Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 30, 2017

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 30 September 2017

Ball One – Andrew Gale blasts Yorkshire, but Essex cruise home

At 80-5 having been invited to bat, Yorkshire’s bowlers must have felt that they had caught the champions on an off day at last. If so, it was not a feeling that lasted. By the midpoint of the match, Essex led by 250 with eight second innings wickets in hand and were en route to a tenth win (to go with four draws) in a season for the ages. They topped the table by 72 points, with the gap between second and the first relegation slot only 30. Yorkshire were dismissed for just 74 runs in their last innings of 2017 and senior players attracted some blunt words from coach Andrew Gale, who might want to look in the dressing room mirror too as he casts an eye over his underperforming charges.

Ball Two – Somerset’s Tom Abell rings time on Middlesex’s Division One status

The showdown in Somerset went the home side’s way as the 2016 champions were relegated in 2017. The writing was on the wall for Adam Voges’ men after Ravi Patel and Paul Stirling shared nine wickets as the home side cobbled together 236, with the top five all contributing at least 25, but nobody getting more than Ed Byrom’s 56. Jack Leach opened the bowling on a pitch that offered extravagant sideways movement sufficient to catch the attention of the ECB’s man, but not the up and down bounce that can lead to a points deduction. Leach delivered two fivefers to his young captain, Tom Abell, and, with James Hildreth making a century in the second dig, there was no way back for Middlesex, who go down by one point… or do they? An ECB hearing has been requested to review the decision to dock them two points for a slow over rate in the infamous “crossbow match” at The Oval, the early and unexpected abandonment thwarting Middlesex’s opportunity to rattle through some meaningless overs sufficiently swiftly to turn their over rate from red to green. This column believes they have a case to get their points back – or rather that they had one. The time to challenge the decision has probably gone.

Ball Three – Ice cool Gareth Berg steers Hampshire to safety

The jeopardy on the season’s last day was all at Edgbaston where Warwickshire, long gone, were seeking to win the match and relegate Hampshire (for the second year in succession in what would have been a quiz question double for years to come). Needing to bat out the day, Liam Dawson went into full Faf fashion, defending grimly to make nine in nearly two hours, but when he went and James Vince (30 in over two and a half hours) followed, the inexperienced Ian Holland was joined by the rather more seasoned Gareth Berg and the two all-rounders held on. Hampshire fans celebrated another year in the top flight secured, while Durham fans (and most neutrals I suspect) wore rueful smiles.

Ball Four – Liam Livingstone explores new territory with a career-best 6-52

Lancashire’s draw with Surrey at Old Trafford secured a fine second place for the Red Rose, taking them 13 points clear of their opponents for whom third can be considered a good, if not quite very good, finish. Whilst most of the attention (rightly) was centred on Kumar Sangakkara’s farewell first class match (undefeated in his final innings – natch), Liam Livingstone underlined his potential with 6-52 in Surrey’s second innings (four of whom were international players and another in the Ashes party). Livingstone finished the season with over 800 runs at 47.2 and, while his leg-breaks aren’t reliable enough to give him all-rounder status, they’re a handy second string, probably about as developed as Moeen Ali’s tweakers were at the same age. Perhaps Livingstone’s best quality is not revealed in the stats though – it’s that imperceptible and crucial ability to make something happen in a cricket match. Now who is the man who does that job for England?

CR7 – the humble one.

Ball Five – Chris Read writes his own script

You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by Chris Read’s final match of a career lasting two decades, unfulfilled at international level, but wonderfully successful in the the domestic game. Things were not looking good when Sussex piled up 565, the last five wickets adding a soul-destroying, concentration-sapping 458 runs, the effect of which was to knock the top off the Nottinghamshire batting, suddenly 65-5 with the long expected promotion in danger of fizzling out. But, in his last visit to the crease, the captain played a captain’s innings to secure the points needed, the skipper going up with the ship. Credit too to Billy Root, whose maiden championship century repaid the faith shown in him by the county. 2017’s two trophies and second place in Division Two will always be on Read’s mantelpiece, but I suspect the respect, even love, shown to him by fellow players and fans of more than just his own county, will mean even more as the retirement years roll by.

Ball Six – A salute to The Guardian’s county cricket readers and contributors

Last week’s shout out was directed towards the fine writers who keep the county cricket flame alive – so this week’s goes to those who write below the line here and do so much to make the County Cricket Live blog such a big part of the summer. You are fine examples not only of the many erudite and polite voices that can be drowned out in the stream of bile that characterises too much social media, but also of the fans’ perception of and love for the greatest of games. The County Championship may not hold the place in British life that it once did when Compton and Edrich were brightening the bleak bomb sites on a country still on the ration, but it still matters to many decent, generous, civilised souls. When the grim reaper comes for me, I rather hope I’ll be at a cricket ground, glass in hand, praising a Number Eight batting on 35, while pointing out (a little too loudly) the absence of a leg slip for the off spinner – and amongst friends. But you knew that.

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Responses

  1. Good assessments re: Livingstone and Read. Well written.


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