Wright's record needed no knock-up
The Wright stuff
At 5 o'clock on Friday evening, Luke Wright's mood was not the best. Like his Sussex teammates he had endured a grim journey to Chelmsford: some players did not arrived until half an hour before the schedule 5.30pm start, which was postponed by ten minutes. "No hits, no food so a few dizzy lads," Wright said.
A few hours later, Sussex would have felt no better after Essex plundered 225. Wright took it upon himself to turn their mood around. With a staggering assault that included 11 sixes, Wright powered Sussex to victory - and he even had the audacity to go a run past Graham Napier's record for an Englishman in T20. "I actually thought it was 158," Wright said. "It's a good wicket there and it's small all round. If you get going then it's hard to stop people."
It was his second consecutive T20 hundred - and meant that, despite a slow start, Wright finished as the leading run scorer in the group stages of the Blast. "I probably put too much pressure on myself early in the competition to try and stay in too long rather than playing my natural game and going a little bit harder."
His performances may raise chatter of an England recall, but Wright has had no contact with the selectors - and is not expecting any. "I don't feel like I'm chasing anything. I've had so many years when I'm either trying to stay in a squad, or get into an England squad."
London Calling - but what about everyone else?
That the Blast has been an emphatic success in the capital is beyond doubt: it did not need a sell-out at Lord's for the London derby to emphasise the point. T20 cricket in London, complete with 'Sweet Caroline' blaring out, seems to be almost immune to the performances of the capital's sides. Middlesex have kept losing, and the crowds have kept coming.
If only that were the case at every county. A notion has taken hold that T20 cricket is subject to the same North-South divide that afflicts so much of Britain today. That is not quite true: Nottinghamshire's average crowd is 9,000 this season, while Northamptonshire have also enjoyed a notable upswing in attendances.
But there is no denying that the Blast has failed to take off at several counties this year. One county chief executive believes that Lancashire and Warwickshire (in their guise as the Birmingham Bears) have not got their marketing campaigns right, and have been focusing on trying to sell out their international tickets, perhaps an inevitable by-product of the need to recoup the staging fees of hosting England matches.
Another Test ground, Durham, has also seen disappointing crowds. Chief executive David Harker admitted: "We haven't seen a great leap forward in this year."
Harker pinpoints two specific problems. This year's Blast started on May 16, a day before the FA Cup Final. Like many chief executives, he believes the whole competition should be pushed back several weeks, and that it is a shame that the group stages finish in July, when school holidays have only just begun. At the very least, any games in May should be avoided next year: Sussex reckon that their game against Surrey may have attracted another 2,000 had it been played later in the season.
Start times are another concern for Harker. For counties that don't have floodlights, Friday night games must start at 5.30pm. This is particularly problematic at Durham. A significant contingent of fans travel from Newcastle, so arriving on time necessitates leaving work earlier than most bosses would allow. "Floodlights and starting at 7.30pm could make a fundamental difference," Harker said. He is putting together a funding plan to try and get lights in place for the start of next season. Yorkshire are confident that floodlights and a 7pm start will also provide the impetus they need.
The ECB part-funds floodlights. The sooner pylons stand in all 18 counties the better.
Why Birmingham v Worcestershire is such a catch
Warwickshire's decision to change their name for the T20 Blast to the Birmingham Bears has been widely unpopular. But they will not revert to their traditional name for the quarter-finals - or, most probably, for the 2015 T20 season.
"We're pretty sure that we'll do it again next year," Warwickshire chief executive Colin Povey said. While he admits that the T20 experience at Edgbaston this season has been a "bit mixed", revenue from T20 cricket is up by over 10 percent from 2013. "We've seen an access to the inner-city population that we haven't seen before."
To some, Warwickshire's name change amounts to an awkward half step towards franchise T20 cricket in England. But 2014 has shown that county derbies - which would be lost in a franchise system - have never been more vibrant. From Taunton to Old Trafford, they have consistently provided for heaving crowds. The game between the Bears and Worcestershire at Edgbaston attracted 14,000 - over 6,000 more than Birmingham's second highest home attendance.
The Welsh Dragons roar
Ostensibly, Glamorgan are the least likely of the quarter-finalists. But they have quietly developed a formidable white-ball team in recent years, as they showed by reaching the final of last year's CB40 competition.
While Michael Hogan is a formidable death bowler, Glamorgan's strength lies in their top order batting. The contrasting pair of Jim Allenby - a right-hander with a penchant for thumping the ball over cow corner - and Jacques Rudolph - a silky left-hander who hit just one six this season - both averaged over 45. They will need to maintain their records to give Glamorgan a chance at Old Trafford.
An England spinner does something - yes, really
It has been a lamentable T20 campaign for Middlesex, who managed only two victories all season. But amid the debris, Ravi Patel stood out. A left-arm spinner who flights the ball nicely, Patel showed his big-match temperament in taking 2 for 15 against Surrey at a sell-out Lord's. He snared 18 wickets in all, yielding runs at a parsimonious 6.33 an over. "I'd like to think I'm quite an attacking spinner, I can change my pace quite a lot - especially in one-day cricket - and I think that's vital to not let the batsman settle and I just try to spin the ball," Patel said. "I like to think I give it a decent rip out of the hand and vary my pace."
It has already been enough to earn him an England Lions call-up. If England want a different option to James Tredwell in limited-overs cricket, Patel is quietly mounting a persuasive case.