b>Middlesex 184 for 6 (Cracknell 50, Simpson 46, Hollman 46) beat Kent 182 for 7 (Bell-Drummond 89) by two runs
Tom Helm was the bowling hero as Middlesex dented Kent’s Vitality Blast qualification hopes by landing a tense two-run win over the former South Group leaders in Canterbury.
Set to chase 185 at an asking rate of 9.25 an over, Spitfires slumped to their second successive home defeat after failing to score the nine runs needed for victory off Helm’s nerve-tingling last over.
Jordan Cox ended a near-heroic run chase unbeaten on 39, while skipper Daniel Bell-Drummond went for a season’s best 89 in trying to slog Helm’s first delivery of the final over
The hosts had made a dismal start in losing England star Zak Crawley to only the fourth ball. Aiming a lofted straight drive against Helm, Crawley’s bottom hand took over and tugged a simple catch to mid-on.
Joe Denly soon followed, squared up by a Tim Murtagh cutter, the right-hander was caught at cover off a leading edge as Spitfires stumbled to 45 for 2 in the Powerplay.
Heino Kuhn followed, down the pitch to Miguel Cummins, he spliced an attempted back-foot force low to Stevie Eskinazi at cover.
Alex Blake gloved an attempted leg-side pull to the keeper against Steven Finn then Jack Leaning’s disappointing tournament continued when he picked out deep square leg to gift Murtagh a second scalp.
Kent’s leading T20 run-scorer Bell-Drummond posted his third 50 of the qualifiers from 37 balls, reaching the milestone with a six over cover against Luke Hollman.
With 51 required off the last four overs, Bell-Drummond moved into overdrive with a flailed six over long off against Nathan Sowter, a lofted paddle to third man against Helm, who was dispatched over the ropes at mid-wicket for another maximum.
Needing 25 off 12 balls, Bell-Drummond and Cox nurdled fours to third man against Cummins who was then cracked for a massive six over long on by Cox.
Grant Stewart was run out attempting two off the penultimate ball of the game from Helm and, with Cox off strike, Matt Milnes heaved at the last ball only to scramble a single and spark Middlesex victory celebrations.
Bowling first after winning the toss, Kent leaked late runs to a fifth-wicket partnership worth 70 in seven overs between John Simpson and Luke Hollman.
Spitfires had made a miserly start with the ball in restricting the visitors to four runs from their opening two overs, pressure that paid dividends when Max Holden, in looking to make room against Fred Klassen’s first ball of the match, skied his miscued drive to mid-off.
Milnes undid his side’s good early work by conceding two boundaries and the first six of the game to Joe Cracknell in a scrappy fourth over that cost 22 runs.
Denly’s second over went for 18 as Cracknell continued to tee-off and take his side to 65 for 1 after the Powerplay.
Playing only his third T20 innings, Cracknell raced to a maiden short-form 50 from 21 balls with nine fours and a six, but his luck ran out next ball when he departed lbw playing across a full one from Stewart.
Imran Qayyum struck in his first over of left-arm spin, drawing Martin Andersson down the pitch with a flighted delivery that beat the outside edge to have the right-hander stumped.
Kent used three spinners in a bid to stem the run-rate, but Simpson upped the tempo with a straight six and swept four against Denly as the 100 came up after 11 overs.
Eskinazi’s steady 22-ball stay for 26 ended in comical fashion and a run out. After being sent back wanting a single to backward point, the visiting skipper slid over and was on his backside watching as Cox gathered the throw to whip off the bails.
Simpson, dropped off a sharp chance at wide mid-off when on 35, was run out in the final over for 46, while Hollman gave it the long handle to be run out off the final ball, for a quickfire 46 off 26 balls.
Qayyum, the pick of Kent’s attack, completed four tidy overs to finish with for one for 21.
Recent Match Report – Somerset vs Essex Final 2020
Essex 337 for 8 (Cook 172, Westley 51, Gregory 6-72) and 179 for 6 (ten Doeschate 46, Leach 3-38) drew with Somerset 301 (Byrom 117, Overton 66, Cook 5-76) and 272 for 7 (Lammonby 116, Porter 4-73) – Essex won the title on first-innings lead
Essex survived a nervous final afternoon at Lord’s to secure the inaugural and perhaps only Bob Willis Trophy. While the match ended as a draw, the playing regulations stated that, in such circumstances, the winner would be the side with the higher first innings total.
The result mean Essex have won the domestic first-class competition three times in the last four years. Their status as the best red-ball county side in the land is undisputed.
But they had to cling on against a determined Somerset on the final day. On a deteriorating pitch which offered assistance to seamers and spinners alike, Essex slipped to 131 for 5 with a minimum of 27.1 overs remaining before Ryan ten Doeschate and Adam Wheater came together to deny Somerset.
