Vitality Blast week three

Vitality Blast week three

The cream seems to be rising to the top, especially in the South Group

There are now no Blast games for three days, while at the same time everyone is bemoaning fixture congestion? Meanwhile the advertising blitz carried out by the ECB for the Hundred is becoming manifest, seemingly ignoring the fact that the Blast continues to produce exciting contests, with quarter final qualification looking to be a tightly fought battle in both groups.

In the South Group, the dominance of the big four (Somerset, Surrey, Essex and Hampshire) has been broken by Sussex Sharks, thanks in no small part to the contributions from Daniel Hughes. He has now scored 224 runs in five games at a strike rate of 179.20 and helped take them to three wins from their last three games, the latest against Essex. He scored 47 off 18 balls, while Harrison Ward made 68 off 36 and John Simpson 45 off 28, as Sussex reached their target of 179 with 26 balls to spare. The result took the Sharks to the top of the South Group, but they came unstuck against Surrey 24 hours later, 45 off 22 balls from the competition’s second highest run scorer, Jamie Smith helping Surrey to 184/8. The overseas players are having a big influence and Spencer Johnson continued his good form, removing Ward second ball. He finished with 2/20 from his four overs, with all the Surrey bowlers taking wickets and never letting Sussex into the game, as they were all out for 130 in 18.1 overs. Surrey had tied with Gloucestershire the night before, 40 from the bat of Beau Webster helping Gloucestershire to 170/6. Surrey looked in control with Jason Roy (55) and Ollie Pope (48) putting on 96 for the third wicket and taking the score to 116/3 after 13.4 overs, the equation then being 55 runs from 38 balls. Pope went in the 17th over, with 28 needed from 18 balls and wickets continued to fall. Just six runs were needed off the last over, bowled by David Payne and he dismissed Tom Curran (18) with a yorker first ball. The scores were tied with Jordan Clark facing the last ball, but he was unable to get it away. 

Another overseas player to make a big impact has been Riley Meredith at Somerset and he has helped the title holders to three wins from three games this week. He is seriously quick and his 11 wickets have come with an economy rate of 6.00. He took 4/12 as Somerset dismissed Middlesex for just78, Tom Banton (49) and Tom Kohler-Kadmore (30) getting them home in 12.3 overs. They returned to Taunton, to take on Kent Spitfires in a game reduced to five overs-a-side, where Kohler-Cadmore smashed 24 off nine balls as Somerset reached 55/6. Kent had a revised target of 61 from five overs and they fell 14 runs short. Then on Sunday they took on struggling Glamorgan. Put into bat Will Smeed rode his luck miscues evading fielders as he raced to 86 from 48 balls. The Glamorgan bowlers fought back to remove the next five batters for single figure scores, but they were unable to finish the job as Craig Overton (42) and Roelof van der Merwe (21*) put on 59 for the eight wicket, off 34 balls to get Somerset to 193/8. Poor batting and excellent bowling meant Glamorgan were never in the chase and they were dismissed for 85 in the 14th over, Lewis Gregory taking 3/11. Somerset regain top spot in the South Group, one point ahead of Surrey, although they have played one game more.

Essex and Hampshire remain in contention, both sides on six points, in fourth and fifth place. Despite the loss to the Sharks, the Eagles registered a win against Middlesex in a rain affected game. The Eagles reached 129/4 from 12.4 overs and DLS revision then meant Middlesex required an unlikely 80 from six overs. They ended on 63/2 and remain anchored at the bottom of the group. Meanwhile the Hawks have had both their games abandoned this week against sides they would expect to beat in Glamorgan and Middlesex.

Gloucestershire, who sit one point behind the Eagles and the Hawks, but with a better net run rate, had a successful week with a win and the tie against Surrey. The win was against Kent Spitfires, who are slipping down the table. A strong bowling display restricted the Spitfires to 125, Payne taking 1/16 from his 3.5 overs and Matt Taylor 3/30. Miles Hammond with 80 off just 41 balls and Cameron Bancroft with an unbeaten 39 from 30 balls made short work of the target, reaching it after 11.4 overs with nine wickets to spare.

In the North Group, Lancashire Lightning continue at the top, having had a comfortable win against Leicestershire Foxes. The Lightning were unable to bat their full allocation of overs, but runs all down the order took them to 162. Scott Currie was the pick of the bowlers with 4/25. Tight bowling then kept the Foxes’ batting in check, Rishi Patel (43) the only player to get going and once George Balderson had dismissed Peter Handscomb (33), the lower order collapsed and the final margin of victory was 25 runs. The Lightning did however suffer a defeat to Durham in a high scoring encounter at Chester-le-Street. 87 from Graham Clark and 78 by David Bedingham saw the home side to 218/3. The Lightning were then in trouble at 115/6 after 12.1 overs before Chris Green (38) and George Balderson (37*) came together. They put on 62 from 32 balls, but the equation was still an improbable 37 off the last two overs. However Jack Blatherwick had other ideas, Matthew Potts going for 16 in the penultimate over and then Paul Coughlin was hit by Blatherwick for sixes off his first two balls of the final over. He got revenge as he bowled Blatherwick next ball and Durham fell two runs short. Durham are just outside a quarter final spot, having been washed out against the Notts Outlaws.

