Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 18, 2011

The Final Over of the Season in County Cricket

He's either very happy, or he's just done the other hamstring

Many thanks to readers who stayed with me over the season. The “Final Over” does not attempt to be objective, nor comprehensive – there are many other place s to read such reports even in these days when the national inky press have little to say about the domestic game. This column is unabashedly subjective and unashamedly quixotic in its selection of subject matter – much like the fan of county cricket, I venture. Here are the last six deliveries of as extraordinary a season at county level as that which played out at international level, but for precisely the opposite reason – county cricket was competitive from first ball to (almost) last.

Ball One – One of the great longstanding losing streaks in cricket, indeed, in sport, came to an end with the last ball of the season (well, second last as the title was secured with the tie and, yes, there was still the day-nighter at Canterbury to finish off and the CB 40 Final on Saturday – but nothing is ever neat and tidy in county cricket). But… Lancashire are Champions! For Lancashire fans, that feels very good indeed, but only because it’s a tough competition to win in any year and especially tough this year, when the Champs were pushed all the way by Durham and Warwickshire, both of whom deserve great credit. In the final reckoning, neither bonus points nor pitch penalties decided the crown – Lancashire won ten matches to Warwickshire’s nine and Durham’s eight. So the title went to the team that won most matches – as it should

Ball Two – Lancashire’s victory in their sixteenth match showed just how they had won nine previous games. With Somerset 259-3 in their first innings, Lancashire toiled away, relying on their mix of old heads (Keedy and Chapple), all-rounders (Smith and Hogg) and bright young thing (Kerrigan) to keep them in the game. Undaunted by the requirement to score 380 to gain a first innings lead, no batsman reached 70 never mind a century, but everyone chipped in and a handy advantage was given to the bowlers when their turn came round again. They worked away, delivering a second tranche of more than 100 overs, knowing that they were still in the game. Once Stephen Moore had continued his late season burst of form alongside the reliable Paul Horton, a tricky target looked routine and the win was never in doubt. That kind of teamwork and shared belief doesn’t come by chance – ask a Yorkshireman, who has seen their multi-talented side slide to relegation. Credit for this title goes first and foremost to two men who are not born and bred Lancastrians, but men whose accents betray their heritage close to the Red Rose county – coach Peter Moores and captain Glen Chapple.

Ball Three – There’s some who will claim that overseas ex-Test stars simply pad their pensions with a few half-hearted seasons on the county circuit blocking a valuable opportunity for a young England-qualified player to step up. Nobody at Warwickshire will be saying that about Neil McKenzie, who batted almost six hours for relegated Hampshire to secure a draw that mattered little to them, but mattered enormously for the integrity of the championship. Nearly 36 now, the South African could have put his feet up in the warmth of the Rose Bowl pavilion, but he stuck it out in another big stand with Michael Carberry whose return to form has gladdened the hearts of cricket fans everywhere… except possibly at Edgbaston, whose team were denied at the last.

Ball Four – Middlesex won the race to be the tenth best county by securing top spot in Division Two, but not without a fight from a Leicestershire side who have been dismal in four day cricket. Apart from confirming Middlesex’s fine achievement, the match was noticeable for an impressive individual performance from the Harry Potterishly named Ned Eckersley, who hit a maiden century that he backed up with a fifty and held six catches in an innings. Paul Nixon played for almost as long a time as Dumbledore wizarded, but even he can’t have put too many performances like that together at Grace Road.

Ball Five – Joining Peter Moores as a coach who has proved his detractors wrong (including your correspondent) is Chris Adams of Surrey. A run of four consecutive wins lifted the other London club out of mid-table mediocrity into the second promotion slot. Grizzly will be thanking Tom Maynard for a late season burst of confidence that led to a century in the final LVCC match to add to half-centuries that have helped his team to the CB 40 Final. After signing a few overseas duds, Adams will also be forgiven a smirk at the inspired signing of Pragyan Ojha, whose 24 wickets at less than 13 giving away less than 2 an over, played no small part in those wins. Many of us expected an Indian spinner to shine late in the season at The Oval, but for India, not Surrey.

Ball Six – The county season closed with a showpiece at Lord’s that never really got going as Surrey cruised to a win over a dismal Somerset side who were indebted to Jos Buttler’s magnificent innings for making a match of it. Somerset possess talented players – why else would they keep finishing second – but they are too often the bridesmaids. Such a record demands ruthlessness in change and it may well be time to ask Tresco to step back into the ranks and let James Hildreth have a go at captaincy. Murali Kartik may well find himself looking for yet another county, as Somerset should probably place some trust in the promise of George Dockerell and look for a cutting edge – they could do a lot worse than Junaid Khan, whose yorkers make him an ideal choice for matches played on the Taunton road. Surrey, in contrast, know that their players may not be of the highest class (the CB 40 side found room for five bits and pieces men – Chris Schofield, Matthew Spriegel, Zafar Ansari, Gareth Batty and (this season) Yasir Arafat – but they know how to time a run to an objective. And that counts at the sharp end of the season.          

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Responses

  1. Thanks for the season Toots. Got all rather exciting at the end there.
    I get the feeling Warwickshire used the conditions (read: rubbish summer) better than anyone this season. After 2 early season thrashings, Durham would have been scratching their heads if the Bear’s had prevailed.
    For next season I’d like to see Warwickshire go with a Woakes/Porterfield leadership team. Not fussed who is captain and who is vice.

    Still scratch my head at how Worcestershire stayed up. I know it’s now 16 points for a win, but they only has 1 more win over the other 2, but they both had 6 more draws. So I make it Worcestershire ended up with 12 more bonus points than Yorkshire and a staggering 23 more bonus points than Hampshire? Yet still lost 11 out of 16?

  2. I’ve never followed county cricket but the final round of matches was great radio, and makes me think I ought to tune into local radio next season and follow it a little more.


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