Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 21, 2016

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 22 May 2016

Two cricketing gamblers

Two cricketing gamblers

Ball One – Warwickshire at the summit despite Slammin’ Samit

Samit Patel went all Twenty20 with an extraordinary assault that, as they so often do, concluded just at the moment it seemed it might actually succeed, but Warwickshire ran out 53 runs winners over Nottinghamshire to clamber over a couple of Roses and assume the leadership of Division One. That prospect seemed unlikely on the first afternoon when Jonathan Trott, the last of Warwickshire’s specialist batsmen, was dismissed with the scoreboard showing a queasy 117-6. Cue the Midlanders’ phalanx of all-rounders to get going, with skipper Chris Woakes and red hot Keith Barker hitting tons to drag their team to a competitive first innings total of 373. The two centurions then got on with the day job, opening the bowling in each Notts innings and taking nine wickets between them. Woakes and Barker are the epitome of the “Bits and Pieces” cricketer so often derided by those with eyes only for Test matches – but they and their like form the bedrock of the domestic game and would get a place in any county XI right now. We should give them more respect.

Ball Two – Colly’s folly?

Paul Collingwood did what captains are supposed to do, made a game of it and was rewarded magnificently by his bowlers in a match that showcased exactly how four day cricket should be played. He won the toss, batted at home and saw his boys rack up 411 by the second morning, a score founded on Scott Borthwick’s 134 and his own gritty 97. The Durham bowlers then took wickets at the right times to restrict Lancashire to 326 with Irish all-rounder, Barry McCarthy, the standout with a maiden fivefer in only his third first class match. Then, after Borthwick had added a second century in the match, Colly declared overnight to leave Lancashire 325 to get on the last day. Despite missing spearhead Chris Rushworth, Durham’s bowlers responded to that rallying cry and shared ten wickets amongst themselves to win by 73 runs. That is how to risk defeat in the pursuit of victory – well done Colly! 23 points sends Durham fourth, just six points behind Lancashire in third.

Ball Three – Yorkshire forced to show their mettle as they scrap for a draw

When your seam attack is under-strength, the last place you want to go is Taunton – but such was Yorkshire’s fate last week. Jack Brooks, Liam Plunkett and Steve Patterson registered combined figures of 71.2 – 11- 274 – 2 as Somerset piled up 562-7 dec, with old hands Marcus Trescothick, Chris Rogers and Peter Trego registering 90s and the not-quite-so-old hand James Hildreth biffing 166. With a bit of assistance from the weather and a tiring Somerset attack (asked to run in again after bowling Yorkshire out for 311), the Tykes set off back on the long trip home with nine points for the draw and the knowledge that delivering a hat-trick of pennants isn’t going to be all plain sailing.

Ball Four – Division Two calling London counties as clash finishes in damp draw

In the London derby, Surrey limped away with a draw after Ollie Rayner had dismissed them first time round and all the rain (yeah?) saved them in the second dig, the fourth day washed out with South Londoners still trailing by 53 runs with all ten wickets in hand. After five matches each, neither county has registered a victory and, with two going through the trap door in September, they’ll need to force some results in their remaining 11 matches to avoid the expanded (and dreary) Division Two come 2017.

Ball Five – Craig Miles leads Gloucestershire’s efforts to close the distance on Essex

Gloucestershire registered only the fifth win in 22 Division Two matches this season after they overcame a 68 runs first innings deficit to bowl out Glamorgan for 143 on the fourth day and take home 21 points, sufficient to lift them to joint third in the table. Their star man was 21 year-old Craig Miles, who made 49* and 39* with the bat and took three wickets in each innings with his pacey seamers. Inevitably labelled the “New Stuart Broad” (well, it makes a change from the “New Ian Botham”) the blond lad still has a long way to go, but he has already been involved in the Potential England Performance Programme and is definitely one to watch. Many more matches like this one and he can expect contract offers from Division One sides for 2017.

Ball Six – Nick Browne following famous footsteps

Good judges speak highly of a left-handed opener at Essex who likes to occupy the crease and can go very big if conditions are right. No, not Alastair Cook, but Nick Browne, who spent almost ten hours compiling 255 against Derbyshire in a match that petered out into a draw on a wet fourth day. Browne has both an excellent conversion rate, with ten tons and eight half-centuries to his name and an excellent contribution rate too, those 18 crossings of fifty coming in just 37 matches. At 25, he’s served an apprenticeship (also playing grade cricket in Australia where he scored a double ton last winter) and will look to play Division One cricket with his local club in 2017 – if Essex can lead the table from gun to post.

 

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 14, 2016

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 13 May 2016

A Yorkshire seamer yesterday

A Yorkshire seamer yesterday

Ball One – Plunkett does for Dunn and Yorkshire go top

Lancashire fans, perched in an unfamiliar post atop Division One, were willing Surrey’s Number 11, Matthew Dunn, to add another 20 minutes or so to the 20 he had batted in an attempt to scramble a draw, but Liam Plunkett pinned him LBW and Yorkshire resumed their preferred spot in the table for the first time this season. Though Jonny Bairstow (who has developed a taste for the megastand) and Joe Root had the real-time record databases reshuffling almost ball-by-ball during their partnership of 372 for the fourth wicket, the architects of the Tykes’ win were, once again, their potent seam attack. Even without the injured David Willey, Jack Brooks, Steve Patterson and Liam Plunkett had enough to roll Surrey for 207 on the fourth day (though we should note that Joe Root, the cheeky scamp, snared Surrey best two batsmen, Kumar Sangakkara and Steve Davies, in four overs that saw the Londoners go from 138-2 to 151-5). The bad news for the other counties is that only Liam Plunkett of that trio is likely to be called up by England (and only for white ball matches) and, even with Ryan Sidebottom, David Willey, Tim Bresnan and the very promising Matthew Fisher injured, you wouldn’t put it past Jason Gillespie finding a seam-up merchant in the leagues ready do a job. Things just seem to go double champions Yorkshire’s way in Championship cricket – even if this injury mini-crisis might stretch them a little.

