Posted by: tootingtrumpet | April 26, 2021

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 26 April 2021

Ball One – I don’t like county cricket – I love it.

I’ve long contended that there are two things wrong with county cricket – the weather and the fact that not enough people know about it. This last round of fixtures has been a case in point, with the sun out and (I’ll say inevitably) great sport for the viewing.

And yet, how many of those stuck at home, unable or reluctant to head out just yet, without access to, or tiring of, Netflix and Amazon Prime, understandably turned off by football’s relentless festival of avarice, know that they can watch live, competitive, unpredictable sport played hard and fair by world class players mixing it with up-and-coming stars of tomorrow, solid pros and a few golden oldies, in picturesque historic venues – all piped in, for free, via Youtube?

Other sports wrestle for years with the problems that county cricket solves effortlessly – but maybe that’s an issue. The authorities simply don’t have enough to worry about, enough to warrant meetings with long agendas and steering groups and working parties and reports and rebrandings and well, all that stuff that business obsesses over when all you actually want from them is what they say they do and to answer the phone if something goes wrong. There are reasons for all this – there are always reasons – but if those with the power to do so sent a simple message to the people of Britain and beyond that county cricket is quite good, played Thursday to Sunday and costs you nothing, what a difference that would make.

Rob Yates pictured yesterday

Ball Two – Student passes examination

The Bears and the Pears lead the way in Group 1, with Warwickshire a handy eight points ahead of Worcestershire after Simon Harmer spun Essex to another victory. Stop. Rewind… after Simon Harmer went wicketless as the home side cruised to their 256 run target at Edgbaston.

Whether it’s this season’s extra points for the draw or pitches that can be trusted, I cannot say, but late order runs are already becoming a motif for 2021. After five of their more favoured batting buddies had seen their furniture rearranged, Olly Stone, Danny Briggs, Craig Miles and even Oliver Hannon-Dalby (a bowler – and batsman – with something of Glenn McGrath about him) added over 100 runs to restrict the deficit to double figures. Ball in hand, the quartet (with the pacers each picking up six wickets in the match) then handed a tough but gettable target to the batsmen to seek redemption.

Someone needed to stand up and beat the champions (and history – it’s been 21 matches since it last happened) and that man was a local boy, a Birmingham University undergraduate (like it’s still 1951 and we’re enjoying our Salad Days). Rob Yates – scores this season 40, 0, 2 and 4 – stared down the 22 yards and saw Jamie Porter and Sam Cook, with Peter Siddle prowling in the outfield and Simon Harmer flexing his fingers. He made almost half the required runs off his own bat and, with fewer than ten overs to spare, he had vanquished those fearsome foes and was receiving the congratulations of Sir Alastair Cook, who knows a bit about five hour centuries when the team needs them.

Ball Three – Goodman a sure thing at the death

Gloucestershire, more a team of solid pros than the starrier Hampshire, hung on to the leaders at the top of Group 2 after a sensational draw (yes, American readers, there are such things) at The Rose Bowl.

James Vince with half an hour and a day left, had a lead of 150 runs, the bare minimum for enforcing the follow-on. His six bowlers had sent down 132 overs, but they had been shared fairly evenly and, with 20 wickets the key to any victory, I’m sure bits were being champed at. In such circumstances, I’d advise a captain to look at his attack and throw the match forward two sessions or so – would he back them to take five wickets from that point?

Kyle Abbott and Mohammad Abbas brought almost 1000 FC wickets to the crease, Brad Wheal kept on turning, and Liam Dawson and Mason Crane tweaking, but no Gloucestershire batsman in the top eight gave it away. Despite that fine example of exactly why Joe Root led the call for additional points for the draw (and I’m being swayed towards its utility), there was still more than an hour to play and an anemic lead of 11 in hand when last pair, Josh Shaw and Dominic Goodman joined forces. Neither had crossed 50 outside club or junior cricket, but guts counts for a lot in such circumstances, and, 73 minutes later, Gloucestershire had their draw.

Ball Four – Lamb not to the slaughter

Bowlers were batting at Canterbury too, but in rather different circumstances.

After a couple of sessions of hard graft on a pitch that offered enough movement to Kent’s seamers, Lancashire were six down and mentally preparing for a possible late dart in day one’s slanting sunlight. Not so – the shadows were beginning to lengthen on day two before they swapped bat for ball as Luke Wood and Danny Lamb, probably only playing because Jimmy Anderson and Saqib Mahmood were rested, wrote themselves into the record books with a stand of 187 for the eighth wicket.

Wood made 119 from Number Eight, but Danny Lamb’s 125 was the highest score from Number Nine in Lancashire’s history, a feat of which I’m sure he’s justifiably proud. He’s too young to know, but some pretty useful batsman have occupied that slot down the years – off the top of my head, I’m thinking Jack Simmons, David Hughes, Glen Chapple, Ian “Bully” Austin, maybe even Wasim Akram.

There’s always someone to intervene at such moments to tell you that it’s a results business (and it is), so it was critical that Lancashire drive home the advantage with a victory. After a pretty poor effort first time round from the hosts, Kent’s captain, Daniel Bell-Drummond and his opening partner, Jordan Cox, led the way resisting for longer than the whole team in the second dig. But 52 – 8 – 126 – 7 is an outstanding return in a second innings – take a bow, and the points to go top of Group 3, Matt Parkinson.

Ball Five – England Watch (Batsman)

It couldn’t be could it? Most young batsmen endure a slump in form and come back stronger, but we forget those who don’t, until you’re thumbing through an old Wisden, find a name you had forgotten and whisper to yourself “Ah, he was a player”. You try not to say “Ah, he could have been a player”, but sometimes, you just can’t help it.

He may not be a baby any longer, but the Boycott tag still fits after he out-Boycotted Sir Geoffrey with a record 635 balls faced in a Championship match, twin centuries in the bag. Sure there’s a few in the queue ahead of him and there’s some with better arguments this year alone, but, five years on, could this be the season?

If Haseeb Hameed walks out to open for England in The Ashes, having fought his way back into the side five years on, well Don Bradman may not have had a tear in his eye at The Oval in 1948, but we sure will.

Ball Six – England Watch (Bowler)

Leicestershire may not be the strongest opponents, especially for a big fast bowler who has already played Test cricket, but wickets are wickets and a win is a win. Craig Overton’s match figures of 35.4 – 19 – 64 – 8 delivered the points to Somerset, but also backed up a highly successful 2020 season with another strong performance leading the attack.

Much depends on the balance of England’s XI, the workload of Ben Stokes, the managed swansongs of Anderson and Stuart Broad and the now enhanced position of Chris Silverwood, but Overton has built a case for inclusion in the phalanx of seamers England will surely need to get through the punishing schedule of cricket that the next 12 months will bring.

And I hope it’s not too parochial (pace Ball One) to hope that performances with a red ball, in England, free to view, with three slips and a gully and batsmen looking to defend as well as attack, might just outweigh lucrative, though not particularly relevant, bowling in the IPL, when Test caps are handed out.


  1. It’s been great to see some thrilling twists and turns. That’s the beauty of multi-day multi-innings cricket.

    As for potential England players, the strength in depth is phenomenal but unfortunately that means many high quality players won’t get close. I’m a little reserved about rushing Hameed back but hopefully he’s better for the journey and his time at the top will come again!

    • I think it’s far too soon for HH yet, but if he can back up these centuries with more and, crucially, bat time against decent attacks, the dream return starts to look on.

      Stranger things have happened – look at Damien Martyn and Matthew Hayden and Misbah ul-Haq.

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