It means Somerset have finished second in the domestic first-class competition in each of the last three years and four times in the last five. In all, they have been runners-up seven times this century and remain one of only three first-class counties not to have won in the modern era. It may console them a little to know that this competition is not considered on a par with winning the Championship and that, even had they won here, it would not have broken their duck. But it will only be a little. The novelty of finishing second has worn pretty thin for Somerset.
It remains to be seen whether the Bob Willis Trophy will ever be contested again. While there are those keen to see it installed as a showpiece event at the end of each season, others are worried whether that will serve to dilute the sense of achievement in winning the County Championship. Is it fair, they ask, to ask a side which has proved itself the best over the course of a season to risk it all on an autumnal encounter where the toss or the conditions might disproportionately define the result?
One solution would be to award the Championship title to the side which finishes top at the end of the league stages and then contest this match as a standalone event between the top two sides. But even that would threaten to dilute the value of the Championship victory.
Whether this match worked as a showpiece event is debatable. There were moments, not least when Alastair Cook or Tom Lammonby were batting, when it really did feel like a celebration of county cricket. In the face of the unique challenges posed by this season, it has been an excellent solution.
It was probably fitting these two sides qualified, too. Both are stuffed with the products of their own academies – nine players in each team could be considered homegrown – with numerous others having moved on (the likes of Ben Foakes, Dom Bess, Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler and Jamie Overton) to ply their trade elsewhere. They have consistently pushed for silverware in recent years, supplying players for England in the process. They are, in short, two clubs doing a huge amount right and providing an example to others of what can be achieved on modest budgets.
But the challenges posed by the horribly cold weather, the empty stands – something which may prove an issue at any time in a neutral venue – and the need to separate the sides in a drawn match were substantial. And while it just about worked as a one-off event, it didn’t really leave you wanting more, either. As Tom Abell, the Somerset captain put it: “The County Championship is the best first-class competition in the world.” It probably requires nurturing more than tinkering.
Earlier Craig Overton had helped Somerset thrash another 45 runs in 8.1 overs before the declaration came. The target – 237 in a minimum of 80 overs – probably looked generous. And, for a while on the final day, with Cook batting serenely, it appeared Essex may coast there. But his dismissal saw them abandon plans of completing an outright win and settle instead for survival over the last 40 overs of the match.
Cook looked most underwhelmed by the decision from Russell Warren, the umpire, to adjudge him out caught behind. Replays were inconclusive – it is possible the sound as ball passed bat was caused by the bat clipping the pad – but it is hard to recall another dismissal in Cook’s career when he has stood so long and made his displeasure more obvious.
Either way, the wicket appeared to jolt Essex. By then, they had already lost Nick Browne, edging a delivery from Lewis Gregory, who finished with eight in the match, that demanded a stroke and bounced a little, and Tom Westley, who had been trapped in front by the persevering Overton. Jack Leach, without a first-class wicket since last November, when he dismissed Tim Southee in Mount Maunganui, gained lavish turn and bounce from his first delivery and broke his drought with the wicket of Dan Lawrence, who was defeated by what appeared to be an arm ball.
But Paul Walter was stubborn and ten Doeschate was solid. And while the former was eventually removed by Leach, courtesy of one that turned from round the wicket, Wheater joined ten Doeschate in a sixth-wicket stand that contributed only 48 runs but denied Somerset for 27 overs. By the time ten Doeschate fell, top-edging a sweep, there were only moments remaining. The draw and the trophy were secured. “I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to be out there in that situation,” Westley, the Essex captain in his first year in the role, said afterwards.
“I’m incredibly proud of all the boys and management,” Westley added. “This [tournament] may never happen again, so to win it is amazing. We may be the only club to ever win the Bob Willis Trophy. It’s a continuation of success we’ve had in red-ball cricket over the last few years. It’s right up there with winning the County Championship last year.”
Abell was more subdued. “Disappointment is the overwhelming emotion,” he said. “We were second to Essex last year and we were desperate not to be again. Coming so close a number of times, we feel it is within touching distance. This adds fuel to the fire. But the fire is already burning pretty deep within everyone.”
Westley was quick to praise the club’s culture, academy and willingness to “give our own a go”, but it was noticeable that he also picked out the imports for their influence. Simon Harmer was described as a “match-winner”, coach Anthony McGrath was praised for him ability to “galvanise this side like I’ve never seen at Essex in previous years” and ten Doeschate, the previous captain, credited for instilling belief and transforming the club from “a fairly mediocre Division Two team” to one which believed it could be the best in the country. The message? Providing opportunities for homegrown players is crucial, but let’s not forget the positive influence of Kolpaks, overseas and the like.
There’s a bigger picture here. To have completed this competition in these circumstances, to have provided opportunities for young players, to have kept the game relevant and to have provided some online entertainment for spectators at a time when it was sorely needed, has been something of a triumph. And a triumph that not all other sports have managed to achieve. The game still faces some substantial challenges – many of the players on show here may well be on furlough again by the end of the week – but this competition has provided a reminder of the better times that lie ahead. Maybe we’ll come to look back on it as county cricket’s Dunkirk moment.