Ball Two – Simon Kerrigan delivers under pressure – for Lancashire

Lancashire fans on Twitter enjoyed their couple of hours leading Division One and they won’t be too disappointed to see their team slotted in behind the Champions with a game in hand over all bar Durham, after a second win of the season. And what a win it was, an innings and plenty thumping of Hampshire in unseasonably decent Manchester weather. Though Jimmy Anderson won’t be chipping in with six wickets too many times once the Test matches are underway, Simon Kerrigan’s second innings performance (36-17-59-5) is something that the Red Rose county can expect to see a few more times before the campaign is run. The slow left armer had five fivefers in Lancashire’s 2013 promotion season, but this was his first “Michelle” since then. He’s always been a prolific wicket-taker for his county and, having turned 27 last week, he’ll need to continue that form with Liam Livingstone (in the side primarily for his batting) a handy wrist spinner and white ball specialist Stephen Parry and the developing Arron Lilley, capable alternatives if Ashley Giles fancies a bit of rotation amongst the tweakers.

Ball Three – Toby Roland-Jones adds to his impressive record

Nottinghamshire’s draw with Middlesex put them into third place in the table, but still only 17 points above ninth placed Hampshire, the lack of wins keeping things very tight in Division One. There was so little play, such was the volume of rain on even the fast-draining Lord’s outfield, that few players had time to impress, with Sam Robson’s continuing good form earning him a few mentions in dispatches with the first international squad of the season to be picked. Though Steven Finn was selected for England’s Test squad, he was outbowled by Toby Roland-Jones, who delivered the third seamer’s brief perfectly with figures of 22-2-61-5. That’s not such a surprise to Middlesex fans though, as Roland-Jones enjoys a better average and strike rate and has more fivefers than Finn. Reports were that the 28 year-old was hitting the bat hard, his lack of pace often cited in the past as a reason why he wouldn’t hack it in international cricket. After a winter with the Lions in the UAE, maybe he’s found the 3mph-5mph that can make a difference.

Ball Four – Keith Barker’s bowling has plenty of bite

There were no huge scores at Edgbaston, where the weather was the only victor after innings of 295, 152 and 178 had left Warwickshire two days to make 322 – only for both to be washed out. Warwickshire, as usual, fielded four international bowlers (Boyd Rankin, Rikki Clarke, Chris Woakes and Jeetan Patel) but their star man with the ball was Keith Barker. His left-arm swingers picked up five wickets in the match, making him the joint top wicket-taker in Division One (with new England selection Jake Ball). Having flirted with a football career, Barker is a late starter in cricket – and his ability to get involved in any match with bat or ball, shows how keen he is to make up for lost time. He’s very much a favourite of this column.

Ball Five – David Payne brings the hurt to Kent

With Division Two table-toppers Essex having a week off, Kent came closest to the win that would catapult them out of the chasing pack – with just one promotion place up for grabs, no county wants to be left too far off the leaders even at this stage. When Gloucestershire lost their eighth wicket just 14 runs ahead, defeat looked imminent, but Jack Taylor was doing the number eight thing of top scoring when he needed to with 46* and David Payne at ten hung around for half an hour and the draw was agreed. Where was Martin McCague when Kent needed him?

Ball Six – Joyce blooms but surely the story needs improving

Ed Joyce made 250 at Derby off a home attack in which no bowler could better Tony Palladino’s career average of 29.60. Fair play to the classy Irishman, but even he must be wondering if the balance of bat and ball is right for Division Two, where attacks barely warrant that label. Joyce averages a handy 89, but further up the table, he’ll find Sam Northeast, Moeen Ali, Tom Latham, Chesney Hughes, Brett D’Oliveira (another double centurion last week), Shiv Thakor and Alastair Cook. This is the Division in which 10 of England’s 18 First Class teams will play next year – it needs a lot more going for it in 2017 than it has in 2016.

 

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 8, 2016

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 8 May 2016

Chris Read, possibly sitting on a spike

Chris Read, possibly sitting on a spike

Ball One – Chris Read notches a 25th century for the record books

With four more draws in last week’s round of Division One matches, just nine points separates early pacesetters, Nottinghamshire from Surrey, propping up the table in ninth. Fittingly, it was Notts who came closest to a win, having two balls at Yorkshire’s Number 11, Jack Brooks, while Adil Rashid looked on from the non-striker’s end. It had been an absorbing match in which the advantage had tilted one way and then the other until the Midlanders’ skipper, Chris Read, swung the game Nottinghamshire’s way. The wicketkeeper-batsman arrived at the crease with half his men already sent back to the pavilion and the lead just 69. He immediately lost Samit Patel at the start of the fourth day, but characteristically dug in and found good support from the tail. He posted his 25th First Class century – not bad for a player whose batting was seen as a fatal weakness during his 15 Tests – and that ton proved enough to set Yorkshire 320 in what turned out to be 53 overs. It’s 18 years since Read first played for Nottinghamshire (alongside Tim Robinson – yes it’s that long ago) and he shows no sign of letting his standards slip. There really should be a set of gates at Trent Bridge with his name over them.

