Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 3, 2017

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 3 September 2017

Ravichandran Ashwin at Worcestershire last week

Ball One – Jamie Porter carries the fight to Somerset as Essex put Somerset to the seax

The biggest surprise in county cricket (bar one – see Ball Four) continues as Essex, winners of Division Two in 2016, consolidated their grip on Division One in 2017, 36 points clear with four rounds of matches to play. Their win over a Somerset side fighting the drop showed all the hallmarks of a team who know how to win cricket matches. Batting first, they were soon in trouble at 39-4, before a few boundaries from skipper, Ryan ten Doeschate raised spirits and a few more from the tail got them up to 159. But Jamie Porter and Mohammad Amir got amongst the fragile Somerset batting and the match turned into a one innings affair. Opener Nick Browne and ten Doeschate were in the runs again, but they got some crucial support from Adam Wheater, whose 88 was the top score in the match and a perfect example of a man coming good for the team in a personally disappointing season. Cue Jamie Porter again, whose pace and accuracy added 7-55 to his first innings 5-40 and blew Somerset away. Porter’s 52 wickets puts him just one behind teammate Simon Harmer in the Division One bowling table. He won’t be needing his hot water bottle this winter.

Ball Two – Matt Parkinson passes his interview for a slot in the Lancashire XI

Essex’s nearest pursuers (some might say only pursuers, with third place Hampshire a yawning 60 points off the leaders) are, almost equally surprisingly, Lancashire, who ended Warwickshire’s resurgence with an easy eight wickets win at Old Trafford. Though Kolpak signings, Ryan McLaren and Kyle Jarvis, shared 15 wickets, a couple of more local lads also stood out. Liam Livingstone’s 224 at Number Three underlined his continuing progress as a game-changing batsmen in all formats of the game. Having just turned 24, he already has a couple of T20 England caps, but his first class average is now over 50 at a strike rate over 60 – if he’s not ready for The Ashes this winter, he might be by 2019. Matt Parkinson is three years younger, but has already forced himself into the Lancashire team in the face of stiff spin competition from the canny Stephen Parry, the experienced Simon Kerrigan and the all-round talents of Arron Lilley. His three second innings wickets don’t look like much, but it repays the faith shown in him by his captain and coach and that can only be good for Lancashire, and perhaps, eventually, England too. Lancashire play a must-win match at home to Essex this week.

Ball Three – Ravichandran Ashwin flies into Worcestershire and destroys Gloucestershire

At the end of Game of Thrones season seven, we saw the devastating effect of the Night King’s acquisition of a dragon on hitherto impregnable defences. There aren’t too many of those in Division Two of the County Championship (impregnable defences I mean and, with the Lord’s gatemen now in Division One, dragons too), but Ravichandran Ashwin promises to wreak havoc on late season pitches for Worcestershire, as their easy win over Gloucestershire sent them 21 points clear of third place Sussex. Ashwin made handy runs in the middle order and took 8-162 from his 63 overs, as he bowled his newly adopted county into the second promotion slot and himself into a bit of English form prior to India’s tour next summer (they are no mugs at the BCCI). Though the media feeding frenzy of the Premier League’s transfer window is an unedifying sight, at least the integrity of a squad game is maintained. Perhaps it’s time to close cricket’s transfer window at (say) the halfway mark of the county championship season.

Ball Four – Everyone safe at The Oval, but now is the time for action

“Match suspended due to crowd trouble” read the Cricinfo commentary as extraordinary events played out at The Oval as Surrey’s local derby with Middlesex drifted to an otherwise wholly unremarkable draw. As one does, I rushed to Twitter, where reports were emerging of an arrow landing on the square, some confusion and then a swift and orderly evacuation of players and subsequently, the relatively small crowd. In more senses than one then, a near-miss and, though I’m not one for banning things, perhaps such weapons should be treated in law as handguns – and not for sale at less that £30 to anyone over the age of 18, the first thing you see when you google “crossbow”.

Ball Five – Steven Mullaney exemplifies Nottinghamshire’s formula for one day success

Nottinghamshire added the Nat West T20 Blast to the Royal London One Day Cup to confirm their domination of white ball cricket in 2017. Their formula for such success is hardly a secret: a balanced squad of players, including a few who are not quite good enough for international call-ups or poaching by foreign franchises, and options with bat and ball to deliver in any match situation. But it was an unsung, some might say, bits-and-pieces man who caught my eye on Finals Day. Steven Mullaney didn’t make it at Lancashire and could easily have drifted off into League cricket as a hard-working pro, but tried his luck at Notts and was in and out of the team for years. Up and down the order in all formats, he has been used mainly as a finisher in T20 in 2017, his strike rate of 159 second only to Alex Hales. But his bowling came to the fore on Finals Day on another pitch largely devoid of the zip that makes for attractive cricket whether the ball is white, red or pink. Though Harry Gurney’s left-arm slower balls bagged him a Finals Day record seven wickets, Mullaney’s canny dibbly-dobblers strangled Hampshire’s semi-final chase of a gettable 170, his figures of 4-0-22-3 including dangermen James Vince and George Bailey. Whether English one day pitches should so often be so perfectly suited to bowlers who operate between 60mph and 80mph is not a question with which Mullaney concerns himself. Maybe it’s just me.

Ball Six – Two cheers for the ECB

A rare plaudit for the ECB, as they scheduled the domestic showpiece event on one of the quietest sports Saturdays of the year, with the leviathan of Premier League football on an international break and other sports in a bit of a betwixt and between lull. Well done. Next they need to get the razzmatazz, the boosterism and the spectacle in front of the next generation of cricket fans (and subscription TV customers) by showing / streaming it free to air – and then do the same with all T20 matches. After all, what’s the point of a shop window if you keep the blinds down?



  1. Adam, not Alex, Wheater 😉

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