The Bears have moved up the table this week with two wins from two. They have had two successful chases, firstly against Yorkshire Vikings where 53 not out off 40 balls from Sam Hain helped them reach the target of 146 with 11 balls to spare. Earlier Richard Gleeson had gone for just 11 runs in his 3.5 overs, capturing two wickets, while Danny Briggs took 3/26, including the key wickets of Dawid Malan (38) and Joe Root (39). The Bears then had a comfortable win against the Derbyshire Falcons, Hain again in the runs with 43, as he and Dan Mousley (66*) helped reach the target of 134 with seven balls to spare.

The Falcons enjoyed a win against the Northants Steelbacks in a rain-affected game. 93 off 54 balls from Matthew Breetzke helped the Steelbacks to a challenging 193/8 from their 20 overs. Rain then reduced the target to 187 from 19 overs and Aneurin Donald came out and clattered the Steelbacks’ bowlers to all parts of the ground. His 68 off just 26 balls included eight sixes and the Falcons were well ahead on 94/1 when he was dismissed at the end of the seventh over. David Lloyd was 33 not out when a heavy downpour ended the match after 11 overs of the reply, the Falcons winning by 24 runs on DLS. The Steelbacks remain one point ahead of the Falcons thanks to a 11 run win against the Worcestershire Rapids. It was again Breetzke who was in the runs with 52 from 43 balls as the Steelbacks posted 143/6. Ben Sanderson was integral to the successful defence of the total, going for just 16 runs from his four overs and taking three wickets.

The Foxes remain in the top four despite their loss to the Lightening. They registered two wins this week, firstly against Durham by 10 runs and then Yorkshire Vikings by 20 runs. Against Durham, their total of 140/8 was based on 48 from 44 balls by Rishi Patel. Matthew Potts took 3/20 from his four overs. The Foxes bowlers then kept things tight, Wiaan Mulder with figures of 2/19 and Josh Hull 1/16. The only two Durham batters to reach double figures were Clark, who batted through the innings for 53 from 56 balls and Ashton Turner with 49 off 32 balls. Patel was in the runs again against the Vikings, with 64 from 47 balls, the Foxes reaching 166. Patel has now become the leading run scorer in the competition with 281 at a strike rate of 135.09 and continues to press his case for higher honours. Currie was the pick of the Foxes bowling with 3/19, while Lewis Goldsworthy also took three wickets including Dawid Malan (32) and Joe Root (30).  

A feature of this year’s competition is the all or nothing approach of many of the sides, the priority being boundary hitting rather than accumulation, whatever the conditions. It can be justified as it becomes harder to defend what were previously considered to be good totals, but the risk is collapsing in a heap and we have seen a few of those. In the World Cup some less than perfect pitches alongside longer boundaries have generated some highly entertaining low scoring matches and a pleasant diversion from the normal fare served up by T20 cricket.

In the North Group, the Lightning and the Bears would be expected to push on and claim quarter final spots, while the Foxes and the Steelbacks are putting up a strong challenge. The Steelbacks look best placed having been reinforced by the experienced heads of David Willey and Ravi Bopara. Durham have recovered from their awful start to the competition and are putting some winning performances together.

In the South Group the big four of Somerset, Surrey, the Eagles and the Hawks find themselves occupying four of the top five spots, while the Sharks have shown themselves able to mix it with the big boys. Gloucestershire are hanging on, but the quarter final spots look to be between the clubs above them.

North Group

PosTeamPlayedWonLostTiedN/RNet RRPoints
1Lancashire Lightning75200+1.46510
2Birmingham Bears64200+0.4508
3Leicestershire Foxes74300+0.3378
4Northamptonshire Steelbacks64200+0.2238
5Durham Cricket73301-0.9607
6Derbyshire Falcons73400+0.3116
7Yorkshire Vikings63300+0.2306
8Worcestershire Rapids72500-0.4724
9Notts Outlaws71501-1.8413

South Group

PosTeamPlayedWonLostTiedN/RNet RRPoints
3Sussex Sharks64200+0.4058
4Essex Eagles63300-0.2916
5Hampshire Hawks62202-0.4666
8Kent Spitfires62400+0.0284


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