Ball One – Middlesex use the Yorkshire formula to defeat Tykes
Middlesex went top of Division One with a crushing win over a depleted Yorkshire XI. At the iconic outground, North Marine Road Scarborough, the home side must have been feeling comfortable after Gary Ballance’s century had powered them to 406 in the first innings, but Stevie Eskinazi, a South Africa born, Australia-raised 22 year old with a British passport, added a White Rose pruning century to his Red Rose ton of last week, making a big impact in his first two Championship matches of the season. James Franklin rolled back the years with a 99 (of a different kind to those available to spectators on the promenade) and 3-62, with Tim Murtagh and Toby Roland-Jones also having good games with bat and ball. It hasn’t happened often, but, with seamers taking plenty of wickets and also scoring match-turning runs, Andrew Gale was given a taste of his own medicine and will lick his wounds, fifth in the table, 15 points off his vanquishers at the summit.
Ball Two – Warwickshire’s experience bears out over Surrey’s young lions
The other positive result in Division One saw Surrey dissipate recent growing optimism at the hands of Warwickshire’s phalanx of ex-Test players. Jonathan Trott made 123, Ian Bell 66 and Tim Ambrose 53 with the bat, with Jeetan Patel taking a fivefer in each innings and getting good support from Rikki Clarke and Boyd Rankin. The Midlanders boasted five players with over 200 First Class matches to their names: Surrey just Gareth Batty and Steven Davies with over 100. The Londoners, now 17 points from safety, will have to grow up in a hurry if they are to play in 2017’s eight team Division One.
Ball Three – Essex win – eventually
A 22 points swing allowed Essex to leapfrog Kent into the promotion slot in Division Two with what turned into a hard-fought win at Chelmsford. It looked all over just after tea on Day Three when Essex’s remarkable second innings of 569 (in which there were no centuries, but six batsmen scored between 49 and 94) had set up the win with just three wickets to wrap up and a lead of 234 in hand. Cue a record-breaking 222 run stand between Sam Northeast, enjoying the season of his life, and James Tredwell, who usually does his best work when he’s been written off. It was 80 overs before they were separated and, just over half an hour after that, Essex had their victory. Division Two cricket has its critics – me for one – but that was good stuff from the Kent pair.
Ball Four – Extraordinary Joe gets a ton and a call-up
There was another excellent cricket match at New Road, where Worcestershire were set 366 off 75 overs and got them with ten balls to spare. Jack Leach enjoyed the rare distinction of making two half-centuries at Number 8, the second a quickfire 64 that got the home team over the line. But the chase was orchestrated by 20 years old Joe Clarke, who got lucky with an umpires’ recall in the second innings, but then did what good players do with such fortune – made it count. He saw 73-4 on the board at one point in his knock, but didn’t leave the crease until just 21 more runs were needed having made his third Championship century of the season. His reward is a slot in the England Lions squad named this week. Leicestershire’s reward was a paltry five points from a match in which they been ahead for all but the last hour.
Ball Five – Buttler serves up a thrilling knock, but is that enough?
Performance of the Week in the T20 North Group goes to Jos Buttler, whose 20 minutes of mayhem – all scoops and drills, the vocabulary of demolition rather than cricket – reduced Lancashire’s tough target of 199 in 20 overs to a straightforward 105 in 16.2. What to do with Jos Buttler is becoming a question for English cricket, as it just cannot be wise to have perhaps world cricket’s most explosive young batsman playing a few white ball games for England and Lancashire. Buttler is exactly the kind of sports star – articulate, photogenic and compelling – that marketing department’s dream of, yet he’s slightly lost in the English game and never really got going in the IPL this year nor in his brief spell in the Big Bash. One can’t help feeling that Buttler could be the poster boy English cricket needs, even more so than Ben Stokes, but he needs some of the marketing of Michael Jordan to realise that potential. And Sky need to build their future audiences, so could do a lot worse than show all their T20 cricket free-to-air.
Ball Six – Timm van der Gugten swaps tulips for daffodils to impressive effect
After two wins in a week, Glamorgan sit at the top of the South Group, with games in hand over most of their rivals. Performance of the Week goes to their Australian bowler Timm van der Gugten, who plays his international cricket (if, perhaps, for no other reason than that splendid name) for the Netherlands. On Thursday at home to Sussex, his figures were 4-0-17-4 and he backed that up on Friday against Middlesex with 3-1-13-2 – it isn’t easy scoring sufficient runs to win off the other bowlers when one is as tight as that. van der Gugten runs in without any frills, holds the seam up and hits the deck hard – a simple formula that has brought him 21 wickets at 32 in the Championship and he goes at less than a run a ball in 50 overs cricket and not much more than that in the 20 overs format. There’s much to be said (in cricket as in life) for knowing one’s strengths and sticking to them.