Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 10, 2017

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 9 July 2017

Rory Burns carries his bat

Ball One – Rory Burns red hot in the South London sunshine

With pacesetters Essex and second placed Lancashire enjoying a week off, Hampshire and Yorkshire had a chance to put themselves into the Division One title mix before the break in red ball cricket, but neither could accept the opportunity. At least Hampshire managed the draw at a sweltering Oval, a result that owed much to the fortitude of Surrey’s stand-in captain, Rory Burns, and a very flat pitch. Acting captain Burns, a steady if unspectacular county pro who is probably half a notch below international class, concentrated in the sun for all but the last half hour of the match, directing operations for the home side while the visitors racked up 648-7d, then carrying his bat for 219* before striding back to the middle after the follow-on was enforced to add another 68, his 12 and a half hours vigil ending with defeat averted. Whether piling up a massive first innings (just because you can) and then expecting bowlers to take 20 wickets in such conditions is the optimum route to victory is moot (see Ball Four below) and Hampshire’s George Bailey may reflect on that over the next few weeks.

Ball Two – Yorkshire’s batting scarred at Scarborough

North Marine Road in midsummer is something of a cricketing idyll, but it proved more hellish than heavenly for Yorkshire as they went down to lowly Somerset in a match in which they missed first their unavailable England stars and then their injury blighted ex-England stars. Notwithstanding the incapacity of Ryan Sidebottom and Liam Plunkett, it was the batting that again failed the home side in a season in which Gary Ballance’s form has papered over significant cracks. Without their skipper, the Tykes collapsed to 12-3 in their pursuit of 337 and, with Craig Overton adding four second innings wickets to his five in the first dig, there was no way back from there. Yorkshire have used 22 players in nine Championship matches, but only the bowler, Jack Brooks, averages more than 34 (with the exception of Ballance). Though still mid-table, Andrew Gale has some work to do before red ball cricket resumes if he is to avoid a relegation dogfight in his first season as coach. Somerset’s first win of their difficult 2017 will give them something to work with as they face a late summer battle for survival.

Ball Three – Dawid Malan’s leadership turning around a bad year for the defending champions

With the instant thrills of T20 about to muscle their way into the county fixture list, Middlesex and Warwickshire provided a reminder of just how thrilling the slow burn of a four day match can be. It took the cool head of Tim Murtagh (in his 198th first class match) to strike the winning runs, as the champions beat rock bottom Warwickshire 334 vs 334 and 233 vs 234-9. Though one could point to Steve Eskinazi’s first innings 179 or the increasingly impressive pacer Tom Helm’s five second innings wickets as crucial factors in the win, it was really a triumph for Middlesex’s collective belief under acting captain, Dawid Malan. No batsman made a fifty in the chase but, after the first two wickets realised but one run between them, no other partnership was broken without adding at least 17. That’s the kind of confidence that flying a pennant can bring to a side, and it’s exactly what Warwickshire, 47 points from safety, need to find if they are to stay in Division One for 2018.

Ball Four – Sean Dickson’s triple century in vain as pitch defeats both sides

Kent topped Hampshire’s 600-odd with 701-7 d albeit at Beckenham’s much smaller ground. The match will be remembered with fondness by Sean Dickson, who broke a few records with his 318 and by four other century makers, but the final day descended into benefit match stuff with wicketkeepers Adam Rossington and Ben Duckett bowling 15 overs between them as motions were gone through the draw a foregone conclusion. The match didn’t help Kent’s promotion chances nor the reputation of the domestic game, particularly after all the effort required to stage a match at an outground.

Ball Five – Currant T electric for Surrey in thunderous finale at Chelmsford

The Twenty20 Blast launched under cloudless, keg-emptying skies, the punters rolling up for cricket’s alcopop format. Okay, it’s easily knocked by purists, but I’ve often said that if T20 was a separate sport, it would still be my second favourite – especially live. And there was a good game at Chelmsford to get the party started, as Surrey held their nerve to defeat a hard charging Essex. It all came down to the last over with Tom Curran, resurgent after his tricky “second album” season in 2016, restricting the home side to seven runs with ten required for the win. Though it’s often said that wickets in hand are crucial at the end of a white ball match, whether Essex were two down or six down (or, as they were, four down) didn’t actually matter when there were just six balls to be delivered. Then it’s hit and scamper for the batsmen and bowl to plans for the bowler – in this case, Curran won.

Ball Six – Avoid a 19th over nervous breakdown to roll to a comfortable finish

Orthodoxy claims that, in a tight chase, the 19th over is critical to success or failure. Is that an unexamined assertion that gains traction because it’s repeated ad nauseam or is the 19th over more important than the other 95% of balls available to a batting side? The answer to that question might need Duckworth-Lewisian statistical analysis (and even that won’t really do it as the quality of batsmen on strike etc affects scoring off the fifth and sixth ball of the 19th over particularly). Warwickshire followed the template in making the 14 runs they needed from 12 balls to beat Nottinghamshire, scoring nine in the 19th over and a harum-scarum five in the 20th. Even without a boundary in the last 11 deliveries of the innings, Rikki Clarke and Colin de Grandhomme got the Bears over the line in front of a crowd who needed cheering up in a dispiriting season. That example suggests something instinctively felt – setting one’s stall out to make 66% of the required runs in the 19th, leaving 34% to get in the 20th is probably a handy way to bat at the death.

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Responses

  1. Your ball 6 makes sense. I think bar Dhoni, or the occasional over of genius by a West Indian, batsmen need to try to score in the 19th over because the 20th is never going to be as easy (and almost invariably the wrong batsman is facing balls 4,5 and 6).

  2. I like Stoneman but he and Burns make for an interesting comparison now that all these ‘experts’ are crawling out of the woodwork claiming to have wanted Stoneman in the England team years ago.

    At the start of the campaign Burns averaged 40 to Stoneman’s 32 and Stoneman seems to have been the beneficiary of plenty of dropped catches.


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