Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 23, 2019

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 23 August 2019

Ball One – Just not cricket?

Did you like that week of first class wicket, slyly interpolated into the T20 biffathon? Sam Billings called it “brainless” – a word that might be better employed in describing Kent’s batting, as they were swept aside by Essex for 40 in 18 overs at Canterbury. Elsewhere, the cricket was less frenetic, if no less compelling, brains evidently engaged. The heretical question to ask is – “Why can’t a professional cricketer adjust from one format to the other?” The fielding is pretty much the same, a few more minutes spent on slip catching practice notwithstanding. The ball is still delivered from about 20 years away, still seams. swings or spins at 50mph to 90mph and the bat is still the same piece of wood. The mental adjustment may be the most tricky to effect, but all these guys do is play cricket (12 months contracts these days). It’s not too much to ask is it? And plenty manage okay too.

Ball Two – Wheater earns his corn

That said, what a match it was at Canterbury (even if Billings did call for an harumph). Kent, on Essex’s insistence, batted first and were soon 138-8, only Daniel Bell-Drummond able to deal with Sam Cook and Mohammad Amir. Harry Podmore and Matt Milnes deployed the long handle and the ninth and tenth wicket contribution of 82 looked crucial when Essex were shot out for 114. But Cook and Amir were only warming up first time round and they shared nine of the ten Kent wickets that mustered that ignominious 40. A target of 153 looked anything but routine after that batting shocker and at 84-6, Billings’s blushes looked likely to be spared. Cue the nous of Adam Wheater and Simon Harmer who cobbled together 57 runs in 17 overs – Essex know how to win Champo matches. The whole thing was done in fewer than 190 overs of rollercoaster action few who witnessed it will forget. Essex stay top – just.

Ball Three – Somerset’s belief keeps the dream alive

That’s because Somerset were playing a blinder of their own at Edgbaston. Will Rhodes and Robert Yates (not yet out of his teens) put on 153 for the second wicket and there were plenty of contributions down the card, Warwickshire’s innings closed well into Day Two, 419 up. Steve Davies, having kept wicket through that long vigil, then batted the rest of the day, eventually dismissed after raising his century, but the home side led by over 100 and soon had Yates going well again. No matter – skipper Tom Abell (what a resourceful cricketer he is) picked up four wickets and it wasn’t long before he had the pads on, opening in pursuit of 258. The visitors were still over 100 short when Pakistan Test star, Babar Azam was dismissed, but Tom Banton, George Bartlett and Dom Bess (20, 21 and 22 years of age) got them home. A first pennant to fly over Taunton is still on.

Ball Four – Scarborough’s fair enough for Yorkshire

Much as those of us who throw our lot in with the Red Rose would like to, we can’t quite write off the White Rose’s challenge for title the after a splendid win at North Marine Road. The mood was hardly festive early on at Scarborough, as the local heroes slumped to 38-5, but Jonny Tattersall has a bit to prove and Tim Bresnan has been shooing away seagulls for half a lifetime, and the pair did enough to keep Yorkshire in the game. That’s often been enough this season against Nottinghamshire, and so it proved, with only Ben Duckett and Liam Patterson-White passing 50 for the visitors in either innings. Yorkshire are still a long way off the leaders, but Keshav Maharaj (eight wickets in this match) will be available for the big match at Taunton next month, so anything could happen, including a repeat of the Tykes’ innings victory in July.

Ball Five – Pope rewards the faithful at The Oval

“But there’s nobody really pressing for a place…” Well, if the first (and second and third) place you look for Test batsmen is amongst a settled white ball squad, it’s no bleedin’ wonder! As Marnus Labuschagne has amply demonstrated, form in county cricket can translate into the Test arena, but only if it’s given a chance. Ollie Pope looked as green as cheddar left in the sun since the last round of Champo games on his Test debut last season, but he knows how to construct big innings and, in only his second red ball match back after injury, made 221 not out, as Surrey and Hampshire eventually had to give best to an old school August shirtfront at The Oval. Pope’s reward was the nod for the role of stand-by for Jason Roy at Old Trafford, a set of affairs bizarrely more likely to be reversed when county rather than country calls.

Ball Six – Vilas victorious

While Lancashire’s attack has gained most of the plaudits on their rise to the top of Division Two (48 points clear of fourth placed Glamorgan, crushed at Colwyn Bay, promotion all but secured) but the batting has been solid too. It’s been led by wicketkeeper-batsman-captain-superman, Dane Vilas, whose 266 took his Champo average to 107 and his aggregate to 35 shy of 1000, with just Australia’s Number Four ahead of him in either division. Vilas is 34 now and fits the template of a Kolpak mercenary perfectly – not good enough for international cricket, but able to pad out the pension with a contract that keeps a young local player out. Ha -anything but. Vilas has taken on the captaincy with his heart and soul, a leader demanding the most from himself and from his team. The results prove that Lancashire’s management – not a body universally acclaimed for its foresight – got this one dead right.