Ball Two – Lancashire fail to cash in on fourth day.

Lancashire, having played one match fewer than their rivals, can be happy with their start to the season, backing up an opening victory with a strong performance against Somerset. After a solid batting effort, led again by 22 year-old Liam Livingstone who is rising to the challenge of scoring Ashwell Prince’s runs, Steven Croft enforced the follow-on but then ran into Marcus Trescothick and Chris Rogers, who weren’t going to give it away a second time. The ex-Test openers may have 80 years between them, but they also mustered 204 runs, the latter number being the only one that counts. Simon Kerrigan (30-11-71-1) must wonder whether the ECB’s intention of encouraging spinners on the fourth day of Championship matches is as illusionary as Allen Stanford’s slab of dollar bills.

Ball Three – A good year for Malan?

Hampshire’s James Vince was in no mood to give Middlesex a sniff at The Rose Bowl, as a rain affected match petered out in a draw. There was time for Dawid Malan to make 145 runs in the match for once out, anchoring the Londoners’ batting unit from Number Four. 28 years old now, Malan was just 20 when he demolished a Lancashire attack that included Glen Chapple, Dominic Cork, Andrew Flintoff and Saj Mahmood, with a coruscating century that booked his team a date at Twenty20 Finals Day. Since standing up to applaud that innings from The Oval pavilion, I have always looked out for Malan’s batting and, despite a solid career in domestic cricket, it’s fair to say that he’s never put a season together that reflects either that early potential nor the full extent of his talent. Could this be the one?

Ball Four – Surrey need to flog twenty wickets from flat pitches if they are to stay in Division One

You would take scores of 26 and 14 from Kumar Sangakkara in any match, any time, anywhere so Durham might rue an missing out on a good opportunity to beat Surrey at The Oval. And, with half Surrey’s second innings wickets spent and with the home side still 11 in deficit, the win looked on, until the impressive Ben Foakes found partners in bowlers-who-bat, Tom Curran and Gareth Batty and time ran out. If the first two pitches of the season are anything to go by (and the shaved ends bounding a slightly grassier middle section looks very deliberate) draws will be more common than results in South London. Coach, Michael Di Venuto might need to look down the back of a few sofas to find Pragyan Ojha’s phone number – his four late season matches in 2011 brought 24 wickets at 13, penetration that turns draws into wins.

Ball Five – Sun not set yet on Westley’s Test ambitions

In Division Two, Essex’s draw with Worcestershire consolidated their early season position at the top of the table. It was another high-scoring match, which won’t have hurt Alastair Cook, who peered through the grille of his helmet for over six hours in making 142. He will also have noticed his partner during a stand of 222 runs, Tom Westley, who has started this season with a run of scores that would please England’s top Test runs scorer himself: 110, 121, 86, 16, 64, 125, 20. Westley played for the England Lions earlier this year, as much for his one-day darts as for his batting, but, at 27, he may still harbour ambitions of Test cricket. Carry on like this – especially if Essex bag the one promotion spot this year and Westley plays well in the top flight in 2017 – and who knows?

Ball Six – DI Stevens solves the case of the missing results

Kent notched the sole win of the week in county cricket making a potentially awkward target of 187 look easy as the openers knocked them off in 49 overs. It’s 62 years since a Kent opening pair posted century stands in each innings of a match, so Daniel Bell-Drummond and Tom Latham’s partnerships of 131 and an undefeated 190 caught the eye even in this season of run bonanzas. So a nod is in order for the Kent bowlers, led by the indefatigable Darren Stevens whose match figures of 49-13-147-5 included Glamorgan’s dangerous Graham Wagg twice (for 40 and 106). Stevens turned 40 the day before the match started, but he still took the new ball in each innings and chipped in with a typically belligerent 58 from Number 6 . He and Graham Napier are flying the flag for the veteran all-rounders in Division Two.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 3, 2016

Wisden Obituaries you may have missed Part I

Herbert Coalscuttle photographed, aged 27

Herbert Coalscuttle photographed, aged 27

Herbert Coalscuttle

Colascuttle, who died aged 95 on 21 June, was a well known figure in Yorkshire cricket, who fulfilled a range of roles over an astonishing 90 years service to the game.

Always short and slight of stature, he was taken to his first match at just five years of age when, with the Headingley Jack Russell terrier indisposed, he was sent through the covers’ drainpipes to clear them of rodents, so assisting in the swift drying of the pitch and playing a key role in allowing play to start on time on Day Three of the match vs Surrey. Wilfred Rhodes then made the most of the conditions to take 8-15 and 9-27 as the Southerners were skittled twice in a session. That clinched the Professional version of the County Championship for Yorkshire with 27 wins in 46 matches, Surrey having won the Amateur version the week before, with 14 wins in 18 matches.

Coalscuttle continued to clear the pipes until he was inadvertently left overnight wedged in during the Roses Match and the fire brigade had to be called the next morning. The Yorkshire club attracted some mild criticism for stopping the 10/6 cost of damages from his farthing per week payment, but Coalscuttle, now 12 years old and very experienced, was happy just to be involved.

