A look at ways for England to cope with the enforced absence of Ben Stokes, a look at the cricket that is happening today, an answer to the teaser in my last post and some photographs.
This post looks at how England might cope without Ben Stokes, who will definitely be missing the first test series of the home summer against New Zealand, though he may be able to turn out against India later in the summer. There are also brief mentions of today’s cricket.
There is no such thing as a like for like replacement for Ben Stokes. The question is then whether you want five genuine bowling options or whether your primary concern is to deepen the batting. If you are worried about the batting then the logical approach based on current evidence is to play either Pope at five and Lawrence at six or vice versa, then rounding out the order with +Foakes, Woakes, one of Archer/Stone/Wood depending on form and fitness, Leach and one of Anderson/Broad depending on form and fitness. If you prefer five bowlers, then you pick one of Pope/ Lawrence to bat at five, gamble on +Foakes at six, have Woakes at seven and avoid a diplodocan tail by selecting one of Oliver Edward Robinson, Lewis Gregory or Craig Overton at eight, and then the 9/10/11 on the basis I have already explained. Two sample line ups using the different approaches are below:
Four Bowlers XI
Five Bowlers XI
Oliver E Robinson
Sample England line ups (please read full post) – do you gamble on four bowlers being sufficient and aim for a strong batting line up, or do you insist on having five front line bowlers?
Feel free to comment on these ideas and make suggestions of your own.
It is day two of the second round of County Championship fixtures. Mohammad Abbas has obliterated the top half of the Middlesex batting order (at low water mark, facing a tally of just over 300 they were 14-5, Abbas 5-3) down at the Rose Bowl. In the game I am principally focussed on, the west country derby at Taunton, Gloucestershire are 113-3 in reply to Somerset’s 312, with Tom Lace the most recent casualty, to an entirely self inflicted dismissal. In South Africa the home side are going nicely in their T20I vs Pakistan, 64-1 after seven overs, while the IPL action for the day starts in just under an hour, and the question is will the mere kings (Punjab Kings) be able to get the better of the super kings (Chennai Super Kings)?
The selection of these multiple choice options left a hack just waiting to be exploited, though as far as I am aware I am the only solver who actually admitted to having done so. The total area of the circle is 36pi, which is just over 113 units. No way are either 24 or 36 big enough to be the largest possible, while 144 is larger than the total available area and therefore clearly impossible. This leaves 72 as the only possible answer, and sure enough, it is the correct answer. Had one their largest available answer been 84 or 96 this hack would not have been available (note that 108 is too close to the total available area to be a really convincing alternative) and I would have had to actually work out a proper solution. I now share with you an authentic solution, published by David Vreken:
A look back at the first round of the county championship, especially Middlesex v Somerset, plus some photographs.
This post looks back at an extraordinary turnaround in one of the only three fixtures in the opening round of the County Championship to have a definite result (Gloucs beating Surrey and Hants beating Leics were the other two).
Somerset won the toss and put Middlesex in (see here for more on the early stages of the match). At low water mark Somerset were 89-9 facing a Middlesex total of 313. Marchant de Lange and Jack Leach, nos 10 and 11 for Somerset added 83 for the final wicket to save the follow on (there would have been no sensible case for Middlesex declining to enforce it). When Middlesex were 87-2 at the end of the second day they still looked firm favourites, but great bowling efforts from Overton, Davey and Leach restricted Middlesex to 143 in their second innings, leaving Somerset 285 to win. Three wickets went fairly early, but then Tom Abell and George Bartlett shared a good partnership before Abell was dislodged for 84. Steven Davies and Craig Overton both fell cheaply, and the target was still over 100 away when Lewis Gregory walked in to join Bartlett. Gregory, who had picked up a five-for in the first Middlesex innings came to the party for the second time in the match, and he and Bartlett were still together when the winning run was scored, Bartlett 76 not out, Gregory 62 not out. Appropriately, it was Gregory who sealed the win. Leach’s total match figures of 4-61, going at less than two an over, were huge news for England, since unless they are prepared to go seriously radical and drop Sophie Ecclestone a line there is no other serious specialist spin option for the test team at present – Matt Parkinson, with 62 wickets at 25 each in FC cricket ranks second to Leach, having a similar bowling average but only about a fifth of the number of wickets. Gregory has Woakes (definitely) and Oliver Edward Robinson (probably) ahead of him in the England pecking order. Abell and Bartlett may also be on the radar, and the runs they made in uphill circumstances will count heavily in their favour. On the debit side the other two Toms, Banton and Lammonby failed to do anything of note this time round. Ethan Bamber of Middlesex may have out himself on the radar with a fine bowling performance.