 

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Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 19, 2019

Second Ashes Test Day Five – The Final Over of the Day

Ball One – Let’s get it on

Underway for Day Five of a compelling, if truncated, Test match after a 70 minutes delay that felt 30 minutes longer than strictly necessary. From what I could see, the umpires were making time for the players to go through their warm-up routines. They appear to comprise largely bowling and fielding drills, which I am content to concede are important in these days in which stretching is next to Godliness. But if a side have batted all day and declared with half an hour to go, the bowlers and fielders just come out and get on with it. I’d like to see that same urgency at 11.30am as one sees at 5.30pm.

Ball Two – Somnolent cricket and Somme inspired metaphors

Far too many war metaphors are used about sport, but they seemed apposite on Day Four, as Jofra Archer bombed Steven Smith as Joe Root reached for the nuclear option etc etc etc, yadda yadda yadda. Day Five’s morning session also invited a metaphor from the the war lexicon. Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, playing against type, enjoyed a session deep behind the lines, the big guns audible only on the horizon, as they performed the equivalent of completing requisition forms and auditing supplies. A little low heart rate cricket was what the match needed, what anyone in the sellout crowd still stunned after yesterday needed and what Jos Buttler’s career needed. Some might say England’s two best biffers should have biffed a bit more, bringing froward a declaration, but pushing back the start of any Australian chase seemed a wise decision from Root’s two colonels, their general hors de combat in the pavilion, after a sniper took him out first ball on Saturday.

Ball Three – Stokes stoked

In the traditional sense, Ben Stokes is an all-rounder. He bowls fast, he bats in the top six and he catches pigeons in the cordon. But he’s a particular kind of all-rounder – the Impact All-Rounder. Whether it’s making Stuart Broad do that face with an impossible catch, snaring a set Virat Kohli to turn a Test or getting the foot on to the throat and then pressing very hard indeed, he makes things happen. It’s why he’s worth more than his somewhat modest figures suggest (batting average less than 35, bowling average above 32). Having painstakingly batted through the “calm before the storm” morning with a careful Jos Buttler, when his partner was suckered into the leg trap, Stokes hit the ball into areas of the field untenanted by Australians. His 115* came off 165 balls, but the split was 54 (118) before Buttler was dismissed and 61 (47) after.

Ball Four – Root’s Goldilocks declaration

What makes a good declaration is usually bleedin’ obvious in hindsight, but rather trickier to discern in the moment. 267 in something between 47 and 53 overs (the fielding captain can slow things down if the batting side are prospering) with no restrictions on boundary fielders, is a more distant prospect than it looks in an age of commonplace 350+ ODI innings. The best indicator of the merits of a declaration before time piles up the evidence on one side or the other, is probably the volume of informed judges who think it too early or too late. I venture that Root has about a third saying he should have pulled out earlier, a third saying he should have got a few more and another third opining that he got it just right. Not bad so far.

Jofra Archer – sort of

Ball Five – Trigger warning: Archer on

Disbelief all round the ground as Steven Smith’s concussion replacement, Manus Labuschagne, is hit in the grill second ball by an electric Jofra Archer, two wickets already in his bag. Andrew Flintoff once said that Brett Lee was fast, but didn’t feel threatening, because you saw the ball all the way through his action. Archer hits batsmen because he’s fast, but there must be more to it than that. His run up is unusually tight to the stumps and a fast arm delivers the ball from the edge of the umpire’s hat’s rim, very straight, the delivery coming and coming and coming at you. Perhaps more than anything else – and this is remarkable for a man on debut – he expects to hit the batsman and they expect to be hit by him. And when thoughts like that intrude, it’s hard to wish them away.

Ball Six – Draw brings Australia closer to retaining The Ashes… believe it or not

In truth, England were never really close to the win and Australia never in danger of surrendering their opportunity to go to Headingley requiring England to win at least two out of three to wrest away The Ashes. But it doesn’t feel like that. Jofra Archer first scrambled Steven Smith’s technique and then scrambled his senses, Ben Stokes flayed the highly rated attack to all parts of St John’s Wood and Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood were toothless throughout England’s second dig. Edgbaston had been a chastening experience for England fans, the Baggy Greens evoking memories of 1989 with Steven Smith as Stephen Waugh and the fear of a McGrathish 5-0 hanging in the air. BIzzarely, the pendulum has swung so far that expectations of Archer’s potency will require media management and Ben Stokes masks will be the most popular item in Leeds markets. What a difference there is between 83 mph and 93mph.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 18, 2019

Second Ashes Test Day Four – The Final Over of the Day

Patrick Cummins and Jofra Archer enjoy a quiet moment

Ball One – Hopping mad

Steven Smith went through his full repertoire of tics as he sought to muster the concentration and discipline required to re-establish his innings after the two rainy sessions yesterday. It really is quite extraordinary how his St Vitus Dance of movements resolve themselves into perfect balance and position at the moment bat intercepts ball. There are few comparators in cricket, and, more generally, few in all sport – I’m drawn to mathematics, specifically graphing The Mandelbrot Set, as the only illustration that works.

