Posted by: tootingtrumpet | October 5, 2020

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 5 October 2020

Ball One – Underdogs dogged by ill fortune

It’s only a game of course, but it’s only a play too, and we still call them tragedies.

I can recall a few times when I’ve stood up in response to watching sport on TV – Michael Owen’s goal against Argentina, Usain Bolt’s 100m in Beijing, Mo Farah second-kicking to gold on Super Saturday.

The endgame of a T20 quarter-final isn’t such an iconic event, but, incredibly, I was on my feet twice in five minutes, involuntarily shouting “Oh no!”. I didn’t have a dog in the fight but, like anyone not connected to Trent Bridge, I wanted Leicestershire to win their match with Leicestershire.

In the 19th over, in the dark, in the cold, in the dank dew, Arron Lilley allowed a well struck hoick from Samit Patel to go under his hands – the ball, like a rat, scuttled to the boundary. It was the most awful thing to happen to a player on the field all season.

Even worse, in the 20th over, Dieter Klein, heart racing, still in the gloomy chill of an October night repeated Lilley’s error, Imad Wasim’s mistimed drive apologetically kissing the boundary sponge.

Leicestershire surrendered their day at Edgbaston, Nottinghamshire progressing on higher powerplay score. Skipper, Colin Ackermann defined ashen faced in his interviews, but turned up like the pro he is. I had sat down by then.

Ball Two – Will Jacks flushes away Kent’s chances

Not so long ago, Surrey’s detractors (the “Surrey Strut” lurks in many memories) were regularly described as “winless Surrey”, the South Londoners failing to get their delayed season off the ground.

Cue September – with some players back from international bubbles but others in the IPL, Gareth Batty’s curiously random group of bowlers and batsmen contrived to win eight consecutive matches in the Blast, the last of which came in the quarter-final against Kent.

Will Jacks was the hero, decapitating the Kent order, seeing off Zak Crawley, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Joe Denly and Sam Billings to leave the visitors requiring 118 runs off 10.9 overs. Soon, their place at Finals Day, like the summer, just slid away more suddenly than expected.

Jacks is still only 21, hits a long ball and turns his off-break. He may well develop into that most useful of county cricketers – very good indeed, but not quite good enough to be an England regular.

Ball Three – Extremely Clumsy Business

In a rare moment of fan-friendly common sense, towards the end of a rain-sodden Finals Saturday (with play abandoned), it was announced that Wednesday would become the reserve day’s reserve day. Clearly, there was a financial outlay involved in adding a potential 12 hours of cricket to the production, but far less than there would have been had a crowd been involved (and no expectant crowd packed in to Edgbaston either). With a relatively empty sporting week ahead (well, football would be on its international break) it looked a smart move all round.

Then news emerged that if the first semi-final were completed, all bets were off and the other two matches would be played to a conclusion, possibly through bowl outs. And so it came to pass that the semi-finals would be 11 overs a side and the final 16. That’s a total of 76 Sunday overs, pretty much enough for two full length semi-finals with a proper final on Wednesday.

The Blast was one of only two trophies available in 2020. The huge number of people involved in getting the cricket on this year, not least the players who had given their all the moment light went green and the fans who had (in many cases) foregone any rebates on memberships, deserved a full scale climax to this most difficult of seasons. If Wednesday was available, it should have been used.

Ball Four – That’s all Foakes

There’s not much Gareth Batty hasn’t seen in his long career, so when the coin came down in his favour, some 28 hours on from the scheduled toss, he asked Gloucestershire to bat.

What would be a defendable score for Jack Taylor’s men in the 11 overs they would get? 100 would be my guess, but Gloucestershire set off with every impression that they wanted 200. As so often the case, even in shortened matches, in ambitious overreaching they fell short, and 74 was never going to trouble Surrey. Ben Foakes top scored, but he only made 20, I’m afraid that it really was that simple.

Ball Five – Dan Christian shows faith in his ability

Lancashire know the value of an overseas player. Clive Lloyd and Wasim Akram call the cotton county their second home and are as admired in Garstang and Lancaster as much as they are in Georgetown and Lahore.

Lancashire had no overseas players in their semi-final XI and it made a difference. Imad Wasim (188 T20 appearances) and Dan Christian (325) combined to bowl their 5 overs for 40 runs and then Christian, sensing that Matt Parkinson was winning (well, sort of) the match for Lancashire, swept Liam Livingstone’s rather less canny legspin for four consecutive sixes and Parky was left with nothing to bowl at with his final set.

Does that sound like sour grapes from a Lanky fan? Maybe there’s a bit of that along, with admiration for Christian’s clarity of thought and clean hitting, but, with all that goes on at multi-event venue Old Trafford, an overseas star or two couldn’t be employed? That was a long hop too many to deliver to your opponents.

Ball Six – Surrey’s charge tied up in knots

Finding form in October, Jason Roy, under more layers than a scorer at Derby in April, was going well with the much underrated Laurie Evans, Surrey on 98-2 with 29 balls left looking to set a target of 150+. But not a single boundary was scored subsequently, Notts’s death bowling plunging the innings into the deep freeze.

128 off 16 overs for the Blast title is no cakewalk, but it’s the kind of challenge for which the Nottinghamshire order could have been made – all those old pros weren’t going to fail en masse were they?

Alex Hales gormlessly lifted Reece Topley’s first ball to the one man in the deep and was quickly followed back to the dugout by Joe Clarke and a promoted Samit Patel. But Ben Duckett was still there and Peter Trego, at 39 old enough to have had his tattoos done when such decoration was the mark of a rebel, got together and hit a couple of boundaries every two overs and cashed in with the singles on offer.

There was time for a cameo from skipper Dan Christian and the memory of holding up the trophy to sustain him on a long and tricky trip home to Melbourne – he had played very well indeed.

Finals Day wasn’t a damp squib and the players should receive nothing but praise for providing any spectacle at all. It was a little low on thrills though, but (see Ball Three) that wasn’t entirely their fault.

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