Second XI T20 Preview: Ones to watch

By Ronan Alexander

The Second XI T20 competition gets underway next week, so here are a few names to keep an eye on. These are the players that should stand out at Second XI level and be pushing for First XI recognition once the T20 Blast kicks off later this month.

It’s a nice tournament to pick out exciting young players from, given the volume of under 24 players competing. Last year seen the rapid rise of Chris Benjamin who was the comps top scorer and has since went on to feature in franchise cricket for Birmingham Phoenix and Team Abu Dhabi. Also, the likes of Will Smeed stood out last year and has gone on to excel at county and PSL level. So, who are the names we can perhaps see repeat those feats?

SAM WISNIEWSKI

(20, Durham)

A left arm wrist spinner who was previously on the books at Yorkshire, making his debut for the White Rose back in 2020. His unique action, which is becoming more effective in the T20 cricketing world, also seen him compete in the 2021 Abu Dhabi T10 for the Pune Devils. Wisniewski featured twice, and included figures of 2/14 from his two overs, including the wicket of Nicholas Pooran, a widely recognised spin hitter.

He has an excellent sporting background as well, having previously been on the books at Barnsley FC as a youth footballer before being snapped up at the YCCC Academy. Has also signed with Staffordshire in the NCCA T20 Cup for 2022.

We can expect him to stand out at Durham 2’s level and featured in a couple friendlies against Yorkshire earlier this month, 2/29 being his best bowling in those four matches.

Durham only have Liam Trevaskis and Scott Borthwick as their main spinning options, so Wisniewski can find a way to break into the side, especially with his action offering something different. He will likely feature as a middle-overs bowler. With the success of Tabraiz Shamsi, the rise of Jake Lintott, potential of Noor Ahmad and effectiveness of Freddie Heldreich for Northants last summer, the left arm chinaman is becoming an ever more attractive option which Durham can take advantage of.

ROMAN WALKER

(21, Leicestershire)

A multi-phase seamer who made the switch to Grace Road having previously been at Glamorgan. His numbers for the Welsh outfit clearly stood out to Leicestershire recruitment analyst Dan Weston and the Foxes snapped him up ahead of the 2022 campaign.

As you can see, Walker posted excellent numbers in the Blast last summer, with only George Garton boasting a better dot ball percentage. His strike rate, average, economy, and boundary prevention are also excellent. The wickets column is not so high, mainly due to him not being a regular starter so only played six out of 12 matches (2 others rained off).

With him not currently being part of Leicestershire’s four-day plans, he should initially start out in the Second XI T20 before pushing towards the first team. He also grabbed 8 wickets at an economy of 8.03 in last year’s 2nd XI T20. His batting also has potential, striking at 140 in the same tournament. Walker also had a stint with Chennai Braves in the T10 to add to his CV.

Walker can bowl in all three phases. In his T20 career so far, he’s bowled 9 powerplay overs, 16 in the middle and 5 at the death. With Naveen-ul-Haq top-tailing, Walker gives Paul Nixon an exciting middle overs seamer who is versatile with bowling in every phase, providing nice flexibility.

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WILL BUTTLEMAN

(22, Essex)

A wicketkeeper batter who has a high ceiling as someone who can exploit the powerplay with fluent boundary hitting. The right hander scored 288 runs in the 2nd XI T20 last summer at an average of 57.6. His hitting numbers were good too, boasting a strike rate of 141.87 and a boundary percentage of 21.2.

Essex posted poor powerplay numbers in 2021’s T20 Blast, averaging a score of 49/2. Only four counties averaged a lower powerplay total. The addition of Adam Rossington from Northants could mean that he and Buttleman consolidate a formidable opening partnership and help boost that powerplay score. With a string of Second XI games under Buttleman’s belt before the Blast gets underway, could propel him to having his proper breakout summer.

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TOM PREST

(19, Hampshire)

The England Under 19’s skipper will be looking to kick on with his county career having stood out in the winter during the U19 World Cup, making the team of the tournament. He was England’s leading run scorer with 292 @ 58.4 and included one century and one 50. His off spin also impressed, grabbing five wickets whilst keeping his economy rate down to 3.77 as the Three Lions finished runners up in the competition.

Last summer, Prest struggled for consistency in the 2nd XI T20, but did still manage to get opportunities for Hampshire in the Blast, batting at number three. The Hawks will open up with James Vince and Ben McDermott, meanwhile, Joe Weatherley will again look to impress towards the top of the order. However, he eventually settled in at number 4 or 5, so Prest will again be eyeing up number three. He will need to have a stronger run in the 2nd XI comp to nail down his place.

He didn’t bowl in any of his seven Blast matches last summer, but having impressed during the winter months with ball in hand, some matchup spin may be attractive and useful for the Ageas Bowl side.

Prest also famously scored 303 in a Second XI Championship match against Sussex last summer.

Some other names to look out for include Notts duo Sol Budinger and Fateh Singh, Somerset’s innovative sweeper James Rew, Yorkshire spinner Jack Shutt and Lancs slow left armer Jack Morley. There are of course many other players that will stand out, do let us know who you expect to break through by sending us a tweet.

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