Ball Two – The Fast Show

Motorcycling is a pretty visceral experience – wind, rain, bumps in the road – you’re never in any doubt that the world hurtling towards you can be an unfriendly place. When that happens at 70mph, it’s one thing, but it’s quite another if you roll back the throttle for a swift overtaking – 85mph feels a whole lot more than 70mph! But it doesn’t feel much different to 90mph, from the saddle of bloody big Honda anyway. That is clearly not the case standing 20 yards away from the bowler, bat in hand. Jofra Archer’s ability to get up into the 90s, especially with the short ball, means that he hits batsmen more often than most, his roughing up of Matthew Wade worthy of an assist to Stuart Broad for the wicket.

Ball Three – Never mind the speedgun, watch the batsman

You can eat all the data you like, but when you see a true fast bowler, you know it. The second coming of Mitchell Johnson decided the 2013 / 14 Ashes within minutes and Jofra Archer had a similar impact on the crowd, if not the opposition, when he hit Steven Smith on the arm in the middle of what proved an epic afternoon session. Soft ball, long spell, great batsman – little matters when a man can crank it up well into the 90s. That’s given the Australians, even the great Steven Smith, something to think about today and for the rest of the series. But, and this is almost as important, England fans will know that they are in every Test if Jofra Archer is on the field, no matter what the scoreboard says.

Ball Four – Guha and Johnson putting together a fine partnership

Isa Guha, once it was clear that Steven Smith was okay having been hit on the neck by a very quick Jofra Archer bouncer, turned to Mitchell Johnson and asked, “What does it feel like when you hit a batsman like that?” It was the right question to the right man at the right time and, to his credit since he was at least as rattled as anyone looking on, Johnson answered unhesitatingly and honestly and with the decency that has marked his media work. While his answer wasn’t a surprise – you feel sick, but it’s part of the game (or words to that effect) – expressing it in that order possibly was. It was an excellent five minutes of broadcasting from two of the more interesting voices in the comm box.

Ball Five – Sanctimonious? On Twitter? Who knew…

I don’t know what Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler were doing when they were shown on TV laughing when Steven Smith was injured. I do know that I was commentating at Guerilla Cricket when Stuart Broad was pinged through the grille by Varon Aaron, the blood gushing. I witnessed it on television, but I was shaken up enough to know that I was babbling into the mic, not really knowing what I was saying,  slightly out of control. It would be wrong to say that I was suffering from shock, but my reaction was, at the very least, somewhat involuntary. When Smith went down, there was a real sense of dread around Lord’s for what felt like a long time – it must have felt longer on the field. One thing was on most minds. Those rushing to heap opprobrium on the England pair should reflect for a moment on how they might feel, up close and personal, in the midst of an incident like that and whether they, like me, might not have been quite so cool as they are when mashing the keyboard.

Ball Six – Bats out of Hell

Last month, after the Ireland Test, Joe Root publicly criticised the pitch served up by Lord’s new groundsman, Karl McDermott, describing it as “substandard” and “…not even close to being a fair contest between bat and ball.” If he’s tempted to make similar remarks after an extraordinary day of fast bowling, he’d be well advised to keep stumm. The bowling, especially from an electric Jofra Archer and a fired up Patrick Cummins, was as fast and furious as can have been seen on this grand old ground. But that’s only half the story. Too many batsmen, top order men not bunnies, fail to keep their eye on the ball, move too late to avoid an impact and rely too heavily on the protective equipment they have worn since childhood. The contribution of Mr McDermott to such technical problems is negligible.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 17, 2019

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 18 August 2019

A redhead Davies who was also good with the white ball 

Ball One – Davies cues up easy chase for Lancashire

Lancashire continued their fine season with a crushing win over Northamptonshire to all but secure qualification from the North Group with three matches to spare. Alex Davies steered the cruise to their target of 158 with an unbeaten 75, the Academy product playing as a specialist batsman these days, Dane Vilas getting captain’s dibs on the gloves. Since he was one of this column’s Five County Cricketers of the Year in 2017, Davies’ form has dipped a little in red ball cricket, but he enjoyed a good Blast last season and he’s back for more this time round. He’ll be 25 on Friday, still plenty young enough to catch the selectors’ eye, especially with England looking like they might need a little freshening up for the winter tours.

Ball Two – If anyone’s game, it’s anyone’s game in the North

Below Lancashire, there’s a real dogfight brewing for the three quarter-final places not spoken for, with even Yorkshire at the foot of the table not out of it with four matches to play. It might come down to a bit of luck with the weather or a tight run out decision going one way or the other, but there are plenty of sports who would like to have this level of jeopardy so deep into a season. With the big runs being scored in the South Group, Durham will be hoping that their opening pair, Australian D’Arcy Short and local lad Scott Steel, continue the form that puts them first and fourth amongst the North Group’s top run scorers.

