Wright and Prior?

These last few weeks have done no harm to Wright and Prior's prospects of getting into England's T20 squad while Kieswetter has had no chance to impress with the bat.

Despite being the man in possession of the gloves, Prior has been thwarted on all three previous T20 WC occassions from playing a part; In South Africa he got injured and was replaced by Solanki, in England he was replaced at the eleventh hour by Foster and in the Windies was replaced at the eleventh hour by Kieswetter. Perhaps the selectors should make another eleventh hour decision and draft Prior.

Posted by Jon Culley on (July 7, 2012, 13:17 GMT)

That's good to know. All positive feedback greatly appreciated. The daily Championship blogs start again next week, of course.

Posted by JG on (July 7, 2012, 11:52 GMT)

Thanks, don't want to curse Yorkshire's prospects! I've enjoyed these daily blogs incidentally, a good addition.

Posted by Jon Culley on (July 7, 2012, 11:41 GMT)

Noted and amended, JG. Thanks.

Posted by JG on (July 7, 2012, 11:19 GMT)

I'm not sure Yorkshire are guaranteed a home quarter-final; if they lose to Derbyshire on Sunday and Notts beat Leics then Yorks will finish second in the North group on net run-rate, and if Hampshire win they will also go level on points with Yorkshire and could take the best 2nd place spot if they improve their run-rate sufficiently.

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