Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 9, 2022

The Final Over Of The Week In County Cricket – 8 August 2022

The Royal London One Day Cup is underway

England’s domestic 50 overs competition starts under a hot sun in front of decent crowds

Ball One – Notts rope in a couple of easy wins

Nottinghamshire top the RLODC’s unimaginative titled Group A with its only 100% record after the first week of fixtures.

A Somerset XI including Matt Renshaw, Steve Davies, James Hildreth, Peter Siddle and Jack Brooks were dispatched in fewer than 50 overs playing time in a very disappointing spectacle for the Taunton faithful in Notts’s second match. Those easily acquired two points backed up a fine win in their season opener at home to Sussex.

The visitors six bowlers may have had fewer than 50 matches between them, but Notts were in a spot of bother at 164-5 with 14 overs left. Enter that most resourceful of young cricketers, Liam Patterson-White, who made 62 off 46 balls and ensured that Richie Benaud will be smiling somewhere as his side batted out their full allocation.

Chasing 291 for the win, Sussex’s hopes rested largely on the considerable shoulders of captain, Cheteshwar Pujara, but he was caught for nine by, yes, that man Patterson-White. Notts could cruise home from there.

Ball Two – Martin Andersson – one extra ‘s’ and five extra balls

Leicestershire are tucked in behind the group leaders with two wins from three, the second owing much to one of county cricket’s players of the season so far, Wiaan Mulder. The South African has represented his country in all three formats and showed his class with an undefeated century pushing out Middlesex’s target to 360 after Martin Andersson had conceded 33 from an 11 ball 48th over.

Without laying too much blame at the profligate all-rounder’s door, that proved more than twice the winning margin at Radlett, the visitors getting home by 15 after that man Mulder had picked up both openers en route to 4-47 in a tremendous match for him personally.

Ball Three – Croft shelters Lancashire’s top order failures

Lancashire top Group B on five points after a couple of wins and a washout.

That didn’t look too likely when the Red Rose was wilting at 67-4, Gloucestershire’s off-spinner, Alex Thomson on a hat-trick. Rob Jones, checked he had his box in (always worth doing in such circumstances) defended the hat-trick ball and then built a splendid partnership of 154 with Steven Croft, a player who is enjoying an Indian summer to his career in this summer of Indian weather.

When Will Williams continued his super form knocking the top off the reply, no Gloucestershire batter was able to stay with Shan Masood and the home side ran out comfortable winners at Old Trafford.

Ball Four – Glamorgan off to a fine start

Cup holders, Glamorgan, started their defence in determined style with an easy win over Derbyshire that consolidated on a hard-fought victory over Kent.

If you want to win 50 overs matches, you have to stay in them and that’s what Kiran Carlson’s men did at Sophia Gardens. With 14 overs left batting first, Kent were 223-2, with Joey Evison on 96 and captain, Alex Blake, on 66. He was probably eyeing a target of 350 plus, but not one for the remaining overs went for more than 10 runs as the squeeze brought a clatter of wickets and the retirement of Darren Stevens – please insert your own joke here.

At 107-5 chasing 305, Glamorgan again needed to stay in the game, specifically by finding a partner for Colin Ingram, the grizzled left-hander exactly the right man for the job. Cue Australian-born wicketkeeper, Tom Cullen, who channeled the Marshes, Healys and Gilchrists of his country of birth to make 80 not out at better than a run-a-ball, Ingram having gone for 155 with the finish line well in sight.

Ball Five – Batter of the Week – Hey Prest Go!

England’s Under-19 captain in last February’s World Cup Final, Tom Prest, showed that he was ready to mix it with the big boys (okay, biggish boys) with an innings of 181 which proved far too much for Kent at Beckenham. Still a teenager, the Hampshire prodigy was dismissed from his 138th ball, caught by George Ealham, grandson of Alan, son of Mark, on as 12th man.

Maybe in years to come, members of a very decent turnout at this tight ground in the London suburbs will be able to draw themselves to their full height, puff out their chests and announce that they were there when the great Tom Prest made his first senior century – or maybe his career will slide into that of a decent county pro and such a tale will be reserved for a handful in the bars at the Ageas Bowl. Nobody knows yet – and those delicious possibilities are a delight of watching young players being given a chance to shine.

Ball Six – Bowler of the Week – Coad is not for cracking

This season, Ben ‘Betsy’ Coad had played just the one match for Yorkshire before the start of the RLODC. But he is, at 28, a senior pro in a young Yorkshire squad and had a job to do when arriving at the crease at York, the home side 169-8 and in the process of being steamrollered by Roses rivals, Lancashire, who could call upon much more experience.

In such situations, with callow faces looking at you in the dressing room and disgruntled supporters grumbling in the crowd, it is important to set an example of professional pride in the shirt. Coad made 20 with bat to get the Tykes up to 224 and then, with the ball, posted the distinctly 20th century figures of 10-2-19-1.

In wasn’t enough to avoid a heavy defeat, but teenage teammates, Will Luxton and Harris Sullivan, will have absorbed an important lesson in how to conduct oneself in such circumstances and about the responsibilities that come with representing a club founded 159 years ago. Coad can be proud of his efforts.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 1, 2022

The Final Over Of The Week In County Cricket – 1 August 2022

Three horse race as Championship takes a break

Surrey, Hampshire and Lancashire have the pennant between them as the red ball gives way to the white

Ball One – Surrey still on stream for title

The big book of sports clichés demands that you go into any break with momentum – with a near six week hiatus in the Championship underway, that’s what title contenders Surrey, Hampshire and Lancashire did.

Surrey had to delve deep into their squad and deep into their batting order to overcome defending champions Warwickshire, whose season-long fragility was in evidence again.

Conor McKerr and an injured Jamie Overton put on 72 for Surrey’s ninth wicket securing a first innings lead of 63. After Dom Sibley was unable to take a longer look at what will be his home surface next season, out for 6 in the second innings, Sam Hain, who is quietly enjoying a fine season, found a partner in his captain, Will Rhodes and Surrey, after Kemar Roach and Jordan Clark had shot out the visitors on a frenetic day four morning, had a tricky 248 to chase.

The home team may have burned through 21 players in 11 Championship matches, but it was their three Test batters, Rory Burns, Hashim Amla and Ollie Pope, who did the bulk of the scoring, one eye on the next ball and one eye on the required rate. Will Jacks, for whom everything is bowling along nicely this season, teed off at the end to hit the sixes that secured the 22 points haul.

The match was not without its controversy, key umpiring decisions exciting chatter on social media. That is, perhaps, a somewhat unforeseen consequence of the ever-improving county streams which offer no hiding place for umpires making marginal calls. All counties’ disgruntled players can now telegraph their opinions well beyond the confines of the ground itself and a feeling grows that “Something should be done” before dissent becomes more of an issue and teams develop four days long strategies to work the umpires.

Ball Two – Barker, Abbott and Abbas offer more than just wickets

Kyle Abbott and Mohammad Abbas must feel like rolling up the Scarborough pitch and tucking it into their kitbags – as the old saying has it. The two wily old operators shared 16 wickets as Yorkshire completed a double of defeats last month at North Marine Road.

Add in Keith Barker (whose batting was more needed than his bowling in this match) and the Hampshire trio have over 129 scalps between them, sitting first, fourth and sixth in Division One’s wicket-taking table for 2022.

Is this a good thing? It’s ten years since Barker got the call from the England Lions (he is extremely unlucky not to have played for England or West Indies- for whom he is also eligible) and Abbas and Abbott are overseas players, so there’s no direct benefit to England’s international set up.

But are they not the kind of old pros to whom younger players should be listening? On how to find the right lines and lengths for a particular strip; on how to manage workloads over a day, a match, a season; on how to work with a captain to seize the initiative when opportunity arises?

Maybe these days such responsibilities fall to the coach and their data analysts, but I’m reminded of a very young Shaun Pollock hungrily hoovering up the wisdom of Malcolm Marshall when both played for Natal. Pollock had grown up in one of the most famous cricketing families in the world, but he listened and learned from a master of the craft – I hope young bowlers still do.

