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All-rounder in contention to cap memorable season with individual prize.
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Gloucestershire’s star all-rounder Ryan Higgins has enjoyed a stellar 2019 domestic season so far, with his recent performances in particular putting him well in the running for the PCA’s annual Overall Most Valuable Player award.
Higgins, who recently moved from tenth to fifth in the Overall MVP after a month-long block of Vitality Blast fixtures, has risen to second in the Rankings following another outstanding performance in his side’s stunning Specsavers County Championship victory over Derbyshire.
The 24-year-old bowled tirelessly in the first innings (no Gloucestershire player recorded more than his 22 overs) to take 5-54 and help skittle Derbyshire for 200. Not content with that, the Harare-born man came out to bat with his side 143-5, before contributing a rapid 101 to a mammoth sixth wicket stand of 221 with opening batsman Chris Dent (169).
Although Derbyshire responded with 481-6 dec in their second innings, Higgins contributed 21 not out to a stunning fourth innings run chase, accruing 43.03 MVP points in the match.
His third such award of a brilliant season in all formats, it has helped him to sit behind only Warwickshire’s Jeetan Patel in the Overall MVP by a margin of 33 points.
Higgins aside, the rest of the Overall top five has a familiar feel after the most recent block of four day fixtures, with Patel leading and Lewis Gregory, Simon Harmer and Craig Overton occupying third, fourth and fifth positions respectively.
The MVP algorithm was designed by the PCA in conjunction with the players to reward match-winning performances. On top of traditional batting and bowling averages, bonus points are awarded, for example, for accumulating a high proportion of your side’s runs, claiming top order wickets and taking catches in the field, amongst other game-changing disciplines.
The PCA keeps track of the top performers in the domestic game via the Overall MVP table, and the player who accrues the most MVP points in all formats in 2019 will receive a £10,000 prize at the 50th NatWest PCA Awards on Wednesday 2 October.
The other notable movement of the week came courtesy of Lancashire skipper Dane Vilas, who enjoyed an away fixture at Glamorgan that he and the present Colwyn Bay crowd will never forget.
Having already claimed an impressive four dismissals in Glamorgan’s first innings, the South African came to the crease with his side 137-4. Five hours later, Vilas walked back to the pavilion having crashed a career best 266 at a scarcely believable strike rate of 110.83.
Two thirds of the 34-year-old’s runs came in boundaries, and Vilas amassed nearly half of his side’s huge total of 545 all out – no other batsman passed 86.
Two dismissals and another Glamorgan innings later, Vilas deservedly claimed the MVP award with 46.38 points. He moves up to eighth in the Overall table, with an excellent season so far seeing him average 12.26 points per game.
Ollie Pope’s simultaneous double ton against Hampshire was as impressive as Vilas’ effort, albeit for very different reasons.
The young batsman was appearing in his first Championship fixture since sustaining a serious shoulder injury back in April. It proved to be a fairytale comeback as Pope made 221 of his side’s 579-5, before he missed the remainder of the match after being called up to Leeds to provide Ashes injury cover for his national side.
Back down south, a bowling duo made hay for the respective sides at Hove and Canterbury.
Ollie Robinson produced an incredible 8-34 to remove Middlesex for just 75, before coming back to claim 6-101 in the second innings and finish with match figures of 14-135. Sussex eventually cruised past Middlesex by seven wickets, thanks largely to Robinson’s heroics, with the tall paceman moving up to 28th in the Overall MVP.
Meanwhile, Essex’s Sam Cook inspired his team to a memorable comeback as his 7-23 reduced Kent to 40 all out at Hove. Having trailed by 112 after the first innings, the Chelmsford-based side came back to win by three wickets, meaning they stay just ahead of Somerset atop Division One, Cook finishing the match with career best match figures of 12-65.
Keshav Maharaj has been producing similar heroics throughout his brief career at Yorkshire so far.
This week, the South African returned 6-95 in the final innings against Nottinghamshire, helping him to 39.99 MVP points and the Player of the Match award.
Unbelievably, that’s just below the 29-year-old’s season average of 40.12 MVP points per game – currently the highest of any player in the top 50 of the format-specific Championship MVP.
The Vitality Blast is set to come back to the fore with just under three weeks until the next round of Championship fixtures. Cross-format players such as Higgins will be keen to further their MVP credentials as the business end of the season comes into view.
View the Overall MVP Rankings here.
View the Vitality Blast MVP Rankings here.
Keep up-to-date with all the latest MVP news by following the @pcaMVP on Twitter.