Imran Qayyum, Hardus Viljoen and Ollie Robinson all made the top ten of the PCA’s Vitality Blast Most Valuable Player Ranking after the opening round of fixtures this weekend.
The Spitfires have enjoyed a fast start to Blast 2019, being the only of the 18 counties to have won two games to this point. Although the format is traditionally associated with high scoring rates and big sixes, bowler Qayyum has found some joy during Kent’s two victories so far
The 26-year-old 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 Essex Eagles’ Cameron Delport in the Blast MVP for the time being.
Six places below him in eighth position is South African-born Viljoen, who excelled in the Spitfires’ other victory against Hampshire.
Viljoen bowled economically and removed both openers to record figures of 2-20 from his four overs and help restrict the Ageas Bowl-based side to 145-5 from their 20. Kent were able to chase the target down with just one ball to spare, highlighting the importance of Viljoen’s tight spell.
Wicketkeeper Robinson hadn’t played a professional T20 fixture before last week and is applying pressure to his teammates from ninth position.
The 20-year-old top scored for his side in their opening victory against Somerset, with his well-made 53 coming from 49 balls. Robinson made 20 in his side’s second game, giving him the impressive batting average of 36.5 at this stage.
Robinson has also benefited from seven MVP fielding points, thanks to his two catches and single stumping so far.
After his match-winning 57 away at Hampshire, Kent batsman Alex Blake also currently sits in 14th place in the rankings.
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 Robinson’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 claiming dismissals in the field, all of which Robinson has achieved at some point during his Blast campaign so far.
Essex Eagles’ Cameron Delport leads 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 has ensured he will be remembered for a very long time after making an unbelievable 129 during his side’s opening victory.
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.
With a batsman and a bowler occupying the top two of the Blast MVP, 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.
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.