Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 11, 2019

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 11 July 2019

Ball One – Somerset’s team ethic shines

To win the pennant, you have to win matches – and to win matches, you need to win the big moments. Somerset continue to deliver that brief with an expected, but nevertheless tricky win over rock bottom Nottinghamshire. Having decided to bat at Taunton, the home side were 145-6 halfway through the first afternoon, before Steve Davies and Dom Bess made half centuries to lift their side to 326 all out. Bess (showing the benefit of that loan spell at Yorkshire) then helped himself to a fivefer securing a lead of 85, but Azhar Ali’s 65 not out was the only score of note as a gettable target of 255 was set. Leach and Bess were in business again with six wickets between them, but Jamie Overton shot out the tail and 22 points were in the bag. Someone always stands up for Somerset.

Ball Two – Harmer does the damage – again

And they need to, because Essex despatched Yorkshire with the same ruthless efficiency at Chelmsford. Simon Harmer again led the way with 5-76 and 3-72, his form seemingly impervious to this country’s ever-changing conditions. In 2017, Harmer was second in the Division One bowling table with 72 wickets at 19; in 2018, he was fifth with 57 wickets at 24; and now he has already matched last season’s haul at the extraordinary average of 17. Nobody saw this coming two years ago when he signed Kolpak terms for Essex, surplus to requirements after five Tests for South Africa.

DI Stevens

Ball Three – Investigating DI Stevens’s prospects

Surrey’s limping defence of the pennant continued at The Oval, where they lost to a Kent team who are, man-for-man, arguably weaker from 1-11. Of course, the game is not played on paper, nor is it simply a matter of lining up the talents and totting up the averages. As so often in recent seasons, Darren Stevens epitomised the Kent effort, his first innings figures of 17-4-30-0 a case of “taking wickets at the other end”; while his second innings analysis of 22-4-60-5 set up a target of 121, which was never going to be enough for the Londoners to defend. Stevens has recently played a couple of second XI matches and had been conspicuously absent from these columns (Lewis Gregory getting many of the shouts that Stevens got in previous seasons). At 43, I feared he might be done with red ball cricket – ask four Test match batsmen (Mark Stoneman, Ben Foakes, Dean Elgar and Rikki Clarke) and Jamie Smith, born three years after Stevens’s debut, about that one.

Ball Four – Jeetan’s giants down the order

Warwickshire may be second bottom, but they are showing plenty of the resolve that Nottinghamshire cannot locate. Away at Southampton, they watched on while Ian Holland scored a maiden century and Aneurin Donald found his form at last, the somewhat unlikely pair adding 262 as Hampshire piled up 539, another huge first innings score to bat beneath in a week for the Midlanders. But Sam Hain (in a very welcome return to form) scored twin centuries and 103-6 became, 70 overs later, 347-8 as hands were shaken. At 8, 9 and 10, Ben Mike, Henry Brookes and Jeetan Patel all hung around for two hours or so with little prospect of the win – but they got the draw they played for, and deserved.

Ball Five – Toby buys a jug

With three to go up from Division Two, no county is out of contention, with Middlesex the big movers this week. The 19 points their win over Gloucestershire secured raised them to mid-table with power to add. Toby Roland-Jones’s fitness and availability might prove the difference between promotion and another season in Division Two for the 2016 champions, as he remains one of the most effective cricketers in the country. His 7-52 restricted Gloucestershire’s first innings lead to “manageable” and his 99 runs partnership with Tom Helm for the eighth wicket ensured that he had something to bowl at in the fourth innings, the visitors requiring 216. Three more wickets gave him a tenfer in the match, and Helm and Tim Murtagh ensured TR-J’s efforts were not in vain, Middlesex cruising home despite some spirited late resistance from Graeme van Buuren.

Ball Six – England Watch

In his first senior outing since being invalided out of England’s tour of the West Indies, Olly Stone bagged a fivefer and hurried up county batsmen as he always does – when fit enough to play. For all the excitement around Jofra Archer’s stepping up to the international game, Stone is the quicker bowler and showed much promise in his brief taste of ODI cricket in Sri Lanka. If (always the “if’) he’s fit, he’ll play at Chelmsford in the next round of matches against a red hot Essex side – another fivefer there and he might be an outside bet for a Test spot before the summer is through.

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