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

Play 02:25
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