Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 17, 2021

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 17 May 2021

Ball One – How to beat the opposition (players and weather)

Having been uncharacteristically out of sorts for a few weeks, Essex cranked up the mean machine and brushed aside Derbyshire as they leapfrogged to the top of Group 1. Having lost the first day to rain, the plan was to have a look, go hard for the bonus points that come with a total of 400 and then bowl the opposition out twice. Easier said than done of course.

It helps if you have players with the self-belief to execute so bold a plan and the team spirit required to know that it lies within their collective grasp. After Sir Alastair Cook and Nick Browne Esq. had raised three figures at a respectable three or so an over, skipper Tom Westley got together with Dan Lawrence to go at a run a ball as both raised their centuries, Lawrence’s “nearly” set of recent scores ending with the milestone he deserved.

Cue the second part of the plan, as Simon Harmer wheeled away for career-best figures of 9-80 which ensured that Westley had the power to enforce the follow-on and bowlers fresh enough to justify it. Derbyshire’s backbone was stiffened by the indignity and, second time round, they made Essex’s bowlers work harder, but it wasn’t enough. Harmer finished the three days with match figures of 70.5 – 18 – 202 – 12, but I’m not sure he’ll be rested any time soon.

Ball Two – Rushworth’s tears of joy an ornament of the game

Worcestershire have plotted a different route to success, their accumulation of bonus and draw points amounting to just six fewer than Essex’s total to date. But Joe Leach’s strategy did not last into the second half of the group stage, as a defeat now sits alongside their five draws in the table.

After the sides had traded blows over their first innings which left the match well balanced, centuries from Kiwi Will Young and local boy Jack Burnham backed up by a six blitz from the ever-resourceful Ned Eckersley, enabled Durham’s Scott Borthwick to set the visitors a notional 423 for the win or an hour and a day to bat out yet another stalemate. After Daryl Mitchell and Jake Libby put together an opening stand that suggested such a prospect was not fanciful, all ten wickets fell in a clatter for just 85 runs as Durham cruised home.

The match was a personal triumph for one of the most popular men on the county circuit, 34 year-old Chris Rushworth, whose match figures of 9-108 took him past Graham Onions on Durham’s all-time first class wickets list – enough to provoke emotional scenes in the middle. There are some who will tell you that English cricket has too many counties, that it needs to concentrate its talent to ensure a smoother progression from domestic to international matches, that it’s a historical relic no longer fit for purpose. They are saying that the game has no room for the likes of Chris Rushworth.

They are wrong.

Ball Three – Barker gets a shout out

After a couple of heavy defeats had punctured the early season optimism at Hampshire, they needed to get back to winning ways. With Middlesex’s four defeats from five, James Vince’s men must have travelled to Lord’s blessing the munificence of the fixtures computer – and so it proved.

With captain, Peter Handscomb, in dismal form, the brittleness of the home side’s batting meant that a couple of decent knocks from the visitors in tricky conditions might prove enough. That one came from Vince himself was no surprise – he often bats in that Gower-like space where everything looks easy until he gets out – but the other came from Keith Barker, whose 84 was comfortably the highest score in the match.

Barker is one of those all-rounders who is easy to leave out of an XI. His bustling left-arm swing doesn’t warrant a slot in the very best bowling units these days and his batting may be a very handy addition, though it’s probably not good enough to secure the number seven slot. But, six down with the first innings deficit 99, is exactly the situation that justifies his place. He did what he has done for years at Warwickshire and now Hampshire – he found a way to contribute. That said, having missed Hampshire’s first four matches of the season, don’t be too surprised if he misses the last four too – such is the lot of third seamer who bats at eight

Ball Four – What’s the points?

Gloucestershire were the main winners as England’s topsy-turvy Spring (with April more like May and May more like April) permitted just 68 overs at Taunton, enough time for Surrey’s international heavy top six to make the kind of “got in and got out” scores the merits of which one can only judge after the opposition has had a bat too.

This year’s additional points for the draw has excited some discussion and it’s certainly helped produce some fine finishes and congested tables, but is it fair? Equally moot is the allocation of bonus points, often said to smooth out the impact of the vagaries of the English weather, especially with the championship played in months even less reliable than high summer. Nine points each to Somerset and Surrey (comprising one bonus point and the eight for the draw) does not feel equitable when neither side had any chance of constructing a win.

Is there a better way to deal with such truncated matches? Perhaps if 150 overs are not bowled in a drawn match, it should be written off and the captains given the option either to take the bonus and draw points or the average haul of their last five championship matches. That would have given Somerset 18 points and Surrey 12 – for all its artifice, that does seem a fairer outcome than nine each in a ten match group stage that does not have all counties playing at the same time.

Ball Five – “Two Ollie Robinsons, there’s only two Ollie Robinsons”

One of those infuriating matches down at Hove saw Day Two finish with Kent two down in their second innings, leading by 27 – where’s your money? But, with only 22 overs possible on Day Three, neither side were going to risk those lovely draw points on a rain-affected Day Four and hands were shaken with Kent on 387-4d. 13 points to Sussex, 11 to Kent, the sides fifth and sixth respectively in their group.

Despite the match’s brevity, the Ollie Robinsons made 4, 25 and 85, took four catches behind the stumps and delivered figures of 3-29 and 1-53 – I hope they found time for a selfie. Expect a whimsical look back on players with the same name playing on opposing sides in next year’s Wisden.

But can he bat?

Ball Six – Pieces falling into place for Carlson

Lancashire caught a break with the weather too (something you usually only read when they relocate to Liverpool for a season) as closest rivals, Glamorgan and Yorkshire, could not wring a result out of the 170 overs possible at Sophia Gardens.

With Marnus Labuschagne (out for 10 and 0) finding conditions less to his liking than in previous visits to Wales, Joe Root and Kiran Carlson offered contrasting approaches to dealing with conditions that spread 24 wickets across nine bowlers.

Root, having struggled for rhythm after an exhausting winter, kept going and gritted out a five hour 99, which owed much to his captain and number ten, Steve Patterson, whose two hours at the crease for his 47 not out allowed Root to make more than half his runs.

Carlson has struggled for nothing in what is looking like a breakthrough season for the local lad. His 88 not out was scored at a strike rate of over 100 on a surface on which few could go at 50, and represented his fourth half century to go with his pair of tons in the home game against Sussex.

When Root turned 23 (as Carlson did yesterday) he had already been a Test match batsman for over a year, but players mature at different times and Carlson’s time may be coming – sure there’s a few ahead of him in the queue just now, but genuine talent usually finds a way.


  1. Thanks Gary,

    I know you’ve liked the look of Carlson for a while now – so have I. There was a ‘swagger’ from him in this match that I really thought was good. He makes me think of Derek Randall at times.

    And a shout out for David Lloyd as well – proper team player, becoming an opening batsman, as well as acting as opening bowler on occasions.

    • David Lloyd is making an early bid for one of my county cricketers of the year.

  2. No surprise that you appreciated Keith Barker’s efforts – a true number 8. I listened to his innings and it was a masterpiece of its type, setting up what seemed an unlikely victory at the start. I felt Dan Lawrence’s innings was the clear match-winner for Essex, despite the poll on Essex CC’s twitter favouring Harmer for MotM by almost 2:1. Interestingly, the Essex radio commentators made the point that his bowling in the first innings was by no means his best. For me, Lawrence’s innings put the Derbyshire players under enormous pressure from the very start. I just wish he could look a little more enthusiastic in interview and lose the chewing gum.

    • Both seemed equally important to the win to me – like a good joke’s set up and punch.

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