Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 15, 2017

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 15 May 2017

Friends? Just for this week. Please?

Ball One – Three out of three this week? The only one is Essex.

With one round of matches to come, Essex top the South Group, assured of a place in the knockout stage after three wins in the last five days. The last of that hat-trick was a convincing display at home to second place Somerset, the Westcountrymen seen off by 72 runs. It was a real team effort too, Tom Westley’s round 100 supported by Ravi Bopara’s 92* and (I kid you not) Alastair Cook’s 65 off 71 balls – the old chorister can rock out after all. Cue the “pace-off” men to apply the tourniquet in the middle overs, spinners Simon Harmer and Ashar Zaidi picking up 3-89 in 17.2 overs and wily old foxes, Bopara and Ryan ten Doeschate notching a couple of scalps, as they shared 10 overs for just 50 runs. It’s a bowling formula that can work in May – it’ll need to work on the harder pitches of June if Essex are to bring home a second one day knockout trophy since 1998.

Ball Two – Surrey’s Sanga smashes Hampshire

Somerset are assured of a place in the eliminator (teams finishing second and third in each table progress to a match to determine who will face the group winners away in the semi-finals), but the other South Group place lies between Surrey and Sussex. (But, bizarrely, Glamorgan who currently lie fourth having finished their matches, might go through on net run rate if Sussex lose and Surrey get hammered. Cricket wouldn’t want to make anything too simple now would it?) Both sides are away, Surrey at Bristol and Sussex at the Rose Bowl, but the Londoners will be feeling confident having disposed of Kent and Hampshire in their last two games. The latter victory was due in large part to the ageless Kumar Sangakkara who, having watched George Bailey brilliantly rescue his team’s innings from an abject 89-7 with a beautifully constructed 145*, calmly drove, cut and pulled his way to 124* before the rain came to South London to put the visitors out of their misery. At 39, it was a 96th century in List A / first class cricket for the master batsman. with only a run out looking likely as a dismissal. The Lankan doesn’t often get the accolades that Sachin or Brian or Ricky get, but he fully deserves his place in The Pantheon. One day, we’ll tell our grandchildren that, “Yes. I saw Sangakkara bat”.

Ball Three – DI Stevens: still criminally underrated?

James Vince has a decent shout for Performance of the Week in the South Group having made 178 off 138 balls as Hampshire piled up 332 – which they then failed to defend against Glamorgan, for whom Colin Ingram scored a century and Chris Cooke smashed 59* in the last eight overs. But he played a shocking shot at The Oval on Sunday, so he forfeits the award in favour of an old (very old) favourite of this column. Darren Stevens, at 41, chrisgayled 147 off 67 balls with 10 fours and 14 sixes smashed into the Welsh air on the ground where Garry Sobers eviscerated Malcolm Nash all those years ago. Unfortunately for the grizzled old stager, ten other batsman (and extras) couldn’t muster the remaining 210 runs off the other 233 legitimate deliveries and Kent lost. But few in attendance at Swansea on Sunday will be talking about Glamorgan’s win for long – they’ll be talking about the 35 sixes they saw, almost half of them off the bat of a man who is 19 months older than Andrew Flintoff and Stephen Harmison.

Ball Four – A bit of Daryl Mitchell leaves Durham’s innings in pieces

In the North Group, Worcestershire secured a knockout spot with a home win over Durham. Another of this column’s much-mentioned cricketers over the last few years, Daryl Mitchell, found a way to contribute to the cause again. After failing with the bat, he had to wait until the 24th over before Joe Leach tossed him the ball with Durham sitting pretty on 122-1, the required rate below a run a ball. The seventh bowler to be used, Mitchell held his nerve when centurion, Graham Clark took him for ten off two balls and bowled his next two overs for six runs and the wicket of Michael Richardson. With nine overs left and the required rate a more challenging, but gettable, 8.1, Mitchell took the ball again picking up the wicket of Ryan Pringle and gaining revenge with Clark’s, as his three overs went at a run a ball. Like Stevens, Mitchell can be damned with the descriptor “Bits And Pieces”, but you don’t have to be Jacques Kallis to do a job for your county.

Ball Five – David Willey isn’t getting enough action

Yorkshire join Worcestershire in progressing from the North Group, the necessary points secured in a resounding win over Northamptonshire. There was no way back for the home side after Gary Ballance, the season’s form batsman, had made 152* off 118 balls and then David Willey had dismissed the dangerous Ben Duckett and Rob Newton on his old stomping ground to leave his ex-employers 11-4 in the third over. Though he’s picking up wickets here and there, Willey has scored just 30 runs in senior cricket this season, batting down the order for Yorkshire (if at all). For a man in the prime of his career (at 27 years of age) with five centuries and 22 fifties on his CV, that’s a waste of talent. One can’t help thinking that he might have been better to stay at Wantage Road and form a frightening white ball opening partnership with Duckett, that might translate to T20Is, if not ODIs.

Ball Six – Jordan Clark turning into a Lancastrian superman

Performance of the Week in the North Group goes to a man who a few weeks ago was definitely a “bits and pieces” merchant but has blossomed into a genuine all-rounder, Lancashire’s Jordan Clark. At Old Trafford, arriving at the crease with his team on an awkward “stick or twist” score of 153-5 in 31 overs with not much batting to come, he made 79* off 58 balls, while Dane Vilas made a ton at the other end, the partnership unbroken and worth 160 runs. With ball in hand, he ripped through the Worcestershire middle order, his figures of 8-0-34-4 making the match safe for the home side with less than half the overs bowled. Lancashire are still in with a chance of squeezing through on Tuesday, but will need to beat Durham away and see wins for Northants and Yorkshire over Notts and Leicestershire respectively. So – hands across the Pennines?

 

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