Ball One – Compton does all he can, but it isn’t enough
Nick Compton broke into the England team through weight of runs scored in county cricket’s 2012 season, at a time when other batsmen found it tough to compile big scores. If that was good enough to get him in the side, it seems a little harsh that doing the same thing has not been good enough to keep him in the side (with coming man Joe Root inked in as Alastair Cook’s opening partner for Trent Bridge). Compton has done all that could have been expected for Somerset, backing up his comeback 166 with 56 (out of 145-6) in a low scoring match at Derby to secure his county’s first win of the season and 115 runs in two innings against the tourists at Taunton. Winning an argument is not the same as winning a slot in the batting order, but Compton’s positive reaction to disappointment won’t have gone unnoticed by the selectors, nor England’s fans, who love a fighter.
Ball Two – Gary Keedy settling into his work at Surrey
While Kevin Pietersen (177 not out) caught the eye as only he can, Surrey’s prospects for a better second half of the season were boosted by a much needed return to form by a man who specialises in operating a step or two away from the limelight. Gary Keedy’s move south from Lancashire made sense for him and for The Oval dressing room after its traumatic 2012, but it didn’t feel quite right to fans – Keedy is a Lanky man, even if he was born on the wrong side of the border. Maybe he felt a bit of that too, starting the match against table-topping Yorkshire with just three first class wickets in his previous three matches for his new employers. After KP’s fireworks, second innings figures of 39.1 – 8 – 7 -99 will have lifted the veteran left-arm spinner’s spirits and, with three Oval fixtures to be played after the August Bank Holiday, might see him team up with Gareth Batty as a pair of Tyke Spin Twins far from home on traditional late season South London turners.
Ball Three – James Taylor should not be written off by England
If that Headingley draw was enough to keep Yorkshire top (and send last season’s champions, Warwickshire, into a relegation slot), second place Sussex missed an opportunity at Trent Bridge. Having batted on to cross 500 (and secure his own double century) Ed Joyce put the onus on his bowlers to take twenty wickets in five sessions or so. With Notts six down and still over 300 behind, the plan was working: four hours later, after a partnership of 200 between James Taylor and Ajmal Shahzad, it wasn’t. England’s forgotten man, Taylor, was still there to shake hands on the draw, 204 not out after over eight hours at the crease. It was Taylor’s tenth century in the Championship, three of which have been undefeated doubles. Less than a year older than Joe Root, the Notts man has time to come again at international level.
Ball Four – Praise for Graham Napier – in the game yet again
Essex warmed up for their England warm-up match with a handy win away at Grace Road. Leicestershire may have their sights set rather more firmly on Twenty20 cricket than four day stuff these days, but they still needed putting away. And Graham Napier, a man who could be forgiven for also having eyes more for Twenty20 cricket than longer formats, was again key to the Essex performance with seven first innings wickets and another fifty down the order. He tops his club’s batting averages in the County Championship with over 500 runs at 62 – not bad for a man who might legitimately argue that his primary roles are red ball bowling and white ball smiting.
Ball Five – The stars come out for day-night domestic Twenty20
Domestic Twenty20 is well and truly back, with matches scheduled for thirty of its thirty-six day group stage season, running to the end of July. The shortest format brings an influx of overseas stars to glam up the nights under lights – though the marketing men mercifully stop short of the full on “cricketainment” of Australia’s Big Bash League and India’s IPL. It didn’t take long for one superstar to make his mark. Vernon Philander hasn’t played much cricket recently, but he is a class act these days and Kent’s fans will have enjoyed his spell of 3 – 1 – 8 – 4 in a Duckworth-Lewis defeat by Middlesex. The South African might have a few words for another burly bowler who can bat a bit – Matt Coles – who went round the park a bit, but has plenty of talent and the guts to come back.
Ball Six – David Hussey just keeps delivering
Few players are more suited to Twenty20 cricket and, after over 200 matches around the world, few are more experienced than Notts captain, David Hussey. In the local derby vs Leicestershire, his full array of skills were on show. As captain, he deployed his darts for just the one over, but that was enough to snare the dangerous Niall O’Brien and outfox Matthew Boyce, checking the away team’s momentum just as they hoped to build it. Batting at five and in around the halfway mark, his 49 not out saw his team home, getting The Outlaws’ T20 season off to a flier . He’ll be 36 before that season is through, but if a county could field ten David Husseys and a keeper, they probably would.
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