NICK FRIEND seems forward to the counties’ 50-over competitors, which begins on August 2 and takes place in opposition to the backdrop of The Hundred

The Royal London Cup will get below means on Tuesday (August 2), with the 18 counties vying for a spot at September’s Trent Bridge ultimate and a shot at silverware.

The Cricketer takes a have a look at some key themes to regulate…

Abroad involvement

It was meant to occur final yr, when Lancashire introduced the signing of Shreyas Iyer to a combination of bemusement and fanfare: bemusement, as a result of nobody was fairly positive at that time what the Royal London Cup was meant to appear like in its first yr with out the majority of the nation’s greatest limited-over cricketers; fanfare, as a result of an Indian worldwide was certain for county cricket for a month-long competitors performed out because the backdrop to The Hundred. One senior participant informed The Cricketer on the time of the announcement that Iyer would break data.

As so occurs with best-laid plans, it by no means got here to fruition. Iyer injured his shoulder throughout an ODI in opposition to England, and the deal was finally scrapped. There have been nonetheless abroad gamers: Tim David, a late decide by Surrey on account of Covid points, smoked 340 runs and averaged 68 within the course of – he hit a six each two overs.

However this yr, in a world after bubbles and pandemic restrictions, there’s a world flavour to a match nonetheless unfairly billed by some as merely a growth competitors. Worcestershire and Sussex have Azhar Ali and Cheteshwar Pujara pencilled in at No.3, whereas Lancashire and Warwickshire have a finger-spinning allrounder every in Washington Sundar and Krunal Pandya, whose signing – particularly for this competitors – is probably extra intriguing than some other.

Will Younger, the New Zealand opener, will captain Northamptonshire – as he has executed within the County Championship since Ricardo Vasconcelos was changed within the position – whereas Kent have the weird job of compressing three abroad choices into two, with Matt Henry, Navdeep Saini and George Linde all at their disposal.

At Gloucestershire, they may weigh up the inclusions of Marcus Harris and Zafar Gohar on a case-by-case foundation: counties obtain ECB funds for fielding at the least 10 England-qualified gamers within the Royal London Cup. Middlesex, who’re among the many final groups to get their marketing campaign underway, have Pieter Malan and Umesh Yadav of their plans. Yadav has been rested from their Nationwide Counties fixtures, the primary of which they misplaced in opposition to Berkshire in a high-scoring encounter.

Somerset, lacking a number of gamers to The Hundred, do at the least have Australians Peter Siddle and Matt Renshaw at their disposal.


Washington Sundar is on Lancashire’s books for the Royal London Cup [Getty Images]

The reigning champions have strengthened…

Glamorgan’s triumph final yr – their first in a knockout one-day ultimate – was one of many tales of the summer time: removed from at full power, they have been with out their wicketkeeper-captain, Colin Ingram, a high-class abroad batter, stalwart David Lloyd and highly effective allrounder Dan Douthwaite. Of their place, Kiran Carlson was named as captain, whereas Andy Gorvin and Steve Reingold have been picked up by way of Wales Minor County.

And in opposition to the chances, they made it to Trent Bridge, the place they dismantled Durham, led expertly by Carlson, who saved his greatest show for the ultimate, and Andrew Salter, the off-spinner who had been a dropping finalist at Lord’s eight years earlier when the match was a considerably totally different beast.

A yr on, they’re lacking only a single participant to The Hundred – Michael Hogan, picked up improbably as a 41-year-old within the ultimate yr of his skilled profession. Fittingly, he was summoned as a wildcard choice by Southern Courageous, the reigning champions. It implies that Glamorgan are a talismanic seamer down however holders of maybe essentially the most daunting prime six within the competitors.

Sam Northeast was the eighth-highest run-scorer within the T20 Blast – solely Steven Croft scored extra runs with out attracting a Hundred gig, whereas Lloyd, Ingram and Cooke will doubtless slot into the highest six alongside Carlson and Billy Root. Probably, it implies that Joe Cooke – the main wicket-taker in final yr’s competitors – would possibly properly discover himself with a struggle for his spot.


Glamorgan are the defending champions [Getty Images]

New-look Surrey

Surrey are lacking 13 gamers to The Hundred and have resisted the urge to recruit abroad reinforcements. As an alternative, Hashim Amla and Kemar Roach have been given the month off forward of a blockbuster September, when the county will look to tie up a primary County Championship title since 2018.

Rory Burns has made the uncommon change from Hundred to Royal London Cup, allowed to play 50-over cricket given the unlikelihood of him being referred to as upon by Oval Invincibles. It’s believed that he’ll captain Surrey, although Ben Geddes, 21, has been named as the person in cost with Burns initially unavailable as he briefly recharges forward of the title run-in.