Elsewhere the most significant news from an England perspective were scores of 74 for Burns, the opener whose place is under scrutiny after a tough winter, and 133 for Foakes, who should be first choice keeper, and who must have improved his stocks with that effort.
Here are links to the cricinfo profiles of the players mentioned above in an England context:
Preparing for the upcoming county championship season – starts tomorrow folks. Also as usual, plenty of photographs.
A new County Championship cricket season gets underway tomorrow. This post looks ahead to that, with a couple of things.
HOW TO FOLLOW THE COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP
If you are not able to get to the grounds that does not stop you from following what is going on. The BBC will be providing radio commentaries on all county fixtures. Simply open up a web browser, go to www.bbc.co.uk/cricket, click on the ‘live commentaries’ button and select the match you want to tune into. If weather intervenes or other factors suggest a change of match this is easily accomplished. An additional resource for getting extra detail about the game you are following is www.cricinfo.com, which also has excellent player profiles and statistical info. My initial focus tomorrow will be on Middlesex v Somerset, as the latter seek to win the title for the first time, 130 years after first taking part in the competition.
AN ALL TIME XI OF COUNTY STALWARTS– NO TEST CAPS
This XI, in anticipation of tomorrow is composed of players who never got an international call up. All must have played after the start of test cricket but never have been picked at international level.
John Langridge – right handed opening batter. 574 First class matches, 34,378 runs at 37.44, 76 centuries, and never an England call up. He did grace the test arena eventually, as an umpire.
Alan Jones – left handed opening batter. The Welshman played 645 first class matches, scoring 36,049 runs at 32.89, with 54 centuries. He was selected for the England v Rest of the World series which was arranged to replace the South African series that was cancelled for political reasons, but those games were ruled unofficial as they were not country vs country (though Shane Warne has wickets taken in matches that were not country vs country in his official test record). He has the unwelcome distinction of scoring more first class runs than anyone else who never played test cricket.
*Percy Perrin – the Essex amateur right handed batter was another who played a vast amount of first class cricket. 538 matches in his case, yielding 29,709 runs at 35.92, with 66 centuries. It is symptomatic of his luck that he holds the record score in first class cricket for someone who finished on the losing side – 343 not out v Derbyshire at Chesterfield in 1904. The scores in that match were Essex 597 and 97, Derbyshire 548 and 149-1, with Charles Ollivierre scoring 229 and 92 not out for Derbyshire. Perrin in that Essex first innings hit 68 fours, a boundary count beaten only once in an FC innings, Brian Lara’s 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham containing 62 fours and 10 sixes. He became an England selector and served briefly as chairman of selectors.
James Hildreth – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium fast bowler. The Somerset middle order man has scored 17,202 first class runs at an average of 42 and has got no closer to test cricket than taking the field as substitute during the 2005 Ashes.
Tony Cottey – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. The diminutive (officially 5’4″) Glamorgan and Sussex middle order man scored almost 15,000 runs at and average of 36 in his first class career. For much of his playing career England were not exactly known for the robustness of their middle order, making his continual omission all the more baffling. I saw him live in a game at Swansea when he made a century on the first day after Glamorgan had been in some trouble. That effort looked impressive then, and even more impressive a day later when Andy Hayhurst of Somerset had snailed his way to 96 in six hours on a pitch playing beautifully.
Darren Stevens – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. Every team needs an all rounder, and the Leicestershire/ Kent man fits the bill very nicely. Now 45, and still playing, his current record stands at 308 matches played, 15,710 runs at 34.75, 546 wickets at 24.67.
+Colin Metson – wicket keeper, right handed batter. I was spoilt for choice here – at least three other keepers who never gained international recognition, Fred Huish of Kent, David Hunter of Yorkshire and Wally Luckes of Somerset would have done just as well. I saw Metson in action, and so know just how good he was. I also saw some the guys selected for England during his playing days and how inadequate they were.
Charles Kortright – right arm fast bowler, right handed batter. The fastest bowler of his generation, but never selected for England. Bobby Abel, the Surrey stalwart once said after having made his lack of relish for facing the Essex quick a trifle too obvious “I am the father of six children and there are plenty of other bowlers besides Mr Kortright who I can score runs off.” In 170 first class appearances Kortright took 489 wickets at 21.20, with best innings figures of 8-57.
Don Shepherd – right arm medium/ right handed batter. A specialist bowler of off cutters, Shepherd played 668 first class matches, taking 2,218 wickets at 21.32 at that level. This give Glamorgan the double distinction of being home to the person who took more FC wickets than any other non-test bowler and the person who scored more runs than any other non-test batter.
