Posted by: tootingtrumpet | April 11, 2022

The Final Over Of The Week In County Cricket – 11 April 2022

Hampshire and Nottinghamshire steal a march in Divisions One and Two respectively with the only wins of the opening week

Ball One – Testing times for the County Championship

What do the following have in common? Nick Browne, Sir Alastair Cook, Ben Compton, Jordan Cox, Ben Foakes, Sam Hain, Michael Burgess, James Bracey, Rob Keogh, Ryan Higgins, Joe Weatherley, Steven Mullaney, Alex Lees, Brett D’Oliveira, Hassan Azad, Joshua De Caires, Stephen Eskinazi and Robbie White.

And how about these? Sam Cook, Matt Critchley, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Danny Briggs, Kemar Roach, Reece Topley, Will Jacks, Liam Patterson-White (twice), Delray Rawlins, Josh Baker, Sam Conners, Suranga Lakmal and Alex Thomson.

So….the former group all batted for four hours or more and the latter all bowled 30 overs or more, in a single innings. 

When you hear the usual suspects’ loud voices proclaiming that England’s ‘April Greentops’ make it too difficult to build long innings and too easy to take cheap wickets, you might want to reflect on how much county cricket they actually watch.    

Ball Two – Sunny days for Weatherley

Hampshire were the only winners in Division One, rolling a sorry Somerset by an innings. 

There was nip and nibble for the home bowlers at the Ageas Bowl, Mohammad Abbas leading the equally wise old heads of Keith Barker and Kyle Abbott with only James Hildreth, embarking on his 20th season, providing any meaningful resistance with the bat.

Joe Weatherley made good on years of promise with a career-best 168, matching the visitors’ first innings of 180 with opening partner Ian Holland, as many observers’ favourites for the pennant secured an early lead in the Champo. 

Ball Three – Four good days at the office for van Buuren 

The best match in the top flight came at Wantage Road where two of the less fancied of the division’s ten counties fought out a draw in which all four results were possible deep into the fourth day.

After James Bracey’s century (remember him?) had allowed Gloucestershire to scrape 223 together, Rob Keogh replied in kind for Northamptonshire, aided by a handy knock down the order from the ageless Gareth Berg. At 21-4 second time round, and still in the red, things looked bad for the visitors’ new captain (and new British citizen) Graeme van Buuren, but Ryan Higgins – what a marvellous cricketer he is – batted six hours for a century and the home side were left with 299 runs to win in just shy of a day’s play.

Keogh top-scored again to give Northants a sniff, but Tom Taylor and Nathan Buck were hanging on at the end, eight down and 27 short. There are good draws and bad draws in cricket and this was a good one.  

Ball Four – Essex and Kent fight to a standstill

With Simon Harmer joining another spinner with plenty of county championship experience, Keshav Maharaj, rattling through Bangladesh in South Africa, 500+ played 500+ in a stalemate at Chelmsford.

In the absence of the prolific finger-spinner, Essex’s new signing, Matt Critchley, got through 46 overs of leg breaks, claiming 4-114, earning his money down South. He had also made 132 batting in the all-rounder’s slot at six, a role he’ll have to play when Harmer returns.

Perhaps a more interesting question is whether he could play that role for England, or at least offer variety as part of a five man attack with another ‘bowler who bats’ who can lengthen the order. The 25 year-old from Preston might be vying with Matt Parkinson, the 25 year-old from Bolton, if England do overcome their fear of playing a wrist-spinner and Critchley’s runs might just tip the balance his way.  

Ball Five – Notts tie up easy win at Hove

Promotion favourites, Nottinghamshire, got off to a flyer with the only win in Division Two, doing over a Sussex XI that fielded a little more experience than 2021 but were no match for a rejuvenated Notts, condemned to the lower division by their poor form of 2019. 

With a century from one of the Hove youngsters, Tom Clark and fifties from two more, openers Ali Orr and Tom Haines, the home side’s 375 looked competitive, especially when Notts were 52-4 in reply. 

Steven Mullaney has seen all that before and the captain dropped anchor for seven hours amassing 192, getting splendid support from the lower middle order in which 20 year-old Joey Evison struck a maiden century from number nine.

Another name to watch this season, slow left-armer, Liam Patterson-White, chipped in with handy runs, but delivered match figures of 76.1 – 21 – 139 – 7 in the day job. Who says spinners can’t bowl in April? 

Ball Six – Loving it at Lord’s  

There was a decent crowd in at Lord’s to see the first ball bowled in unrestricted circumstances since 2019. As ever, the ground looked different, more closed in with the new Compton and Edrich stands flanking the Media Centre – windier too walking the perimeter, with winter’s bite not yet banished.

Friends met, some for the first time since the bloody bubbles, and spoke of new family additions, tentative plans for trips to outgrounds and Michael Atherton’s son called up late and batting rather well in the classical style on the flattest of decks. Not many spoke of The Ashes, but a few wondered how many more years we would be granted to meet, to shiver and to hail the likes of Steve Eskinazi returning to form, playing a captain’s knock for Middlesex. 

The go-getters with the financial projection spreadsheets and the talk of diversifying income streams and clean pathways to excellence would have curled the lip, as the match drifted to the draw that seemed odds-on after the first hour, so little movement was there side-to-side or up-and-down. But a few thousand people renewed an ancient pleasure (208 years and counting at this ground) and rather hoped such would be so 208 years from now. Or even 208 days from now, by which time another report will be on desks and the county game facing yet more reform.   

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