With the final round of the Bob Willis Trophy coming almost exactly halfway through the T20 Blast group stages, Ben Gardner picks the team of the tournament so far.
Daniel Bell-Drummond (Kent)
228 runs @ 57.00, SR: 180.95, HS: 81
Consistency combined with explosiveness. The Kent stand-in skipper has crossed 20 in each of his five innings so far, going on to rapid fifties on two occasions. Second on the run charts, and fourth on the strike-rate table too, among the 32 players with 100 or more runs.
Zak Crawley (Kent)
180 runs @ 45.00, SR: 153.84, HS: 67
It’s largely down to Zak Crawley’s opening partnership with Bell-Drummond that Kent currently top the South Group table; their lowest stand this year is 49. While Crawley has one fewer big score to his name than his senior partner, his consistency has been, if anything, more impressive. He is yet to be dismissed for less than 28 this season.
Paul Stirling (Northamptonshire)
131 runs @ 43.66, SR: 163.75, HS: 80*
3 wickets @ 13.66, ER: 6.83, BBI: 2-26
Paul Stirling’s first appearance for Northamptonshire saw him dominate the contest to an extent few players do in a T20 match. The Irishman claimed 2-26 to keep Worcestershire to 124-7 before smashing 80 from 48 balls to chase the runs down almost by himself. He hasn’t quite hit the same heights since, but a series of fast starts has helped Northants claim top spot in the Central Group, and earns his place in this side.
Ben Duckett (Nottinghamshire)
105 runs @ 52.50, SR: 134.61, HS: 86*
Nottinghamshire’s campaign has been an odd one so far. They top the North Group with three wins and two washouts, but no one player has dominated their efforts. Ben Duckett has made only one score above 14, but on that occasion he did play perhaps the innings of the tournament so far, hauling Notts from 16-2 in the second over to a victory by six wickets, gunning down Yorkshire’s 191 with four balls to spare.
David Wiese (Sussex)
160 runs @ 160.00, SR: 149.53, HS: 70*
Three knocks, three scores above 30, one dismissal. The first two innings were classics of the finishing genre, each guiding Sussex to successful last-over pursuits of tall chases. The one time he has been dismissed, the Sharks lost by one run, underlining his importance to the cause.
Ben Foakes (wk) (Surrey)
108 runs @ 54.00, SR: 120.00, HS: 60*
The strike-rate might not leap off the page, but the serially snubbed Surrey stumper has played his role to (near) perfection. Against Essex, his 44 guided Surrey to within one run of their first victory in any format since Therese May’s Prime Ministerial reign, before two wickets in two balls left the Three Feathers with a tie. Against Middlesex, his 60 not out meant he saw the game home even after his side were 23-4 in the chase.
Ryan Higgins (Gloucestershire)
75 runs @ 37.50, SR: 131.57, HS: 30*
9 wickets @ 13.44, ER: 8.06, BBI: 4-34
County cricket’s all-action hero has been at it again. There’s been a four-for, a three-for, and two explosive end-of-innings cameos in four games. You couldn’t ask for much more.
Tom Bailey (Lancashire)
10 wickets at 8.30, ER: 5.92, BBI: 5-17
Normally considered something of a red-ball specialist, the Lancashire man has taken more wickets than any other bowler while conceding under a run a ball throughout.
Tom Smith (Gloucestershire)
9 wickets @ 10, ER: 6.00, BBI 5-16
The slow left-armer’s 5-16 in a rain-shortened thrashing of Warwickshire are the tournament’s best figures so far, but he’s been miserly and incisive whenever he’s bowled.
Danny Briggs (Sussex)
6 wickets @ 9.33, ER: 4.66, BBI: 3-17
The Sussex slowie last played for England in 2014, but if he keeps conceding as few as 4.66 runs per over, as he has done this season, Eoin Morgan could yet come calling. Beyond Moeen Ali and Liam Dawson, England’s finger-spin pecking order is up for grabs.
Steven Finn (Middlesex)
9 wickets @ 12.00, ER: 6.75, BBI: 3-18
Another erstwhile England starlet having a Blast to remember is Steven Finn, who sits joint second on the wicket charts with Higgins and Smith, and is going at under seven runs per over to boot. What also stands out is Finn’s consistency. He is yet to take fewer than two wickets in an innings this campaign.