Ball One – Rashid rules the roost at Roses showdown
With the visitors going for the Title and the hosts fighting to avoid relegation, it was bound to be tense at Old Trafford. Too tense, in seems, for Yorkshire skipper, Andrew Gale, who will miss the rest of the season due to a ban after an altercation with Ashwell Prince – Gale’s second offence of the season in a Roses match and, at 30 years of age in his fifth season as captain, not good enough. Good enough – and then some – described his team’s performance as they cruised to an innings victory on the back of Adam Lyth’s 251 and Adil Rashid’s 159*, backed up by another solid effort from the bowling unit. Rashid, having batted for 78 overs, bowled for 40 to add a fivefer to his ton. Has any player in recent history done more, at 26, to win more First Class matches (especially at the sharp end of the season) than the all-rounder and still not played a Test match for England? (Indeed, he has only ten white ball appearances, the last nearly five years ago). Graeme Swann was three years older than Rashid when he made his Test debut – something England’s selectors may wish to bear in mind.
Ball Tw0 – Peter Chase runs through Nottinghamshire on debut
Notts vs Durham was another top vs bottom clash, but the result was very different, as the Northerners, not without some worries provoked by Notts’ last two wickets cobbling together 79 runs, got home by 54. While credit goes to grizzled old pros Paul Collingwood and Chris Rushworth, who added a vital 84 runs for the ninth wicket to take Chris Read’s target up to an intimidating 375, the key man turned out to be 20 year-old Irish debutant Peter Chase, who snared the in-form Riki Wessels en route to 5-64 – not bad from fourth change. Gary Keedy, in a rare appearance for Notts, will be able to tell the young man that, should he play another 223 matches, it won’t always go like that. Durham aren’t yet safe, but the win’s 21 points took them 12 points clear of the drop with a game in hand.
Ball Three – Worcestershire hanging on at the top of Division Two
In Division Two, Worcestershire’s match with Derbyshire ran along similar lines to their season, as a strong start gave way to a poor finish, Darryl Mitchell’s men collapsing to the unfancied spin of Will Durston. Of course it was never going to be easy to replace the wickets nor the presence of Saeed Ajmal, who had done so much to put his team in pole position for promotion before going on international duty and it’ll still take an unlikely set of circumstances to allow Surrey to bridge the 39 points gap, but Mitchell knows that he’ll need his Pakistani wizard back and firing on all cylinders, doosra and all, if his team are to prosper one level up in 2015.
Ball Four – Whither Leicestershire whose competitiveness is withering away
Hampshire, second and 32 points to the good of Surrey, look scarcely less likely to be caught for the other promotion slot having smashed hapless Leicestershire all round the Ageas Bowl. Six bowlers shared the wickets, but the lion’s share of the runs were scored by openers Michael Carberry (110) and Jimmy Adams (231), who added 253 in the equivalent of two sessions’ cricket before they were parted. With no win in the Championship for nearly two years, Leicestershire really are merely making up the numbers and, with their bright young prospect Shiv Thakor set to move to Derbyshire next season, any improvement looks some way off.
Ball Five – Billings unaccountably down at Number Eight
In front of just 3000 spectators rattling around Edgbaston (only a tenner to get in, but so soon after the ODI and Twenty20 Finals Day at the same venue and just as the kids are returning to school made the timing awkward) Warwickshire, with fifties from Varun Chopra, Jonathan Trott and Tim Ambrose, cruised to Lord’s after Kent simply could not get going. That stop-start innings was at least partly due to Sam Billings being held back at Number Eight, making his entrance at 152-6 in the 38th over. He still top-scored with 40* giving him 458 runs in the tournament, 129 more than any of the seven men who walked to the crease ahead of him, at the handy average of 115 and handier still strike rate of 154. Maybe he didn’t pay his subs in the quarter-final.
Ball Six – Ben Stokes following the Flintoff path to glory?
Ben Stokes, a feast or famine cricketer (at least in this stage of his development), smashed 164 from 113 balls to set Notts a mountainous 354 to reach Lord’s, a task that proved beyond them by 83 runs as Durham booked their place in the Royal London One Day Cup Final. In a season disrupted by injury and switches between formats and levels of cricket, prior to that Man of the Match knock, Stokes had passed 50 just three times in 32 innings and taken more than three wickets in an innings just once (a typically wrecking ball effort of 7-67 in a huge 309 runs Durham win over Sussex). However, one should not forget that he is just 23 years old and, at the same age, Andrew Flintoff (the player whom he most resembles in more ways than one) had not scored a Test 50, nor taken more than two wickets in Test innings and completed the corresponding First Class season passing 50 just three times in 23 innings with a best bowling of 3-36. Flintoff was 25 before he came of age as a Test player – Stokes, may not be a regular for England, but he is well ahead of that curve just now.