Ball Three – Eleven Bailey wickets leave Kent empty-handed

Lancashire, knowing that a win was imperative if they were to hold on to the coattails of the leaders, endured a poor first half to their match at home to Kent. They went into the third day with the task of knocking off a deficit of 125 on first innings and then scoring quickly enough to set a target for their bowlers – and that’s what they did.

Josh Bohannon hit a second successive second innings century, finding excellent support from Luke Wells and Rob Jones, and part one of the plan worked out so well that stand-in skipper, Steven Croft, was able to declare (after a handy collapse – such things are possible) with 312 the target in 82 overs.

Cue Tom Bailey, who has something of a northern Angus Fraser (who was born Lancastrian himself) about him. He did for Zak Crawley and, a spell or two later, the tail, to finish with 5-46 to add to his 6-64 first innings haul, a career-best haul. The tall seamer made his debut ten years ago, but has played only 83 first class matches, all for Lancashire, in which he has taken almost 300 wickets at 24. He’s not a spectacular bowler, but if there’s anything in the pitch, he’ll find it and it remains a delight to watch him probe a batter’s weaknesses, test their patience and winkle out the error. Not all our game’s finest need to shout with their talent.

Ball Four – Bad day at the office for van Buuren

Northamptonshire squeaked home against Gloucestershire in a fine match at Cheltenham.

Gloucestershire’s skipper, Graeme van Buuren, had set up the late declaration with an undefeated 127 and must have seen enough in the wicket to set a gettable target of 202 in 37 overs. Pitches are not really deteriorating this season and it’s perhaps telling that the key innings for Northamptonshire was played by a South African, Ryan Rickleton, who neither knows nor cares that fourth day pitches are supposed to be tricky.

His partnership with his captain, Kiwi Will Young, realised 109 runs in 12 overs, so it only needed a few here and there from teammates to get over the line. Despite Zafar Gohar’s spin picking up five wickets and a late wobble, Northants had their 202 in the gathering gloom with a couple of wickets to spare.

Some might use such a match as an illustration of what’s wrong with the county game: and some might use it as an illustration of what’s right.

Ball Five – Pats on the back for Pattinson and Patterson

In Division Two, Nottinghamshire eased away from the chasers, stretching their lead to 40 points with a victory over Sussex that owed much to their seamers.

That bowlers win matches has been challenged by England’s “We’ll chase anything” approach to Test cricket, but the maxim held up as two Test players, James Pattinson and Dane Patterson, shared all ten first innings wickets, with the vastly experienced Luke Fletcher and Steven Mullaney chipping in with three between them second time around.

When the Championship returns in September on what one can expect to be squares baked for months, the key to success will be taking 20 wickets. It looks like the old guys are more likely to have the answers than the young tyros.

Ball Six – A plea for sporting integrity

Three teams appear to have the pennant between them when four day cricket returns in the Autumn. It is disappointing that Hampshire and Surrey will meet only once this season, with no match scheduled at the Ageas Bowl and that Surrey will face Lancashire for the first and only time in the last week of September (in Manchester!). Hampshire will also play Lancashire just the once this season.

Such anomalies are inevitable with ten teams playing a 14 match season. Steve Harmison on Talksport made the point that all the counties knew their fixture list when the season started, so should just get on with it, but I don’t think that’s the issue for fans, whose voices are largely drowned out by ex-players employed by broadcasters with huge investments in international and franchise cricket. We want a competition with sporting integrity – and that means that in any division, all play all, home and away. It really isn’t too much to ask, and it must be the starting point for any fixture list for 2023 and beyond.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 24, 2022

The Final Over Of The Week In County Cricket – 25 July 2022

Surrey and Hampshire still at loggerheads in Championship

Superb competitive matches and sensational records marked a splendid week of county cricket

Ball One – Jacks bowls along to game-changing 150

On London’s hottest day, in front of a disappointing crowd as it was neither dangerous nor uncomfortable if due precautions were taken, Surrey’s match against Essex started with ebbs and flows and continued so over all four days.

Dan Worrall and Kemar Roach bowled with great control and just the right amount of movement to threaten both edges of the bat, but you just had the feeling that Adam Rossington and Simon Harmer were the right men to come in at 91-6 with the sun at its most fierce. The former made 100 and the latter 50 in a stand full of nous and game was very much on.

Almost exactly 24 hours later, Surrey were in similar straits and were rescued by Will Jacks, who used less nous and more belligerence in getting his side initially into the game, then to parity and finally on to a lead of 42, the all-rounder’s 150 not out one of the innings of the year.

Five more wickets for Dan Worrall left Surrey with 161 to get, which any cricket writer is contractually obliged to describe as ‘potentially awkward’. But local lads, Rory Burns, Ryan Patel, Tom Lawes and Ollie Pope (aided by imports, Hashim Amla and Jamie Overton) saw the leaders home in a splendid game of two innings cricket. Surrey stay top by 14 points, finding a way out of a tough situation yet again.

Ball Two – Abbott secures redemption for errant fielders

Hampshire are still snapping at their heels after a thrills and spills final day at Cheltenham.

With thunder forecast to be in the air and butter on their fingers, Hampshire were slowed down by Miles Hammond, on his way to a career-best 169 and Ryan Higgins, a classy man for Gloucestershire to be hiding at number seven. But Kyle Abbott, the old pro, knew that he had to seize the game after catches had been dropped, and his hat-trick helped reduce the home side from 315-5 to 337 all out.

Higgins got in the game again pocketing three wickets, but Hampshire, with more of an eye on their weather apps than the ball, got the 82 they needed, four down, in ten frenetic overs. Hampshire have the most wins in either division and this match showed why.

Ball Three – Washington capitalises on opportunities with bat and ball

Lancashire picked themselves up off the canvas after their last ball knockout in the Blast final and fashioned a superb win at Wantage Road to keep their Championship hopes alive.

After new signing, Washington Sundar, had shown no rustiness in taking five wickets to bowl out Northamptonshire for 235, Jack White got a tune out of the pitch with five of his own and spirits can’t have been high, Lanky conceding a first innings deficit of over 100.

But Tom Bailey and New Zealander, Will Williams, know that you just have to get on with things and they shared nine wickets to give their batters 278 to chase for the win, the highest score of the match.

Someone had to anchor the innings and, for four hours, Josh Bohannon did just that from number three, putting a flat season behind him with a super century when it mattered.

The Red Rose still required 69 runs when Sundar joined nightwatchman-doing-overtime, Williams, at the crease, each with a fivefer already under their belts. But, as England fans know, the young Indian spinner is a very classy operator with the bat and the two imports got their team across the line for a victory that will go some way to banishing memories of late night chaos in Birmingham last Saturday .

Ball Four – Bears looking forward to hibernation?

Kent and Warwickshire had just two wins between them as they faced off at Edgbaston – trophies in 2021 had turned to trauma in 2022.

When Oliver Hannon-Dalby knocked over half the visitors’ batting in his opening spell, it might have been easy to say “Here we go again” and subside to another defeat. But Indian pacer, Navdeep Saini, was on debut and so carried none of that baggage and his fivefer held the deficit to 60.

Joe Denly brought a bit of his Test class to the crease with 141 spread out over almost six hours, finding an accomplice in Jordan Cox, who took his match aggregate to 127 runs with a useful knock, affording Sam Billings the luxury of a declaration late on day three. Only Dom Sibley and a bit of late order biffing from Harry Brookes provided any kind of resistance and Kent had the points to leapfrog their opponents in the table.

Ball Five – I do declare! (But maybe too late)

In a summer of big partnerships, Haseeb Hameed and Ben Duckett (25 and 27 years of age if the selectors need a nudge), put on 402 for Nottinghamshire’s second wicket, 393 of them on the first day. The question for Steve Mullaney as day two dawned was how best to plot a route to a win with all that credit in the bank?

On a flat pitch and with this season’s batch of cricket balls so well behaved they could have been taught by Miss Jean Brodie, captains may need a little more imagination than the old school plan of batting the opposition out of the match then enforcing the follow-on. But does 618-8 declared offer any other choice? Would 513-7 (when Hameed was dismissed) have been enough? Not to insure against the defeat, but maybe to enhance the chance of a win after a couple of hours rest between innings for the bowlers?

