Jeetan Patel moved top of the PCA’s Overall Most Valuable Player Rankings for the first time this year after a rain-affected opening weekend of the Vitality Blast.
The Bears captain has enjoyed a memorable campaign so far, particularly in the Specsavers County Championship, where he has taken 52 wickets at 24.12. However, he has largely been scuppered by the scintillating form of Somerset’s Lewis Gregory, who has led for the majority of the season.
Gregory has had an uncharacteristically quiet weekend, though, going wicketless in his side’s opening victory against Glamorgan, and missing out altogether on their loss to Kent Spitfires due to England duty.
As a result, Patel’s impressive 2-24 in his side’s seven-wicket win over Leicestershire Foxes was enough to move him top of the coveted Overall MVP for the very first time this year, despite the Bears’ opening fixture against Worcestershire Rapids being completely washed out.
As Birmingham look forward to fixtures against Derbyshire Falcons and Northamptonshire Steelbacks, the 39-year-old will aim to capitalise on Gregory’s absence and build a cushion at the summit of the Overall MVP.
Whilst Patel has made his mark on the Overall Rankings, Essex Eagles’ Cameron Delport has dominated the format-specific Blast MVP following his memorable home debut knock against Surrey.
Having signed for the Eagles on a two-year Blast-only contract in December last year, Delport will have been keen to make a name for himself at Chelmsford. His unbelievable 129 during his side’s opening victory ensured that he will be remembered for a very long time to come.
The 30-year-old’s ton came from just 38 balls – the fifth-fastest in the competition’s history – and his knock eventually included seven fours and 14 sixes. Delport shared a fourth-wicket of 135 with teammate Dan Lawrence, who himself made 57 not out off 22 balls, in less than seven overs.
In what was a rain-affected game, the Eagles eventually posted 226 from their 15 overs. If Essex had been allowed to continue the carnage at the same rate for another 30 balls, they would have set Surrey 302 to win.
Although it was a run-fest at Chelmsford, across the Dartford Crossing, Kent bowler Imran Qayyum has found some joy during his side’s two victories.
Qayyum took a career-best 5-21 to sink Somerset at Canterbury, removing four of the Taunton-based side’s top five in the process. The man-of-the-match performance was enough to see him sit second behind Delport in the Blast MVP for the time being.
The Spitfires have made a fast start to Blast 2019, being the only of the 18 counties to have won two games so far. Their success is reflected in the fact that they have three players in the Blast MVP top ten, with Qayyum being joined by Hardus Viljoen and Ollie Robinson in eigth and ninth respectively.
With a batsman and a bowler occupying the top two, the podium places are completed by an all-rounder in Durham’s D’Arcy Short.
The Australian batted well on a slow pitch to make 46 off 40 balls, before claiming a miserly 2-19 with the ball during his side’s victory in a low-scoring encounter against the Steelbacks.
The MVP was designed by the PCA in conjunction with the players to reward match-winning performances, and recognises the importance of all-round contributions such as Short’s.
Bonus points are given for making runs above the average strike rate of a game, scoring a high proportion of your team’s total and taking top order wickets, all of which Short achieved in his side’s opening game.
Completing the Blast MVP top five are Somerset’s Tom Banton, who has top scored for his side in both of their games so far, and Gloucestershire’s Benny Howell, who steamed in to take a career best 5-18 against Glamorgan at Cheltenham.
They will be nervously looking over their shoulder, though, as sixth place is currently occupied by South African megastar AB de Villiers.
In his first innings in English domestic cricket, the 35-year-old did not disappoint – his stunning 88 from 43 balls led Middlesex to a comfortable victory against Essex with three overs to spare. Fans of the Lord’s-based side will be licking their lips at the prospect of an entire campaign with de Villiers in the squad.
With 22 Blast fixtures and a nationwide heatwave forecast for the coming days, we will have a better idea of which players will join de Villiers as the frontrunners for the 2019 Blast MVP by this time next week.