Ball One – Form is mysterious
In cycling, form is an almost mythical state in which mountains feel like valleys and miles feel like kilometers. It can be promoted by tapering training and carb-loading and the like, but never guaranteed. In cricket, form for a bowler may come from the relaxed looseness that confidence brings – or from the absence of anxiety’s crippling tightness. It’s harder to find a reason for form in batting – once “in” a batsman is “in” after all. But form is what Yorkshire’s batsmen are showing, with the magic being handed on from Joe Root in April to Adil Rashid in May and now to Andrew Gale. His Division One scores this month are 272, 103 and 148. The Yorkshire captain has enjoyed a purple patch in a grey June.
Ball Two – Lancashire’s bowlers demolish another batting order
If form for bowlers is dependent on being relaxed, Lancashire’s Kyle Hogg and Glen Chapple must be close to comatose, such is the run they’re enjoying. Having bowled out Essex last week for 20, this week they ran through Northants in 30 unchanged overs, dismissing the Division Two leaders for 62. Across those two consecutive innings, Hogg’s figures were 21.5 – 8 – 38 – 11 and Chapple’s 22.2 – 8 – 43 – 8 – no other bowler was required. Those kind of figures win cricket matches and Lancashire have consolidated their second place, still 17 points adrift of their latest victims, but comfortably in possession of a promotion place, 16 points ahead of Worcestershire.
Ball Three – Genius makes its own rules
One man who has never had much truck with form is Kevin Pietersen. He is – partly because he insists so in word and deed – only ever a quick single from being bang in form and he showed that again in his first innings back after knee surgery in the Spring. 177 not out from 188 balls for Surrey at title chasing Yorkshire answered any lingering questions about his fitness. Any questions about how much England miss him were answered later the same day at Edgbaston, as England fell short chasing 130 to win the Champions Trophy.
Ball Four – A year on, Rory Hamilton-Brown’s career may be starting again (again)
Few county cricketers of just 25 years of age can have had as many ups and downs in their career as Rory Hamilton-Brown, back in the ranks at Sussex having left the captaincy of Surrey in the close season. In the week that marked the first anniversary of the death of his good friend Tom Maynard, he is (at the time of writing) 77 not out at Trent Bridge. I’m no advocate of delaying declarations for personal milestones, but, having batted 19 times previously this season (including Second XI games) for just the one fifty, Ed Joyce might just bat on long enough to allow R H-B the chance to raise his bat and feel the confidence that comes with it. If that leads to the consistent performances from R H-B that Surrey’s investment of time and money was beginning to deliver in 2011, it’ll be worth Sussex investing in an hour’s batting on Monday morning.
Ball Five – DI Stevens in smash and grab raid
The YB40 competition is still blighted by a lack of last over thrillers, but at least the home crowd at Canterbury had plenty to cheer about as 37 years-old Darren Stevens teed off to get Kent over the line chasing down Sussex’s huge 336-5. In just 16 overs at the crease, he blasted 7 sixes in an innings of 118 off just 53 balls. Like his near-contemporary, Scott Styris, who played a similar innings last year for Sussex, Stevens still has the power and, with all that experience to draw upon, the clarity of thought to know his scoring areas and know which lines and lengths to go after. Rather in the way that the effectiveness of spinners has been something of a surprise in the first ten years of Twenty20 cricket, the role of veterans in the helter-skelter one-day cricket of the 21st century could not have been anticipated.
Ball Six – Learning the game?
Andy Ireland, an 18 years-old paceman on Durham’s books, caught my eye with fine figures of 4 – 0 – 8 – 3 in the England Development Programme Under-19s win over Derbyshire 2nds in the Second Eleven Twenty20 tournament. So far, so good. But further investigation revealed that the young man has bowled another seven times this season for the EDP Under-19s and Durham Seconds – however, all but one of those spells was in Twenty20 cricket. Though he has also played for Durham’s Academy in longer matches, the North East Premier League is still a one day format. That a promising bowler so firmly embedded in English cricket’s development structure has delivered just 10 overs in a three day game (and that in mid-April) does not suggest that he’s learning the art of taking twenty wickets in a match in the most obvious way – by doing it. Even if young quicks have to be managed carefully to avoid injuries, this balance of cricket’s formats looks askew.
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