Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 15, 2020

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 15 September 2020

Ball One – Clarke’s numbers beginning to add up

With all sides having three matches left in the Blast, Nottinghamshire are the closest to securing a top two slot in a group and thus guaranteeing progress to the quarter-finals at, wait for it, the beginning of next month.

Joe Clarke, enjoying an excellent late season, is a man making hay while the sun shines, a pair of half-centuries ensuring an easy chase against Lancashire and a comfortable defence against Derbyshire. Of those batsmen with 250 runs in the Blast, Clarke has comfortably the highest average (65) and strike rate (188). Having spent longer than expected dealing in the soft currency of promise, he is now dealing in the hard currency of runs.

Ball Two – Roses match wilts after surprise team changes

Lancashire occupy the second automatic qualification spot after a curious Roses match in which Yorkshire had to draft in the kids having lost captain, David Willey, and three senior pros just before its start as a result of the Covid protocols. The surprise seemed to affect both sides, especially in the field, the wet ball and slippery outer making matters tricky – but the concentration of both sets of players did appear to be affected by the departures.

Graham Onions, retired now and doing a good, if unabashedly partisan, job with Sky’s mic in hand, remarked on an aspect of wicketkeeping that has long interested me. He spotted that Alex Davies, who effected two stumpings off Lancashire’s varied spin attack, rather than ease the hands back as the ball “melts” into the gloves, aggressively moved his weight into the ball, the bails swiped off with a flourish. You often see keepers “give” a little and take a baby step back as the ball arrives in the gloves, before moving the hands back towards the wickets for the stumping – perhaps the classical style. I’m not sure that technique is the best these days – with super slomo cameras making the line calls, those fractions of a second required by the back and forth really count.

Ball Three – Benny Howell gets in a shout for the old pros

In the Central Group, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire have opened up a four point gap and will likely claim the two qualification by right knockout places and, perhaps, one of “best of the rest” slots, between them.

Gloucestershire lead the trio having won their match against Northamptonshire, the teams cleared to play after their Bob Willis Trophy match was covided off last week.

It was a couple of old pros who got the job done against Somerset, Ian Cockbain and Benny Howell getting the target above 200 having made 99 runs between them off 45 balls. The absence of most overseas players from 2020’s cricket may have spread the glitter more thinly than is usually the case, but many fans of the domestic game take great pleasure in seeing players like these two apply years of experience and local youngsters given the opportunities so often denied them by a star import. It’s an ill wind etc…

Ball Four – Stone rocks up for the Blast

Warwickshire defended 142 against Glamorgan and then chased 179 to beat Worcestershire, Sam Hain steering them home, the Bears hitting form at the right time.

Olly Stone picked up five wickets in those matches and 10 in his six Blast appearances to date. Whether he will ever be fit enough to secure the place in England’s phalanx of quicks his pace demands is debatable, but, like Tymal Mills and Billy Stanlake, his body may be better suited to four over bursts. He’ll always go for a few, as Isaac Newton worked out before Darren Stevens was playing, but he’ll take wickets too, as batsmen transfer weight, almost involuntarily, on to the back foot, the reward for the 90mph bowler.

Maybe we should not lament the lost quicks of cricket (there have always been a few, and some of us haven’t got over Mfuneko Ngam, who played his last cricket for South Africa in 2001 at the age of 21)  but instead celebrate the chance T20 gives for us to see the speedsters sowing their mayhem instead of telling tales of what might have been.

I’d keep an eye out too if Zak is batting just up the road

Ball Five – Crawley on the charge

“2020. What a glorious year that was” – says nobody: ever. Except Zak Crawley, whose undefeated 108 proved too much for Hampshire and gave him 420 runs for twice out in his last three matches at the Ageas Bowl. Kent sit second in the South Group on net run rate, with both Surrey and Sussex also having won four of their six completed matches.

The data driven journalist might now go to an app that analyses match-ups between bowlers and batsmen to assess the likely outcome of the fixtures to come, or, perhaps, study weather forecasts for signs of rain that might lead to no results. They might even look at the history between teams or players to see where the edge might lie. Good for them.

Me? I suggest that Zak Crawley’s name may well be on the Cup, and I wouldn’t bet against Kent getting to Finals Day and the breakthrough player of 2020 timing the the ball sweetly all the way from Edgbaston to Bournville. If it’s your time, even in this year of living fearfully, it’s your time.

Ball Six – Laurie Evans’ juggernaut defeats Essex

Surrey may have something to say about such unscientific nonsense after piling up 416 runs in two wins, the better of which was a last ball thriller at the home of the champions.

Essex, whose stumbling defence of their 2019 title looked like it might have been relaunched after Cameron Delport and Adam Wheater crossed 100 in the ninth over, were pegged back by spinners, 21 years old Dan Moriarty and 42 years old Gareth Batty, and then had their tail docked by Reece Topley’s left arm pace.

With the 20.20 to Chelmsford having failed to leave the carefully constructed platform, Surrey were pursuing a gettable 196. Laurie Evans’ 88 was the foundation on which they constructed the chase, but it took a last ball boundary from newish boy, Gus Atkinson, to get them over the line. It was a fine comeback from the young seamer whose first over had gone 4441Wd61lb – which just goes to show that if you can stay in the game, good things happen.

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