Part 2 of Vitality Blast 2021 oversaw a considerably weak field owing to the absence of English national players, but, nevertheless, there was no paucity of fireworks thanks to the Kiwis. Devon Conway, CDG and Glenn Phillips all produced memorable performances to light up the competition.
Performance in the first 5 games: 91 runs in 5 inns @ avg 22.75 and SR 154.23; 9 wickets in 5 inns @ ER 7.23
Performance in the past fortnight: 13 runs in 3 innings @ avg 4.33 and SR 86.67; 9 wickets in 4 innings @ ER 7.93
After a promising start in the first part of the competition, Carlos Brathwaite did not turn up with the bat in the second part but proved to be the pick of all bowlers. The Barbadian picked back-to-back 3-wicket hauls, and his 3/7 against Yorkshire helped Warwickshire bowl the Adam Lyth-led side for a mere 81. Warwickshire, thanks to Brathwaite’s efforts, are third in the North Group, four shy of table-toppers Nottinghamshire.
Ben Stokes - 95 runs in 5 innings @ avg 19.00 and SR 125.00; 7 wickets @ ER 9.05
Ben Stokes’ return to the cricket field after a three-month hiatus was filled with promise, but also rust. Twice against Warwickshire the southpaw played impactful knocks batting at 3 - 20-ball 35 and 18-ball 29 - but was scratchy in each of his other innings, in which he maintained a strike rate over 100 in neither knock. Surprisingly, however, Stokes picked up his form with the ball after getting more games under his belt, picking six wickets across his last two appearances, including a match-winning four-wicket haul against Warwickshire.
Performance in the first four games: 121 runs in 4 inns @ avg 30.25 and SR 161.33; 1 wicket in 4 inns @ ER 9.25
Performance in the past fortnight: 36 runs in 4 innings @ avg 9.00 and SR 112.5; 3 wickets in 5 innings @ ER 7.92
30 off the 36 runs Neesham scored in the past fortnight came in the game against Middlesex, in which he played a useful hand to help his side chase down 184. Outside of the Middlesex game, though, the New Zealander had a mare, posting scores of 1, 4 and 1. To his credit, however, Neesham did find ways to contribute with the ball, bowling 12 overs at a reasonable ER of 7.92, picking 3 wickets.
Performance in the first 5 games: 261 runs in 5 inns @ average 61.25 and SR 135.23; 6 wickets in 5 inns @ ER 7.00
Performance in the past fortnight: 33 and 1/21 against Gloucestershire
A COVID mishap - a close contact testing positive - not only enabled Labuschagne to play just one game but also brought his stint to a premature end. Batting at No.4 against Gloucestershire, Labuschagne managed a brisk 21-ball 33, but, unfortunately, that turned out to be his last knock of the season. He has since withdrawn from the competition, with New Zealand’s Hamish Rutherford taking his place at the club.
Performance in the first four games: 131 runs in 4 inns @ avg 32.75 and SR 154.11
Performance in the past fortnight: 233 runs in 4 inns @ avg 233 and SR 176.52
No, the numbers you see above have no typos. Yes, Glenn Phillips did average 233. 41*, 94* and 94* was how the dynamic Kiwi superstar kicked-started the second part of the competition, channelling his inner Devon Conway to turn the nervous nineties into unbeaten nineties. Not only did Gloucestershire win each of the three games in which Phillips remained unbeaten, but the wicket-keeper batsman also bagged the Man of the Match award in all three games. But no, he did not stop with *just this*. Phillips also, against Glamorgan, played the most ridiculous cricket shot perhaps of all time. IPL franchises, are you watching?
Colin de Grandhomme - 72 runs in 2 innings @ average 36 and SR 171.42; 2 wickets @ ER 9.85
An instant impact was what de Grandhomme brought to Hampshire. In his first outing in the 2021 Vitality Blast, the all-rounder accounted for the prized scalps of Devon Conway and James Hildreth with the ball and played a stupendous knock with the bat that almost helped his side snatch victory. Batting at No.4, CDG blasted a 34-ball 66, that included 12 boundaries, and laid the platform for the rest of the batters to knock off the chase. The rest of the batters falling like flies meant that Hampshire lost the game, but, nevertheless, CDG made his presence known.
Performance in the first four games: 104 runs in 4 innings @ avg 26.00 and SR 142.46
Performance in the past fortnight: 50 runs in 2 innings @ avg 25 and SR 125
Performance in the first four games: 124 runs in 4 innings @ avg 31.00 and SR 124.00
Performance in the past fortnight: 24 runs in 2 innings @ avg 12 and SR 92.31
Both Vince and D’Arcy short continued their middling form in the competition. While Short did manage a brisk 37 against Somerset, Vince had a fortnight to forget. The Hampshire skipper posted scores of 5 and 19 to mark a two-week period that saw Hampshire fall to bottom of the South group.
Performance in the first 5 games: 137 runs in 5 inns @ average 34.25 and SR 144.21
Performance in the past fortnight: 103 runs in 4 inns @ average 25.75 and SR 132.05
Finn Allen continued to be uncharacteristically slow (by his high standards) in the second part of the competition as the Kiwi youngster continued to struggle to find fluency that has evaded him in the competition. Allen did score a 60 and a 25 against Notts and Worcestershire respectively, but both knocks came at a strike rate below 140, far lower than his career SR of 170.94.
