Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 4, 2022

The Final Over Of The Week In County Cricket – 4 July 2022

Ball One – Burns burned by delayed declaration

Rory Burns has got far more right than wrong as Surrey captain, but he wrote an entry on the shorter side of the ledger with his key decisions in last week’s match at The Oval. 

445-5 at the end of day one, he could have declared after Sam Curran bazballed his way to a maiden century off 64 deliveries, the score 544-5. He chose to bat on for 19 more overs piling up 673-7 declared. Whether one ever needs more than 552 in the first dig of a four day match is moot – 670+ is just indulgence. 

To their credit, Kent dug in, centurion, Daniel Bell-Drummond, and captain, Jack Leaning, each occupying the crease for nearly four hours. But the visitors deficit of 342 runs was less important than the fact that they had chewed up 103 overs, whereupon Burns (inevitably after his delayed declaration) invited Kent to have another go and his bowlers to strap on their boots for four more sessions in the field.

To their credit, Kent ignored the scoreboard pressure, with Bell-Drummond tucking in for another ton and stumps were pulled with him still at the crease, his team five down and 19 runs to the good. In mitigation, Surrey can point to Curran (still not fully fit) bowling only 24 of the 220 overs sent down and the fact that they were missing (for various reasons) Jamie Overton, Reece Topley, Jordan Clark and Tom Curran. But they also failed to select Amar Virdi or Dan Moriarty (who, in July last year, were in the XI alongside Ravichandran Ashwin), so that rather limits the dimensions of the violin.     

Ball Two – Harmer deals out the pain for second place Hampshire

That said, even when it’s bad, it’s still good for the Londoners in 2022. They have Essex, specifically Simon Harmer, to thank for that, as second place Hampshire went down to a tight defeat at Chelmsford, leaving them 16 points adrift of the leaders. 

Shane Snater, Aaron Beard and that man Harmer dug the home side out of the hole of 105-7, posting a competitive 238, which looked better still with Hampshire 68-6 at the end of a rollercoaster day one. 

Harmer’s spin had garnered eight wickets and then his bat 61 runs to set Hampshire a distant 299 runs for the win. Felix Organ, perhaps buoyed by his three wickets in rare extended bowl (Liam Dawson got 10, so it was dong a bit for the spinners), teed off with five sixes in his 65. Though Harmer was bowling unchanged from one end, with the redoubtable Keith Barker at the crease, Hants had hope. The big man had one biff too many, holed out in the deep and Harmer had a career-best 15-207 and we had a match to savour, 12 runs the margin at the end.      

Ball Three – Orr finds a golden touch

While Division Two’s top pair, Nottinghamshire and Middlesex, played out a draw that assumed a very similar shape to Surrey’s with Kent and Glamorgan closed the gap after a tremendous chase at Worcester, Sussex won their first Championship match since 2020.

What a way to do it too! After Wayne Madsen 176 and Anuj Dal’s 146 not out had allowed Derbyshire’s captain, Billy Godleman, to give every England fan a shivery reminder of Adelaide 2006 by declaring on 551, Mohammad Rizwan’s 130 had limited the home side’s first innings deficit to 214 runs. The visitors weren’t exactly in trouble at 54-5, but they were grateful to Luis Reece, whose 42 not out allowed Godleman to set his opponents 342 to win on the fourth day.

Ali Orr, who turned 21 at the start of the season and one of the kids given a chance at Hove last year, led the charge with 141 (including 15 fours and six sixes) while Rizwan, a contender for a World XI playing in the second tier of our domestic first class competition, lest we forget, steered the ship home, the target knocked off with 20 odd overs to spare.

Brendon McCullum has asked for his philosophy to be reflected in the domestic competition and Orr could hardly have been more committed to that call. He averages over 40 as an opener in first class cricket, ten more than one of the current incumbents. 

Ball Four – Foxes flame out

Last week, this column stated, “Leicestershire themselves are not completely out of it, but they would need Yorkshire to lose to the Bears and then themselves to beat the Tykes in their last match.” And that’s what happened. So why are Leicestershire sixth in the table and about to have a week off?

The answer is that the ECB disciplinary panel imposed a two points penalty, a sanction that has hung in the air for 11 months triggered by two incidents in Leicestershire’s match against Northamptonshire. 

Narrowly considered, if you don’t want to do the time, don’t do the crime and I can promise you that I offer the shortest of shrift when player behaviour is the issue, but there is a wider matter at stake.

Cricket does have a problem dealing with its (relatively few) instances of contraventions are rules and norms. In Test matches, captains slow the over rate at will, pretty much laughing in the face of fines and suspensions. In county cricket, pitch assessments are always a hot button issue with penalties, as in the case above, imposed sometimes years later and with only a loose adherence to the principle of the punishment fitting the crime. It’s almost impossible to disentangle cases involving player registrations, but, again, penalties can appear arbitrary. 

Lord knows county cricket has enough problems right now, but a disciplinary overhaul is long overdue.      

Ball Five – Blast hollowed out

So the quarter-finals (on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) comprise: Surrey vs Yorkshire; Birmingham vs Hampshire; Lancashire vs Essex and Somerset vs Derbyshire. 

Except, in some ways they don’t. Key players from the teams that qualified will be scooped out to play (or to run about a bit in Hi-Viz vests) for England, who will be playing white ball cricket against India – because, well, because it’ll be literally hours since the two nations last played a cricket match, so we obviously need another.

What other sport would do this to its hugely popular, financially successful, long-established domestic competition? 

Ball Six – All hail Hose and Howell!

It’s not easy to find metrics that evaluate performance in any of cricket’s formats, but T20 may be the most difficult one of all in which to sift the best from the very good. Factors like sizes of grounds, availability for selection and the specificity of roles (death bowler, middle overs wicket-taker, finisher, powerplay smiter etc) to say nothing of old favourites like variable pitches, unlucky decisions and fielding contributions, can make assessments a lottery.

That said, my batter of the group stage is Adam Hose, the Birmingham Bear with the big bat. The sum of his average and strike rate is 225 with anything over 200 counting as elite level hitting. He’s third on the run ladder too with 541, so here for a long time not just a good time. He hasn’t played for Warwickshire in three years, which seems a waste of a talent.

My bowler of the group stage (betting without Sunil Narine, who inhabits a different plane with ball in hand) is Benny Howell, the Gloucestershire all-rounder who has always done things his way. His canny mix of pace, length and trajectory brought him 11 wickets at under seven, an economy rate bettered by only Narine and Simon Harmer amongst those bowling 30 overs or more. Howell’s imagination and control makes it impossible for batters to set themselves by second guessing his deliveries – and it makes him a delight to watch for those of us who can tire of six after six after six.   





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