While things are tight in Group A, Lancashire and Hampshire remain unbeaten in Group B
After two weeks and with half the group games played there has been some great cricket and close finishes, including a tie. The sight of packed out grounds decorated by a multitude of coloured deckchairs is clearly a sign of the support enjoyed by counties and has been a great opportunity to reach out to the grass roots of the game. With the accompanying glorious weather this competition has provided everything. You do not need the big names for a great experience and the ability to spread interest in the game.
As far as on-the-field activities are concerned, Group A is wide open, with no team having maintained a 100% record. In group B, we knew about the strength of Lancashire and Hampshire, but the Yorkshire youngsters have also stuck their hand up.
These are the current standings:
Based on last year’s results, which were slightly confused due to the inability to play the game between Middlesex and Gloucestershire because of COVID, a minimum of ten points is needed to be in the top three. Any team losing three games will be on the borderline. Slip ups are therefore costly.
Middlesex have moved to the top of Group A following a busy week, firstly travelling to Chester-le-Street where they beat Durham by nine wickets, with 50 balls to spare. Durham were bowled out in the last over for a respectable 268, thanks to 119 from Michael Jones. Umesh Yadav took 5/33 and Luke Hollman 4/68. The powerful Middlesex top order then made short work of the chase, Steve Eskinazi finishing on an undefeated 146. Back in Radlett, Middlesex took on local rivals Surrey and Steve Eskinazi maintained his fine form with 182 off 136 balls, as Middlesex posted 351/7. Despite 118 from Ryan Patel, Surrey never really threatened and they were dismissed for 249.
To end the week and Middlesex travelled to Grantham to face Nottinghamshire. Having been inserted, Middlesex made 355, Eskinazi scoring his third century inside six days and Sam Robson chipping in with 103. Eskinazi is dominating the batting statistics in this competition so far this season, with 519 runs from four innings at an average of 173 and a strike rate of 122.7. Nottinghamshire were on course to overhaul the target with Ben Slater (90) and Haseeb Hameed (114) putting on 191 for the third wicket off 177 balls. Fateh Singh, with 45, stuck with Hameed to keep Nottinghamshire in touch, but when Hameed was out in the 46th over, the game was lost. Umesh Yadav finished with figures of 4/54.
This was Nottinghamshire’s second loss of the week, having sat at the top of the group after week one. The first had been to Gloucestershire, who were able to chase down 295, thanks to James Bracey’s 104 not out from 93 balls, supported by his skipper, Jack Taylor with 95 from just 55 balls. The Nottinghamshire innings was built on 89 from 22-year-old Sol Budinger. Gloucestershire have now moved into second place, although they have played a game more than the other teams. They have recovered from their two losses in week one, to record three successive wins this week. They beat a struggling Somerset outfit, who have now lost all four of their games so far. Electing to bat first, Somerset managed just 199, bowled out in the 48th over. Lewis Goldsworthy (66) was the only batter to pass 40. Jack Taylor was the pick of the Gloucestershire bowlers, with 4/31. In reply, Gloucestershire reached the target inside 43 overs, Taylor finishing on 77 not out, with 59 from Marcus Harris. Following their win against Nottinghamshire they travelled up to Chester-le-Street where they came out on top in a high scoring encounter against Durham. Put into bat by Durham, Gloucestershire reached 361/8 thanks to 117 from Chris Dent and 94 from Marcus Harris. In reply, Durham stayed in touch thanks to contributions from all their batters, with Paul Coughlin making 77 off 38 balls, including ten fours and three sixes. Needing 45 runs off the last three overs they took it right to the wire, finally going down by just six runs.
Leicestershire have kept up their challenge despite being on the receiving end of a thumping down at Hove. They were bowled out for just 120 inside 33 overs, Aristides Karvelas, Sussex’s Greek South African, taking 4/21 and Delray Rawlins 3/22. Sussex then knocked off the runs in the 19th over for the loss of two wickets. Leicestershire then welcomed Somerset to Grace Road and having been inserted, were bowled out in the last over for 269. Louis Kimber made 102 and Harry Swindells 70. Somerset have a young side in this competition and 21-year-old Kasey Aldridge took 3/40 and 19-year-old Alfie Ogborne 3/49. In reply, Somerset were bowled out off the last ball of the innings for 224, the two South African overseas players, Beuran Hendricks and Wiaan Mulder each taking three wickets.
