Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 24, 2018

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 24 June 2018

Ball One – Surrey fans devoted to Pope as they go top of Division One

The County Championship backed into the spotlight with a round of matches that, if you could find them, provided thrills and spills, fascinating possibilities and statement that the “product” is more than good enough for its fans. Surrey opened up a 13 points gap at the top of Division One (with a game in hand) after a comprehensive innings win over Somerset, who slid to third. Though weakened by England call-ups (pause for hoots from Yorkshire) – with Sam Curran managing to spend the week not playing for Surrey, not playing for the England Lions and not playing for England – the Londoners piled up 459 at Guildford’s tight ground and then bowled out the visitors twice. The match will be remembered for part-time bowler Ryan Patel’s feat – five wickets in 11 deliveries to set some kind of record leading to figures of 3.5 – 2 – 5 – 6, which is something you usually only see in old Wisdens from Derek Underwood on uncovered pitches. But Olly Pope’s 117 may have more significance in the long term, putting the 20 year old top of the batting charts in the division with 585 runs at 84. England’s white ball masterblasting is all well and good, but its Test batting is fragile and Pope is one of many youngsters around jus now whose time will come sooner or later. Maybe it should be sooner.

Ball Two – Moores the merrier

Nottinghamshire occupy the slot between Surrey and Somerset after they put away an Essex side whose bowling could (for once) not compensate for fragile batting. Stand-in skipper, Chris Nash, knew he needed a couple of substantial contributions from his batsmen and he got them from two contrasting sources. Ross Taylor was once the next superstar of New Zealand cricket, but injury, internal politicking and the rise of Kane Williamson, sent him a little under the radar just at the time when such status beckoned. At 34, he remains a class act, as his 146 in the first innings showed. Tom Moores, somehow still only 21, is dealing with the double whammy of being the son of a famous father (ex-England and current Nottinghamshire coach, Peter Moores) and following in the footsteps of an authentic club legend in Chris Read. Moores blasted 87 down the order to send Essex’s fourth innings target out of sight and now has 423 runs this season at 38, to go with 24 catches. They’re some big gloves to fill, but Read’s legacy looks in good hands.

Ball Three – Jennings gives hope of a new Hope, but it was not to be

There are few things a cricket fan enjoys more than getting out the abacus and crunching numbers to make some implausible case for a record breaking win. Having been stung myself by pooh-poohing the argument that “it’s only 90 odd runs per session” when Shai Hope got the West Indies over the line in the Headingley Test last year, so when Lancashire were set 602 by Worcestershire in five and a half sessions, I dared to dream, especially with Keaton Jennings 135 not out going into the fourth day with “just” 333 to get. Alas for Red Rose fans, Daryl Mitchell’s twin centuries were not to be in vain (what a tremendous servant to Worcestershire he has been), but the win was not sufficient to lift the Pears from the basement of the table, but at least it put Lancashire, second bottom, in their sights.

Ball Four – Is day-night Championship cricket a load of pink balls?

With Twenty20, it’s the other way round Señor Goya

When Twenty20 was launched in 2003, much was made of the market research that showed how the formula would appeal to new and existing audiences. It took a while to settle into the money-spinning behemoth that threatens to do a reverse Saturn and eat its parents, but the fateful decision was underpinned by evidence (in what now seems an almost quaint way from the perspective of 2018). What then of day-night Championship cricket – who wants this? Hampshire and Yorkshire played out a draw at the Rose Bowl (one of the last places in the country you want to be at 10 o’clock at night given its transport “links”) but anecdotal evidence suggests that very few people came in to watch the last session and far more did that traditional British thing of looking at their watches at about 7.30pm and saying “Shall we go to the pub?” I had thought that pink ball county cricket was largely a dry run for pink ball Test cricket, but the issues involved in such matches are either settled or lie in the hands of the five day game, so why hold day-night Championship matches in 2018?

Ball Five – Middlesex flippin’ murtaghs them

While Warwickshire (thanks to Ian Bell’s scintillating form) got closer than Lancashire did to pulling off a monster chase against Kent, Middlesex actually did it (though 381 isn’t a colossal target these days). It was a classic match, with Colin Ackerman’s career best 196* powering Leicestershire to 427 before Middlesex replied with 233 before their bowlers, led by the admirable Tim Murtagh, got them back into the match, dismissing the home side for 186, giving them all the time they needed to score the runs, but just ten wickets to play with. They required all of them too, the last pair, James Harris and that man Murtagh at the crease when the winning runs were struck with fewer than seven overs. With Leicestershire fourth and Middlesex fifth in Division Two, there’s an argument that such a match doesn’t amount to hill of beans, but try telling that to the players or to those watching at the ground or following the match online.

Ball Six – England watch

In Worcestershire’s win over Lancashire, Ed Barnard match figures read 46.4 – 12 – 129 – 9, the kind of numbers that shouldn’t put you on a losing side too often. At 22, Barnard isn’t the youngest and isn’t the most gifted of what (whisper it) might be something of a golden generation of English cricketers currently emerging, but he keeps catching the eye by getting into games with bat and ball. Though often damned with the well-meaning praise that “He’ll be good enough to bat in the top six one day” and the fatal until it’s disproved on the field, “He needs to find a yard of pace to be international class”, his batting and bowling averages of 27 and 21 this season are the right way round and that’s as good an indicator as any of an all-rounder’s value. With cricket’s punishing schedule taking its toll on Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes, Barnard’s credentials for future England recognition look good. Strange then, to see that he has yet to be called up by the England Lions, who nevertheless found room for Steve Mullaney, a different kind of player and fine cricketer, but surely not an England all-rounder in the making.





  1. Barnard and Higgins definitely giving the selectors a nudge but they obviously wanted Mullaney for his captaincy after performing well in North v South.

  2. Completely off topic, but that Goya pic made me think, for the first time ever, of the similarity of his style and themes to those of his contemporary, William Blake.

    Goya did not write poetry with which I am familiar, and Blake’s engravings are not known to many, but Blake’s artistic style seems to me to be a match or parallel to Goya’s. I wonder if they were ever seen in the same room together…

  3. Tim Murtagh, Irish cricketing legend!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: