Ball One – Get on with the game (part one)
Approaching the end of yet another difficult season for Surrey, redemption is on the horizon after a fine team performance saw them through to Twenty20 Finals Day. That, however, was not the main talking point. The suspension of their captain, Gareth Batty, for two matches, including county cricket’s biggest day, spoiled a rare good news story from The Oval. After years of accusations that county cricket was too soft, too chummy, too much like a routine day at the office for time-servers hanging on for a bumper benefit, it’s almost cheering to read that passions can run high between a couple of old pros (the object of Batty’s ire was Peter Trego). But quite why any bowler needs to add anything after dismissing a batsman, is beyond me – the job is done. And, rightly, Batty’s punishment will hurt him and his club.
Ball Two – David Willey is building a case for international honours with bat and ball
Nothing annoys me more in junior cricket than the lad or girl who opens the batting and then opens the bowling too, hogging the opportunities for other kids. It doesn’t happen often in county cricket, but David Willey must have paid his subs early for Northants, because he had both gigs in the T20 quarter-final vs Durham. 46 off 34 balls and 4 – 0 – 27 – 1 was a good enough return to justify his captain’s faith. Willey (yep, son of Peter) is one of the phalanx of Northants all-rounders having such a successful 2013 and it’s good to see his work recognised with a slot in the England Lions squad.
Ball Three – Carbs to energise England?
In a season short on one day thrillers, the crowd at the Ageas Bowl got their money’s worth and then some, as Lancashire went down by one run to Finals Days regulars Hampshire, in a 400+ runs batting barrage. Michael Carberry was Man of the Match with a fine century, secured off the last ball of the innings, to tumultuous cheers. The opener has had a brief taste of international cricket some years ago, but has nearly 20,000 First Class runs and experience to burn. Against him, he’s nearly 33 – or three years younger than the saviour of Australian batting, another 20,000 First Class runs man, Chris Rogers.
Ball Four – Even outside powerplays, for Essex, power pays
Essex round out the quartet for Edgbaston on Saturday, having overpowered Notts with bat and ball. First up, Ryan ten Doeschate blasted 5 sixes in 13.3 (non-powerplay) overs that brought 137 runs. Then it was over to the fragile, but still very sharp, Shaun Tait, who ran through the middle order with 90mph bombs. It’s a high risk strategy to go with so many hitters in the batting and so many quicks in the bowling, but James Foster’s men need only align the stars for 80 more overs to seize the prize. For me, they are the favourites.
Ball Five – Unicorns shot down in St Johns Wood.
Like some botchy medieval peasant boarded up in his hut for six weeks and al but forgotten, then suddenly deemed safe enough for polite company, the YB40 emerged from its quarantine with a programme of Sunday matches enticingly scheduled against Day Three of an Ashes Test. But if you looked hard enough on the web, you could locate the results, the standout of which was the Unicorns’ heartbreaker at Lord’s. It’s not the team’s fault that they’re lumbered with a name more Harry Potter than Laurie Potter, so romantics everywhere were willing the non-pros to a famous victory at HQ, when Middlesex, nine down, still had 23 to get. Cue wicketkeeper John Simpson, who found Steve Finn channeling the spirit of Dunedin, as the last pair spared their team-mates’ blushes and ruined a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for their opponents. With the Unicorns driven into extinction at the end of this season, it was another reminder that cricket is, of course, cruel as well as kind.
Ball Six – Get on with the game (part two)
Lancashire played a Second XI game this week at an old haunt of mine, Northern CC’s lovely ground at Great Crosby. It was a routine win for a strong Lanky team, but what caught my eye was the format of the match – three days, but each day comprising more than 100 overs. With the domestic schedule ever more crowded, would it be worth experimenting with say eight three day County Championship matches with 120 overs scheduled for each day? The players would certainly get on with the game and might enjoy an extra week’s
golf rest and recuperation in the middle of a hectic season.
You can tweet me at @garynaylor999