CW County Player Of The Week - Riki Wessels
There are four main contenders for this week’s Cricket World County Player of the Week award, and on a week where the bowlers and batsmen were relatively evenly matched – there were nine five-wicket hauls and 16 centuries in county cricket over the past seven days – it is perhaps fitting that two have been nominated for their achievements with the ball and two for those with the willow.
Gareth Batty and Jeetan Patel were the two stand-out bowlers over the past week; the off-spinners each took 10 wickets – the majority of them in their sides’ clash at The Oval. Batty’s match figures of 10 for 142 weren’t enough to see his side to victory as Warwickshire came out winners, partly thanks to Patel’s second innings haul of six for 95. Patel then followed that up with four for 27 in the Bears’ Clydesdale Bank 40 triumph over Northamptonshire on Sunday.
Of the batsmen, Luke Wright emerged from his bout of Indian Premier League-induced dengue fever to score 239 runs for Sussex in all competitions. He struck 103 from 95 balls during the Sharks’ televised limited-overs win against Yorkshire, and followed that up with innings of 81 and 55 in their Championship defeat to Division One leaders Nottinghamshire.
However, it is Riki Wessels who takes this week’s award. He out-scored Wright in that match at Hove and was on the winning side as his knock of 199 in the visitors’ first innings laid the foundations for a seven-wicket victory. His innings of 30 from 39 balls in a potentially tricky fourth-innings run chase should also not be underestimated. It is, though, his career-best score of 199 from 278 balls that earns him the award. The 26 year-old – who was born in Queensland and is the son of former South African and Australian batsman Kepler – brought up his 14th first-class century from just 145 balls and shared an opening stand of 171 with Alex Hales.
Wessels made his county debut for Northamptonshire, where his father was coach, in 2005, but had to be released at the end of 2009 when the ECB tightened the rules on who was eligible to qualify as a ‘local’ player under the Kolpak ruling. He then went over to play cricket in Zimbabwe for the Mid West Rhinos, but was soon back in county cricket in controversial circumstances, as he, along with his new employers Nottinghamshire, exploited a loophole in the system. He came to Trent Bridge on an Entrepreneur visa at the start of April 2010 – the rules were altered to specifically exclude sportsmen shortly afterwards – and broke first into Nottinghamshire’s limited-overs teams and then into their Championship side later that year.
Despite modest first-class returns in 2011 – he averaged 20.21 from 10 matches – he found a place in Nottinghamshire’s middle-order for the beginning of 2012, and was promoted to opener when Neil Edwards was dropped. Overall in 2012, he has hit 560 runs at an average of 80 from four first-class matches, despite suffering an untimely injury just after the start of the season, and has a career-average of 36.22 in first-class cricket.
© Cricket World 2012