As it turned out, Mullaney did ask Derbyshire to bat again, but was forced to keep his trump cards, Luke Fletcher and James Pattinson, largely in his hand, the two seamers bowling only 24 of 97 second innings overs between them (on the back of 49 first time round) and no wickets either.

A draw was the product of over four hours resistance from openers Harry Came and Luis Reece, dogged determination from the middle order and maybe, just maybe, an overly cautious approach to shaping the match. Notts do stay top of Division Two, their advantage still a handy 15 points.

Ball Six – Playing to win

I’m as guilty of loving a cricket stat as the next fan (here’s a confession), but some of the magic has gone these days? Is it yet another case of getting older with the inevitable accretion of so many amazing things that they cease to be amazing? Is it the paradoxical development of the increasing pleasure one finds oneself taking in the bland, the predictable, the comforting – possibly because it’s still there? Is it the sledgehammer of ever more esoteric information that clouds the peak in a mist of detail? A biscuit to anyone who can find the tiniest possible record rewritten by this stand.

Sam Northeast’s 410 not out is remarkable, a record-breaker to set Roy Castle’s toes tapping and an achievement for the ages. Congratulations are in order to him – a player whose talent far outstrips many who have received international recognition – and to Chris Cooke, who had plenty of fun at the other end in the Keith Piper role.

But did you, like me, inwardly cheer at lunch on Saturday when David Lloyd decided that he had enough and that there was a cricket match to be won? 30 years ago, I’d have been disappointed, robbed of the prospect of seeing 502 on a scoreboard, but these days, I was pleased that a captain saw through the hype and did what was best for the team and best for the game. Well played Sam Northeast; well played Chris Cooke and well played David Lloyd, whose decision yielded the win that was his team’s objective when they set out three days earlier – and is the point of playing the professional game after all.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 18, 2022

The Final Over Of The Week In County Cricket – 18 July 2022

Last over drama in Championship and Blast

County cricket delivered high drama in both its shortest and longest formats

Ball One – Kismet, Hardie

It will come as cold comfort indeed to Adam Lyth (183) and Jonny Tattersall (180*) to learn that Adam Dale and Viv Richards once made double centuries in a first innings – and also lost. Perhaps once ever 29 years is often enough though.

What a win it was for the leaders, Surrey, at North Marine Road. The visitors recovered from the aforementioned Yorkies’ stand of 305 to keep a toenail in the match as they set off to chip away at 521. Led by Rory Burns’ 132, they were pretty much at parity with four sessions to play – game on. Jamie Overton (unlucky not to be with England) blasted through the top order and tail, but 227 on a fourth day pitch in 44 overs was a stiff ask.

But this Surrey side (in fact, with so many international calls, it’s these Surrey sides) have played positive cricket all summer and, though they kept losing wickets, they also kept scoring runs. Ben Foakes and Aussie all-rounder, Aaron Hardie, got them over the line in the last over of the match – one that had most of the Media Centre at Lord’s looking at their screens rather than the action in the middle. Who says county cricket is dying?

Surrey stay top, with fate on their side.

Ball Two – Vince has plenty of bowlers to deal with late season challenges

Hampshire won against last year’s champions, Warwickshire, whose 2022 campaign is as disappointing as 2021’s was impressive. James Vince’s men are 15 points off the top spot, but he has a useful weapon as the season lengthens and players tire.

In this match, he called upon the services of six bowlers in the visitors’ first innings (71 overs) and eight in the second dig (112 overs). Though the spearhead will always be the trident of Mohammad Abbas, Kyle Abbott and Keith Barker, his back-ups, Brad Wheal, Ian Holland, Liam Dawson and Felix Organ, are also taking their wickets at under 30 this season, with James Fuller a little more expensive, but still highly effective. Mason Crane can expect to have a go as pitches wear in September too.

Bowling options are often spoken of in the context of white ball cricket (Bob Woolmer always wanted eight batsmen and six bowlers as a minimum), but they’re just as important over the English first class season, the county championship still unrivalled in terms of the variety of pitches and conditions it offers to batters and bowlers.

Ball Three – Ctrl X for old entries as Mulder and Ackermann rewrite records files

It wouldn’t have mattered much if a captain had 18 bowling options at Hove, never mind eight, as records tumbled in midsummer heat. There are too many to list, but congratulations are due to South African pair Colin Ackermann (277 not out) and Wiaan Mulder (235 not out) whose unbroken stand of 477 was a championship record for the fifth wicket.

This column seldom joins in with handwringing about flat pitches, cannon fodder bowling and easy runs because there are actually very few matches as imbalanced as this one. For example, at Southport, Keaton Jennings made a triple century, but it was only Lewis Goldsworthy’s resilience in both Somerset innings that prevented a Lancashire win. But 588, 756-4 and 220-1 does invite suspicion that the pitch was tilted too far to the bat. Not, in my view, a cause for a points deduction, but perhaps a quiet word that it really shouldn’t happen again.

(Nobody benefits from scores like that except those who pore over stats tables – so that’s er… us, right?)

Ball Four – Imports bloom in Roses match

Local derbies, in all sports, are strange events. They’re steeped in folklore and tradition, their histories are seared into the memory and they’re nerve-jangling affairs from start to finish. Curiously, their tension-inducing, feat-inspiring qualities are also infectious.

Though both sides fielded home grown talent, Lancashire’s successful chase of 205 turned on the contributions of a Welshman (Phil Salt) and two sons of Johannesburg (Keaton Jennings and Dane Vilas). Quite why such imports should be so invested in an ancient trans-Pennine rivalry does not bear rational analysis, but invested they are.

The irrationality of sport is, of course, one of its delights. Competition does not reduce to spreadsheets and algorithms, but resides in the Chimp Mind, a dangerous, but glorious, element of the human condition.

Ball Five – Underpowered powerplay costs Somerset

In the second semi-final, Hampshire posted 190, a score that they will have felt was defendable but also one that Somerset will have felt they could chase. They were to fall well short.

Perhaps the turning point of Somerset’s innings was the powerplay, Hampshire’s wily bowling restricting them to 46-2 off the regulation six overs. In consequence, the required rate had climbed from its initial 9.55 to 10.35. That translates to a full innings target of 207, a significantly stiffer proposition that 191 obviously!

There’s always much talk about how to attack powerplays as a batting side. On the one hand, you can’t win the game in the first six overs, but you might loses it, say 30-5 after a succession of skiers. On the other, exiting the powerplay with the required rate higher than at its start (especially just two wickets down) seems wasteful. Somerset soon needed above 12 an over for the second half of their innings – unsurprisingly, it proved too much.

Ball Six – Two teams do not cover themselves in glory, but the third one loses

Of course, the last ball of Finals Day often plays out in a cauldron comprising one part carnival, one part fatigue and one part nerves. The best can screen out that external stuff, embrace the moment and win it. That applies equally to the three teams – batting, bowling and umpiring – on the field.

Such has been the reaction to the final’s madcap denouement – and not exclusively from Lancashire fans – that the MCC has issued a clarification which, in embedding a link to the TV coverage, muddies the waters still further. What’s done is done, but the statement reads as much as an ex post facto arse-covering as a watertight explanation, and it’s already being questioned online.

Three elements of sixth ball of the 20th over strike me as interesting.

Wicketkeeper, Ben McDermott, stands back, so it was never likely that he could run to the wicket, ball in glove, and run out the non-striker at his end – he made a mistake in doing so. A keeper stands back to mitigate the risk of the second run when two is required off one ball (you can bet he’d be standing up if just one run was required for the super over). He should have been thinking more clearly – that’s part of what’s required to win tournaments.

It is the fielding side’s job to complete the run out. The umpire’s signalling of the bye and the resultant dead ball seems the least noticeable event in the chaos, as betrayed by the expressions of confusion on many Hampshire players’ faces at the end.

