Ball One – More success for Moores
In a rain affected round of matches in the County Championship, the only positive result came at Trent Bridge, where Nottinghamshire continued their remarkable run of form with a crushing win over Warwickshire. Though the return of captain, leader, legend Chris Read has much to do with the surge that has lifted Notts from the relegation zone to within 16 points of second place, the role of Peter Moores cannot be overstated. He may have failed twice with England, but Moores knows exactly what’s required at domestic level, and he’s weaving his magic again.
Ball Two – Samit feasts on Durham’s middle order
In a busy week for the game, four Royal London One Day Cup quarter-finals were played over three days, with Nottinghamshire maintaining their fine form to bowl out Durham in the gloom at Trent Bridge. Star of the show was England’s forgotten man, Samit Patel, whose canny slow left arm, backed up by scoreboard pressure, destroyed Durham just as they were looking to accelerate. Though only 30, Samit’s international days are probably behind him, but few counties wouldn’t want his nous with bat or ball to call upon in a tight corner. James Taylor’s men travel to The Oval for a semi-final against Surrey.
Ball Three – A last hurrah for a hero of 2005?
Gloucestershire will face Yorkshire in the other semi-final, after chasing down Hampshire’s 217 (34 overs) at Bristol. Though Jack Taylor’s quickfire 34 caught the eye as his team raced for the line, wise old Geraint Jones, a decade on from those Ashes partnerships with Andrew Flintoff, was at the other end, steering the ship home with 39 not out at just better than a run a ball. Of England’s 12 MBEs, he may have enjoyed the lowest profile of all since 2005, but he’s just one match from a showpiece Lord’s final, an international cricketer happy to graft away below the radar in county cricket these last nine seasons.
Ball Four – Lancashire’s spin twins could do a job for England
Stephen Parry’s slow (sometimes very slow) bowling has already brought him five England caps in white ball cricket and he is well known around the country as one of the canniest operators in the middle overs of a one day match. His left arm spin has been complemented in the last couple of seasons by the off breaks of Arron Lilley, who goes at just over 5 in List A matches and just under 7 in T2os, figures that stand comparison with anyone in the country. The classic left-right combination were at it again on T20 Finals Day, strangling Hampshire in the semi-final with combined figures of 8-0-32-5 and repeating the trick in the final, restricting Northamptonshire with figures of 7-0-43-1. Both field like demons and are no mugs with the bat, which always helps these days. With England scheduled to play a lot of white ball cricket in the next nine months and Moeen Ali’s workload needing to be managed, the spin cupboard may not be as bare as a media (which largely ignores the domestic game) would have us believe.
Ball Five – Fairytales do come true
He may never play in front of so large a crowd again, but 21 year old seamer, Gavin Griffiths, a product Lancashire’s development programme, was thrust into the afternoon T20 Blast semi-final for a debut of fire and played his second match in the evening, with his team in sight of its first one day honours since the 90s. He was even entrusted to bowl the 20th over with the (hideous) trophy not quite secured and surely a heart beating out of his chest. Five minutes later, after a perfectly executed series of six deliveries, he was engulfed by jubilant teammates, the young man doubtless unable to believe it all. That kind of fairytale wouldn’t happen in an eight franchise city based tournament, but it happened on Saturday, so let’s enjoy it while we can.
Ball Six – T20 Finals Day is good, but it could be better
Three ways to improve T20 Finals Day. (i) Schedule it in the Premier League football “blank” weekend, when domestic cricket can be the biggest sports story of the day – next Sunday for instance. (ii) Show it free-to-air – it might even act as a loss leader that sells subscriptions for the late season ODIs, particularly for Sky’s on-demand service, Now TV. (iii) Bring whatever technology is required to ensure that the pitch has pace and bounce and is, as far as possible, a 180 par surface.