Recent Match Report – Kings XI Punjab vs Rajasthan Royals 9th Match 2020
Rajasthan Royals 226 for 6 (Samson 85, Tewatia 53, Smith 50, Shami 3-53) beat Kings XI Punjab 223 for 2 (Agarwal 106, Rahul 69) by four wickets
As it unfolded, it felt like a match that defied logic in every way possible. But by the time the Rajasthan Royals were done mowing down a target of 224 – an IPL record – the scorecard reflected one bit of cold, hard T20 logic: the team that hits more sixes wins. Kings XI Punjab hit 11 sixes – seven coming off the bat of Mayank Agarwal, who made a scintillating 106 off 50 balls – and the Royals hit 18.
Sanju Samson hit seven of those sixes while scoring a second successive half-century for the first time in his IPL career. His 42-ball 85 was more reward for the intense training he did during cricket’s Covid-19 hiatus, which enabled him to take his natural ball-striking ability and turn it into an instrument of almost scientific precision.
Samson put on 81 for the second wicket with Steven Smith in just 40 balls, putting the Royals well in touch with their asking rate. They then promoted Rahul Tewatia – their only left-hander – to No. 4, and the move was beginning to look like one of the most ill-judged tactical interventions in IPL history when he struggled to hit the ball off the square and crawled to 8 off 19 balls. But the six-hitting ability that he possesses came into view just when the Royals seemed out of it. Tewatia smacked Sheldon Cottrell for five sixes in a match-turning, match-defining 18th over, and an improbable 51 off 18 balls turned into a far more straightforward 21 off 12.
A partnership of two tempos
Sent in to bat – Smith, the Royals captain, expected dew to play an influential role through the second innings, and it did – Kings XI got off to a flier, their openers rushing to 60 in the powerplay. From there, Agarwal and KL Rahul extended their partnership to 183 – the third highest for the first wicket and the eighth highest overall in the IPL.
The two batsmen approached their innings differently. At one end, Agarwal went for his shots at every opportunity, and also looked to create opportunities to play his shots. He moved around his crease – to manufacture room to hit Ankit Rajpoot over mid-off, for instance, or to manufacture length to shovel the quickish legspin of Tewatia over midwicket – and in general went through with his shots with a degree of abandon; some of the sixes he hit weren’t off the cleanest connections, but a batsman can gamble on a small ground like Sharjah.
Even so, Agarwal’s sparkling form allowed him to achieve a control percentage of 80 – which is pretty high for an innings achieving a strike rate of 212.00. At the other end, Rahul faced 54 balls – four more than Agarwal – and pulled off a control percentage of 85, but only struck at 127.77. Aside from a hat-trick of fours against Jofra Archer in the fourth over, he seemed to almost consciously play second fiddle to Agarwal, giving him the strike whenever possible.
It’s a common tactic in partnerships like this, and Rahul has the game to up his tempo dramatically later on – his unbeaten 132 against Royal Challengers Bangalore followed the same template.
Maxwell, Pooran apply the finish
On this day, however, both Rahul and Agarwal seemed to tire as their partnership progressed, and from 172 for no loss at the 15-over mark, Kings XI scored 22 off the next 18 balls – a period in which they lost both openers.
Only 21 balls remained in the innings when Glenn Maxwell walked in, and only 12 when Nicholas Pooran came to the crease. It can be difficult to come in at that sort of time and find the boundary immediately, but both managed it to varying degrees of success. Rajpoot and Tom Curran managed to tie Maxwell down to an extent, but he created a couple of boundaries with his movement around the crease. Pooran, however, got a few balls in his slot and dispatched all of them ruthlessly – he hit three sixes and a four in just eight balls, three of those boundaries coming in an 18-run final over from Jofra Archer.
More to follow
RR vs KXIP, IPL 2020
Rajasthan Royals’ Rahul Tewatia turned the chase and how against Kings XI Punjab. From 8 off 19 balls in the 15th over, he eventually finished on a 53 off 31, with as many as seven sixes, to turn the tables for a stunning four-wicket win for the Royals. Here’s what he said after the match to the host broadcaster Star Sports:
How were you feeling at the halfway point in your innings when you couldn’t really get it out of the middle?
I think that was the worst 20 balls that I have ever played. After that – I was hitting the ball very well in the nets so I had belief in myself and kept going.
What about mental strength? You were 8 off 19 and turned it around. How did you stay positive and strong?
I was not hitting the ball well initially. Then I saw in the dugout, everybody was curious because they know that I can hit the ball long. At once, I thought “I have to believe in myself”. It was a matter of just one six, and after that I thought now it’s time to get going. Five [sixes] in the [18th] over felt amazing.
Cottrell was the over for you…
Well, the coach told me to hit sixes off the legspinner (Ravi Bishnoi) but unfortunately I didn’t hit him. So I had to hit the other bowler so that we could win or get closer to the target.
More to follow…
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