George Dennett – left arm orthodox spin, left handed batter. 401 matches, 2,151 wickets at 19.82 a piece, and no England call up. The presence during his playing years of such luminaries as Wilfred Rhodes, Colin Blythe, Frank Woolley and Roy Kilner goes some way to explaining this, but it does seem strange that he should have been utterly overlooked.
William Mycroft – left arm fast, right handed batter. It is true that his 1841 birth date means that he was past his prime by the time the first test match was played in March 1877, and would have been old indeed for a quick biowler to make a debut , at 39, by the time the first test on English soil was contested in 1880, but nevertheless his outstanding career record (138 first class matches, 863 wickets at 12.09 each) makes it seem strange that he was entirely ignored, especially since he actually kept going until 1885, which means that there were five matches in England and several Aussie tours for which he might have been selected.
This team has a solid top five, an all rounder, a keeper and a stellar bowling attack – I can think of many actual test sides who would start second favourites against this assemblage. For quick reference here it is in batting order:
John Langridge (RHB) Alan Jones (LHB) *Percy Perrin (RHB, captain) James Hildreth (RHB, occ RMF) Tony Cottey (RHB, occ OS) Darren Stevens (RHB, RMF) +Colin Metson (WK, RHB) Charles Kortright (RF, RHB) Don Shepherd (RM, RHB) George Dennett (SLA, LHB) William Mycroft (LF, RHB)
I have already mentioned several alternative keepers, and I invite others to come up with honourable mentions of their own in the comments, but two definitely need to be covered here: Edgar Oldroyd, a regular no3, scored about 15,000 runs at 36, and was unlucky to miss out, as he was unlucky to miss out on the test match call up in life. His grand-daughter Eleanor is now a very well known sports broadcaster. Ernie Robson, a middle order batter and medium paced outswing bowler for Somerset could have had the slot I fave to Stevens but the latter has a much better batting record, and there bowling averages are similar. If James Anderson is reading this he might care to note that Jack Hobbs rated Robson one of the most difficult bowlers he ever faced and that Robson was still taking wickets with his outswingers at the age of 53!
The case against the proposed recall to the England test squad of Jonny Bairstow.
Apparently England are considering recalling Bairstow to the test squad due to an injury to Ollie Pope. In this post I set out the reasons why they should not be doing so.
TRIED AND UNTRUSTED
Bairstow was dropped from the test squad because he was consistently failing to deliver in that format. His brilliance in limited overs cricket is unquestionable, but the case of Jason Roy should serve as a warning. Roy had a fantastic 2019 World Cup, and was drafted into the test squad off the back of it. Save for one good innings against Ireland at Lord’s he never looked like making the grade as a test batter. Not only that, the knock that his confidence took through his failures in test cricket has impacted on his international white ball form to the extent that his place in the squad is now in jeopardy.
DANIEL LAWRENCE AND JAMES BRACEY
On any rational assessment Daniel Lawrence and James Bracey should be ahead of Bairstow in the queue for a test place. Both have fine recent first class records, both made runs in intra-squad games in the preparation for the Covid-hit 2020 home international season. I would probably opt for Lawrence of the two, but fully acknowledge the case for Bracey. Lawrence and Bracey are both very much players for the future, and the upcoming series in Sri Lanka would give them a chance to stake a long term claim, whereas Bairstow would be a very regressive selection.
The proving ground for long format players is supposed to the county championship, and even in the abbreviated 2020 season, where Essex and Somerset played six matches each and everyone else five more than one youngster accepted opportunities that came their way. The inclusion of Bairstow in a test squad would smack of ‘closed shop’ practices and look suspiciously like a slap in the face not just for the players I have actually named above, but for the County Championship. Jordan Cox of Kent had an amazing season, especially for someone who was still in his teens at the time (he has just turned 20), and has every right to expect a test call to come sooner rather than later, and like Lawrence and Bracey he would be more deserving of such than Jonny Bairstow.
The other alternative route the selectors could go down given his recent success with the bat is to promote Buttler to no 6 and give the wicket keeper’s role to Foakes. This too would be superior to the non-solution of a recall for Bairstow, especially if given the nature of Sri Lankan pitches they plan to elevate Matthew Parkinson, the young leg spinner.
Another variation on the ‘All Time XI’ theme, featuring an XI of Staffordshire born players from which I lead into some suggestions for reforming the County Championship.
