Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 19, 2014

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 18 May 2014

The face of the all-new NatWest T20 Blast

The face of the all-new NatWest T20 Blast

Ball One – Warwickshire’s batsmen need to wake up when Ian Bell is claimed by England

Warwickshire (not yet Birmingham Bears) started the week at the top of Division One, but finished it no better than halfway up having been hammered out of sight by Yorkshire in a season that has already had its fair share of topsy-turvy results. This week, the decision to enforce the follow-on paid off for Andrew Gale, as his pacers blew away Warwickshire’s second innings in just 31 overs. They might have done the same first time round had captain Ian Bell not held things together, occupying  the crease while all but 25 of his team’s 200 runs were scored. Warwickshire’s England man has over 300 more Championship runs than any other of his specialist batsmen team-mates – Varun Chopra and friends will need to find those runs when their captain takes them to his national side.

Ball Two – Ajmal Shahzad may be swinging back into the international reckoning

There were two more big wins in Division One, with Middlesex seeing off Lancashire’s fragile batting and Nottinghamshire dispatching last season’s other promoted side, Northamptonshire. One Test wonder, Ajmal Shahzad, impressed with match figures of 7-90. Having spent time at both Yorkshire and Lancashire before a frustrating 2013 at Notts, it’s a surprise to learn that he is still only 28. If he has sorted out the various problems that have stalled his career, he could be a big asset for Chris Read, especially at Trent Bridge. Who knows, he might even work his way back into the England squad, as swingers who swing it are always useful.

Ball Three – Things looking rosier at last at The Rose Bowl

Hampshire opened up a handy 25 point gap over last week’s opponents Glamorgan and will be hopeful that the promotion will be achieved this year to end a three season spell in Division Two. South African Test bowler, Kyle Abbott, picked up three wickets in both innings to give him 17 wickets at less than 22 this season. If he can maintain that kind of form, the level of cricket will match the surroundings next year down at The Rose Bowl.

Ball Four – Graeme Smith gets Surrey’s season off to a belated start

Having bagged Surrey’s batting last week it’s only right that I should acknowledge Graeme Smith’s return to form with his characteristic lead-from-the-front century, in a fourth innings chase of 267. Steve Davies, having relinquished the gloves in pursuit of a bit of batting form, will be pleased to have notched a half-century, taking his team to the brink of a rare victory. That Gloucestershire’s attack missed Ian Saxelby for all but two deliveries, will not stifle the sigh of relief at The Oval.

Ball Five – Old man Styris keeps rolling along

I’m not sure that 11 years ago, when T20 was first played, it was expected that grizzled old pros would be stars of the new format, men plenty old enough to be the cheerleaders’ fathers. Pros don’t come much more grizzled than 38 year-old Scott “Miley” Styris, who walked to the crease with eight overs and four balls of the Leicestershire innings left and walked off, having taken a wrecking ball to the Derbyshire bowling, smashing 63* off 31 balls. That pushed his team up to 197-4, which proved to be plenty. When Styris first appeared on the scene in the late 90s, he looked like yet another Kiwi bits and pieces man, another Chris Harris wannabee. Who would have thought that 15 years later, he’d be launching the ball into the Midlands night sky over and over again?

Ball Six – Sky and the ECB can bring cricket to free-to-air television

Friday saw the launch of the re-branded NatWest T20 Blast, with 87 of 126 Group Stage matches ready for the much trailed Friday Night Appointments. It’s all about appealing to new audiences (as it was on its launch) and there’s been a bit of marketing spend to support The Blast. The best marketing option of all is still absent – free-to-air television coverage. If terrestrial television remains uninterested in cricket, could Sky not be persuaded to show matches on their Freeview channel, Pick TV? Surely not many Sky Sports subscribers would cancel the direct debits because their cricket appetite is sated by T20? And, just maybe, some viewers (perhaps even some of those much desired younger ones) would like what they see and buy a subscription or day pass for the pay channels – the old loss leader trick? Given that this proposal does not involve any new contractors and that Pick TV is currently scheduled to show a documentary about New Zealand’s helicopter rescue teams next Friday night that won’t prompt many making an appointment to view, I can’t see a good reason why this cannot happen. Can you?

You can tweet me at @garynaylor

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