Ball One – A nice combination of old and new was on show as Australia Under-19 got up with an over to spare against Sri Lanka Under-19 in Visakhapatnam. Both were represented in the form of Cameron Bancroft, who, as seems almost obligatory for many teams these days, combined the roles of wicketkeeper and opener, despite batting second. It’s not that new of course (it’s the Gilchrist / Kaluwitharana) approach, but it still places huge demands on a player, especially chasing after three hours or more in the field. The old came in the approach Bancroft took to his innings, going all the way to the 45th over in accumulating 106 from 250-5 as he let team-mates play around his anchor at a run a ball or so, before late order slogging got his team over the line. There’s much that is formulaic in the limited overs format, but there’s still more than one way to win a match.
Ball Two – After my highlighting India Under-19’s aggressive approach to disposing of a soft target in last week’s final over, they were at it again against the Lankans. Skipper Unmukt Chand opened blasting five sixes and 14 fours in an innings of 122*, that only offered respite to the Islanders when the target was reached in 31st over. No prizes for guessing this young Indian’s inspiration.
Ball Three – Amidst the wreckage of Yorkshire’s relegation season, there were some bright lights, particularly amongst the batsmen, with Joe Root furthering his case for international honours and Gary Ballance showing a fine appetite for runs in the middle order. He was at it again for Mid-West Rhinos in their crushing win over Southern Rocks, with a career-best 210. Though he was played for Zimbabwe Under-19s, he’s qualified for England and is building his case in a crowded field of young batsmen.
Ball Four – I feared for Varun Aaron at Jaipur in last week’s final over and so it proved on a wicket that, after three innings, had yielded 1417 runs for just 22 wickets. The young quick was to finish with match figures of 1-117, but he was on the winning side due to his team-mates spinning out Rajasthan on the fifth day. The pick of them was Pragyan Ojha with figures of 49.5 – 14 – 146 – 9, backing up his superb August – September form for Surrey. With Harbhajan Singh’s place under threat and with Tests, ODIs and T20Is already under his belt, Ojha must be eyeing the Indian senior spinner’s slot with real hopes just now – such is India’s schedule that he’s bound to get a go again soon surely.
Ball Five – In what may well be the longest season ever played by an English county, Somerset fell just short of glory once more, going down by ten runs in the Champions League semi-final. Though in control of the Mumbai Indians’ innings for 18 overs, the nineteenth, bowled by the normally reliable Alfonso Thomas disappeared for twenty and that was to prove the difference between the teams. Somerset have won the hearts of neutrals again this season and you would need a heart of stone not to wish them a trophy in 2012.
Ball Six – Meanwhile, away from the razzamatazz of the Champions League, England shuffled into India and played a low key warm-up match in Hyderabad. While Steven Finn’s hat-trick and Ravi Bopara’s half century made the headlines, Chris Woakes showed again what a resourceful cricketer he is, making 46* from Number 8 (how I like a decent 8) and then taking 2-30 from his seven overs. Though short of international class (just now – he is young) with ball or bat, the Warwickshire man usually finds a way to contribute and, with targets of 300 or so likely to be the 50 over norm on the sub-continent, a handy 40 down the order with a couple of wickets in the middle overs’ powerplays, may well be enough to warrant a place. Options in the field and runs from 8 and 9 are critical for a balanced side and Woakes offers both – I hope he gets a place in at least a couple of the ODIs.