Ball One – Josh Cobb swans into form with bat and ball.
After a close season of financial worries, Northamptonshire may even be surprising themselves by sitting joint top of the T20 Blast North Group having played six matches. Their latest win came against a much stronger (at least on paper) Durham line-up, whom they reduced to 9-4 and then took wickets at crucial moments to defend 161 successfully. The key wicket was Paul Collingwood, who had led the fightback and was about to launch the pyrotechnics when he fell to one of Josh Cobb’s darts. It was a good match for Cobb who was once exactly the kind of three-dimensional young cricketer England were looking for: hard hitting batsman; handy “pace-off” bowler and athletic fielder. He has barely scored a run this season, so he will have been pleased with his 68 off 48 balls, top scoring by a distance. Still just 25, he has time to come again as a key performer in white ball cricket for a county who need the big paydays more than most.
Ball Two – Andre Russell takes the nuclear option to seal easy win for Nottinghamshire
In Saturday’s televised match, Nottinghamshire clawed back some ground on the other county at the top of the North Group, Worcestershire, making a chase of 165 look very easy. For that, they had their imports to thank, Dan Christian imperiously smiting sixes inside-out over extra cover and Andre Russell standing and swiping it miles over cow corner despite being incapacitated by a leg injury. Russell has made mincemeat of better attacks than Worcestershire’s over the years and everyone knows what’s coming – so it was disappointing then to see few yorkers attempted, as even he can’t baseball those over midwicket. The yorker is no easy delivery to summon at will, but it’s surprising that it is used as infrequently as it is. Glenn McGrath might be wondering the same thing.
Ball Three – David Lloyd’s batting carries a sting for Glamorgan
Things are very tight in the South Group, Glamorgan one point ahead of a three team logjam on eight points (Surrey, Sussex and Gloucestershire). David Lloyd may have a famous name, but, having turned 24 last week, he hasn’t had the opportunity to build up much in the way of famous deeds yet, particularly as he is one of those bits and pieces players who goes up and down the order and gets tossed the ball when a breakthrough is needed. He found himself opening against Kent and was still there at the end, 97 not out, Glamorgan’s total of 175 easily enough to see off Kent. It’s perhaps a specific 21st century problem for a young cricketer, switching formats, required to display skills in the three disciplines of the game and also to be as fit an athlete as any other professional sportsman or sportswoman these days. Is such a varied set of expectations a good apprenticeship or a mishmash of responsibilities that never allows a true specialism to flourish?
Ball Four – Zafar Ansari the answer to many questions at Surrey
Another young player who has developed a game to cope with white and red ball cricket in a range of roles is Zafar Ansari, Surrey’s all-rounder, whose season is just getting going after injury problems that kept him out of England’s winter tour to the UAE. He played a pivotal role in Surrey’s win over Middlesex at a damp Oval, in which everyone involved should be commended for getting the full forty overs in with 21,000 spectators to entertain. At 24 years of age, he finds himself in the tricky finisher’s role, this week arriving at the crease with the score 94-5 after 12.1 overs. His 34 not out balanced risk and reward intelligently, steering Surrey to a competitive 173-7, which subsequently proved enough, especially as he and fellow spinner, Gareth Batty shared six overs and four wickets for the concession of just 41 runs.
Ball Five – Adam Lyth in form as Yorkshire’s squad shows its depth
In the 50 overs Royal London Cup, the performance of the week in the North Group came from Adam Lyth whose second century in two days lifted Yorkshire to 325-7 in the Roses match at Old Trafford. That proved far too much for the home side, who capitulated to 84 all out with only Martin Guptill’s quickfire 45 reaching double figures. Despite being in patchy form, 20 year-old spinner, Karl Carver, was given a game and er… sliced through the late middle-order taking three wickets in no time. With Azeem Rafiq back at Yorkshire after two years out in the cold, competition for places remains as strong as ever under Jason Gillespie, England calls or not.
Ball Six – Michael Klinger is a craftsman at work
In the South Group, Gloucestershire got their season off the mark in a runfest at Bristol, their 352 enough by just ten runs after Hampshire’s valiant chase. The home captain, Michael Klinger, won the Man of the Match award for his unbeaten 166, part of an opening stand of 242 with Chris Dent (142). Klinger, now a veteran who turns 36 next month, is exactly the sort of experienced Australian who can really help a smaller county as captain (and possibly coach on retirement). He has nearly 450 appearances under his belt and, though never an international, has scored 49 hundreds across the three formats of the game. And, having backed up that century with T20 scores of 78 and 60 this week, there’s no sign of him slowing down.