Ball One – Tykes top the table despite England’s demands
Despite England calling up Joe Root, Gary Ballance, Liam Plunkett and Jonny Bairstow (and the unavailability of Kane Williamson’s bowling) Yorkshire cruised to three easy wins this week to go top of the Royal London Cup Group A table. The impressive 21 year-old, Alex Lees, has led the batting effort, scoring at around a run a ball (very much the target rate in 50 overs cricket) while none of the Yorkie bowlers have gone for more than five an over. Old hands, Tim Bresnan and Adil Rashid, are the standouts using their experience and guile to block an end and take wickets. The former is the more likely to return to international colours for 2015’s World Cup, but wouldn’t it be fantastic to see Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid bowling together for England in Australia and slotting in at 6 and 7 in the order?
Ball Two – The bald truth is that Kent’s ageing bowlers are the key to their success
In Group B, Kent lead. They are the only unbeaten side in the country, their success built on a phalanx of old stagers chugging in with the ball. Darren Stevens (38); James Tredwell (32); Mitch Claydon (31); and Doug Bollinger (33) may collectively lack a bit upstairs when it comes to hair, but not when it comes to keeping your head in a harum-scarum run chase. That quartet have delivered three quarters of Kent’s overs and, if they carry on like this, they’ll have plenty more to deliver before September is out. I trust Kent’s physio has no annual leave booked.
Ball Three – Billings the wicket-keeper cashes in with the bat
But it’s a much younger Kent player who is catching the eye amongst this season’s batsmen. Sam Billings boasts a batting index of 329, topping the sixes hit table and sitting third on the runs scored ladder. The local lad is yet another smiter whose primary role as wicket-keeper gives him licence to attack the bowling when he swaps gauntlets for gloves. The kids who grew up watching Adam Gilchrist and being inspired to emulate the great Australian, are coming through in numbers.
Ball Four – Cosker keeps coming back for more.
On August 11 1996, Dean Cosker snared his first wickets in white ball cricket, Leicestrashire’s internationals Phil Simmons and Aftab Habib. 18 years on, he’s still at it, this season’s haul so far totting up to nine at an economy rate well below four per over. There’s many would point to the likes of Cosker and say that he’s made a decent living from the game without ever showing skills to play international cricket (the purpose of county cricket being assumed as primarily a development ground for potential England players). I’d rather point to a solid pro approaching his 600th match for his only county. The game is better off for the presence of the likes of Dean Cosker – the kind of player to whom local fans warm.
Ball Five – Kent and Surrey go hell for leather for 100 overs.
I’d love to be writing the obituary of 50 overs cricket and, consequently, open up a bit of space in cricket’s congested calendar, but then a match like Tuesday’s at The Oval turns up and I wonder what can have possessed me. Arriving at the start of Surrey’s chase of Kent’s excellent 314, the match twisted and turned before swinging this way and that in the final over, eventually coming to rest as a tie. Both sides made plenty of mistakes, both sides played some exhilarating cricket, both sides were fully committed to trying to win – it was tremendous sport. Fifty overs cricket can still thrill a crowd.
Ball Six – The best place to be in London last week was The Oval
For two consecutive evenings, the setting sun slanted into The Oval, illuminating its pavilion, bathing all in the weak watery orange light that annually washes over London as Summer begins to herald Autumn. It’s often forgotten just how aesthetically pleasing an experience watching cricket can be, particularly at its urban grounds, with their expanses of green, their moments of, if not silence, then certainly quiet, and their big, big skies. While South London hurtled towards its future outside, inside The Oval its oasis promoted a sense of calm. Not for the first time there, I felt that the cricket was incidental to the pleasure of simply being there.
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