Ball One – The roof comes off as The Roof comes off! It looked for all the world like title-chasing Lancashire had blown their chance of claiming a Roses Match win having failed to separate Yorkshire’s last pair for fourteen overs. Set 121 to win in 90 balls (no fielding restrictions and legside bowling allowed), big hitting and cool heads got the Red Rose over the line, with Farveez Maharoof the hero. The Lankan is averaging 65 with the bat and 30 with the ball and would be the player of the English season so far, had Gary Keedy not taken 31 wickets at 20.
Ball Two – Contrasting fortunes for Ashes heroes at Trent Bridge, as Trott and Bell’s Warwickshire wallop Swanny and Broad’s defending champions Nottinghamshire by nine wickets. Both bowlers have plenty of personality and media presence, in contrast with the two batsmen, criticised in the past for being too introspective for their own good. But there’s more than one way to play the game and the two quiet men may just be as comfortable in their own skins as anyone right now. They may have taken rather longer to find that place, but it’s working for them – body language experts take note.
Ball Three – Taking ten wickets in a match must be straightforward if you can reverse the balding process as spectacularly as Rana Naved has managed. The epitome of the value overseas signing also chimed in with a hard hit 20, as Sussex’s tail got them out of a first innings hole. After the Pakistani’s second five wicket haul, all that was left for the South coast men was to send out their in-form openers, Ed Joyce and Chris Nash, and Somerset, pre-season title favourites for many, were rolled again.
Ball Four – With only three men averaging over 30 with the bat up against four men averaging over 40, Worcestershire looked ill-equipped to take on Durham and so it proved. Adding to that talent shortfall, the experience comparison told a tale too, with Michael Di Venuto alone having played more first class matches than eight of Moeen Ali’s men. It looks like a long season at New Road.
Ball Five – Following in the footsteps of IPL busted flush, James Franklin, fellow Kiwi, Kane Williamson, was finally in the runs for Gloucestershire. While his bowling is as ugly as it gets (and I’m struggling not to put the word “bowling” in inverted commas), the 20 year-old looked to have plenty about him when batting six and a half hours for a Test debut ton on the Ahmedabad road. Encouraging Williamson to play a season in England is a shrewd move on the part of New Zealand Cricket, as there is no better finishing school for an ambitious international player. Cricket Australia might want to think about taking a similar approach with Steven Smith – as Usman Khawaja is finding out at Derbyshire, if it ever was a soft touch, county cricket certainly isn’t any longer.
Ball Six – Graham Napier likes hitting 16 sixes in an innings, having now done it in T20 and First Class cricket – equalling Andrew Symonds record in his 196 at the Whitgift School ground, as Essex piled up 548 against a Surrey attack boasting four Test bowlers. I was there on the fourth day and can report that the ground was by no means postage stamp sized – his hitting must have been every bit as spectacular as reported. Napier must fancy drilling 16 sixes in a 40 overs match innings to complete the set – but that might be just a bit too greedy.
The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket will also appear at Spin Cricket through the season.