Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 2, 2017

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 2 July 2017

Essex need to keep their heads to have a great chance of winning the pennant.

Ball One – The only win is Essex’s

Essex can even beat the weather, their win at Chelmsford over defending champions, Middlesex the only positive result in Division One, enough to take them 29 points clear at the top with six games to play. It was an extraordinary match, one packed with drama, a fine advert for county cricket – day or night. There were records aplenty for the stats enthusiasts and, for those with a more subjective outlook, it’s a contender for the greatest win in the county’s history. Day One had hurtled along, powered by Paul Stirling’s 77 biffed off just 50 balls, Middlesex all out for 246 in fewer than 60 overs, ceding the crease to Alastair Cook and Nick Browne, who reduced the deficit to 140 before the close of a breathless day. After a washout on Tuesday, the openers batted on and on, not separated until the stand reached 373, Cook the first to go seven short of his double century. Browne (as is becoming his habit) got his double and there was time for Varun Chopra (subbed in as Tom Westley was fed to the Lions) to bash a quick, round undefeated hundred before the champions were challenged to bat out three and a half sessions for the draw. They were nine balls short of achieving that objective when Simon Harmer snared Steven Finn, his ninth wicket of the innings and 14th of the match, to send team-mates (and more records) scattering.

Ball Two – Andrew Umeed’s knock in vain as rain provides a bittersweet conclusion in Birmingham

The weather denied fans a fascinating finish at Edgbaston as Lancashire, needing points to challenge at the top, and Warwickshire, needing points to survive at the bottom, would surely have set up an interesting fourth innings chase had the rain gods relented. The visitors will be the more aggrieved, having knocked over seven of the home side’s struggling batsmen with the lead a useful 89, before Andrew Umeed (on his way to an eight hour 113) found a partner in Jeetan Patel, who, playing against type, caught the mood with a two hour 50 to eek out a first innings lead. Umeed’s vigil has injected some backbone into the Warwickshire batting which they will need as they face a tough second half to their campaign. Lancashire fans will see the nine points earned as a step closer to safety, no matter their second place in the table.

Ball Three – Five for 21st century boy, Hamidullah Qadri

Derbyshire don’t win many Champo matches, but they don’t play many 16 year-olds either. Hamidullah Qadri (born 5 December 2000 – just think about that for a moment) returned figures of 15-8-16-1 in Glamorgan’s first innings to show that he wasn’t overawed by being a boy amongst men, and went into the last day with 210 runs in hand and ten wickets to get – that’s the job description of a county spinner writ in neon. Five wickets (including three of the last four) later, the boy became a man in cricketing terms, as he bowled his team to their first win in two years. It’s a strange alchemy that turns youthful promise into sustained success and a stellar start does not guarantee star billing in the future, but with Imran Tahir coming to Derby, the young man from Kandahar should listen and learn more about the spinner’s art than merely how to celebrate a wicket.

Ball Four – “So fair and foul a day I have not seen” or… a typical English Summer

I went to an outdoor performance of Macbeth on Wednesday at Covent Garden and, knowing from previous years how chilly it can be, I wore two fleeces under a coat – and was still freezing cold by the time Macduff saw off the psychotic King. While boozy, raucous, carnivalesque Twenty20 is an experience more akin to attending a festival gig, County Championship cricket is more like watching a play – to appreciate it, you need to sit still and concentrate, catting sotto voce. No doubt the pink ball will be evaluated and attendances monitored – opening on a Monday night is never an easy sell, as any theatre producer will tell you – but maybe we’re looking at the issue through the wrong end of the telescope. With the bumper new television deal for International and T20 cricket announced last week, perhaps the time has come to make entry to County Championship games free, making money on the day through concessions and hospitality. Memberships might still be sold in a range of packages covering white ball cricket, access to pavilions and subsidised bars and other benefits – there are enough examples out there for marketing managers to plagiarise after all.

Ball Five – Stoneman is rock solid for Surrey

At the RLODC Final in front of more white seats than should be visible at the second biggest day in county cricket’s fixture list, Surrey got off to a flier, the ball coming off the bat as quickly as it came on to it, pace – as is so often the case – welcomed by top order batsmen with a licence to drive, cut and pull in the powerplay. But Samit Patel turned a few on a pitch that gripped and Steven Mullaney’s dibbly-dobblers somehow dismissed Surrey’s two trump cards, Kumar Sangakkara and Ben Foakes. Though both James Pattinson and Stuart Broad bowled with rhythm and pace (as class acts should), the value of bowlers who can nag away at 55mph – 65mph was underlined again (Samit and Mullaney’s combined figures were 19-0-101-5). Had Nottinghamshire’s fielding been up to the standards of the 90s – the 1890s perhaps – Surrey, led by Mark Stoneman’s 144 (dropped on 32) would have posted a target well below the 298 Notts were obliged to chase.

Ball Six – All hail Alex Hales

When Alex Hales broke into the England one day side, I saw something of a right-handed Marcus Trescothick in his stand and deliver biffing, a big man who intimidated, Haydenesquely, with presence as much as power. It didn’t quite turn out that way internationally, despite some fine performances, but, from the moment he was dropped by Ollie Pope on 9, it felt like his day. He hit the ball very hard indeed, but eschewed the unorthodox, driving, cutting, pulling and cutting to make a One Day Final record 187* . All he needed was a partner and he eventually found one in his captain, Chris Read, who busily rotated the strike and peppered the boundary. As the sun came out at long last and the shadows lengthened, Surrey slid to another Lord’s disappointment – but Hales would have dealt with ten bowlers and 15 fielders in that mood.

 

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Responses

  1. I particularly like the Qadri write up.


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