Ball One – Local hero delivers right on time
Durham’s sixth win of a remarkable first half of the season means they can put their feet up this week secure in the knowledge that their 29 points cushion will ensure that they start next week’s crunch match against Yorkshire perched on top of Division One. As usual, when skipper Paul Collingwood needed a man to stand up, one did. John Hastings was in the runs again, Chris Rushworth chalked up another fivefer, and Scott Borthwick turned back the clock with a fourth day four wicket haul. But Durham’s top scorer in each innings, with a match aggregate of 196 runs for once out, was Gordon Muchall. He has been in and out of Durham’s first choice XI, but in a small squad with England calling for Ben Stokes and Mark Wood, he’s just the sort of player to come in and do a job. And, in an age of franchise cricket when even journeymen can pick up contracts for some very exotically named teams, it’s pleasing to note that Geordie Muchall’s major teams are listed simply as “Durham”.
Ball Tw0 – Barker bites again
Warwickshire’s innings victory over Worcestershire tucked Varun Chopra’s men into second place with Ian Bell’s welcome hundred deservedly catching the eye. Though, and not for the first time, Warwickshire were grateful for the work churned out by their all-rounders, Rikki Clarke and Keith Barker, both of whom made fifties with the bat and, though Clarke went wicketless, Barker had match figures of 7-91 – few sides keep both of them out for long. Barker’s name is a regular in these columns, but that doesn’t diminish what he offers: a left arm opening bowler with 28 wickets at 27 this season, who also averages 42 with the bat, makes balancing a side very simple. At 28, it’s not too late for the Test call-up (especially as he only started playing first class cricket at 22) but will it ever come? Adam Voges must once have asked himself the same question.
Ball Three – Carter the unstoppable spin machine
Not many matches are won from a position of 257 runs behind with two first innings wickets left, but that’s what Somerset achieved at Taunton against a Nottinghamshire side who have dropped into one of the relegation slots. It’s a debut that teenage off-spinner, Matthew Carter will look back on with bittersweet memories, his ten wickets including a first innings 7-56, the best Championship debut return by a spinner since the War. That augurs well for the long term future of Notts (and, perhaps, England) but the next three months are of more concern to captain Chris Read, who cannot come back from injury soon enough.
Ball Four – Wagg wags Glamorgan tail
In Division Two, Lancashire’s sixth win of the season sent them sixty points clear of third placed Glamorgan in the race for the two promotion slots. The Welshmen are there courtesy of an extraordinary match played at Guildford, an outground that offers batsmen short boundaries and a flat pitch. That is not to diminish the feats of two men who have not enjoyed the smoothest of career progressions, but who reached highs last week. Arun Harinath’s scores for Surrey seconds in June were 7, 28, 0, 11, 2, 2, and 20, but, so stretched were Surrey’s squad after the terrible accident that saw Rory Burns and Moises Henriques hospitalised, that he was called up to the firsts and responded with twin tons, a fine reward for a popular player in an emotional match for everyone connected to Surrey. Glamorgan’s Graham Wagg has always had the talent but it’s never quite come together for him and, at 32, time is running out. But, having posted his third first class century late on Day Two, he came out on Day Three and smashed eight sixes to raise the first Championship double hundred by a number eight since Dominic Cork back in 2000. In ten years time or so, both players will look back on their careers and wonder about what might have been – but both will always have Guildford 2015.
Ball Five – DI Stevens gets on Surrey’s case with a fine all-round display
Thirteen counties still hold legitimate hopes of qualifying for the T20 Blast quarter-finals with only Derbyshire and (curiously) the two well-supported London counties looking too far back. Performance of the Week came from the Englishman fifth on the all-time T20 runs ladder, Darren Stevens, whose 172nd match (more than eight of his opponents could muster combined) saw him smash 90 off 39 balls as Surrey went for a round 100 off the last seven overs. Not finished with bullying the kids, the old bruiser then chipped in with four wickets to show the value of nous in the shortest form of the game. Kent are top of the South Group and Surrey are bottom.
Ball Six – Kent’s shirt is plain awful
Proceeds from sales of Kent Spitfires’ replica shirts include a donation to the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust – but can even that good cause excuse such eye-bleedingly horrendous design? Well, the public have spoken – it’s already sold out. And let’s not even start on the trousers…