Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 31, 2017

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 31 July 2017

Scary Hales

Ball One – Hales’ storming knock beats Yorkshire, but the Tykes stay top

The T20 Blast North Group remains as tight as a drum (sans Durham, natch) with seven teams separated by three points as the race for quarter-finals places enters the home straight. Yorkshire sit atop the pile-up on net run rate despite losing an extraordinary match at Trent Bridge (Nottinghamshire members are getting their money’s worth this season). After the visitors had powered their way to 223-5 (which, in the days of the John Player League with cricket shown for five hours most summer Sundays free-to-air on one of only three television channels) would have been rated a decent score in 40 overs. But Alex Hales got into one of his grooves and beat a tattoo on the boundary boards, his 101 using up just 47 balls, 18 of which were struck to or over the fence. England seamers, past and present, suffered particularly badly, David Willey, Tim Bresnan and Liam Plunkett carted for combined figures of 8.1 – 0 – 121 – 2 as Notts cruised home with five balls to spare.

Ball Two – Derbyshire’s two aces give Gary Wilson a winning hand

Next up for the leaders are Derbyshire, who hold second slot by the skin of their teeth after restricting Leicestershire to just 104-9 from their full allocation. Though the bowling unit performed as an er… unit, Gary Wilson has the luxury of calling on the two most potent weapons in Twenty20 cricket: genuine pace and ripping leg-spin. Kiwi Shane Bond-alike, Matt Henry, is about as swift as anyone on the county circuit and Imran Tahir has run round more cricket grounds celebrating wickets than just about anyone in the history of the game – so it’s no surprise to see them combine to deliver figures that read 8 – 0 – 38 – 5. Their nine team mates would have to play pretty poorly to lose from there – and they didn’t.

Ball Three – Ian Bell’s men going like the clappers at last

There have not been too many good weeks in 2017 for Warwickshire, but three wins and a no result in the last eight days will lift spirits at Edgbaston. Skipper, Ian Bell (remember him?) is simply getting more out of his players in T20 than in red ball cricket – in their eight matches to date, five batsmen have scored over 120 runs at a strike rate above 120 and three bowlers have taken at least nine wickets at economy rates below 8.0. With the likes of Sam Hain getting his mojo back and Jeetan Patel as consistent as ever, August and September may prove rather more productive in Birmingham than April, May and June – it’ll need to.

Ball Four – Billings pays the price of coming in too late to thwart Glamorgan

The South Group is almost as tight as its northern twin, six teams covered by four points with, perhaps surprisingly, Glamorgan looking down on more fancied rivals after two victories last week chiseled out between the showers. Both successes followed the pattern of setting a target and squeezing the chasers, both secured by the comfortable margin of 25 runs. The win over Kent at Canterbury was something of a curiosity, with the home side falling short with just four wickets down and Sam Billings (one of England’s tee-off men) facing only five balls, which must have infuriated the home crowd as Kent lost the boundary count 25 – 17.

Ball Five – Corey Anderson centre stage for Somerset

Maybe things look different in a shortened game, but Somerset did not make the same mistake as Kent, their six-hitter, Kiwi Corey Anderson, in at three in the third over of eight to make 41* off 17 balls, as the home side’s 102-3 proved far too much for Sussex. The IPL season saw specialist bowler, Sunil Narine, promoted to opener with a brief to clobber pretty much everything knowing that if he came off even for five overs, 200 was definitely on and if he was out early, well, he’s a Number Nine and how often do they bat in T20s? There’s always the risk of a biffer clothing ball after ball to short midwicket, but perhaps T20 batting orders should reflect pitch conditions and the match situation more than they do at the moment. Somerset go second despite Tom Abell and James Hildreth being surplus to requirements in the 48 ball thrash.

Ball Six – Toby Roland-Jones shows that the divide between county cricket and Test cricket may not be so wide after all

It’s said that England coach, Trevor Bayliss, doesn’t watch county cricket (I’ll watch it for him for the cost of a few Tube tickets), but perhaps he should. This column has long advocated the case for Middlesex’s Toby Roland-Jones, who may be a little older than most bowlers breaking into international cricket and may not be as quick as the likes of Steven Finn – but he gets good batsmen out and scores handy runs. While there’s always a mention of Michael Vaughan’s and Marcus Trescothick’s modest county records (at the time) proving no obstacle to their success when picked at international level and the effectiveness of the ECB’s representative structure as a ladder to the on-field huddle, the motivational speech from an old lag and the new cap, sometimes being able to take wickets and score runs around England’s cricket grounds isn’t a bad indicator of the ability to do the same thing wearing the Three Lions. One swallow doesn’t make a summer (ask another prolific county man very much in the mould of TRJ, Surrey’s Martin Bicknell – with his four caps in ten years), but it’s a decent start for a decent player.

 

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