Quarter final places are still up for grabs as the league phase of the Royal London Cup concludes on Tuesday.
With the group stage of the competition drawing to a close, there are still plenty of permutations for the qualifying spots and the claiming of home advantage in the play-offs. With only three qualifiers from each group and net run rate (NRR) likely to be a factor, it looks like being a nervous few days for players and supporters alike.
As far as on-the-field activities are concerned, in Group A, Sussex have replaced Gloucestershire at the top, alongside Middlesex and Leicestershire. In group B, we knew about the strength of Lancashire and Hampshire, but Essex and Kent have displaced the Yorkshire youngsters.
These are the current standings:
In Group A, Sussex ended this week in the top spot having recorded three straight wins, although they have played one game more than the teams immediately below them. They opened with a dominant performance against Surrey. Cheteshwar Pujara continued his fine season with a score of 174 and along with Tom Clark (104) put on 205 for the third wicket, as Sussex reached 378/6. Surrey were never able to challenge this total and were all out for 162 in the 32nd over. Aristides Karvelas took 4/35 and with his three other wickets this week, is the top wicket-taker in the competition so far with 18. Sussex then made the long trip north to Chester-le-Street, where Durham were again on the wrong end of a close game. Electing to bat first, the Durham innings faltered and the only significant score was 69 from opener Graham Clark. 18-year-old Sussex slow left armer, James Coles took 3/51. With a target of just 229, Sussex made a steady start as Ali Orr reached 60, putting on 95 with opening partner Tom Alsop. However, the regular fall of wickets made life interesting as the South-Coast outfit wobbled during the latter stages of the chase. Pujara, as he has so often this season, held things together with an unbeaten 49 before Coles knocked off the winning runs with a drive down the ground. Sussex then moved down to Taunton for a day/night game. Put into bat, Orr scored the second double century of this year’s competition, making 206 off 161 deliveries, with 18 fours and 11 sixes. There were also half centuries from Pujara and Delray Rawlins in the final total of 397/5. Somerset’s reply was soon in trouble, with only new-recruit, Andrew Umeed with 56, providing any resistance. Somerset were dismissed for 196 inside 39 overs, Bradley Currie and Coles both taking three wickets.
Middlesex remain in the top three following two wins this week. At Taunton, Somerset’s young side fell just short of defending 335, Middlesex winning with one wicket and four balls to spare. Centuries from James Rew and Matt Renshaw were the main contributions to the Somerset total. In reply Middlesex lost two early wickets, but Sam Robson and Pieter Malan took them to 163/2 in the 26th over. When Robson was out, Max Holden provided positive impetus to the innings and when Malan departed the equation was 67 runs from 61 balls. Joe Cracknell and Luke Hollman fell quickly and it was left to Martin Andersson to provide the support needed to see Middlesex over the line. They reached the target with four balls and one wicket to spare. Back at Radlett, Middlesex took on Warwickshire and made them pay for asking them to bat first, Middlesex reaching 374/3. Steve Eskinazu posted his fourth century from six innings and Sam Robson also reached three figures. Dom Sibley made 89 in Warwickshire’s reply, but when he was the sixth batter out in the 34th over, with the score on 183, the required rate was up to 11.4 runs per over and the innings petered out. Hollman finished with 4/34 as Warwickshire were dismissed in the 46th over, still trailing by 128 runs.
Leicestershire have a record of performing well in white ball cricket and have again found a formula in this year’s One-Day Cup. They have had two wins this week, the first against previously unbeaten Warwickshire. Leicestershire chose to bat first and reached 338/8 thanks to half centuries from Louis Kimber, Wiaan Mulder and Harry Swindells. Mulder and Kimber are having a fine run with the bat, currently sitting third and fourth in the runs scored rankings in this year’s competition, with 361 and 348 respectively. In reply, all the Warwickshire batters got starts but none was able to push on, the top scorer being Michael Burgess with 38. Each of the Leicestershire bowlers took wickets, the pick being Chris Wright with 3/29, Warwickshire all out for 207 in the 40th over. Leicestershire’s next game was against Gloucestershire in Bristol and the damper weather prompted them to insert the home team. This time it was Kimber’s very occasional off-spin that proved decisive as he removed four of the top six Gloucestershire batters, restricted the total to 262/9. For Leicestershire, Kimber and Mulder scored further half centuries and skipper, Lewis Hill made 82 as Leicestershire reached the target with four wickets and four overs to spare.
