In a week when only two of the nine matches in the Bob Willis Trophy produced a result for one side or the other – thanks to time lost due to rain or bad light – I feel at least one slot of the team of the week should be reserved for the ground staff up and down the country, who spent the last four days hauling covers on and off numerous times a day, and cleaning up rain water from the outfield while staying dry themselves. The fact that there was so much cricket played over the four days is testament to them and we should be thankful for their skill and expertise.
This week sees three players who have been previously selected in the Deep Extra Cover Team of the week selected for week three, with Ben Slater, Simon Harmer and Jamie Overton all showing impressive and consistent form for their counties.
- Ben Slater – Nottinghamshire: 142 + DNB
A second selection for Slater. This time it’s for his permanent employer, having been on loan at Leicestershire in week one when he was selected after having scored 172 against Lancashire. This week also saw him score a big century against Lancashire, and show Nottinghamshire what they have been missing whilst he was out on loan.
In an era of flamboyant dashing openers, Slater does not fit that mould. Instead, he accumulates and allows others around him to score at a higher tempo whilst anchoring the innings – although rumours of him singing “Can I play you every week” to the Lancashire team are yet to be discredited.
- Ben Duckett – Nottinghamshire: 116 + DNB
Yes I know Duckett doesn’t open for Nottinghamshire, but he has done it in the past for England, and if it’s good enough for them, its good enough for me. His 116 came off just 156 balls at a strike rate of 74.36, giving the innings impetus and pushing them towards their imposing total of 472 in under 120 overs.
In a partnership of 178 with Slater, Duckett was responsible for over 65% of the runs and was the perfect player to bat alongside Slater. His hundred was full of shots and, in tricky conditions, he proved too good for Lancashire’s attack.
- Tom Fell – Worcestershire: 10 + 110*
Worcestershire won their second game of the competition and owe Tom Fell a great debt for that. His second innings unbeaten century set a defendable total quickly enough to allow a declaration, and then enough time to bowl Northants again and secure victory. Even more impressive is that there was only one other score of over 45 in the whole game, scored in the first innings by his team mate Riki Wessells. Fell showed great maturity and game awareness to push his side towards a victory.
- Dawid Malan – Yorkshire: 219 + DNB
Anyone who scores a double century in a match is going to push for selection in a team of the week. To score one in the conditions in Leeds this week, amongst the rain and murk, against an attack that has secured two victories so far, and do so with the style and stroke play that Malan did against Derbyshire was doubly impressive. The next highest score in the match was 78 – that shows the difference in performance between Malan and the others this week, and it shows why he has been selected back into the England T20 squad.
- Robbie White – Middlesex: 99 + DNB
The exhilaration of getting your highest first class score, tempered with falling one short of a first ever professional century must be bitter sweet, but White batted superbly in Middlesex’s first innings. At one point when he was at the crease, he found the score at 68-4. He took charge and guided Middlesex to a competitive first innings score, putting together a partnership of 93 with John Simpson, with his partner contributing just 10.
Without him Middlesex would surely have crumbled and succumbed to defeat. There will be other opportunities for White, and I hope he doesn’t have to wait long for that first century.
- Steven Davies (WK) – Somerset: 123* + DNB and 6 dismissals
Davies has always been a very impressive player – good enough to play as a batsman in his own right – but he is also an excellent keeper and should probably have played more for England than he did. His unbeaten 123 this week pushed Somerset to within touching distance of victory, only to be robbed by the weather at the very last minute. His partnership of 180 with Jamie Overton took Somerset from 226 to 406 in 29 overs and changed the game, allowing Somerset to set a total so they would only have to bat the once.
Or would have, had the rain not come.
- Jamie Overton – Somerset: 120 + DNB
When you select Jamie Overton for a team of the week, it’s normally due to him taking a bag full of wickets. In this match, however, he only took 2 in the second innings – one the crucial wicket of Alex Thomson who was putting up stubborn resistance, although the rain put up more resistance.
Overton is selected today, though, for his outstanding century. He scored 120 off just 92 balls and, alongside Steven Davies, propelled their side to a position of strength. Of their partnership of 180, Overton contributed 67% of the runs and in such quick time, it nearly gave Somerset enough time for a victory.
- Simon Harmer (C) – Essex: 3-40 + 5-54, 17 + 0
Death, taxes and Simon Harmer taking wickets – it would be boring if he wasn’t so bloody good to watch. His control, flight and guile are captivating to watch, unless of course you are stood 22 yards away. Harmer has been unstoppable for Essex, and will continue to be so, for as long as they want him. No spinner has taken more wickets in the county game over the last four years, and Harmer deserves every accolade he receives. He also has an astute cricketing brain and, whilst he is no longer captain of his side, he has been a successful captain before and I am happy to bring him out of captaincy retirement for my side this week.
- Ian Holland – Hampshire – 6-60 + 1-17, 6 + DNB
The first American to appear in the Deep Extra Cover team of the week, Ian Holland has played all three matches for Hampshire this season. But this game proved to be his most devastating, taking 6-60 in the first innings, including three internationals in Mark Stoneman, Scott Borthwick and Jason Roy. There was just a sole wicket in the second innings, but that didn’t stop his side triumphing over Surrey.
Holland is also unique in that he won an Australian reality TV show entitled “Cricket Superstar”. The prize was a rookie contract with Victoria and, from there, he has found his way to Hampshire and how glad they are he has.
- Jamie Porter – Essex – 5-60 + 3-28, 1* + DNB
When you’re playing Essex if Harmer doesn’t get you, Jamie Porter probably will. In this game, between them they were responsible for 16 of the 20 wickets taken by the men from Chelmsford. Porter bowls with pace and gets seam movement, he is the perfect foil for Harmer and Harmer is the perfect foil for Porter.
Essex have forgotten how to lose and with Porter in their ranks it is easy to see why. He can take wickets and quickly win games from nowhere. This game was no different, taking wickets at the top of the order to put Sussex on the back foot and then at the end to wrap up innings too.
- George Garton – Sussex – 5-26 + 4-50, 18 + 1
George Garton is certainly one to watch at Sussex. One off their production line of quick bowlers, his nine wickets in this match coming at an average of under 8 and a half. He almost bowled Sussex to victory, too, but just ran out of runs to defend.
Garton is quick and no one likes facing real pace; he is a left armer, and that is an angle that creates difficulties for batsmen. Garton has a lot going for him and is on England’s radar. This match will have done his chances no harm., especially when his victims included Alastair Cook and Dan Lawrence, twice, and Ryan ten Doeschate.
Three teams won this week – not two. Worcestershire, Essex and Hampshire.