Pandemic continues to stop play, and in an attempt to help fill the gap I continue to come up with variations on my ‘All Time XIs‘ theme. Today we have a two part post. The first part of the post presents an XI made up entirely of players born in Staffordshire (who have never enjoyed first class status). The second part of the post makes some suggestions for reform of the County Championship which will doubtless engender reactions ranging all the way from endorsement to people reaching for pins and waxen images.
BORN IN STAFFORDSHIRE XI
John Steele – we met this right handed opener and occasional purveyor of left arm spin when I did my post about Leicestershire.
*Danielle Wyatt – current star of the England Women’s team, an attack minded opener who also bowls off spin. She has centuries in both T20Is and ODIs to her credit,though she has yet to be given her chance in a test match (the women play far too few of these contests). I have taken a punt by naming her as captain of this XI, but it is my belief that she would do the job well – and I would bet money that a game with her as captain would be worth watching.
Kim Barnett – attack minded batter and occasional leg spinner, who enjoyed a distinguished career with Derbyshire before moving to Gloucestershire. I would hope that some flexibility would be shown of the batting positions of him and David Steele – in general of Wyatt was out first I would want him in next, while if John Steele fell first I would send brother David in to replace him at the crease, the plan being where circumstances permit to avoid having both blockers or both hitters together.
Frank Sugg – a right handed bat who played first for Derbyshire, and then having discovered that he had been born in Smethwick (Cricinfo lists him as born in Ilkeston and lists him as having also played for Lancashire, but the Derbyshire chapter in the book “County Champions” says otherwise, and I go with them).
Brian Crump – an all rounder who played for Northants, batting right handed and bowling right arm medium pace and off spin.His 221 first class matches yielded 8,789 runs and 914 wickets.
+Bob Taylor – a wicket keeper and right handed bat, with more first class dismissals to his credit than any other.
Dominic Cork– a right arm medium fast bowler and aggressive lowe order bat. He took 7-43 in the second innings of his England debut at Lord’s in 1995, and the highlights of his somewhat chequered international career also include a hat trick. He also suffered from the desperation of people involved with English cricket at the time to find all rounders – his undoubted skill with the ball and his moments as a lower order batter were blown out of all proportion (the then 20 year old me was guilty of allowing the wish to be the father of the thought in this case – mea culpa). He played for Derbyshire, Lancashire andHampshire in county cricket.
Sydney Barnes – yes , the one and only SF Barnes (see my Lancashire post, and the ‘Underappreciate Ashes’), probably the greatest bowler the game ever saw. He played a few games for Warwickshire in 1894-5 and a couple of full seasons at Lancashire in the early 1900s, but mainly plied his trade in the northern Leagues and for his native Staffordshire. Incidentally, while he did not a lot when he turned our for Warwickshire, they also did have a problem in the 1890s with recognizing talent when they saw it – the Warwickshire yearbook of 1897 contains the memorable phrase “it was not possible to offer a contract to W Rhodes of Huddersfield” – and yes it was the one and only Wilfred they were referring to – a genuine rival to Essex’s failure to respond to Jack Hobbs’ letter to them requesting a trial! Incidentally the then NSW selectors nearly perpetrated a miss to rival even these because some of them were in doubt as to whether it was worth forking out for a return rail fare for the lad so that they could have a closer look at a certain DG Bradman!
Jason Brown – off spinner who took part in an England tour to Sri Lanka in 2001. He did not break into the team on that tour, and subsequently a combination of injuries and the rise of Monty Panesar blocked further chances for international recognition.
Eric Hollies – leg spinner, and the most genuine of genuine number 11s.
This team features a solid front five, an all rounder, a record breaking keeper who tended to score his runs when they were most needed and four varied bowlers, two of whom, Cork and Barnes had the capacity to weigh in with useful runs. It is certainly an impressive collection of talent for what has never been a first class county.
