Cameron Delport hoping to help defend T20 title for Essex

PUBLISHED: 14:00 27 August 2020

Cameron Delport of Essex celebrates scoring fifty runs during Derbyshire Falcons vs Essex Eagles, Vitality Blast T20 Semi-Final Cricket at Edgbaston Stadium on 21st September 2019

Cameron Delport of Essex celebrates scoring fifty runs during Derbyshire Falcons vs Essex Eagles, Vitality Blast T20 Semi-Final Cricket at Edgbaston Stadium on 21st September 2019

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Cameron Delport has made it out of Africa to provide the ballast for Essex’s defence of the Vitality T20 Blast with his muscular hitting.

The powerful left-handed opener top-scored for the champions last season with 409 runs in 14 innings and achieved iconic status when he thumped the fastest century of the year (38 balls) on his Chelmsford debut, against Surrey, for which he received the Walter Lawrence Trophy.

“That obviously stands out as one of the biggest innings of my career,” admits the 31-year-old freelance T20 gunslinger as he winds up for today’s opener at The Cloudfm County Ground against Middlesex (2pm start). “But what also stands out for me was how we stuck together as a team.

“We didn’t have the greatest start – we were winning a game, losing a game, winning a game, losing a game – but towards the end of the group stage we got on a good run and results started to go our way. That happens in these leagues.

“I think our biggest game was Lancs away in the quarter-final. They had a world-class team and world-class players. But the way we showed up at Durham on a very cold night was fantastic. We knew if we won we’d be at Finals Day. Things kept going in our favour and everything then just clicked at Edgbaston.”

Delport returned to South Africa to collect back-to-back titles as Paarl Rocks triumphed in the Mzansi Super League. He might yet add another championship if the Pakistan Super League, cancelled by the worldwide pandemic as the knockout stages loomed, is played to its conclusion.

His Karachi Kings had finished second in the group to Multan Sultans when the halt was called in mid-March, the last time Delport wielded a bat in anger.

“The word on the street is that they might play the last couple of games after the IPL [in the autumn],” Delport reveals. “Hopefully we can win that trophy as well.”

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Delport was straight into full lockdown back home in Durban. “I had to put my bat down for a bit and just work on my fitness. I knuckled down and actually shed 10kgs. But to be honest it was my usual period for having a rest before heading to the UK.”

The British passport-holder arrived here four weeks ago on a ‘repatriation’ flight from South Africa and spent his fortnight’s quarantine in London before heading to Chelmsford.

He should originally have turned up for Blast duty in May followed by a stint with Birmingham Phoenix in the inaugural Hundred tournament.

The Hundred has been mothballed for a year, but the truncated Blast goes ahead belatedly over the next five weeks. Essex play 10 games in their regionalised group – including four at Chelmsford and one on neutral ground in front of the Sky TV cameras at the Oval – with potentially quarter-final and Finals Day at Edgbaston on October 3 to follow.

The matches will be played behind closed doors, but Delport says: “I won’t be too fazed. Our last three games in the PSL had no crowds. You do notice the lack of noise, but you’ve got to motivate yourself as much as you can. But I don’t think it’s going to play a massive role. It might be different for some guys who bounce off the energy of the crowds. But I’m sure we have the players who can pump themselves up if that’s what’s needed.”

There are changes to the Essex squad. “We’re without Ravi [Bopara], Mohammad Amir and Zamps [Adam Zampa] from last year,” says Delport, “and they’re going to be a loss.

“But we’ve still got the main core of players. It gives other lads an opportunity as we saw when we were without Zamps for the knockout stages. In came Nij [Aron Nijjar] to take some big wickets with his left-arm bowling.

“I like batting with Dan Lawrence. He takes the pressure off when he plays his big attacking shots. He was in the bubble for England, so it shows the selectors like him. I was a bit shocked not to see him make his Test debut this summer. He’s definitely one for the future.

“It will be great if we can defend the trophy. The lads are certainly pumped up to have a good crack at it.”

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