Chaotic run outs (successful and unsuccessful) are not uncommon in matches at any level of the game – Youtube is full of club cricketers going very ‘village’ and conceding runs as panic sets in. Oh yes, ask Allan Donald and Lance Klusener about whether it can happen to the best too.

There’s much to be learned from the incident (at the very least, a playing condition controlling premature celebration needs to be adopted) and it shouldn’t happen again. Many of the players knew there was something not quite right and, in a game where millimetres can decide a run out or a dozen replays require assessment before a catch is declared clean or not, it’s unsustainable for the most important ball of a tournament that began nearly two months ago to be nodded through with a shrug of the shoulders.

 

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 15, 2022

England vs India Second ODI, Final Over of the Day

Ball One – No hit for Rohit, at least not yet

So many of the old orthodoxies of cricket are being challenged or ditched as aggression and confidence trumps conditions and situations. So, in just about the most perfect batting weather one could imagine in England, it wasn’t so much of a surprise to see Rohit Sharma have a bowl and prey on England’s memories of The Oval debacle just a couple of days ago.

Pitches seldom play as they look and Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah instantly located the right length to extract the half bat’s width movement required to beat both the attacking and defensive blades of Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy. But 50 overs is plenty of time to catch up with the kind of run-a-ball scoring rate England targeted under Eoin Morgan and will, inevitably, continue to aim at under Jos Buttler. That’s betting without being 26-5, as England were on Tuesday.

Ball Two – Root and Roy, just being themselves

Joe Root might be this decade’s VVS Laxman, a batsman of unsurpassed grace and style who expresses his gifts largely through orthodox stroke play. Though I doubt that VVS ever essayed a reverse scoop, but England’s greatest batsman is at least 80% textbook in an age when 50% adherence is enough to be labelled old school.

Will anyone ever bat again with so high an elbow, so considered a stride with the front foot, such assured defence? And yet, just three dot balls are enough to see him attempt to manufacture runs, not quite embrace the blitzing of a Pant or Buttler, but certainly stepping outside his preferred MO.

Isn’t it enough for Root to be Root? It is enough for Roy to be Roy when he hits it down the throat of deep backward square having got in, so why not 50 off 65 for Root with a view to making 100 off 100?  Of course, the anxiety comes from the spectre of getting out for 23 off 33 – which is, coincidentally, exactly what Roy did.

Ball Three – I saw him standing there – or maybe not?

Liam Livingstone falls for 33, England’s fifth batsman to get out between 11 and 38 – nothing scores.

He’s also the second batsman, after Jason Roy, to be caught by a fielder who was not required to move. You’ll hear (if you’re really unlucky) the likes of Kevin Pietersen exulting that players are brave, that they don’t worry about men on the boundaries, that they back themselves to hit maximums. But Lord’s is using most of its expanse (to its credit) and maybe batsmen should have a mental image of the field – at least as much as they do of their scoring areas.

Kapil Dev ran 30 yards towards the grandstand to catch Viv Richards in 1983 – you just have to accept that as a batsman. But hitting it straight down the fielder’s throat – not good enough.

Ball Four – Flighty England can’t make fifty

India didn’t need to do too much to take England’s ten wickets, simply be there when the errors came – and come they did. No England batsman made 50 and only Moeen Ali and David Willey were able to register a half-century stand (62 for the seventh wicket). Had we not seen something worse in the first match, it’s an innings that would be attracting more opprobrium.

Though the pitch has more life (and definitely more pace) than appeared the case at the toss, a target of 247 feels at least 50 short of par. England might bowl very well as the sun drops in the sky and still lose with 10 overs in hand. India big favourites at the halfway mark.

Ball Five – Pitch rich in possibilities

Cricket seldom does as it is told – have a look at the absurd Winviz for any number of examples -and, at the halfway mark in the chase, India are 91-5. Who knew?

The pitch, instead of going quietly to sleep, has, like an unruly toddler too full of sugar, continued to be as lively as it was almost 75 overs ago. There’s zip for the pacers and a little grip for the spinners, but nothing really unplayable. Indeed, it pretty much defines that old cliché, a good cricket wicket.

Ball Six – Topley on top

So what to make of that? If I was castigating England above for a lack of 50s, India could not muster a 30 – on, it needs to be stressed, a blameless track.

England did bowl well, employing the short ball only as a shock tactic, largely taking the horizontal bat options away from India. Reece Topley will make the headlines with scarcely believable figures of 6-24, but all England’s seamers bowled with discipline and threat and both spinners chipped in with a wicket.

The series goes to a decider at Old Trafford on Sunday which will create a bit of tension in and of itself, but, after three one-sided T20Is and two one-sided ODIs, the crowd will be looking for a tighter match – rather like one or two in the staid old county championship today!

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 11, 2022

The Final Over Of The Week In County Cricket – 11 July 2022

Lancashire, Yorkshire, Hampshire and Somerset win through

Yorkshire progress in a thriller and Somerset shatter records to set up Saturday’s Finals Day in the T20 Blast

Ball One – Oh Laurie!

Surrey played Yorkshire for the first time in T20 cricket and produced a thriller for the ages, the Tykes going through to Finals Day in extraordinary circumstances. 

A hot night in South London had boiled down to the last over with the equation as simple as it gets in white ball cricket (which never really does straightforward does it?) The home side needed five runs to hit their target, four for the win if, and only if, they did not lose a wicket. Jamie Overton was on strike and had been blasting boundaries; Laurie Evans at the non-striker’s end was also set and had 14 seasons experience in the bag. Where do you bowl Jordan Thompson?

19.1 Bouncer that Overton misses with an almighty smear. 19.2 At the toes as Overton gave himself room, single to the offside sweeper. 19.3 Evans takes a single. 19.4 Slower ball outside off stump, wicketkeeper, Tom Kohler-Cadmore fumbles, recovers and runs out Overton, called for a panicky single then sent back; 19.5 Sunil Narine whips a full ball to deep square leg where Will Fraine gambles everything on taking the catch rather than blocking the boundary – fortune favours the brave. 19.6 Thompson goes full again, Gus Atkinson misses and Yorkshire are home by one run. 

David Willey may not be flavour of the month in the Broad Acres after announcing his departure at the end of the season, but he gave his team the clarity they needed to execute plans under immense pressure – and for that he deserves enormous credit. 

Ball Two – Cross about batters crossing

An innovation that had appeared rather benign played a key role in that last over – the new batter is on strike after a dismissal (except for a run out). Narine’s hit into the deep allowed the batters to cross with the ball in the air and, in seasons gone by, would have put the set Evans on strike, rather than the new man.

One could argue that a false stroke (since Narine was caught) should not lead to a benefit for the chasing side, but part of the reason for hitting the ball hard is to get the preferred batter on strike. Since it really only matters in a tight finish, the drama of the game is enhanced because expecting a player cold to the crease to make a perfect connection first up is a tough shout. 

There are arguments both ways, but, come the last six balls, this seemingly administrative clarification is having an impact not commensurate with its intention. The spectacle would have been better with Evans on strike – I suggest he should have been.  

Ball Three – No Finals Day picnic for Bears

Not every game is a classic and Birmingham, having comfortably broken the 200 runs barrier in four of their last six matches, went down like a lead zeppelin at home to Hampshire.

James Vince elected to set a target and, with handy contributions from himself, Ben McDermott, Joe Weatherley and the old finisher, Ross Whiteley, would have been satisfied with a score of 186-6.

Birmingham Bears kept losing wickets, as the cliché has it, at a bad time with no partnership extending beyond three overs, James Fuller, Nathan Ellis, Brad Wheal and Mason Crane chipping in with wickets. It was all done in fewer than 14 overs and the locals, who had been looking forward to a Finals Day jamboree on their own patch, were off home still in daylight, disappointed after a fine season in the group stage.

Ball Four – Roses treat for fans to open Finals Day

Lancashire were missing Liam Livingstone, Matt Parkinson, Richard Gleeson and, er…, Jos Buttler on England duty for their home match against Essex, but the somewhat second string attack, backed up by brilliantly aggressive fielding that had a touch of the one day maestros of the early 70s about it, restricted Essex to 161-5, only 13 boundaries struck by the visitors. That count was in contrast to the 40 they had struck in their previous match, a bad time to deliver the equal lowest number of fours and sixes in Essex’s last seven matches batting first.

