T20 lifeline for young talent
5. Resurgence of the Lost Boys
One thing that the Big Bash League in Australia has shown is that Twenty20 can act as an extra safety net when players drop out of first-class reckoning with their respective teams. With the limited amount of cricket played Down Under, relative to here, the extra opportunities afforded by the format have allowed young-ish cricketers of latent talent to stay on the radar and stay relevant. Australia's Under-19 generation of 2005-06 have benefited from this most: players like David Warner, Aaron Finch, Moises Henriques, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Ben Cutting have all forged international careers despite failing to deliver on early promise, thanks to the medium of the short-form dash. The latest "graduate" via this pathway is Ben Dunk, who was voted the Player of the BBL in 2013-14, after scoring 395 runs at 43.88, which helped earn him an IPL gig with the Mumbai Indians.
Perhaps the first major reawakening from first-class slumber of a former Under-19 on these shores was Northants' title-winning captain last season, Alex Wakely, who led England in the 2008 World Cup. This round of the Blast saw Daniel Bell-Drummond score his first T20 fifty, building on promising form this year after a mediocre 2013 for Kent, while players such as Ben Duckett, Sam Wood and Adam Ball were all in action, as they look to build careers in all formats. T20 cricket has a replenishing power that could soon be evident among some of our lost English hopes.
4. Worcestershire riding the Rapids
It all seemed such nonsense. A rebranding more self-deprecating than sustaining. A Poochie-esque mascot, Nile the Crocodile, described as both "a friendly crocodile" who will bring "no danger to life or limb" and "a hand-drawn and bespoke creation".
Yet here were Worcestershire, bloodying the noses of pre-tournament favourites Nottinghamshire with a dose of spin and some smart hitting from Alexei Kervezee, Colin Munro and Ross Whiteley. Should they build on this win - their first of the competition - there is no reason why they cannot produce a few more upsets and sneak their way out of the North Division. They could do with another pace bowler to help out Jack Shantry but the arrival of Mitchell McClenaghan will be countered by the loss of Saeed Ajmal for six weeks as he does a stint in the Caribbean Premier League.
3. Middlesex reveal their priorities
Four defeats from four, when most of their rivals have played half as many, Middlesex sit rock bottom of the South Division. While they are no strangers to hashed batting efforts, quite how dramatically poor their start has been has led to questions about their priorities. Top of the County Championship, it's hard to argue that they are getting things wrong, but were they doomed for T20 failure from the start?
After their double-header double failure at Lord's - "Fair play to them, but I don't think any of us will be doing it in a hurry," remarked one prominent county cricketer - the intensity in Sunday's fixture at Merchant Taylors' school was more akin to a festival knockabout than a serious opportunity to turn form around in an important competition, as they were put to the sword by one of their own in Owais Shah, Hampshire's newest recruit. From here on in, their games will have the all the excitement and context of contractually obliged exhibition matches.
2. The big guns are coming
After fairly dismal IPL campaigns, Kevin Pietersen and Aaron Finch are on their way over to see what all this Blast nonsense is about. We can't promise you the weather, the same sort of cash, the frenetic finishes or the questionable cheerleaders. But feel free to take your time, make yourselves at home - keep your shoes on if you like - and unleash hell.
1. Old world and new
That umpires in the T20 Blast make a note of delaying for a moment after the countdown to the start of the innings has finished, before waving the game on with a shrug and then a good, old fashioned "Play", is perhaps the most English thing since Hugh Grant first queued.