Ball One – Greg Smith forges a hard hit fifty as Essex are hammered by Notts
It was T20 quarter-finals week in county cricket (with the final one clashing with both the Olympics and the Fourth Test, but ho hum…). The first quarter-final saw Essex win the toss and invite the home side to bat at Trent Bridge. Both sides would probably have settled for the 162 posted by Notts, Greg Smith (a man who averages 27 in all three forms of the game) top scoring with 50. At the end of the powerplay, Ravi Bopara must have been content with his decision to bat second, the scoreboard showing 62-0, the required rate a comfortable 7.2. But Jesse Ryder was run out in the seventh over and, for once, there was no late order rescue from Ryan ten Doeschate nor James Foster and even Graham Napier couldn’t smash a six or two in consolation. Nottinghamshire progress to Finals Day and have something from a disappointing season.
Ball Two – Adam Rossington – first man in to bat and still there at the end
Another one-sided match saw Northants progress at home to Middlesex, who just couldn’t get going, scoring 65 in the first ten overs but adding just 67 more in the second half of their innings. 133 was never going to trouble Alex Wakeley’s men who could pace their innings knowing that they were only ever a boundary or two away from being up with the ask. Adam Rossington opened and was still there at the end, cruising to 67 not out. Northants have a bit of everything in their XI and could well be dark horses on Finals Day.
Ball Three – Colly wobbles but Durham progress after late scare
It looked like the third quarter-final would be as one-sided as the previous two when Gloucestershire, roughed up by Durham’s Mark Wood, slumped to 54-5 at the halfway mark, needing another 127 for the win. Jack Taylor, with nothing to nothing to lose, swung at everything and middled most, with Paul Collingwood despatched for 22 runs from three legitimate deliveries before his high full tosses required him to call up Scott Borthwick to finish his over. Colly’s economy rate was a eye-watering 44! But Taylor couldn’t do it all himself, a last over comedy run out with his brother sealing Gloucestershire’s fate and giving Durham fans a rare day out at Edgbaston.
Ball Four – David Willey stands out as Yorkshire see off Glamorgan
So that’s why they signed David Willey. Over the last few years, Yorkshire’s red ball cricket has been almost irresistible, with two Championship pennants in the last couple of summers to prove it, but their white ball stuff has been curiously flat. That’s not an adjective you would ever use to describe the aggressive David Willey, who went in first, went aerial and will be going to Finals Day with, if both win their semi-finals, the prospect of facing his old county, Northamptonshire, on cricket’s biggest domestic day. Purists (and they are not short of them in The Broad Acres) might want to see a bit more of his skills in the four day format, but nobody will be thinking that at Edgbaston where he will open the batting and bowling bristling with intent.
Ball Five – Keaton Jennings spies a window of opportunity
With England’s red ball cricket season coming to a close, it’s timely to look at who has impressed in county cricket and might just sneak a place in a touring squad. Keaton Jennings is top of the pops amongst Division One batsmen, his 965 runs coming at 69 including five hundreds (and over 250 ahead of team-mate Scott Borthwick). Now qualified for England, the tall left-handed bat can also bowl a little seam up, a useful string to one’s bow in an England side whose change bowler (Joe Root) has a long term back condition. Perhaps one might like to see more than one season of accomplishment before an England cap is awarded, but Jennings has had his eye on one since declaring for England four years ago, and he is not far away now.
Ball Six – Gareth Batty – the new Shaun Udal?
Amongst the bowlers in county cricket, few are enjoying a season like Surrey’s Gareth Batty. The ruddy-faced combative (sometimes too combative) Yorkshireman has 36 wickets at 28 and is bowling better than ever. With England casting about for a second (maybe a first) spinner, could Batty do “a Udal”? The combative (sometimes too combative) Hampshire spinner was 37 when he bowled England to a series squaring win in Mumbai ten years ago. Perhaps whenever England need to play a second spinner, the form man should be picked, regardless of age.