Ball Three – M Klinger M*A*S*Hes Hampshire

In one of only two matches to beat the weather in the South, Gloucestershire eased to a win over Hampshire at Bristol. Veteran skipper, Michael Klinger, short of runs this season, anchored the chase with 40, allowing wicketkeeper-batsman James Bracey to tee off, his half-century ensuring that the 140 required was banked with a couple of overs to spare. In these baffling and troubled times, the thought that Michael Klinger is probably making 40 or so at a run-a-ball in Bristol is a comfort.

Ball Four – Middlesex bowlers making mayhem

Only Glamorgan appears gone in the South Group heading into the Champo break, with the other eight counties looking to win the key moments and put a run together. If bowlers win matches – less obviously so with white ball in hand than with red, but probably largely true – Middlesex look best placed to make the run for the line. In Steven Finn, Toby Roland-Jones, Nathan Sowter and Tom Helm, they have a settled attack which provides half the top eight wicket-takers in the Blast. With Somerset’s gun batsmen leading their comeback and Sussex and Kent with the points on the board, don’t be surprised to see that quartet gain the opportunity to go to Finals Day.

Ball Five – Match of the Week (North Group)

While batting pyrotechnics captures the headlines and it’s six after six after six in the advertising montages, everyone who loves cricket knows that there’s no thriller like a low scoring thriller – no matter the format. Worcestershire barely clawed their way to 117-7 at Chester-le-Street, no stand realising 30 runs, so when D’Arcy Short and Scott Steel were still together in the 12th over, 79 knocked off, few would have given the visitors a price. But one wicket brings two and the boundaries dried up – none in the last eight overs – and suddenly Alex Lees and Stuart Poynter needed nine off the last over. Pat Brown allowed just three singles and a couple of leg byes and Worcestershire set off down the motorway for home with a couple of points smuggled from under Durham’s noses.

Ball Six – Match of the Week (South Group)

In the end, it wasn’t much of a match, Surrey seeing off a disappointing Sussex batting effort, but the sense of occasion at The Oval was palpable. Floodlights, a full house – loud but not too rowdy – and a home side playing well in a local derby providing all the atmosphere you need. It was quite a contrast from earlier in the day at Lord’s (read more my Thursday on either side of the Thames here) and showed that the appetite for the oldest and (for now) the youngest formats of the game remains strong, in the metropolis at least. I’m not sure that the MCC members would have been as enthusiastic as the Kennington faithful when Kiss Cam beamed out of the big screens, but each to their own. And why not?

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 17, 2019

Second Ashes Test Day Three – The Final Over of the Day

Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad

Ball One – Archer has the fans aquiver

Fast bowling is hard work. It breaks bodies with shin splints and hairline fractures early on, then bad backs and side strains later. Propelling a ball at 90mph is not something that sits well with human physiology and all those niggles are the body’s way of making its point. But sometimes, and it’s not often, fast bowling looks like the easiest thing in the world. Yesterday, Patrick Cummins threw himself into every delivery, fingers scraping the ground in the follow through, every muscle (and there are a few) employed to its fullest. Jofra Archer sends the ball down at roughly the same speed, but – seemingly – with barely any of the effort. From the same Pavilion End, he cruises in as if on rails and rocks back and then forward as a very quick arm releases the ball. Maybe it’s because everything is pointing in the same direction, maybe it’s because he’s close in to the stumps, maybe it’s just a gift from the gods, but he really does make his most demanding of trades look far too easy.

Ball Two – Dead Right Sir!

DRS will excite few comments but it had an excellent session overturning a poor decision from each umpire. First Aleem Dar can only have thought that one of the two noises he heard was bat, but both were pad, and the ball was hitting Travis Head’s middle stump halfway up. Shortly after, Chris Gaffney answered Ben Stokes’ appeal in the positive, but it didn’t shape right for the right arm over bowler to the left hand bat and, sure enough, it may have been hitting, but it pitched outside leg. It’s not been a good series so far for the umpires, but DRS is playing a blinder.

Ball Three – Taking a rain check

The Lord’s crowd can be hard to love – there’s all those champagne corks on the outfield for a start – but, with a weather forecast little short of apocalyptical, they turned up in huge numbers to see the morning session. They were rewarded with a fine display from England’s bowlers, who asked a lot of questions of the Australian batsmen, enough to flummox Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja and Travis Head. And, if no further play is possible, they’ll also be rewarded with a 50% refund on their ticket price. It seems hard to believe that until relatively recently, you just had to shrug your shoulders and write the day off without recourse to a rebate. Of course, the tickets cost a lot less back then.

