The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket also appears at Spin Cricket.
Ball One – Unbeaten Warwickshire march on, opening up a fifteen points gap at the top of the LVCC Division One table with a game in hand. It was another team effort from the Midlanders with Tim Ambrose and Rikki Clarke (returning to his old stamping ground at The Oval) getting them over the line in a match in which ball was always on top of bat. Clarke is in tremendous batting form this season and Tim Ambrose is finding the consistency he craves, the two adding depth to a batting unit that hardly needs it. Amongst the bowlers, Keith Barker, Jeetan Patel and the much under-rated Chris Wright are taking wickets at less than 23 and Chris Woakes is looking impressive again after injury. It will be a very good side indeed that will finish above Jim Troughton’s men come September
Ball Two – Defending Champions Lancashire will be grateful for the nine points from their draw with Middlesex and will take some comfort from a couple of decent batting efforts. But Peter Moores will be more concerned about the bowler’s lack of penetration, as Middlesex easily survived the fourth day and might well have got to their target of 429 given more time. With nine games left in their LVCC season, Lancashire’s survival in Division One (just one year after the glory of their first title in 77 years) may depend on their closing out the winning positions the weather allows. That they have failed to register a victory in seven matches so far, does not bode well for the second half of their first class season.
Ball Three – Surprisingly winless Durham sit rock bottom of Division One having lost to Somerset despite being 158-0 just after lunch on Day One. Credit the West Country men with staying in the game with ball and then bat, before playingwhat might become their trump card – teenage Irishman George Dockrell, The left-armer got to work and ran through Durham’s second innings to set up an easy chase. Durham are not short of experience, but do they have the hunger that the likes of Dockrell can summon to seize the smallest of advantages and expand them into a win? Phil Mustard has some thinking to do.
Ball Four – In Division Two, Derbyshire have a big lead, having won their fourth match of the season by a comfortable ten wickets. Regular readers will know of my admiration for David Wainwright and his first innings 5-51 put a strong Essex line-up in a hole from which they never really escaped. Only 27, Wainwright had found his way blocked by Adil Rashid and Azeem Rafiq at Yorkshire, but the change of scene has turned a match contributor into a match winner – and still the “Moneyball” signing of the close season.
Ball Five – Another county benefiting from close season recruitment is Kent, who crushed a woeful Leicestershiire by an innings and 279 runs, Hoggy’s men seemingly pining for the start of the Twenty20 season. Catching the eye again was Matt Coles, who turned 22 yesterday, but has seen plenty on and off the field in his short time in county cricket. He’s blossoming this season with his averages 42 and 18, with the runs scored at a strike rate of 82 and with two fivefers in his 28 wickets. Ben Stokes is a similarly muscular player and ahead of Coles in having already caught the England selectors’ eye, but the burly Kent all-rounder might be just the sort of player England’s ODI squad needs.
Ball Six – It wasn’t all good news for Kent last week, as their CB40 team lost to the preposterously titled England Unicorns. It’s great for the recreational cricketers to have a slot in the 40 overs competition, but how much good it does the English game, I don’t know. But a win is a win and the Unicorns can enjoy it – and they should, because I’m not sure they’ll have much to celebrate when Warwickshire’s heavyweights hove into sight soon.
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