Ball One – Four players do the work of 11
The musical chairs at top of Division One continued this week, with Durham finding themselves at the summit when the music stopped, with a handy cushion of 11 points as we head to midsummer. That’s almost entirely thanks to the bowlers who, collectively, had a good match with the ball and with the bat. When Durham were 119-6 in the first innings and again at 101-6 in the second, Somerset must have thought they were in with a shout, but Paul Coughlin (0, 54), John Hastings (28, 79), Chris Rushworth (13, 43) and Graham Onions (1*, 3*) gave themselves something to bowl at and then shared 19 of the 20 wickets between them. All four are exactly the kind of resourceful cricketer any side intending to compete hard in 16 four day matches spread over six months needs – though the quartet will hope to get a bit more help in the future.
Ball Two – Bairstow for Buttler for England?
Yorkshire beat Middlesex at Headingley in a low scoring match that finished with both teams level on points in the table with the Tykes holding a game in hand. 14 wickets fell on the first day, 10 on the second and 12 on the third – so it was the kind of match in which one innings can make all the difference. That knock was played by Jonny Bairstow, whose 125* was 55 runs more than the next best in the match (that from another ex-England man, Nick Compton). Bairstow is averaging over 80 in the County Championship, two tons and three fifties already notched in his three matches to date. With Jos Buttler’s batting for England becoming crucial in all formats, is there a case for his following the likes of Kumar Sangakarra and Alec Stewart, with the masterblaster selected as a specialist batsman? If so, the Yorkshire keeper (if he plays straight and not round his front pad, as he did when last having a taste of the international game) will let nobody down at Number 7, nor with the gloves.
Ball Three – Fidel’s industry means Hampshire can get the cigars out at last
The nine team format in Division One allied to the 16 points for a win does reward attacking cricket / result pitches (delete to taste) and nowhere more so than at Hove, where Sussex (three wins, four defeats, no draws) are enjoying a topsy-turvy season. Hampshire won’t complain though, their first win of 2015 lifting them to mid-table respectability. That result was always likely once Fidel Edwards had shot out four of the home team’s top five at the end of Day Two, Sussex already half way through their second innings on a capricious track. It’s good to see Fidel (33 now), an uncomplicated bowler who simply gets it down to the other end as quickly as possible, back in the county game and doing well. One can’t help but cast a thought towards Jamaica though, where the once mighty West Indies can field just the two quicks against Australia in the Test match.
Ball Four – Smiles under Giles at Old Trafford
Lancashire marched on towards promotion with their fifth win of the season taking them a yawning 60 points clear of third place Glamorgan with two to go up in September. Though there was another handy contribution from World Cup Final Man of the Match, James Faulkner (covering for the absent Peter Siddle, away with Australia but not in their Test team), Zimbabwean quick, Kyle Jarvis, took nine scalps in the match for just 106 runs. Jarvis has 47 wickets at 21 with half the season left to play and the magical 100 wickets mark just about in sight. He, like his fellow players and the often difficult to please membership at Old Trafford, is enjoying life under Ashley Giles.
Ball Five – Vince convinces in well timed chase
We’re roughly at the halfway point of the T20 Blast too with no county completely out of it, the top four in each group progressing to the quarter-finals (though Derbyshire and, perhaps surprisingly, Surrey and Northamptonshire need to get a move on). Performance of the Week goes to Hampshire captain, James Vince, who, on a misty, drizzly night, steered his team to the sanctuary of 187, the 18 overs target achieved with a ball to spare at Canterbury. The skipper’s contribution was a perfectly judged 99* off 57 balls, including five sixes off a flogged Kent attack. With one England ODI cap (in the subsequently abandoned match in Ireland last month), Vince will act as a useful touchstone for England’s brave new world of white ball cricket. When a slot becomes available in the upper order (as the madcap international schedule makes almost inevitable), do the selectors go for an Ian Bell or a Ravi Bopara or do they embrace the future and go with the 24 year-old Vince?
Ball Six – Scheduling is tricky, but cricket has to be smarter
Fitting three domestic competitions into the English summer is tough enough – roll in demands for “appointment events”, an easily followed narrative and at least some time for players to adjust from one format to the next and you have a puzzle that might fox Magnus Carlsen. But it seemed ill-judged to schedule eight T20 matches on Friday night directly against England’s second ODI of a thrilling series (and another three on Sunday against the third ODI) while Saturday featured just the one T20 match. With no domestic football, nor England Euro 2016 qualifier, nor any rugby, nor tennis to distract the casual sports fan, if they did fancy a bit of cricket, there was no match in England to watch. June 13 was unlucky for them.