Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 19, 2018

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 20 August 2018

Ball One – Yorkshire’s T20 hopes unravelled by Notts

Though Warwickshire’s trouncing of Lancashire in their penultimate fixture gave them a chance of qualifying via the last round of matches, Moeen Ali’s century took Worcestershire over 200, which proved too much for their local rivals. So Yorkshire vs Nottinghamshire proved to be a play-off for the North Group’s fourth quarter-final spot. David Willey elected to bat first in order to squeeze the chase as the pressure built, but, despite 44 from Adam Lyth and Kane Williamson and 52 from himself, the home side never got away. At the halfway mark, Yorkshire had but 69 up, despite losing only Tom Kohler-Cadmore very early on. A platform (in 20th century currency), but the loss of Adam Lyth to the first ball of the 13th led to a three over stagnation, just 14 runs accrued – and that’s fatal these days. In contrast, though Notts were ahead by only 14 at the midpoint of their innings, they never let the required run rate rise above 8.5 per over, comfortable these days. Alex Hales, probably needing it after a somewhat fraught week, enjoyed an armchair ride to 71 not out off 56 balls and Tom Moores finished things off with a brace of sixes. Well played Notts and well played the Tykes too in getting so close to the knockout stage, largely without their trump card, Adil Rashid, unexpectedly spirited away by England.

Ball Two – Sussex sex up the Blast

In the South Group, Sussex charged into the quarter-finals with wins over Glamorgan, Gloucestershire and Middlesex, making the Sharks er… dangerous floaters come the knockout matches. Potential opponents (with Durham first up) will note that the extreme pace of Tymal Mills and Jofra Archer is supplemented by the guile and experience of Danny Briggs and the mystery of Rashid Khan. Noting that quartet (with Chris Jordan as first change) is one thing: doing something about them is a different matter! Aside from Aaron Finch and Eoin Morgan (494 T20s between them) no batsman really collared that Sharks attack and it’s asking a lot for four or five men to make 30s and 40s in order to set a decent target or sustain a healthy chase. My tip for the Cup.

Ball Three – Middlesex mayhem

What is going on at Middlesex? A nightmarish T20 season was wrapped up by failing to defend 210 against Essex and then (with some mitigation) failing to chase 216 against Sussex. They finished the campaign with a net run rate of -1.128, worsened only by the Northamptonshire’s somewhat spineless Steelbacks. The problem isn’t hard to discern – no bowler went for fewer than Tom Helm’s 8.8 per over. 8.8! James Fuller was thrown the ball in 13 matches and went at 10.8, but you can take your pick really. That internationals, Steven Finn and Ashton Agar, were each carted at an economy rate of 9.4 from their combined 45 overs seems hard to credit. Individuals can have poor seasons, bowling and fielding units can have off days, but such a collective collapse of confidence feels unprecedented amongst a group comprising many seasoned pros. Coach, Daniel Vettori, bad back and all, should probably have had a go himself. We’ve probably entered SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE territory in North London.

Ball Four – Batsman of the Blast

Lewis Gregory probably doesn’t even count himself as a batsman, but a switch flicked earlier this season and he transformed himself into a very handy customer indeed. Back in June, Gregory had a run-of-the-mill record that many lower middle order batsman sustain throughout their careers: 44 innings, 613 runs off 471 deliveries at a strike rate of 130, hitting just under one in six balls to the boundary. In 2018, he was almost twice as effective: 11 innings, 261 runs at a strike rate of 210, hitting one in three balls to the boundary. It would fascinating to hear what had changed in his game – mindset, technique, role or, most likely, a combination of all three. There might be a few coaches looking down their order to uncover 2019’s Lewis Gregory come next Spring.

Ball Five – Bowler of the Blast

There was a time when when an English wrist-spinner was as rare as a walking Australian, but they’re popping up all over the place these days, like reasons to denounce The Hundred. Lancashire’s Matt Parkinson, were he an indie band from Bolton and not a leg-spinner, would be an “underground hit” – those who know of him believe he is The Future (of Lancashire and maybe England too), but plenty haven’t heard of him at all. His numbers in this year’s T20 would have been seen as some kind of voodoo 20 years ago and had people misty-eyed reminiscing about Robin Hobbs: 20 wickets at an average of 18 and an economy rate of 7.5. England play five ODIs and a T20I in Sri Lanka before the three Tests – there’ll be plenty of chat about Parkinson making the first part of that tour and, with Ed Smith enjoying a radical pick or two, maybe even the second.

Slow one or fast one?

Ball Six – Seen any cricket lately?

Last week, 43 summers ago, a 12 year-old boy caught the 61 bus from Seaforth to Aigburth and saw Barry Richards and Clive Lloyd make centuries, but was even more thrilled by Andy Roberts (34.5 – 13 – 77 – 9) in the match that hooked cricket into my DNA for life. I told that story to the very personable Vikram Banerjee, Head of Strategy for the England and Wales Cricket Board, at a panel meeting held at The Barbican (click here for my fuller account of the discussion). I contrasted that opportunity with Lancashire’s fixture list this season (by no means atypical) – seven T20 matches and one County Championship match in the last 51 days, and all at Old Trafford. He took that point, but remarked that the new structure would see cricket at many more outgrounds in 2020. Whether those matches will be as life-changing as the one above remains to be seen.

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