Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 3, 2018

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 3 September 2018

Ball One – Surrey give the rest of Division One a headache

Surrey continued what is looking more and more like a relentless march to the title by swatting aside Nottinghamshire who, having asked Surrey to bat, barely took the match into a third day. The Forgotten Curran (Tom becoming Mark to Sam’s Steve) showed, on his first Championship match of the season, that he’s also a very handy performer, with a fivefer and useful runs. He was also involved in an incident that highlights an issue that irritates your correspondent (and plenty more I venture). Hit on the helmet, Curran was quite correctly subject to concussion protocols and, once cleared, resumed his innings once a replacement lid was located. My suggestion is that such procedures should be undertaken in the dressing room, with another batsman taking Curran’s place (in this case, Morne Morkel), Curran able to return once passed fit. Cricketers find far too many ways to stop playing cricket and 15 minutes lost from a day with 13 men standing in the middle while two men, padded up and helmets on, survey the form in The Sporting Life (metaphorically, of course) isn’t acceptable.

Ball Two – Somerset and Yorkshire are having very different seasons

Somerset hung on to the Londoners’ coattails with a solid team effort to beat a Yorkshire side that looks more like eleven cricketers and less like a team every week – and I know there’s much mitigation for the stop-start season endured by so many Tykes. James Hildreth and the increasingly impressive Lewis Gregory each notched a couple of half-centuries, while Azhar Ali and Steven Davies bagged a brace of 80s, before captain Tom Abell steered his team to the second innings declaration with an undefeated ton. It was a similarly collective effort from the bowlers, with a first innings fiverfer from Josh Davey catching the eye, but the Overton twins picked up nine wickets and that man Gregory the remaining six. Winning without a victim for last week’s hero, Jack Leach, nor the non-selected Dom Bess, shows the kind of balance and options a captain needs as the leaves fall and the tension rises.

Ball Three – Great Dane hounds Worcestershire to defeat

The railway that runs along the side of Southport’s Haig Avenue ground was reputed to have been constructed for punters to attend The Waterloo Cup, the mercifully discontinued hare coursing event, the harrowing sounds of which would float over the flatlands behind the sand dunes and into the school classrooms of my youth. These days, many Lancashire members are baying for the blood of its management committee, but followers of the Red Rose had a win for the ages to celebrate at Trafalgar Road. Dane Vilas delivered a captain’s knock of 107 and Josh “Hamilton” Bohannon, in only his second first class match made 78, the undefeated stand of 139 enough to secure an unlikely victory and a 15 points swing over fellow relegation candidates, Worcestershire. How much of the stuffing that knocked out of the visitors, who had Lanky 85-5 in the first innings and 63-4 in the second, remains to be seen, but it’s fair to say that news of Moeen Ali’s triumphant recall to the Test side will have been greeted with mixed feelings at New Road.

Ball Four – Dan Lawrence’s form returns after a dry spell to fire up Essex

Champions, Essex, are, somewhat surprisingly, third in the table after a win that saw a welcome return to form for Dan Lawrence, his first century this season paving the way for Peter Siddle and Simon Harmer to rattle through Hampshire’s batting en route to an innings victory. The match marked Lawrence’s 50th first class appearance, but, having only turned 21 in July, he’s still a young player and, despite what some people might say, Division One is a tough school in which to learn one’s craft. Expect him – and Essex – to give their heirs presumptive, Surrey, a real test at Chelmsfort this week.

Ball Five – Kent made to work hard by spirited Derbyshire

In Division Two, Ian Bell clattered the bowling all around Colwyn Bay, providing a platform for Jeetan Patel to run through Glamorgan who can’t have enjoyed their annual trip up north – Warwickshire stay top. Kent occupy the other promotion slot having also posted over 500 away, this time at Derbyshire. After the last three wickets had added soul-destroying 168 runs, it might have been easy for Billy Godleman’s team to fold – with little chance of promotion, pride was their only motivation. But that was enough to drive Derbyshire to 400 runs of their own and, although they eventually lost by six wickets, they took the game deep into the fourth day, ultimately 80 or so runs short of setting a tricky target for a post follow-on fourth innings chase. The home supporters will be disappointed with the result, but not the effort, something David Houghton, back in 2019 as Derbyshire’s Head of Cricket, will also have noted.

Ball Six – I come to praise county cricket, not to bury it

With about a quarter of the fixtures left, all eight teams in the County Championship Division One have the title to play for or relegation to avoid; in Division Two, half the ten teams have a shot at promotion. All that despite the marginalising of the four day format by everyone except the fans and the players – after all, they can’t be trusted to know what’s best for the game can they? Sports leagues around the world must look on in envy at how county cricket manages to promote this level of competition (and a regular turnover of champions) and marvel – they must wonder too about why its administrators treat their glorious charge with such disdainful complacency. Why not fight them at their own game? I propose a management consultancy style report into county cricket that has one chapter missing – the finances. Let’s see what independent disinterested analysts say about the County Championship itself, not as a cash cow, not as a feeder for the Test side (though it’s not doing too badly on that objective just now), but as an er… product in its own right. Sometimes (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Cricket!)


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