Quarter final places are still up for grabs as the league phase of the Royal London Cup concludes on Tuesday.
In Group A, Leicestershire played Nottinghamshire on Saturday in a one-sided affair, as Nottinghamshire posted 255/9, thanks to 99 from Haseeb Hameed and 58 from Matthew Montgomery. This was the 22-year-old’s third half century in this year’s competition. Chris Wright took 6/35 to help keep the score in check, with Leicestershire’s attack depleted following the loss of Beuran Hendricks to the Southern Braves squad.
When Leicestershire came to bat, Brett Hutton made history as the first Nottinghamshire bowler to take seven wickets in a one-day match. He removed the top four Leicestershire batters for just 12 runs and despite 79 from Wiaan Mulder, the innings never recovered and ended on 154 in the 30th over. The result took Nottinghamshire to within touching distance of third place, although a win from their last game against Durham would still guarantee Leicestershire a top three spot.
Gloucestershire have moved into third place following a five wicket win over Middlesex at Radlett. While the likelihood is that they will end outside the qualifying places, it was a strong end to their campaign against a side who had won their last five games. Choosing to bat first, Middlesex lost Steve Eskinazi in the fourth over. This was a huge scalp for Gloucestershire, with Eskinazi having scored four centuries in his last five innings. He was dismissed by the slow left arm spin of Zafar Gohar, with whom Gloucestershire had opened the bowling and Gohar went on to remove Mark Stoneman in the eighth over. Sam Robson and Pieter Malan then put on 125 for the third wicket, both being removed by Gohar who finished with 4/38. Gloucestershire kept the scoring in check by regularly taking wickets, Middlesex ending on 256/9. This was the same pitch on which Middlesex had scored 374 two days earlier, but the used surface and overhead conditions made run scoring somewhat harder. Nevertheless, Gloucestershire would have started their innings confident that the target was manageable, although this may have been blunted by the dismissal of Ben Wells in the second over, bowled by Toby Greatwood. Marcus Harris then joined Ben Charlesworth and together they put on 141 for the second wicket, before Luke Hollman had Harris caught off a miscued sweep for 57. James Bracey and Oliver Price then went cheaply, but Charlesworth took Gloucestershire most of the way home, with the help of skipper, Jack Taylor and fell just short of a century. Taylor finished on 48 not out as Gloucestershire won by five wickets, with 17 balls to spare.
Warwickshire kept themselves in with a chance of qualification with a 48 run win against Durham. Batting first, the opening pair of Dom Sibley and Rob Yates put on 98 before Yates became the first of Oliver Gibson’s three victims, dismissed for 52. This was a young Durham attack and 17-year-old Mitchell Killeen performed admirably, conceding just 42 runs from his nine overs. Sibley went on to make 113, but a clatter of wickets late on kept the Warwickshire score down to 275/6. Graham Clark, with 70, was the only significant score in the Durham reply and they were dismissed in the 46th over for 227. Oliver Hannon-Dalby took 4/39, giving him 14 wickets in the competition so far.
Meanwhile, in Group B Yorkshire maintained their challenge with a tense win against Derbyshire at Chelmsford. On a pitch that provided variable and at times excessive bounce, the bowlers always held sway. Derbyshire were put in and struggled to 109 all out in the 43rd over. Harry Cane top-scored with a meagre 19 and the wickets were shared among the Yorkshire bowlers. Normally a target of 110 in 50 overs would not be a daunting task, but the nature of the pitch created problems for the Yorkshire batters, as it had for their Derbyshire counterparts earlier in the day. The game was in the balance until Harris Sullivan scored the final run, Yorkshire getting home by one wicket in the 32nd over. Matthew Waite was the top scorer in the game with 23, while Sam Conners registered his List A best figures of 5/28. Of note, all the members of the Yorkshire side were born within the county boundaries and this win has moved them up into third spot.
Hampshire have secured at least a home quarter final with a hard fought win against Essex. Essex needed a win to remain in contention to qualify and electing to bat first got off to a fast start with 48 on the board by the end of the seventh over. However, they were also two down and the steady fall of wickets meant that their innings struggled to accelerate. At 134/7 in the 30th over it was left to Shane Snater to get Essex to a defendable score and he did this with the help of Jamal Richards, with whom he put on 96 for the seventh wicket. Snater was dismissed for 64 in the 47th over and Ben Allison hit a couple of lusty blows to take Essex to 257/8. Richards finished on 31 not out. Hampshire then progressed comfortably when it was their turn to bat, Tom Prest the main contributor with 76. When he was the fifth man out off the bowling of the impressive 17-year-old leg spinner Luc Benkenstein, the equation was a very manageable 91 from 77 balls. The Essex bowlers were able to keep up the pressure but 20-year-old Toby Albert continued his good form in this competition with a composed knock and his 60 run partnership with Felix Organ proved decisive. With Ian Holland coming in at eight, Hampshire bat very deep and it was needed, Holland seeing them home with 21 off 10 balls. Hampshire won by three wickets, with ten balls to spare.
These are the current standings:
With eight matches to be played on Tuesday, qualification from Group A is still wide open, with Sussex, Middlesex, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Nottinghamshire and Gloucestershire all able to qualify and none of them yet guaranteed a quarter-final spot. Sussex play Middlesex so one of these two will definitely go through. Leicestershire will fancy their chances against Durham, who have only won one game in the competition so far. Warwickshire play winless Somerset, but will need other results to go in their favour. Nottinghamshire have an excellent net run rate, but again will need the teams above them to falter. Gloucestershire will need Leicestershire, Warwickshire and Nottinghamshire to lose. In Group B, Hampshire and Lancashire already have a quarter-final spot and a win for Hampshire will give them a route straight through to the semi-finals. They play Yorkshire who will be fighting to hold on to third place. Lancashire play Kent, who could sneak into third place if they win and Yorkshire lose. Glamorgan could still qualify, but would need to win their game, Yorkshire to lose and for their net run rate relative to Yorkshire to improve significantly. Glamorgan are away to Worcestershire.
This competition has created plenty of excitement and fine individual performances, many of which have been from young players we are sure to hear more of in the future. 50-over cricket is a great format and hopefully we will see some more fine cricket as this competition enters its final stages.