Wisden’s T20 Blast team of the group stage
@Yas_Wisden 4 minute read
With the eight quarter-finalists for this year’s T20 Blast now finalised, Yas Rana picks a team of the group stages.
Daniel Bell-Drummond (420 runs @ 46.66; SR: 156.13)
Zak Crawley (335 runs @ 41.87; SR: 158.01)
Will Jacks (267 runs @ 38.14; SR: 153.44)
Joe Clarke (316 runs @ 45.14; SR: 179.54)
Laurie Evans (301 runs @ 60.20; SR: 155.15)
Ian Cockbain (369 runs @ 46.12; SR: 174.05)
As is often the way in domestic T20 cricket, given teams’ understandable desire to ensure their best players face the most balls, the majority of the leading T20 batsmen in the country ply their trade at the top of the order. The Kent pair of Daniel Bell-Drummond and Zak Crawley resume their partnership in this XI. Bell-Drummond is the competition’s leading run-scorer so far and his rapid starts alongside Crawley played a big part in Kent’s eventual qualification for the knock-out rounds. Crawley’s unbeaten hundred against a strong Hampshire side is one of the innings of the tournament so far.
We’ve fudged the order to include a third opener, Will Jacks. Another fast starter, Jacks’ newfound consistency and wily off-spin up front made him a vital contributor in both powerplays for Surrey. After a tough 2019, Joe Clarke reminded everyone of his immense talent in 2020. His numbers – 316 runs at 45.14 at a strike-rate of 179.54 – demand his inclusion in this side. He also takes the gloves, which is, admittedly a bit of a fudge again.
On his return to The Oval, Laurie Evans is another Surrey batsman whose consistent run-scoring at a very good rate merits inclusion. Gloucestershire’s Ian Cockbain completes the middle order. His 57-ball 89 against Somerset and his six-filled 35-ball 85* are two of the standout innings of the tournament; an overall strike-rate of 174.05 is a figure beaten by just five players to have scored 100 or more runs in the competition.
Among those unlucky to miss are Luke Wright, Stevie Eskinazi and Alex Lees – three of the heaviest run-scorers in the competition. Joe Root – with four fifties from five innings – narrowly misses out, partly down to the absence of a knock of force. Babar Azam’s overall numbers are good but are skewed somewhat by his unbeaten hundred against Glamorgan; aside from that innings, his slow starts have, at times, hampered Someset. Phil Salt and Durham’s Graham Clark also came close to selection on account of their lofty strike-rates.
Luke Hollman (139 runs @ 34.75; SR: 139; 9 wickets @ 18.11; ER: 6.79)
George Garton (100 runs @ 33.33; SR: 120.48; 11 wickets @ 18.45; ER: 7.80)
In his maiden T20 Blast campaign, Luke Hollman was arguably the find of the tournament. The leg-spinning all-rounder regularly contributed with both bat and ball, and often provided late innings impetus from the lower middle-order. Hollman is followed by George Garton in the order. Nearly three years after his shock Ashes call-up, Garton, still only 22, is developing into a fine all-round cricketer. In Sussex’s last two games, victories over Essex and Middlesex, Garton took combined figures of 8-48 and hit 68 off 39 balls. His left-arm angle adds an extra bit of variety to the attack.
Garton’s teammate David Wiese is unlucky to miss out on selection. He finished top of the Sussex batting averages and his 79* at Lord’s almost single-handedly won his side the game on that occasion. Unfortunately, Wiese also finished with Sussex’s worst bowling average, taking 1-113 from the 11.1 overs he bowled in the competition.
Graeme White (10 wickets @ 25.60; ER: 7.11)
Tom Smith (14 wickets @ 14.78; ER: 5.91)
The field with the stiffest competition, with a number of twirlers featuring near the top of both the average and economy rate lists. Graeme White’s exploits with the bat tip the scales in his favour – his extraordinary 12-ball 37* against Birmingham Bears helped keep his side in the tournament. Tom Smith at Gloucestershire was the most miserly of the miserly spinners, so joins White in this spin-heavy side.
A whole host of spinners push White and Smith close. Surrey’s Dan Moriarty was excellent for the South Group table-toppers, Leicestershire’s Callum Parkinson, often bowling in the powerplay, was impressive for the Foxes as they qualified for the last eight while Birmingham Bears’ left-arm wrist-spinner Jake Lintott was one of the most frugal bowlers in the tournament in his first full season in the Blast. Danny Briggs has been as consistent as ever while Mason Crane showed the kind of form that won him his maiden T20I call-up three years ago.
Jake Ball (14 wickets @ 13.71; ER: 7.62)
With George Garton offering a left-arm angle and three spinners already included in the side, there’s only room for one specialist seamer in the XI. Jake Ball makes the cut on account of his extraordinary strike-rate of just 10.7 balls per wicket. Glamorgan’s Timm van der Gugten, the Bears’ Olly Stone and Durham’s impressive young quick Matty Potts all came close to pipping Ball to a place in the side.