Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 9, 2018

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 9 September 2018

Ball One – A Question of (fair) Sport

Somerset need one run to keep their title hopes alive; Lancashire need two wickets to help them with their fight against relegation – “Bill Beaumont. What happened next?”. It had been an extraordinary match played on a pitch that attracted some strong words from Paul Allot, Lancashire’s Director of Cricket (not an entirely disinterested party). But what drama for those in attendance at Taunton and plenty more listening to or following the action online. After three innings in which wickets fell like Brexiteers’ promises, the home side were set 78 and had 77 of them in the bank when Keshav Maharaj induced a death or glory charge from Dom Bess (stumped) and, after nine dot balls of ratcheting tension, a death or glory slog from Jack Leach that Tom Bailey, heart pounding, pouched at cow corner. Ties are about as rare in the County Championship as they are at a meeting of the Jeremy Clarkson Appreciation Society, so we should cherish them – whether the ECB feel the same way when they read the pitch inspector’s report remains to be seen. It seems almost perverse to record the rather mundane 11 points each team took away from the clash.

Ball Two – Who writes Rikki Clarke’s scripts?

While all that was going on in the South West of England, in the South East, the reigning champions were playing the champions-elect at Chelmsford. It was business as usual for Rory Burns’s juggernaut, crushing Essex by ten wickets, the only resistance coming from Ravi Bopara with an unbeaten second innings 81. But it was another ghosts of England Past who caught the eye – Rikki Clarke. When the angular all-rounder returned to his first county after a successful sojourn at Warwickshire, I felt he would play white ball cricket mainly, his hitting and canny bowling backed up by fielding that still, at nearly 37, sets standards. But there he is, in the lower middle order, making 56 and then nipping it about to take 4-28 and 4-47, boosting his season’s figures to 392 runs at 33 and 41 wickets at 19. When pennant last flew over the Oval, Clarke was there too – 16 summers ago, when the likes of Sam Curran, Amar Virdi, Ollie Pope and Will Jacks were toddlers. International potential forever unfulfilled, but what way to bookend a career.

Ball Three – Ballance helps steady the ship, as Yorkshire take decent form into Roses clash

If the top two places look settled in Division One, the bottom two places are anything but, with all seven remaining counties nervously eyeing the trap door. Yorkshire couldn’t force a win at Trent Bridge, but they got the next best thing going into a Roses match with stakes even higher than usual. After Kraigg Brathwaite, Ben Slater and Ben Duckett had propelled the home side to 205-2, Yorkshire fought back hard to limit Nottinghamshire to 448 and then secured a handy first innings lead of 50 with centuries from Gary Ballance and Tom Kohler-Cadmore. Though the 12 bonus points may be the concrete return on their efforts, the spirit displayed could proved crucial when White takes on Red at Headingley.

Ball Four – Ed Barnard makes his point amongst the overseas bowlers

Hampshire (19 points) beat Worcesteshire (3 points) in a match that lifted the winners to fifth and pinned the losers to the bottom – had the points gone the other way, Hampshire would be bottom and Worcestershire level with Yorkshire a point behind Lancashire. Like Somerset vs Lancashire above, this was a low scoring game, but it was no thriller, reminding us that cricket never quite reduces to its clichés. It wasn’t a good match with the bat for the Worcestershire all-rounder, Ed Barnard, who bagged a pair, but at least he got amongst the South Africans when it came to bowling honours. His seven wickets (supplemented by Wayne Parnell’s six) were ultimately trumped by Kyle Abbott’s eight and Dale Steyn’s six (Fidel Edwards and Australian, Ian Holland, were Hampshire’s other bowlers). Barnard has 42 wickets this season in a struggling side who don’t always put runs on the board and is still only 22. England are hardly short of bowlers who bat and batsmen who bowl these days, but if a little rotation is required in the West Indies before a huge summer in 2019, he might yet be a fringe contender for the squad.

Ball Five – Matt Henry’s long pilgrimage pays dividends for Kent.

Durham, with little to play for, upheld the integrity of Division Two by fighting hard to get a draw at Edgbaston, opening the door for Kent and Sussex to close the gap on the long time leaders, Warwickshire, the two promotion slots looking likely to be settled between these three. After Kent had been dismissed for 137, captain, Alex Wakely threw the ball to New Zealand speedster, Matt Henry, and braced his fingers for the pounding they would receive behind the stumps. The value of a strike bowler was underlined, as the Kiwi’s seven wickets helped put his openers back in with a lead of 32. Joe Denly got in the game – as he has so often this season – with 81 and Northamptonshire were required to make 320 for an unlikely win. When Henry removed both openers in his first spell, it was only a matter of time. His raw pace has brought him 61 wickets at 15 in his eight matches this season, the man from Canterbury (New Zealand) clearly enjoying life in Canterbury (England).

Ball Six – Players should represent one county only in a Championship season

Yes it was that Ben Duckett playing for Nottinghamshire in Ball Three. Though there have always been a few late season changes to county squads (Lancashire fans will be hoping Maharaj’s late intervention in their season is as successful as Muttiah Muralitharan’s was a decade or so ago), the switching of counties on loan prior to a close season move seems to be a relatively recent thing. Perhaps it’s a matter of taste, but introducing a brand new player to the competition seems permissible in a way that contracting another team’s player is not. Ben Duckett should be a Northamptonshire player in 2018 (as Josh Poysden, on the opposite side, should be a Warwickshire player and not a Yorkshire player for this season). It’s not the biggest issue the County Championship faces, but it’s another little chip at its credibility, another little smack in the face for a competition that can only fight back with the superb quality of its sport and its band of much abused supporters.

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Responses

  1. I guess the counter argument is that a young English talent like Duckett wouldn’t be playing for Northamptonshire having signed for Nottinghamshire, so it’s better that he’s playing at all. Maybe all signings should have to be made outside of the season.

    I think that Barnard should be more than a fringe contender for England!


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