It was another week of rain-induced frustration for the NatWest T20 Blast with Friday night’s fixture list being severely hindered by persistent downpours.
In spite of the elements there remained no shortage of action to discuss, with the fight for the final few qualification position in both divisions continuing to be far from clear cut.
Rain was the resounding winner once again in the North with all four Friday night games falling victim to the deluge, following on from a run of just one in five the previous week. Of those four abandoned games only one saw a ball bowled, with Leicestershire having reason to feel more rueful than most considering the heavens opened at the point they had dispatched Northamptonshire for just 82 – seemingly robbing them of a certain victory.
The Foxes did however bounce back from that frustration to oust neighbours Derbyshire on Sunday afternoon at Chesterfield. They were aided by only two of the hosts batsmen reaching double figures on the way to a sub-standard 143 – a total the visitors pased with four balls to spare.
That victory ensures Leicestershire remain in touch with the final qualification spot chasers, although in order to unseat those in the ascendancy they are likely to need three wins from their final four games – as many as they have achieved in ten to date.
Arguably trumping the rain as the talking point of the round was the long anticipated return of Andrew Flintoff – however his comeback after five years was upstaged by a superb Lancashire performance.
Against their table-topping rivals a host of impressive top-order contributions blitzed the Red Rose to their highest ever Twenty20 total of 229. Even for a side riding on a momentum wave as large as Worcestershire that total was always going to a bridge too far and so it proved with Lancashire clinching an emphatic 50-run win to overthrow their rivals at the summit.
Lancashire’s Roses rivals Yorkshire endured an up and down week with a comfortable Tuesday night victory over Leicestershire – which included yet more remarkable double team fielding from Adam Lyth and Aaron Finch – being followed by a hugely disappointing defeat to Durham.
Set 123 to win – albeit in challenging conditions – Yorkshire crumbled to just 95 all out – a performance which prompted a social media apology from captain Andrew Gale.
That win saw Durham move alongside Yorkshire with four victories, a position the pair also share with Birmingham. The Edgbaston outfit spurned the chance to move clear of the pack, however, becoming the first side to lose to defending champions Northamptonshire in seven games – a result which ensures Northants cling on to their hopes of retaining the crown.
After a period in which Northants have looked a pale shadow of the side who belittled expectations in 2013, this was victory in which the Wantage Road club reignited the spark of last season - a committed and disciplined showing seeing them successful defend just 138.
The battle for fourth spot is also proving an uncrackable equation in the South with four sides now locked on four wins following the conclusion of this week’s games – three of those counties enjoying notable wins over recent days.
Glamorgan were the first to showcase their credentials with Jim Allenby’s century – only the third of the season – guiding them past Middlesex’s 184 with three balls left in the bank – consequently inflicting their opponents ninth defeat of what has been beyond a nightmare campaign.
Two points shy of the Welsh county are Somerset, with the Cidermen disparaging what has been a relatively disappointing campaign to produce an excellent all-round display in seeing off second placed Hampshire. Virtual knockout stages ever-presents, Marcus Trescothick’s side has struggled for consistency in 2014, however this 39-run win – incidentally their second victory over highly fancied Hampshire – highlights that Somerset still have the tools to be significant players in the tournament’s business end providing they can find consistency.
Gloucestershire remain firmly in the mix to reach only a second quarter-final in six years with a critical victory over fourth placed rivals Kent last week, being preceded with a win against Sussex – another side in the hunt to sneak into the last eight.
In a reduced over game Sussex were set 139 inside 15 overs to claim a win that would have seen them push their heads above the water with five wins, however the hosts produced a spirited display in the field in fading late to collect a second pivotal win in as many games.
Prior to this week Kent were firmly in the fourth place picture, yet defeats in consecutive days to Surrey and Hampshire respectively mean they have now been moved to the outskirts – although they are from out of the reckoning. To clinch the final qualification spot they will however to improve significantly; having firstly seen Surrey chase down 155 with in excess of two overs left and then Hampshire ease to a 47-run success.
Those respective wins only strengthened Hampshire’s and Surrey’s grip on a top three finish, nonetheless which one of those counties will be able to boast a home quarter-final is far less straightforward.
Essex look favourites to obtain one of the top two spots that ensure a home knockout fixture, a position that was only reinforced by victory over Surrey at a lively Chelmsford – incidentally the hosts eight successful chase on the bounce with their pursuit of Surrey’s 165 being concluded with nine balls still remaining.
On the surface Jim Allenby’s 105 off just 63 balls that masterminded Glamorgan’s pursuit of 184 appears the week’s undeniable outstanding performance, that however doesn’t account for the exploits of Anthony Ireland.
The Zimbabwean’s three for 19 might have gone unrewarded in the rain-ruined clash with Northants, nevertheless his career best five for 22 against Derbyshire did not go to waste – a superb last over a significant factor in Leicestershire’s five wicket win. Ireland’s exploits have seen him rise to apex in regards to tournament wicket-takers.
Ireland was not the only bowler whose star shown bright with a host excelling in a round which saw a plethora of low totals defended. Adil Rashid enjoyed an excellent week individually with combined figures of five for 38 from two games – he will however be frustrated those returns contributed to just a single win.
That his side Yorkshire failed to chase Durham’s paltry 123 was in no small part down to John Hastings and Scott Borthwick, who clinched figures of three for 22 and two for 11 respectively.
Another bowler to play a starring role in the defence of a total was Gloucestershire’s Jack Taylor who prised figures of three for 12, while Chris Wood’s four for 22 helped deal the knock blow to Kent’s pursuit of 173 against Hampshire.
In terms of all-round displays nobody could surpass Graeme White who provided the spark for Northants finally getting back on the right track – his momentum swinging 34 off just 12 balls being followed up two wickets in Birmingham's failed reply.
Having been temporarily ousted by Allenby’s century in the run scoring charts, Jason Roy and Craig Kieswetter both responded with match-winning scores of 79 and 60 respectively – in the process each surpassing 50 for the sixth time this campaign.
Jos Buttler was arguably pick of Lancashire’s run scoring glut with 55 from a mere 28 balls, whilst Ian Cockbain’s swift 50 laid the platform for Gloucestershire’s crucial success over Sussex.
Undoubtedly the award for effort in vein of the week goes to Wes Durston – Derbyshire’s batsmen offering only minimal support to the openers swashbuckling 89 off just 63 balls.
© Cricket World 2014