County Championship Round Up

An account of goings on the County Championship, a brief mention of physio at Tapping House and lots of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The County Championship matches currently in progress are now on day 3 of 4. In this post I will look at all of them before sharing some more of my photos.

THE STATE OF PLAY IN
THE COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP

This is what is happening around the country…

  • Nottinghamshire v Essex Nottinghamshire 187 and 157, Essex 241 and 81-1, Essex need a further 24 to win.
    The Nottinghamshire batting has failed twice, leaving Essex a fairly clear run to victory. No Nottinghamshire batter topped 50 in either innings. Nick Browne made 67 in the Essex first dig, while spinner Simon Harmer destroyed the Notts second innings with 6-50. Tom Westley is on the verge of only the second half-century of the match and is being staunchly supported by the only knight of the realm currently playing first class cricket. Joe Clarke of my “Five to Follow” made 48 and 1 for Notts.
  • Kent v YorkshireYorkshire 210 and 328-4, Kent 296.
    Kent took what would have looked a useful first innings lead, but Yorkshire have turned this one around in their second innings. They will now be eyeing up a declaration to give Kent an awkward period of batting before the close today and then the whole of tomorrow. 81 for Zak Crawley and 103 from wicketkeeper Ollie Robinson were Kent’s main batting efforts, while Gary Ballance is 143 not out in the second Yorkshire innings. Ben Coad and Duanne Olivier each took three wickets for Yorkshire.
  • Surrey v SomersetSurrey 380 and 19-2, Somerset 398.
    This one could go a long way to deciding the ultimate destiny of the title as it features the defending champions (Surrey) and the form side thus far this year (Somerset). So far this shaping up as Lewis Gregory’s match – three wickets in the first innings, a magnificent 129 not out, including 10 fours and five sixes to give Somerset a first innings lead and already has a second innings wicket (the other second innings wicket has gone to the Devonian giant Craig Overton). Somerset have quite a tradition of pace bowlers who love to give the ball a wallop – Sammy Woods, Arthur Wellard, Maurice Tremlett (grandfather of Chris, father of Tim), the one with whom we do not compare up and coming allrounders because it gives them an impossible benchmark and a few other lesser names, and Gregory with the development of his batting bids fair to join them. It would be a big ask for anyone to start out in an Ashes series, but I certainly hope that Gregory will be in the winter touring parties. George Bartlett failed in the Somerset first innings but may get a second chance, if Somerset bowl Surrey out.
  • Warwickshire v HampshireHampshire 354 and 186-3, Warwickshire 233.
    I suspect that Hampshire will be looking at batting until there is an hour to go in this day’s play before sticking Warwickshire back in to face a huge target in the fourth innings. The fact that they are going at over five an over in a four-day game tells me that they are looking very definitely at victory. Alsop made 150 in the first Hampshire innings, Sibley carried his bat through the Warwickshire first innings for his sixth century in as many matches. 23 year-old Oliver Soames scored 62 in the second Hampshire innings, 22 year-old Joe Weatherley 46, while Northeast and Rossouw are currently batting together.
  • Glamorgan v GloucestershireGlamorgan 250 and 184-1, Gloucestershire 463.
    Glamorgan are making a fight of this in their second innings, but probably need to bat until teatime tomorrow to save this one after conceding such a huge first innings deficit. Ryan Higgins matched James Bracey’s century in the Gloucestershire innings, while Hemphrey and Wagg made fifties in the Glamorgan first innings. Hemphrey has made another fifty in the second innings while Nicholas Selman is on 83 not out. 20 year-old offspinner George Drissell took 4-83 in the Glamorgan first innings.
  • Lancashire v NorthamptonshireNorthamptonshire 230 and 54-3, Lancashire 415.
    Lancashire are in control of this one. Jennings and Vilas each contributed 97 to the Lancashire first innings, while Luke Wood took 5-72. Temba Bavuma and Rob Keogh are batting together for Northamptonshire at present.
  • Middlesex v LeicestershireMiddlesex 349 and 147-8, Leicestershire 268.
    After taking a useful looking first innings lead Middlesex are making an utter Horlick’s of their second innings, giving Leicestershire a way back into the match. Sixties for Ackerman and Dearden were the principal scores for Leicestershire, while no one has reached 40 in the Middlesex second innings. Tom Taylor and Chris Wright each have three wickets.
  • Worcestershire v DurhamDurham 273 and 107-5, Worcestershire 390.
    Durham are deep in trouble in this one. A century for Wessels and 61 for 21 year old Some  helped Worcestershire to a substantial first innings lead. In the Durham second innings Burnham and Liam Trevaskis are together, the latter having picked up a wicket with his slow left-arm in the Worcestershire innings.

Essex have completed their win over Nottinghamshire. Westley fell for 49, but Dan Lawrence and the knight saw Essex home, the latter finishing with 40 not out. Jack Leach has just bagged a wicket with his slow-leftarmers, reducing Surrey to 43-3, a mere 24 runs on – defo looking good for Somerset.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Some of these photographs were taken at Tapping House where I had a physio session on Tuesday. All the exercises went well, highlighted by the arms only part of cycling, where I clocked up the equivalent of a mile in three minutes.

