Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 16, 2022

The Final Over Of The Week In County Cricket – 16 May 2022

Somerset and Durham the only victors in another round of too many draws

Run glut continues as batters made hay while the sun shone

Ball One – Draws to prove a winning strategy?

Somerset put Gloucestershire through a combine harvester of pain in the West Country derby, their innings and plenty victory the only positive result in Division One.

Tom Abell, continuing his good form with 142, took the captains’ favoured tactic this week – bat big and bat once – but his bowlers, led by Jack Leach’s selector-nudging eight wickets, got the job done before the fourth day dawned, unusually wet around the country this driest of Springs .

After a disastrous hat-trick of defeats, Somerset have won two in a row (both by an innings) and sit sixth in table. Lancashire have also won two of their five fixtures, but occupy second place with almost half as many points again as the Cidermen. It’s impossible to concoct a perfect scoring system for the Championship, but, with plenty of handwringing over flat pitches, poor quality balls and late declarations, perhaps disincentivising the draw while ensuring that teams don’t just pack up early and head for the golf course would make things fairer. Suggestions requested below – but good luck working that alchemy.

Ball Two – Brook’s talent flows through dodgy stream

When the Roses Match’s Youtube feed wasn’t gliching like it’s 1999, one could discern some very classy cricket played by some very classy players.

None looked better than Harry Brook, whose numbers this season have caught the eye and who must be anxiously reloading his Ceefax page in search of the England Squad announcement due soon (this 90s bug is catching).

He displayed that ‘hard to describe, but you know it when you see it’ quality of having more time than most at the crease, something that only the most highly gifted batters possess. Sometimes that’s attributed to picking up length early or being still at the crease or a well-grooved trigger movement, but plenty of pretty ordinary batters can lay claim to those attributes.

What Brook showed was an indefinable, instinctive balance that offers a fluidity to his movements, an inevitability to bat meeting ball as he so directs it. Not many have that and they come in very different styles: Viv Richards punching balls from fourth stump through midwicket; Mark Waugh oozing into an on-drive; Steve Smith fidgeting but relentlessly finding singles a few yards to the right or left of the fielders.

Brook isn’t in that class yet obviously, but unlike almost all of his contemporaries, he might be one day. Many England fans would like to see the first step taken towards that goal next month at Lord’s.

Ball Three – Kent’s bowlers can’t (again)

The immovable object met the resistible force when Surrey’s batters came up against Kent’s bowlers at Beckenham and a variety of records toppled in suburban South East London.

In the end, a combination of laudable professional fortitude (Kent’s batters in the shadow of a mountain of runs yet again) and iffy weather ensured the draw that kept Surrey top of the table. Evaluating Rory Burns’ decision to invest 19 overs in a stand that advanced the score from 587-9 to 671-9 declared, might be for wiser counsel than your writer, but there’s something wrong somewhere if that is the best use of playing time. What is clear is that while a last wicket stand can be a lot of fun, the joke wears off pretty quickly when exhausted bowlers are flogged largely because they can be.

Ball Four – Selectors look to Toby as they juggle bowlers?

The top two in Division Two played out a draw at Lord’s, Middlesex batting out 60 overs or so, Sam Robson continuing his good run of form with another century.

With England’s cadre of seamers dropping like Coldstream Guards on a hot day’s parade, an old name is quietly making a case for a short-term recall. Could Toby Roland-Jones, fit and firing at last, solve two problems for the England selectors? His 20 wickets in four matches this season shows that he’s in the rhythm he needs and his batting would bolster a weak tail that could leave the captain high and dry at Number 6.

It’s five years since Roland-Jones’s short Test career was curtailed by injury, but he knocked over the South African top order on debut and never failed to take a wicket in the other seven innings in which he bowled. At 34, he’s hardly a pick for the next Ashes tour, but what better way for the new regime to underline something that really should be obvious – the next game is the most important game.

Ball Five – Stokes prepares for England captaincy by not captaining Durham

Durham achieved the other positive result last week in a very decent match overcoming Glamorgan by 58 runs.

Having invited the home side to bat at Chester-le-Street, David Lloyd must have been happy to see his late order push the first innings lead out to 54, probably justifying his decision at the toss. Opposite number, Scott Borthwick, made 90 second time round which gave his bowlers something to work with, enough to allow the in-form Matt Potts to snaffle 7-40 with his hostile pace and bounce – and it’s never a bad thing when you give the England captain a day off bowling.

Ben Stokes was playing his second match for Durham and in neither has he skippered the side. With England keen to micromanage their contracted players, that looks like two opportunities missed to get a feel for the job and the concentration levels demanded to deliver his huge brief across a first class match.

Ball Six – Basement battle makes wider point

There’s a loud voice screeching again about franchise cricket being the way forward for the English first class game, but try telling that to the players and fans of Division Two’s basement clubs, Sussex and Leicestershire, who wrestled each other to a standstill between the showers at Grace Road.

There’s professional pride, local identity and history at stake, even if neither club is likely to trouble the top of the table this summer. That showed in the home side’s last three wickets hanging on for 44 overs, Callum Parkinson digging in for three hours at number nine.

County cricket may not be as prominent in the sporting landscape as it once was, it may have plenty of issues with which it is dealing rather too slowly and it may not be the optimal route to preparing for Cummins and co in Brisbane or Ashwin and associates in Ahmedabad, but lots of imperfect things are much valued and much loved. In consequence (and to borrow a phrase), county cricket matters.

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