Friday, 27 June 2008

The Twenty20 cup's form players

With the Twenty20 cup reaching the end of the qualification stage, it is time to evaluate who has made an impact so far in this year’s tournament.

The stakes are high in this year’s Twenty20 cup and numerous English players have risen to the occasion. With the big-money carrots of IPL contracts and a place in the England squad in their minds, domestic players have produced some notable performances that will make the franchises and national selectors sit up and take notice.

The Indian Premier League was not dominated by the superstar overseas players as was expected, with lesser known names like Shaun Marsh and Sohail Tanvir lighting up the event. We have seen overseas players have an impact this summer, but this has mainly been with the ball.

Eight of the tournament’s top 10 runscorers are English, which might make some of the national team’s batsmen a little wary ahead of November’s Stanford bonanza in the Caribbean.

Graham Napier is bottom of that list but his record-breaking innings of 152 not out against Sussex has surely put him in the Twenty20 international limelight. Few players are capable of such rope-clearing and his nippy opening bowling that has brought him nine wickets is more than just a bonus.

Six-hitting is the IPL currency and Napier might expect a phone call when the new contracts are handed out. Twenty20 batting is not just about producing the big shots and two of the event’s most consistent performers are proof that a classical technique can prosper in the shortened format.

England Lions Joe Denly and Michael Carberry are already in the selectors’ thoughts and with four half centuries apiece they are clearly capable of combining quick-scoring and innings-building.

Mal Loye and Anthony McGrath have been the northern division’s top runscorers but are unlikely to resume their England careers, although 28 year old Michael Lumb and Rob White are at their peak and would represent an endorsement of county form if they boarded the plane for the West Indies.

Phil Mustard and James Foster have been the premier wicket keepers on show and will be watching Tim Ambrose’s continued batting troubles for England with interest.

The bowling stars have generally been experienced overseas campaigners. Andrew Hall and Tyron Henderson (first and third in the worldwide Twenty20 wicket-taking charts) lead a Kolpak contingent that is broken up by Simon Marshall, James Tredwell and Rich Pyrah.

All three are capable top order batsmen who can operate in the top six and each would bring something different to the England set-up. Leg spinner Marshall has been overlooked in most quarters in favour of Roses rival Adil Rashid, despite offering a similar all-round package.

Tredwell, who has an economy rate of 6.03 in the tournament so far, is an off-spinner who is unafraid to flight the ball even in the face of a Twenty20 onslaught and was a key component of Kent’s trophy winning outfit last term. Pyrah generally operates in the middle overs and 14 wickets in eight matches is a good return for a seam bowler who does not rely on express pace.

The lack of English death bowlers is a concern and few have staked acclaim for this role domestically.

England appear to be grooming the inexperienced Luke Wright for the role and the best display I have seen in this year’s tournament has been by Tim Bresnan, who bowled nearly a full set of final over yorkers in a tense battle with Lancashire, which is a good indicator of his ability to handle the pressure of the win or bust Stanford match.

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