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Who will stand up to be counted on Blast's Final Day?
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The biggest day in the domestic calendar is upon us with a sold-out Edgbaston ready to host the Vitality Blast T20 Finals Day, with Worcestershire, Lancashire, Sussex and Somerset ready to do battle of the crown.
However, there is only three players in the PCA MVP Blast Rankings top ten who will take part this Saturday. Somerset all-rounder Lewis Gregory, Sussex’s top order batsman Laurie Evans and Lancashire opener Alex Davies all have a chance to hunt down Joe Denly of Kent at the top of the tree.
Either Evans or Gregory will at least get two bites of the proverbial cherry when Sussex and Somerset face each other in the second semi-final of the day. Gregory currently sits on 154 points, 64 off Denly, but has been instrumental in helping Somerset reach the showpiece event.
The Somerset skipper Gregory smashed 44 off 15 to power his side to Finals Day and has been a consistent performer with bat and ball throughout the tournament, hitting 321 runs at an impressive strike-rate of 217, the highest in the top 50 run-scorers in the competition.
Coupled with his 17 wickets, he is the highest placed Somerset player in the Blast MVP Rankings and is in third position in the Overall Rankings, behind Rikki Clarke and Denly.
Sussex’s Evans has scored 554 runs in the competition and is 35 off Aaron Finch who is the current leading scorer and while it would take a monumental effort for him to pip Denly to the MVP of the Blast, he still has a great chance of overtaking the Australian as the leading run-scorer.
Evans has scored his runs at an average of 79.14 and a phenomenal strike-rate of 138.5, a key factor in the MVP formula as players are attributed more points depending on the scenario of the game. If Evans takes the Sharks to glory at Edgbaston, he could yet see him win the MVP award for the whole Vitality Blast.
With a side full of T20 stars including Luke Wright, Chris Jordan and Jofra Archer, Sussex will feel they are in a fantastic position to perform on the biggest stage.
Like Evans, Lancashire’s Davies has scored big runs in the competition this season, 525 to be exact. He has 150 MVP points, five behind Gregory and Evans, but if Lancashire overturn Worcestershire he will be bound to shoot up the leader board.
Davies is likely to be joined in Lancashire’s top order with Keaton Jennings and England’s Most Valuable Player of the summer, Jos Buttler. The once, white-ball specialist, has showed his class across all formats and has recently taken the accolade and will be looking to win his second Finals Day in four seasons.
The Rapids star man has been youngster Pat Brown with the 20-year-old going into Finals Day as the top wicket taker in the entire competition. Taking 27 scalps at an average of 14 means he is the highest placed Worcestershire player in the MVP Rankings, sitting in 19th position.
It could be surprising to see Brown not firmly inside the top 10, however, the paceman has never scored a T20 run and has only faced six balls in his entire career. This means he has zero batting points and only two fielding points, the fewest in the top 20.
So despite currently top of the bowling stats according to the MVP, taking everything into account he has had a breakthrough season to remember and will be a key man if the Worcestershire are to go all the way.
However, Moeen Ali is arguably the key man for the Rapids. The all-rounder will captain his side on their first ever Finals Day and is fresh from winning the PCA Player of the Month for August and playing a key part in his country’s 4-1 victory over India.
Ultimately, Denly will be a tough man to overhaul at the top of the Blast MVP Rankings. He remarkably scored a hundred and took a hat-trick in the same game, and although his efforts were not enough to help the Spitfires to Finals Day, his form throughout the Blast proves he is worthy of his current position.
409 runs with the bat, 20 wickets with the ball and leading Kent to the quarter-finals. If Denly retains the top spot come Saturday night, he would have deserved it.
View the MVP Rankings here.