After seeing service during the War as a potato peeler behind the lines in North Africa, (for which he was mentioned in despatches) Coalscuttle returned to Yorkshire on demobilisation and assumed the role of kitman with special responsibility for ensuring the jockstraps were freshly talcumed. Fred Trueman was particularly appreciative of Coalscuttle’s work, crediting him as a major influence on his breakthrough 1952 season and lobbying, unsuccessfully, for him to be taken on Len Hutton’s successful 1954-55 Ashes Tour.

Coalscuttle was awarded the OBE for services to players’ hygiene in 1965, later that year leading an MCC committee into dressing room practices which led to the soi disant “Dressing Room Preamble” to the official MCC Coaching Manual 1967.

He fell victim, as so many did, to the bitter in-fighting at Yorkshire in the late 60s, moving to Worcestershire, serving his one year qualification period before officially becoming Kitman at New Road in 1969.

He spent ten happy years there before as he said, “resuming his marriage” as Kitman Emeritus at Yorkshire with a specific responsibility to work with young kitmen at the newly opened Academy at Bradford Park Avenue.

After working with Rod Marsh for a year on kit development and maintenance at the Australian Institute of Sport, he returned to Leeds to step down from day-to-day player responsibilities with a new role as Keeper of the Yorkshire Caps. Well into his 70s, he curated the first exhibition of caps from the Yorkshire Leagues, which toured as far as Scarborough and Barnoldswick in the early 90s. He also wrote the classic textbook, “Caps and Cap Men” still in use today and credited with extending the durability of caps from Manchester to Mumbai.

Coalscuttle was a much sought-after adviser on male underwear and millinery matters as late as 2005 when he was consulted by Michael Vaughan on the right material composition for his first post-hair transplant England cap.

Despite his memoir, “From Todger to Titfer – a Life in Cricket Kits” being shortlisted for Cricket Book of the Year 2008, he ran into financial difficulties late in life when he was forced to auction off his collection acquired over half a century in the game, his full set of jockstraps from the 1948 Invincibles raising £100,000 alone.

He died in his sleep, a contented man whose last words were reputed to be, “Bury me with Len’s box”.

Herbert Coalscuttle b. 19 May 1920 Shitlingthorpe, Yorkshire; d. 21 June 2015 Little Sniffing, Hampshire.

 

 

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 1, 2016

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 1 May 2016

92 and counting

92 of them and counting

Ball One – Draws draw little praise

That the match that came closest to a result in Division One was played on a belter at The Oval says something about front-loading Championship matches, or something about the preparation of pitches, or something about this season’s toss regulation, or something about bowlers failing to understand how to dismiss set batsmen. Or maybe about all those factors and more. Whatever it is, just two results in the nine top flight matches played in 2016 is hardly the best preparation for Test cricket, in which the draw is an endangered species. After Kumar Sangakkara’s first day masterclass on blocking the good ball and hitting the bad ball to the boundary, Surrey’s Gareth Batty had to watch as his batsmen got out when set, limiting the second innings strike rate to three an over before he set Somerset an extremely unlikely 292 in 42 overs to win. The players shook hands with the scoreboard showing 122-4 after 35 overs – perhaps a target of 250 in 50 overs might have balanced risk and reward more positively. Both sides stay in the bottom three.

Ball Two – Adil the real deal amongst the all-rounders at Edgbaston

It’s but a nascent Division One table, but who wouldn’t want to be top rather than bottom? Warwickshire’s three draws (and bonus points so earned) sees the Midlanders leading the way after three rounds of matches, Ian Bell’s men’s latest draw coming at home to champions Yorkshire. In a match that included four genuine all-rounders (Adil Rashid, Chris Woakes, Rikki Clarke and Keith Barker – okay, three and a half all-rounders), the Yorkshire leg-spinner shone brightest, walking to the wicket at 187-5 before making 63 progressing his team to the relative comfort of 343-8 on dismissal, then adding  4-127 with ball in hand. As Moeen Ali’s place in England’s Test XI appears to be under constant scrutiny, they’re numbers that will have caught the selectors’ attention – but they will also note an economy rate of above four an over, the boundary balls still too frequent.

Ball Three – Porter carries Essex to the top of Division Two

Essex, who now have two of the three wins this season in Division Two, overpowered Northamptonshire (whose star player of 2015, David Willey, is bizarrely unable to get a game for Yorkshire nor a bash in the IPL), an innings and 92 runs the crushing margin of victory. Five Essex batsmen chipped in with fifties (even extras catching the mood contributing 60) with nobody besting Ravi Bopara’s 76. After losing all but nine overs on Day Two, Ryan ten Doeschate declared before lunch on Day Three and asked his bowlers to take twenty wickets. 111 overs were all that were needed, led by the country’s in-form seamer, Jamie Porter. The 22 year-old has backed up his 50 wickets last season with 22 wickets at 17 this time round, learning from the wise old head at the other end, Graham Napier, who has 19 of his own at the same cost.

Ball Four – Daniel Bell-Drummond starts a crucial season in fine form

Kent have a Robert Key sized hole in their batting order this season, the long time opener swapping his bat for a microphone as his media career takes precedence. That means more responsibility for Daniel Bell-Drummond, a batsman who is often talked about as a possible England international. He won’t have done his chances any harm in making 124 out of Kent’s 264 against (wait for it) in-form Leicestershire. Bell-Drummond is 22 now and you feel this is a big season for him if he is to push on to the next level.