Rain stopped play

Ball Four –

Ball Five –

Ball Six –

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 16, 2019

Surrey vs Sussex T20 – The Final Over of the Day

Ball One – In with the In Crowd

A quick bike across the river and I’m at The Oval amongst what looks every bit as big a crowd as that I left behind at Lord’s – with, it has to be said, almost everyone avidly watching the cricket, picnic spots tricky to locate round here. The Oval and Lord’s always sound different – Lord’s has a hum, The Oval more a rumble – and there are more supporters barracking for the visitors (it’s not far up the M23 after all), which provides a different dynamic. The crowd is younger, more female and more diverse too – though there’s still plenty to be done to get the full rainbow of South London’s cavalcade of humanity through the gates.

Ball Two – Nostalgia – but not as I know it

“Shall we go and see the last 20 overs?” My dad would say that back in the 70s and I’d jump in the car and we’d go to Bootle or Northern (sometimes Sefton Park), arriving at six o’clock or so, when the umpires would call the last hour in which 20 sets were to be bowled. The Liverpool Competition played time matches, so the batting side could shut up shop and play for the draw, but they seldom did. Safe to say, it was rather less frenetic, less loud and less colourful than the scene under lights in Kennington.

Ball Three – Get Ctrl C Ctrl V ready for Foakes and Curran

A skier and Phil Salt goes, caught Foakes, bowled Curran. Okay, it was Tom Curran rather than Sam (who is playing and made another handy score at Number 3) but it’s still an entry that could have appeared today on the scorecard five miles north of here. I wouldn’t be surprised if it does when England finish their Ashes campaign at this ground next month.

Ball Four – Old stagers refuse to be upstaged

Surrey’s spin twins, Imran Tahir and Gareth Batty, have a combined age of 82, both having passed 40. Looking around, that makes them older than a good 75% of the crowd, I’d venture. Cricket, even in this madcap mayhem format – I’ve just all but lost both eyebrows when the flamethrowers saluted Jordan Clark’s caught and bowled – still has room for a couple of very old pros like them.

Sussex arrive for the rumble

Ball Five – When You’re A Shark…

I’ve always been a little disappointed that no T20 team chose “Jets” for a name. Sussex are, of course, “Sharks”, a name that has a bit of geographical heft and both alliteration and assonance when combined with Sussex. I can’t help thinking that Stephen Sondheim would rather appreciate that, having never knowingly turned down the opportunity for an internal rhyme himself. A little West Side Story would improve the T20 playlist no end too.

Ball Six – Sharks sink as the run rate climbs

At the halfway point, the Sharks had eight wickets in hand with the run rate in single figures. They had to be favourites – if you looked at the numbers. But the Surrey bowlers, despite an indifferent campaign, could call upon plenty of bells and whistles, and the visiting batsmen could barely time one off the square. Up climbed the asking rate, up went the top edges and on into hands, and up went the wickets column. “One big over” the batsmen would be telling themselves, but it never came and the points stayed in the Metropolis.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 16, 2019

Second Ashes Test Day Two – The Final Over of the Day

Ball One – Roy – a prince of the white ball but a pauper of the red

Too many of England’s batsmen make it too easy for the bowlers to take their wickets. The Australian attack deliver their fair share of good balls but the ineluctable fact is that they don’t really need to.

This is Jason Roy’s third ball (after a waft and being beaten on the outside edge for the previous two). The ball pitches on a sixth stump line and went down the hill a little – for 135 years, England openers would have left it alone. But, and one can hardly blame him since he has been picked to play his natural game in which leaves are about as common as they are in an orchard at Christmas, Roy fences at it. But look at the still above. Not one component of the anatomy of batting – feet, hands, head and ball – are aligned. This is a technical issue and it’s not going to be solved in the cauldron of Ashes cricket.

Ball Two – Rooted to the spot

Joe Root has a different technical issue, the longstanding problem of playing round the front pad as the feet go nowhere and the head topples over to the offside.

He is hardly the first batsman to have to deal with askew balance – indeed, it sometimes seems that only the best develop this tic – but he might be the first who will have just a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to work on it before the next Test. Oh, and rest up, undertake media duties, discuss selection, work on tactics, motivate the team…

Ball Three – Hazlewood cracks the whip

One of the reasons Glenn McGrath bowled so well at Lord’s was his impeccable control of length. The slope (and, until you come here, it’s hard to appreciate just how steep it is) is always going to give you a bit of lateral movement, so it’s important to get the batsmen forward to balls that aren’t quite there. Josh Hazlewood gave a decent impression of the great McGrath, albeit from the other end, squatting full or slightly full of a length with the occasional bouncer to keep the batsmen honest. Such discipline will induce mistakes (and you’re never far away from one of those when England are batting), but it’ll also get set batsmen out. Joe Denly looked loose at times. though he could little with one that he had to play but that moved that McGrathian half bat’s width down the hill. Very smart stuff from the big New South Wales quick.

Ball Four – Tonight they’re gonna party like it’s 1989.

