Ball One – James Taylor may be a good fit for England’s faltering middle order
In a week in which England’s white ball cricket looked as unconvincing as it has for years, James Taylor did his cause no harm at all making 146* to guide his Notts team to 313 off their fifty overs – which predictably proved far too much for Derbyshire. In List A matches, Taylor’s averages over a season have been truly remarkable – from 2009, the record reads: 46; 55; 64; 70, 78; and this season 67. If those kind of numbers do not earn a chance to add to his two ODI caps, what will?
Ball Two – Paul Collingwood still as dogged as ever with the ball
Who’s that chipping in with figures of 10-0-29-2 to help defend 237 against Yorkshire’s super-strong batting line-up? It’s the wily old fox, Paul Collingwood, now 38 but as smart as smart gets when the strangle is on. He bowled 850-odd overs in ODI cricket, seldom being collared, finishing with a career economy rate under 5. This season, in List A cricket, he’s bowled more 60 overs going at well under 4. There’s plenty who derided Colly as a bits and pieces man when he broke into England squads, but he’s always been a lot more than that. How many more county cricketers are being held back by that “Bits and Pieces” label, a term that’s flung around without much examination of the facts nor of what’s needed to balance a limited overs cricket side.
Ball Three – The mysteries of the Essex batting order
I don’t much care for theorising about batting orders. I’ve always felt that batsmen are top three, middle order, Number Eight or lower order and that’s about as precise as one can be. But Essex, set 272 to reach the semi-finals by Treble chasing Warwickshire (aka the Birmingham Bears, if you will) surely got theirs wrong though not crucially, as they went down by 67 runs. Jesse Ryder, who made a brilliant 90, was in at five when surely he should have opened (as he has done so often before) thereby giving himself the opportunity to face the maximum number of balls. Ryan ten Doeschate put himself down at seven, meaning that he came to the crease when his team were already well behind the rate, with his ability to influence matters circumscribed. The explosive Graham Napier was at eight, and the finisher Ravi Bopara was at three – there may well be a case for their positions to have been reversed, especially batting second. Perhaps one reason why Napier was so low in the order was lack of practice – in List A matches in the last five seasons he has bowled over 300 overs, but batted just 27 times. Though Essex often field eight or nine players with claims to being at least handy batsmen, Napier’s second string does seem to have been somewhat neglected.
Ball Four – Fabian Cowdrey may lack his grandfather’s precocious skills, but has inherited his father’s ability to chip in with bat and ball
The fourth quarter-final saw Kent take the crucial Gloucestershire wicket, Will Gidman, in the 39th over and then cruise home. While Sam Billings gave another reminder of his extraordinary season in fifty over cricket, another, very familiar, name caught the eye. With England captains for both father and grandfather, Fabian Cowdrey, were he equine, would have cost a lot in the nursery sales – but cricket doesn’t work like that. But it’s probably true to say that if the name opens doors, it also raises expectations and, at just 21, Fabian is already delivering. This season, he has batted in the top four and hit 295 runs at an average of 42 and a strike rate of 80. His left arm darts have gone at under five and a half an over and included the odd wicket (Gloucestershire’s captain, Alex Gidman, was one in this match). FK Cowdrey has a long way to go before emulating CS Cowdrey never mind MC Cowdrey, but he has made a good start.
Ball Five – The Royal London One Day Cup Final on 20 September is too late in the calendar
Though much diminished from the annual showpiece occasion it was in the 70s when the Gillette Cup was cricket’s FA Cup, and definitely behind Twenty20 Finals Day in terms of its impact these days, the Royal London One Day Cup does not help itself by delaying its final until Saturday September 20? That’s deep into Autumn, cold and likely to favour the side bowling first at Lord’s at 10.30am, not long after the morning mist has cleared. Surely two semi-finals and one final do not need over three weeks to organise? I wonder what the crowd will number – and how much they’ll be asked to pay for a ticket? I hope it’ll be 20,000 at £20, but I suspect it’ll be more like 10,000 at £40, though I’d love to be proved wrong.
Ball Six – County cricket (almost) falls off the radar
One of the reasons I started writing this column three years ago was to address the feeling that there was a lot of county cricket that was passing me by, absent from mainstream media and lost a little in the avalanche of information online. It certainly did that, an hour or so every summer Sunday dedicated to looking back at the rich variety (and thrilling matches) of the English domestic season, stretching from the chilly greentops of April through to the worn wickets of September. Almost without exception, I have, like Jade Dernbach about to start a new over, had more options than balls available, the six talking points drawn from plenty more at hand. Except this week. For reasons unknown, there was (not for the first time in recent years) no domestic cricket at all to make a welcome alternative to the Bank Holiday drive to Ikea and, come the weekdays, only the four Royal London Cup quarter-finals. I know that Sky makes its demands and that some players needed a rest, but the last week of the school holidays was surely an option to let the kids in for free and build a bit of goodwill for next season? Not to mention giving the poor old county cricket supporter a last chance to sit with a cold beer rather than a warming thermos.