Ball Five – Dent makes his mark with another ton

You won’t hear Chris Dent complaining about easy pitches and popgun attacks as he continued to gorge on the bowling, backing up last week’s 180 with 59 and 138* for Gloucestershire against Worcestershire. Impressive stuff, but not enough to lift him beyond seventh in the Division Two batting averages, 102 beating Bradman but not the likes of Wayne Madsen and Chesney Hughes.

Ball Six – Palladino on parade

Tony Palladino seems to have been around forever, so it was a surprise to find out that he is still only 32 years old. After a spell at Essex (and a significant role in exposing the fixing of Danish Kaneria and Mervyn Westfield), he’s now bustling in for Derbyshire. He will have enjoyed his five wickets in Glamorgan’s first innings and I hope the crowd did too, because there should always be room for a bit of crafty seam up in an English spring. The domestic game has to be more than just a finishing school for internationals with a place for the old-fashioned virtues of line, length and a bit of wobble.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | April 24, 2016

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 24 April 2016

Lancashire's combative new fast bowler

Lancashire’s combative new fast bowler

Ball One – Wagner gets it in the right arias areas

It was billed as a battle between England’s opening bowlers, the Jimmy and Stuey show yet again, but this time on opposing sides, red ball in hand, fighting (to quote Alan Partridge) the way God intended. But, as is so often the case when such mouthwatering clashes roll round, it was an interloper who stole the show. Kiwi bowler and Lancashire debutant, Neil Wagner, showed plenty of his trademark aggression to take 11 wickets in the match, which, supplemented by a smart 70 from Lanky’s other First Class first timer, Liam Livingstone, was enough to secure a vital 22 points in what promises to be a tough season back in Division One. Wagner is very much the kind of cricketer this column enjoys: he won’t listen to stories of groundsmen emasculating bowlers with their shirtfront pitches, he just runs in and makes things happen. It doesn’t always work of course – in cricket as in life – but he’ll play fearless cricket and he won’t die wondering.

Ball Two – Sam Robson occupies the crease – and selectors’ thoughts

If the course of true love never did run smooth, neither did that of opening batsmen like Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Virender Sehwag, even Geoffrey Boycott. It’s hard work up there with the new ball bouncing and swinging and your first mistake often your last. So it’s no surprise that even some of the greatest openers took time to figure out a game that worked for them, balancing risk and reward, knowing when to play and when to leave, thinking only of the next ball and not the last. Sam Robson opened for England throughout the Test summer of 2014, scoring a century against the Lankans, but later showing fatal uncertainty around his off stump. He was sent back to county cricket and didn’t pull up any trees in 2015, as Adam Lyth replaced him for England and endured a very similar season – with the same result. Come 2016, Robson had the stats gurus rushing to their databases having made 231 and 106 at Lord’s on a flat pitch, and, perhaps more importantly for his England ambitions, batting almost 12 1/2 hours in the match. At 26, he has plenty of time to come again – at the same age, Hayden had also played seven Tests with one century to his name.

Ball Three – Hampshire’s late order digs in to frustrate Yorkshire

The Champions got their defence of the pennant underway with a typically powerful display at home to reach the halfway point of the match 452 runs ahead with half Hampshire’s men back in the hutch. But captain, James Vince, was still at the crease and his century inspired some impressive late order resistance from centurion Sean Ervine, keeper Adam Wheater and all rounder Ryan McLaren. Those last five wickets occupied over 100 overs and allowed Hampshire to get a hard earned draw and, perhaps more importantly, gain an early season confidence boost proving that they can hold their own with Yorkshire’s attack, one good enough to leave out David Willey.

Ball Four – Horton hears a “Who wants to open for Leicestershire?” call

No so long ago, a Leicestershire win was as rare as a quiet word from Danny Morrison, but they currently stand “played one, won one” after crushing Glamorgan. While Clint McKay’s eight wickets were critical in delivering the win, Paul Horton’s experience at the top of the order also played a part, especially after the bowlers had conceded 348 in the first innings of the match. Horton spent 13 seasons at Lancashire, with plenty of highs and lows in red ball cricket and it’s fair to say that little will surprise him any more. With Mark Pettini also slotting into the batting unit, Leicestershire will hope the weight of runs will correlate with the weight of years in 2016.

Ball Five – Sands of time run out for Sussex and Essex at Hove

Emotions ran high at Hove as Chris Nash made a century wearing a shirt bearing the name of the late Matthew Hobden, whose death shocked everyone in cricket. By Day Four, more prosaic cricketing matters captured the attention as two questions were answered. (i) Alastair Cook could bat in the new ECB approved helmet, his undefeated six hour 127 irrrefutable proof of that. (ii) Neither Essex nor Sussex could force a result, the away side falling 63 runs short, the home side three wickets away from success.

Ball Six – Batsmen cash in as early season pitches offer plenty of runs

It’s too soon yet to judge the impact of the county championship’s strange non-toss rule (which allows the away captain to bowl first if he so chooses), but if the match between Gloucestershire and Derbyshire is a harbinger of those to come, bowlers might prefer to have bat in hand rather than ball. Liam Norwell, hitherto the possessor of a single half century in 58 First Class innings, plundered 102 as nightwatchman, as 1267 runs were scored for the loss of 22 wickets. As ever with pitches, the best are those which promote a balance between bat and ball, usually through pace and even bounce – get that right, and the cream will always rise to the top.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | April 17, 2016

The Strauss Tapes – Part XXXVIII

148070-004-4313AF06“Is that you Cooky? Can you step outside the room please?

