Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 27, 2019

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 27 September 2019

You’d be smiling too

Ball One – They dreamed a dream

It wasn’t just the weather that was miserable at Taunton – or was it? Somerset failed again in the quest to raise the pennnant over the pavilion, too much time lost to rain, too many wickets to get, too much history hanging in the dank air. But (though I can’t speak for them) I suspect fans – and, I hope, players – do consider second place to be that joyless descriptor “first loser”, but second winner. Maybe it’s the length of the matches, maybe it’s the season starting in Spring and not concluding until England looks very different, glorious in its Autumnal beauty, but finishing second after a season fought long, hard and true is worth – and here comes an old-fashioned word – honouring.

Ball Two – Make enough runs + take enough wickets quickly = Champions

To the victors, the spoils. Essex, the best county side in 2017 and again in 2019 and making a pitch to be called the best this century, won the head-to-head at Chelmsford in midsummer and benefited from Kyle Abbott’s record-breaking turn for Hampshire against Somerset in September, but there was more, much more, to it than that. No batsman was truly outstanding in the Championship, but the six regular specialists all made centuries, usually when others had not, timing as ever critical in sport. But cricket matches are won by bowlers taking wickets and Simon Harmer (83), Jamie Porter (48), Peter Siddle (34), Sam Cook (32) and Aaron Beard (17) did that all summer long. They paid paltry sums for them too (Porter, at 26, the most spendthrift) and they were never far away from a breakthrough, their strike rates all in the 40s. The core of that bowling unit looks likely to be around for a while longer too – so Essex will continue to win a lot of cricket matches.

Ball Three – For Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire, Division One may prove a challenge

The weather won out in Division Two too, Northamptonshire, having taken the champagne off ice last week, up in all but name, joined by Gloucestershire as Division One goes up to ten teams for 2020. It’s hard to guess anything about how next season will go in county and er… franchise cricket and who knows what effect Nottinghamshire disastrous 2019 campaign will have on coaches and players contemplating close season moves, but both promoted counties might have to do some recruitment if they’re to compete regularly at the higher level. That said, it’ll be fascinating to see how Gloucestershire’s Ryan Higgins goes (he’s very much this column’s type of player) and also the highly rated James Bracey. For Northamptonshire, keeper-batsman-captain, Adam Rossington, will have a plate as full as Mike Gatting’s at a Lord’s buffet and the admirable Ben Sanderson and Brett Hutton are going to need a lot more support with the ball to get the twenty wickets wins demand.

Ball Four – Finals Day not carmen down just yet

Twenty20 Finals Day strikes me as being a little like grand opera. If you analyse it too much, all you get is a set of discrete elements each of which is absurd – some very absurd indeed. But if you sit back and accept the big picture and avoid too much of the whys and wherefores, there’s nothing quite like it. The spectacle, the scale, the skills rolled up, stuffed into a barrel called Edgbaston and cast down the mountainside with us inside the bouncing along. Like grand opera, Finals Day has its detractors, but it’s like nothing else, having taken a few years to find its unique smorgasbord of thrills and spills. Wholly unique occasions like Finals Day do not emerge fully formed from the heads of marketing men.

Ball Five – Moeen no moaner

In a world in which decency is becoming as rare as a cricket fan claiming that the one thing the game needs is another format, a decent man had a fine match in the T20 semi-final. It may have been an unforgettable summer for English cricket, but Moeen will be one of the few who will look back on 2019 without much affection, his international future now in some doubt. He could have sulked, he could have taken a break, he could have been playing for The Blitzin’ Buttkickers or whoever in a franchise league somewhere, but he was captaining Worcestershire. He was player of the match in the semi-final, making 21 off 9 balls, then keeping his team in with a shout with 1-13 off his four overs and ultimately making the right calls as Nottinghamshire failed to realise 11 off the last two overs, eight wickets in hand.

Ball Six – Harmer’s armour of confidence sees Essex home in a thriller

But Worcestershire were not destined to retain their title – though what a magnificent defence they put up. It was those greedy boys from up the A12 who grabbed it, the first of a double in a decent week for the Chelmsford posse. Down to the last two overs again, this time the numbers very much with Worcestershire, who were defending 22 and were getting into the bowlers who bat. But Ravi Bopara has the coldest blood in any chase and Simon Harmer? Well, he’s Simon Harmer, and he went 4, 1, 1, 2, 2, 4, 4 to win it off the last ball. Essex’s trophy, Essex’s year, Harmer’s year.

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Responses

  1. Moeen is a superb advert for the way, the style and the attitude with which the game should be played. The fact that we share a Brummie accent is an added bonus!

    • You’re right! (I share the accent too, at least according to some Americans!)


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