Limited-overs cricket in England is in a revolution. The one-day side has blitzed their way through New Zealand while five uncapped players have been announced in the subsequent T20 squad.
Sam Northeast is unfortunate not to be among them. The Kent youngster once again delivered a masterclass with a match-winning 90 from 52 balls in a tricky chase against Essex at Canterbury.
In a short format where hitting out of the ball park, baseball style, seems to be the order of the day in the Blast, Northeast has provided a welcome exception this year, driving and cutting his way to 55 fours – 19 more than any other player in 2015 – topping the batting charts with a fourth fifty in eight innings to go alongside his 114 against Somerset.
Chasing 174 to end their run of two successive defeats, Northeast came in at first drop before the first over was through as Reece Topley, who was named in that England squad, impressed early on to have Denly caught for just one. The fast bowler finished with one for 25 from three overs – not a bad return as he looks to claim his place in Tuesday’s international.
That proved the only success for Essex for over 13 overs, with Daniel Bell-Drummond and Northeast using mature heads on young shoulders to build for the hosts in a 122-run partnership that completely took the game away from an Eagles side who had won their last three South Group fixtures.
Northeast began as the second fiddle to Bell-Drummond, who hit his strap from the moment Graham Napier was dispatched for two fours and a maximum over long-on, reaching his half-century from 33 balls as Kent pulled off their near-perfect chase.
Napier was to get his man, but not before the damage was done with Bell-Drummond caressing 61. Flicks and pushes can prevail in T20 cricket after all. Northeast was far from done, however, taking 14 off three balls from part-time Tom Westley, while Shaun Tait was taken for 18 runs in five balls as Northeast tied the scores.
He was unable to finish the game himself, holing out at the end of the 19th over for 90, but that fact is elementary. Northeast is making his claim in style.
Essex got off to a blistering start themselves with Westley and Jesse Ryder putting on 47 at better than ten an over for the Eagles, with Ivan Thomas, steadfast and level-headed with one for 22 on debut, gaining the vital breakthrough of Ryder trapped leg before.
Regular wickets proved a stumbling block for an Essex side who have recently rediscovered their groove, although Mark Pettini impressed once again with 56 from just 45 balls. Essex’s regain in form and Pettini’s return from injury have seemingly gone hand-in-hand for a team already full of talent and firepower. A third score of 45+ in as many innings a welcome haul for a player who himself could have been donning England colours had he maintained his form of a few years ago.
In Ravi Bopara, Pettini found a willing partner after James Tredwell continued his miserly spin to hamper the visitors in the middle overs, a role he has seemingly perfected despite the run-heavy nature of modern limited-overs cricket.
When Bopara fell victim to Darren Stevens’ military-medium, stumped by Ryan Davies playing just his third professional game, the threat of a momentum-building finale soon dispelled for Essex. Ryan ten Doeschate made just two, with Pettini himself falling to the impressive Matt Coles (2/28 from four overs), as Essex’s total fell short.