Good – I can hear you now. Does Jesse always get so loud when Essex win? Okay – yeah – I should have guessed that you can’t remember.

So you’re in a bit of nick – but are you sure Division Two runs count towards your First Class average? Goochie will know – nothing he didn’t know about averages. Well ask him when he finishes his next lap. Isn’t that dangerous in the dark? Yeah – I’ll bet Jesse says so.

I just wanted a quick check on your thoughts on whom I should be watching in the next round of Championship matches? It is “whom” yes – if you had gone to university, you’d know. Well,  Jos and Eoin are playing IPL Alastair. Indian. Premier. League. Ask Jesse how he affords that Range Rover.

I was thinking of Lord’s? Okay, the wine cellar there is better true, but Sam Robson is playing. You must remember him? He got 127 against the Lankans at Headingley last time they were here when you got 17. And I can have a look at Compo too (don’t say that Cooky, he likes you really) and Finny. Obviously I’ll check that he’s landing it on the strip – that’s all in the past now surely?

I’ll tell you what, I’ll have a chat with Belly on the phone. But you don’t think he’s just a bit, well, part of our past now, do you? You know, like that complete (tape crackles…). He got a ton last week in Division One, and that’s proper cricket, so I’ve got to pretend to think about him at the very least. Just don’t mention his name to the Media will you?

Would you like me to pass on any messages? No, you can talk yourself to the kitchen about buying direct from your farm, I was thinking more about the players. Maybe a quiet word of encouragement to Toby Roland-Jones? He’s a bowler Cooky.

And say hello to Ed at Hove for me will you? Remind him that he’s always got a job at the ECB if he can’t sight it any more and the media stuff dries up. Well, an ex-Middlesex cabal makes a change from the ex-Essex cabal if you ask me Cooky.”

 

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | April 17, 2016

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 18 April 2016

Ball One – The County Championship should stand up for itself

Shouldn’t the start of the County Championship, England’s Summer Sport’s premier domestic competition, be greeted with just a little more, well, if not razzamatazz, then at least, old fashioned publicity? Sure I know the arguments about budgets being tight and saving cash for the T20 launch and I know that the BBC did their bit with online commentary and I know that there were a few interviews and photocalls arranged and published… somewhere. But the County Championship is cowering in a corner sporting calendar, like a child hiding behind the bike sheds after being bullied in the playground, and that’s no answer. The solution isn’t too hard to divine and it’s one familiar to the businessmen and businesswomen whom we are always told understand these marketing things: find your audience and communicate effectively with them. Next season, when the Championship becomes even more difficult to understand, should start with a bang and not a whimper.

Ball Two – East Midlanders carry momentum from 2015 into 2016

In a tragic week for the club (and while we should acknowledge that James Taylor’s life is more important than his career, his retirement at 26 is a tragedy), his county, Nottinghamshire, are the early pacesetters in Division One. It was journeyman pro, Steven Mullaney, who showed the kind of boldness I call for in Ball One, by ignoring tricky conditions, having been asked to bat as the home side’s opener under the “no toss” rule new for 2016. He scored 113 at a run a ball to set up a first innings lead and, after Surrey’s inevitably stronger showing in the follow-on, made another 42 at the same rate to get the target into double figures before his team-mates squeeked over the line with three wickets to spare. Notts, having benefited from Peter Moores’ arrival halfway through last summer which helped rescue their 2015 season, have started 2016 in similar fashion – the parallels with Leicester City’s last twelve months may start to grow.

Ball Three – Bell’s ton alerts selectors

IRBOne man determined not to sulk in the domestic game or pursue franchise cricket is Ian Bell, who began his tenure as Warwickshire captain with a fine 174 that carried his team into a position from which they would have expected to win had the weather not taken too much time out of the match. Bell turned 34 on the washed out Day Two and, while he has recalibrated his sights on delivering runs to the county for whom he has played since boyhood, he will surely have an eye on England’s unsettled batting order. If he can keep turning out scores like this, it would be churlish, not to say foolish, to ignore a man who is two years younger than Chris Rogers when he was recalled to the Australian Test side to add much needed, and much appreciated, experience to a batting unit in transition.

Ball Four – Jennings off to a flyer

Another man making an early bid to catch the selectors’ eyes is Kyle Jennings, the South African born Durham opener who reeled off back-to-back centuries in a match in which no other batsman made 50. He is, of course, some way off an England place, but it will be interesting to follow this 23 year-old’s progress in 2016. Sometimes batsmen (especially openers) jump out of the pack for one golden summer  – in 2001, David Fulton suddenly averaged 75 having never posted a number higher than 44 before or after. Could this be Jennings’ season?

Ball Five – Napier’s old bones still putting up the numbers

In Division Two, Essex, with Alastair Cook in the runs, rolled Gloucestershire to get off to a fine start. It was particularly pleasing to see one of this column’s favourite players back for another April – September gig and in red ball cricket to boot. Graham Napier first played for Essex in 1997 in an XI captained by Paul Prichard during which he bowled to Tim Robinson and Nathan Astle, but all those miles on the clock since then didn’t stop him doing what he has done during the 19 years since. In at nine (really? nine?) he scattered the pigeons with 33 and ball-in-hand, he bustled in at second change to take three wickets in each innings with his crafty medium pace. Napier never played international cricket, but he can reflect on a career that gave a great deal of pleasure not just to fans of Essex, but to fans of county cricket too.

