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Match Analysis

Afridi's star quality can't hide McManus promise

ESPNcricinfo rounds up the highlights from the latest matches in the NatWest T20 Blast

David Hopps
David Hopps
Shahid Afridi is still pulling them in  •  Getty Images

Shahid Afridi is still pulling them in  •  Getty Images

Shahid Afridi's star quality can still flare, even at 37. His four wickets were at the heart of Hampshire's triumph in Cardiff and there was more delight for the south coast side when Reece Topley (remember him?) again revived hopes that his perpetual injuries would relent with three victims of his own.
Less eye-catching, yet just as important, was the innings produced by Lewis McManus. Hampshire wicketkeepers have rarely stood out with the bat in Twenty20, but his 59 was the second highest innings for a county by a stumper.
Justification then for his selection ahead of Tom Alsop, the England Lions batsman, and indeed for Hampshire's relaxed attitude towards Adam Wheater's departure for Essex over the winter.


Alex Lees misses out on Yorkshire's delight
Yorkshire had much to celebrate after their defeat of Nottinghamshire, the Royal London Cup winners and strongly fancied for further success in the NatWest Blast. Their crowd of 10,200 was the biggest at Headingley for a T20 match outside the Roses match, and their 227 for 5 was their highest ever T20 score.
One man not soaking up the delight, though, was Alex Lees, their T20 captain last season, who was not even at the ground after being left out of the squad for the first two matches. Quite a come down for the player who when he was appointed became Yorkshire's youngest official captain since the father of Yorkshire cricket, Lord Hawke.
Lees was touted as an England Test contender not so long ago but his career has entered the backwaters, with a string of careless dismissals in the Championship and, according to some regular observers, the air of a man not loving the game. In his ghosted column in the Bradford Telegraph and Argus he referenced other interests and making the most of his short time away from the game.
Lord Hawke, who tended to be unsympathetic about such things, would tell him to pull himself together and think of England.


Tom Curran bounces back
The Royal London Cup final was an unsatisfying experience for Surrey's Curran brothers with neither making much of an impression as Nottinghamshire, led by a brilliant innings by Alex Hales (who was in mint form again at Headingley on Friday night).
It is unlikely that Tom or Sam will be suppressed for long - and Tom, who has won England T20 honours this summer, held his nerve in the final over at Chelmsford as Surrey squeezed a two-run victory against Essex. With Essex needing 10 off the final over, he dismissed both Ravi Bopara and Ashar Zaidi.
The number of delighted tweets from Surrey players celebrating the way they had silenced Fortress Chelmsford suggested they might have been getting a bit of abuse along the way.


John Wright keeps it simple as the Big Fellas topple
The most striking result of the night came at Wantage Road, home of the defending champions Northants, where the Big Fellas suffered an opening-night stumble against Derbyshire.
This might have been wholly unexpected where it not for Derbyshire's shrewd recruitment of John Wright as a specialist T20 coach. Such a policy is possible this season because the NatWest Blast is being played in a block and Derbyshire and Middlesex, who have brought another Kiwi in Dan Vettori, have been the first counties to take advantage.
Wright comes with a wealth of IPL experience - he coached Mumbai Indians to the title - and, if he makes the same impression at Derbyshire as a coach that he did as a player, the signing will be quite a coup. Affable off the field and a craggy competitor on it, he made 27 first-class hundreds for Derbyshire, the most by any overseas player to represent the county.
Derbyshire might be one of the most unfancied sides in the competition, but they made it back-to-back wins by beating Yorkshire in front of a sellout Chesterfield crowd on Saturday - with Wright's tactical influence apparent in the promotion of New Zealand seamer Matt Henry for a bit of derring-do at No. 4.
Not that Wright is about to impart all his vast knowledge at once, if his analysis to the Derbyshire Times is anything to go by. "I've looked at the figures and I see we concede a lot of runs per over and we don't score that many runs per over," he said. Nothing like starting from the basics.


Ryan Higgins designs the recovery of the night
Recovery of the night came at Cheltenham where Middlesex were looking down the barrel, with eight down and 64 needed off the last 26 deliveries. Zimbabwean-born Ryan Higgins then took a hand with four fours and six sixes to take Middlesex level with a ball remaining before Benny Howell added a final twist by salvaging a tie with a last-ball dismissal.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps