Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 13, 2017

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 12 June 2017

Andrew Kennedy and Graeme Fowler walk out to open for Lancashire

Ball One – Target proves to be well within Tom Westley’s compass

With The Kia Oval (sorry, The Oval) unavailable due to The Champions Trophy shindig, third placed Surrey hosted second placed Essex at Guildford on a ground that might fit into their usual home’s playing surface twice over. So when Essex skipper, Ryan ten Doeschate, surprisingly opted to field rather than toss for the right to bat first, he must have fancied a fourth day chase – and, at the end of Day One, with Mark Stoneman 181 runs into a career-best 197, he knew he was getting one whether he liked it or not. After the captain himself had kept Essex in the match with an undefeated 168 to fashion a first innings lead of 36 from a deficit of 265 four down, that Day Four chase turned out to be 253 in 83 overs – reached with a minimum of fuss shortly after tea, the points secured and ten Doeschate’s tactic vindicated. Tom Westley steered the visitors home with a 108*, his second century of the season, both setting up victories. Westley seems to have been around forever (in fact, it’s a decade) but he is still only 28 (consequently comfortably inside the “younger than Mike Hussey when he made his Test debut” metric) and, after a long apprenticeship, seems to be realising his considerable potential in Division One cricket. Essex go up the ladder to top position, while Surrey slide down the snake to fifth.

Ball Two – Adam Lyth tilts the scales in Gary Ballance’s favour

Yorkshire vaulted into second place after an extraordinary win at luckless Somerset (it’s always “luckless” Somerset somehow). On a Taunton strip that produced four completed innings between 202 and 283 (now that’s a “good” pitch for all of the orthodoxy that applies the descriptor “good” to a road), Yorkshire’s depleted attack got the 20 wickets they required with just three runs in hand. That result owed much to the skills and wits of Tykes’ captain, Gary Ballance, whose second innings 98* proved 28 runs more than the next highest knock on either side and was sufficient to set up some inspired captaincy. Whilst analysts crunch data to produce plans that are executed by hitting good areas and playing natural games and so on and on and on, red ball cricket’s unparalleled capacity for setting its participants challenges that demand imagination and guts as well as skills, remains undiminished. With Somerset 96 runs short with six wickets in hand, Ballance tossed the ball to part-time off spinner, Adam Lyth, and asked him to have a go. He was to bowl unchanged to the finish, his spell 15.3 – 1 – 43 – 2, ex-England opener deservedly closing things out with the wicket of Jamie Overton, who was attempting to Kapil Dev his way to the win with Dom Bess in the role of Narendra Hirwani at the other end. Well done Adam Lyth, well done the old warhorse Ryan Sidebottom, whose spell at the death was 6 – 0 – 19 – 3, but biggest congratulations go to Ballance who needed to make something happen – and did.

Ball Three – Lancashire in pole position to stay up thanks to McLaren’s fast start

On the day Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles, I was amongst the throng at Trafalgar Road, Southport, an almost 100% male congregation who drank the bar dry by 2.00pm, and who looked through slightly glazed eyes as TV’s The Analyst, Simon Hughes, took six wickets. 36 years later, Middlesex were back on the Lancashire coast, but the match turned out as unhappily for them as the 1981 match turned out for poor Princess Di. It was a fine team effort from the hosts, who ran out comfortable winners over the champions with all eleven players able to point to a decent contribution, the sign of a side confident in each other’s work and well led. That leadership was called into question in the close season when veterans Shiv Chanderpaul and Ryan McLaren were brought to Old Trafford. While nobody doubted the West Indian’s class, the South African looked the very definition of a journeyman pro, the kind of Kolpak who blocks local lads, picks up the money and pisses off. Not so this time. McLaren has 279 runs in the Champo at 35 and 20 wickets at 25, fifth amongst Division One bowlers. With Liam Livingstone called up for England’s T20 matches and Haseeb Hameed beginning to find a little of the form he needs to justify his return to England colours, the Red Rose’s thin resources will soon be stretched. But, with two wins banked and resting on a 41 points cushion above the drop zone, Lancashire have earned themselves a little breathing space.

Ball Four – Paul Franks stamps his feet in frustration after bore draw in which Samit Patel gorges on runs

Nottinghamshire stay top of Division Two after a second consecutive draw, this time at Bristol. The comatose pitch (match aggregate 1092-23) attracted a few beamers from the visitors’ assistant coach, Paul Franks, who alleged a bit of doctoring after Notts had rolled Gloucestershire for 149 and 231 a fortnight ago at Trent Bridge. That said, take away Samit Patel’s 257* and Franks’ other batsmen couldn’t muster more than Che Pujura’s 67. English cricket does set its players challenges and, sometimes, they can require unorthodox thinking if they are to be solved (see Ball Two above). That said, Franks was right to say that a four day pitch should have some pace and carry (as did the Trent Bridge track in May) – but isn’t it time to develop some proper metrics for what those terms mean? Golf’s stimpmeter is 82 years old and while it’s “roll the ball along the green and measure how far it goes” methodology doesn’t transfer directly to cricket, surely 21st century technology can produce something that gives us objective data on exactly how a pitch plays?

Ball Five – Archer on target for a maroon cap as Sussex win again

Though he has barely got one off the square since assuming the captaincy at Sussex, Chris Nash must think this leadership lark is a piece of cake after notching a second consecutive win to take his side to fifth in Division Two and suddenly in with a shout of mounting a charge for promotion. The form batsman in the country, Luke Wells, whose last four matches have included scores of 258, 155 and, this week, 90* to drive his team comfortably to the 232 runs they needed to defeat Leicestershire, is delivering runs enough for three players. But it’s bowlers who win matches, and Jofra Archer’s match figures of 49.4 – 14 – 137 – 11 won’t have gone unnoticed among those due to play Sussex soon. The 22 year old Bajan has 35 wickets already this season at a Steynesque average of 23 (Vernon Philander has 16 at 27 and Chris Jordan 10 at 44 amongst teammates) and Archer is no mug with the bat either, with two fifties in eight visits to the crease. With the West Indies due to tour in late summer, they could do a lot worse than sending a scout down to the South Coast to see what the kid has got.

Ball Six – Colly’s not for wobbling

Gary Ballance may have claims to be (sort of) English County Cricketer of the Year so far, but he’ll have to walk over my dead body (and plenty more I fancy) if he is to wrest that accolade away from Paul Collingwood. In a desperate attempt to turn their points total positive, Durham bowled at Kent’s last three batsmen for well over an hour, but Numbers 10 and 11, Yasir Shah and Mitch Claydon, held firm and a draw it was (a draw that kept Kent in the second promotion place). But never mind all that, Paul Collingwood made 120 in the first dig and 51* in the second, taking his season aggregate to 636, the highest in Division Two (with just Gary Ballance and Kumar Sangakkara ahead in Division One). Against the background of points penalties, financial restrictions and player exits, for the senior player and club captain to inspire on the field like that, is little short of cricketing heroism. When Brigadier Block does hang up his boots, his first job should be to open The Paul Collingwood Stand at the ground he has graced since 1995.




  1. I think that Jofra Archer’s mother (Or possibly father?) is English. Surely the ECB will have already made certain he’s committed to following in Chris Jordan’s footsteps rather than represent West Indies.

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