Ball Six – Worcestershire need to do something to avoid predictable washouts

Kent’s Sam Northeast did not mince his words having had his club’s match at Worcester called off without a ball being bowled, the New Road outfield more lake than lawn – and he is right, it is “unacceptable”. Nobody thinks it’s easy to manage the playing area at that venue, but if four day cricket is shunted to the start and end of the summer in order to generate yet more income, enough of that money has to be dedicated to getting the game on. To be fair, the construction of floodlights at many grounds has led to fewer interruptions due to “bad light”, but all venues should now aspire to the quality of drainage that we see at Lord’s where, if it’s not raining, they’re usually playing.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | January 27, 2016

South Africa vs England Test Series – England Report Card

Ben Stokes embraces his  South African side

Ben Stokes embraces his South African side

Alastair Cook (184 runs at 23) – Has another overseas Test series under his belt and the scalp of a South African captain in a pleasing, if not wholly unexpected, reversal of the Graeme Smith Effect. Showed signs of maturity in his captaincy, with attacking fields and innovation, such as James Taylor’s (Not So) Short Leg and a willingness to give batsmen their head to play as they see fit and bowlers the opportunity to keep going if it’s coming out right.  He was paid back regularly, most often Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad. That said, this set of figures will give him pause for concern: 3; 13; 55; 17; 22; 71; 177; and 8 – they are England’s scores when Cook’s wicket fell. With the identity of his long term opening partner no more clear now than when Andrew Strauss was in whites and not a suit, the captain needs to get his side through to triple figures more regularly if Test matches are to be won consistently.

Alex Hales (136 runs at 17) – For an imposing physical presence with a reputation for dominating bowlers in white ball cricket, he cut a vulnerable figure at the top of the order with his mind addled by thoughts of attack and defence, playing and leaving, blocking and biffing – by the end of the series, he looked shot to pieces and one can’t help wondering what Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander would have done. Now dons the pyjamas for some white ball stand and deliver stuff with few slips to worry about and confidence to rebuild. If he feels the ball on the middle of the bat again regularly, there’s a case for retaining him for the early season Sri Lanka Tests, but if not, it might be time for the selectors to twist again. Hales, just turned 27, would have plenty of time to come back if that’s the way it goes.

Nick Compton (245 runs at 31) – One can almost feel fans (and perhaps Trevor Bayliss) bristling with frustration as another half volley is blocked back to the bowler, but Compton may be one of those cricketers (like Ben Stokes) for whom the question is not so much how nor even how many, but when. In the critical opening Test of the series, he got England’s first innings from 3-1 up to 247-5 before he was out and in the second, he watched the board tick over from 13-1 to 118-2 before he lost his wicket. Take those knocks away, and the series may well have turned out very differently – he was my (and many others) Man of the Match in Durban.

Joe Root (386 runs at 55, 0 wicket for 77) – Comes in and immediately gets on with it, nudging good balls for singles and hitting bad balls to the boundary – has an English batsmen (okay, betting without KP) ever been so ruthless in dealing with four balls? Just the one century, albeit a critical one in the series sealing win at Johannesburg, and his tendency to toss away good starts is developing into a bad habit (the game won’t always be as easy as it looks now Joe), but they are the only blemishes in another successful series with the bat.

James Taylor (186 runs at 27) – Snared two astonishing catches at shortish leg to see off Hashim Amla and Dane Vilas in Johannesburg making a crucial position his own at a time when England’s fielding can turn shoddy very rapidly. At the crease, he looks to have plenty of shots and, like many a batsman short of stature, can reduce the bowler’s margin for error by hooking and pulling balls just short of a length and driving those a little fuller. He needs to relax into his game though. Ironically, he could do with importing the stillness and ball watching so evident in his fielding into his primary skill – his batting.

Ben Stokes (411 runs at 59, 12 wickets at 29) – Cape Town’s pitch turned into a batsman’s paradise, but nobody knew that when Ben Stokes walked to the crease with England 167-4 to face Kagiso Rabada on a hat-trick. Cue bold batting to get through to the close of Day One on 74… then mayhem on a Sunday morning he, Jonny Bairstow and everyone at Newlands or watching on television or following on radio will never forget. Records were as scattered as the fielders, as Stokes hit orthodox cricket shots right out of the sweetest of sweet spots again and again and again to provoke comparisons with Adam Gilchrist at his destructive best. Add in a momentum shifting 58 in the Third Test and his consistent threat with the ball through vicious swing at handy pace, and England may just have the most exciting Test cricketer in the world right now. There will be days when he’ll top edge one early and the ball will swing straight on to the middle of the bat at half volley length, but that’s a price worth paying for a talent like this.

Jonny Bairstow (359 runs at 72, 19 catches, 1 stumping) – Rode to an emotional maiden Test century on the back of Ben Stokes’ pyrotechnics at the other end, but made decent runs while the series was alive, looking much more comfortable at 7 than he did at 5. With the gloves, he took plenty of catches and showed real athleticism on pitches that were never straightforward for keeping, but he could be untidy at times – this failing showing up more when his colleagues in the cordon are dropping catches or leaving them to fly by. It’s still a tight call between Yorkshire’s and Lancashire’s keeper for the England slot, but perhaps the solution is to try Jos Buttler at 5, especially if his confidence really is restored by the white ball game.

