While all counties can still qualify, front runners are starting to show themselves
With all counties having played at least three games, top three slots are still wide open in both groups, although title contenders are beginning to show themselves. One team in each group has maintained a 100% record, Hampshire in Group A and Warwickshire in Group B.
Hampshire have a strong batting line up led by Nick Gubbins, with the experience of Ben Brown, Aneurin Donald and Ian Holland alongside talented youngsters Fletcha Middleton, Tom Prest and Tony Albert. Keith Barker is being rested, having played in the Essex game, but Brad Wheal has returned to fitness and alongside Holland, Mason Crane and Scott Currie, they have been able to keep the cap on opposition run scoring. Hampshire have come out on top in two rain-affected games, firstly against Middlesex, where Middleton scored his maiden first team century and then against Essex where the bowlers restricted Essex to 236/9 from their 45 overs and they then got home with eight balls to spare. In their last game against Nottinghamshire, it was the depth of the bowling that allowed them to dismiss the opposition for just 163 as they chased a target of 254, based on a century from Gubbins.
The importance of being able to take wickets and thereby restrict opposition batters has been highlighted this week by Leicestershire’s 411/6 against Lancashire (one of the more fancied teams in this competition). Rishi Patel continued his good form this season, with 161 from 129 deliveries and Colin Ackerman bludgeoned 100 not out off 62 balls. Undoubtedly bowling resources of counties have been hit more than batting ones by call ups to the Hundred, with Hundred franchises wanting to cover potential injuries and it is the counties that have weathered that best, with youngsters able to step up, who are best placed to prosper in the One-Day cup. The win over Lancashire took Leicestershire to the top of Group A. Despite a loss to third placed Nottinghamshire, they have also beaten Surrey and Kent in strong performances with bat and ball. They chased down 326 against Surrey off just 42.2 overs, thanks to runs all down the order and 5/66 from Tom Scriven and then posted 380/5 against Kent (half centuries from five batters) before bowling Kent out for just 116, Roman Walker taking 6/43.
Nottinghamshire have two wins and one no result from their four matches, having defeated Leicestershire and Essex and had their game against Yorkshire washed out. The strength of the Nottinghamshire bowling was highlighted in their first game, when Essex’s young batting line up were dismissed for 69, in pursuit of 238. Brett Hutton, Dane Paterson and Liam Patterson-White have been joined this season by Yorkshire-product Tom Loten, who has taken six wickets, with an economy rate of 4.37. The batting line up is a mix of youngsters bolstered by the experience of Hasseb Hameed and Ben Slater and they should be challenging for a top three spot.
Lancashire have had the misfortune of their first two matches falling to the weather, before a 125 run win against Kent and the defeat to Leicestershire. In the Kent game, a century from Josh Bohannon led to a total of 328/5 and then Kent were dismissed for 203 inside 40 overs, Jack Blatherwick taking 4/52.
In Group B, Warwickshire are one of those clubs able to field a strong bowling attack, with Oliver Hannon-Dolby, Ed Barnard, Craig Miles, Jake Lintott and Will Rhodes at their disposal. Chris Rushworth is likely to be rested as he recovers from a hamstring injury. They won their first two games having bowled out Somerset and Gloucestershire for 230 and 120 respectively and then the bowlers fought back against Glamorgan as the target of 332 came under threat.
Worcestershire join them on six points, although they have played one game more. They look to have a strong combination of batting and bowling and were able to score 375/7 against Gloucestershire in their last outing despite the absence of captain Brett D’Oliveira (following a shoulder dislocation suffered during fielding practice) and Azhar Ali (also injured). The total was based on 137 from Gareth Roderick, who had missed the opening games with a viral illness. Jake Libby has also been in good form throughout the season and the bowling looks strong with the likes of Joe Leach, Dillon Pennington, Matthew Waite, Ben Gibbon, and Josh Baker. They will miss the options provided by D’Oliveira and will be challenged in their next game against Warwickshire.
The strength of Durham’s batting was highlighted in their 427/9 against Sussex, centuries from Alex Lees and David Bedingham. Not surprisingly, their bowlers were able to defend that total, but bowling is the weak part of their squad for this competition, despite the recruitment of South African seamer Migael Pretorius. They will be relying on the batters being able to score whatever is needed. Their next game is against Northamptonshire, who have brought in 23-year-old Indian batter Prithvi Shaw for the One-Day cup. He is currently the competition’s top run-scorer on the back of 244 of 153 balls as Northants piled on 415/8 against Somerset’s young bowlers (Jack Brooks excepted). He is part of a strong batting line up which also includes Australian Sam Whiteman. It was a surprise that they failed in their chase of 279 against Gloucestershire, Tom Price taking 4/26 and Ajeet Dale 4/58. Northants also have an experienced bowling attack led by Jack White and Ben Sanderson, while Rob Keogh has eight wickets so far. Meanwhile Gloucestershire have recruited talented Irish youngster Jack Tector, who scored 86 in their win against Derbyshire, chasing down 299 in just 43.2 overs, Ollie Price scoring his maiden list A century. Following their win against Northants, they have lost their last two games against the top two sides.
The remaining teams in Group B have each won one game, but there are still enough games left for them to challenge for a top spot. Last season Kent reached a play off with nine points, so it will be difficult to recover from a defeat in any of their remaining games.He He is part of a strong batt
It has been great to see young players thriving in this competition, but the inherent inconsistency of youth means that qualification is still wide open. In Group A the counties currently occupying the top four spots look to have squads that can carry them through while in Group B there may be some more movement. Warwickshire and Northamptonshire look strong, while Worcestershire have lost a couple of key personnel. Durham will be hoping their second-string bowling can step up, as the batters will churn out the runs. Hopefully the weather will play ball and not have an influence on the final standings.