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Somerset pair pile pressure on leader Short.
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Somerset’s prolific opening partnership of Babar Azam and Tom Banton currently occupy two of the top three spots in the PCA’s Vitality Blast Most Valuable Player Rankings.
The duo, also the top two run-scorers in this year’s Blast, have piled on runs for the Taunton-based side whilst simultaneously piling pressure on the leader of the format-specific MVP Ranking, Durham’s D’Arcy Short.
It was a tale of two centuries for the pair this week, with the first coming for Pakistan international Azam against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl on Friday.
The wind and rain eventually limited the fixture to 32.1 overs in total, but Azam swept the gloom aside with a sparkling 102 not out from just 55 balls, including seven fours and six maximums. Ably aided by skipper Tom Abell (57 from 36), Azam’s innings accounted for over 50% of his side’s 202-4, helping the 24-year-old to 41.25 MVP points and his side to a 63-run victory via DLS.
Although Banton only managed one in that game, he was not to be outdone by his esteemed colleague, all but matching Azam’s feat just a day later.
The 20-year-old confirmed his reputation as the most exciting young player in T20 cricket by taking centre stage in Somerset’s big victory over high-flying Kent Spitfires. With Azam run out for nine early on, Banton revelled in the extra pressure to post a sublime 100 from just 52 balls – his maiden T20 ton – and claim the MVP award for the game, along with most of the plaudits.
Despite having earned nine extra MVP fielding points over his colleague, wicketkeeper Banton sits four points behind Azam in the Blast MVP, with the pair currently occupying third and second position respectively.
Whilst Azam and Banton in particular enjoyed notable personal milestones last week, they almost pale in comparison to that achieved by Leicestershire Foxes skipper Colin Ackermann.
With Birmingham Bears 114-2 after 13 overs and seemingly in a good position to chase down the 190 set by the Foxes on Wednesday, Ackermann re-entered the fray to stun the world of cricket by claiming figures of 7-18 – the best ever recorded in any T20 game.
After Will Davis wrapped up a 55-run victory with the wicket of Fidel Edwards, Ackermann took home 40.16 MVP points, shooting from outside the Blast MVP top 10 and into second position in the space of just one game. As of 12 August, the 28-year-old is in sixth place, still remaining in contention for the Blast MVP crown.
Remarkably, Ackermann’s was one of two highly coveted individual records to be broken over the course of the last seven days.
During Sussex’s game against Middlesex at Hove on Friday night, veteran Luke Wright moved passed Joe Denly to become the all-time highest run-scorer in English domestic T20s, with 3,928 and counting.
Denly is seemingly set for an extended period with England’s Ashes squad, meaning Wright will aim to build on what is already an incredible achievement by consolidating his place at the summit in the Kent man’s absence.
The aforementioned Short, Azam and Banton currently occupy the Blast MVP podium places, and the top five is completed by two Middlesex men in Dawid Malan and Toby Roland-Jones.
Although Malan made an imperious 91 not out against Gloucestershire on Sunday, it was the pair’s teammate Steven Finn who has made most of the headlines this week following a brilliant performance against London rivals Surrey on Thursday.
After Eoin Morgan (70 from 37) and AB de Villiers (64 from 40) gave Finn a huge 210 to bowl at, the England international duly returned career best figures of 5-16, including the key top six wickets of both Curran brothers along with that of Rikki Clarke. Finn’s 28.6 MVP points from that game have helped him into eighth position in the Blast MVP, making up good ground on Malan and Roland-Jones.
With the Vitality Blast soon breaking for six days to allow for a block of first-class fixtures, the top 10 is beginning to take shape as we move towards the latter stages of the 20-over tournament.
View the Vitality Blast MVP Rankings here.
Keep up-to-date with all the latest MVP news by following the @pcaMVP on Twitter.