Alex Carey's Geneva jaunt and AB de Villiers' unlikely replacement

Dan Lincoln came in for AB de Villiers to make his professional debut Getty Images

After winning just twice in 2018, Middlesex have already bettered their record from last season, and are now third-favourites with the bookies to win the Vitality Blast - not to be sniffed at, given they have reached the knockouts just once since their 2008 success.

They have managed that despite the absence of AB de Villiers, who picked up injuries to both hands in last week's win at The Oval to miss two of the seven games he had signed for, much to the club's frustration.

That injury was also a source of frustration for Glamorgan and Gloucestershire, whose marketing departments had both appealed to the AB factor in advertising those games; Middlesex themselves have plastered his face on billboards at various London stations, and are confident he will return for Thursday's fixture against Kent.

De Villiers' replacement for those two games was Berkshire batsman Dan Lincoln, who hit a useful 30 in defeat at Cheltenham. In a throwback to the 1920s ideal of playing one sport in the winter and another in the summer, Lincoln also plays in goal for non-league side Bognor Regis Town. "Congratulations, Dan," the club tweeted. "Just some minor shoes to fill."


Yorkshire are set to go into the second half of the T20 Blast group stages without an overseas player, with coach Andrew Gale admitting that the hectic nature of the worldwide schedule meant they would struggle to find a replacement for Nicholas Pooran.

"You can't really do it like-for-like", he told the York Press, "because there aren't many of those players out there. There's a lot of cricket going around the minute. There's the Canada [Global T20] tournament going on, and there's a lot of players playing in that."

Pooran's impact on the Blast was minimised by rain, though he did plunder 122 runs at a strike rate of 184.84 in his three games. Eyebrows were raised when he came in at No. 7 in Yorkshire's first game against Derbyshire, but the move simply represented the irrelevance of traditional batting orders in T20.

"[Pooran] is at his best… in the last ten overs of the innings," said Gale. "It just so happened at Chesterfield that he was coming in at seven because we'd lost more wickets than we would have wanted at that stage."

Yorkshire will welcome Adil Rashid back into their squad this week - with Moeen Ali and Jack Leach ahead of him in the Ashes pecking order, he is likely to be available for the rest of the tournament.


It was a long weekend to remember for Alex Carey, the wicketkeeper-batsman who was one of the World Cup's breakout stars.

After missing out on Australia's Ashes squad, Carey travelled from the Ageas Bowl to Hove on Friday morning, only to realise that he was ineligible for Sussex's game against Surrey since he was still in the country on his national team visa.

That meant booking the first possible flight out of the country - not as easy a task on a mid-summer Saturday morning - to have his visa stamped on the way back, resulting in a quick round trip to Geneva before a Sunday morning ride down to Taunton.

Characteristically, Carey was unfazed, and hit a 46-ball 78 to set up a vital Sussex win. If this start is anything to go by, Sussex will be booking him a pre-match city break on a weekly basis.


Leicestershire were roundly thrashed in their first three games of the Blast, to the extent that coach Paul Nixon had to engage in some firefighting on Twitter.

"3 international bowlers, bowled well we hit our shots 5-10 yards away from where we wanted to and that's the game... we will do the same to the oppo next ...." he replied to a fan, in what appeared to be a case of foolhardy optimism.

But lo and behold, in a rain-reduced 11-over game against pre-tournament favourites Nottinghamshire, they blitzed 125 for 3 thanks to Arron Lilley's 66*, and defended it comfortably.

Nixon's bio says he is an "Ex Eng Cricketer, Leicestershire CCC Head Coach and After Dinner Speaker" - perhaps he should throw prophet in there, too.


Hampshire are longing for the glory days of 2010 and 2012, after a win and two defeats has left them languishing towards the bottom of the South Group.

Back when they won the competition, Hampshire were innovators, using a series of top-quality spinners and skiddy medium-pacers, with specialist wicketkeeper Michael Bates often stood up to the stumps for all 20 overs.

Their attack is much-changed, but they still have possess an excellent gloveman in the shape of Lewis McManus. His sharp-thinking brought about an MS Dhoni-style run-out in Wednesday night's loss at Sussex, and he waited for Laurie Evans to leave his crease before whipping off the bails.

It was no surprise, then, to learn that Bates has been working with McManus, and that the club are benefitting from his genius behind the stumps despite his premature release.

Bates is the subject and co-author of a newly-released book, Keeping Up, in which he opens up about his struggles with the bat and the difficulty of coming to terms with his axing.

While it seems unlikely that Bates' role - keeping wicket and batting in the tail - will become part of the mainstream, his book offers an unusual and intriguing perspective on the changing demands on keepers, and the demise of the specialist.