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South African on fire as his side lead Division One.
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Essex’s Simon Harmer closed in on the top two of the PCA’s Overall Most Valuable Player Rankings, as the Specsavers County Championship takes a break ahead of the 2019 Vitality Blast.
The 30-year-old has been an inspirational figure for the Chelmsford-based side this season, taking a competition-high 65 Championship wickets. He is now just 10 points behind Somerset’s Lewis Gregory at the top of the Overall MVP, and five behind Warwickshire skipper Jeetan Patel in second.
Harmer produced another outstanding performance this week, spinning his side to victory against Warwickshire with 6-75 in the second innings. He was ably aided by Australian international Peter Siddle, who claimed a five-fer of his own and has now edged into the format-specific Championship MVP top 10.
Essex’s consistency this season has been rewarded as they defeated the Bears by 187 runs to move above Somerset, who had previously threatened to be runaway Championship leaders in pole position in Division One.
Elsewhere in top tier, Nottinghamshire’s Ravi Ashwin has been living up to his sky-high expectations as one of world cricket’s premier spinners, despite the Outlaws’ much-publicised struggles this season.
Ashwin excelled this week, putting in the most impactful performance of any player in English domestic cricket so far this season.
The MVP was designed by the PCA in conjunction with the players to reward match-winning performances, giving a better indication of the top performers than traditional batting or bowling averages do.
The algorithm recognises the importance of genuine all-round performances such as Ashwin’s against Surrey. The 32-year-old took 12 wickets in the match at 12 apiece, as well as scoring 93 runs – 31% of his side’s total – at an impressive strike rate of 60.3 across his two innings.
As a result, Ashwin claimed 81.53 MVP points for the match, well clear of the previous highest single game total of the season, which was Jeetan Patel’s 60.98 against Surrey back on 30 May.
Ashwin’s off-spinning counterpart Amar Virdi will feel unfortunate not to have claimed the MVP award for himself after the same match.
On what Surrey skipper Rory Burns quickly recognised was a turning deck, Virdi opened the bowling in the first innings, claiming 8-61 in 25.5 consecutive overs. It was a similar story in the second half of the game as the young star claimed another 6-78 to help his side crush Nottinghamshire by 167 runs.
Although Virdi lost out on the MVP due to Ashwin’s impressive batting exploits, he will be delighted at his first performance of the season as he created career best figures of 14-139. Remarkably, he achieved 61.49 MVP points, meaning the spinners recorded the best two performances across all formats all season.
While Ashwin has had a positive impact since arriving at Trent Bridge, Yorkshire’s Keshav Maharaj has played a pivotal role in securing two wins from his three game stint so far. The South African spinner signed off in style as he said goodbye to his Yorkshire teammates, at least until the Championship returns in just over a month.
The 29-year-old slammed a quick-fire 72 out of his side’s mammoth first innings total of 520. Maharaj then backed that up with the ball, claiming match figures of 10-127 to help Yorkshire thrash Somerset – up until that point the league leaders – by the huge margin of an innings and 73 runs.
Maharaj is averaging 40.17 MVP points per game this season – the second-most of any player to have played at least three games – and Yorkshire fans will be eagerly anticipating his return to the longer format as they look to mount an unlikely title challenge late in the season.
In Division Two, Middlesex’s Toby Roland-Jones continued his fairy-tale comeback from injury with yet another match-winning performance for his side.
Having claimed ten wickets in the match against Gloucestershire last time out, Roland-Jones almost repeated the feat by returning match-figures of 9-113 against Glamorgan at Cardiff. He has now won two PCA MVP awards in a row, as Middlesex look to move closer to the promotion places.
Durham’s Chris Rushworth joined Roland-Jones in flying the flag for the seam bowlers during this round of fixtures. An amazing spell of at the beginning of day four saw him remove each of Worcestershire’s top five batsmen, the PCA rep finishing with innings figures of 6-39.
Rushworth has shot into eighth position in the Championship MVP as a result, joining Glamorgan’s Marnus Labuschagne and Derbyshire’s Luis Reece as the only Division Two players represented in the top 10.
Following the conclusion of Leicestershire v Gloucestershire on Thursday, the County Championship makes way for the 2019 Vitality Blast.
The month-long block of fixtures in the game’s shortest format should give us a better idea of which cross-format players are likely to challenge for the Overall MVP this season.
View the Overall MVP Rankings here.
Keep up-to-date with all the latest MVP news by following the @pcaMVP on Twitter.