Each county is enjoying to win, however not many are as inexperienced because the core chosen by Alec Stewart and Gareth Batty for the subsequent month. The 12-man squad to tackle Leicestershire of their opener at Guildford possesses simply 73 Listing A appearances mixed, in addition to a mean age of 24. Wicketkeeper Josh Blake has a terrific story, having not too long ago signed his first skilled contract after 4 years spent working as a neighborhood coach for Probability to Shine and the Surrey Cricket Basis.

Ryan Patel has established himself this season as Burns’ red-ball opening accomplice as an at-one-time-unlikely pocket rocket. It was on this competitors final summer time that his emergence as an aggressive opener flourished, smashing a outstanding hundred in opposition to Nottinghamshire at Woodbridge Street. Cam Metal made a century within the pre-tournament defeat by Buckinghamshire and is a participant of uncommon expertise in a youthful line-up.

He described 18-year-old Yousef Majid to The Cricketer as “an actual expertise” after his registration in Surrey’s squad for the competitors. Remarkably, Amar Virdi is primed to make his white-ball debut, 5 years after his first skilled look.


Rory Burns is accessible for Surrey [Getty Images]

Who to look out for…

So nice is the depth of white-ball expertise within the county sport that 15 of the 70 English gamers to place themselves ahead for the Large Bash’s abroad draft do not even have Hundred offers. And by the identical token, there are many names within the Royal London Cup who, in any earlier period, would doubtless have walked right into a condensed T20 competitors of the very best limited-over capability.

Stephen Eskinazi was one in every of 4 gamers to achieve 400 runs on this season’s Blast but not be afforded a place in The Hundred. He has been one of many circuit’s dominant T20 openers for a big period of time and will moderately be thought-about among the many most unlucky of these with out a deal. Joe Denly is one other – an England white-baller as not too long ago as two summers in the past – together with Croft and Northeast.

Gary Ballance is again in motion at Yorkshire for the primary time in first-team cricket since 2021 and the revelation of his title in allegations made by Azeem Rafiq. He smashed 95 off 25 balls in a warmup in opposition to Northumberland: 90 of these runs got here in boundaries.

At Derbyshire, Mickey Arthur’s first expertise of the 50-over competitors has seen a short-term deal handed to Mark Watt, the Scotland left-arm spinner, who was touted for a Hundred deal following his T20 World Cup appearances. His teammates, Brooke Visitor and Anuj Dal, have quietly been two of the main county cricketers within the nation this yr within the red-ball sport. Tom Wooden, the opening batter, is in line for his first look of 2022 after the conclusion of a backdated doping ban associated to the usage of an bronchial asthma inhaler.

Gloucestershire have England expertise in James Bracey, in addition to pedigree in Chris Dent and youth in each Bens Charlesworth and Wells. Charlesworth is again in motion after breaking his foot in April, whereas Wells – a wicketkeeper-batter – has warmed up for this month with a century in opposition to Wiltshire. Bracey reached three figures in the identical sport.


The Royal London Cup begins on August 2 [Getty Images]

Matt Taylor’s season-ending harm has ended the prospect of three units of brothers turning out concurrently for a similar workforce, with the Charlesworths – Ben and Luke – and the Costs – Tom and Ollie – all contracted, together with Matt’s brother, Jack, who has been named as Gloucestershire’s 50-over captain in Graeme van Buuren’s absence.

Paul van Meekeren, now on the employees at Bristol, took 14 wickets in seven video games final season for Durham, earlier than lacking the latter phases of the competitors for a shock Caribbean Premier League stint. Durham’s assault is as soon as once more led by Chris Rushworth, who picked up 17 wickets in eight matches in 2021. Durham need to blood 20-year-old opener Jonny Bushnell, of whom lots is anticipated.

Essex are equally providing possibilities to youth, together with to Robin Das, who acted as twelfth man for England earlier this summer time, changing into the primary man of Bangladeshi heritage to signify England. He’s solely 20 however stands to function in a facet lacking Alastair Prepare dinner to a again downside that’s more likely to maintain him out till September. Additionally they have Luc Benkenstein – son of Gloucestershire head coach Dale – of their ranks, in addition to Charlie Allison – youthful brother of seamer Ben.

Haseeb Hameed is because of captain Nottinghamshire, with Jonny Tattersall taking over accountability at Yorkshire for the primary time since Steven Patterson’s resignation. Ollie Robinson – like Hameed with out an England Check cap for the reason that Ashes – is in Sussex’s squad as his return to health ramps up, whereas Ben Cox returns for Worcestershire after taking a break from the sport for psychological well being causes.

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