The Old Trafford crowd, if not the ground, was up to the occasion and shrugged off the loss of Keaton Jennings, run out backing up without facing, roaring a favourite son, Steven Croft and an adopted son, Dane Vilas, home with 26 balls to spare. The M6 will be busy next Saturday morning as Red faces White in a Roses clash to savour in front of a rocking Hollies Stand. 

Ball Five – Talkin’ bout my generation 

There was much talk amongst Sky’s commentary team about how 20 seasons of T20 cricket has not just failed to see spin’s demise (as had been anticipated by many in 2003) but seen slow bowlers come to the fore, the world’s top wicket-takers in the format dominated by the 50mph – 60mph merchants. I use that description because they don’t all turn the ball!

But another unexpected characteristic has slid under the radar. Far from being a harum-scarum environment that is no place for old men, many of T20’s best practitioners are well into their 30s. Vilas and Croft are both 37 years of age and what they miss in quick singles, they more than make up for in shot selection, coolness under pressure and that indefinable nous that sees and then wins the crucial moments.

It’ll be a long day for them (as it will be for all the 30-somethings on show at Finals Day) but they’ll be the first names on the team sheet and they’ll be ready to go again when they take guard. 

Ball Six – Derbyshire demolished

One of the lesser known names in the England Lions squad to face South Africa this week is George Scrimshaw. It’s often the fate for Derbyshire players to be described as such. 

He showed exactly why he merits elevation in delivering the superb figures of 4-0-16-2 in the last of the quarter-finals. Unfortunately for him, the 16 overs bowled by his colleagues went for 249, a combination of Tom Banton, Rilee Rossouw, Tom Lammonby and Taunton’s short boundaries getting Somerset up to 265-5. Still, at least it was a record Blast score by just the four runs and, surely, things couldn’t get worse?

An hour or so later, they did, the shell-shocked visitors dismissed for 82, a record defeat in the Blast this time with a yawning 47 run gap to second in the table. 

Sometimes, it’s just not your day.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 4, 2022

The Final Over Of The Week In County Cricket – 4 July 2022

Ball One – Burns burned by delayed declaration

Rory Burns has got far more right than wrong as Surrey captain, but he wrote an entry on the shorter side of the ledger with his key decisions in last week’s match at The Oval. 

445-5 at the end of day one, he could have declared after Sam Curran bazballed his way to a maiden century off 64 deliveries, the score 544-5. He chose to bat on for 19 more overs piling up 673-7 declared. Whether one ever needs more than 552 in the first dig of a four day match is moot – 670+ is just indulgence. 

To their credit, Kent dug in, centurion, Daniel Bell-Drummond, and captain, Jack Leaning, each occupying the crease for nearly four hours. But the visitors deficit of 342 runs was less important than the fact that they had chewed up 103 overs, whereupon Burns (inevitably after his delayed declaration) invited Kent to have another go and his bowlers to strap on their boots for four more sessions in the field.

To their credit, Kent ignored the scoreboard pressure, with Bell-Drummond tucking in for another ton and stumps were pulled with him still at the crease, his team five down and 19 runs to the good. In mitigation, Surrey can point to Curran (still not fully fit) bowling only 24 of the 220 overs sent down and the fact that they were missing (for various reasons) Jamie Overton, Reece Topley, Jordan Clark and Tom Curran. But they also failed to select Amar Virdi or Dan Moriarty (who, in July last year, were in the XI alongside Ravichandran Ashwin), so that rather limits the dimensions of the violin.     

Ball Two – Harmer deals out the pain for second place Hampshire

That said, even when it’s bad, it’s still good for the Londoners in 2022. They have Essex, specifically Simon Harmer, to thank for that, as second place Hampshire went down to a tight defeat at Chelmsford, leaving them 16 points adrift of the leaders. 

Shane Snater, Aaron Beard and that man Harmer dug the home side out of the hole of 105-7, posting a competitive 238, which looked better still with Hampshire 68-6 at the end of a rollercoaster day one. 

Harmer’s spin had garnered eight wickets and then his bat 61 runs to set Hampshire a distant 299 runs for the win. Felix Organ, perhaps buoyed by his three wickets in rare extended bowl (Liam Dawson got 10, so it was dong a bit for the spinners), teed off with five sixes in his 65. Though Harmer was bowling unchanged from one end, with the redoubtable Keith Barker at the crease, Hants had hope. The big man had one biff too many, holed out in the deep and Harmer had a career-best 15-207 and we had a match to savour, 12 runs the margin at the end.      

Ball Three – Orr finds a golden touch

While Division Two’s top pair, Nottinghamshire and Middlesex, played out a draw that assumed a very similar shape to Surrey’s with Kent and Glamorgan closed the gap after a tremendous chase at Worcester, Sussex won their first Championship match since 2020.

What a way to do it too! After Wayne Madsen 176 and Anuj Dal’s 146 not out had allowed Derbyshire’s captain, Billy Godleman, to give every England fan a shivery reminder of Adelaide 2006 by declaring on 551, Mohammad Rizwan’s 130 had limited the home side’s first innings deficit to 214 runs. The visitors weren’t exactly in trouble at 54-5, but they were grateful to Luis Reece, whose 42 not out allowed Godleman to set his opponents 342 to win on the fourth day.

Ali Orr, who turned 21 at the start of the season and one of the kids given a chance at Hove last year, led the charge with 141 (including 15 fours and six sixes) while Rizwan, a contender for a World XI playing in the second tier of our domestic first class competition, lest we forget, steered the ship home, the target knocked off with 20 odd overs to spare.

Brendon McCullum has asked for his philosophy to be reflected in the domestic competition and Orr could hardly have been more committed to that call. He averages over 40 as an opener in first class cricket, ten more than one of the current incumbents. 

Ball Four – Foxes flame out

Last week, this column stated, “Leicestershire themselves are not completely out of it, but they would need Yorkshire to lose to the Bears and then themselves to beat the Tykes in their last match.” And that’s what happened. So why are Leicestershire sixth in the table and about to have a week off?

The answer is that the ECB disciplinary panel imposed a two points penalty, a sanction that has hung in the air for 11 months triggered by two incidents in Leicestershire’s match against Northamptonshire. 

Narrowly considered, if you don’t want to do the time, don’t do the crime and I can promise you that I offer the shortest of shrift when player behaviour is the issue, but there is a wider matter at stake.

Cricket does have a problem dealing with its (relatively few) instances of contraventions are rules and norms. In Test matches, captains slow the over rate at will, pretty much laughing in the face of fines and suspensions. In county cricket, pitch assessments are always a hot button issue with penalties, as in the case above, imposed sometimes years later and with only a loose adherence to the principle of the punishment fitting the crime. It’s almost impossible to disentangle cases involving player registrations, but, again, penalties can appear arbitrary. 

Lord knows county cricket has enough problems right now, but a disciplinary overhaul is long overdue.      

Ball Five – Blast hollowed out

So the quarter-finals (on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) comprise: Surrey vs Yorkshire; Birmingham vs Hampshire; Lancashire vs Essex and Somerset vs Derbyshire. 

Except, in some ways they don’t. Key players from the teams that qualified will be scooped out to play (or to run about a bit in Hi-Viz vests) for England, who will be playing white ball cricket against India – because, well, because it’ll be literally hours since the two nations last played a cricket match, so we obviously need another.

What other sport would do this to its hugely popular, financially successful, long-established domestic competition? 

Ball Six – All hail Hose and Howell!

It’s not easy to find metrics that evaluate performance in any of cricket’s formats, but T20 may be the most difficult one of all in which to sift the best from the very good. Factors like sizes of grounds, availability for selection and the specificity of roles (death bowler, middle overs wicket-taker, finisher, powerplay smiter etc) to say nothing of old favourites like variable pitches, unlucky decisions and fielding contributions, can make assessments a lottery.

