NatWest T20 Blast countdown June 30, 2014

Sun setting on Somerset?

Somerset's missing fizz and the Blast's missing England players feature in this week's countdown of the things that mattered

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Blast round-up: Roy keeps his supporters thrilled

5. Cidermen lacking fizz
One name is incongruously placed in the T20 Blast table. Somerset's defeats - the more bizarre the better - have become a Finals Day ritual. So has their consistently excellent cricket to get there. Copious batting power and, led by Alfonso Thomas, some of the canniest limited-overs bowling around: it has been quite the T20 formula.

But not, so far, in 2014. While Somerset have been resurgent in the Championship, they are miserably placed in eighth in the South Division of the Blast.

The warm applause that Jos Buttler received on his return to Taunton with Lancashire in this round of the Championship reflected more than just the regard with which he is held in by Somerset supporters. His departure has deprived Somerset of much of their batting prowess in T20.

Add in Marcus Trescothick's T20 struggles - 31 runs in five innings - and Somerset are missing the runs of two of the county game's most explosive batsmen. In eight matches, only four men - Craig Kieswetter, James Hildreth, Alviro Petersen and Peter Trego - have scored over 56 runs so far. The malaise has extended to the bowlers, too: Thomas, magnificent in the Championship this season, has gone for 9.15 runs an over.

Yet Somerset may still maintain their record of having reached the knockout stages every year from 2009, which is tied with Hampshire as the most consistent T20 streak in the county game. Though they are second bottom, they are only one win away from Sussex in fourth, reflecting the congestion beneath Essex, Hampshire and Surrey.

This week's away matches, at Hampshire and Glamorgan, will go a long way to determining their prospects of extending a formidable record. As they begin a particularly onerous schedule - 17 days of cricket in 19 - Somerset cannot afford to rue their missing Buttler.

4. England's faulty connection
As England declared the start of the new era, post-Flower, post-Pietersen, post-Ashes whitewashing, ECB chairman Giles Clarke admitted: "The team had lost connection with the supporters." Part of the plan to reconnect, it has been widely assumed, was to make England players available for more county fixtures.

Stuart Broad was seen by a full house of spectators on Saturday. But he was at Wimbledon. Few could argue with the merits of resting Broad and James Anderson with the looming Test series against India. But the rationale of withdrawing young batsmen - and Matt Prior, who has done little keeping this season - is rather harder to fathom. It all makes it harder for the Blast to resonate beyond regular county cricket fans - and isn't that meant to be the whole point?

3. How do you replace Junaid Khan?
Lancashire have never triumphed in England's T20 competition. Six wins from nine games (including Friday's Roses washout) suggests they are well equipped to change that this year.

The problem? The side that plays in the knockout stages will be weaker than the one currently lying in second in the North Division. International commitments mean that Junaid Khan won't be available. With pace that is rarely seen in county cricket, devilish yorkers and a left-arm trajectory, Khan may be the best death bowler in this season's Blast: 14 wickets at an average of 12.57 and economy rate of just 6.51 would certainly suggest so. Khan will be available for four more games but Lancashire will need any overseas replacement to play in their final group game to be eligible for the knockout rounds. "It's going to be difficult to get one, but we'll have a look," assistant coach Gary Yates has said.

Still Lancashire should be grateful that they can call on a man who took a hat-trick entirely with yorkers in his last one-day international. Yet there remains no sign of Andrew Flintoff breaking into the side, despite claims that he is becoming ever sharper. Perhaps a loan spell is what he needs to show Lancashire what they are missing. "He's still got it and would be a good signing for Glamorgan now that Darren Sammy has gone," Matthew Maynard said, after watching Flintoff play in the Tom Maynard memorial match on Friday.

2. Colly's wobbles
As he showed by taking 2 for 17 in Durham's victory over Derbyshire, Paul Collingwood remains a canny limited-overs bowler, with his abundance of cutters and nagging wicket-to-wicket style. In 23 overs this season, he has now taken nine wickets at 17.11, conceding runs at only 6.69 an over. These are figures of which an overseas bowler would be proud. In an age when few former England players are involved in the county game, his success should be celebrated.

But there is a less encouraging aspect to Collingwood's success, coming on the turgid pitches that seem standard fare this season. As Dan Christian tweeted in response to George Dobell's ESPNcricinfo article on the topic: "to the purist 110 plays 108 is great to watch but it's not great for comps with names like 'blast' or 'big bash' et al." No, it is not.

1. With friends like these...
Jason Roy thrashed 63 off only 25 balls against Hampshire on Friday: his fifth half-century in seven Blast innings this season. Hitting with power down the ground, Roy is making himself into a viable contender for the international T20 side - especially with switch-hitting worthy of a certain former England player. But he could probably do without Kevin Pietersen taking to Twitter to call for his England selection.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ESPN on June 30, 2014, 19:24 GMT

    Buttler left because Kieswetter is there and he needs a platform for international consideration.

  • Matthew on June 30, 2014, 18:03 GMT

    We have not missed Buttler one bit in Championship cricket and to be honest I could not care less if we lose every t20 games as long as we continue to keep performing well in the Championship.

  • John on June 30, 2014, 17:19 GMT

    As a Somerset supporter from way back when Ian Botham was only a boy,I have hopefully seen the good and the bad.Surely what has been seen by the current supporter's is not good enough,but alas the current staff appear to play to their limits.There appears to be many comment's about the loss of Jos Buttler to Lancashire,but it all boils down to the fact that he has to earn a living wage and if Lancashire offered him a better wage so be it.Alas the Somerset faithful have to put up with the fact that they discover an above average player and then lose him after a couple of years to a so called superior team whose wage structure is maybe better.

  • John on June 30, 2014, 15:07 GMT

    @ChewtonMendip on (June 30, 2014, 14:41 GMT) I wonder how you see it as Somerset squeezing him out? That would make it sound like he was always the 1st choice WK and Craig came in and took over. It was Jos who moved the goalposts so to speak so all Somerset did was (after trying to keep both guys happy) was stuck by the guy who was their established WK

  • Martin on June 30, 2014, 14:41 GMT

    We are indeed badly missing Jos. We need to get him back home as soon as possible. It was disastrous that we ever squeezed him out in the first place.

  • John on June 30, 2014, 14:15 GMT

    The loss of Buttler in SFs affecting the side is no huge surprise. We lose balance in the side without him as was proven when England kindly denied us his services for the YB semi last year. I have noticed that Kies and maybe Trego to a degree can get bogged down at times after making a good start and I wonder if the loss of a finisher like Jos down the order is playing on their minds and they then try to preserve their wickets (Kies especially) and then end up falling behind on the RR and end up hitting out just to get the RR back up again? Also our bowlers are struggling to keep the RR down. Alf does not carry the miserly T20 figures he did a couple of years ago and Nannes (when not taking wickets) has not been drying up the runs either. The only guy who is consistently doing this is Waller. But yes Jos is a huge loss as he is a very special SF batsman and with him in the side you feel we can set/chase big targets. Without him - well we've seen the results

  • G on June 30, 2014, 13:26 GMT

    Somerset badly missing Buttler in middle order. Usually 3 of the batsmen fired on the day, and that's enough in t20, but it's not happened this season unfortunately.

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