Ball One – Rogers, Morgan and Roland-Jones ease Middlesex’s relegation worries
Not so long ago, Australians would claim that county cricket is soft – a bloated, eighteen club anachronism, full of players coasting to their benefits – contrasting it with their lean, mean six state Sheffield Shield. One wonders what Chris Rogers would say to that proposition now. Having conceded 523 to Somerset, with ex-Future Of English Batting, James Hildreth, leading the way with 182, Middlesex finished the second day 64-7 with this week’s final fixture vs Lancashire sliding from “awkward” to “desperate” status. But Eoin Morgan eventually found a partner in Number 9 Toby Roland-Jones and Somerset’s bowlers were kept in the field for an extra (and crucial) 50 overs. Following on, Rogers did the thing he does best – he dug in for a seven hour double hundred and the game was saved, the five points for the draw taking the Londoners 19 points clear of the second relegation slot. It’ll take the spirit of 2011, some unlikely Autumn Manchester weather, and a remarkable performance if Lancashire are to overturn that deficit with an Old Trafford win over Middlesex.
Ball Tw0 – Chris Nash shows the value of an old retainer
One of those players whom one might accuse of playing county cricket without ever aspiring to international honours, is Sussex’s Chris Nash – but he’s exactly the sort of resourceful cricketer that I, and many fans of the domestic game, enjoy. The opener hasn’t had the best of seasons – not that anyone has noticed, with Ed Joyce and Luke Wright churning out the runs – so it was good to see him make 178 and 85 to set up the win over a Nottinghamshire side that had the wind knocked out of its sails with last week’s defeat by Yorkshire. Nash is a local lad, a product of Loughborough University who bats a bit and bowls a bit – the game will be diminished if the likes of him are squeezed out.
Ball Three – Hampshire cling on for a draw, as they cling on to a promotion place
While Lancashire and Middlesex duel to avoid the drop, their coveted place in the top flight will be disputed by Essex (home to promoted Worcestershire) and Hampshire (away at Glamorgan). Hampshire, long-time occupants of the second promotion slot, were indebted to Will Smith, who batted out the rain-affected fourth day to ensure that Sean Ervine’s first innings century and James Tomlinson’s two hours undefeated at the crease at Number 11, were not wasted. With just ten points in hand, Hampshire’s players will have two opponents this week at Sophia Gardens: the Welsh county’s players and the Welsh county’s weather.
Ball Four – Essex swat aside Leicestershire to heap the pressure on Hampshire
Essex’s expected (at least by me) charge for the season’s finishing line continued with a fourth consecutive win, this time over a predictably pathetic Leicestershire, a club that appears to be falling apart. Falling apart is certainly an apt description for their batting, twice dismissed in fewer than 76 overs, Jesse Ryder taking 8-90 with his dibbly-dobblers. It’s hard to know what lies in store for the Midlanders, without a win in two seasons and without many players for 2015. Something – anything – needs to be done.
Ball Five – Rushworth bags 15 as Northamptonshire go down to defeat yet again
Leicestershire’s counterparts in Division One, Northamptonshire, have shown much more fight, but their spirit finally snapped in the twelfth defeat of a winless season. Though that summary may not do sufficient credit to Durham’s bald seamer, Chris Rushworth, whose 9-52 and 6-43 returns will be the statistical highlight of the season. Rushworth must have had a tough paper round, as he looks much more than his 28 years, but he’s been a solid performer for a while now, holding the seam up and getting it there or thereabouts – never a bad tactic early and late in the English season.
Ball Six – Durham cruise (probably) to victory in the first Royal London One Day Cup Final
I recall reading that Time Passing was something philosophically different to Time Passed. I’m not sure what that means, but the statement came back to me watching the Royal London One Day Cup Final at Lord’s. Looking back on the match (and this view is supported by Duckworth-Lewis, the formula “calling the match” for Durham all through the second innings), it looks a fairly routine win, in which Durham made the most of the toss and some injudicious batting by Warwickshire to clinch the trophy. Yet, at the ground and in the comments made in immediate aftermath of the finish, it felt a much closer match, that could have gone either way until Ben Stokes and Gareth Breese had a bit of luck in their 36 run stand for the eighth wicket. That said, it was a slow burner that never really caught fire.