Ball One – Cricket needs some of Harry Potter’s magic
Advertisers know the power of building narrative if they want to maximise the power of marketing. Oxo and Gold Blend are two brands of many that created stories that ran for years in highly anticipated TV slots that became a news story in their own rights. Then there are the Harry Potter books and films and movie franchises that, like Mad Max, can take a break that lasts decades and be confident that fans will simply pick things up where they left off. What we do not see are the same characters stepping out of one story and into another, before coming back, then going away again and so on – even James Bond was James Bond in the Olympics Opening Ceremony. But county cricket, struggling to hold its tenuous place in the skittish national consciousness and having endured a lacklustre start to the County Championship, has now binned its most prestigious competition for a few weeks in favour of its most lucrative (the NatWest T20 Blast) and its most unnecessary (the Royal London Cup). I presume it all looked fine on the spreadsheets in the powerpoint presentation.
Ball Two – Tom Kohler-Cadmore adds fizz to Worcestershire’s batting
There are at least a couple of reasons why it’s surprising to find Worcestershire at the top of the T20 North Group, but there they are, after four wins in five matches. The Midlanders’ most recent win came courtesy of a last over victory over Northamptonshire, chasing down 170. 21 year-old Tom Kohler-Cadmore (“Pepsi” to his friends) again caught the eye in a season in which he is realising his potential, anchoring the innings with 60. He’s a name to watch and, with a name like that, that shouldn’t be too difficult to do!
Ball Three – Dominic Sibley back in form
In the T20 South Group, Surrey top the table, level on points with Glamorgan and Sussex. While the Dale Steyns and Dwayne Bravos score highly in the name-recognition stakes, franchise globetrotters don’t always deliver – the game is bigger than even Shahid Afridi and Chris Gayle. So it was good to see Dominic Sibley play well on Thursday evening, his 67 helping the South Londoners to an easy win over Hampshire (though his undefeated 74 could not prevent a Somerset win on Friday). Batting ten hours for 242 against Yorkshire as an 18 year-old is about as big an expectation raiser as you can get and Sibley has struggled in the last two seasons with that burden, only twice passing fifty before this week’s knocks. But the evidence is there – at 20, he hits a long white ball from a solid base and can also maintain the concentration to bat all day against the red ball. When Surrey resume their dismal County Championship campaign, I hope they will find room for this gifted cricketer to develop.
Ball Four – Michael Lumb in plum form
Early days in the 50 overs competition, the Royal London Cup, but that hasn’t stopped Nottinghamshire’s Michael Lumb and Riki Wessels teeing off with partnerships of 342 and 178 to defeat Northamptonshire and Warwickshire. Lumb may be 36 now, but has played only three ODIs for England (scoring 106, 39 and 20 three years ago in the West Indies). England play 10 ODIs this summer, evenly split between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, so they’ll need a few players. If they go for a form batsman or two to assist rotation, Lumb can expect a call.
Ball Five – Hampshire showing belief in young players
Hampshire fielded two teenagers against Middlesex at Radlett: Joe Weatherley opened the batting and Mason Crane bowled his full allocation of ten overs (they also fielded a 21 year-old Lewis McManus at wicketkeeper). It’s easy to hide youngsters in an ODI match – three overs and 12 not out at 8 slogging at the end for example – but Sean Ervine showed admirable faith in his charges, especially Crane who went for 80, but did take four wickets including superstars Brendon McCullum and Eoin Morgan. Hampshire’s enterprise was rewarded with a win after a breathless Duckworth/Lewis chase of 202 in 26 overs.
Ball Six – Yorkshire find solace in a no result
Friday’s rain brought an abandonment without a ball being bowled at Edgbaston, but at least it meant a point for Jason Gillespie’s men. So far this season, the Tykes have lost (often heavily) in white ball cricket to Worcestershire (twice), Lancashire and Leicestershire., continuing a trend over the last couple of seasons in which their cricket is transformed from four day domination to one day capitulation. Quite how such an exciting mix of three dimensional cricketers (there’s batting all the way down the order and lots of bowling options, whoever gets picked) continually fails to deliver is a mystery. No better place to put that right than under lights in front of a partisan crowd at Old Trafford on Wednesday in the Royal London Cup.