Nottinghamshire bounced back from two successive defeats with a win against Durham at Grantham. Electing to bat first, Durham were bowled out in 45 overs for 226, Liam Trevaskis top-scoring with 59 not out. Liam Patterson-White took 5/45. Nottinghamshire’s chase was not a comfortable one with Trevaskis also excelling with the ball, taking the wickets of Dane Schadendorf and Haseeb Hameed. At 76/4 the Nottinghamshire batters had to regroup and careful application by Matthew Montgomery (54) and Lyndon James (35) guided them most of the way to their target. Fateh Singh hit 25 off 26 balls and Brett Hutton and Zak Chappell finished the job with two wickets and two overs to spare. This has not been a good week for Durham as they have also been docked the two points they received for their one win, because of repeated disciplinary offences. In mid-week, Nottinghamshire faced Warwickshire at Edgbaston. These are two of the stronger looking teams in the competition and both were still hoping to progress. The home team came out on top in a high scoring and highly competitive encounter. Rain has been scarce recently but has had an impact this week and reduced this contest to 34 overs-a-side. Asked to bat first, Warwickshire reached 271/6, Will Rhodes making 113 from 85 balls. Needing nearly eight runs per over, Nottinghamshire put up a gallant effort led by Hameed with 51 alongside some aggressive hitting from Ben Slater (47 off 28 balls) and Liam Patterson-White (43 off 17 balls). However they fell short by 14 runs, bowled out in the last over.
Gloucestershire have kept their qualification hopes alive with a win against Surrey. Half centuries from Ben Geddes (71), Cameron Steel (61) and Tom Lawes (50) saw Surrey to 292/9, Jack Taylor taking 3/38. Gloucestershire then reached the target with two wickets and fifteen balls to spare, thanks to scores all down the order, Taylor the only batter to reach 50.
The young sides being fielded by Surrey and Somerset met at the Oval this week. In a rain-affected game Surrey were asked to bat first and reached 302/9 from their 50 overs. Nico Reifer, Sheridon Gumbs and Tom Lawes (all under 22 years of age) each made half centuries, while 21-year-old Kasey Aldridge took 5/50. In reply, Somerset were 68/3 after 12 overs when the rain arrived and the players never got back on, giving Surrey a win by 43 runs based on Duckworth Lewis adjustments.
Hampshire have been setting the pace in Group B, although Lancashire have now edged ahead, albeit having played one more game. Both teams were fancied before the competition started, with their strong squads allowing them to weather the loss of a significant number of players to the Hundred. The two teams met at the Aegeas Bowl this week, Lancashire struggling to 183 thanks to a maiden List A five-wicket haul from South-African born John Turner. The top three Lancashire batters all recorded ducks before Steven Croft (47) and Rob Jones (84) gave the innings some respectability. However, when Jones was dismissed with the score on 159/6, the collapse continued. Jones’ dismissal was the first of three for Scott Currie in a triple wicket maiden. Hampshire then limped to the target, with Toby Albert’s 65, the only score higher than 23. Tom Bailey with 3/37 and Liam Hurt with 3/25 kept up the pressure, but Hampshire crossed the line in the 49th over with two wickets in hand. Moving from Southampton to Neath, Hampshire took on Glamorgan, who having won their first two games, have lost their next four. Hampshire were put in and some tight bowling from Dan Douthwaite and Andy Gorvin alongside a suicidal run out, reduced the visitors to 54/4 in the 15th over. Nick Gubbins remained resolute at the other end and mounted a recovery firstly with Toby Albert and then put on 72 for the sixth wicket with Ian Holland. At this point Hampshire’s innings looked to be accelerating but the Hampshire captain fell to his Glamorgan counterpart, Kiran Carlson for 93. This left Hampshire on 171/6 in the 40th over and it was left to Holland to marshal the tail, the innings ending on 228/9, Holland undefeated on 63. In reply, Glamorgan lost Chris Cooke for nought but then, after a few play and misses Tom Bevan and Colin Ingram dominated the bowling, Bevan in particular crashing the ball around the club ground. He reached his first List A century off 88 balls, with ten fours and four sixes. He was out for 134 with the win in sight and Ingram saw Glamorgan home with an unbeaten 78. Glamorgan won by seven wickets with 18.2 overs to spare.
