Imran Tahir's bout of motorway madness

Our snippets from the Vitality Blast include England's white-ball fixation, Gareth Batty's latest sledge and the Jofra Archer hype train

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Imran Tahir was driven to distraction by England's motorways  •  Getty Images

Imran Tahir was driven to distraction by England's motorways  •  Getty Images

We've all been there. You check Google Maps to see how long the journey will take. You set off half an hour before you need to, just to be sure. Twenty minutes in, you hit traffic for the first time. "Just as well I set off early," you think to yourself, smugly. An hour later, not much progress. More fool you for trusting the British motorway system on a Friday afternoon. There's a sinking feeling in your gut. Three hours in, barely halfway there, you make that dreaded call: "I'm not going to make it."
For Durham's coach Jon Lewis, the call could hardly have come from a worse man or at a worse time. Imran Tahir had been the key to Durham's unlikely success in this year's competition with 15 wickets and an economy rate of 6.34, and going into his final game, a top-of-the-table clash at Worcester, they needed him to perform.
But disaster struck. "Imran made a bit of a miscalculation," Lewis told The Northern Echo. "He didn't take into account the traffic on the M1." Tahir missed the game, stuck on the motorway, and Durham's seam-heavy attack fell to a final-over defeat.
Fans were bemused as to why Tahir didn't travel to the Midlands on the team coach, but his flight out for the Caribbean Premier League was straight after the game, so he had to travel down with all his luggage in tow. After slipping from the summit of the North Group, Durham can only hope that their campaign gets back on the move sooner than their veteran leggie did.


Ed Smith's decision to pick Jos Buttler for England's Test team on the back of his IPL performances earlier this summer was unprecedented, and Adil Rashid's much-discussed selection for the India series provided further evidence that white-ball success is now regarded as a valid route into the Test set-up.
Perhaps Mark Butcher had that in mind when talking up Moeen Ali's Test credentials as he hit another enormous six at Trent Bridge on Saturday night. "What better way to show that you're in prime form and ready to go on the international stage than to play shots like that?", Butcher asked on TV commentary, momentarily suppressing the fact that smearing Billy Root (nine career wickets) into the stands and facing R Ashwin (922 career wickets) on a Lord's turner require slightly different skill sets.
It seems that this is not only an English phenomenon, however. Recently-departed Australia coach Darren Lehmann has advocated the selection of Aaron Finch - the Blast's leading run-getter, with 478 runs in seven innings - for the upcoming series against Pakistan in the UAE. He told the Geelong Advertiser: "He can play Test cricket, there's no doubt about that. He's confident in the way he plays spin bowling, he can take an attack on, and leading into this Pakistan series he's a really good chance to be selected for that one."
Several of the Blast's stars will hope the trend holds true ahead of England's winter tours - Worcestershire's Joe Clarke, and the Lancashire pair Liam Livingstone (although currently injured)and Matty Parkinson have all impressed and are on the selectors' radars - although with six rounds of County Championship fixtures still to play, red-ball performances will surely have a chance to redress the balance.


Jofra Archer's reputation came on leaps and bounds over the course of the winter. After impressing for Sussex in all formats last summer, Archer was a star with the bat, with the ball, and in the field in the Bangladesh Premier League and the Big Bash. His performances for Hobart in the latter tournament earned him a $1m IPL deal with Rajasthan Royals, for whom he took 15 wickets.
But the Blast has become a graveyard for bowlers, and even as part of Sussex's galactico attack, Archer had underwhelmed going into Thursday night's game at Lord's: he had taken seven wickets in five games with an economy rate above nine. Against Surrey, he had dropped Aaron Finch on 1 off his own bowling; Finch went on to make an unbeaten 131*. "The Jofra Archer hype train has derailed," one punter claimed on Twitter.
That suggestion proved to be premature. Tasked with defending 16 runs in the final over, Archer's searing yorkers accounted for England's white-ball captain Eoin Morgan, John Simpson and James Fuller in his first-ever hat-trick, and only three runs were added. Archer had clearly seen the criticism on social media - hours after the game, he sought out the unfortunate doubter. "Good thing", he replied.


Few parts of the game divide opinion as much as the send-off. For some, they represent all that is wrong with modern cricket: heavily influenced by football, boorish, and unsavoury. For others, they add a sense of hostility and animosity that provides an otherwise-forgettable T20 with a memorable narrative. But those on both sides of the debate can agree on one thing at least: when it comes to the send-off, Gareth Batty is the undisputed king.
While his altercation with Peter Trego in 2013 - which saw him miss T20 Finals Day - is the best-known of Batty's wicket celebrations, supporters at the Oval have seen wild, wide-eyed outbursts of joy for years. Last Tuesday was no different: after Craig Meschede, Glamorgan's pinch-hitter, sliced Batty's fourth ball to short third man, he wagged his finger towards him shouting: "One trick pony, one trick pony!"
Great theatre, yes, but there was one major problem with Batty's horseplay. Meschede had hit the first three balls of the over for three huge sixes down the ground on his way to a momentum-changing 43 off 19. As tricks go, there are plenty worse to have.


The Ed Pollock show has ground to a halt. After a record-breaking start to the tournament, the Blast's latest star has seen his form fall away in dramatic style, recording scores of 0, 9, 22, 10, 2 and 1 in his past six knocks for the struggling Birmingham Bears.
But fear not: the tournament has a new young, in-form, blond, left-handed, unheralded and mild-mannered opener to celebrate. Step forward, Miles Hammond.
A 22-year-old architecture student at Central St Martins in London, Hammond is listed on Gloucestershire's website as an 'off-spin bowler', and had not had a run of first-team games until this season. In the Blast, he has been something of a revelation: with licence to free his arms from the get-go, he has scored his 208 runs at a strike-rate of 163.77, and maiden his first T20 fifty in Sunday's win at Kent.
Hammond's game is all about boundaries. 44.88% of the balls he faces are dots (the highest in the tournament out of those win 150+ runs) but his average scoring shot is worth 2.97 runs (again the highest within the same parameters).
It isn't always pretty - in his televised 35 against Sussex he was described as "batting with a Toblerone", so random was the angle at which the ball came off his bat - but it is certainly effective.