Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 6, 2018

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 6 August 2018

Carlsen – making all the right moves

Ball One – Kiran Carlson the master of a grand game at The Oval

Twenty20 cricket can be maligned for its formulaic quality, its try-hard presentation (a thickish edge for four does not warrant enough flares to herald the second coming of VE Day) and its (often) boozy, boorish crowds (they might need to do something about that if they want new demographics through the gate). But (whisper it) just because T20 isn’t Test cricket doesn’t make it a bad game. I literally stopped off at The Oval on the way home on Tuesday evening, intending to catch an hour’s play before sorting things out for the trip to Edgbaston, but became gripped by a fine match – skill levels were high, both teams completely committed, the very decent crowd fully involved. Glamorgan beat Surrey, partly due to a fifty from Kiran Carlson, who has the fastest hands I have seen in years. I stayed for the duration – so did everyone else.

Ball Two – Vitality Blast showing plenty of vitality

With teams having played nine or ten matches of the 14 match group stage, perhaps only four teams are out of the reckoning for a quarter-final berth and a shot at Finals Day (Northamptonshire, Hampshire, Middlesex and Essex). To maintain an interest for the 14 other counties (and for those four stragglers to include some unexpected names) shows that the structure of the competition – at least when the sun shines – isn’t bad at all. If only national media outlets allowed the narrative of the season to seep into the national consciousness – but those days have gone.

Ball Three – Ross Whiteley cleans up down the order

To underline the competitive quality of the tournament, Worcestershire lead the North Group (ahead of four Test Match ground counties) after back-to-back wins over second placed Durham and Nottinghamshire. Those matches saw Ross Whiteley make 60 and 32 not out off a total of 44 balls – his role as finisher delivered perfectly. Whiteley is one of those pros of whom little is known outside county cricket’s geekish aficionados, but, amongst those, there are few players who empty the bars more quickly when they walk to the middle. A very handy player to have on board, as Worcestershire eye a slot in the top four

Ball Four – Mohammad Nabi nabs an unlikely win for Leicestershire

Performance of the Week in the North Group goes to Mohammad Nabi, the Afghan hounding Lancashire’s bowlers relentlessly,  turning what looked a routine defeat for Leicestershire into a win in the space of eight overs of mayhem. Having been set a stiff 191 to win after Alex Davies’s 94 not out, the visitors needed 99 runs from 9 overs after Nabi had blocked his first ball. With that cold calculation that the best T20 players exhibit these days, he let himself get his eye in, unconcerned by an asking rate rising to well over 12, and then teed off. Two fours and two sixes off an Arron Lilley over pushed the rate back into single figures and a blaze of six sixes off the last 17 balls of the match saw Leicestershire over the line with eight balls to spare. Nabi had made 86 of the 99 runs required just half an hour earlier, off a mere 32 balls – once again, the limits of what is possible to chase had been pushed back (see Ball Six below)

Ball Five – Jerome Taylor suits Somerset well

In a good week, Somerset beat Hampshire, Essex and Sussex to leap to the top of the South Group. Their standout player in such a splendid run of form was probably Jerome Taylor (yes, that Jerome Taylor) who took 5-15 to cut the ground away from Hampshire’s chase; 3-28 to set up the Johan Myburgh Show (103* off 44 balls) vs Essex; and 1-33 vs Sussex to keep the target down to a manageable 170. Taylor – 34 now but with a CV that comprises 15 years of international experience compiled in all three formats – is exactly the kind of canny signing that turns a side that can challenge into a side that can win.

Ball Six – Finch flies high in London derby

Performance of the Week in the South Group goes to Surrey’s openers, Aaron Finch (117*) and Jason Roy (84). While Mohammad Nabi was doing his thing to redefine chasing, the Australia and England biffers looked at a target of 222 set by Middlesex and annihilated it in 16 overs of carnage. The runs scored in each over as they constructed a stand of 194 in 84 balls bears repeating: 14, 17, 23, 15, 14, 15, 15, 10, 12, 9, 15, 11, 10, 14. Of course, it’s not to everyone’s taste, but such consistency is a testament to skills polished by hours of practice, a Derren Brown like ability to read bowlers’ minds and a freedom instilled by a captain and coach who lets them play as they wish without fear of failure. Instead of bemoaning T20’s morphing into something akin to baseball, maybe we should celebrate its stars for the entertainment they provide.



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