Ball One – Dare to win
All around the country, computer screens were F5ed and fingernails were gnawed as disbelief gave way to inevitability. Durham, with their “declared and lost” captain of last week at the crease for the winning runs, chased down a victory target of 183 in 23 overs with something in hand. Yes the bats are bigger, yes the biffers and dashers know they can go at ten an over and yes Nottinghamshire’s international bowlers could have done more. But the main reason Brigadier Block (Paul Collingwood) secured the win was the same reason he accepted defeat last week – to win cricket matches, you have to be prepared to lose them. If Colly maintains this attitude until September, everyone will have a lot of fun and Durham will have a lot of points.
Ball Two – To invite the follow-on or not to invite the follow-on – that is the question
It’s tempting isn’t it? You’re well ahead, your bowlers are keen to get back amongst ’em and you’re thinking about getting the twenty wickets as soon as you can. Stuff ’em in again Skip! And that’s how it used to be, but the game is changing. Four man attacks, the heavy roller and pitches often improving as they age make the follow-on a seductive, but dangerous, suitor. Graeme Smith (who should know after his 107 led South Africa to a grim 393-3 following-on at Lord’s in 2008) asked Middlesex to have another go and watched Chris Rogers and Sam Robson pile up a record stand of 259 before a wicket fell. The follow-on still has a role in the County Championship, but perhaps only if the bowlers have done the job first time round in fewer than 30 overs or so. Surrey’s bowlers were into their 140th over of the match before they took their eleventh wicket – not a recipe for success.
Ball Three – Gaining parity and then finding a way to win
After Chesney Hughes was left just short of being Derbyshire’s one and only top scorer having carried his bat for 270, Joe Root’s riposte in kind got Yorkshire back into the match with the scores level and an hour and a day to play. I’d have suggested doing a deal to chase 250 in 55 overs on the fourth day, but Jonny Bairstow and the middle order had other ideas and flogged a tiring attack to build a lead of 202. Unlike Surrey’s bowlers sitting on a big first innings lead at Lord’s, Andrew Gale’s attack were rested and had enjoyed a bit of biff with the bat. They worked for their wickets at first, but once they got a sniff of Derbyshire’s lower middle order, they blew their near neighbours’ resistance away. There’s always more than one way to win a cricket match – the trick is to find the one that works.
Ball Four – Not Home Sweet Not Home
When Glamorgan visit Colwyn Bay, they look to engage Lancashire as often as possible, but they may need to re-consider after the Red Rose fans made the short journey West to see the clock turned back to the glory days of 2011. It was Aigburth all over again, as Lancashire’s last three wickets provided 108 of the 153 run target, which proved enough for the Kerrigan/ Chapple combo to lead Lancashire to a thrilling win. Note to 17 county Chief Executives – play Lancashire at HQ.
Ball Five – Putting up the numbers
Northants are charging away at the top of Division Two again with three wins from four, seeking to build such an advantage that even their late season stumbles won’t deny them promotion. It was Steven Crook and Trent Copeland to the fore again, as Kent subsided rather too meekly, losing their last 17 wickets in the match for fewer runs than their first three. Crook (23), David Willey (20) and Copeland (15) are in the top four wicket-takers in the Division after four matches. When you consider that they average 70, 27 and 51 with the bat too, keeping those three fit and firing will be the key to Stephen Peters’ season.
Ball Six – Shh! Don’t tell anyone, but one day cricket is back
On Friday, quietly knocking on the door, putting its head round the corner to apologise for disturbing anyone and agreeing to sit quietly in the corner, the Yorkshire Bank 40 competition joined the sporting calendar. While limited marketing budgets will focus on pumping up the Twenty20 razzamatazz, surely the start of the limited overs season deserved a bigger splash? But maybe not. One day cricket thrives on close finishes and Hampshire’s nine wicket win over Essex with more than ten overs in hand and Gloucestershire’s capitulation to Leicestershire, all out in 34.1 overs, might be best kept as far away from the media as possible.
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