That said, my batter of the group stage is Adam Hose, the Birmingham Bear with the big bat. The sum of his average and strike rate is 225 with anything over 200 counting as elite level hitting. He’s third on the run ladder too with 541, so here for a long time not just a good time. He hasn’t played for Warwickshire in three years, which seems a waste of a talent.

My bowler of the group stage (betting without Sunil Narine, who inhabits a different plane with ball in hand) is Benny Howell, the Gloucestershire all-rounder who has always done things his way. His canny mix of pace, length and trajectory brought him 11 wickets at under seven, an economy rate bettered by only Narine and Simon Harmer amongst those bowling 30 overs or more. Howell’s imagination and control makes it impossible for batters to set themselves by second guessing his deliveries – and it makes him a delight to watch for those of us who can tire of six after six after six.   

  

  

 

    

England

Ben Stokes (194 runs at 48.5; three wickets at 75.0; five catches)

For ten years or so, Ben Stokes played cricket with a snarl and a swear, but McCullumism has transformed that expression to a grin and a giggle. Of course, that’s easier when you’re winning, but it’s a start beyond anyone’s dreams, last month’s grumbling about the captain and coach’s lack of experience now a very distant memory.

As is the case with his batting and bowling, Stokes doesn’t always attack in the field, but when he does, he attacks hard with bowlers supported by close fielders and batters given plenty to think about. He also trusts his instincts when it comes to bowling changes, with no set hierarchies about new balls or choices of ends and a evident willingness to spring a surprise with early spin. 

His bowling lacked some of its threat (perhaps the workload over the years is catching up with him) and his batting veered between the sublime and the ridiculous (sometimes within the same over), but his impact as captain has covered all that and more. Grade A-

Alex Lees (169 runs at 28.2; two catches) 

There was a glimpse or two of the batter he could become, the occasional thump down the ground bringing forth misty memories of Marcus Trescothick as his most imperious. But the hard currency of batting is runs and he’s getting out on both sides of the bat, which suggests that there’s some technical work to be done on properly lining up the ball. Grade C

Zak Crawley (87 runs at 14.5; four catches)

The promise of that incredible double century two years ago has receded so far that I suspect even he is finding it hard to summon the memory. Everything looks out of kilter – movement, balance, shot selection, most of all, the clarity of mind required to succeed Test cricket. He probably needs to spend as much time as possible at the crease now in any format of the game available and reacquaint himself with the fundamentals of batting – he won’t be able to do that against Jasprit Bumrah and co at Edgbaston. Grade E 

Ollie Pope (267 runs at 44.5; three catches)

Asked to seize the poisoned chalice of the number three slot, the silky strokemaker produced a mixed bag of looking as good against ordinary bowling as he looked ordinary against good bowling. That’s reflected in two big scores and four failures, but that would certainly have been accepted as success when the experiment began. If he can play with some of Kane Williamson’s ego-free, compact, soft-handed approach early on and be satisfied with five or so off his first 50 balls, the gap between his Test average and his first class average will soon narrow. Grade B+  

Joe Root (396 runs at 99.0; one wicket at 77.0; four catches)

Isn’t it great to have the schoolboyish half-smirk back, the burdens of captaincy (to which he was not suited at all) mercifully lifted? All skittish action at the crease, but the dancing is all in service of getting head, hands and feet into perfect alignment for the bat to hit the ball where he chooses (and he’s choosing some hitherto inaccessible places these days). He’s sustaining a peak so long it’s becoming a plateau, the surprise not limited to when he gets out, but also to when he doesn’t hit the ball for runs. He does lose half a grade for inexplicably poor catching in the slips. Grade A-

Jonny Bairstow (394 runs at 78.9; eight catches)

At Lord’s, he was bowled in the first innings to leave England on 100-6 and bowled again in the second innings, 208 still to get with just the all-rounder, keeper and a long tail to come. Quite why England picked a longstanding unconvincing Test batter fresh out of the IPL against the world champions had eyebrows arched. And then things changed.

Not since Ian Botham backed up his 149 with 118 can two such transformational innings have been played in such close proximity. As in 1981, the first was the flashy surprise, but the second a display of complete domination on a pitch that always had something in it for the bowler. Coaches often talk about their philosophy (although I suspect Brendon McCullum has a more down to earth way of putting it) but seldom does one see the phrase made flesh so irrefutably. Grade A 

Ben Foakes (107 runs at 35.7; 12 catches)

Not quite the smooth operator as advertised, especially standing back, and must bear some responsibility for England’s often fallible work in the cordon, but batted well to get England over the line at Lord’s and Trent Bridge. Needs to work on his reviewing, especially if the captain is stationed square of the wicket. Grade B-

Sam Billings (one catch)

Answered the call and let nobody down. Grade B-

Jamie Overton (97 runs at 97.0; two wickets at 73.0)

Asked to jump from domestic T20 (in which he did not always bowl his full quota) to a debut Test and then required to bowl two length – swingers and bouncers -it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see that he struggled to find his early season rhythm. He still hurried up good players (watch the batter not the speed gun) and looked built for pace bowling across five days.

His batting has impressed for while and he now has a share in the ninth highest partnership for the seventh wicket in 145 years of Test cricket. Nobody would be completely shocked were his name to be added to the list of one Test wonders, but it would be a shame if so. Grade B 

Matthew Potts (Four runs at 2.0; 14 wickets at 23.3 three catches)

A strong young man with a repeatable action who hits the deck hard, takes the ups and downs of top level sport in his stride and gets results – quite the impression to have made in his first series. Sharp enough (in England at least) and almost visibly learning how to get batters out, his future looks bright, especially if he listens to Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad observing and emulating their subtle variations and developing their psychological and physical resilience. Grade A  

Stuart Broad (60 runs at 20.0; 12 wickets at 35.3; one catch)

He bowled much better than his figures suggest – had even the regulation slip catches been held, his wickets column would have been boosted. At times, especially against left-handers, he had the bolt upright seam, the wobble seam and the cutter on a piece of string, batters being set a new challenge almost ball-by-ball. Did some effective work with the bat too.

At 36, he can’t play every match, but he’ll probably overhaul Glenn McGrath to go second amongst seamers on the Test wickets list, maybe forever. We’ll miss him when he’s gone. (But not the endless whinging about the ball culminating in banging it into the pitch in a fit of pique. losing half a grade). Grade B-  

Jack Leach (Eight runs at 8.0; 13 wickets at 30.2; one catch)

At Trent Bridge, figures of 2-140 and 1-86 reflected both New Zealand’s targeting of the spinner and his own lack of variety, the ball fired into leg and middle with little in the way of drift or dip and not much overspin to generate bounce.

At Headingley, with some grip available off the surface and a captain and coach backing him after a disappointing match, he found a confident attacking line and the revs to present a challenge in the air and off the pitch. Both edges of the bat were threatened by the one that turned, the one that skidded on and the one that jumped. Thankfully, we heard a lot less dismal talk of “holding an end”. Successive fivefers were both well-deserved and (one hopes) portents of the future. Grade B+  

Jimmy Anderson (16 runs at 16.0; 11 wickets at 18.6)

Got a helter-skelter series underway by removing both New Zealand openers in the first half hour at Lord’s and just ran in on rails for two Tests before having an enforced break. Whether he can do two out of three Tests in the future remains to be seen, but many would argue that one out of three Tests is fine for a thoroughbred like him. Grade A- 

Matt Parkinson (8 runs at 8.0; one wicket at 47.0)

Rushed from contemplating back garden to contemplating the Rose Garden due to Jack Leach’s Lord’s concussion and showed he could beat the bat, picking up a wicket in what was little more than a cameo. Grade B- 

 

New Zealand

Will Young (133 runs at 22.2)

Out twice early at Lord’s and Headingley, but made useful contributions at Trent Bridge in a series that showed that he is one of many openers around the world with a technique just a little too loose to deliver consistent starts. Grade C 

Tom Latham (121 runs at 20.2)

Rescued a poor run of scores with a well constructed innings in the third Test that was ended by the first ball after a break. A better batter than he showed, but stepped into Williamson’s captaincy boots at Trent Bridge with the same undemonstrative decency. Grade C

