Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 17, 2018

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 16 September 2018

Ball One – Surrey (with a whinge) on top

As had been clear for some weeks now, the County Champions’ Pennant will fly over The Oval next summer. Some may cry “moneybags” or “Surrey strut”, but neither complaint holds water – the salary cap applies to the South Londoners as much as to anyone else and the conveyor belt of young players has made tired arrogance jibe as outdated as Netscape. Rory Burns, in his first year as captain, has 345 runs more than any other batsman in Division One, with Ollie Pope fifth on the list at an average of 73. Roll in contributions all down the order – Rikki Clarke has well over 400 runs at 35 from 7 or 8 – and the bowlers always had something to work with. And they did – led by Morne Morkel’s 50 wickets at 14, with Clarke in the game again snaring 43 victims at 21, and Pope’s bowling equivalent, spinner Amar Virdi, picking up 35 wickets at 27 having been selected for all 12 matches, half of them played when still a teenager. Though some will point to the off-field income that creates the infrastructure to support such players, the plain fact is that Surrey is the outstanding county in red ball cricket because they bowl, bat and field at a higher level than others team and they are outstandingly led on and off the field.

Ball Two – Lancashire with a mountain to climb after trans-Pennines defeat

It wasn’t quite a relegation play-off at Headingley, but everyone knew that the losers would have one foot on the snake and victors one foot on the ladder. Both sides had chances to win, but White triumphed over Red because when they needed a player to stand up, one did. In the first innings, Tom Bailey (whose consistency this season hardly deserves his impending relegation) got amongst the top order to reduce the home side to 33-4, but Tom Kohler-Cadmore found a partner in ‘keeper, Jonny Tattersall, who belied his inexperience by adding 105 for the fifth wicket with his senior partner, who ended up with over half his side’s 209 runs. Lancashire’s deficit was but 100 overnight with all ten wickets in hand, but Jack Brooks, leaving at the end of the season, weighed in with a valedictory fivefer and the match looked balanced as Adam Lyth and Jeet Raval looked to set a target. Kohler-Cadmore got going again, and he and Gary Ballance compiled 148 runs for the fourth wicket, eventually leaving Lancashire 230 for the win. Ben Coad and that man Brooks kept taking wickets whenever Lancashire threatened the one big partnership you need with a target like that, and White defeated Red. Both counties have had troubled seasons, but Yorkshire are 14 points clear of their old rivals with a game in hand.

Ball Three – Stevens and Stewart’s stand sends Kent up standings

While Warwickshire were annihilating Leicestershire by an innings and plenty to stay top of Division Two, Kent had the trickier job of taking on a Middlesex side that had shown signs of playing to its potential towards the end of a difficult season.  It was a bowlers’ match at Lord’s, where 19 wickets fell on the first day and another 15 went on the second. In such conditions, the usual cliché can be reversed and you can say that batsmen win matches, the crucial runs often coming from unexpected quarters. With the (nearly) oldest pro in town, Darren Stevens, lurking at 7, you might expect him to hold his hand up, but his partner in a stand of 75 for the ninth wicket, was Grant Stewart, the Australian accounted far from the worst Number 9 you’ll meet, but down there for a reason. That partnership was the best of the match by 16 runs (and comprised its only two half centuries), with Sam Billings seeing his side over the line with three wickets in hand.

Ball Four – Cameron Steel adds steel, as Durham send Sussex’s promotion hopes south

That result may prove critical because, while Kent were eking out the win, promotion-chasing Sussex were feeling a long way from home at Chester-le-Street. All seemed well as Ollie Robinson’s fiverfer shot out Paul Collingwood’s men for 103, but that merely cued Chris Rushworth to roll back the years with 8-51 and the home side were soon ahead with all ten second innings wickets in hand. Cameron Steel proceeded, over six hours at the crease, to knock the stuffing out of Sussex with 160, and the unlikely chase of 322 morphed into an impossible one after three ducks in the first three overs. The 19 points do not make a big difference to Durham’s season, but Sussex’s bag of just three left them 21 adrift of Kent and the second promotion berth. Two do-or-die matches loom.

Ball Five – Finals Day – festivities or foolery?

Finals Day – does that phrase fill you with joy or with a dull ache in the base of the stomach knowing the noise, the fancy dress and the “Hey, look at me!” brigade will be unfettered, even celebrated? Oddly, while so much has happened to Twenty20 since its launch in 2003, Finals Day probably stays closer to the format’s original conception than most other variations around the world. 15 years ago, T20 was carnivalesque, a colourful, rowdy occasion on which David “Bumble” Lloyd would, as Lord of Misrule, preside over TV coverage from a boundary edge pool and players (probably searching for a box) would be interviewed in the dug out by a Jack-the-Laddish, still exiled from England, roving reporter, Graeme Swann. Because the matches were few and far between, the whole shebang had the atmosphere of The Assizes coming to town. And perhaps it would still feel like that if Finals Day were the culmination of a fortnight tournament – but we started 11 weeks ago. Odd to think that we might look back on Twenty20 in 2018 and see it as restrained.

Arthur Scargill – who wrote the Jofra Archer Overture.

Ball Six – Ali, Brown the stars as Worcestershire romp home

After Lancashire and Somerset failed to threaten their targets in the semi-finals, Worcestershire and Sussex faced off for the T20 Trophy. (Shouldn’t it have a name? The Thrashes?) Sussex, batting first, had the six hitters – five men hit nine between them – but 157-6 was well short of the overwhelming 202-8 they had compiled a few hours earlier. Anything under 160 allows a chasing side to keep the run rate below 10 and wait for the one big over that seems, inevitably, to arrive and swing the match their way. That said, few could have predicted quite how that big over turned up for Worcestershire, the crucial 19th starting with 17 still required, IPL star, Jofra Archer with the ball (and the match) in his hands. A single off the first delivery may even have had Sussex edging favouritism, but, alas, Archer proved to be no William Tell, his aim awry as a beamer went for four byes (and two no balls) followed by the free hit’s despatching into the stands. Next up, the entirely predictable bouncer was hammered to the fence by Ben Cox and Worcestershire were the winners. A good week for Moeen Ali, who carried his renewed confidence with bat and ball into the showpiece and, as captain, coaxed figures of 8-0-36-4 from 20 year old seamer, Pat Brown, who won’t forget his day in a hurry.

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