Ball One – Nous counts as Allenby gets Glamorgan to Lord’s
Jim Allenby is one of those cricketers who makes things happen – okay, not Test match wins, not even ODI or T20I wins, but definitely domestic limited overs wins. He was at it again last week, guiding Glamorgan to a competitive 234 in their semi-final away to Hampshire, with a middle order knock of 74* at just over a run a ball. He then opened the bowling, snaring both openers to deliver the kind of old school figures that Jim Laker would announce on BBC2 of a Sunday afternoon: 8 – 1 – 18 – 2. The Welsh county will face some big guns at Lord’s on Saturday, but they won’t faze the likes of old pros Allenby, Mark Wallace and – and what a reception he’ll get in his last match as a full-time cricketer – Simon Jones.
Ball Two – Nottinghamshire heroes to make way for England heroes
In the other semi-final, even without Ashes heroes, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad, Nottinghamshire had much too much for Somerset – whose inconsistency must infuriate their fans. With the match reduced to 35 overs, they could barely use up 25, as Notts cruised to Lord’s. Their two England men, if fit, will certainly play in the final, but with Swanny having just two appearances in the competition this season and Broad none, you have to feel for the men who will miss out. Presumably the most likely candidates for the reverse nods are Jake Ball, Harry Gurney and Steve Mullaney, whose combined figures in the victory over Somerset were 16 – 0 – 71 – 8. Though all three have played pretty much throughout the tournament, there’s no room for sentiment in professional sport – but there’s something not quite right about it.
Ball Three – Lancashire promoted, but 2014′s campaign begins now
What does feel right is the prospect of Lancashire playing Division One cricket next season, the inevitable top two slot confirmed after rain-affected draws at Old Trafford and Canterbury. If 2013′s promotion represents a job well done, 2014′s task starts almost immediately – a rebuilding on the field to match the rebuilding off the field. Though there’s plenty of potential amongst Lancashire’s up and comers, the key men this season are already well into the veteran stage. Simon Katich tops the averages with over a thousand runs at 73 and Glen Chapple has another bag of 50+ wickets at 21. Lancashire are desperate to have both back next season, but will two grand old men of First Class cricket feel up to the grind of another English summer, this time in the top flight? Expect a few players to eye up the prospect of wearing a Red Rose cap next season – and the contract that will come with it.
Ball Four – Division One looks like Durham’s for the taking
In 2013′s Division One, Durham won a fourth match in a row to continue their charge towards what looks like a third Title in six years. Their match against Derbyshire looked likely to be another rainy draw late on the fourth morning, with Paul Collingwood’s men holding a first innings lead of 27 and time running out. Cue Graham Onions and Chris Rushworth, who ripped through the Derbyshire batting, as the home side collapsed to 63 all out and Durham picked up an unexpected 22 points haul. Durham lead Yorkshire by 27.5 points (yep, only cricket can find half a point to add or subtract) with just two matches left. Their next is against Notts, who might just have one eye on Lord’s, where they are due to start a cup final at 11.30am on Saturday, having completed their four day game at Chester-le-Street on Friday. Do the M1 services provide ice baths?
Ball Five – Surrey downed, but not down – at least not yet
The only other result came at Taunton, where Surrey collapsed twice for less than 200 (Hashim Amla with a pair) to go down to fellow strugglers Somerset, for whom Craig Meschede’s military mediums were enough to bring him match figures of 7-80. Though Surrey aren’t quite gone yet, how many of their eight international cricketers on the field as Craig Kieswetter blasted his side to victory will turn out in the first match of 2014, is a question demanding an urgent answer. That answer will emerge over the winter, and we can only say one thing for sure – it won’t be eight.
Ball Six – Let’s get on with proper cricket
An old friend, well, more of an old acquaintance, barged in and made himself comfortable, pouring himself a large port and lighting up a malodorous pipe. Declaration bowling was back, as Chris Nash and Rory Hamilton-Brown helped themselves to centuries at Hove in setting up a chase for a desperate Yorkshire. Though the rain was to have the last say in a draw, the unedifying spectacle of runs being fed to batsmen disfigured the morning’s play. Now I’m all for imaginative declarations and deals – it’s one of first class cricket’s most intriguing elements – but there has to be a better way to contrive a target than looping full tosses and fielders escorting the ball to the boundary. Why not simply allow the captains to come to an agreement in such circumstances and record “x runs conceded” in the scorebook? The chase can then begin immediately (in this case 300 in 60 overs or so), with an earlier finish scheduled to account for the conceded runs being “scored” at a run a ball. Nobody at the ground would feel cheated (considering the alternative) and farcical cricket would be banished by instantly tough cricket, both sides going for the win.
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