Ball One – Old Man Richo just keeps rollin’ along
If England fans felt the unique rush of joy that comes when a young man announces himself as a star of the future – and though Joe Root has been compared to Michael Atherton, there’s something too of David Gower in his instant “at homeness” in the Test arena and in the feeling he inspires in fans – county cricket followers savoured an equal and opposite feeling this week. Incredibly, 38 year-old Alan Richardson followed up last week’s 12 wicket match-winning performance for Worcestershire with another 12 wicket match-winning performance, this time over Gloucestershire. Talent + application = results no matter what is says on the birth certificate.
Ball Two – Glen Chapple reaches another landmark
A year older than Alan Richardson, Glen Chapple had not been catching the eye in 2013 as he has done so consistently since his debut in 1992 – yes, 1992. Lancashire’s captain has been averaging over 30 with the ball, something he has done just twice over a full season since the turn of the century. He put that right by channeling the skills of his old new ball partner, Wasim Akram, to find the kind of snaking reverse swing that brings wickets in bundles. Four Hampshire wickets came in the space of six deliveries – four wickets that brought his first class total up to 899.
Ball Three – Sussex soar as Somerset stumble
Back in Division One, Sussex went top after another bowler in his mid-30s produced a 12 wicket match-winning performance. Australian Steve Magoffin is a typical Sussex player – if not quite international class, he is exactly suited to the long English season, with its ever-shifting conditions and formats. But, no matter how difficult batting was at Horsham, a batting line-up featuring the talent and experience at Somerset’s disposal should not be blown away twice in fewer than 60 overs. Somerset have come so close to trophies in the last few years, but never quite secured the silverware – perhaps those scars are beginning to show.
Ball Four – Scott Borthwick’s changing role may solve Durham’s top order problems
After Durham’s top order had failed to fire in the April LV County Championship matches, leg-spinner and handy late order batsman, Scott Borthwick, was pushed up the order to Number Three and gave a decent account of himself at The Oval. As a short term fix, it seemed a good idea, but it was a surprise to see him still occupying first drop in the crucial home match against fellow title-chasers, Middlesex. Two half-centuries in a low-scoring rain-affected draw shows that Durham skipper, Paul Collingwood, may just have stumbled on something. Like fellow leg-spinning all-rounder, Adil Rashid, Borthwick has had a taste of international cricket, but never quite convinced sufficiently with either skill for regular England selection – like the Yorkshireman, this could be the season that the 23 year-old puts that right.
Ball Five – Essex folks warm to Ben Foakes’ form
After emerging from the wreckage of the England Lions winter tour to Australia relatively unscathed, 20 year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, Ben Foakes, took an early April century off a student attack, but had not really got going against the grown-ups this season. Walking to the wicket in the midst of another Essex crisis, he was was soon looking at a scoreboard that read 24-5, with his team still 60 behind and local rivals Kent sniffing victory. He cleared his mind of thoughts about the match situation and his own place in the batting order (with Owais Shah due back soon from the IPL), and played an old-fashioned three hours long innings that, with support from his skipper James Foster, was enough to secure the draw. Foakes is highly regarded at Chelmsford and he’s earning the right to be given the consistent run in the side that his potential deserves.
Ball Six – Two more old stagers show their class
In a “Final Over” that has focused on the young bucks and the old hands in the county game, it’s only right that the last ball goes to a couple of men who has seen it all and still keep delivering. In many ways, it was business as usual for both of them – Graham Napier got Essex from 109-6 to something defendable with a hard-hit 58 and Darren Stevens backed up a tight bowling spell in which he cleared up the tail, with 136 out of Kent’s 296. Both men have been around the county game since 1997 and have broadly similar records. In first class cricket, Napier averages 33 with the bat and 35 with the ball; Stevens’ numbers are 34 and 30; and both are hard-hitting game-changers in one-day cricket who seldom go round the park when the captain asks for a spell. The young players mentioned this week have all had a taste of England action at one level or another, which includes the comprehensive coaching that comes with it, but they can learn too from the likes of Napier, Stevens, Magoffin, Richardson and Chapple. Between the pre-match warm-ups and the post-match warm downs, I hope there’s time for a chat or two between kids and the codgers, as cricket moves with the times.
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