Ball One – Simon Jones is always a welcome sight on any cricket ground and it was good to see him bowling with some of his old pace, if not quite all of it. It was less welcome to see him removed from the attack after bowling two deliveries above waist height in his 7.2 overs. There were a lot of full tosses bowled on a pitch that offered easy runs from anything short and, if we’re being kind, we’d say he was straining for the yorker. Overcooking it twice in fewer than 8 overs isn’t very clever though.
Ball Two – In the late Nineties, changes in technology allied to the emergence of Tiger Woods quite suddenly produced a generation of golfers who all seem to hit the ball as hard as they could – golf courses responded by adding yardage. The changes in technology came a bit later in cricket, with the lightweight, thick bats that break so easily, but launch the ball miles. Cricket’s Tiger Woods were probably Adam Gilchrist and Virender Sehwag, though they are rather different to the American in their private lives. Our game soon followed golf – every batsman seems to hit the ball as hard as they can these days, with Surrey’s top order of Davies, Hamilton-Brown, Roy, de Bruyn and Maynard typical. Oh for a Sachin, a VVS or a Mahela to show how to score runs quickly without such bludgeoning.
Ball Three – Three years ago, Chris Jordan was being spoken of as the Next Big Thing in cricket and a tug-of-war between the West Indies and England looming to secure his services. Since then, his career has stalled after injury setbacks. On the evidence of today, he still has the enthusiasm required, but his bowling was medium pace and lacked control and his batting not required. It’ll be a long way back for the young man and I wish him well, but I suspect his career will blossom away from The Oval. Worcestershire – for less money, but more matches – could be a good destination.
Ball Four – Benny Howell then? Yep – me neither. But the 22 year-old played a superb innings of 122 (with 5 sixes, that’s right, hard hit) and needed just one partner to push on from the cameos they played to a 70 or so in order to win the match for Hampshire. He was furious when dismissed – and so he should have been, run out by the length of the pitch with Michael Bates, new to the crease, failing to cross.
Ball Five – Hampshire hotshot, James Vince had hit five of his 12 deliveries for four when Chris Schofield bowled the kind of delivery in which he has traded for years – half-track, sitting up and begging to be hit from The Whitgift all the way back to The Oval. It went almost that distance too, unfortunately straight up, before eventually dropping into the hands of Gareth Batty. I’d say that Schofield will never get another wicket with so bad a ball, but he will, he will.
Ball Six – Hats off to the men in hats, Richard Kettleborough and Graham Lloyd, who have stood in the middle of a Croydon field for five consecutive days, as 2029 runs were scored off 446 overs. Unlike the players, there’s only the breaks in play to offer some respite to the umpires, who must concentrate on every ball. The effort is even more impressive in the light of Graham Lloyd’s tragic loss of his wife to cancer last month. We can neither play nor watch the game without the thankless work of umpires and we should appreciate them more.
The Tooting Trumpet, whom you can often find at Testmatchsofa.com and on Twitter at @garynaylor999.