Paul Collingwood became the oldest centurion in T20 history when he smashed his maiden century in the format against Worcestershire last summer, and he is back in the record books after playing in Durham’s win against Nottinghamshire.
At 42 years and 63 days old, Collingwood is the oldest man to play in English domestic T20, beating Robert Croft’s previous record. And there are no signs of his all-round powers diminishing: he took 1 for 29 in his four overs before stroking an unbeaten 40 to see his side home with time to spare.
Given his longevity in the format, it is easy to forget that it took Collingwood until 2008 to make his Durham T20 debut; his first 13 short-form games, including the inaugural World T20, were in an England shirt.
But Collingwood still has a long way to go if he wants to break the overall T20 record; he would have to pull on his kit in August 2026 to surpass West Indian Carlton Saunders. Saunders became the format’s only quinquagenarian when, aged 50 years and 91 days, he played in the Turks and Caicos Islands’ nine-wicket loss to Montserrat in the Caribbean’s Stanford 20/20 in January 2008, in a side that also featured his 41-year-old brother, Henry. That’s longevity for you.
Martin Guptill smashed the fastest hundred of the season on Friday night, and the equal fourth-fastest in T20 history. He brought up three figures from just 35 balls before holing out to long-on as Worcestershire cruised to victory at Northampton to go joint top of the North Group.
But it could have all been so different. Guptill had 2 from seven balls when he edged Richard Gleeson, returning after a long injury lay-off, to Richard Levi at slip, but the ball squirted through Levi’s outstretched hand for four.
Guptill has made something of a habit of making teams pay for their profligacy over the course of his career – during his highest ODI innings of 237 not out in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final, he was dropped on 4 by Marlon Samuels. And he certainly made Levi rue his drop, hitting 22 off Gleeson’s next over as the carnage began to unfold.
It was yet another nightmare evening for Northants’ bowling attack, who have leaked 11.2 runs per over the course of the season. According to CricViz, that means they have the highest-ever economy rate for any side in a T20 competition, with Birmingham Bears’ rate of 10.1 not far behind. If you’re a Blast bowler, it really is grim up north.
One of the few bowlers in the North Group who has so far avoided punishment is former England left-armer Harry Gurney. Nottinghamshire have struggled so far in their title defence, winning four and losing four, but Gurney has been excellent; he has 11 wickets, and despite bowling in the powerplay and at the death, he has conceded just 7.44 runs per over.
It should come as no surprise that Gurney excels in terms of economy. He has a degree in Economics from the University of Leeds, and takes a keen interest in the stock market – “I guess I just like numbers,” he said in 2014. It seems Nottinghamshire’s Twitter account have picked up on Gurney’s academic prowess, too: the GIF they post when he takes a T20 wicket features him looking nonplussed by an article in The Economist. If he can continue his form with the ball, perhaps that will become one of county cricket’s more unlikely nicknames.
With Gurney’s England days probably behind him, he already has plans for life after cricket; he runs a pub company alongside Notts teammate Stuart Broad, and the pair plan to open their second pub later this year.
Derbyshire extended their winning run to three at a sold-out Chesterfield on Saturday afternoon, as they chased down a target of 167 against Yorkshire with a ball to spare. After losing the first four games of their Blast campaign, the Derby faithful feared that last year’s run to the quarter-finals was nothing more than an anomaly, but their campaign looks to be back on track.
Saturday’s victory was sealed courtesy of Matt Critchley, the hard-hitting, leg-spinning all-rounder, who took 22 runs from Tim Bresnan’s final over to finish on 38 not out and as the match-winner. Critchley’s effort equalled the English record for most runs in the 20th over of a successful run chase, drawing level with Scott Styris’ 2010 effort for Essex against Surrey.
Critchley has plenty of fans within the England hierarchy. He played for the Lions in their one-day series in the West Indies in March, and bludgeoned 64 for the North against the South. He is also in regular contact with his mentor, former Australia legspinner Stuart MacGill, who thinks he has a future at the international level.
“He’s a good, tenacious trainer,” MacGill told this column. “He listens, and keeps things simple when he bats and bowls – he’s got a big future.”
But MacGill thinks Critchley – who opened the batting for Derbyshire last year – is worthy of a promotion up the order. “The fireworks in that last over against Yorkshire are one thing, but you think ‘why shouldn’t he be at the top of the order?’ In past years, Derby have used him as a batsman. And for some reason now he’s bowling more they don’t want to give him a bat!”
Critchley is one of several young English spinners impressing this season, as he, Matt Parkinson, and Max Waller continue to outperform their overseas counterparts (Arjun Bhardwaj writes).
Before the tournament many teams invested in overseas spinners, with Rashid Khan, Imran Tahir and Adam Zampa among the big-name signings. However, as the Blast has progressed, the overseas spinners have not actually been as effective as homegrown spinners. Prior to this weekend’s action, 571.4 overs of spin had been bowled in the tournament, with overseas spinners accounting for 222.4 of them.
While the overseas spinners have gone at an economy rate of 7.74 and non-overseas spinners at a much higher 8.49, they have been less successful in terms of wicket-taking ability. Domestic spinners have taken 117 wickets at an average of 25.3, whereas overseas spinners have claimed just 63 wickets at a more costly average of 27.4. Looking at strike rates gives the same message: domestic spinners have a strike rate of 17.88 and their overseas counterparts have had a strike rate of 21.2.
So, despite inevitable focus on the big-name signings, domestic spinners have been the more efficient wicket-taking option.
The Blast has been interrupted by a round of Championship matches which gives us an excuse to relate a story from the Cheltenham Festival (Paul Edwards writes).
On the second afternoon, Sussex’s coach Jason Gillespie was talking on local radio about the need for people to be realistic in their assessment of Jofra Archer. He spoke of the “need to take stock” and the importance of “not expecting too much too early” from a player who is only in his third year as a professional.
A few hours later Archer bowled the triple-wicket maiden which was largely responsible for Gloucestershire losing their last seven wickets for 11 runs. He went on to take 8 for 91 in the match as Sussex went second in Division Two. Take stock of that.
But there is an interesting back story to Archer’s memorable over. At lunchtime on that second day Gloucestershire were 137 for 0. Gillespie was in the dressing room at the College Ground talking of the need for patience. The rewards will come, he assured his players. Archer was lying on the floor, chilling out. “When, coach, when?” he asked plaintively.
At close of play Archer walked off the ground having changed the game. Gillespie called him over. “5.55pm” he said.