Moeen Ali (116 runs at 29, 10 wkts at 49) – As usual with England’s uncomplaining all-rounder, the figures don’t seem to reflect the performance, which was good enough to shade the Man of the Match award in the First Test, where he picked up 7 of his 10 wickets in the series. Both batting and bowling seem to oscillate between extremes, often in the same over – jaffas and long hops with the ball and silky smooth drives and airy-fairy wafts with the bat. Moeen is probably fortunate to playing with Ben Stokes the other all-rounder in the XI and without another spinner knocking on the door – and luck matters in cricket, as it does in life.

Stuart Broad (51 runs at 13, 18 wickets at 21) – Bowled beautifully throughout the series, sometimes without luck, but elevated his level in the Third Test to run through the South African batting to secure an unassailable 2-0 series lead for England. Regularly found a lovely rhythm with a drive through the crease that allowed him to bowl a length that pulled the batsman forward, then left him groping for the ball as it seamed a little out or a little in at an uncomfortable pace. Glenn McGrath would have looked on approvingly – yes, he was that good.

Steven Finn (12 runs at 6, 11 wickets at 26) – Recovered from injury sufficiently to play the three live Tests and was at the batsman throughout, jarring hands with balls that would climb from a length. Looked back to his best, before run up worries and injuries seemed to knock his confidence and rein in his pace when he dropped back into England’s squad of seamers. Despite Mark Wood’s impressive summer in 2015, a fit Finn looks a notch above his rivals and is likely to be selected as the regular third seamer, if he can maintain this form.

James Anderson (5 runs at 5, 7 wickets at 43) – Frustrated again in South Africa which just doesn’t seem to suit his work – despite the new ball swinging conventionally and the old ball reversing, he’s paying 40 runs per wicket over 8 Tests. Of course, he’s cultivated his grumpy persona for a while now (and he’s only going to get grumpier) which is fine when he’s taking wickets, but can irritate fans and team-mates when he isn’t. With three early season Tests coming up against shivering Sri Lankans, he’ll expect to be mixing a few smiles with the scowls soon.

Chris Woakes (54 runs at 14, 2 wickets at 99) – The speedgun says he’s quick, the naked eye at the ground says he’s quick and his First Class record says he’s quick – but the Warwickshire man looks as threatening as a kitten in a youtube video shared 10m times. Has he a Test career ahead of him, particularly when Jimmy Anderson is no longer available? Or is he a James Faulkner / Irfan Pathan type bits-and-pieces deluxe player best suited to white ball cricket bowling in the middle overs and scoring handy 40s? My heart says the former; my brain says the latter.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | January 2, 2016

Cricket in 2016 – six modest proposals

Cricket needs more gadgets

Cricket needs more gadgets

While Death of a Gentleman and websites ponder The State Of Cricket In 2016 and prescribes medicines for its undoubted ills, 99.94 ponders more modest changes the game might adopt this year.

Pitches need more pace and more consistent bounce if the best batsmen and best bowlers are to thrive and attractive cricket be promoted. To do this, cricket needs a set of reliable metrics, because if you want to change things, you first must measure them. Golf’s stimpmeter offers a low tech solution to assessing the pace of greens and that gadget might be adapted for cricket. For international matches, software that crunches Hawkeye data to produce an easy to understand measure of pace and bounce is surely not beyond the ken of the game that gave us Duckworth-Lewis.

Life is speeding up, so Test cricket needs to follow suit. As in T20, batsmen should be on their way to the crease the moment a dismissal is confirmed – it’s absurd to see the clock tick round waiting for a batsman to rise from his seat and saunter to the middle. There should be no breaks for protective equipment to be ferried to the middle – if a player needs it, he should wear it at the start of the session and throughout it, with helmets placed behind the keeper as usual. Drinks should be brought on to the field after one hour at the batsman’s discretion only. Fielders should get drinks on the boundary (if they want them) with the keeper picking one up at the fall of a wicket; umpires should carry their own.

Tests should be played over four days. Each day should comprise three sessions of 37 overs to be bowled in two and a half hours maximum, with overs not bowled in one session being made up in the next and any overs not so delivered penalised with eight runs (or the session average scoring rate, whichever is the higher) added to extras. This would give a guaranteed maximum of a seven and a half hour, 111 overs day – which should encourage spinners – with 444 overs in a Test (down slightly on 450, as it now stands, but the full complement is very rarely bowled). The additional workload over a day should be viewed alongside the additional rest / practice time available. (First Class cricket can use the same kind of formula to reduce from four days to three).

Bowlers should be allowed to bowl 12 overs in ODI cricket and 5 overs in T20. In practice, captains would still want six or more options, but if a bowler is holding their own with the batsmen, they could keep them going, the cat and mouse battle entertaining the crowd and levelling the resources of the sides in a game already slanted strongly in favour of the team batting.

For ODIs and T20s, grounds should be zoned for the different needs of spectators. Stewarding should enforce family zones, non-alcohol zones, music and cheerleading zones, non-music zones (ie with no speakers pointing at the crowd, fancy dress zones etc. Cricket (even T20 cricket) is a longish day and spectators should have some say over the company they enjoy.

While everyone loves a catch in the crowd, it is clear that very few spectators have the hand-eye coordination to effect them, nor even to protect themselves from the ball. It is my belief that someone will soon be very seriously injured by a six and that this risk can be easily mitigated. Fans should be encouraged to keep their eyes on the ball while it is in play, with no distractions on the big screens during overs other than the score. Stewards should also sit half-facing the play and half-facing the crowd, so they have some chance of taking evasive action should a flat-batted hit come their way.      

What would you do?

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