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These are the Tappin House shots…

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The last of the Tapping House shots.

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A moon in a daytime sky

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Another shot of the moon in a daytime sky.

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Some Thoughts About Possible England Cricketers

Some thoughts about the possible make-up of the England team against Ireland later this year.

INTRODUCTION

In this post I will be looking at the claims of some potential England cricketers and at the end I will list those who at present would featurie in my plans for the summer. There will be some new names, because although it is only one match I believe that the game against Ireland represents an opportunity to give people a start at test match level, and I would prefer not to have give someone a debut against Australia, who are next up. Before looking at ‘potentials’, it is time clear the decks by first listing the…

SPINE OF THE TEAM

This, given the recent international retirement of Sir Alastair Cook and the lack of success of certain others comprises four names:

  • Rory Burns – He deserves more time to show what he can do at this level (here today, gone tomorrow selections plagued the 1990s when England were an aboslute embarrassment), so one of the openers slots is still his.
  • *Joe Root – The captain and finest batter in the side (and one of the finest in world cricket), his place is assured
  • +Ben Foakes – The best wicketkeeper around and averaging over 40 with the bat in his brief test career to date, I would regard his omission as a disgrace.
  • James Anderson – England’s all-time leading wicket taker and the leader of the bowling attack. As well as his bowling he should be working with the younger bowlers in the squad giving them the benefit of his vast experience and knowhow.

With these four names in mind we now have to decide on the rest, and the next section sets out what is…

REQUIRED TO COMPLETE THE SQUAD

We have two specialist batters and a wicket keeper, and to augment them we need three more specialist batters and an all-rounder or four more specialist batters, one of whom is a regular opener. Only one bowler is listed, and we need a new-ball partner for him, at least two further pace bowlers and two front-line spinners so that we can pick an attack to meet all conditions. With this in mind I am going to start with the…

OPENING BATTER

As far as I am concerned Mark Stoneman and Keaton Jennings have both been found wanting at the highest level, so I strike them straight out. Not many openers have done big things in the first two rounds of county championship matches. Three who merit consideration are Haseeb Hameed who fared well against India before he was injured, but who has had two successive very poor seasons before coming into some runs against Middlesex to start this season, Zak Crawley who has had a superb match for Kent against Warwickshire, although his overall average is only just above 30 and his century in the match just completed was only his second in first-class cricket (from 39 innings) and Dominic Sibley whose 132 for Warwickshire in that same match was fifth century in as many games. Also worth a thought is Middlesex’s Nick Gubbins, who averages 34.92 in first class cricket with seven centuries from 61 innings, and who was one of the few Middlesex players to fare decently with the bat against Lancashire. Of these four my pick would be 25 year-old Gubbins, but with a note to look out for the scores of Hameed, Crawley and Sibley – if any of these start producing big scores on a consistent basis they could still challenge. However, I am not massively convinced by any of these potential openers, and continue to espouse the radical solution I have suggested elsewhere of giving Tammy Beaumont a go amongst the men.

THE NUMBER THREE SLOT

There are fewer options here – not many people have been scoring big at number three. I see the following possibilities:

  1. Persuade Joe Root to go in at number three, enabling an extra middle-order batter to be selected, which could work, but may end up adversely affecting Root’s performances.
  2. Treating him principally as a batter who will sometimes bowl short spells at high pace see if the new, responsible Ben Stokes can handle the number three slot.
  3. Picking him as a specialist batter give Jonathan Bairstow this slot.
  4. Although he does not bat there for his county cross one’s fingers and pitch Joe Clarke straight in at number three.
  5. Gamble on youth by selecting Ryan Patel of Surrey, whose 100 not out was the sheet anchor of their first innings against Essex, guiding them from 75-1 to 395 all out. Fine performance though it was, it was also his first first class hundred, though he is only 21. 

My personal order of preference for these options is as follows: 3, 2, 5, 1, 4 – I regard promoting Root as too much of a gamble and think that expecting someone who is not a regular no 3 to start doing that job at test level would be a big ask, and I think Patel needs a few more big performances be can be seriously entertained, but he is on my radar. 

