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The class of Craig Kieswetter and Ravi Bopara lead ESPNcricinfo's countdown of the things that mattered in the latest round of NatWest T20 Blast matches
June 16, 2014
NatWest T20 Blast round up
5. A tale of two England wicketkeepers
If this were the IPL, Craig Kieswetter would be a run shy of wearing the orange cap given to the top scorer in the tournament. The T20 Blast eschews such wheezes, but there is no doubting Kieswetter's T20 pedigree. He is currently second in the scoring list and, since his last international appearance, he has scored 801 runs in English T20 at 57 apiece.
It was raw power that earned Kieswetter his first international caps, in Bangladesh in 2010, but his game now possesses more refinement. He has spoken about his improved ability to assess conditions and gauge a match-winning total; a 48-ball 55 in Somerset's opening game at Bristol may have appeared sedate but it was the prelude to a comfortable win.
Kieswetter is closer than many think to an England recall: he was an injury replacement in the World T20 squad in Bangladesh and will hardly have been harmed by missing the defeat to the Netherlands.
Thanks to Jos Buttler's emergence, his route into England's limited-overs sides would be as a specialist batsman opening the innings. If his Powerplay impact smiting the ball down the ground is not in doubt, there are legitimate questions over what comes next: even his 70 at Arundel on Sunday contained a 22-ball lull without a boundary. Yet to focus on this feels churlish given Kieswetter's fourth half-century of the season set-up a 34-run win. If England's interest is reawakened, they would find much more than a harum-scarum hitter.
And what of the other would-be England keeper? Having relinquished the gloves for his county five weeks ago, Steven Davies may no longer qualify for membership of the group. Forty-seven runs in four T20 innings as a specialist batsman led to Davies being dropped from Surrey's side on Friday night. He turns 28 tomorrow.
4. Notts need overseas aid
With Alex Hales, Michael Lumb, James Taylor and Samit Patel, a formidable quartet unwanted by England apart from Hales' T20 involvement, Nottinghamshire have one of the most intimidating batting line-ups around. So it is a curiosity that they have still only registered two victories this season.
One explanation lies in a lack of overseas aid: Peter Siddle is focusing exclusively on Championship cricket. What they would give for David Hussey. He averaged 35 with the bat in T20 cricket for Notts, but his 10-year association with the county ended last season.
Director of cricket Mick Newell has conceded: "His type of cricket is exactly what's missing." But Caribbean Premier League commitments render a return impossible. Unless Notts change their policy, more success from Michael Lumb and James Taylor - who average 17 between them - is urgently needed to prevent a shock exit in the first round.
Player focus: James Hildreth (Somerset)
3. We're all Boplievers now
With England's Test players available only fleetingly, attention has been on others to inject the Blast with some homegrown razzmatazz. For all the hype, Andrew Flintoff has not appeared and Kevin Pietersen has managed five runs. Into this void, step forward Ravi Bopara. His runs have always contained panache. Now this is being married to a most welcome quality: inevitability.
In the space of three nights last week, sumptuous unbeaten innings of 81 and 66 made a pair of onerous-sounding chases seem facile, and took Essex top of the South Division. Bopara now has 207 runs - 72 of them in sixes - in this year's competition, and has only been dismissed once. We are all Boplievers now.
2. The UK's worst T20 team
Memories of the formidable Sussex T20 side that reached five quarter-finals in six seasons from 2007, including winning the tournament in 2009, are fading. A pair of weekend defeats, including a ten-wicket thumping at The Oval, reinforced Sussex's status as the country's worst T20 side around. The problem is primarily with the batting: for all Ed Joyce's elegance, Sussex are over-dependent on Luke Wright for impetus to reach imposing totals. Since scoring 56 against Surrey, Wright has failed to pass 31 in his last six T20 innings.
The upshot is that no county has won fewer than Sussex's three games since the start of 2013, and they have lost all but two - the opening games of this season - of their past 15 T20s. "Focus on the league" time beckons.
1. Glamorgan's premature revenge
"Let's Get Revenge" declared Glamorgan's posters in preparation for the visit of Somerset to Wales on July 4. Nothing wrong with that: a little spice never goes amiss in county cricket. But then Glamorgan had to go and ruin it all by having the chutzpah to win at Taunton, ruining the presumption of the marketing men. They should have had a little more faith. After Friday's tie against Kent, when a superlative final over from Michael Hogan prevented the visitors scoring the three runs they required for victory, Glamorgan lie third in the South Division.
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