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Spin bowling duo combine to sink Nottinghamshire.
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Somerset’s Jack Leach and Dom Bess spun their way up the Professional Cricketers’ Association’s Most Valuable Player Rankings this week, as usual suspects Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton took a back seat.
The Taunton-based side have made an enviable habit of winning cricket matches this season, thanks mostly to Gregory and Overton’s heroics, which see them both sitting inside the top five of the Overall MVP.
But as the former went wicketless and with the latter sidelined, Leach and Bess stepped up to the plate to win the game for their side. The pair claimed 14 Outlaws scalps between them to help Somerset home by 132 runs.
They were ably aided by teammate Jamie Overton, who took five wickets in the match. The 25-year-old has somewhat gone under the radar this season, as nobody in Division One has a lower strike rate than his 27.7 and only Lewis Gregory betters his average of 14.
As for Leach and Bess, they now sit 29th and 47th respectively in the Championship MVP. There’s a good chance they’ll climb even higher as they benefit from a turning wicket at Taunton towards the end of the season.
The Somerset duo weren’t the only slow bowlers to make an impact at Taunton this week.
Nottinghamshire’s new signing Ravichandran Ashwin displayed all of his international class as he claimed the MVP award in just his second first-class game for the club.
The Indian international used all of his experience to return figures 5-59 in the second innings, as debutant Liam Patterson-White simultaneously claimed a brilliant maiden five-fer.
It wasn’t enough for Nottinghamshire, though, as Somerset maintained their lead at the top of Division One, and the Outlaws were cut further adrift at the bottom.
Whilst Patterson-White enjoyed something of a fairytale debut, Middlesex’s Toby Roland-Jones was writing a story of his own at Northwood.
After breaking into the England Test side two years ago, the big seamer has endured a series of recurring back injuries that have kept him sidelined more often than not. This week, the 31-year-old cast those to one side as he put in a match-winning performance against Gloucestershire.
Ten wickets in the match – including a career best 7-52 in the first innings – and a patient unbeaten 51 were enough for the England international to claim the MVP award with 40.10 points.
It was a good week all round for experienced seamers as Kent’s Darren Stevens rolled back the years during his side’s crucial victory over defending champions Surrey at The Kia Oval.
With both teams looking to win to move clear of the relegation zone, Stevens claimed 5-60 in the second innings to reduce the hosts to 218 all out, allowing his side to knock off a paltry 121 to win.
The 43-year-old claimed the MVP with 33.04 points in what was his 297th first-class game.
As Stevens continues to produce in the twilight of his career, Hampshire’s Aneurin Donald has been making a splash at the beginning of his.
An astonishing performance from the 22-year-old saw him accumulate 225 runs in the match at a rapid strike rate of 118, including 28 fours and six maximums. Amazingly, though, his 173 in the first innings was still some way off his career best first-class score of 234.
The PCA MVP formula rewards players for match-winning performances, with bonus points given for taking top-order wickets, scoring a high proportion of your team’s total and, as in Donald’s case, accumulating runs quickly.
The young batsman’s 50.75 MVP points weren’t enough to give the home side victory, however, as experienced campaigner Jeetan Patel saved the game for Warwickshire.
The Bears skipper currently sits second and third respectively in the Overall and Championship MVP Rankings, thanks largely to his 49 first-class wickets at 22.45.
Patel made an impact with the bat this time, though, as his enterprising 70 not out off just 86 balls saved his team from what looked like a certain loss.
Along with Patel, the aforementioned Gregory and Overton, as well as Essex’s Simon Harmer and Hampshire’s Kyle Abbott complete the Overall MVP top five for the moment.
If Derbyshire’s Luis Reece keeps up his current form, he could soon be joining them. The 28-year-old summed up the consistency of his campaign so far with another four wickets and 51 runs during his side’s victory against Worcestershire.
Reece has helped Derbyshire into the top three of Division Two, and will be hoping to help them mount an unlikely promotion challenge as the season goes on.
The next block of Championship fixtures begins on Saturday 13 July, with all 18 first-class counties in action over the course of the following week.
View the Overall MVP Rankings here.
Keep up-to-date with all the latest MVP news by following the @pcaMVP on Twitter.