Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 23, 2022

The Final Over Of The Week In County Cricket – 23 May 2022

County Championship takes its break with two sides pulling away in each division

The last round saw a better balance between bat and ball, but the form teams maintained their winning habits 

Ball One – A shout out for Barker

A first class cricket match can lounge across days in the sunshine, chewing on a blade of grass as the world goes by – many championship matches in the now completed Spring tranche had that feel to them. Or mayhem can erupt as one team tumbles down a rabbit hole to swift defeat – such was the fate of Somerset at home to Hampshire.

Keith Barker was the Lord of Misrule with 6-27, as the home side could merely match their first innings deficit of 69 runs second time round in a sorry 25 overs. The left-armer has long been a favourite of this column (few cricketers ‘make things happen’ more consistently with bat or ball), but I was disappointed to see him in the first round of matches looking a little stiff in the back and barely following through after his delivery – albeit on a merciless Oval strip. But, seven weeks on, he tops Division One’s wickets table with 27 and has extended the gap between his FC batting and bowling averages to almost +4. At 35, he remains a very classy operator indeed.

Hampshire are second, just three points off Surrey, as the red ball is exchanged for white.  

Ball Two – Snater snarls with bat in hand

The mayhem came a little earlier in the match at Old Trafford, after Dan Lawrence had made a century and, not for the first time this season, Essex’s Dutch international, Shane Snater, had added a very handy 70-odd from number 9. But Sam Cook got a tune out of the strip and the home side were soon 60-8 and, despite making more of a fist of it following on, they went done to a rare defeat in Manchester by an innings.

Both clubs are in mid-table, Lancashire 18 points off the leaders and 29 behind Surrey. Perhaps an unforeseen impact of the additional points for a draw this season is the likelihood that not only will Lanky need their own players to force wins through positive cricket, they’ll probably need the two leaders to lose matches as well. It’s too early to discern quite how things will play out, but that prognosis is a little disappointing to write so early in the season.  

Ball Three – Simply the Bess may not be enough for Yorkshire 

Yorkshire missed a few chances to add a northern flavour to the leading group in a match in which the champions showed no little grit in defending the pennant. 

Warwickshire were 156-7 on Day One, but Michael Burgess dipped into his early season form with 96 to drag his side to a respectable, if not threatening, 244. The home side were past that score three down, Adam Lyth on his way to a century in the company of Harry Brook who had to settle for 82. 

With Jordan Thompson knocking over the Warwickshire top order, captain (and ex-Tyke) Will Rhodes and Sam Hain were left with almost four sessions to bat out the draw and just one specialist batter to come. They needed none of them, each scoring undefeated centuries at old-fashioned scoring rates in the 30s.

If Yorkshire are to mount a challenge from third in the table, they will need to find a way to convert draws (five from six matches so far) into wins. They have had an England spinner, Dom Bess, in their XI for each of those half dozen matches, but his return of 12 wickets at 51 does little to rebut the suggestion that his game might be better suited to white ball than red.    

Ball Four – Compton’s brilliance still creaming runs

Whether the much-trumpeted new batch of balls arrived at Wantage Road in time for the start of the match between Northamptonshire and Kent I do not know, but it was the one match in the round that assumed the shape we have grown accustomed to this Spring.

Kent fans were looking at a scoreboard showing 500+ yet again, but, for once, it wasn’t the opposition’s total but their own, Jack Leaning sucking on a metaphorical cigar as he declared on 519-9. There was even the prospect of a first win of the season, as the new ball took a couple of wickets, but the home side’s phalanx of all-rounders dug in right up to the 150th over of the reply (Darren Stevens required to deliver 30 at his age – were social services called in?) A draw was inevitable from there.

Ben Compton tucked in with 140 and 68* to make it four tons and four half-centuries this season in a remarkable run of form. It’s worth noting that the 28 year-old had played only 10 first class matches before April, so I doubt even he could have hoped for such a blaze of form. It does happen though – I recall Middlesex’s John Carr and fellow Kent opener, David Fulton, suddenly reaching stratospheric heights in the 90s and I guess followers of all counties have their examples. Cricket is, to borrow a cliché, a funny old game.     

Ball Five – Handscomb’s men hare to four wins in 2022

The top of Division Two has a similar look to that of Division One, two teams pulling away from the pack – both won last week.

Middlesex lead after an impressive win over Durham at Lord’s. At 189-5, the home side were still 161 in arrears against an attack that could call upon Ben Stokes, Chris Rushworth and Brydon Carse, but the Middle’s middle is made of sterner stuff this season and a very handy group of bowlers who bat secured a lead of 72. 

Cue Toby Roland-Jones’s 6-35 to give him a tenfer, and a bit of nerves-calming biffing from John Simpson and Durham were sent back up the A1 while Peter Handscomb enjoyed the taste of victory for a fourth time this season. 

Ball Six – Pitting Notts’ bowling against Derbyshire’s batting proves a one-sided contest

Nottinghamshire’s deluxe attack swept aside Derbyshire by 10 wickets to fall in nine points off Middlesex in second place in the table.

Steve Mullaney’s three Test match men, Stuart Broad, James Pattinson and Dane Paterson, shared 14 wickets between them, Derbyshire’s batting looking much thinner with just 18 runs from Shan Masood.

There was still work to do on the last day, but Ben Slater and Haseeb Hameed (93*) cruised to their target of 165 at more than four and a half an over. Hameed scored a ton in his previous match and a half-century in the one before that – we’ve been here before, but could he be back? The three week break in Championship cricket has come at a bad time for the 25 year-old. 

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