Ball One – One day chases need to be planned
When Leicestershire set off in pursuit of Somerset’s huge 323-3 in the YB40, they needed a plan. Though the old cliches about taking each ball as it comes and playing five over blocks and then assessing the match situation hold true, one day cricket moves too quickly to allow the game to drift while old-fashioned ideas like “playing yourself in” and “going through the gears” are indulged. Captain Josh Cobb and fellow opener Greg Smith caught the eye with their opening partnership of 235 in less than 25 overs, but they were clearly playing to a plan. At no point in the 39 overs Leicestershire required to overhaul Somerset’s total were they behind their opponents’ score at the same stage of the innings and, having started with an asking rate of just over 8 runs per over, Cobb and Smith got it down to 6 point something by the 11th over and it never went above that again. Execution of a clear plan meant that risks were minimised – only two sixes were scored in the entire Leicestershire chase – and the loss of wickets could be absorbed. Ashley Giles and Alastair Cook might look and learn.
Ball Two – Fortune favours the brave
All seven county championship matches were drawn. Though the weather played a part and others will blame the re-introduction of the heavy roller, perhaps the attitude of captains and clubs is the greatest reason for that disappointing statistic. Northants’ Alex Wakely, deputising for Stephen Peters, is an inexperienced captain, but surely someone should have had a word and told him to declare about 100 runs on with the best part of two sessions left in the match. Had his bowlers got amongst Hampshire’s batting unit, they could have caused a bit of panic and maybe, just maybe, forced the win with a late charge to get say 70 or so in 9 overs. In any case, the risk of losing was negligible, but Northants batted out time for the tamest of draws. They stay top of the table – but surely missed a slim chance to go further away.
Ball Three – Two old Ashes adversaries show that they still have it
Faced with a similar match situation to Alex Wakely, Surrey’s captain, grizzled old pro Gareth Batty, did declare, but Derbyshire batted 39 overs comfortably before it was handshakes all round. Two familiar names starred on the scoresheet – there was an eight wicket match haul for Chris Tremlett and a 192 from Ricky Ponting. While the tall seamer can have realistic hopes of an Ashes recall if he maintains fitness and form (given the fact that England bowlers are already picking up injuries), the Tasmanian has ruled himself out of a shock suspension of his retirement. At least that’s how things stand now…
Ball Four – Simon Kerrigan is learning his trade
Though Lancashire could not conjure another last-gasp Liverpool victory of the kind that characterised their title-winning season of 2011, they had spinner Simon Kerrigan to thank for getting so close against an admirably obdurate Gloucestershire, who finished nine down, well adrift of their target of 359. Kerrigan returned match figures of 63.2 – 18 – 133 – 7 and has already sent down 165 overs by the beginning of June. Still only just turned 24, Kerrigan has plenty of bowling behind him and will only get better – to the advantage of Lancashire and (maybe) England.
Ball Five – Whither Saj Mahmood
If Chris Tremlett can look towards an England recall if he can retain his fitness, a younger fast bowler is more worried about his county place than regaining England honours. At Essex looking for a new start after his Lancashire career had fizzled out in the same way it did for England, Saj Mahmood played his second Championship game for his new county this week. Having scored a useful 54 with the bat, he must have felt confident when taking the ball as first change – but 10 – 0 – 60 – 0 tells its own story, as does just the one wicket in Division Two this season, going at nearly five an over. Saj always had the weaponry to excite coaches – especially 90mph man Duncan Fletcher – but he could never quite get everything pointing in the right direction. Maybe now, he never will.
Ball Six – Associate Nations players make a point
The upcoming Champions Trophy avoids the sprawl of the World Cup partly through its format and partly through its exclusion of Associate Nations (ie those countries not playing Test cricket). That closed club of eight strikes at the heart of sport’s claim to be a meritocracy, even if cricket is just too minor and too complex a sport at world level to sustain a single playing field for all countries. Perhaps smarting a little at the exclusion, Holland’s Ryan ten Doeschate belted 180 for Essex and Ireland’s Paul Stirling wasn’t far behind with 132 for Middlesex. Point made gentlemen.
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