Warwickshire have played only three games so far and their tussle with Surrey had everything. Warwickshire chose to bat first at the Oval and reached 293/5, thanks to 93 from Michael Burgess and half centuries from Rob Yates and Krunal Pandya. Warwickshire have one of the stronger bowling attacks in this competition and at 226/8 seemed to have the game under control. With 68 needed off 45 balls Matt Dunn, who had only scored 19 runs in his previous 13 one-day matches, joined Nick Kimber and they launched an all-out attack on the Warwickshire bowlers. Kimber hit six sixes and six fours in a 51-ball 84 and Dunn hit Oliver Hannon-Dalby for two sixes in his 34. When Kimber was out in the 46th over they still needed 31 from 26 balls. Dunn kept swinging and the scores were tied on the last ball of the 49th over. Liam Norwell was given the responsibility of the last over and nailed his yorker to dismiss Dunn – match tied. This was a great effort from a Surrey side with no capped players, nine of whom are aged 24 or under. Warwickshire then played Sussex in another close encounter. Opting to bat first, Warwickshire reached 310/6, thanks to 114 from Rob Yates and half centuries from Will Rhodes and Michael Burgess. In reply, Ali Orr (81) and Cheteshwar Pujara (107) were the mainstays of the Sussex innings and with two overs to go, 20 runs needed and with Pujara still at the crease, they looked slight favourites. However Oliver Hannon Dolby bowled Pujara next ball and Sussex fell short by four runs. Pandya was the pick of the bowlers with 3/51.
The bottom two teams in Group A also met this week down at Taunton. Durham were asked to bat first and made 342, with eighties from Graham Clark and Scott Borthwick. Sonny Baker finished with 6/46. Somerset struggled to keep up with the required rate, losing wickets at regular intervals until Ben Green came in at seven. At that point the equation was 223 needed from 24.9 overs. It then became the Green-show as he blasted the Durham bowlers all around Taunton, eventually scoring 157 off 84 balls, with ten fours and twelve sixes. Unfortunately he fell in the last over with Somerset still nine runs short.
In Group B, Hampshire are the only team left in the competition with maximum points. They had a comfortable win against Kent at Beckenham, where they were asked to bat first and amassed 396/5, thanks to 181 from Tom Prest and 117 from captain Nick Gubbins. Kent never looked in the game, dismissed for 233 inside 40 overs, Jack Campbell taking 4/44 and Felix Organ 3/39. They then hosted Northamptonshire at Newport on the Isle of Wight, where the 2000 who turned up were treated to a game of fluctuating fortunes. Hampshire batted first and never really got going, bowled out in the 41st over for just 199. Prest top scored with 51, the wickets shared among the Northamptonshire bowlers, with Jack White taking 3/34 and Rob Keogh 3/32. Northamptonshire looked to be heading to victory at 177/5, with Keogh on 74. However when he was dismissed by Scott Currie panic set in and the last five wickets fell for just 11 runs in the space of 35 balls. 22-year-old left arm seamer, Jack Campbell finished with the impressive figures of 3/17 from his nine overs. Hampshire then moved on to Derby, where they asked Derbyshire to bat first. Tight bowling from Keith Barker (2/34) and 21-year-old John Turner (2/40) restricted the home team to 246/9, Brook Guest (82) the only batter to pass fifty. Hampshire were then in trouble at 68/5 thanks to four wickets off the bowling of Ben Aitchison. However two 20-year-olds came to the rescue for Hampshire, Fletcha Middleton (64) and Toby Albert (84) and Hampshire had another tight win, getting home with two wickets and eleven balls to spare.