POSSIBLE REFORMS TO THE COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP
I am going to start this section by presenting some suggestions which I will expand on:
To expand on the above points:
1) The bonus point system as it currently stands offers up to five batting points and three bowling points to each team, awarded only during the first 110 overs of each team’s first innings. The batting bonus points are awarded when the score reaches 200, 250, 300, 350, and if it happens inside 110 overs 400, while the bowling points are awarded for taking 3, 6 and 9 wickets, so long as those milestones are reached within the 110 overs. This comes on top of 16 points for a win and 5 points for a draw. The 110 over limit is designed to encourage teams to try to score reasonably quick in their first dig and to bowl for wickets, but the truth is that few teams manage to claim a full haul of batting points, and occasions on which full bowling points are not garnered are fairly rare. It can lead to situations where teams do things that they would not normally even be thinking about (a prime example being the farce involving a prearranged declaration that Middlesex and Yorkshire perpetrated when they knew that an outright win for either of them would give that side the championship at the expense of Somerset, who were top having completed their programme). Yorkshire deliberately bowled badly on that occasion to allow Middlesex to get far enough ahead for the intended declaration. I have no objection (not in the slightest) to genuine declarations, and to batting sides trying to put themselves in position to do so by attacking bowling that it is intended to make life difficult for them, but I despise the notion of deliberately giving the opposition runs to keep a game alive – why were neither of the contending sides prepared to go the aggressive route without relying on co-operation from the other? My 5-1 ratio of points for a win and a draw may be an insufficient margin, but a draw should have some reward attached to it – to anyone telling me that there is no such thing as a good draw, I would a) tell them not to talk nonsense (publishable version) and b) mention a few of the classics such as Old Trafford 2005 and Brisbane 2010.
2) On pitch preparation: whatever the official guidelines say, pitches that offer turn early in the game get viewed more harshly than pitches which assist seamers, which in turn are generally viewed more harshly than shirtfronts. This is in my opinion is wrongheaded – the game is more fun when spinners are involved, so pitches that allow that should be encouraged, while given that conditions in April and September mean that a preponderance of green pitches is always likely at those times, and that there is good chance of seamers getting overcast skies to help them further. Shirtfronts produce games that are utterly uninteresting, boosting the averages of various batters, but not really helping even them – batters who fare well on flat tracks are frequently exposed when the pitch does a bit, because they get away with things on flat tracks which would see them dismissed on livelier surfaces. So, I would almost never punish a team for having a pitch the offered spinners overmuch, would not be harsh on greentops in April and September, but would punish anyone who produced one in mid season, as then it would clearly be deliberate, and I would be down like a ton of bricks on anyone producing a shirtfront.
3)Over rates – this one is a problem that blights test cricket more than county cricket, but I have known some late finishes when listening to commentaries of county games, and I believe that my scheme should be rolled out at that level before then being extended to test level. There might be a few early matches in which extras, swelled by penalty runs, threatened to score at a Bradmanesque rate, but I am pretty sure that it would not take long for the message to sink in.
4)The first part of this post demonstrated just one minor county that has produced serious talent, and they are not alone – Norfolk have provided the Edriches (all six of the English Edriches are members of the same family) and a few others over the years, Berkshire boasts among its products the Bedsers (EA and AV),Peter May, Ken Barrington, Tom Dollery and in the women’s game Claire Taylor the batter (as opposed to Clare Taylor, the Yorkshire medium pacer) and other minor counties have similar stories, and it is my belief that there should be more movement between minor and first class county status – first class counties should have to prove that they merit that status and failure to do so should mean being temporarily supplanted by a minor county. The introduction of promotion and relegation into the county championship was just one of a raft of changes made at that time which had a telling effect on England’s fortunes (remember folks, England were bottom of the test rankings in 1999, and while there have been a few dips in the 21 years since then they have never seriously threatened to occupy that place again). Jack Hobbswho I mentioned earlier, and Tom Hayward, his great Surrey predecessor, and the man who persuaded Surrey to give him a chance (and there were those at the time who did not approve) were both natives of Cambridgeshire.
I would like to see more County Championship action at the height of the season and less at the extreme ends thereof as well.
Well that is today’s exhibit from the Museum of All Time XIs revealed, and it now remains only for me to provide my usual sign off…
A look at the ODI between England and Pakistan and the County Championship, a few other things including plenty of photographs.
The current round of County Championship matches are approaching their conclusions (some being already finished), and the ODI between England and Pakistan is at the halfway stage. This post looks at what is going on, starting with…
England won the toss and put Pakistan in. Pakistan have just finished their 50 overs on 340-7. This might look a good total, but England at this ground have recently scored 481 versus Australia and 444-3 against Pakistan, and that 340 is the lowest total of the series to date. Thus I expect England to chase these down trivially easily, just as they did when facing 358 a few days ago (they got home with over five overs to spare). Babar Azammade a hundred for Pakistan, but was slow by modern day standards, being only just better than a run a ball. There were four wickets for Tom Curran, albeit at a cost of 75 runs from his 10 overs. Now we move on to…
THE COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP
This is what is going on in the County Championship…
Kent v Yorkshire – Yorkshire 210 and 469, Kent 296 and 207-9.
A massive second innings by Yorkshire turned the tables on Kent, and the only question now is whether Yorkshire can get the wicket they need before time runs out. I fully expect them to do so. Ballancemade 159 in that Yorkshire innings. The Kent second innings has been a tale of batting failure, with Bell-Drummond top scoring with 41. Ben Coad has 5-48 so far.
