Mascarenhas urges England to gamble on Briggs in World T20

 

Dimitri Mascarenhas used his platform as winning captain as Hampshire won the 10th edition of England's Twenty20 Cup to urge the national selectors to give Danny Briggs the opportunity to help defend the ICC World Twenty20 crown in Sri Lanka next month.

Briggs, the 21-year-old left-arm spinner, joined Middlesex's Eoin Morgan and Luke Wright of Sussex as the only members of the 15-man England squad selected for the tournament to have won their own domestic competition when Hampshire beat Yorkshire by 12 runs in Cardiff on Saturday.

He has taken 60 Twenty20 wickets in three seasons for Hampshire, including a county record 31 when the county won the Twenty20 Cup in 2010, and while his statistics have not been so impressive this season his performance in the final was key to Hampshire emerging on top for the second time in three years.

Yorkshire had started badly in the attempt to chase a target of 151 to become champions on their first appearance at finals day but a blistering innings by their South African batsman David Miller threatened to snatch victory.

Choosing the final to produce the innings of the day, Miller smashed five sixes in as many overs, including three in four balls off seamer Sean Ervine, as Yorkshire, who had managed only 49 runs in the first 10 overs, arrived at the last four needing only another 46.

Yet Briggs produced two brilliant overs one after the other to arrest Miller's progress, and 14 off the last over – this one bowled nervelessly by a young Hampshire bowler, the 22-year-old left-arm seamer Chris Wood – ultimately proved beyond Yorkshire, who lost three wickets and scored only three runs off the final six deliveries.

Earlier, Briggs had snared the key wicket of his England squad colleague Jonny Bairstow, whom he dismissed for just three runs with a beautifully flighted spinning ball that took the outside edge and had him caught behind. Bairstow had been Yorkshire's semi-final match-winner against Sussex with a superb unbeaten 68.

Briggs has played in one 50-overs match for England, against Pakistan in Dubai last February, but has yet to represent them above Lions level in Twenty20. Mascarenhas thinks England should now have the confidence to give him a chance on the turning pitches in Sri Lanka.

"I know his stats this year don't tell a great tale – I think he has improved," Mascarenhas said. "Those wickets in Sri Lanka will suit the spinners. Danny is not a great turner but he only needs to turn it a little bit with his variations of pace and the way he gets his yorkers in. I think he'll be a huge asset.

"Whether they pick him straight away is one for the selectors but if he gets the chance he will do very well.

"What sets him apart is the intelligence he bowls with. In his head, he is well ahead of his time. If you like, he is a 40-year-old in a 21-year-old's body in terms of knowledge.

"He knows batters, knows how to bowl to different batters and he backs himself to perform even under pressure, as you saw with the overs he bowled this evening.

"Miller played very well. You might say that it is a short straight hit on this ground but they weren't small sixes that he was hitting; they were going out of the ground.

"It is hard to contain hitting like that be we knew they were always behind the rate and that a couple of good overs was all we needed and Danny gave us two of them."

Bairstow's form is the other fillip England can take from the day, especially if the discord between themselves and Kevin Pietersen is not resolved. The Yorkshire batsman had a shaky debut Test series against West Indies earlier this summer but appeared to answer questions raised over his temperament with a fine performance when recalled – in place of Pietersen – for the final Test against South Africa.

Having failed by only five runs to put his name on the honours board with a Test century in the match at Lord's, he followed up with 54 off only 47 balls as England made a gallant attempt to chase down an unlikely victory target.

His 68 against Sussex on Saturday, when he shared an 82-run stand with Miller, was more evidence that he can thrive on the big stage. "He is in the form of his life and playing brilliantly under pressure, as we have seen in the last couple of weeks," the Yorkshire captain, Andrew Gale, said.

Mascarenhas revealed afterwards that he had played in the semi-final and final despite the pain of a torn shoulder tendon, although it is debatable whether his physical discomfort was on a par with the anguish being clearly borne by the Somerset captain, Marcus Trescothick, whose side's semi-final defeat by Hampshire came after three consecutive losing appearances in the final.

"It is dreadful," Trescothick said. "There is so much time and effort goes in, so much dedication and practice. At the moment we are not quite achieving what we know we can. At some point we will get it right, I'm sure."

Facts in figures

60 Jonny Bairstow's top T20 score for England, v Pakistan

45.50 Bairstow's international T20 average, from seven matches

60 Twenty20 county wickets for Briggs, in 53 matches

1 Five-wicket Twenty20 haul taken by Briggs

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