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|NatWest T20 Blast|
|Dates: 7 July – 2 September|
|Coverage: Ball-by-ball local radio commentary on every match, online, tablets, mobiles and BBC Sport app. In-play highlights and live text commentary of selected games on the BBC Sport website. Selected commentaries on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra|
Yorkshire piled up their highest-ever Twenty20 score and Surrey won a last-ball thriller as this season’s T20 Blast began in spectacular fashion.
The Vikings smashed their way to 227-5 in a 48-run victory over Notts Outlaws, led by opener Adam Lyth’s 82 and a 37-ball 60 not out from Australia batsman Shaun Marsh.
Northants began their defence of the trophy with a home defeat against Derbyshire, despite Ben Duckett’s 69, while Ian Bell’s unbeaten 75 guided Birmingham Bears to an eight-wicket victory at rivals Worcestershire.
At Chelmsford, tournament favourites Surrey pulled off a two-run win over Essex with seamer Tom Curran holding his nerve to defend 10 off the final over.
The 22-year-old, who made his England T20 debut last month, bowled Ravi Bopara for 75 before cleaning up Ashar Zaidi to finish with 3-28.
T20 underachievers make a statement
Despite all their success in the County Championship in recent seasons, Yorkshire are still looking for a first T20 title.
The Vikings have been the competition’s perennial underachievers, only reaching Finals Day twice since the tournament started in 2003.
However, in front of 10,037 at Headingley, their biggest crowd outside of a Roses match, Yorkshire made a statement of intent from the outset.
Lyth pulled the first of his three sixes off just the third ball, also striking seven boundaries in his 50-ball knock, before Marsh, Jack Leaning, Peter Handscomb and Tim Bresnan combined to smash 50 off the final 16 deliveries.
It took the Vikings past the 223-6 they made against Durham last season, when Lyth hit his T20 best of 87.
England opener Alex Hales got the Outlaws chase off to a rapid start with 47 off 26 balls, but once he fell to Azeem Rafiq, Notts could not keep up with a sky-high required run rate and fell short on 179-8.
Higgins heroics in tie
Gloucestershire and Middlesex were involved in an extraordinary game at Cheltenham which ended up in a rare tie.
Chasing 183, the visitors looked down and out when they were 119-8 off 15.4 overs, still needing 64 off 26 deliveries.
Ryan Higgins then went ballistic, smashing four fours and six maximums to leave Middlesex requiring one off the final delivery.
However, the drama was not done – last man Nathan Sowter was caught off Benny Howell leaving the scores level.
“I thought there was always a chance, small boundaries, the wind was going nicely in one direction where I wanted to hit the ball,” Higgins, 22, told BBC London.
“You’re always in the game chasing, as much as it was tough at the end there. It just seemed to come out of the middle of the bat today, sometimes it doesn’t, but today was one of those days.”
Mixed bag for international stars
While Higgins enjoyed himself in a Middlesex shirt, it was a day to forget for England limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan who was out for a four-ball duck, and recently-capped Dawid Malan made 36.
England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler hit his 19th T20 half-century, making 59 off 39 balls in Lancashire’s 192-6. The 2015 champions beat Durham by 52 runs at Chester-le-Street.
Surrey and England opener Jason Roy made just four before he was pinned lbw by Pakistan left-arm paceman Mohammad Amir – although replays suggested the ball was missing off-stump.
His Australia counterpart Aaron Finch biffed a 26-ball 56 including three huge sixes to help Surrey to 188-8.
At the SWALEC stadium former Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi produced an outstanding bowling spell, claiming figures of 4-20, in Hampshire’s 22-run win over Glamorgan.
A batsman’s game
Apart from Afridi’s four-wicket haul, it was a difficult day for many bowlers, especially at Headingley where six Notts men went for more than 10 an over.
Lyth’s innings of 82 leads a list of 13 batsmen who passed fifty in the opening round…
Coming up this weekend…
- Derbyshire v Yorkshire – Chesterfield – 14:30 BST
- Birmingham Bears v Notts – Edgbaston – 19:00 BST
Sunday (all games 14:30 BST start unless stated)
- Durham v Northants – Chester-le-Street
- Lancashire v Leicestershire – Liverpool
- Surrey v Somerset – The Oval
- Sussex v Glamorgan – Arundel
- Kent v Essex – Beckenham – 15:00 BST
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