Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 19, 2018

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 18 June 2018

Ball One – Kent annihilate Notts – but why?

What makes a good team a bad team for just one match? As Kent hammered Nottinghamshire in the eliminator to depose the reigning Royal London One Day Cup holders, there was much talk of Notts “not being on it”; “displaying low energy in the field”; “failing to play with their usual intensity”; and that old favourite “just a bad day at the office”. I’m wary of abstract explanations being deployed to excuse unexpectedly poor performance (or to explain unexpectedly strong performance), but this is what we usually get, the alternatives sounding either whingey (“The lads were tired after a tough couple of weeks”) or platitudinous (“We were beaten by the better side on the day”). But has anyone studied what causes such collective collapses in form and confidence, something that seems to affect all teams in all sports on occasion? With the data and metrics available and the mini-industry of sports psychology on which to call, perhaps we (and Notts fans in particular) deserve a bit more than the tired clichés when the wheels fall off so spectacularly?

Ball Two – Gary Ballance: Yorkshire cricketer

Gary Ballance’s England career is likely over and so too his short spell as Yorkshire captain, but one of life’s great challenges is to find what works for you. Perhaps anchoring the middle order for Yorkshire – and playing for the county with (dare I suggest) the most passionate of fans across all formats – is enough for the 28 year-old. And who are we to judge? Three balls after taking guard at Chelmsford, he looked at a scoreboard that read 45-4, but the Zimababwean born Tyke dug in (as Yorkies have done since Geoffrey’s mother was a young girl with an eye on the rhubarb patch) and got them up to 259-7. With Essex favourites to progress to the semi-final at the innings break, cue his successor as captain, Steve Patterson, whose 10-1-36-4 broke the back of the home side’s middle order. Essex don’t go down without a fight and it took two wickets from the gifted Matthew Fisher to snuff out the Neil Wagner’s late charge for the line. The IPL, even The 100, must look like a different world to the likes of Ballance and Patto, but they’re valued by many in England and loved by many in Yorkshire – and that’s not so bad is it?

Not that one…

Ball Three – Saying “Hi” to Heino.

Not satisfied with his ton in the eliminator, Heino Kuhn bagged himself another, this time against Worcestershire, to propel Kent to the final and send fans on a pilgrimage to Lord’s for the first time in years. The South African looked all at sea on tour in 2017, his outstanding record of runs at domestic level looking a little cheap, as his technique and confidence unravelled in the cauldron of Test cricket. Kent saw something, and it’s paying off handsomely, the overseas pro delivering like it’s the 70s or 80s. Perhaps growing up watching the likes of Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Richard Hadlee and countless others illuminate our game (you could see these legends up close and personal for about £1.20 entry at outgrounds back then) has inoculated me against complaints about Kolpaks and other overseas players. They raise standards, add a cosmopolitan dimension to our domestic game and go back to their own countries better players as a result (Zaheer Khan a prime example after a spell at Worcestershire). And, with 18 counties to play for, freedom of contract, England players absent for much of the season and a loan system in place, are young English players really being stymied by Heino and co? I’d suggest not.

Ball Four – White flag from White Rose – but with some mitigation

Hampshire beat a depleted Yorkshire XI to make it an all southern affair in the final at Lord’s. While Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, David Willey, Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid were netting at Trent Bridge, James Vince and Liam Dawson (England players of 2017) scored 171 and took 4-47 in a comfortable win. It seems almost quaint now, but not so long ago, those five Yorkies would have played for their county on the Monday and their country on the Tuesday and nobody would have batted an eyelid. While those days are gone forever, would it not have been possible for England to have allowed (say) Willey and Root to play for Yorkshire and rotated a couple of squad players in for the ODI? The ECB hierarchy seem more willing to support IPL franchises with player releases than counties trying to win their own competitions

Ball Five – Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that bat in your hand?

Darren Stevens will be the big human interest story come 30 June at Lord’s, the old warhorse creaking in, 42 years of age and still looking for glory, but mark another veteran, ten years his junior, who has had an up and down career and deserves his day in the sun. Joe Denly first played for England at the end of the 2009 season and last played before the start of 2010’s – which tells you all you need to know about his handful of international days. Now back at Kent after a spell at Middlesex that did neither party any good, Denly had a splendid season in 2017 and he’s backing it up in 2018. His bowling has progressed from partnership breaking legspin to something that gives him a claim for true all-rounder status. The return of a prodigal son whose talents were squandered or unappreciated away from home, is always a story to appeal to fans. Denly might not be playing for Kent at 42, but he’ll be there a few years yet I suspect.

Ball Six – Cursing the commentators.

To their credit, BBC local and online radio cover county cricket extensively and, in consequence, require a number of voices, often commentating from something of a Heath Robinson set up (or so it seems) with sightlines less than ideal. Some ex-players act as commentators (eg Don Topley) or summarisers, (eg Fabian Cowdrey and James Taylor at the Kent vs Nottinghamshire match) adding local flavour and an inside track on events. But how much value do we really get from (most) ex-players? Sometimes they might not know the stuff of which they speak – after all, performing a skill and understanding that performance are different matters. Sometimes they may be unwilling to break the old pros’ omerta – “What goes on in a dressing room, stays in a dressing room”. Sometimes they might not be able to express the full richness of their thoughts under pressure between deliveries – it’s a tough call calling a tight match. All understandable. But the best cricket radio I’ve heard in years was a half hour discussion between Isa Guha and Wasim Akram at the England vs Pakistan Test at Headingley, describing the action but also analysing bowling in a way that was informative and entertaining – and which could only have emerged between two people who had played the game at the highest level. So it can be done – and maybe we should expect more of it.

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Responses

  1. Isa Guha is a really excellent commentator/analyst, isn’t she?


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