Surrey v Somerset – Surrey 380 and 255-8, Somerset 398 – Match Drawn.
A combination of bad weather and decent batting by Surrey saved the defending champions in a match dominated by Lewis Gregory who must now be firmly on England’s Test team radar. Somerset did not try George Bartlett’s offbreaks even though Jack Leach had three second wickets with his slow left arm. Burns made 78 in the Surrey second innings and Will Jacks 54.
Warwickshire v Hampshire – Hampshire 354 and 302-5 declared, Warwickshire 233 and 109, Hampshire won by 314 runs.
Hampshire made early inroads into the Warwickshire second innings yesterday evening and comfortably finished the job today. Only youngster Robert Yates topped 20 in a dismal second innings effort by Warwickshire. The wickets were shared around the Hampshire bowlers.
Glamorgan v Gloucestershire – Glamorgan 250 and 481-8 declared, Gloucestershire 463 and 103-5 – Gloucestershire need a further 166 with five wickets standing and 16.4 overs remaining.
This looks like a marvellous recovery by Glamorgan thwarted by their unwillingness to risk defeat, which has led them to an overcautious declaration leaving insufficient time to get the wickets. Glamorgan’s recovery after being made to follow on was built on a partnership of 231 between Nicholas Selman (150) and Labuschagne(137), following an opening stand of 133 between Selman and Hemphrey(58). The fifth Gloucestershire wicket has just gone down, giving Glamorgan s shot at victory, although the draw is still favourite. Offspinner Kieran Bullhas two wickets in this fourth innings.
Middlesex v Leicestershire – Middlesex 349 and 223, Leicestershire 268 and 226-5, Leicestershire need 79 runs with five wickets standing. It is raining in London at the moment, which may baulk the fans of what should be a fine finish. Ackerman is 70 not out for Leicestershire.
Lancashire v Northamptonshire – Northamptonshire 230 and 200, Lamncashire 415 and 17-0, Lancashire won by 10 wickets.
Lancashire claimed the extra half-hour to attempt to finish this yesterday, but could not quite do so. However, they finished the job this morning. Gleeson picked up his second five-for of the match in the Northants second innings.
I have received my first European Election publicity – a leaflet from the English Democrats which I tore into tiny pieces and put in the recycling (they are absolute b**t**ds), and this from the Green Party:
It being a dull day today weather wise I have spent some of this afternoon mounting stamps for display:
A look at today’s cricket action and a lot of photographs.
Today’s ODI between England and Pakistan is just past the half way stage. There are also fixtures under way in the county championship. This post looks at all the action.
AROUND THE GROUNDS
First the ODI:
England v Pakistan at Bristol – Pakistan 358-9 from 50 overs, Eng 46-0 after 7 overs.
Pakistan have put up a good total, but not one that is by any means out of England’s reach.Imam-ul-Haqwith 151 was the principal contributor. Chris Woakes took 4-67, a superb performance in the circumstances. I reckon England will chase these down.
With the close of play approaching on day 1 this is what is happening in the County Championship:
Essex v Nottinghamshire – Nottinghamshire 187, Essex 35-0.
This is looking good for Essex. Forties from Ben Slater and Joe Clarke were the only notable batting efforts for Nottinghamshire. Jamie Portertook 4-75 for Essex, while Simon Harmer had 2-20 from 17 overs, an extraordinarily economical performance for a spinner on day 1.
Kent v Yorkshire – Yorkshire 210 all out, Kent 114-4. Yorkshire were 96-6 at one point, but a lower-order fightback got them to respectability, and they have then bowled well. No Yorkshire batter topped 30 – Brook and Tattersall with 29 each were top scorers. Milnes took three wickets and Podmore two. Zak Crawley is going well for Kent, having passed 50. Tim Bresnan has taken two wickets for Yorkshire.
Somerset v Surrey – Surrey 325-6. Centuries from Rory Burns and Dean Elgar saw Surrey dominate most of the day, but late wickets for Somerset have brought them back into things. Lewis Gregorywith 3-44 has been by far the most successful bowler for Somerset.
The latest in my “100 cricketers” series, featuring two county stalwarts who I considewr unlucky not have had higher honours, Tony Cottey and Colin Metson. Also features some thoughts on the first round of county championship matches of 2019 including a “Five to Follow” feature that I shall be revisiting.
