Ball One – Ex-England men biff out the runs in the Twenty20
So the always lengthy process of eliminating half the counties from the Friends Life T20 competition was completed and quarter-finals are already upon us. Top batsman in the league stage turned out to be England reject Craig Kieswetter, whose tally of 447 at the healthy strike rate of 137 was 51 runs ahead of second place man Michael Carberry. Perhaps this competition, with its big crowds and slightly relaxed atmosphere, suits batsmen who have had a taste of England cricket, because also in the top 11, one finds Alex Hales, Phil Mustard, Owais Shah, Michael Lumb and even good old Darren Maddy, who first played for England 15 years ago (with the likes Nick Knight, Darren Gough and Chris Lewis).
Ball Two – Jade Dernbach and others underline international credentials
For bowlers, the best measure of success is probably economy rate and, wouldn’t you know it, there’s a few England men well up in that table too. Amongst those who have bowled at least 20 overs, the much maligned Jade Dernbach is the best, going for well under a run a ball and taking wickets too. Recent England spinners, James Tredwell and Danny Briggs are up in the charts too, but the most eye-catching name is Sussex’s Chris Nash, who went for a tick over six an over and led his county’s batting effort with 244 runs at 125. He’s a bit of a David Hussey is Nash, delivering dots when bowling and denying dots when batting. It’s hard to believe that England will continue to find eleven better players for every T20I match they play – but they have so far.
Ball Three – Derbyshire spring a surprise at the seaside
While England were retaining The Ashes, a full round of County Championship fixtures was squeezed in between the T20 bashes. The rain got stuck into these matches too, but not before Derbyshire registered their first win of the season, denting Sussex’s title hopes in the process. Tim Groenewald knocked the top off the Sussex second innings and there’s seldom a way back from 29-5, but top marks go to skipper Wayne Madsen, whose 97 and 62* represent excellent returns in a low-scoring match. He’ll be rallying his troops now telling them that if they can win at Hove, they can win anywhere – and a couple more wins might just see Derbyshire safe!
Ball Four – Gary Ballance scales the heights in match abandoned with result in the balance.
If the cheers rang out in Derby at the news from Hove, they will scarcely have been less loud at Headingley, where rain got in the way of what was shaping up for a decent finish between table-topping Yorkshire and form team Warwickshire. For once Yorkshire’s batting stumbled, but Gary Ballance top-scored in both innings against The Bears’ strong and varied attack, underlining his international credentials at just the right time. Neither side will be happy (nor entirely unhappy) with the nine points they took away from the match, which keeps them in the race for the top spot come September.
Ball Five – Star men perform, but back-ups prove the difference
In a match where neither side could top 200, Middlesex’s support bowlers backed up Steven Finn’s 7-102 better than Durham’s were able to complement Graham Onions’ 9-102. The win allowed Middlesex to leapfrog their opponents into third place, just 14 points off the leaders. England may come calling for one or both these counties’ star seamers, but one feels Middlesex to be much better placed to cover the loss of Finn than are Durham to cover Onions. With so many Championship games late in the season, squad strength – especially amongst bowlers – will prove crucial to the destination of the pennant.
Ball Six – Lancashire racing back to where they belong
Lancashire went a yawning 47 points clear of third place Gloucestershire in Division Two and look very good for one of the two promotion slots. In a crushing team performance, there were contributions from six batsmen, before the old one-two of Kyle Hogg and Glen Chapple got to work to dismiss Leicestershire twice in not much more than four sessions. Underlining the strength through the XI, Lancashire fielded ten batsmen averaging more than 24 in the Championship this season and five bowlers averaging less than 21. The question is not, “Are Lancashire going up this season?” but “How did Lancashire go down last season?”
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