Following Lancashire’s loss to Hampshire they too took on Glamorgan at Neath and took out their frustrations on the Welsh side, inflicting a nine wicket defeat. Asked to bat first on a greenish pitch, Glamorgan were soon in trouble. Tom Bailey had removed both openers with the score on five. Colin Ingram made 54 and put on partnerships of 55 with Kiran Carlson (22) for the third wicket and 53 with Joe Cooke (40) for the fifth, but the all seam attack continued to take advantage of the bowler-friendly conditions and Glamorgan were all out in the 46th over for 177. The Glamorgan bowlers could not extract the same assistance as their Lancashire counterparts and the visitors reached the target in the 35th over for the loss of just one wicket, Keaton Jennings finishing on 77 not out, Luke Wells making 50 and Josh Bohanon 48 not out. Lancashire took on Northamptonshire at the end of the week, in a high scoring encounter in Blackpool. Batting first, Northamptonshire amassed 370/4 thanks to an opening stand of 198 off 166 balls from Ricardo Vasconcelos (104) and Emilio Gay (131). The Lancashire batters were not daunted by the target set and carried on the belligerent batting they had demonstrated in Neath, with Wells (84) and Jennings (125) putting on an opening stand of 130 from just 96 balls. Josh Bohannon and Steven Croft gave Jennings some support, but when Jennings was the fifth batter out, Northamptonshire had wrested back control, with 104 runs still needed from 74 balls. However, Lancashire were not finished and the young keeper, George Lavelle, with an unbeaten 61, saw them home with the support of George Balderson and Danny Lamb, in a record one-day run chase for the red rose county.
Essex and Yorkshire both remain in contention for a top three spot and they met in Chelmsford at the beginning of the week in a rain-affected game. Choosing to bat first, Essex were dismissed in the 47th over for 240. Grant Roelofsen has scored 326 runs so far in this competition at 65.2 and top scored with 90. Matthew Wait was the pick of the bowlers with 3/23. In reply, Yorkshire were soon in trouble, losing four wickets in the first six overs, for just 30 runs. Opening bowlers Raymond Toole (2/19) and Shane Snater (3/29) did the damage and by the time the heavy rain arrived at the end of the 19th over, Essex were well on top, with Yorkshire 76/6. They were unable to get back on the field and Essex won by 88 runs following the Duckworth Lewis adjustments. Earlier in the week, Essex had hosted Glamorgan at Chelmsford. Feroze Kerushi and Tom Westley set about the Glamorgan bowling, both scoring 104, putting on 203 for the second wicket. Roelofsen also contributed 69. Prem Sisodiya was the pick of the Glamorgan bowlers with 2/42, the slow left armer making his first appearance in this season’s competition. In reply, Glamorgan made a confident start with David Lloyd scoring 30 from 17 balls. He was out in the fifth over with the score already on 51 and Colin Ingram joined Sam Northeast to take the score to 102 half way through the 15th over. Aron Nijjar removed Ingram and then it was 17-year-old leg spinner, Luc Benkenstein, son of Durham and South Africa’s Dale Benkenstein, in his third List A game, who created havoc in the Glamorgan batting line up, as he took 6/42. He had Northeast stumped for 70 and the innings finished in the 44th over still 103 runs in arrears.
Yorkshire’s second game of the week was at Canterbury, where batting first they posted 282/6. Will Fraine (68) and Harry Duke (85) put on an opening stand of 118 and when Fraine was out, debutant Finlay Bean (61) joined Duke to add 107 for the second wicket. Bean and Duke were both dismissed in the 39th over, at which point the players went off for rain. After almost an hour they returned, with the game reduced to 45 overs-a-side. Matthew Waite, with 31 not out, helped add 56 from the remaining 39 balls. Joe Denly was the pick of the Kent bowlers with 3/73. The revised target was 297 and Kent made a poor start as Joey Evison was out first ball, caught behind off Waite. However, Ben Compton (81), Ollie Robinson (59) and Denly (61) took Kent to within striking range of the target and at 245/6 after 39.3 overs, the requirement was 52 runs from 33 balls. Harry Finch and Grant Stewart took Kent to within touching distance of the target, but when Finch was out for 42, 23 runs were still needed from the remaining 11 balls. Kent’s hopes were in the hands of big-hitting Stewart and he duly obliged. The penultimate over went for 12, with Stewart striking the fourth ball of Waite’s over back over his head for six. Kent required 11 from the last over, which was bowled by Ben Coad and after Harry Podmore had flayed the first ball for a boundary down to third man, he holed out to the next. The new batter, Hamidullah Qadri got Stewart back on strike next ball and after a miss and a turned down single, six was needed from the final ball. Coad had bowled an excellent over up until that point, but the last ball was in the slot and Stewart launched it over mid-wicket to give Kent the win by three wickets, Stewart finishing on 28 from 16 balls, with three sixes. The win keeps them in contention for a top three spot, Yorkshire having slipped a point behind, but with a game in hand.
