Ball One – Whisper it to fans of the Red Rose, but Lancashire are genuine contenders for the Championship. Their success has been built on the willingness of individuals to take responsibility for the team’s performance and this was in evidence again as Stephen Moore, a one-time England hopeful whose career has stalled since his move to Old Trafford from Worcestershire last year, got Lanky up to 240 to defeat current champions Nottinghamshire. Anchoring one end, but maintaining a positive tempo, his knock allowed five other batsmen chip in with no more than 35 each to seal the win. A six wicket margin looks comfortable, but only with the power of hindsight.
Ball Two – Durham have broken away with Lanky at the top of the table, but will be rueing a missed opportunity at home to Yorkshire. Phil Mustard was one wicket short of unleashing his ultra-experienced bowling line-up on Yorkshire’s all-rounders and had plenty of time left in the game, but he ran into his counterpart, Andrew Gale, playing a captain’s knock that will have pleased the old boys amongst the members, and the quietly impressive Zimbabwean-raised Gary Ballance. Having tried pace, seam and spin for 37 overs without success, Mustard conceded the draw and the cheers were just about audible from the other side of the Pennines.
Ball Three – In the relegation clash, the stretched resources of Worcestershire were sufficient to see off the always ambitious, but not always achieving, Hampshire. Dominic Cork’s four international bowlers mustered one fewer wicket than dear old Alan Richardson, still trundling in at the age of 36. Now at his fourth county, everyone knows what you get from Richo, but that doesn’t mean that everyone can deal with it. He has a lot more work ahead of him if Worcestershire are to avoid the drop, but he won’t shy away from it and he’s paying comfortably fewer than 30 runs for a wicket this season, yet again.
Ball Four – Warwickshire have an extraordinary number of players who will, with all due respect, be footnotes in the annals of international cricket – there’s William Porterfield and Boyd Rankin of Ireland (denied the opportunity to play regularly with the big boys) and England fringe types, Jim Troughton, Tim Ambrose, Darren Maddy, Rikki Clarke and Chris Woakes. Nearly men they may be, but they all had a hand in an easy win over pre-season favourites Somerset, whose championship season will need a kick start very soon.
Ball Five – Strange goings-on at Lord’s, home to one of the flattest Test wickets in the world, but also home to a Middlesex vs Kent match that saw 23 wickets fall on the first day, over half of which were shared by line and length merchants Tim Murtagh and Azhar Mahmood. The wise men of the ECB Panel who are charged with investigating such matters inspected and interrogated, but, having sucked on a thoughful tooth, decided against exercising their option to dock points, settling for a slap on the wrists for a “below average” strip. Which ground was it again?
Ball Six – Oh yes. The Twenty20 chugged on too. There’s a feeling that not every county takes it entirely seriously and, with Notts fined just £600 for fielding an ineligible player (only David Hussey, the leading runscorer in T20 history), who can blame them?
The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket will also appear at Spin Cricket through the season.