Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 2, 2013

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket 1 September 2013

Piyush Chawla - and we thought it was his stomach that was too big

I thought it was his stomach that was too big

Ball One – Forty overs cricket deserves better

Somehow – and nobody is quite sure exactly how – Notts, Glamorgan, Hampshire and Somerset were sitting in the right seats when the music stopped and have opened up their parcel to find that they are the four YB40 semi-finalists. The last season of forty overs cricket – much my favourite one day format – has seen fixtures scattered over the summer as if its schedule was created by throwing darts at a calendar – blindfolded. The Final, and the swansong for the last offspring of the John Player Sunday League (a competition that did so much to get kids like me into cricket) is at Lord’s on Saturday 21 September. Let’s hope 1.30pm ’til 7.00pm cricket gets the send-off it deserves.

Ball Two – Experience and bits and pieces men top the YB40 charts

With 12 matches in the group stages, that’s a big enough sample space to assess  the kinds of players who have succeeded in the competition. And – wouldn’t you know it – it’s the old pros who delivered. Up top of the batting charts is 32 year-old biffer Peter Trego, followed by Michael Klinger, a year older. Rounding out the top three is Josh Cobb – a talented young batsman/bowler whose career may need to develop away from Grace Road. Occupying the top slots amongst the bowlers are a couple more old hands in Michael Hogan and Graham Napier along with Somerset youngster, Craig Meschede. These six represent the types of players who do well these days in English one day cricket. The experienced man who won’t panic and can bring a side back into a game (or take a game away from the opposition); and the young bits-and-pieces merchant, who makes the most of what he has and will play every game, since he won’t be troubling national selectors’ speed dial options.

Ball Three – Ben Stokes getting back to England form just in time

Durham won the Division One top of the table clash at Scarborough to squeeze to within six points of Yorkshire with a game in hand. The key man for the Geordies was Ben Stokes, an all-rounder who has fought his way back into England’s ODI squad having been stalled by injury and disciplinary issues. After scoring a welcome first century of the season to take him past 500 Division One runs, he then picked up five scalps as Durham cruised home by seven wickets. Stokes won’t bowl enough overs to match the top wicket takers over a season, but he has real pace and can get set batsmen out. Against a strong Yorkshire batting unit, he sent back Kane Williamson twice (84 and 97), Phil Jaques (152) and the in-form Gary Ballance. When it comes to assessing all-rounders, the quality of the dismissals matters as much as the quantity. Paul Collingwood will miss him while Stokes is on England duty these next two weeks.

Ball Four – Piyush Chawla delivers, but not as expected.

It was Somerset’s turn to clamber out of the relegation slots with a surprise win at Lord’s. When they signed Piyush Chawla, they were probably thinking about his leg-breaks delivering wickets on tiring pitches at the end of a hot, dry summer. That hasn’t really happened yet, but his underrated batting took Trescothick’s men from a perilous 211-7 up to 449, which provided a platform for Somerset’s bowlers to run through Middlesex twice in fewer than 90 overs. And with those two collapses, Middlesex’s spirited run at the title is probably over.

Ball Five – Surrey do and not die, as Derbyshire are sucked back into the relegation slots

There were plenty of grumbles on Sunday morning at The Oval, as Derbyshire’s eighth wicket pair easily repelled a Surrey attack in which Chris Tremlett struggled to make the batsmen play and the spinners were in defensive mode as often as attacking. After Gareth Batty had quelled the discontent with three sudden wickets, the grumblers were back again when Surrey lost both openers with just four of the 217 runs they needed on the board. But the chase was always going to be about Hashim Amla, and his 88 took Gareth Batty’s men to within 26 runs of the win and even Surrey’s fragile batting couldn’t miss from there. The dogfight at the bottom is between Derbyshire, Surrey, Somerset and Notts and too close to call as we enter September – two will be gone by October.

Ball Six – It looks all over in Division Two

Long time leaders, Lancashire and Northamptonshire, are now 44 points clear of the chasing pack and as good as back in the top flight for 2014. Two men who had been in the news for contrasting reasons recently had good matches in two comfortable wins. David Willey backed up three first innings wickets by blasting 81 (with another six sixes); while Simon Kerrigan worked out some of his England frustrations with a quickfire 62*, then whirled away as if The Oval hadn’t happened, to deliver match figures of 7-145. Both players can expect to meet in Division One next season and, maybe, in England squads.

You can tweet me at @garynaylor999

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