The halfway point of the County Championship season has already been reached, which means it must be time for the serious stuff to be put away for a few weeks. Yep, it’s T20 time, and the chance for the counties to show off their fantastic new overseas players who have ventured over to England (and Wales) to get their hands on yet more cash to force into their already overflowing wallets.
We originally planned to do a very detailed preview, with plenty of research and attention to detail. However, that sounded like a lot of effort and the work experience boy is off sick, recovering from various (definitely self-inflicted) injuries, so instead we set up several trails of gin shots to lure the 51allout writers into a single room where they could be beaten with sticks until they answered some questions.
Nichael Bluth: Way back in the mists of time I (and everyone else bar Matt H) predicted Somerset would go one better than last year and win the T20. My prediction was mainly based around the Gayle/Trescothick combo at the top of the order that would make parking your car anywhere in the vicinity of Taunton a very brave (or foolish) move. Of course, with Chris Gayle having decided that he’d rather spend his summer elsewhere and Trescothick seemingly broken, things look a little different now. The complete absence of any wins in the Pro40 hasn’t exactly been a good sign either.
But having said all that, I’m going to stick with my prediction. We saw last year how Leicestershire used the T20 as an opportunity to get away from their dismal performances in the other competitions and I can see a similar thing for Somerset this year. Plus they have Alfonso Thomas back and anyone connected with Pune must be a winner.
Matt H: I plumped for Nottinghamshire at the start of the season because I felt they’d have big-hitters at the top of the innings, handy batsmen throughout the order and bowlers likely to be quite economical. The only reason why I might depart from this prediction would be if several players were involved in the England setup. Of course, Swann and Broad certainly will be; Hales, Taylor and Patel might be, but until this arises, I’m sticking with the Outlaws (memo to self: check if they’re still called the Outlaws).
Steve Grant: As much as it pains me to say it, Surrey look the strongest limited-overs side this country’s seen for many years. Big biffers at the top of the order including rookie captain Rory Hamilton-Brown, Steven Davies, Jason Roy and Tom Maynard will score plenty of runs – especially at the batsman-friendly Oval, with no games at out-grounds this year – while the likes of Jade Dernbach, Stuart Meaker and Gareth Batty should weigh in with plenty of wickets. Hampshire also look pretty strong with Michael Carberry in some absolutely insane form in the CB40 (averaging a ridiculous 147 with the bat), and it wouldn’t be a particularly outlandish claim to suggest three of the four teams on Finals Day could come from the South group.
James K: I went Somerset at the start of the year, but given how their side seems to have been completely demolished by injuries so far I’m going to revise my prediction. Surrey seem to have been using the Championship as practice for the T20 and their batting looks seriously explosive. With the slight caveat that Dernbach might well be with the England setup their bowling has something about it as well. As a wild long shot, Essex might have half a chance. If we just ignore the hilarious signing of James Franklin for a moment they have the likes of Owais Shah, Ryan ten Doeschate and Graham ’90mph’ Napier in their ranks.
MH: Owais Shah seems an obvious choice, having several years of pedigree in this format and the experience that comes from playing in T20 around the world. As for the bowlers, Danny Briggs took the second most wickets in both 2010 and 2011, so I’m betting 10p each way on him this season.
NB: I was going to nominate Owais Shah as well, but instead I’ll do a Legside Lizzy and boldly predict Andrew McDonald to be top run scorer and Tim Phillips to be the leading wicket taker. Although Andrew McDonald will have to overcome the fact that he’s not actually playing in the competition. Maybe I’ll have a second bet on Jos Buttler, who won’t be overshadowed by Kieron Pollard or inconvenienced by playing ODIs for England.
SG: As per the above, Michael Carberry is in some fine form, and I fancy that to continue in the shorter format. With the ball, Shahid Afridi will once again be among the wickets, and with the hilarious excuse for a summer in the UK this year likely to provide some lively pitches, perhaps Hampshire won’t be penalised for producing a wicket that turns a bit this time around.
JK: Kevin Pietersen, anyone?
Afridi’s a pretty good bet for top wicket taker too. Bowl medium pace while pretending it’s leg spin and apparently batsmen everywhere are thoroughly bamboozled.
MH: Looking through the list of players, Shaun Marsh seems to fit the bill nicely.
Matt Larnach: Marsh had a decent IPL campaign though. As crap as he might be in any other format at the moment, this T20 lark seems to suit him pretty well. I am going to say Richard Levi. Again.
NB: I was going to say Levi as well! In a way, he represents all that’s wrong with the world today so I actually want him to fail. Instead I’ll put my gin money on Cameron White, the useless biffer that he is. Although Murali deserves a mention – he was so far over the hill last season that it beggars belief that Gloucestershire wanted him back.
SG: Kevin O’Brien has just signed for Somerset for five games in the belief that anyone can score runs at Taunton, but that innings against England in the World Cup in India continues to artificially enhance the reputation of someone who’s basically just a big lump.
JK: All good shouts so far. Scott Styris should be suitably hopeless but I’m not sure he’d qualify as a flop. Presumably someone has to expect something from you for that to be the case. I think I’ll agree with the Australian and go with Levi.
So there you are – a knockabout, hit and giggle competition that nobody takes seriously gets a knockabout, hit and giggle preview that nobody took seriously. Conclusive proof, if any were needed, that T20 is bad for cricket in every possible way. Bar the money. Everyone loves money. Potential sponsors – send us some free stuff!