Vitality Blast: Ones to Watch – North Group
By Ronan Alexander
With the Blast now underway, we take a look at one young player to watch from each county – beginning with the North Group.
Brimingham Bears – Jacob Bethell (18)
A youngster that a lot of people are familiar with after his rise through the Warwickshire ranks and a strong England Under 19 World Cup campaign under his belt through the winter. The Bears had the least stable powerplay last season, losing an average 2.4 wickets during the first six overs. This summer, they have a new combination. Ed Pollock has moved to Worcestershire and Adam Hose will be used in the middle overs as a spin hitter. Bethell will be partnered by Paul Stirling, with the pair putting on a 139-run partnership in 10.3 overs against Northants 2nd XI earlier this week.
Has scores of 74(29), 42(27), 79(45) and 69(31) in the 2nd XI T20, so is in superb form. His off spin will also provide a useful middle overs spin option and could also be utilised as a powerplay matchup option.
Derbyshire Falcons – George Scrimshaw (24)
A tall right arm seamer who provides a useful role of preventing runs and taking wickets in the middle overs and is looking to expand his game by bowling more in the powerplay. Posted excellent economy numbers last year, whilst taking 14 wickets at an average of 16.86.
Durham – Oliver Gibson (21)
Looks to be next on the conveyor belt of talented seamers from the North-East. With Matty Potts now with the England setup, Durham need another seamer to slot in and Gibson has been the man who has bowled most frequently in the 2nd XI T20’s and has played three first class matches this summer. James Franklin’s side were poor in the powerplay last year, conceding an average of 51 runs during the first six overs. With Brydon Carse operating as an enforcer, Gibson will likely slot into the seam attack with either Ben Raine or Paul Coughlin depending how they line up. A good opportunity for Gibson to impress and has been named in the first 14 man squad ahead of the new campaign.
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Lancashire – Jack Morley (20)
A slow left armer who has been impressing at 2nd XI level for a couple of years now and is patiently waiting for his first proper run in the side. Will need to be patient to begin with as Matt Parkinson and Tom Hartley will play ahead of him. However, when Parkinson and Liam Livingston go on England duty, Lancs may require another spinner, which will be Morley’s chance. Bowled well in the Royal London One Day Cup last summer, grabbing 9 wickets in 7 matches at an average of 24.9 and economy of 4.00. With Hartley being versatile and able to bowl in all three phases, means Morley can adapt to life and settle in during the middle overs.
Leicestersire – Roman Walker (21)
A player we wrote about ahead of the Second XI T20 starting. A multi-phase seamer who made the switch to Grace Road having previously been at Glamorgan. His numbers for the Welsh outfit clearly stood out to Leicestershire recruitment analyst Dan Weston and the Foxes snapped him up ahead of the 2022 campaign.
As you can see, Walker posted excellent numbers in the Blast last summer, with only George Garton boasting a better dot ball percentage. His strike rate, average, economy, and boundary prevention are also excellent. The wickets column is not so high, mainly due to him not being a regular starter so only played six out of 12 matches (2 others rained off).
Walker can bowl in all three phases. In his T20 career so far, he’s bowled 9 powerplay overs, 16 in the middle and 5 at the death. With Naveen-ul-Haq top-tailing, Walker gives Paul Nixon an exciting middle overs seamer who is versatile with bowling in every phase, providing nice flexibility.
Northamptonshire – Freddie Heldreich (20)
A left arm wrist spinner who broke onto the scene last summer and had a year to remember. Was excellent operating during the middle overs, boasting an economy of 6.50. He was more prolific against right-handed batters. Part of a useful spin attack which also contains Graeme White, Rob Keogh, Josh Cobb, Simon Kerrigan and Saif Zaib.
Nottinghamshire – Sol Budinger (22)
Currently playing backup to Joe Clarke and Alex Hales so may find opportunities hard to come by but has shown excellent boundary hitting potential at Second XI level. Has looked in reasonable touch this summer with his last two knocks being 35(20) and 22(11). Offers another left-hand option at the top of the order. A regular six hitter as will, striking 23 sixes compared to 18 fours in last summers 2nd XI T20 comp.
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Worcestershire – Dillon Pennington (23)
A powerplay controller who featured for Birmingham Phoenix last summer and will be aiming for one of those wildcard slots ahead of the 2022 Hundred. Had the second most powerplay wickets last year, taking 12 as only Naveen ul-Haq had more with 13. Also bowls a high number of dot balls, during the 2021 T20 Blast, Pennington had the 6th highest dot ball percentage from a sample of 75 seamers who bowled more than 13 overs with 45.16%.
Yorkshire – George Hill (21)
A young all-rounder who will need to wait for his opportunity in the side. Yorkshire currently have Shadab Khan, Jordan Thompson, Dom Bess, Matthew Revis and Adil Rashid who add depth all the way from number six down to 10. Hill was named in their first squad but missed out on the XI so looks next in the pecking order, with Shadab only available for the first four matches and Adil Rashid in contention for England selection. Has batted as high as four in T20’s, meanwhile his bowling is mainly utilised in the middle overs.