Performance in the first 4 games: 155 runs in 4 inns @ average 31.00 and SR 193.75
Performance in the past fortnight: 181 runs in 5 inns @ average 36.2 and SR 144.8
Josh Inglis had a spectacular start to the second part of the competition, smashing an unbeaten hundred against Northants, but, unfortunately, his season went downhill post the ton. 11, 16, 21, 12 and 18 was what the Australian wicket-keeper batsman managed in the five innings that followed the ton, failing to back up the sensational knock that had the world talking about him for a couple of days.
Mujeeb-ur-Rahman - 2 wickets in 2 inns @ ER 5.00
Mujeeb made his first appearance of the 2021 Vitality Blast against Glamorgan on June 27 and, well, instantly started doing Mujeeb things. Taking the new ball - his forte - the 20-year-old, despite not taking wickets, choked the opposition batters up-front, finishing with figures of 1/23 and 1/7 in the two games he played. Through his spell, Mujeeb set up the game for Middlesex, and the club, unsurprisingly, ended up winning both the matches in which the young Afghan spinner featured.
Daryl Mitchell - 131 runs in 4 inns @ average 32.75 and SR 163.75; 6 wickets in 2 inns @ ER 8.71
He came, he saw, he conquered. Being left out of the WTC Final squad was a hard pill to swallow for Mitchell, who took out the anger on the blokes playing in the Vitality Blast. Mitchell not only played two knocks of high impact - 36-ball 58 against Surrey and 13-ball 32 against Glamorgan- but also picked two 3-wicket hauls to prove to be the most valuable all-rounder in phase two of the competition. CDG might have taken away his Test spot, but you imagine Mitchell is putting up a strong case to be a white-ball regular.
Mohammed Nabi - 96 runs in 6 innings @ average 19.20 and SR 123.07; 6 wickets @ ER 5.96
Under-utilized by Sunrisers Hyderabad with the ball, Mohammed Nabi, taking the new ball, inflicted punishment on the batter after arriving in England. After a rough start in the first game - 0/33 off 4 overs - Nabi hit his strides in game two against Leicestershire, post which he did not look back. The veteran off-spinner did not concede over 26 runs in his spell in each of his last six appearances, picking also six wickets in the process. Unfortunately for the Northants, Nabi did not fire with the bat, crossing the 30-run mark just once.
Performance in first 3 games: 28 runs in 3 innings @ average 9.33 and SR 155.55
Performance in the past fortnight: 172 runs in 4 innings @ average 57.33 and SR 197.7
A revitalized, re-energized and rejuvenated Tom Banton was on show for Somerset in phase two of the Vitality Blast as the youngster channelled his 2019 self to flay bowling attacks in the country. Banton strung the right chords in the 77 versus Hampshire, and then followed it up with a stunning unbeaten ton against Kent, a knock that featured 7 sixes. Through the two knocks, Banton found his way back into the England ODI squad as a backup, and could very well feature in the third ODI, a dead rubber.
Devon Conway - 190 runs in 4 inns @ average 95.00 and SR 118.75
Devon Conway continued adhering to his “I don’t care who you are. I’ll find you and score runs against you” mantra as the southpaw racked up three fifties in his first four Blast appearances. Playing second-fiddle to his teammates’ pyrotechnics meant that Conway’s SR took a beating, but that did not stop the New Zealander from racking up runs. After a disappointing debut against Hampshire, scoring just 5, Conway made up for the ‘failure’ by posting scores of 51*, 53 and 81*. And so his three-year-long purple patch continues.
Kyle Jamieson - 1 wicket in 4 inns @ ER 8.70; 47 runs in 3 inns @ avg 47.00 and SR 151.61
Kyle Jamieson’s impact in Tests and T20s continued to be chalk and cheese as the newly-crowned World Champion failed to make an impact with the ball for Surrey. Jamieson went wicketless in all but one game and continued leaking runs at a rate no premier seamer would be proud of. He did, however, show glimpses of his batting potential in white-ball cricket by smashing a 15-ball 31 against Glamorgan.
Performance in the first 3 games: 52 runs in 3 innings @ average 17.33 and SR 133.33
Performance in the past fortnight: 25 runs in 3 innings @ average 12.5 and SR 78.12
Travis Head, during his long, long stay in England, has been unable to buy a single run all summer, and the past fortnight was no different. Despite smashing an unbeaten 66 for Sussex’s second XI, the ex Australian vice-captain proved to be a dud for the seniors, posting scores of 1, 1* and 23. Truly a summer Head would like to completely erase from existence.
Performance in the first four games: 2 wickets in 4 innings @ ER 8.25
Performance in the past fortnight: 4 wickets in 4 innings @ ER 8.6
Ish Sodhi’s middling outing in phase one of the Vitality Blast extended into the first week of phase two, but the Kiwi bounced back in the final two games. After registering figures of 0/34 (2), 0/18 (2) and 2/37 (4) in the first three games of the second part of the competition, Sodhi bounced back with a disciplined showing against Leicestershire, against whom he kept things tight to finish with figures of 1/16. He then backed it up with a fine showing against Lancashire, finishing with figures of 1/24 off his 4 overs, removing the in-form Keaton Jennings. The leg-spinner has not been at his best, thus far, though.
Joe Root - 65 runs in 3 innings @ average 21.66 and SR 118.18
49, 1 and 15 was what Root managed in his 3 innings in this year’s Vitality Blast, and it is fair to say that he did little to warrant inclusion in the T20I side. The 49 against Derbyshire proved to be a match-winning hand, but the England Test skipper failed to back the knock-up with more impactful and meaningful scores, posting 1(4) and 15 (15) against Worcestershire and Leicestershire respectively.
Note: All the English first XI white-ball players missed the second phase of Vitality Blast owing to international duty