Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 20, 2019

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 20 September 2019

Darren Stevens pictured last week

Ball One – Wild West (Country) showdown looms

As in an old Western, the two gunslingers will ride into town for the shootout in the last reel – as we have known they would for months now. Somerset (for most people wearing the white stetson) will “welcome” Essex to Taunton and a pitch that might just make Rock Ridge’s dusty old Main Street look like the M1, given the host’s need for the 16 points that comes with a win. But let’s hope Jack Leach (cleared by the ECB to turn out for Somerset – if selected) is only cleaning his glasses of condensation and not rain, and leave any arguments about the pitch – and there will be arguments no matter how green, how dry, how slow, how fast – for another day. For now, let’s just let the grand old County Championship have its week in the sun – God knows, enough people have tried to lock it away under the stairs for long enough.

Ball Two – Seam + Centuries + Harmer = win

Essex ride into town on the back of an innings win over last season’s runaway champions, Surrey, whose defence of the pennant has been a little embarrassing, even with the mitigation of international calls and injuries. Seam did the job first time round for Essex at Chelmsford, Jamie Porter and Sam Cook bagging a fivefer each, before Simon Harmer (whose head-to-head with Leach next week will be fascinating) did the Simon Harmer thing with 7-58. In between, Essex just needed a couple of batsmen to get in and go on, and this week they were Dan Lawrence and Ryan ten Doeschate, whose 250 runs aggregate was only 97 fewer than all ten Surrey batsmen managed twice over. The 2017 Champions will hope that old formula works one last time in 2019.

Ball Three – Abbott illuminates records manuscript

Somerset picked a bad time to run into Kyle Abbott in record-breaking form, his 9-40 and 8-46 blowing away the opposition both on the field and off, every bowler who has turned their arm over in first class cricket since Tony Lock got one wicket in the Old Trafford Test of 1956 bested. Hat well and truly tipped, but the win needed more than just the spirit of Roy Castle to acclaim such dedication, because amidst the backslapping and jug buying, runs were still required to win the match and centuries from England’s somewhat forgotten men, Liam Dawson and James Vince, ensured that the match was more than just a statistical oddity, no matter how oddly that statistic stands out. (And if you get close to figures such as FW Lillywhite’s 18-? and FP Fenner’s 17-?, you know you’ve strayed into a very strange land).

Ball Four – DI Stevens solves cricket (the sequel)

Incredibly, Abbott’s was not the deepest push into cricket’s arcane records last week. Darren Stevens (about whom this column must have written more words than anyone else since its inception seven years ago), made the mere matter of 237 runs, as he and Sam Billings (whose twin centuries were consigned to a footnote) rescued Kent from 39-5. The grizzled old pro sealed his spot in posterity (and a coveted mention in Andrew Samson’s Twitter feed) with his fifth second innings wicket, as Yorkshire, who must have been feeling quite chipper on the first morning, went down by 433 runs. 433 runs! Stevens (at 57) became the oldest man since Dr W.G. Grace to score a double century and take a fiverfer in a first class match. [Stevens is 43 years and 142 days old, but he looks older than me, so I’m claiming that he’s 57 and he’ll have to prove otherwise].

Ball Five – Northamptonshire almost up

In a good week for seamers who nag away there or thereabouts, Ben Sanderson and Brett Hutton shared 15 wickets to kill off Durham’s late bid for promotion and all but secure Division One cricket at Wantage Road come 2020. The match was a microcosm of Northants’ season, with no real standout performances (not compared to some this week anyway) but solid contributions with bat and ball accumulating the runs required to allow the bowlers to take the 20 wickets that forms line one of their collective job description. Wicketkeeper-batsman-captain, Adam Rossington, extended his season’s run aggregate to a club leading 787 with twin half-centuries, but no batsman averages over 50 from six innings or more, and Hutton and Sanderson have, more or less, carried the bowling between them. They might need reinforcements over the winter, but, for now, (barring freak results) it’s time to reflect on a job well done.

Ball Six – G-Men Fear Blizzard Interventions

Glamorgan and Gloucestershire both won last week to set up a fight between the near neighbours for the third promotion slot. With a 16 points advantage and Northamptonshire having to resist packing their flip-flops for the trip to Bristol, Gloucestershire are favourites to go up, but the weather might have a part to play and, capricious though it might be, it’s unlikely to be the same for both sides, Glamorgan heading just south of the Arctic Circle to Chester-le-Street. It’ll be a shame if John Kettley and co are continually sending the umpires out to inspect the pitch (well, the outfield usually) and everyone is looking at Jackson Pollocky pictures of satellite projections on their phones instead of the middle, but cricket has always been in thrall to the weather. Which is why they should play more Champo matches in the summer.


  1. I know you saw Harmer at Chelmsford earlier in the season. On Wednesday, I was struck by how the majority of Surrey’s batsmen struggled with his nagging length and surprising pace. They were consistently playing back to balls that were suddenly both fuller and quicker than anticipated. He had 1 lbw in his first 20 wickets this season. He has something like 18 lbw’s out of the 58 since. He needs 6 wickets for 100 in first class cricket this year. A rare feat these days.

    • He was getting his LBWs at Taunton today.

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