It’s a paradox (at least I think it is) that England’s World Cup heroes have played both too little and too much cricket. Between 30 May and 14 July, they played a maximum of 11 days cricket, which shouldn’t tax a professional sportsman… except mentally, the burden of being hosts and favourites not to be underestimated. That’s left Jason Roy, Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali both undercooked and exhausted. They don’t look like they have a century amongst them – or even between them – and there’s no time to work through the horrendous technical issues they’re exhibiting, most obviously in the complete lack of balance, forward or back and across the crease. 1989 might look like a picnic before this series is out.

Ball Five – Batsman of the Day

At Edgbaston, Jonny Bairstow looked as jaded as any of England’s World Cup winners, two tired shots seeing him off for single figure scores. He wasn’t quite back to his best in his innings of 52, out slogging, nine down, but he waited for the ball, lined it up and controlled his bottom hand much more rigorously. It seems that Jonny is affected more than most by criticism, not really doing phlegmatic, preferring feisty – the redhead stereotype ringing true. If the questioning of his place in what is still, even in a World Cup year, the marquee series (and maybe his last chance to play in one at home) prompted such improvement, then well played YJB. And if it didn’t? Then, well played YJB anyway.

Ball Six – Bowler of the Day

One can criticise Patrick Cummins for bowling too many bouncers at the tail and one can criticise Tim Paine for cynically delivering 13 overs per hour to protect his four strong attack (especially after putting England in) but it’s hard to complain about Cummins’ heart. He was at full throttle all day, ultra-aggressive but never out of control and always bowling to a plan. It took him a while to get his just deserts, but he bounced out Rory Burns (53), Chris Woakes (32) and Jofra Archer (12) with some old school chin music and gave a good indication of how Australia will approach the rest of the series. With Headingley only seven days away, I suspect he might need rotating out to ease his back, which might give England’s batsmen a better night’s sleep. Just Mitchell Starc to execute the same tactic…

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 12, 2019

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 12 August 2019

Ball One – Abell rings the changes in Somerset’s form

With four teams from each group to qualify for the quarter-finals, now is a good time to go on a little trot and Somerset, hitherto strangely out of sorts in this competition, did exactly that with three wins from three matches. The tactic was simple – make 200+ to overwhelm opponents, who then never get into the chase. While Tom Banton (within a late season Championship century of breaking Jason Roy’s record of the youngest England qualified player to make a ton in all three formats h/t Marcus Hook), is gathering plenty of praise – including in this column last week – he’s not alone in monstering attacks. Pakistani import Babar Azam averages 62 striking at 153, and the increasingly impressive Tom Abell’s figures are almost as eye-catching at 43 and 172. With Lewis Gregory not in the side last week, Abell’s captaincy magic was working yet again too – could Ed Smith be watching and wondering?

Ball Two – Middlesex shorn of seaxes for Sussex

While all eyes last week were on Sussex’s Second XI, the first team enjoyed a couple of impressive wins to go top of the South Group and retain their status as the only unbeaten club in the country. Luck will play its part of course, and after whipping boys Glamorgan were despatched, Middlesex hoved into sight without their two most potent batting weapons, Eoin Morgan and AB De Villiers. With all due respect to Dan Lincoln and George Scott, they don’t carry quite the same threat, and so it proved, Sussex running out easy winners.

Ball Three – Sam swipes for sorry Surrey

Sam Curran walking out to bat in Surrey’s two defeats this week was a curious sight partly because I’d have thought that he’d have been better employed guesting for Worcestershire in their three day match against The Australians, but also that he was in at number three. Whether Curran’s impeccably orthodox technique should be contaminated by the need to stand aside and slash away (not a good look in a Test match, as more than one England batsman can attest) is one thing, but the light it throws on Surrey’s batting resources is another. With Aaron Finch a little jaded after the World Cup, Ollie Pope struggling to find consistency after his injury layoff and Mark Stoneman being, well, Mark Stoneman, a phalanx of bits and pieces men aren’t delivering the quality one might expect from the a county whose youth policy was lauded but 12 months ago.

Ball Four – Rain drains momentum up North

In the North Group, all nine teams are still in with a shout of reaching the knockout stage, but Yorkshire’s hopes (and Lancashire’s finances) suffered a blow in the Roses washout. The weather is playing a big part in the North Group, which feels strange as one might expect rain to more of a West / East than North / South thing, but the figures do look skewed. The South Group has suffered four no results whereas the North has had nine. Bad luck? Ground preparation and maintenance? Attitude of captains and umpires? Even God tilting things against Northerners – again? Perhaps, with weather radars so sophisticated these days, a match like Leicestershire’s against Northamptonshire’s in which the 22.4 overs possible split 20 : 2.4 (and hence no result) could be agreed at the start as a 10 overs a side affair? If the sun is still shining when the players walk off, that would be a shame, but at least both sides would have the chance of a positive outcome.