Welcome to the latest post in my “100 cricketers” series. In the spotlight today are two of my most controversial selections. Before getting into the main meat of the “100 cricketers” part of the post I am going to look back briefly at the first round of County Championship matches in the 2019 season. The introductory post to the whole series can be found here, the post in which I introduce the ninth XI hereand the most recent post in the series here.
COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND ONE RETROSPECTIVE
Six matches were played, four had definite reults and two were drawn (see yesterday’s post for more details). Here I am going to pick out what I consider points of interest from each game and pick out five players who I shall be looking out for through the season.
Nottinghamshire v Yorkshire – Nottinghamshire 408 and 329-5 declared, Yorkshire 291 and 277-2, match drawn The second innings batting efforts of Root and Ballance for Yorkshire notwithstanding this match was dominated by the performance of Nottinghamshire’s Joe Clarke (112 and 97 not out). In the end the pitch won this contest comfortably, but Nottinghamshire were right to give themselves a whole day to attempt to bowl Yorkshire out a second time, even though Clarke was close to his second hundred of the match – the team counts for more than the individual. Neither of these sides impressed me overall, and with Joe Clarke clearly a probably for England selection in the near future Nottinghamshire in particular are likely to find this season a long, tough one.
Somerset v Kent– Somerset 171 and 243 beat Kent 209 and 131 by 74 runs Listening to the commentary on the closing stages of this match was a privelege and pleasure – the tension was palpable as Somerset pushed for victory and Kent did their best to resist. The first day was lost to the weather, and Kent had the better of both the next two days. 21 year old George Bartlett, helped by veteran Jack Brooks in a substantial last wicket stand gave Somerset something to defend on the final morning, and Lewis Gregory did most of the rest. It is great news for Somerset that they are off to a winning start, and the fact that they have never won the champtionship inclines me as a natural supporter of the underdog to root for them somewhat, but they will need runs from the top order if they are to maintain their good start – the middle and lower order cannot rescue you every time. Kent seem likely to struggle – facing a target of 206 in this match they responded to being under serious pressure for the first time in the contest by slumping to 48-6 from which position it was only a matter of time.
Hampshire v Essex – Hampshire 525-8 declared beat Essex 164 and 274 by an innings and 88 runs.
An injury prevented Adam Wheater from batting in either innings for Essex, but this cannot be dressed up as anything other than a thorough thrashing for them. Sam Northeast had the star performance of the game with 169 in the Hampshire innings. West Indian Fidel Edwards and South African Kolpak player Kyle Abbottbowled well for Hampshire. Hampshire seem likely to fare well, while Essex along with Nottinghamshire and Kent seem booked for a struggle to avoid relegation.
Sussex v Leicestershire – Leicestershire 252 and 232-3 beat Sussex 173 and 308 by 7 wickets
Full credit to Leicestershire for what was in the end a comfortable win. The feature performance of the game came from young Sussex opener Philip Salt who made 80 in his team’s second innings. Neither of these teams showed enough for me to venture predictions regarding their promotion chances, although Leicestershire having got away to a winning start have more to be happy about than Sussex.
Northamptonshire v Middlesex– Northants 445 and 10-0, Middlesex 271 and 317-4 declared – match drawn
Northants did the right thing enforcing the follow-on and attempting to squeeze out a victory, but Middlesex got themselves out of trouble, largely thanks to their captain Dawid Malan (160 not out). All the evidence from this match suggests that these sides have batting aplenty but lack strength in bowling, and that is likely to mean a tough season – by and large to win a first class match you need to capture 20 wickets.
Derbyshire v Durham – Derbyshire 197 and 334 beat Durham 171 and 235 by 125 runs. A comfortable win for Derbyshire, and good news for those of us (including me) who think that Durham’s decision to give the captaincy to Cameron Bancroft of ‘sandpapergate’ infamy was an appalling one. Until and unless Durham repent and find someone else to captain I for one will be rooting for their opponents every time. I expect as well as hope that this will be a difficult season for Durham, while Derbyshire may yet do well. Now it is time for…
FIVE TO FOLLOW
Most of my five nominations are speculative in nature, in some cases very speculative, and I go through them from least to most speculative.
Joe Clarke (Nottinghamshire) – I will be very surprised if he is not an England player before the end of this season. At the moment his record stands at 4,174 first class runs at 40.92, with 14 centuries and that 97 not out in the second innings in 112 visits to the crease, and he is still only 22. He was obviously a class apart from any of his team mates in the match against Yorkshire.
Lewis Gregory (Somerset) – There will soon be vacancies for pace bowlers in the England team, and the 26 year-old has 217 first-class wickets at 27.31 from his 75 matches, with a best of 6-47. He is also not the worst lower order batter, with an average of 20.57. After his team dug themselves out of a big hole against Kent he bowled thgem to victory with 5-18.
