INSIDE COUNTY CRICKET: Metro Bank Cup provides a perfect opportunity for young cricketers to make their mark, while some experienced international stars also feature
- County cricket’s 50-over competition, the Metro Bank Cup, started this week
- It runs concurrently to the Hundred, providing opportunities for young players
- There are also many top quality overseas stars playing in this year’s competition
County cricket’s 50-over competition, the Metro Bank Cup, got underway this week, boosted by the fact players surplus to requirements at any stage of the Hundred will be free to represent their counties.
It also features high-quality overseas players in the shape of India Test batters Cheteshwar Pujara and Prithvi Shaw (Sussex and Northants respectively), South Africa’s Simon Harmer at Essex and Shan Masood of Pakistan and Yorkshire.
Despite being branded a development tournament by the ECB when the Hundred launched in 2021, it has maintained healthy crowds as counties take the opportunity to use out-grounds, attracting a wider audience in the process.
There is a developmental nature to it, of course, given the 100 best English-qualified white-ball cricketers have a 100-ball focus this month, and that allows young cricketers to make their marks, as Joey Evison did with the bat for champions Kent and John Turner did with the ball for Hampshire last season.
It is unlikely that performances will impact England’s World Cup selection, but a strong Metro Bank Cup season would surely influence longer-term thinking. Indeed, Durham’s Ollie Robinson served notice of an ability to score big runs at a rapid rate for Kent in 2022 and could now be rewarded with a place on the white-ball tour of West Indies.
County cricket’s 50-over competition, the Metro Bank Cup, got underway this week
Kent are the reigning champions after beating Lancashire in last year’s final at Trent Bridge
The two group winners progress directly into the semi-finals on August 29, while the second and third-placed teams play off in two ‘quarter-finals’ for the right to face them. The final is at Trent Bridge on September 16.
Here is how the 18 first-class counties are shaping up:
Captain: Tom Westley
Overseas players: Simon Harmer (SA), Beau Webster (Aus)
2022: Sixth in Group B
Multi-format star Harmer misses the first few matches, having been given recuperation time ahead of a Championship title push, and Alastair Cook sits it out. The giant Webster adds all-round skills to a young squad.
Captain: Nick Gubbins
Overseas players: None
Only Surrey have lost more players to the Hundred than Hampshire’s 10 and their overseas pair, Kyle Abbott and Mohammad Abbas, are Championship specialists — but they still opened up with a win over Middlesex.
Captain: Joe Denly
Overseas players: James Bazley (Aus)
Hundreds from Evison and Ben Compton helped the holders begin the new campaign in style, recovering from four wickets down early to edge out Yorkshire. Queenslander Bazley bowls seam and hits long.
Kent all-rounder Joey Evison had a breakthrough season in the 50-over competition last year
Captain: Keaton Jennings
Overseas player: Dane Vilas (SA) 2022: Runners-up
A club promoting its youth still has ambitions of repeating last year’s charge to the final given the quality of emerging players George Bell, Tom Aspinwall and Jack Morley and the experienced backbone of the batting.
Captain: Lewis Hill
Overseas players: Peter Handscomb (Aus), Wiaan Mulder (SA)
Seldom in recent years have Leicestershire entered a competition with genuine belief that they could win it, but with two excellent overseas players and only Rehan Ahmed and Callum Parkinson absent, there is reason for such confidence.
Captain: Mark Stoneman
Overseas players: Pieter Malan (SA)
2022: Fourth in Group A
Financial restrictions limit Middlesex’s overseas acquisitions but they retain the majority of their Championship squad for this competition and have high hopes for Joe Cracknell and Blake Cullen.
Middlesex lost their first game but have retained most of their County Championship squad
Captain: Haseeb Hameed
Overseas players: Dane Paterson (SA)
Expect Nottinghamshire’s attempts to improve on last eason’s play-off elimination to be based on the triple spin threat of Calvin Harrison, Liam Patterson-White and Matthew Montgomery, and a bevy of all-rounders including former Yorkshire player Tom Loten and Lyndon James.
Captain: Rory Burns
Overseas players: None
2022: Seventh in Group A
Despite losing a dozen cricketers, Surrey still include recent England batters Burns, Dom Sibley and Ben Foakes, while Conor McKerr, Daniel Moriarty and Amar Virdi boast plenty of top-level wickets.
Captain: Shan Masood
Overseas player: Shan Masood (Pak)
2022: Fifth in Group B
Matthew Revis marked the start of Yorkshire’s campaign with a hat-trick against Kent. He and George Hill have the chance to progress their careers by dominating these contests.
Shan Masood – who shone for Derbyshire last year – is leading a relatively young Yorkshire side
Captain: Brooke Guest
Overseas Players: Haider Ali (Pak), Suranga Lakmal (SL)
2022: Seventh in Group B
The retention of Ali and signing of David Lloyd from Glamorgan gives ballast to the batting and they should be contenders despite losing their first match.
Captain: Alex Lees
Overseas players: David Bedingham (SA), Migael Pretorius (SA)
2022: Ninth in Group A
Promotion in four-day cricket remains the priority and an inexperienced unit was well beaten by Worcestershire this week — despite Liam Trevaskis’s hat-trick — extending last year’s theme.
Durham lost their first game against Worcestershire despite Liam Trevaskis’s (above) hat-trick
Captain: Kiran Carlson
Overseas player: Colin Ingram (SA)
2022: Fourth in Group B
David Harrison, the coach who led the Welsh club to glory in this competition two years ago, takes the reins again from Mark Alleyne. Expect another strong showing, after narrowly missing out on third spot last August.
Captain: Graeme van Buuren
Overseas players: Zafar Gohar (Pak), Harry Tector (Ire)
2022: Fifth in Group A
A maiden List A ton for Ollie Price versus Derbyshire contributed to a perfect start on Tuesday, but the fact Gloucestershire signed Hector for just one match highlights the extent of their injury crisis.
Captain: Lewis McManus
Overseas players: Sam Whiteman (Aus), Prithvi Shaw (Ind)
2022: eighth in Group B
With just David Willey and Saif Zaib missing, there has been little disruption at Wantage Road, and with Shaw intent on putting a dismal IPL season behind him, expect improvement on 2022.
Northamptonshire have signed up India’s superstar batsman Prithvi Shaw in a major coup
Captain: Sean Dickson
Overseas players: Curtis Campher (Ire)
2022: Eighth in Group A
The signing of Campher is shrewd and these 50-over affairs give James Rew a chance to show he has extra gears not yet evident in his first-class batting, as Somerset seek a white-ball double under new captain Dickson.
Captain: Cheteshwar Pujara
Overseas players: Cheteshwar Pujara (Ind)
Pujara, second top scorer in last year’s competition with 624 runs, also led the side brilliantly, and with minimal changes in personnel 12 months on, they look a good bet to be pushing for a trip to Trent Bridge again.
Somerset are out for a double white-ball triumph after lifting the T20 Blast trophy last month
Captain: Will Rhodes
Overseas players: None
2022: Sixth in Group A
Jake Lintott, a Hundred winner in 2021, and Ed Barnard provide some experience, but the fact the Bears added a trio of rookie players to their squad on the eve of the competition highlights their approach to it.
Captain: Jake Libby
Overseas player: Azhar Ali (Pak)
2022: Ninth in Group B
Rob Jones joins on loan from Lancashire ahead of a permanent 2024 switch, bolstering a side who should be tussling for top spot rather than the wooden spoon this time around. Watch out for Kashif Ali’s explosive batting.
Worcestershire will have former Pakistan batter Azhar Ali (above) opening the batting for them
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