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A record-equalling run by Steven Croft and Riki Wessels' form lead ESPNcricinfo's countdown of the things that mattered in the latest round of the NatWest T20 Blast
June 23, 2014
Blast round-up: Buttler at his blasting best
5. Settled Wessels makes a noise
To say Riki Wessels has had an unconventional route into county cricket would be selling you short on a story of a dual-international father, Kolpak re-rulings, entrepreneur visas and an array of loopholes.
Okay, so maybe it sounds more clerical than one man's desperate fight to stay on the domestic treadmill, but now he has put the pen pushing days behind him and concentrated on the six hitting he has had quite a season.
After leaving Northants in 2009, he was coaxed back to England by Nottinghamshire as Chris Read's understudy behind the stumps. He has always struggled to be considered as a quality batsman in his own right because of Notts' reluctance to allocate a designated batting spot to another wicketkeeper. But over the last two years he has been turning in key performances which have developed into eye-catching ones.
After two fifties against Middlesex in the Championship, including a 48-ball 74 as Notts successfully chased down 385 at more than five an over, he scored 66 off 31 against Leicestershire and then battered Derbyshire with 95 off 51. That he could not become the first Notts player to register three figures in the format was a shame, but he didn't dwell on it. Nor did he have any complaints that team-mate Steven Mullaney starved him of the strike.
"I did think about it but, after Steven missed the first two or three balls he faced, I came down the pitch and said, 'Mate, just try to hit it for four or six. I'm not really worried about getting a hundred myself.'" Given the form Wessels is in, he will get there soon enough.
4. Northern derbies delight
The London derbies last year were a highlight of the FLt20 season, with Lord's in particular boasting a balmy evening sell-out in which Surrey and Middlesex both had to win to keep their title hopes alive. Alas, Surrey's ruthlessness and Middlesex's dour form this term means the return fixture next month will be a bit of a damp squib, and that's without mentioning the one-sided nature of their encounter at The Oval. The waters were then muddied when Middlesex were made to call south London home, winning their first game of the season against Sussex in their rivals' backyard.
But further north, the bitterness is still as strong. Alex Hales was one of a few Notts players who stoked the flames ahead of their away trip to Derbyshire. A victory there was backed up by another win at home last week, which saw Trent Bridge host a crowd of 9,383. Meanwhile, the Roses derby a few weeks ago pulled in a capacity 16,000 and Headingley boasts a sell-out for Friday's return visit of Lancashire. Not bad considering how many empty seats there were during the Test.
Player focus: Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire)
3. Croft meets Nixon
Lancashire allrounder Steven Croft equalled Paul Nixon's record of 95 consecutive Twenty20 games when he lined up at Old Trafford to play defending champions Northants. A hard-hitting batsman who dabbles in some right-arm spin, he is an exceptional fielder to boot and was included in England's provisional 30-man squad for the 2012 World Twenty20. While international honours may be beyond the 29-year-old, he has continually proved his worth for Lancashire; an ever-present in the T20 side since his debut in 2006 against Derbyshire - who will also provide the opposition if he extends the run to 100. He is set to break Nixon's record against Yorkshire on Friday. No doubt the Western Terrace will acknowledge the milestone accordingly. Perhaps they'll bake a cake?
2. Tredwell keeps his enemies closer
Having signed for Sussex on Championship-only loan, after losing his place in Kent's four-day side to fellow offspinner Adam Riley, James Tredwell had the unique experience of going from friend to foe in the space of 24 hours. He turned out for Sussex against Yorkshire at Arundel in a four-day game, taking three wickets and scoring 45 in his only innings, then returned to the Kent XI to take 2 for 20 in the T20 against Sussex at Canterbury.
Tredwell described the scenario as "a marriage of convenience" while acknowledging he would be subject to "a bit of banter". Characteristically he has taken the move, and everything in between, with good grace.
1. Essex's Jekyll and Hyde form
Grim returns in the Championship - partly due to injury, partly due to player indifference - have created a degree of unrest among Essex supporters, if Twitter is to be believed (it is, by the way). But after succumbing to a 470-run pasting against Hampshire, Essex returned to Chelmsford-under-lights and produced a gutsy effort with the bat to chase down Middlesex's 153 with two balls to spare. Speaking after their humbling at the Ageas Bowl, Ravi Bopara felt the schedule was a factor not considered by those outside the team: "T20 takes a lot out of you as well, you know." Still, it only seems to be affecting their long-haul form as they sit pretty at the top of the South Division, with six hearty wins.
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