The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket also appears at Spin Cricket.
Ball One – Somewhere, between the promulgations from Planet Pietersen and the pictures from Planet Party, the domestic cricket season chugged on, largely, inevitably, under the radar. English cricket’s defenders have always said (with some justification) that crowds may be meagre, but millions followed county cricket in newspapers and, lately, online. How strong that case is at the moment, I do not know, as weather, the Queen’s Jubilee, the European Football Championship and something else that seems to be attracting attention down East London way, have swamped dear old county cricket. Next year, The Ashes will revive the game across the board, but the ECB cannot continue with a county season bereft of structure, narrative and mainstream exposure. It may be time for radical thoughts – County Championship to be played over the summer with an IPL style eight franchise league to run in a window from June to Wimbledon’s middle Sunday, and international cricket for May then July, August and September?
Ball Two – In what may prove to be the pivotal round of matches at the top of Division One, Warwickshire opened up a 21 points gap over second placed Notts, after cruising home against an eventually outclassed Worcestershire. After the soon to depart Phil Hughes failed to reproduce his bat-carrying first innings heroics, The Bears needed only to bat time to reach their target and did so, Darren Maddy adding a late, unrequired flourish. Though much will depend on the home and away fixtures still to come against Notts, Warwickshire may soon have a pennant to fly over their spectacularly redeveloped ground.
Ball Three – Notts had insufficient time between West Country showers to force the win over Somerset – or, perhaps more accurately, were rescued from a probable defeat by rain. Though Swanny made a rare appearance in the Championship, the question (as it has been all season for Notts) is about who will take the wickets if Andre Adams fails to run through the card? With Surrey looking to bolster their batting in the winter and Notts their bowling, there might be some movement between the two Test ground counties in the close season.
Ball Four – Which takes me to the bottom of the table, where Durham destroyed disintegrating Surrey by an innings to jostle their way up to the top of the mini-league of four seeking to avoid the drop. Of the players with over 1000 first class runs in their line-up, only Zander de Bruyn and Steve Davies average over 31, and it showed, as Chris Adams’ men folded twice in fewer than 115 overs. Of course, there’s mitigation for such collapses this tragic season, but sport’s cruel metrics don’t allow for such nuance and a repeat of last summer’s late charge is now the rallying call in South London.
Ball Five – In Division Two, Derbyshire’s eager eyeing up of neighbour’s Lancashire’s slot in the top flight was given another boost in a tight win over Kent. As they have demonstrated all season, Derbyshire can call upon cricket’s Holy Grail – an ability to find a way to win a match. Having conceded a big first innings lead, Tony Palladino’s seven wickets dragged them back into the match, but Wayne Madsen’s men were still losing it until Dan Redfern found an unlikely ally in Tim Groenewald, adding 41 runs for the ninth wicket and 19 points to their tally.
Ball Six – In a bad week for Kent, they were also worked over by local rivals Essex, who have sneaked into the promotion shake-up themselves. Kent couldn’t cope with an attack that comprised the nous of David Masters and the hostility of Maurice Chambers and Graham Napier, bolstered by the experience of Harbhajan Singh. Given a fair shake with the weather, James Foster won’t want for twenty wickets, so will his brittle upper order supply the runs? I suspect that they just might.
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