Kane Williamson (96 runs at 24.0; two catches)

With little time to prepare before the series and a bout of Covid within it, one of the world’s great batters struggled to find his timing, his balance just that tiny bit off in a role that punishes marginal flaws. His captaincy is an ornament to the game, indeed to sport more generally, showing that good guys can lead, even in these benighted times. Grade B-

Devon Conway (151 runs at 25.2)

A touch of reversion to the mean after an extraordinary start to his Test career, he still looked a class act at times, but maybe was a little too keen to impose himself on the bowling and feel bat on ball. Grade C+

Henry Nicholls (59 runs at 14.8)

His biggest contribution to the cause was contracting Covid and getting Daryl Mitchell into the side at Lord’s. Thereafter, he couldn’t get going at all. Grade D

Daryl Mitchell (538 runs at 107.6; no wicket; six catches)

Pretty much defined what it is to seize one’s chance by making three centuries in three matches. His method was simple – block or leave the good ones, hit the not so good ones and occasionally advance down the track and belt it back over the bowler’s head. That said, all the basics needed to be right and, rarer than ever these days, they were. Oh, he also had a bit of luck with dropped chances and reviews – but it’s what you do with it that really matters. 

Fallible catching drops a him half grade. Grade A

Tom Blundell (383 runs at 76.6; 10 catches)

Just got on with the job whether wearing the batting gloves or the keeper’s gauntlets, he swept, cut and pulled effectively and calibrated his aggression to the match situation, complementing Mitchell in a series of big stands. Though very different in character, he’s probably vying with Rishabh Pant and Mohammad Rizwan for the title of leading wicketkeeper-batsman in Test cricket. Grade A+

Colin de Grandhomme (42 runs at 42.0; one wicket at 27.0) 

A decent innings at Lord’s, Joe Root’s wicket, a dozy run out and then he was gone, injured. Grade C+

Michael Bracewell (96 runs at 24.0; five wickets at 57.0)

One from the long tradition of Kiwi bits and pieces men (though one might have said the same about Mitchell), his bowling looked a little green and his batting a little hurried, though it was effective at times. Underlined what his career to date suggests – that he is a little short of class to be a genuine all-rounder at this level. Grade C-

Kyle Jamieson (21 runs at 5.3; six wickets at 27.5)

His brand of Garneresque controlled swing and seam showed why it had been so successful in the last year or two with six relatively cheap wickets at Lord’s but couldn’t repeat the trick at Trent Bridge. A big miss for New Zealand when injury forced him out of the second Test. Grade B  

Tim Southee (86 runs at 14.3; 9 wickets at 59; four catches)

The old warhorse ran in as hard as ever, but largely beat a tattoo on the middle of the England bats, despite picking up useful wickets here and there. He may not be back for another tour, so it’s time to salute a fine tourist who always played the game the right way and will never be short of friends on and off the field in England. Grade C- 

Matt Henry (18 runs at 9.0; two wickets at 97.5; one catch) 

Ran into Pope and Root and then Storm Bairstow at Trent Bridge to discover that bowling in Tests in England was an altogether more dangerous occupation than bowling in county cricket Grade D

Neil Wagner (4 runs at 2.0, two wickets at 54.0)

Unlucky to get picked only for the third Test, his blowhard, bowl hard, bodyline attack could work its magic. If only he’d held on to a sharp return catch from Bairstow on 27 in the first innings at Headingley. Grade C 

Ajaz Patel (11 runs at 5.5; no wicket)

Hit out of the attack by Ben Stokes at Lord’s and not required again. Grade D-

Trent Boult (55 runs at 18.3; 16 wickets at 28.9; three catches)

The pick of the New Zealand attack, his swing in and angle away consistently knocked over top order batters, but England kept attacking and runs came at the other end with even his technically perfect left-arm spells getting a bit of tap by the end of the series, such was the power of the onslaught he faced and the pressure of being the only effective weapon his captain possessed. Grade B+

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 25, 2022

The Final Over Of The Week In County Cricket – 25 June 2022

Ball One – Siddle in the middle, but should fielders have been on one side?

Midsummer mayhem at The Oval on Tuesday night as Somerset’s Peter Siddle, on a hat-trick, bowls to Conor McKerr needing to hit a boundary to win the match. Everyone, including the batter, knew it would, like the previous two deliveries, be spearing into off stump and everyone knew, including the bowler, that the batter would clear his front leg and swing hard. So what do you do as captain?

I would have posted a long leg for the inside edge and put the other eight available fielders on the off side, closing off half the rope as a realistic target. That way, you invite an attempt on the near-impossibility of finding a gap on one side of the field or the equally tough job for the number 10 of stepping across his stumps and hitting an experienced international bowler from off to leg with a good enough connection to go all the way. It would be a bold batter indeed who tried that trick first ball.

McKerr swung at the ball that arrived exactly where he expected and it skimmed to the extra cover boundary to provoke delight and despair. Surrey’s unbeaten record lived on (for a couple of days, as it transpired).

Ball Two – Catches win matches – and fans

Do you ever go to matches primarily to see the fielding? 

At Lord’s on Thursday (so beautiful to behold in a Golden Hour that would have had David Lean reaching for his camera), neither Middlesex nor Essex batted or bowled particularly well (though Sam Cook and Chris Green might dispute that), but there were any number of spectacular catches in the field. The pick of a highlights reel all in the same match was probably Dan Lawrence’s diving snare of John Simpson at widish slip, an airborne blur to the naked eye.

Fielding witnessed up close and personal is an often overlooked delight of being at the match and, with many grounds replaying wickets on the big screen, you can afford to miss one or two if you’re engaged in a discussion deftly making a forthright point about England’s reluctance to develop a successor to Adil Rashid. Not that such a thing would ever happen to your correspondent…

Ball Three – Sky’s Twenty20 coverage catches the right tone

One of the pleasures of Sky’s coverage of the Blast is its change in tone in comparison to Test matches. Though it’s highly subjective (and plenty will disagree), I’ve always enjoyed the lighter touch of Charlie Dagnall and its more conversational style, growing from the early days of T20 when Bumble and others bought into its circus-coming-to-town vibe.

As a side benefit, current players are often invited into the Sky Pod to commentate and, in a more relaxed environment than the rather stiff ‘three people standing in a field holding mics’ that the BBC uses in Today at the Test, they often reveal a little more of their thinking.

As Northamptonshire’s perfectly acceptable 211-6 was mown down by the Birmingham Bears with an over to spare, young wrist-spinner, Freddie Heidreich taking a particularly gruesome mauling, the Northants’ Championship skipper, Ricardo Vasconcelos, made the interesting suggestion that the new opportunity to retire a batter out and replace them another more suited to the match situation should cost the batting side a ball. His reasoning was that a change of batter through a dismissal almost always finds a dot entered into the scorebook, so why not in this case? A good point well made.

Ball Four – Rope in the maximum area available for play

Sky were back pointing their cameras at Bears on Friday, as a very decent atmosphere was created by a good turnout at Edgbaston for a local derby. But the match was barely a contest at all.

Birmingham were good, piling up 228-8, led by the in-form Adam Hose’s undefeated 110, but Worcestershire were pitifully poor with bowling, fielding and batting that’s hardly acceptable in club cricket, going down by 144 runs, a record in the competition.   

The disparity between the sides was exacerbated by the boundary rope being brought in further than I’ve ever seen it before, which gives the crowd more sixes to salute, but rewards edges too and limits the opportunities for fielding to make a difference through catches and run outs. In contrast, almost the full expanse of The Oval had been used earlier in the week and batters challenged to hit a properly long ball to clear the rope. 

I’m guessing that the Bears will not have the discretion as to where the boundary is set for Finals Day coming up at their home next month, but I do hope as much of the playing area as possible is used – the game, if not the stats, is better for it.

Ball Five – Next weekend set for sorting out the shake-up

After another break for a round of four day Championship matches this week (a scheduling quirk that somehow manages to diminish both competitions), the Blast is back for its denouement next weekend with a Friday / Saturday / Sunday showdown – while England play India in a Test match, natch.

