Tue, 23 Apr 2019

Luke Wright downplays Rashid Khan absence

15 Sep 2018, 00:52 GMT+10

Sussex captain Luke Wright has sought to downplay the absence of Rashid Khan at Vitality Blast Finals Day at Edgbaston.

The Afghan leg-spinner has taken 17 wickets for the Sharks in this year's competition but Wright praised the way in which Will Beer had filled the gap created by Rashid's absence in recent games.

"Spin's been a big part of our game and it would have been nice to have Rashid here but Danny Briggs has been unbelievable and Will has stepped in and done a great job, especially in the quarter-final up at Durham. But when you get to this stage you only need a few players to come off and we've still got a really good team anyway."

Finals day schedule

Semi-finals: 1100: Lancashire Lightning v Worcestershire Rapids; 1430: Somerset v Sussex Sharks

And Wright's also believes that his team is not overly dependent on the batting of Laurie Evans, who has scored over 200 runs more than any other Sussex player in this year's Blast.

"Well, Phil Salt's had three fifties, two of them very quick ones, and I've had four 70 pluses or something. But in any competition you need one batter who can be your glue and Laurie has done that for us. In semi-finals and finals, anyone can have their day out and if it's Laurie again, then great."

Only Will Beer and Wright know what it is like to win the Blast but the Sussex skipper is encouraging his players to embrace the occasion, along with the ballyhoo.

"It's easy to put too much pressure on the day and I've told the lads to enjoy it. Jason Gillespie has helped us to do that and I think that why we've had so much success. The quarter-final was the most relaxed game I've ever played in really, Dizzy was so chilled in the build-up and he's the same now.

Wright also explained why he had taken back the captaincy having relinquished it last year when Mark Davis was the Sussex coach.

"I've always enjoyed the on-field stuff but last year under a different coach it just didn't work between us. We had different ideas and I stopped enjoying my cricket. It was an easy decision to stop being captain but it was also easy to take on the captaincy when Dizzy asked me to take it on again because we have the same ideas about how we set up a team.

"That chilled fun side of it exactly how I want to play my cricket and I think when people are happy they seem to play better. In T20 you have to risk a lot and you have be brave enough to go out and have a go."


Three players press for Denly's crown

Only three players in the PCA MVP Blast Rankings Top Ten take part in the Vitality Blast Finals Day and Somerset all-rounder Lewis Gregory, Sussex's top order batsman Laurie Evans and Lancashire opener Alex Davies all have a chance to hunt down Joe Denly of Kent.

Either Evans or Gregory will get at least two matches when Sussex and Somerset face each other in the second semi-final of the day. Davies has the first opportunity to press his claims when Lancashire face Worcestershire.

Gregory, the Somerset captain, sits on 154 points, 64 off Denly, but has been instrumental in helping Somerset reach county cricket's big day out. He smashed 44 off 15 to power his side to Finals Day and has been a consistent performer with bat and ball throughout the tournament, hitting 321 runs at an impressive strike-rate of 217, the highest in the top 50 run-scorers in the competition.

Coupled with his 17 wickets, he is the highest placed Somerset player in the Blast MVP Rankings and is in third position in the Overall Rankings, behind Denly and Surrey's Rikki Clarke, neither of whom are on show.

Evans has scored 554 runs in the competition and is 35 off Aaron Finch who is the current leading scorer and while it would take a monumental effort for him to pip Denly to the MVP of the Blast, he still has a great chance of overtaking the Australian as the leading run-scorer.

Evans has scored his runs at an average of 79.14 and a phenomenal strike-rate of 138.5, a key factor in the MVP formula as players are attributed more points depending on the scenario of the game.

Davies is likely to be joined in Lancashire's top order by England's Most Valuable Player of the summer, Jos Buttler.

Talking T20 Podcast

Dan Norcross and Matt Roller discuss Vitality Blast Finals Day on our Talking T20 podcast

As for Worcestershire, their star has been Pat Brown with the 20-year-old going into Finals Day as the top wicket taker. His 27 scalps at an average of 14 only place him 19th however.

It could be surprising to see Brown not firmly inside the top 10, but he has never scored a T20 run and has only faced six balls in his entire career - another reason for fast bowlers to grumble that despite all their hard work the world is stacked against them


Attendances rise again

Attendances in the Vitality Blast increased by 3% this season - the fifth time in the last six years that the competition has broken its own attendance record.

Advance tickets for this season's Finals Day also sold out in record time. although in controversial fashion as the four finalists were only allowed an allocation of 500 tickets each, forcing many would-be spectators to complain they would have to seek out ticket resale sites or risk travel on the day and hope for the best.

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