Posted by: tootingtrumpet | April 17, 2018

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 17 April 2018

Ball One – Thorny problems at Old Trafford

With unrest amongst Lancashire fans finding a voice in the Lancashire Action Group (two of whose leaders have been told that they are no longer welcome at Old Trafford), the Red Rose could have done with an early bloom at home this season – instead, it was trampled underfoot by newly promoted Nottinghamshire. While the visitors found five batsmen to chip in with scores between 24 and 44, Lancashire lost eight second innings wickets in an hour on the fourth morning to be all out for 73 having been 49-0 late on day three. Credit to the Nottinghamshire bowlers, ex-England men Jake Ball and Harry Gurney, who shared those wickets and ex-Lancashire keeper, Tom Moores, who held six catches and whose stand of 82 with Riki Wessels was the best of the match. Not a bad way to start the job of strapping on Chris Read’s old pads.

Ball Two – What do you think you’re doing sunshine?

Things aren’t much better across the Pennines, when one of two Championship matches at Headingley this side of the August Bank Holiday was not so much rained off and soaked off, as the ground wouldn’t drain effectively without some help from the sun, still shying away from 2018 like Theresa May recoils from a Parliamentary vote. But The Broad Acres are not short of cricket grounds and one assumes that the risk of waterlogging was known a few days in advance, so could not the match have been moved? All a bit inconvenient, administratively complicated and inviting scorn if teams were bowled out for (say) 73 or so as a result, but can’t we just do everything to get cricket on when it’s scheduled to be played? Oft-times it seems, from the perspective of us poor saps with the jumpers, coats and thermos flasks, that actually playing cricket can get in the way of all the other stuff that everyone involved in the game needs to be doing.

Ball Three – Immigrants – they get the job done

There’s a certain kind of South African all-rounder who hits the deck hard with ball in hand and hits the ball hard with bat in hand. It’s as if there’s a factory with a blueprint of a “Mike Procter” up on a wall in a room of engineers trying out prototypes, with the Jacques Kallis model the most successful to date. Hampshire have a couple of their own mini-Procters and they did what so many before them have done in contributing to a win over Worcestershire. In Hampshire’s first dig, Gareth Berg numbereighted his way to 75*, progressing the score from 193-6 to 290 all out. He only got 10 second time round, but Kyle Abbott replaced him in the middle and made 51, at the crease while the lead advanced from 216 to 323. They also took half the visitors’ wickets while going at less than three runs per over. The South African pro is often seen as a block to England qualified talent, but shouldn’t our lads learn from them? They do tend to get into a game no matter what the circumstances – a useful attribute in any form of cricket.

Ball Four – Is Steven Smith’s template the right one for batsman in April or should it be scratched?

Gloucestershire won a low-scoring match at Canterbury which featured an extraordinary 17 LBW decisions amongst the 35 wickets that fell. Is this an outlier or something we might witness more of in 2018’s Championship? International cricket has seen more and more batsmen adopting Steven Smith’s covering of the stumps with his pads, with some batsmen taking guard on the off peg – or even outside it. Of course, not every batsman enjoys the dead fish eye with which the ex-Australian captain is blessed, but, even so, the County Championship uses a Duke ball, in seaming conditions and does not offer the opportunity to review umpires’ decisions. A couple of generations ago, the batting fad was to follow Graham Gooch’s baseball stance, bat raised as bowler ran in. Trigger movements were all the rage in the first decade of the 21st century – but nowadays, the still head and level eyes is more valued. Of course, the “Goosch stance” can still be seen (eg Jonny Bairstow) and the forward press trigger movement has its adherents today, but neither works for everyone. Getting your pads in front of the stumps and working the ball to leg probably doesn’t work for everyone either.

Ball Five – Middlesex lord it over Northamptonshire with “veteran”, James Harris, to the fore

You won’t win many Championship matches by 160 runs when your side’s top score is 46, but that’s what Middlesex did at Lord’s (at Lord’s!), Northamptonshire the punchbags. The batsman in question is James Harris, embarking on his 12th season of first class cricket, yet still only 27! Of course, his day job is bowling – and few days suit his style more than those of mid-April, as his match figures of 15.2 – 6 – 48 – 9 prove. He’s had an up and down career as a Chris Woakes lite bowling all-rounder, but he’s exactly the kind of cricketer who can cut a swathe through Division Two – especially if the Welshman continues alongside Toby Roland-Jones, Tim Murtagh and Tom Helm, the seam quartet fighting for the ball while eyeing the green, green grass of home. If Harris plays as long as Darren Stevens, he’ll still be running in come 2032.

Ready to propel some missiles?

Ball Six – England watch

Warwickshire’s Olly Stone is the fastest English bowler right now (probably the fastest bowler in England). He has a patchy fitness record, but so too has his fellow 24 year-old, Patrick Cummins, and things have gone okay for him recently, haven’t they? Though innings figures of 22.5 – 4 – 80 – 8 are enough to make anyone sit up and take notice, there’s a case for saying that they don’t really matter. 90mph men are so rare (and, for England at least, seem – viz Steven Finn, Mark Wood, even Stuart Broad – to become 85mph men all too soon) that there’s a case for getting Stone into the team for the two Tests against Pakistan and seeing what damage he can do. Had he been born in Nawabshah and not Norwich, he’d be measuring out his run now.

 

 

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Responses

  1. Jamie Overton is another to add to the fast men to watch list, although, like Stone, he is similarly injury-prone. However, if his brother Craig blooms and Jack Leach is given a summer-long twirl, there may be a Somerset trio heading the England attack in the not too distant future. How do you like them cider apples?


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