The long-time leaders of both groups have fallen back into the pack, Lancashire and Surrey both required to dip deep into their squads due to England call-ups (though why Liam Livingstone and, er… Jos Buttler couldn’t play for Lanky on Friday is something of a mystery to your correspondent). 

The cliché says that five into four won’t go and that is pretty much the situation in the both groups. 

Birmingham, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire sit in the qualifying positions in the North Group, with Northamptonshire needing to beat Leicestershire in their last game to give themselves a chance of breaking into the quartet. Leicestershire themselves aren’t completely out of it, but they’d need Yorkshire to lose to the Bears and then themselves to beat the Tykes in their last match.

In the South, Surrey, Somerset, Essex and Hampshire lead the way, with Gloucestershire looking to use their two remaining matches to muscle into a quarter-final slot. Glamorgan are in a similar position to Leicestershire, needing to win their last two matches, get the right results elsewhere and the net run-rate to fall their way. 

It’s perhaps a little disappointing that there are not more teams involved in the shake-up, but Kent have defended their title so dismally that they sit bottom of the South Group and Nottinghamshire (who can still squeak through with a very unlikely set of results) have failed to fire in the North Group. Quite why so talented a squad can have no batter averaging over 28 and only Samit Patel going for less than eight an over, is a matter for a post-season inquest at Trent Bridge.

Ball Six – Briggs sails on serenely 

A shout out for Danny Briggs, as unflashy a player as one might find in the razzamatazz (well, razzamattazzish) world of T20 cricket. With his international career now receding in the rearview mirror, he finds himself at Edgbaston having started at Hampshire and then spending some time at Sussex.

His consistent and canny brand of left-arm spin (well, maybe left-arm slow bowling might be a more accurate description) has brought 16 wickets this season, enough for him to maintain his position as the leading wicket-taker in English domestic T20 cricket history, with over 200 scalps in his bag.

Much of a spinner’s game is built around deception and perhaps Briggs, who has swapped his early schoolboyish looks for that of a junior doctor turning out for a Sunday friendly, has quietly buried his effectiveness behind an approach that invites batters to hit out – but also to get out. His output shows that, though T20 may be the most formulaic of cricket’s formats, it still offers plenty of ways to make your mark.   

  

  

 

    

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 20, 2022

The Final Over Of The Week In County Cricket – 20 June 2022

Surrey and Hampshire deliver tight wins

Batters are recalibrating their sights in both four day and one day cricket

Ball One – Hot streak continues for Burns’ men

In a good week for red ball cricket, Surrey found themselves in unexpectedly squeaky bum territory as a resourceful Somerset side snapped at their heels all the way into the 12th session of the match.

After dismissing the home side for 180, Rory Burns probably thought that one decent partnership would get the leaders ahead and two would put them into a winning position. The first came in somewhat unusual circumstances (in a match of unusual circumstances, one Overton concussing the other) as Hashim Amla was unable to continue, so the second wicket partnership of 136 was constructed by the captain, the Overseas signing and Ben Geddes. Will Jacks and Jordan Clark added 86 for the sixth wicket and Somerset were 200 or so behind with almost half the match to be played.

But pitches are not deteriorating this season (or maybe, as in Surrey’s case, spinners are not being picked) and the Lewis Gs (Goldsworthy and Gregory) got their side level before Peter Siddle showed that he has lost none of his Aussie mongrel at 37. Surrey were still 39 short with half the order back in the hutch, but Jacks and Clark continued where they left off first time round and the clearheaded Overton was at the crease when the winning runs were scored. Surrey stay top.

Ball Two – Hill the obstacle as Hampshire tough out win

Hampshire stayed on the heels of the unbeaten leaders after an even tighter win at home to Yorkshire (whose players should be commended for retaining focus in the circumstances).

The win looked a long way off after the visitors had racked up 428, 21 year-old George Hill stepping up from the IIs with 131 in the opener’s slot. At 12-2, James Vince was at the crease and knew his batters would need to deliver – and they did, all but his number 11 notching at least 30 to stay in the game.

Not a single Tyke could reach that mark second time around, as the experienced seam trio of Keith Barker, Kyle Abbott and Brad Wheal bagged three wickets each, leaving their batters 197 to get. Liam Dawson, whose spin had not taken a wicket and Nick Gubbins stuck to the old school plan of getting ’em quickly, scoring an aggregate 109 runs off 110 balls, but it was the wise old heads of Barker, James Fuller and Abbott (over 100 years between them) who brought the points home.

Ball Three – Wells digs deep in long chase

Lancashire, shorn of some of their stars by England calls for both Test and ODI squads, hung on to the top two’s coattails with an impressive chase in what turned into a one innings match at Edgbaston.

After Alex Davies had, somewhat inevitably, scored a century against his old comrades, Dane Vilas was looking at 329 in just over a day to win the match – even a day earlier, such a target looked stiff, but maybe things have changed since McCullumism was introduced to English cricket.

Luke Wells, in a trough of indifferent form and Rob Jones in only his second match in the championship, were the unlikely Red Rose version of the England redheads, Bairstow and Stokes. But this was no charging flurry of sixes and fours, more a calculated accumulation that kept the required rate under control and made sure the late middle order were not exposed too early. Wells’ 175 in not much shy of seven hours was cricket as it used to be played – and no less effective for that.

Ball Four – Notts tie up easy win after first innings chasing

In Division Two, Nottinghamshire’s win over Leicestershire while Middlesex were going down to Derbyshire effected a 20 point swing, sufficient to send the Midlanders to the top of the table.

It was another example of an emerging theme this season. No side is ever batted out of the match, grounds staff delivering on the request to make it harder a bowler to hit good areas at just below 80mph and wait for the ball to jag this way and that, receiving a routine 4-75 as a reward.

Ben Slater and Haseeb Hameed walked to the crease with the Grace Road scoreboard telling them that they were over 400 behind, but after another fine knock from Ben Duckett and plenty of support down the order (even Extras were within a run of notching a half-century) their counterparts, Hasan Azad and Rishi Patel took guard a second time over 100 behind – which must have been a little soul-destroying.

Cue one of the stars of the early season, Liam Patterson-White, who added four second innings wickets to the three he bagged in the first dig, and the visitors travelled the short distance home having secured an innings victory – not something that used to happen too often after conceding 440 runs before lunch on Day Two.

Ball Five – The past is a foreign country

Older readers (am I kidding myself that there are others?) may recall the days of the John Player League, with its shortened run-ups, Peter Walker on the gantry and 40 overs a side – still the ideal format for a Sunday afternoon match.

Jim Laker would describe a target of 200 as “taking a bit of getting” and Richie Benaud would keep an eye on the required rate, warning us that the batting side would not want it to rise to over a run a ball.

Last week at Chelmsford, Essex made 244-7 in their 20 overs and Sussex, eschewing their inner Gavaskar, had a damned good go at it, led by Ravi Bopara, back in familiar territory. They fell 11 short of a tie, but the 40 overs produced 477 runs.

Somewhere Peter, Richie and Jim are nodding towards Fred Trueman who is saying, “I don’t know what’s going off out there.”

Ball Six – Rehan does a Rashid

The search for effective English spinners continues – hint: try the ones who spin the ball most – with Adil Rashid’s fragile shoulder as much a part of England’s white ball success as Jos Buttler’s mighty bat.

So it should be noted that Leicestershire’s 17 year-old leg-spinner, Rehan Ahmed came on straight after the powerplay, defending a target of 158, and took four wickets in the crucial middle overs for just 22 runs, Durham collapsing for a paltry 106.

The lad is only making his way in the game just now, but Leicestershire’s faith in him is being repaid, since he tops their bowling averages with 14 wickets at an economy rate of just above seven, having played all 11 matches.

If we must, let’s get Liam Livingstone into the Test XI as a kind of uber-biffer, but he is not the future of English spin – lads like Ahmed and another 17 year-old, Sussex’s Archie Lenham, are. After all, why can’t spinners attack as hard as batters?

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