Philip Salt(Sussex) – The 22 year-old had a couple of headline making innings last year, and has 80 against Leicestershire in the first match of this season may well have impressed some in high places. I would like to see him score a few more centuries before he is seriously considered, but England do have problems at the top of their order at the moment, which can only be good news for a youngster who is scoring runs up top at present. I do not expect him feature at international level this season, but a really strong showing might earn him a winter tour spot, and would be surprised if he does not play for England somewhere along the line.
George Bartlett (Somerset) – He holds the record innings score for an England under 19 player abroad with 179. He is now 21, and started this season in a match that he had not expected to be playing in by scoring a crucial 63 to help give his side something to bowl at, and it proved to be enough. His off-spin has hardly been used in first-class cricket, but he may possibly develop it in time. He needs an extended run in the first team and some big scores to be seriously considered for England, but the way he responded to his team being put under severe pressure in the match against Kent augurs well for the future – he clearly has the right temperament.
Liam Trevaskis(Durham) – This one is a complete flyer on my part, picked with eyes focussed fully on the future. The 19 year old slow left-armer played just his second first class match against Derbyshire, had match figures of 1-59 and contributed 42 runs for once out in a losing cause. April is not usually a kind month to spinners of any kind, so even one wicket represents an achievement, and his second innings 27 not out, when most of his team mates surrendered tamely showed character as well. I will be in the sort of position Neville Cardusfound himself in about Victor Trumper – Cardus used to pray that Trumper would score a century in an Australian total of 137 all out! I fo not pray being an atheist, but will be hoping that Trevaskis gets among the wickets and runs but that his team Durham get beaten.
Now on to the “100 cricketers” part of this post, starting with…
277 first class appearances brought him 14,567 runs at 36.69, with 31 centuries and a best score of 203. I saw him live when Glamorgan took on Somerset at the St Helens Ground in Swansea in 1995 (for the record I was sitting at the town end of the ground, looking straight down the wicket towards to sea). Glamorgan were three down for about 80 when he came out to bat, and could have found themselves in trouble on what was a decent pitch. Cottey, with his team needing runs, reached a century in almost exactly three hours, being out for 115 in just under 200 minutes. It was a superb innings, and the only chance he offered was the one that was finally taken to end it. Glamorgan reached just over 300. Somerset headed this, but not by a signifcant amount, as Andy Hayhurst snailed his way to 96 in almost six hours on the second day, and the second top score came from Peter Bowler (73), not exactly known for entertainment value either. Somerset paid for their slow scoring on day 2, when Robert Croft spun through them in their second innings on day 4 (6-78 in the innings). The performance that made it all possible for Glamorgan though was Cottey’s on the first day when he took the match by the scruff of the neck with that innings – from that time on Glamorgan were right in the game.
Given some of the people who did get selected for England in the 1990s and given England’s record at that time (which varied between poor and downright dreadful depending on the year) I feel that Tony Cottey, a battler who tended to score his runs, as on the occasion I have mentioned, when they were most needed, was unlucky to miss out, and I had no hesitation in naming him in my 100 cricketers.
232 first class matches yielded him 4,,032 runs at 17.43 with a best score of 96 and saw him take 561 catches and effect 51 stumpings. He was at his best just as selectors were starting to look first and foremost and what keepers did with the bat and put their keeping skills in second place. Although he was undeniably a modest practitioner with the bat Metson did tend to score such runs as he made when they were most needed (earlier in the 1995 season mentioned above it was he, together with left-arm slow bowler Neil Kendrick, who rescued Glamorgan from 140-8 on a green top against Sussex, getting them up to 212, which was sufficient for a first innings lead, although the game ended up a draw due to the weather). As a keeper he was excellent, making very few if any mistakes. Most of the wicketkeepers I have named in the course of this series of posts have been genuinely front line batters as well, but I wanted to feature a specialist keeper as well, and my thoughts turned naturally to the perenially unlucky Colin Metson, who saw a succession of inferior practitioners selected on the basis of supposed batting skills that most of them failed to deliver on at the highest level.
I have three more posts lined up for ninth XI and a stand alone post to complete the hundred (have a guess if you dare at who will feature in that one), in which I will also publish the entire list in one place – that last post will tie the whole series together. I will then have to decide on a new project for this blog to replace the “100 cricketers” series. The “Five to Follow” named in this post will feature again through the cricket season as I look at their performances. That leaves me one more thing to complete this post…
Yes, we are at the end of another post, and for those who have made it all the way, here is my usual sign off…