Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 22, 2023

The Final Over Of The Week In County Cricket – 22 May 2023

Surrey go 25 points clear in Division One

The stars came out to play at Hove in Division Two and records fell as Glamorgan crossed 700 in their second innings

Ball One – Surrey lay down the laws to challengers

Surrey are not quite over the horizon, but the champions of 2022 look well set to keep the pennant for another year. If their healthy lead at the top of Division One were the reward for sustained excellence, such dominance might be shrugged off as one of those things that can happen when a team comes together, but, against Kent, excellence was not required to win the match convincingly.

The specialist batters were poor on both sides, few willing to deal with a ball that swung then nibbled a little off the pitch – the odd one bounced too. Sure the bowling was good, Tom Lawes in his tenth first class match and Arafat Bhuiyan, six years older than the Surrey man but on debut, both finding the slightly full of a length delivery that would induce the booming drive or ineffectual prod. Too often, batters’ heads would be inside or outside the line of the ball, leaving them guessing and off-balance – one wondered what they had done all winter in the nets. The three completed innings saw the scoreboard show 105-6, 180-6 and 83-6 before the bowlers showed their so-called betters how to play.     

Ball Two – Saif Zaib’s county anything but safe

It looks like it’s going to be a long season for rock bottom Northamptonshire, so the last thing they needed was a trip to the Ageas Bowl to face a Hampshire side with plenty to prove after a disappointing trot of one win in four. 

James Vince led his side’s batting again with 95, but the visitors were dismissed twice inside 100 overs, first time round for a dispiriting 56, with only Saif Zaib presenting much resistance in either innings.

Such is the gulf between the upper and lower echelons of Division One that the ten/eight split appears somewhat perverse. Surely it would be better for everyone, inside and outside the ropes, if the seemingly obvious even split of nine counties per division were reinstituted as soon as is feasible.  

Ball Three – Bartlett pairs up with classy bowlers for Somerset win

Somerset’s improving form was underlined with a first win of the season over another of the championship’s more fragile batting orders, Middlesex.

Perhaps it was expected, as captain, Tom Abell, could look around Lord’s and call upon five international bowlers at his disposal: Matt Henry, Craig Overton, Peter Siddle, Lewis Gregory and Jack Leach. 

But Somerset’s problem this year has been top order runs, teenage starlet James Rew bailing out the more experienced men too often for comfort. So it was pleasing to see George Bartlett set the match up with a first day century after something of a lean time of it this season and at the back end of the last. The middle-order man is more of a four day specialist than a white ball thrasher, so he needs to make these opportunities count and, despite the fact that he appears to have been around forever, he is still only 25, so has time on his side. This might be a big season for him now he has a century under his belt. 

Ball Four – Westley revives match on which the sun was setting

After Matthew Montgomery’s 177 had given Nottinghamshire a handy lead at Trent Bridge, Alastair Cook and Tom Westley got together and backed up their first innings stand of 135 with a second innings partnership of 157, the two mid-table sides on their way to a draw unless the home team could blast through the tail.

Whereupon, glory be, Westley declared, reviving a game as sleepy as the Forest fans who had celebrated retaining Premier League status, their loud support audible in that wonderfully compact city through day three. The game was afoot! 

The equation that woke everyone up was 219 for Nottinghamshire or ten wickets for Essex in 39 overs, with Simon Harmer’s fingers twitching at one end and Stuart Broad surely pleading to Nighthawk his way to a few quick runs early on. It wasn’t to be for either side as Notts lost both openers and then successfully played out time. Nevertheless, it was a show of some enterprise from Essex’s captain and, one hopes, a harbinger of more aggressive declarations to come as the Championship progresses towards the pointy end of the season.

Ball Five – Starry starry days on the south coast

At Hove, older spectators might have been reminded of one of those “Derrick Robins’s XI” matches that would serve as a warm-up for touring sides back in the 70s and 80s. Marnus Labuschagne vs Steve Smith was top of the bill, but the supporting cast, including Michael Neser, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ollie Robinson were eye-catching in their own right. This is Division Two, I remind you.  

It turned out to be a draw, sufficient to keep both counties in the hunt for promotion. Glamorgan’s second innings score of 737 (an improvement of 614 on their first effort) is likely to occupy cricket’s more statistically minded fans (ie all of us) until the next round of four day matches starts again Sunday (really, Sunday?) 11 June.

Ball Six – Hose sprays boundaries in red ball cricket too

A shibboleth or two of county cricket’s detractors were debunked at New Road which hosted a tremendous arm-wrestle for Division Two points between Leicestershire and Worcestershire, county pros giving all for their cause. 

It boiled down to the home side needing to make 271 for the win, a gettable target, but 91 more runs than had been accumulated in any of the three innings that preceded it. With all the time in the world, Gareth Roderick relaxed into his work with 59 runs spread across more than five hours at the crease, all but matched by his captain, Brett D’Oliviera compiling 41 not out in three hours. 

The innings that turned the match was more to more aligned to the Bazball philosophy, Adam Hose contributing 84 of the 131 runs added while he was in the middle. Hose is a man to watch this season, as he made his name as a blaster in the Blast and has picked up franchise cricket contracts as a result. At 30, he looked at his career and made the move from Warwickshire in Division One to Worcestershire in Division Two in order to add to the 19 first class matches he had played. That’s not how things are supposed to happen and I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing him all the best, hoping that fortune will favour the brave.  

No Ball – On Saturday, the ECB launched its tournament in the world’s most popular format of the game. It’s true – I looked it up. 

Go back and bowl it again. 




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