Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 10, 2020

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 9 September 2020

Ball One – Staying on the scene, the Essex machine

Ryan ten Doeschate is 40 years old and isn’t blasting the volume of runs he once did. But his experience is a handy insurance policy for a team that seldom needs one. Having shot out Middlesex for 138, Essex’s batsmen looked like they had squandered the good work of their bowlers at 44-4, but the old man of the side had other ideas.

He did not leave the crease for over two hours, during which the late middle order transformed a deficit of 94 runs into a lead of 89, Adam Wheater and Simon Harmer getting in at the other end. Cue Sam Cook and Aaron Beard to elbow their way past the old firm of Jamie Porter and Harmer to bag a combined 7-49 and yet another victory was chalked up.

Essex are through to the Bob final and it would be a brave man – or an overly-confident weather seer – who would bet against them.

Ball Two – Lammonby carries his bat to Lord’s

The only other county to have won four of their five matches, Somerset, will be Essex’s opponents in the final at HQ, but not without being made to work for their day in the slanting Autumnal sun by Worcestershire.

The difference between the sides was opener, Tom Lammonby, who, at 20, has made centuries in consecutive matches and also has a “carried his bat” against his name, a rare distinction that many players spend the length of his lifetime trying to achieve.

But another stat is perhaps more revealing of a talent that is probably the find of the tournament. Under pressure to win, Lammonby’s 107* in an innings of 193, represented 55% of his team runs and, just to underline how tricky scoring proved to be, no Worcestershire batsman beat Ben Cox’s 32 when the hosts set off in pursuit of their target. That was no cheap century and Lammonby is a name to watch.

After last year’s Champo showdown, Somerset and Essex will go again later this month.

Ball Three – Duckett lifts Nottinghamshire’s head above water

Despite Nottinghamshire failing to register their first win of the Bob in their match against Durham, they finished ahead of Leicestershire (who do have a victory) in the North Group by ten points – see Ball Six for my views on that anomaly. Given the state of red ball cricket at Trent Bridge recently, that constitutes progress.

If Notts are to be competitive in 2021’s championship, much will surely depend on their two centurions in this match, Joe Clarke and Ben Duckett.

Despite both men being under 26, they have racked up a scarcely believable 175 first class matches between them so they should be entering the prime of their careers. It’s nearly four years since Duckett played the last of his four Tests, in which he looked painfully raw, but not without talent. He has quietly constructed a very decent 2020 season and might just have the platform now to explore the potential that won him that call-up in Bangladesh and India.

Zak Crawley and Darren Stevens celebrate Kent’s win

Ball Four – DI Stevens solves cricket again

While the future of English batting was making a century at better than a run a ball, a man twice his age was earning himself another year’s contract with the SF Barnesian match figures of 49-23-72-9 in Kent’s win over Hampshire.

Darren Stevens isn’t quite old enough to have played with the man whose longevity and effectiveness surpasses even his own, but he was wobbling it a bit this way and a bit that way long before Zak Crawley was born. He has Michelles in three of the five Bob matches and finishes the group stage as the highest wicket taker (betting without Simon Harmer of course).

Just because we’ve got used to it doesn’t make it any less remarkable.

Ball Five – Bye Bye Belly

I’m not given to sentimentality (yes, I know, Scouser and all) but who didn’t feel a tear in the eye and a swelling of pride in our game when Glamorgan lined up to salute Ian Bell’s last innings in first class cricket and later, alongside Warwickshire, repeated the gesture to mark Jeff Evans’ last match as an umpire?

Some old school courtesies were always honoured as much in the breach as in their observation – walking the most obvious example – and, even today, the moral high ground is contested over running out players backing up yards down the pitch. But fans and fellow players recognise the game’s great servants and pay tribute with a quick and dignified guard of honour, before attempting to stick one up the batsman’s nose first ball.

Exactly how it should be.

Ball Six – A decent spell from the Bob Willis Trophy

The Bob has been a success. The players have given their all, with some new names and some old faces for fans to enjoy and an old truism proved again – there’s not much wrong with cricket that a bit of sunshine can’t cure.

Partly because it would be foolish not to learn lessons from a format foist upon the game and partly because administrators like nothing more than to tinker with the first class structure, the Bob’s backwash will have some impact on the four day cricket in 2021, Covid dominated or not.

I’d make three quick suggestions for any review.

(i) Simplify any points system, reduce the impact of bonus points and make tiebreak rules crystal clear at the start;

(ii) Consult county members and, if possible, the wider cricket community in any review;

(iii) Create a narrative that a casual (or semi-casual) cricket fan can follow – straightforward league tables and a system that ensures that a single sentence can summarises what’s at stake in any fixture.



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