The Bob Willis Trophy enters the third week of the competition and the battle for the two spots for the final is heating up at the midway point of the group stage.Essex have made a dominant start to the tournament in the South Group, flouting their skills as the county champions. Last season’s runner-up in Division One, Somerset, also look in good in the Central Group, winning their opening two matches.
Derbyshire have been the surprise package thus far and a third win on the bounce could see them take charge of the North Group. However, it’s all to play for with three matches remaining.
We’ll now look at three of the standout fixtures of the third round of the Bob Willis Trophy.
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Not a lot of people would have put Derbyshire as contenders for the crown when the competition began. Dave Houghton’s men have been notorious for struggles in Division Two for a number of years.
However, they’ve come out firing on all cylinders in the Bob Willis Trophy. Derbyshire produced a thrilling chase of 365 in their opener against rivals Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge. Fynn Hudson-Prentice scored a brilliant unbeaten 91 to guide his team over the line in the final over of the match.
They then used the momentum of their victory to crush Leicestershire at Grace Road. Derbyshire bowled out the Foxes for 199 before putting 408 on the board in their first innings courtesy of a century from Wayne Madsen.
Six wickets from Matt Critchley dismissed the hosts for 220, allowing Houghton’s men to knock off the 12 runs required to win. They sit top of the group with 44 points from their two matches, although their opponents on Saturday are right behind them.
Yorkshire hammered Durham in their opener, recording a six-wicket triumph at Emirates Riverside. Even without key players they mustered a strong enough bowling performance before Harry Brook and Dawid Malan scored the vital runs with the bat.
Jonny Bairstow’s return to the ranks was key against Nottinghamshire last time out. The White Rose were on the back foot at Trent Bridge facing a deficit of 91 in their second innings. However, Bairstow scored a valuable 75 before Duanne Olivier and Jordan Thompson combined to skittle the hosts for 97.
Tip: The contest is going to be a tricky one to call because of Yorkshire’s top-tier talent. Derbyshire have momentum and quality on their team. Houghton’s men may just be able to cause another shocking upset.
Somerset have been outstanding in their opening two matches of the campaign. They brushed aside Glamorgan with ease in their first contest, claiming a 289-run victory on home soil. Jason Kerr’s men then played out a thrilling match against Northamptonshire on the road. The first day of the game saw 21 wickets fall as Somerset were bowled out for 166 before in turn skittling the hosts for 67.
Craig Overton sent a timely reminder to the England selectors of his ability with a figures of 4-12. He and his brother Jamie then scored important half-centuries in the second innings. They set an imposing total of 322 for Northants to chase.
Jamie Overton and Jack Brooks guided the visitors to victory by 167 runs. Kerr’s men have not been their usual composed selves with the bat, but their bowlers have been on point, led by the Overtons.
Warwickshire are in dire need of a victory to salvage their hopes in the competition. They played out a drab draw against Northants in their opener, lacking the firepower to bowl out the Steelbacks twice at Edgbaston.
The Bears were then seemingly in control of their contest against Gloucestershire after earning a first-innings lead. However, Ryan Higgins notched seven wickets to tear through their batting line-up, allowing the home side to secure a 78-run victory.
It leaves Jim Troughton’s men in trouble in their bid to qualify for the finals. Anything other than a win over Somerset would effectively end their hopes. Warwickshire need their key men to perform to beat the group leaders with particular pressure on youngsters Sam Hain and Henry Brookes.
Tip: Somerset’s bowling unit is a well-oiled machine at the moment. Expect the Overton brothers to deliver another fine performance in tandem to drive their side to the victory.
Kent made history in their last match against Sussex courtesy of a record-breaking partnership between Jordan Cox and Jack Leaning. Their partnership was worth 423, the highest stand for a Kent wicket in the history of the county. Kent put 530 runs on the board for the loss of just one wicket as Cox notched a score of 238 unbeaten, while Leaning was not out on 220.
It allowed Darren Stevens and the Kent bowlers to put the pressure on Sussex, bowling out the visitors for 173 to secure an innings victory. Kent played well against Essex in their opener, only to fall short.
Their win over Sussex has put them within striking distance and Matthew Walker’s men will have confidence heading into the contest. However, Cox broke coronavirus regulations after the game after taking a picture with a fan. As a result, the teenager will miss the showdown against Middlesex, which is a huge blow to the Spitfires.
Middlesex’s hopes of reaching the final took a blow, losing a thriller to Hampshire in their last match. Both teams struggled with the bat, but Hampshire were able to muster the highest total of 296 in their first innings led by a score of 98 from Joe Weatherley. Stuart Law’s men were bowled out for 201 in their second innings, leaving the south coast outfit with a chase of 167.
Although Middlesex put them under pressure, Weatherley loomed large once more with an unbeaten 67 to take his team over the line by a three-wicket margin. Changes could be afoot as Law could rotate Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones into his side, highlighting the strength of their bowling options.
Tip: Kent were outstanding against Sussex, but without Cox in their line-up they are exposed at the top of the order. Middlesex have the talent to win, although their record against Kent is poor – losing their last five matches on the bounce. Expect Kent to edge a close game.