Ball One – Though four of last week’s balls (quiet at the back there!) were about the County Championship and despite the fact that as I type these very words, two LVCC matches are getting underway, there was no first class cricket for any county last week. However some aspirant young cricketers did play a four day match at Fenner’s where Cambridge beat Oxford. Some of the students may go on to play first class cricket one day… whoops, they already have, as the Varsity Match is first class, unlike World Series Cricket in the 70s which still isn’t. Funny old game eh?
Ball Two – Lancashire’s plans to develop Old Trafford revolve around international matches and big concerts, but they’ll be looking to bring back the 70s with sellout crowds for big one day matches, as they love that sort of thing up there. Many more matches like last Sunday’s that saw Derbyshire crawl to 81 from their 20 overs before Lanky’s openers knocked them off in less than half their allocation and the punters will find something else to do. The problem of one-sided T20 matches may grow with the reduced programme next year, as there will be fewer options for casual fans to drop in later on a match that proves more competitive. Are city franchises the answer? A T20 Premier League of London, Manchester, Wales, Nottingham, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Southampton, and Durham leading to semis and a final marketed correctly, with no player allowed to play more than ten matches and with the spoils shared equitably, would provide 16 T20s of better value than those provided now.
Ball Three – To be fair to Derbyshire, their next match saw them involved in a thriller as Leicestershire overhauled their 150 with just one ball to spare. When “queuing up for a chance for England” James Taylor was seventh man out for a top score of 53 with nine balls left, Derbyshire were favourites. But, despite Claude Henderson and Jigar Naik contributing no runs, Leicestershire got up thanks to Jacques du Toit’s 22*. In many ways du Toit exemplifies the way T20 has gone – he’s hardly a household name in his own household and has played more T20 matches than first class or List A, but he has the nous to get the job done. Whether the fans buying tickets for Leicestershire’s upcoming quarter-final will be looking forward to seeing him parade his skills, is an open question.
Ball Four – In the West Country affair at Taunton, the Glocestershire boys must have been pleased to reduce Somerset to 97-4 with just six and a half overs to go on England’s fastest scoring ground. But they ran into Keiron Pollard as Somerset plundered 73 runs from those 39 balls to set a target that proved too much. But the muscular Trinidadian was reduced to playing second fiddle to Jos Buttler who hit 72* off his 45 balls. Buttler has been mentioned in despatches for a while now, but is still only 20. If he continues to strike at 140+ (as he does in white ball cricket) and can get his T20 average of 25 anywhere near his List A average of 70, those mentions will get louder and louder.
Ball Five – Though they seldom bowl in the first six overs of powerplay cricket, spinners are the hardest to score off in T20 cricket. Of those bowling more than 15 overs this season, you have to run your finger down the best economy rates past Chris Nash, Johan Botha, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Imran Tahir, Robert Croft and Max Waller before reaching Farveez Maharoof, the first of the quicker men. All of which makes Murray Goodwin’s decision on Monday at the Whitgift to take Chris Nash out of the attack when he had delivered 2-0-11-2 in favour of Wayne Parnell (4-0-47-0) even more inexplicable. The Sussex captain is not alone in failing to trust his spinners at the death, so they can’t all be wrong… can they?
Ball Six – Murray Goodwin was back in the news, as one of a trio of solid county pros in trouble for actions that have led to disciplinary hearings. He got a one match ban, James Foster a two match suspension and Marcus Trescothick awaits his fate this week. There’s never an excuse for behaviour that falls below the standard expected (well, not unless Darrell Hair is involved) but the relentless travelling and switches between different formats of the game (highlighted last week here when looking at Ian Blackwell’s workload) probably impacts more on older players than younger men yet to settle into the routines and responsibilities that family life demands. As with Ball One above, county cricket’s crazy schedule has much to answer for – they probably don’t play too much cricket, but they probably play it in too many different places and in too many different formats within too narrow time frames.
The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket will also appear at Spin Cricket through the season.