Ball One – Oh Lanky, Lanky… As the dog days of August hove into sight, is Lancashire’s challenge for the title losing its bite? After a rare rain delay at Liverpool, the fans were treated to another thriller as Warwickshire held out for the draw eight down. Or was it that Warwickshire were denied a victory equally as important to them? With Keith Barker, a number eight hiding at ten, and a set Tim Ambrose at the crease, you couldn’t rule the Bears out. And that’s how it’s been all summer long in Lancashire’s exciting LVCC season – and Lanky fans aren’t satisfied yet!
Ball Two – Warwickshire enjoyed the benefit of Chris Woakes’ impressive bowling and batting, since he was deemed surplus to requirements for the England second string’s match vs Sri Lanka A. These are days of plenty for English cricket – that a man who averages 32 with the bat and 24 with the ball cannot even make the Lions’ squad, is an indication of the depth of English talent just now. Warwickshire’s Director of Cricketmust have been pleased with that decision from the England selectors.
Ball Three – Table-toppers Durham could not extend their lead at Lancashire’s expense as they ran into an obdurate Nottinghamshire XI with Chris Read once more to the fore, punching out his 20th first class ton – not bad for a keeper, whose batting is his very much his second suit. That Durham were in a position to draw was largely down to Michael Di Venuto, who seems to have been around as long as Sachin – and very nearly has. The Aussie is one of a few over 35s prospering towards the top of the Division One batting averages – Dale Benkenstein, Murray Goodwin, Neil McKenzie and dear old Colly are there with him to lend pipe and slippers should he need them.
Ball Four – And top of that particular shop, averaging 83 having piled up 1669 runs already is, of course, Tresco, whose Somerset XI have charged up to third after a sluggish start to their campaign. This time it wasn’t the batting that exploited conditions at Taunton, but the canny bowling of old campaigners Alfonso Thomas and Murali Kartik who, having cracked a few late order runs, shared 16 wickets to beat Sussex comfortably. They have nearly 1000 first class wickets between them, but fewer than 50 international appearances – and pretty much define the old pro getting through the overs on the county circuit.
Ball Five – The Rose Bowl groundstaff, having been docked points recently for a pitch that was poor enough to injure a few batsmen’s pride, produced a strip that injured a few batsmen’s records, as Michael Carberry and Neil McKenzie piled up 523 runs for the third wicket. Though it did little for Hampshire’s chances of avoiding the drop, the members will be pleased to see Carberry back in the runs so quickly after his delibilitating health problems kept him out for so long. Though never mentioned as an England bat these days, just 17 months ago, he batted for nearly four hours in his one Test and at 30 and fit again, 300 not out is a good way to catch the selectors’ eye.
Ball Six – In sharp contrast to the excitement at the top of Division One, Kent and Leicestershire played out a quiet draw that kept both counties firmly anchored to the foot of Division Two. Matches like this one are a good reason for discounting runs and wickets taken in Division Two when it comes to assessing a player’s performance in a season – not that anyone in that match (with James Taylor out gorging on Sri Lanka A’s bowling) can be said to be having a good season this time round.
The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket will also appear at Spin Cricket through the season.