PCA PRESS RELEASE
After ten straight rounds of Championship fixtures, cricket’s shortest format returns.
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The busiest period of the cricket season is back as players and fans alike look forward to a block of 93 Vitality Blast fixtures over the course of the next month.
Kent’s Joe Denly, the 2018 Overall MVP, was the standout performer of last year’s competition, finishing 33 points clear of Surrey’s Aaron Finch at the top of the PCA’s Vitality Blast Most Valuable Player Rankings.
Despite Denly’s heroics, the Spitfires were unable to make it past the quarter-final stage as they were knocked out by a Matthew Parkinson-inspired Lancashire Lightning at Canterbury.
The MVP formula was designed by the PCA in conjunction with the players to reward match-winning performances, and recognises the importance of the genuine all-rounder. It therefore gives a more accurate reflection of the top performers than traditional batting and bowling averages do.
Players such as Denly will have benefitted from the metric last season, as he finished inside the top 20 Blast performers in terms of both runs scored and wickets taken.
The Blast MVP will be reset before the start of this year’s competition and, along with the format-specific County Championship and One-Day Cup MVP Rankings, will contribute to the crowning of the 2019 Overall MVP at the end of the season.
The first round of Blast fixtures begins on Thursday 18 July, with six teams in action as Notts Outlaws host defending champions Worcestershire Rapids, Glamorgan take on Somerset and Middlesex face off against Essex Eagles in the first game to be played at Lord’s since Sunday’s iconic ICC Cricket World Cup final.
Out of last year’s Blast MVP top ten, only Nottinghamshire captain Dan Christian is likely to be making an appearance on the first day of this year’s competition.
Although they previously finished seventh and eighth respectively, Somerset’s Lewis Gregory and Worcestershire’s Moeen Ali have been called up for international duty as England take on Ireland next week. However, the latter could yet make a Blast appearance after being left out of the England side for the World Cup run-in.
Middlesex’s Paul Stirling, who finished fifth last year, is likely to be lining up against the Three Lions at Lord’s.
As Gregory will be unavailable for at least Somerset’s first four Blast games, Warwickshire’s Jeetan Patel and Essex’s Simon Harmer, who sit second and third respectively in the Overall MVP, will be looking to make up ground on the current leader.
The former will be in action as his Birmingham Bears side take on the Rapids at New Road. Although usually renowned as a long format specialist, Patel will no doubt use his significant experience to make inroads into Gregory’s lead during the early stages of this year’s competition.
The same goes for the Eagles’ Harmer, who is likely to make his first appearance in the aforementioned clash between Middlesex and Essex at the Home of Cricket on Thursday.
Apart from Gregory, none of the current Overall MVP top ten made it into the top 50 of last year’s Vitality Blast MVP.
As a result, the start of the competition represents a good opportunity for the likes of Surrey’s Rikki Clarke, Hampshire’s Liam Dawson and Middlesex’s Dawid Malan (16th, 22nd and 29th in the Overall MVP respectively) to move up in the race for the £10,000 prize awarded at the end of the season.
In terms of teams to watch, last year’s surprise champions Worcestershire Rapids will be put under the microscope to see if they can retain their crown, or if last year’s victory was a one-off.
Sussex Sharks will be looking to avenge last year’s final defeat, while 2019 Royal London One-Day Cup champions Somerset will look to keep their hopes of an unthinkable treble alive.
Conversely, Notts Outlaws and Surrey will look to put their relatively poor starts to the season behind them, although the latter might struggle as star batsman Jason Roy could be spending much of the rest of the summer on red-ball international duty with England.
View last year’s Vitality Blast MVP Rankings here.
View the current Overall MVP Rankings here.
Keep up-to-date with all the latest MVP news by following the @pcaMVP on Twitter.