Published: 06:00, 23 August 2019
Alex Blake has more reason than most to hope for a grandstand finish to Kent’s T20 blast campaign.
The entertaining batsman wants to catch the eye in a bid to open up opportunities around the world in the short format of the game.
On his day, Blake is one of the most destructive players on the county circuit.
There’s no reason to believe he can’t translate that on a wider scale – if he gets the chance.
“That’s the plan but I’d say time is running out,” admits Blake. “Joe Denly has been the prime example, he had a great T20 Blast, got MVP and opened up the opportunity.
“Once you get into one other team then it’s a spiral effect and the other opportunities pop up.
“What Joe did well was to get into the Big Bash - and score runs there. I’ve no illusions about getting to the IPL but if I can pick up one of the other tournaments and get my foot in the door then it could lead to something else.”
Blake cites the example of Sussex’s Lawrie Evans, who smashed a rapid hundred in the Bangladesh Premier League earlier this year.
One year his senior, Evans’ feat has given 30-year-old Blake hope that his time – while ticking – could yet come.
“There are guys who are on the T20 circuit and that’s still the plan but there are so many big names there now as well,” added Blake.
“Hopefully a couple more performances in this year’s T20, particularly in televised games, can help my cause.”
Kent remain firmly in the top four of the South Group despite losing momentum in the past fortnight. Blake pointed to their terrific start, five straight wins giving the Spitfires some welcome ‘breathing space’.
Back-to-back defeats at Gloucestershire and Somerset were followed by a double washout at Canterbury. It means there’s still work to do in the final three games – especially if they want a home quarter-final tie.
A big plus for the coffers, Blake questions whether it will really make that much difference on the field.
“I’m not too fussed if we get a home quarter-final or not but obviously that’s the aim for the club because of the revenue and the chance for our fans to see the game,” he reflects.
“In the time I’ve been here we’ve had two home quarter-finals and lost them both! On the flip side, last year in the one-day competition we won at New Road and Trent Bridge in the knockout stages so you never know if it’s too much of an advantage or not.
“It wouldn’t faze me if we end up away, it means we can go and play with some freedom but there’s a lot of cricket and a lot of work to do to get to that stage yet.”
By their own admission, Kent’s batsmen have yet to fire on all cylinders in T20 this summer, often rescued by their star-studded bowling line-up.
Blake, of course, is the exception to the rule. Match-winning performances at Hampshire and Middlesex have seen the Spitfires snatch victory when defeat seemed inevitable, particularly at the Rose Bowl.
No Kent batsman has hit more sixes in this year’s T20 Blast – but what goes through his mind when he prepares to go big? Blake says there are three main factors.
Pointing to experience and familiarisation, Blake notes: “As I get a little older I pick up a few things. You pick up the bowlers you’ve played against for a few years now, and know what their variations and skills are.
“The second way is I tend to look at what fields they set. If they’ve got fine leg and third man up then it’s likely to be pace off. If they’ve got deep square and cow corner and so on out, then it’s going to be short.
“You try to get an indicator from that but at the same time it could be a double bluff.
“The other part is conditions. You look to a short boundary, take account of the wind and you try to hit those areas as much as you can. They’re the things I’m thinking when I face up.”
Ironically, for a man known for his clean striking of the ball, Blake feels he is clearing his front leg too far this summer – and it’s certainly not an image he is putting forward for any coaching manuals.
“When I watch the footage, my front leg goes a long way away, further than I want really,” he continued. “You work with the bowling machine during the winter and get in a good position but when I see mine it’s not fantastic.
“But I back myself to hit the ball clean. I stay still and try not to overhit it.”
Blake talks about the way Rob Key had to get ahead of the game to play T20 cricket, developing a lap sweep to the seamers.
And he’s even found himself picking up tips from his own coaching, when he puts on sessions for youngsters at his own club, Beckenham.
“I’ve been doing a bit of coaching with the youngsters that I have then used in my own game,” he explains. “As soon as they try to overhit the ball, they lean back and it goes straight up.
“I’ve found it quite rewarding seeing them improve but when I’m doing it I say the odd thing and I think ‘you don’t do that either!’ So I’m trying to improve on little things all the time.”
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More by this authorMatthew Panting