Friday, September 24, 2021

PCA: MVP stars in line for Hundred wildcards

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  • Top Blast MVP performers in line for Hundred wildcard picks
  • Steel, Hudson-Prentice and Thompson have most MVP points of eligible players
  • Algorithm developed with CricViz gives most accurate picture of Blast’s best players
  • Eight spots available when Vitality Wildcard picks are made on Friday

Scott Steel, Fynn Hudson-Prentice and Jordan Thompson are among the top performers in the PCA Vitality Blast Most Valuable Player Rankings who are also in contention to receive one of eight Vitality Wildcard slots for the Hundred on Friday.

Tomorrow, the eight Hundred franchises will have the opportunity to make one further addition to their current squads, with only domestic players eligible to be picked up at the £30,000 salary band.

Performances in this season’s Blast are likely to have a strong bearing on which players are picked up, with the PCA MVP Rankings offering a clear picture of the best performers from the 20-over competition so far.

The MVP was relaunched ahead of the 2021 domestic season by the PCA in partnership with leading cricket analytics specialists CricViz, with input from the players themselves.

The new algorithm takes into account expected performance on every ball according to CricViz’s extensive database, and also considers the historic performances of the venue each fixture is being played at, therefore giving a more accurate reflection of the top performers in the game than traditional batting and bowling averages do.

As a result, players who are near the top of the Blast MVP and don’t currently hold a Hundred contract will be hoping to be rewarded for their excellent performances when the Vitality Wildcard picks are made on Friday.

Here’s a brief rundown of the top MVP performers who will be in contention on the day:

The top 10

In terms of total Blast MVP points scored this season, Leicestershire Foxes all-rounder Scott Steel leads the way for players who don’t currently hold a Hundred contract.

Steel has scored 110.9 Blast MVP points at an average of 11.1 points-per-game in 2021, and in doing so has also won two MVP of the Match awards for his performances against Derbyshire Falcons on 22 June and against Northamptonshire Steelbacks on 29 June.

All-rounders are a prized asset in the shortest format of the game, and Steel is one of four players in the list above who can offer something with both bat and ball, alongside Jordan Thompson, Jack Leaning and Arron Lilley.

Falcons seamer Fynn Hudson-Prentice sits second behind Steel in terms of total points scored with 97.6 MVP points at an average of 9.8 points-per-game, whilst Thompson is third with 96.3 points at 13.8 points-per-game – the latter statistic illustrating the youngster’s immense contribution across his seven tournament appearances.

Just over eight MVP points currently separates Hudson-Prentice from Stevie Eskinazi in the Blast MVP, showing just how close the race for the Wildcard spots is just one day out from selection.

Batters

Hundred franchises looking to add some extra firepower to their batting line-ups will be closely watching the form of Middlesex man Stevie Eskinazi.

Eskinazi has scored the most batting MVP points so far this season out of all players who don’t currently hold a Hundred contract, with 75.3 in that discipline alone.

The 27-year-old is a man in form, having made scores of 102 not out (his maiden T20 ton), 64 and 91 not out in his previous three Blast outings, a timely run of form which he will be hoping to carry into the beginning of the Hundred on 21 July.

Behind Eskinazi, Sam Hain (69.9 batting MVP points), Steel (68.3) and Leus du Plooy (63.4) have all also put their hands up as London Spirit and Southern Brave in particular have space for an extra batter in their squads.

Bowlers

With Harry Gurney having announced his retirement and Olly Stone out injured for the remainder of the season, the race for fast bowling spots in the Hundred is one of the most intriguing subplots of the Wildcard picks.

A number of young English fast bowlers have put their names forward during this season’s Blast, led by Derbyshire Falcons’ George Scrimshaw, who has scored 78.7 bowling MVP points throughout the competition.

Only 0.4 bowling MVP points separates Scrimshaw from Sam Cook, and the pair will be eyeing the vacant spots left by Gurney and Stone at Manchester Originals and Northern Superchargers in particular, with Gloucestershire’s Josh Shaw and Hudson-Prentice also very much in contention.

Though most of the Hundred franchises were quick to fill their spin bowling slots early on in the draft process, the quartet of Graeme White, Dan Moriarty, Aron Nijjar and Dom Bess will be hoping to be considered for a Wildcard spot on Friday.

While White (72.3 bowling MVP points), Moriarty (60.5) and Nijjar (59.4) all offer the left-arm option more traditionally favoured in the shortest format, off-spinner Bess (56.3) has international pedigree under his belt and has also accrued his MVP points from just six appearances this season at a huge average of 11.8 points-per-game.

Wicketkeepers

Four of the eight Hundred franchises do not currently have a back-up option behind the stumps, meaning wicketkeepers could be in high demand come Friday.

Whilst Eskinazi is not labelled a wicketkeeper-batter by most, he has experience in the discipline in both youth and second XI cricket, and has appeared behind the stumps for the Middlesex first team on a handful of occasions.

That experience could count in his favour if any of the eight franchises are looking to bolster their back-up keeping options, as he currently has the most Blast MVP points of any eligible player with wicketkeeping pedigree.

The highest scoring ‘full-time’ keeper who is eligible for the Wildcard picks on Friday is Kent Spitfires youngster Jordan Cox. The 20-year-old has scored 73.1 MVP points during this year’s competition, including 23 for his work behind the stumps.

Ricardo Vasconcelos (82.5 Blast MVP points), Jamie Smith (67.3) and Riki Wessels (66.8) will all also be hoping that their wicketkeeping experience will count in their favour come Friday.

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