Ball One – Usman Khawaja, opening for Derbyshire, is learning to bat in two tough environments – Test cricket and early season chilly county cricket. With a solid Sheffield Shield record behind him and earmarked for Ponting’s place once he steps aside, the young man is following another player who was thrust into a transitional Australian team at a young age. If he is as successful outside his comfort zone as was fellow NSW batsman, SR Waugh, his willingness to challenge himself will be vindicated.
Ball Two – Like many grounds, Headingley has been transformed by investment in infrastructure, bringing some facilities all the way from the 19th to the 21st century in one bound. Unless England are playing (and competition for hosting the national side has never been more fierce), there are usually acres of empty seats on show (as there is today and there was yesterday at The Oval). Given that most county CEO’s financial planning turns on the success or otherwise of the Twenty20 season starting next month, there’s a case for charging a nominal entry fee for early season CB40 matches and making money at the bar and food outlets while establishing a habit of attendance that will pay off come the heavily marketed evening games. “Any match in May is a fiver and kids are free” is a slogan that might be be wise in the long run.
Ball Three – Khawaja, having done the necessary hard work in getting to 20, plays all round a full, straight ball and is bowled neck and crop. Playing across the line is seldom a good idea, but he was on the walk too, so his head was never in the right position for the stroke. On the one hand, like Philip Hughes, the young Australian has some technical work to do; on the other, Ajmal Shahzad, the successful bowler, looks a tremendous prospect, with pace and a willingness to pitch the ball up and let it swing. So, technical proficiency from the England Test man and technical issues for the Aussie Test man – how times change.
Ball Four – Like many watchers of cricket, I don’t have much faith in speedguns, though they are fun to check. One element shown by the gun that I do not understand is why shorter deliveries are usually shown as slower than full deliveries. With the release point later, and the gun calculating the speed from the hand, I’d have expected that the longer the ball was held, the more force would be imparted and the quicker the ball would travel. Seems my reasoning is faulty.
Ball Five – Under their 27 year-old skipper, Andrew Gale, Yorkshire are fielding only two men over the age of thirty and no overseas player. The ECB provide incentives for counties to select younger players, and many are doing so, but Yorkshire have aspirations to win all three domestic competitions, so they can be assumed to be selecting solely on merit. I can’t recall a time when there have been more young English players who look international class or potentially so.
Ball Six – Okay, Scotland were never going to win at The Oval yesterday, but they showed little desire to take wickets, waiting for mistakes that did not come frequently enough, allowing Surrey to coast to their target. Today, Andrew Gale has a balanced attack with pace, swing, and spin away from both sides of the bat, but the field is the kind of in-out ring one sees all too often in domestic cricket. Is one slip or short leg too wasteful of resources? Surely it’s worth making the batsman think there’s something in the pitch even if there isn’t? The very best cricketers are those that can make things happen, seizing the game, wringing wickets and runs out of the match situation. Too many captains are too passive too often – no wonder the powerplays bring dismissals.
The Tooting Trumpet, whom you can often find at Testmatchsofa.com and on Twitter at @garynaylor999.