“We’re looking for a Mr Ackermann?”

Ball Five – Ackermann the man!

Leicestershire 189-6; Birmingham Bears 134. A seemingly unremarkable scorecard (if one refrains from commenting on “Birmingham Bears” sounding more like a Grindr search term than a cricket team). But buried in those figures, like a Fibonacci sequence awaiting its unmasking, are the best bowling figures in T20 history. And they belong not to Dale Steyn, not to Mitchell Starc, not even to Chris Gayle (who seems to have most of the other T20 records), but to Colin Ackermann, whose occasional off-spin slow bowling picked up 7-18! That said, the record’s true importance might be measured by the bowler from whom he took it. Fine pro that he was before injury robbed him of his later career, but Arul Suppiah was not a player to set the pulses running. “Look in the book” is the answer to jibes like that one – as it so often is.

Ball Six – Hundreds of thousands don’t need The Hundred

How did over 27,000 people (including some women and children I expect, abacuses in hand) find their way to Lord’s for the big London derby this week? Okay, there’s been some advertising on billboards and, curiously, in cinemas, but I’ve certainly heard more on the radio about the Kia Super League than about the tournament that provides the biggest show in town, pretty much wherever and whenever it’s played. Someone should really collate the T20 attendances this year ready to line them up against the PR machine that will (because it’s what PR machines do), hail The Hundred’s success in 2020.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 6, 2019

First Ashes Test Day Five – The Final Over of the Day

Ball One – Time to bat time

Steven Smith has batted 11 hours in this Test match and is, to state the bleedin’ obvious, the difference between the sides. England can’t call up a once in a lifetime genius, but they can select (or, perhaps, instruct) batsmen to play the clock as much as the scoreboard. What looms for England today – and perhaps a couple of times more on August and September pitches – is the prospect of making 300+ twice at about 3 an over, and losing the match. Only Rory Burns faced more than 120 balls in the first innings (Smith faced 426) and he’s one of few with the record and mindset to grind it out. It’s going to be hard to win Tests against a bloody-minded Australia now bowled into form, without England regularly batting seven sessions (210 overs, 1260 balls) across two innings. So who’s going to do it?

Ball Two – Lyon to Roy (Six Balls In Search Of A Wicket)

For those who believe that selecting Jason Roy is the right way to go, shoulders are shrugged and that old favourite, “He has to play his natural game” is given another canter round the paddock. For those who do not believe that selecting Jason Roy is the right way to go, we also shrug our shoulders, but we say, “What did you expect?” The ineluctable truth is in the scorebook.

Ball Three – No alarms for Australia, no surprises from England

If one were to forecast how the morning would have gone back at 11 o’clock, one might have suggested that the new hard ball would pick up a wicket, Jason Roy would play an absurd shot and that Nathan Lyon would find a gap between bat and pad or an edge or two and that England would lunch three or four down. Rather like a Smith century, it’s one thing knowing that it’s coming, but quite another to find a way of avoiding it. The Roy problem is likely to be still an issue at Lord’s (but perhaps not long after that) but England need to find batsmen with the skill and patience to deal with Lyon’s side / over spin on the fourth and fifth day. Who is best equipped to do that? Surely Ed Smith has enough scouts in the shires to come up with some names.

Ball Four – Talent exploited and talent wasted

Looking down the two line-ups, a highly subjective game suggests itself – who makes the most of their talent? On the Australian side of that ledger, one has David Warner, Steven Smith, Patrick Cummins, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon (with a few more bubblin’ under). On the English side, Ben Stokes (probably), Chris Woakes (at home), Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson (unfit in this match). Roll in the seemingly obvious conclusion that, in red ball cricket at least, Jason Roy, Jos Buttler and, these days, Jonny Bairstow appear too often to be complicit in squandering their potential and it hardly reads well for an extremely well-resourced England coaching set up.

Ball Five – Batsman of the Day

England were as abject with the bat as anyone suspected, but Chris Woakes posted a second 37 full of pleasing drives and controlled defence. Unlike many of his team-mates, he lines the ball up, moves his feet into orthodox positions and meets the ball with the full face of a straight bat. He averages 43 in home Tests and that kind of number looks an awful long way off for his more feted colleagues higher up the order. They, of course, play their natural games, where head, hands and feet seemingly have minds of their own.

