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Frontrunners eye award going into latter stages of 2019 season.
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The favourites for the PCA’s 2019 Overall Most Valuable Player award will look to further stake their claims for the end-of-season crown as a block of Specsavers County Championship fixtures breaks up this year’s Vitality Blast.
The current top four of Jeetan Patel, Simon Harmer and Somerset pair Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton have led the race for £10,000 throughout the domestic summer, and will be keen to put in strong individual performances for their respective sides once again over the next few days.
Spinners Patel and Harmer, the top two wicket-takers in Division One, will be particularly excited to make the most of late-season turning wickets as their sides take on strong Somerset and Kent outfits respectively.
Overall MVP leader Patel will be up against Gregory and Overton at Edgbaston, with the latter pair having excelled in red-ball cricket throughout 2019. Gregory, though, will be an injury doubt after missing each of Somerset’s last five Blast fixtures with a foot problem.
Indeed, none of the quartet have particularly made the headlines during this year’s 20-over competition, with Overton the highest ranked of the group in the Blast MVP at 46th.
However, as a result of their impressive outings at the start of the season, each player had already created a big enough cushion at the top of the Overall Ranking to remain in contention for the main prize at this stage.
One player who has made significant strides in the shortest format, however, is Ryan Higgins, and the Gloucestershire man is currently doing the most to pile pressure on the leaders.
Ranked tenth in the Overall MVP when the Blast began in mid-July, Higgins has moved up to fifth place over the course of the last month as the top four has remained unchanged.
The MVP algorithm was designed by the PCA in conjunction with the players to reward match-winning performances, and recognises the importance of all-rounders such as Higgins.
On top of traditional batting and bowling averages, bonus points are awarded, for example, for scoring a high proportion of your team’s runs, claiming top order wickets and taking catches in the field.
Higgins has benefitted from these metrics and more as he has become one of Gloucestershire’s most influential players in this year’s Blast, top-scoring for his team with 196 runs at 32.67.
Given that he is also the Bristol-based side’s top run-scorer in the Championship with 744 at 67.64, Higgins is likely to have even loftier MVP ambitions come the end of September. However, he has plenty of work to do if he is to make up the current 60-point gap on leader Patel.
Leicestershire and Middlesex skippers Colin Ackermann and Dawid Malan are the two other men to have furthered their Overall MVP credentials over the course of the Blast.
The former has been a revelation recently, claiming the MVP award three times over the past fortnight. The second of those occasions, against Birmingham Bears on 7 August, saw Ackermann return world record T20 figures of 7-18, helping the all-rounder to accrue a huge 40.16 MVP points.
Malan has been equally as destructive with the bat, smashing 370 runs in the competition at the fierce strike rate of 146.24. Like Ackermann, Malan has led his side from the front, picking up two MVP awards in the process.
The pair have shot from outside the Overall MVP top 10 at the start of July and into eighth and ninth respectively going into the latter stages of August. They will look to move even further up the table during four day fixtures against Durham and Sussex.
With Kyle Abbott, Luis Reece and Dane Vilas completing the top 10, the Overall MVP contenders will be casting their minds to the 50th NatWest PCA awards on Wednesday 2 October as the finish line starts to come 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.