The Friends Life T20 has so far defied a shambolic excuse for a summer with some cracking, if rain-affected cricket. At least the schedule is less saturated than the outfields this year, with three groups of six and ten games apiece a blessed relief from the protracted, 16-game nonsense of 2011. Don’t get too settled, though, as this happy medium will soon be be dismantled if the Morgan Report’s recommendations are carried out. Nope, we don’t get it either.
Sussex and Nottinghamshire have blasted their way through to the quarter-finals, while Yorkshire are well on the way to shaking the unenviable tag of being one of only three counties to have never reached finals day. Hampshire, Somerset, Essex, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire make up the rest of the last eight, so let’s take a look at a few of the talking points so far...
ENGLAND’S GREAT IGNORED...
Why the hell is Matt Prior not in either of England’s limited overs sides? The man has 187 runs from his four innings for Sussex at a terrifying strike rate of 217.44. England’s Test ‘keeper walks in to our XI on batting alone.
Speaking of hitters from Hove, Luke Wright must fancy his chances of a World T20 berth come September with a strike rate a shade under 164 and an average of 44. Add to that his heroics in the inaugural ‘Big Bash’ Down Under and some useful medium pace bowling and it’s a compelling case for selection, your honour.
There’s always room for the wily old fox in the game’s shortest format. Lancashire warhorse Glenn Chapple has the best economy rate in the tournament at 4.95, while Muttiah Muralitharan has twirled away at a shade over five runs an over.
32-year-old James Foster may balk at the notion of veteran status, but his England ship has all but sailed so here he is. More sixes than anyone else (15) along with reliable wicket keeping and canny leadership make him a shoe-in for our middle order.
The inspired signing of the season so far has to be Mitchell Starc for Yorkshire. While his Australian counterparts have been dismantled by England in the ODI series, the New South Welshman has racked up 18 T20 wickets for the White Rose at a sterling economy rate.
Another Aussie, Phil Hughes, guided Worcestershire into the last eight with 322 runs at a whacking great average of 80.50, while the guile of Murali Kartik and Muttiah Muralitharan has been invaluable for Surrey and Gloucestershire respectively.
Abdul Razzaq has also tried in vain to spare Leicestershire’s blushes, finishing as both the leading run scorer and the highest wicket taker in a dismal campaign for the Foxes.
RISE OF THE LEFT
We’re never happier at Sofa Towers than when lefties are prospering; left-arm bowlers, in this instance. The aforementioned Starc leads the way with Chris Liddle, Reece Topley and Adam Ball cack-handing their way to 14, 14 and 12 wickets each.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST…
It wouldn’t be The Sofa if we didn’t recognise abject failure as well as sparkling success. Japanese-speaking Dutch Australian Dirk Nannes, for instance, has had a complete disaster for Surrey with four wickets at an average of 51.25 and an eye-watering economy rate of 9.60.
Let’s stick to the good, though, so have a look at our XI and let us know what you think by leaving a comment below or by tweeting us @testmatchsofa.
The Sofa’s Friends Life T20 Group Stage XI (flashy name, huh?)
Phil Hughes (Worcestershire)
Luke Wright (Sussex)
Matt Prior (Sussex)
Paul Stirling (Middlesex)
Steven Croft (Lancashire)
James Foster (wk/c - Essex)
Abdul Razzaq (Leicestershire)
Mitchell Starc (Yorkshire)
Murali Kartik (Surrey)
Chris Liddle (Sussex)
Muttiah Muralitharan (Gloucestershire)