Lancashire remain a dominant force and owe their lack of a full set of points to the one abandoned game of the competition so far, in week one. This week they hosted Derbyshire at Old Trafford and after choosing to bat first, had to work hard to post 221/4, thanks to an unbeaten fifth wicket stand between Steven Croft (87*) and Rob Jones (70*). All the Derbyshire bowlers kept a tight line with Alex Thomson finishing with 3/25. When Derbyshire came to bat they too struggled and it was the ever reliable Shan Masood, in his first game back, who held things together for the visitors. He was the last man out for 82 with none of the other batters able to build a significant partnership with him. New Zealander Will Williams did the damage, with 4/20 and Lancashire won by 39 runs. They then moved down to Worcester where they enjoyed a fairly comfortable six wicket win against the bottom placed side in the group. Worcestershire reached 248/9 in their 50 overs, thanks to half centuries from Taylor Cornall and Kashif Ali. Luke Wells took 3/42. In reply, all the Lancashire batters contributed, Jones top scoring with 85 not out. The target was reached with five overs to spare.
The young Yorkshire side have also had a successful week, picking up two wins. They too played Worcestershire, this time at Scarborough and electing to bowl first, restricted the visitors to 246/8. Ben Cox top scored with 70. Matthew Waite was the pick of the bowlers with 3/21. In reply, a stuttering start was rescued by a run-a-ball 130 from 21-year-old George Hill, who received support from Jonny Tattersall (45) and Waite (36) and Yorkshire got home in the 48th over for the loss of six wickets. They also overcame a strong Glamorgan side, down in Cardiff. Yorkshire elected to bat first and looked to have set up a solid platform at 99/1 in the 23rd over, with Harry Duke having got himself in on 37. However the Glamorgan bowlers were able to keep the score in check by taking wickets and maintaining a tight line. Duke reached 87 before being dismissed by Jamie McIlroy, who was the pick of the bowlers, finishing with 2/37 and it was only a run-a-ball 55 from Tattersall at the end that got Yorkshire to 257/9. Off-spinner Andrew Salter finished with 1/41 from his ten overs. At halfway, the strength of the Glamorgan batting put them in the driving seat, but the Yorkshire bowlers more than matched their Welsh counterparts, dismissing Glamorgan for 239. The only batter to pass 50 was Kiran Carlson and Glamorgan’s day deteriorated further when McIlroy picked up a hamstring injury. Off-spinner Jack Shutt took 4/46 and James Coad 1/26 from his ten overs. Glamorgan moved to Northampton for their next game and their batting again came up short. The home team went into the game with three front-line spinners and when Glamorgan chose to bat, they were soon in trouble, losing their first four wickets for just 22 runs. Nathan Buck and Ben Sanderson shared those wickets, but then the spinners came to the fore on a pitch which offered slow turn. David Lloyd and Joe Cooke provided some resistance with a 94 run stand, but when Lloyd was out for 65, it was the first of three quick wickets for the spin of slow-left armer, Saif Zaib who finished with 4/23. Sanderson was even more miserly, posting figures of 3/17. The innings ended in the 48th over with the score on 221. The Glamorgan bowlers were unable to make any inroads into the Northamptonshire batting and allowed them to get away, with Ricardo Vasconcelos (104) and Emilio Gay (81) putting on 188 for the first wicket in just 29.1 overs. Carlson was the seventh bowler used and gave some respectability to the score as he took four quick wickets, but the result was never in doubt and Northamptonshire won in the 36th over.
Northamptonshire were also in action against Essex at the beginning of the week in a close, high scoring affair. Choosing to bat first, Essex made 343/9 thanks to 118 from Feroze Khushi and 67 from captain, Tom Westley. Nathan Buck took 5/59. In reply, Northamptonshire were two down within four overs, but Saif Zaib (136) and Will Young (86) put on 212 for the third wicket, leaving just 118 runs needed off the last 19.4 overs. Zaib was the seventh man out with the score on 318, but James Sales (34*) and Nathan Buck saw the home team across the line.
In the other game from this group, Essex defeated Kent at Chelmsford. Choosing to bat first Essex reached 331, being dismissed in the final over. The main contributors were Tom Westley (109) and Grant Roelofsen (77). In reply, Kent were all out in the 34th over for 149, the only significant contribution coming from Ben Compton with 53. Shane Snater took 5/29.
Group A has seen a large switch around from last week, with Middlesex and Gloucestershire fighting back after losing their first two games. This means that it could well go down to NRR to decide the top three. In Group B Lancashire look the strongest outfit, although Hampshire seem to know how to get over the line, with a couple of very close games. The question is whether the Yorkshire youngsters can hold off the more experienced Glamorgan and Northamptonshire squads. There is still plenty to play for over the next ten days.