With the Vitality Blast just days away, we take a look at some of the county players (in no particular order) who could make a sizeable mark on this years domestic T20 competition.
Ed Pollock (Birmingham Bears, LHB)
T20s: 9 matches, 283 runs @ 31.44, SR 174.69, HS 66
Pollock exploded into county cricket as he smashed 66 off 40-balls on his first team, and T20 debut for Birmingham. With the ability to get down on one knee and sweep quick bowlers over square to smashing them straight down the ground Pollock has all the makings of a modern day T20 specialist. After a half-century in the semi-final last season, Pollock proved that he has the temperament and composure to succeed in high pressure situations.
Calum MacLeod (Derbyshire, RHB)
T20s: 80 matches, 1,980 runs @ 29.11, strike rate 124.6, high score 104*
T20 Internationals: 34 matches, 602 runs @ 21.5, SR 107.11, HS 60
Signed by Derbyshire on the back of a stunning 140* as Scotland defeated England in June, he is particularly adept at sweeping the ball. He proved this in the World Cup Qualifier as he swept his way to 157*, taking apart the number 1 ranked T20I bowler in the world, Rashid Khan, as Scotland beat Afghanistan. It will be interesting to see how he fares against Khan should they meet in the knockout phase of the tournament.
With around 5-years experience as a county player, and 91 limited overs international appearances, MacLeod could surprise a few counties this season and increase his burgeoning reputation south of the border.
Safyaan Sharif (Derbyshire, RFM)
T20s: 47 matches, 56 wickets @ 21.3, Strike rate 16.7, economy 7.63, best bowling 4-24
T20Is: 29 matches, 32 wickets @ 24.15, SR 17.7, economy 8.16, best bowling 4-24
Another Scot representing Derbyshire, Sharif has already played for Derbyshire in 50-over cricket this year, and is perhaps best known for sticking Chris Gayle off first ball of Scotland’s qualifying match against the West Indies, or yorking Mark Wood for a plum LBW to claim Scotland a famous victory over the Auld Enemy.
Capable of extracting generous seam movement (see Gayle dismissal), Sharif, like MacLeod will be hoping to make a name for himself south of the border. Fresh from Scotland’s tri-series victory over the Netherland and Ireland he will be fit and raring to go and get stuck into some of England’s and the worlds best batsmen.
Sam Cook (Essex, RFM)
List A: 8 matches, 5 wickets @ 55.6, SR 79.2, economy 4.21, best bowling 1-21
Perhaps a bit of a wildcard as Cook has only played in a combined 22 career games (8 List A, 14 First Class), but the skill and nous that he has shown for Essex in the County Championship and One-Day Cup suggests that he has what it takes to succeed in T20 cricket. An economy rate of 4.21 in List A cricket these days is an enviable feat amongst bowlers (just ask Andrew Tye). It is an even more impressive achievement considering this has been his first full season in a List a competition, and he is only 20-years-old.
Prem Sisodiya (Glamorgan, RHB, SLA)
T20s & List A: N/A
First Class: 2 matches, 41 runs @ 13.66, SR 54.66, HS 38;
7 wickets @ 21.57, SR 54.2, economy 2.38 best bowling 3-54
Another wildcard, Sisodiya, a left arm spin bowler, impressed for Glamorgan with his accuracy and consistency as he claimed 5-73 on his First Class debut against Derbyshire. His persistent line will be the undoing of many a batsmen, and don’t be surprised if he comes on toward the end of the innings as batsmen look to hit boundaries and cleans up.
Ryan Higgins (Gloucestershire, RHB, RM)
T20s: 36 matches, 530 runs @ 23.53, SR 132.83, HS 68*
13 wickets @ 21.53, SR 16.6, economy 7.77, best bowling 5-13
Born in Zimbabwe, Higgins recently joined Gloucestershire in an attempt to get regular cricket in all 3 formats. His T20 form for Middlesex last season was exciting to say the least, and Gloucestershire have high hopes for Higgins this season as he looks to do damage with the bat and ball. A nagging medium pace bowler who will pick up wickets, he can also hit a long ball. We at The Pavilion are tipping him to be one of the surprise performers this Vitality Blast.
Benny Howell (Gloucestershire, RHB, RM)
T20s: 90 matches, 1,172 runs @ 22.98, SR 118.62, HS 57
92 wickets @ 19.10, SR 16.6, economy 6.89, best bowling 4-26
Howell has been around for what feels like an eternity, but has only recently developed into one of the leading T20 all-rounders on the county circuit. He has drawn comparisons to Kent stalwart Darren Stevens thanks to his all round ability and late development.
An economy rate of just 6.89 is thanks to his ability to deceive the batsman with an array of cutters, and slower and quicker balls. Unlucky to have not been in or around the England T20I squad, we think that it’s only a matter of time before Howell gets international recognition.
Grant Stewart (Kent, RHB, RFM)
List A: 5 matches, 69 runs @ 23, SR 62.72, HS 44
8 wickets @ 19, SR 30.2, economy 3.76, best bowling 3-17
Stewart burst onto the scene for Kent at the end of last season after impressing in the Kent Premier League and has gone on to impress ever since. A big hitting late order batsman and pace bowler who looked at home in pressure situations during Kent’s pre-season tour in the West Indies, where they took part in the West Indian domestic 50-over competition. Since then he has been used as cover in the County Championship, where he seized his chance as a replacement for Darren Steven, who was rested for the One-Day Cup final. Stewart ripped through the Middlesex top order, claiming match figures of 8-58 (6-22 in the first innings) as Kent recorded a record win. He smashed 103 off 79 balls (13 fours, 5 sixes) in the second innings which is testament to his ability to score big and quickly.
This could be breakthrough campaign for the Australian born Kent all-rounder, who, alongside Stevens, Carlos Braithwaite, and Marcus Stoinis adds to Kent’s impressive quartet of all-rounders.
Ben Cotton (Northamptonshire, RFM)
T20s: 18 matches, 20 wickets @ 24.85, SR 16.7, economy 8.92, best bowling 2-14
Formerly of Derbyshire, Cotton played in 18 T20s for them and impressed with the ball. An economy rate of nearly 9 is something he will need to address though, and a change of scenery at Northants could do the 24-year-old wonders. He already has the prized scalps of Jos Buttler, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli in white ball cricket.
Matt Carter (Nottinghamshire, OS)
List A: 5 matches, 13 wickets @ 15.23, SR 19.8, economy 4.6, best bowling 4-40
Carter only made his List A debut this season, and already boasts a superb record with and economy rate under 5 an over and an average and strike rate under 20. The Notts off-spinner should have cemented his place in Notts’ T20 side because of this record, but the arrival of Ish Sodhi could hamper his development in the shorter format of the game.
Tom Moores (Nottinghamshire, WK)
T20s: 22 matches, 253 runs @ 21.08, SR 134.57, HS 57, 17 catches, 2 stumpings
Chris Read’s replacement, he shone last year in white ball cricket with read only keeping in the Championship. This season, as the first choice keeper in all three formats he has furthered his development, and with a top score of 76 in this year’s One-Day Cup he is showing the necessary form to have a big season in the Vitality Blast.
The Vitality Blast starts on Wednesday evening, as Northants host Leicestershire, Notts and Birmingham face off, and Sussex travel to Essex.