Ball One – Durham past a finishing line with a match to spare
And with one last mighty heave for the line, Durham were there, and with a match to spare. If this week’s swatting aside of a Nottinghamshire XI with a Lord’s Final on their minds was no surprise, few would have foreseen quite as dominant a second half of the season for Durham at its midpoint in July, Since then, they have picked up 113 points, 24 more than nearest rivals, Yorkshire. There are many reasons why champions are champions and next week, I shall look at some of the stats, but the most important numbers can be identified now – Paul Collingwood’s men have won three more matches than Andrew Gale’s and drawn four fewer. Nothing in cricket matters quite as much as finding a way to win a match – which is how it should be.
Ball Two – One win in 15 sends Surrey down
And that ruthless calculus of wins, draws and losses trumped money, history and pedigree to send Surrey tumbling into Division Two. If Durham’s title was launched in mid-2012 when Colly took the reins, Surrey’ slide began a few weeks earlier with Tom Maynard’s death. Gareth Batty was right to gamble on setting Warwickshire an eminently gettable 281 with no time pressure, but it didn’t pay off. In the close season, Surrey will have to be equally bold in their planning for 2014 – and hope that gambles on young players (surely the only way now) will come good.
Ball Three – Reece’s run roars on as Lancashire win Division Two
More champagne up north as Lancashire secured the Division Two pennant with a rain affected draw at Bristol. There will be some recruitment in Manchester this winter too, but not in the opener’s berth where Luis Reece can expect an extended run in the side. The 23 year-old may not have caught the headlines with the kind of huge score that his Yorkshire counterpart Alex Lees made at Chesterfield in July (a mere 275 not out), but his last ten innings have brought scores of 40, 53, 85, 59, 56, 50, 65, 50, 35 and 97. We’ll know exactly how good Reece is after a year in the top flight – but he could hardly have made a better start.
Ball Four – Northants creeping towards Division One
I don’t much care for bonus points, but Northants were content to gather seven of them to go with the three for the draw at home to Kent, taking them 20 points clear of Essex, the only other county that can catch them for the promotion slot. I’m slightly overselling the final round suspense because, with a twenty point cushion, even Northants won’t blow this one. Can they?
Ball Five – The September Final is still special
If one day cricket’s showcase event is now August’s Twenty20 Finals Day, fifty years on from its first edition, the September Final is still held in cricket’s showcase venue – Lord’s. Having looked unusually ragged for the May Test vs New Zealand – the re-laying of the outfield after its Olympics pounding took the blame – Lord’s was a picture for the YB40 Final. Well, it did if you could ignore the football-style animated perimeter advertising, an ugly smear on Lord’s beautiful face.
Ball Six – Nottinghamshire Outlaws steal away with the YB40 Trophy
My favourite format of one day cricket bowed out with a match that was more 40 winks than 40 overs, as Notts’ nine international cricketers were far too classy for Glamorgan’s two (and two in the twilights of their careers in Simon Jones and Murray Goodwin). Samit Patel, moving as quickly as I’ve ever seen him in wheeling away to celebrate each of his three wickets, got the ball to grip and spin on his way to a Man of the Match Award. Though it sounds patronising, the truth is that Glamorgan’s triumph was in getting to a Lord’s final – a day their team, and their fans, will never forget. Nor will Notts’s fans who stayed on to salute their heroes – whose thoughts will now turn to securing their Division One status.
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