Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 1, 2020

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 31 August 2020

Last Monday in August

Ball One – T20 back in vogue

Shiny and new 17 years ago, when taxis would disgorge city types at The Oval to join the men and (yes, I know, because I was there) women and children in a blaze of music, lights and er… booze, Twenty20 was set to become passé in 2020. But the consummation of cricket’s troubled marriage with The Hundred has been put back a year and T20 has made it through the wilderness of Covid and cloud and is back! And, while this week’s fare may not been an immaculate collection of matches, it’s been good to see some old faces getting back into the groove and some new ones, playing for the very first time.

Ball Two – Lancashire beat Derbyshire at Headingley – Twenty20 in 2020

Nottinghamshire and Lancashire lead the North Group, each with five points from two wins and a washout.

My mother used to ask me “Who’s winning?” (a question The Hundred’s format will make harder to answer by the way). As long as the West Indies weren’t playing, I’d sigh and say, “Well…” and she’d mutter that it was a boring game and ask when it would be finished. I’d say, “Well…”… and that’s how we got a cuboid black and white portable television in 1976 or so.

Lancashire were winning their match against Derbyshire for 39 of its 40 overs (especially after Wayne Madsen injured his achilles attempting a ramp just when he had found his range on the drive). Cue Matt Critchley (a talented and resourceful cricketer who might captain his county or another quite soon) to go 6, 2, 4 off the first three deliveries of the last over, and just seven more were needed and Derbyshire were suddenly “winning”. But a leg bye that should probably have been refused, took him off strike and he was run out by Alex Davies’ bullseye (having a good night after 82 with the bat) and Lanky had their win by four runs – with squeakier bums than their superiority deserved.

Ball Three – Clarke writing a new chapter?

After Durham had made 181-3 in their 20 overs (losing only three wickets, are you leaving some runs on the field I wonder), Joe Clarke made short work of the target, his century including eight sixes and seven fours, as Notts cruised home. At 24, having had his seemingly inexorable rise to England’s senior squads derailed by the fallout from evidence presented in the trial of ex-team mate, Alex Hepburn (which led to Clarke serving a four match ban for bringing cricket into disrepute), he has little time to waste if he is to realise his potential as a cricketer.

Older, wiser and with the humility only a shock such as seeing one’s reputation shredded can bring, Clarke has a couple of important years ahead of him. For now, he can concentrate on rescuing Notts’ second consecutive dismal red ball season with a trip to Edgbaston for Finals Day.

Ball Four – Northants cash in on Stirling investment

Northamptonshire stole an early march in the Central Group after a couple of comfortable wins. Paul Stirling, playing as an overseas player so he can continue to turn out for his country, repaid the faith shown in him at Wantage Road with a fine display against Worcestershire. Having picked up a couple of wickets in conceded just 26 runs from his four overs, he teed off to score 80* as 125 target was obliterated with 29 balls to spare.

A few years ago, I used to claim that every T20 XI would evolve into a keeper and ten David Husseys who could bowl darts in at the toes and stand and deliver with bat in hand. It hasn’t quite worked out like that, but the Irishman is about the nearest to the template playing today – and it’s not a bad one.

Ball Five  – White ball princes party like it’s 2009

Sussex, by dint of recording the only win in the South Group, lead the table after a last over win vs Hampshire. It was Luke Wright who led his team home with 82, after Ravi Bopara had scuttled in to bowl his four overs for the concession of just a run a ball.

It’s six years since either man played T20 for England and both are 35 years of age, Ravi a little grizzled these days, but Luke retaining his boy band goofy grin. Each of them has racked up over 100 appearances for England and they could tell the inside story of a different first class match every morning for a year and not repeat themselves. If they’re picking up decent money as guns for hire in the T20 (and shorter!) formats leagues around the world, I wish them well – they’ve earned the right.

Ball Six – The knotty problem of keepers standing up or standing back produces two ties

Essex, Kent, Middlesex and Surrey slot in behind Sussex on two points earned in a tie and a washout apiece. The tie, once a rare and exotic beast, is now more commonplace, but just as much fun.

Ben Foakes, whose life in the England bubble has improved his batting no end, had led Surrey’s chase of 144, but perhaps the denouement should have been no surprise. The side that can’t win lost two wickets off the last two balls to Essex, the side that can’t lose, and the spoils were shared. Hats off to Foakes’ opposite number, Adam Wheater, whose take of a wide full ball from pacer Matt Quinn was a slick piece of keeping and deserved the stumping rather than run out that was recorded in the book against the last ball of the match.

Perhaps Wheater had been informed by John Simpson standing back to Tom Helm (understandably so – Helm is genuinely quick) as Kent looked for one run off the last three deliveries to beat Middlesex. After two dots, Jack Leaning scampered the bye to the keeper off the last ball (“scamper” is the only verb allowed in such circumstances) meaning Daniel Bell-Drummond and Zak Crawley’s opening stand of 89 in 6.5 overs did not return the victory it would do nine times out of ten. There are few more watchable opening pairs in the country than those two – if only we were allowed in to enjoy their work.


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