Some people say that Twenty20 cricket is all about the batsmen. But in this year’s Friends Provident competition several bowlers have been grabbing the headlines, not least Somerset’s Alfonso Thomas who has claimed six successive three-wicket hauls – a new world record in Twenty20 cricket.
Thomas’ record-breaking sequence began with a return of 3 for 27 against the Sussex Sharks, followed by 3 for 24 versus the Essex Eagles, 3 for 41 against the Gloucestershire Gladiators, 3 for 15 against the Kent Spitfires, 3 for 29 versus the Sussex Sharks and then 3 for 11 in the match with the Glamorgan Dragons.
His subtle variations, changes of pace and ability to bowl blockhole balls at the end of an innings have made him a much feared opponent. But accuracy is another weapon in the 33-year-old’s armoury, as before this remarkable sequence, Thomas had also returned the astonishing figures of 4-2-5-2 against the Hampshire Royals at the Rose Bowl.
These were the most economical figures ever returned in the Twenty20 competition in the UK, beating Johann Louw’s frugal return of 4-1-6-2 for Northamptonshire against Warwickshire at Edgbaston in July 2004 and Mark Alleyne’s miserly figures of 4-0-6-1 for Gloucestershire versus Worcestershire at New Road in July 2005.
In terms of matches elsewhere in the world, only two bowlers have conceded fewer runs in their four-over spells – Shantanu Pitre, a right-arm fast-medium bowler whose figures were 4-1-4-3 for Madhya Pradesh against Uttar Pradesh at Jaipur in 2006-07 and left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn who completed a return of 4-1-4-2 for Barbados against Grenada at Coolidge in 2007-08. Given Thomas’ fine form this summer, perhaps he will achieve an economy rate of just 1.00 in one of his forthcoming spells for the Somerset Sabres.
While on the subject of remarkably low economy rates, it’s worth finishing by sparing a thought for two of the Northants Steelbacks bowlers at the opposite end of the spectrum, who in the space of five days in June 2007 suffered economy rates of 23 and 21.50 respectively. Spinners Richard Dawson and Graeme White conceded returns of 2-0-46-0 and 2-0-43-0 against the Worcestershire Royals and the Somerset Sabres. Both have been in action this summer for their new teams – the Gloucestershire Gladiators and the Nottinghamshire Outlaws – and, much to their relief, their economy rates have not been so profligate.