Ball Six – Bowler of the Day

Four years ago, we were still calling him “The Groundsman” –  now he’s “The Goat”. It took Australia as long to find a successor to SK Warne as it took England to find a successor to IT Botham, but Nathan Lyon was no larger than life Freddie Flintoff type. Balding and a blocker with the bat, it took a while for his mix of overspin and sidespin to be fully appreciated after a diet of Beer and Hauritz. But canny judges noted how strong his action is, how consistent his line is and how competitive he is – spinners need to be, as they’ll be bad days in which they have to hang in the game. Given a helpful pitch and an England XI broken on the wheel of Steven Smith’s will, some might have felt the pressure to deliver. But Lyon has 352 Test wickets for a reason, and he landed ball after ball, spun hard, exactly where England’s didn’t want to see it. 6-44 was his reward and as comprehensive an outperforming of a direct opponent as one might fear to see in a team sport.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 5, 2019

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 5 August 2019

Photographing his bank statement

Ball One – Maxwell enjoying life at Old Trafford

Lancashire’s five wins have lifted them well clear of the pack in the North Group in a season brimming with optimism after last year’s rather grim affair. Embodying that spirit, Glenn Maxwell scored runs, bowled effectively, caught a record four catches and pretty much smiled from first to last. The Australian can look a bit like that – a village cricketer with a good eye who got lucky and knows it – but he and Dane Vilas, at 34 surely playing the best cricket of his life, have plenty of nous. That was enough to pull their side up from the depths of 35-4 in the 9th over to a competitive score of 151-6, one that Nottinghamshire were always struggling to reach. Maxwell has centuries in all three formats for his country and is no mug with the ball or in the outfield, but he may not play too many more matches under the baggy green cap or its variants. He’ll still enjoy himself wherever he fetches up – and we’ll enjoy him.

Ball Two – Match of the Week (North Group)

After Dom Sibley, continuing a fine season for Warwickshire, set the foundation with 64 off 43 balls, Will Rhodes, once a Tyke himself, and young Liam Banks hit the boundaries that got the er… Birmingham Bears up to 177-4 at Headingley. Cue Adam Lyth and Tom Kohler-Cadmore (with a bit of help from David Willey) to tee off, keeping the required rate below 9 right the way up to the last four overs, wickets still in hand. But the highly promising teenage quick, Henry Brookes, and the wily old stager Jeetan Patel, conceded just 11 runs from the next two overs, snaffling a wicket each, and another old campaigner, Fidel Edwards, kept a boundary off his card in the last five deliveries to leave Kohler-Cadmore frustrated on 76 not out, the points shared.

Ball Three – Kiwi adds polish to impressive Kent

Kent, with six wins from seven in the South Group, are going even better than Lancashire up North, their latest win a squeaker at the bijou Beckenham ground. Set 136 by Hampshire, after James Vince (a batsman for whom the word bijou fits more innings than he would like) top scored with 44, solid contributions through the order got Kent over the line with one ball to spare. It was a good match for Kiwi speedster, Adam Milne, who picked up 3-21 in his four overs and then made 12 not out in the last two overs to get his side up. He’s more Lance Cairns than Chris Cairns as a player, but that’s still a handy skillset for T20 cricket.

Ball Four – Match of the Week (South Group)

More West than South and a bit of a basement battle, but who doesn’t love a tie – Super Over or not? After Fakhar Zaman, who owes Glamorgan a score, made 58, Chris Cooke, a handy rather than devastating hitter, pummelled four sixes to get the home side up to 172-5, a score that usually keeps the opposition interested regardless of their start. Good job too, because when Gloucestershire skipper, Michael Klinger, departed with the score on 51-3 in the seventh over, the required rate climbed into double figures (Richie’s old “run-a-ball” metric for a tough chase updated for 21st century bats and boundaries) and 33 were still wanted with two overs to go. But the unlikely figure of Aussie quick, Andrew Tye, riding his luck, climbed into Marchant de Lange to take the crucial penultimate over for 19 and Benny Howell’s final over six allowed the bearded Aussie to scramble the runs required to level the scores after 20 overs each.

Ball Five – Time for Parky to come in from the cold?

While England’s spinners fired darts at Australia to return collective figures of 70 – 7 – 301 – 3 in the Test, Lancashire’s Matt Parkinson was tossing ’em high and turning ’em square to go second in the Blast’s bowling charts with 13 wickets at 11 and an economy rate just over 7. Of course, that’s an unfair comparison for Moeen, Denly and Root on so many levels, but the 22 year-old gets batsmen out once he gets a ball in his hand – which is not as often as perhaps it should be. Parkinson trades in wickets (he has 146 in 72 matches for his county) and a bowler will go far if he can do that, especially one of tender years practising cricket’s most difficult skill. He’s not ready for England yet, but with both red and white ball teams looking like they’re due a little re-invention, he should be in the conversation.

Ball Six – Banton’s belting batting

An even younger man figures well up the batting charts, 20 year-old Somerset biffer Tom Banton. In contrast to their Championship season, the Blast isn’t going too well for Somerset, but they’ll be heartened by chasing down 204 against Surrey’s five international bowlers, Banton leading the charge with 71 of an opening partnership of 93 at pretty much the required rate. Somerset are showing a lot of faith in the young man (he has the gloves in the Blast too) and he’s not letting them down. But he, like his team-mates, has a pretty big couple of months ahead of him – local immortality a year out of your teens is quite the prize.

Read Final Overs from the Test at 99.94.

 

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