At the end of the week Essex visited Worcester, where they were asked to bat first. Half centuries from 20-year-old Robin Das (63) and Benkenstein (55) helped Essex to a respectable 279/9. The Worcestershire batters did not allow the Essex bowlers to settle, with Ed Pollock making a rapid 34. Taylor Cornall (96) and Gareth Roderick (76) put on 158 for the second wicket, which just left Jake Libby and Ed Barnard to see Worcestershire over the line, winning by seven wickets with eight balls to spare.
After Northamptonshire’s two wins in week two, they have fallen back with three straight losses this week. At Canterbury, after choosing to bat first, they made a bright start, reaching 97/2 at the end of the 15th over. However Hamidulah Qadri blunted their progress, taking 4/36 with his off-spin and Northamptonshire were bowled out in the 47th over for 210, Emilio Gray top-scoring with 49. Ben Compton provided the foundations for Kent’s chase with a composed 87 from 119 balls as the hosts reached the target with seven overs and four wickets remaining. Back at Northampton, they faced bottom placed team Worcestershire, who were winless in their first four matches. They put Northamptonshire in under cloudy skies and the rain took the players off after just nine overs, with the score on 44/1. Will Young had joined Ricardo Vasconcelos in the middle and when play resumed, the game had been reduced to 42 overs-a-side. Together they added 84 for the second wicket before Vasconcelos was bowled by Adam Finch for 70. A further rain break reduced the match to 39 overs and Young, who finished with an unbeaten 104, alongside a half century from Lewis McManus, took the final total to 248/4. The adjusted target was 254 and Azhar Ali alongside Cornall got Worcestershire off to the ideal start, putting on 138 for the first wicket off 24.2 overs. Cornall was caught at mid-on off the bowling of Brandon Glover for 83, but Azhar Ali continued a masterly display finishing on 130 from 97 deliveries, with 17 fours and one six. He had had to bat with a runner for the latter half of his innings having pulled a hamstring. He was the third batter out with the score on 225, but with 29 runs needed from 29 balls it was just left for captain, Libby to see Worcestershire over the line.
Worcestershire have also played Derbyshire, both no longer able to make the knock out stages. 136 from the bat of Luis Reece helped Derbyshire to 312/9 off their 50 overs, with skipper Shan Masood making 63. Jake Libby made an undefeated 126 in Worcestershire’s reply, but no one was able to stay with him to challenge the target and they were dismissed for 265 in the penultimate over. Sam Conners took 3/37 and Reece backed up his batting with his left arm seam, taking 2/33. Derbyshire’s other game this week against Kent was abandoned without a ball bowled. They also had to contend with news that they had been docked two points as a result of Mattie McKiernan being found to have used a bat which failed a bat-gauge test in their game against Hampshire. This was due to McKiernan putting some extra tape on the bat.
With the group stage of the competition drawing to a close, there are clear front runners in both groups, but with some teams having two rather than one game left, there are a number of possible permutations and net run rate may still come into the equation. In Group A, Sussex are top with an excellent net run rate, but Middlesex and Leicestershire have a game in hand. Those three look favourites to progress, but Warwickshire also have two games left against the bottom two teams and may be able to sneak in. Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire have a theoretical chance of making the top three but would need some good fortune to go through. In Group B, Lancashire and Hampshire are guaranteed a top three spot. Hampshire have a game in hand over Lancashire and will top the group if they win them both. The battle is for third spot. Yorkshire have a game in hand over their rivals and two wins will see them through. Kent and Essex will need to win their remaining game and see Yorkshire lose one of theirs if they are to qualify. Glamorgan may still have a mathematical chance of progressing, but look to be too far back.
There have been some exciting games this week and we have no doubt that the race for play-off qualification is going to create more excitement in the next few days.