Posted by: tootingtrumpet | April 25, 2015

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 26 April 2015

Academy cricket - from the days when England was the  best team in the world.

Academy cricket – from the days when England was the best team in the world.

Ball One – Ajmal Shahzad the hero for Sussex

Sussex registered their second win from two matches to go top of Division One (which means little at this stage of the season – but it’s definitely better than being bottom). The match at Hove developed into a classic final day shoot-out with Worcestershire starting the day needing 200 runs and Sussex the ten wickets – time for a hero to step up with a ton or a five-fer. It was Ajmal Shahzad who rose to that challenge, hitting the stumps twice and gaining two LBW decisions on his way to 16-4-46-5, risking runs for wickets. Shahzad has been round the block with previous spells at Yorkshire, Lancashire and Nottinghamshire to go with his one Test for England, a low key affair against Bangladesh. His unorthodox action, skiddy pace and combative attitude – very much a product of the Asian street cricket tradition rather than the regimented programmes of the ECB – may be the kind of wildcard England need if they are to crack open the fourth innings on flat pitches. At 29, Shahzad’s talent should not be written off by England just yet.

Ball Tw0 – Yorkshire needs Rashid and Rashid needs cricket

Yorkshire’s match with Nottinghamshire petered out into a draw after Alex Hales had clobbered 236 first innings runs to take Notts to a total that required Yorkshire to bat for 140 overs before gaining a lead. Nevertheless, with Notts four wickets down in the second innings and lead only 79, returning skipper, Andrew Gale, will have scented a victory. Time for the leg-spinner – except he was advertising Waitrose dashing on and off the field in a yellow bib in Grenada. Yorkshire wanted Adil Rashid home and playing cricket instead of whatever he’s doing in the Caribbean – and, with Moeen Ali and James Tredwell both selected ahead of him in the series, it’s hard not to sympathise with the club and the player.

Ball Three – Warwickshire’s old pros raise old questions

Warwickshire’s XI (who secured a tame draw against Hampshire thanks to Varun Chopra batting out the fourth day with an unbeaten century) contained just one player under the age of 27 (the exciting teenager, Sam Hain). Few would complain about those selected: a balanced attack with right and left arm seam (Rankin, Wright and Barker); a wicket-taking spinner (Patel); an all-rounder (Clarke); a busy wicketkeeper-batsman (Ambrose); and five solid performers with the bat (Chopra, Westwood, Porterfield, Evans and Hain). That XI may not have quite enough to challenge for the pennant, but it would be a surprise to see them fighting relegation. And that might be a concern for the ECB since, with the exception of the Irishman Porterfield, all ten other Bears are some way off international recognition. Which is, of course, the argument for a reduced County Championship, one that I still believe to be unconvincing – but Warwickshire’s selection for their first match of the season gives pause for thought.

Ball Four – This might just be the season that Steven Davies shows us what he can do

Surrey’s two galacticos (Kevin Pietersen and Kumar Sangakkara, 20,384 Test runs between them) ensured a busy Press Box at Sophia Gardens, but their thunder was stolen a little by Steven Davies, the ex-wicketkeeper-batsman now specialist middle-order man, whose 200* has got his season off to a fine start. At 28, with his first class average now nudged over 40 and seemingly at ease with himself, this may be the season that sees Davies realise his considerable potential. Compact, wiry and busy at the crease, the left-hander has something of David Warner about his batting, giving the ball a fearful whack off the front or back foot and denying bowlers the margin for error in line and length they crave in order to settle into their work. His problem has always been shot selection, too often finding a man at cover with a lofted drive or pulling in the air to deep backward square – after 155 first class matches, perhaps that judgement is coming. While the arrival of KP or Sanga at the crease will always create a buzz of anticipation at The Oval, the same may soon be the case when the unassuming Englishman takes guard.

Ball Five – Chapple takes a pew as Jarvis sends Lancashire to the top of Division Two

Lancashire demolished Derbyshire to go top of table with one of the two positives results of the five Division Two matches played so far this season. Kyle Jarvis was Derbyshire’s destroyer, his pace enough to see four LBW appeals answered in the affirmative as the home side were skittled for 114. It was only his fourth appearance for Lancashire in the County Championship, having spent 2014 mainly playing Second XI and white ball cricket. The Lancashire new ball attack, for so long dependent on the old warhorse, Glen Chapple (now spending more time on coaching duties) looks in safe hands with Peter Siddle running in all day long  at the other end – at least until his country claims him.

Ball Six – There’s room for the match report as essay

There has always been a difference between a report that tells the reader about the day’s cricket and a report that tells the reader about the day at the cricket. With the BBC’s excellent online ball-by-ball commentaries and the regularly updated text services such as The Guardian’s County Cricket Live, there have never been more ways to keep up with the play. Which is why it’s such a shame that the finances of media organisations make it more and more rare for dedicated journalists to be present at the ground reporting on a day at the cricket. So we must be grateful that Paul Edwards is continuing to write his beautifully crafted mini essays for Cricinfo, replete with digressions about history, location and anything else that comes to mind in the long hours observing the play. Each of his reports tells us all we need to know about the match, but not only that – just as a day watching county cricket entertains us with the play, but provides a much richer experience, one perhaps unique in the sporting world. It’s a delight to feel that vicariously through the words of a skilled writer.

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