THE REMAINING BATTERS/ ALL ROUNDERS

With the top four slots filled and a wicket-keeper in place we need either two more specialist batters or a specialist batter and an all-rounder. My possibles are as follows:

  • Joe Clarke – averages over 40 with the bat, started this season splendidly with 112 and 97 not out against Yorkshire, although he then failed twice against Somerset. I believe a place must be found for him, and that number five would be a good position for him to begin his test career from.
  • Ben Stokes – A position in the middle of the order would probably suit him better than number three, and having an all-rounder if they are genuinely good enough is always valuable. 
  • Ollie PopeThe Surrey man’s 251 in the Champion County game showed that he is the form of his life and made his case all but irrefutable.
  • Tom Abell – The Somerset captain has played two valuable innings this season, the 49 in the first innings against Kent and the hundred against Nottinghamshire when his side looked in trouble, but ended up going on to win by an innings.
  • Kiran Carlson – A sparkling century to start his season against Northamptonshire, albeit on a featherbed of a pitch (there were over 80 runs per wicket in that drawn match), and it was only his fourth in 49 first class innings. The 20 year-old is clearly very promising but he needs to do more to earn a place.
  • George Bartlett – Twice in their two matches this season Somerset were deep in trouble and on both occasions Bartlett was instrumental in hauling them out of it. In the second innings of their opener against Kent his 63, backed by some hefty blows from Jack Brooks at number 11 gave them something to bowl at and they duly dismissed Kent, while against Nottinghamshire he came in after the top three had all been dismissed cheaply and with his team initially looking down both barrels produced 133, his maiden first-class ton (note that Carlson was cashing in after two of his team mates had already smashed tons). The fact that he has twice made runs when they were desperately needed suggests that he has the right temperament, so he is definitely in the reckoning.

PACE BOWLERS

We are looking for two or three guys to back up Anderson in this department. I see the following as especially worthy of consideration (in addition to Stuart Broad, whose claims need no amplification here):

  • Lewis Gregory – 5-18 in the second innings of the first match to bowl Kent out, 6-68 in the first innings against Nottinghamshire and a quick fifty to help boost the Somerset total past 400 in that same match. The 26 year old now has 223 wickets at 27.03 in first-class cricket from 76 matches and seems to have stepped things up a notch this season, with a total of 14-145 from two matches, average 10.36 per wicket.
  • Sam Curran –  after the way he burst on the scene against India last year he should feature strongly again. He has not been involved in the early county matches because he is currently playing IPL cricket in India (and has some good performances there to his name).
  • Mark Wood – A bowler who propels the ball at over 90mph, though he is injury prone. I think England need at least one bowler of extreme pace in their attack, and after his efforts against the West Indies he is the prime contender. If he gets injured than my choice in this role would be…
  • Olly Stone –  The Norfolk born quickie takes his wickets at 24 each in first-class cricket, and has the kind of extreme pace that only Wood among the others can match. 
  • Tom Bailey – The Lancashire fast-medium bowler has 161 wickets from his 48 first-class games at 26.15 each, including 5-67 in the Middlesex first innings this season, when his illustrious tem mate Anderson bagged three. The fact that he and Anderson have experience of bowling in tandem could be useful as well. 
  • Henry Brookes – He is just 19 years old, and his seven first class matches have brought him 24 wickets at 26.08 although he has yet to record a five-for. Also hbis ten first class innings have produced three fifty-plus scores, including a career best 84 against Kent that saved his side from an innings defeat, although Kent did manage to chase down the 124 they needed to win, an average of 29.33. He could well develop into a genuine allrounder and definitely merits consideration as a potential no 8.

From the bowlers I have named in this section Stuart Broad, Sam Curran, one out of Wood or Stone and Brookes are the ones I consider serious possibilities. I would consider Brookes if the conditions were such that I thought no spinner was warranted, in which case I would be picking four front-line quick bowlers, otherwise the question would be who missed out in the toss-up between Broad and Curran, and that would be Broad for my money, because he and Anderson are both nearing the end of their great careers, and I think Anderson can support the younger bowlers on his own. I would expect Anderson and Curran to share the new ball, with Mark Wood (if fit) or Olly Stone (otherwise) coming on first change, and Henry Brookes as fourth seamer if the pitch was a green top.

THE SPINNERS

Jack Leach with his 6-36 against Nottinghamshire made his case, strengthened by a maiden test five-for in Sri Lanka, irrefutable. In the absence of any other spinners pulling up trees Adil Rashid who also produced a maiden test five-for over the winter is the choice for the second spinner should conditions warrant such (unlikely, but in July when the next tets match takes place not impossible). Moeen Ali misses out for two reasons – he is not good enough in either department, a bits and pieces player rather than a true all rounder, and he is an off-spinner, and Joe Root (who should be encouraged to trust himself more in this area) can bowl a bit of off-spin if needed. Meanwhile I will be on the look out for a serious option to replace Rashid. Dominic Bess may get himself back into the reckoning as the season goes on, but for the moment two front-line spinners remains enough.

THE FINAL RECKONING

My squad is as follows, starting with the likely first eleven assuming normal conditions:

  1. Rory Burns
  2. Tammy Beaumont
  3. Jonny Bairstow
  4. *Joe Root
  5. Joe Clarke
  6. +Ben Foakes
  7. Ben Stokes
  8. Sam Curran
  9. Jack Leach
  10. Mark Wood/ Olly Stone according to fitness.
  11. James Anderson

The reserves and circumstances in which I would consider picking them are:

  • Adil Rashid – plays if two spinners are needed.
  • Henry Brookes – plays on a green-top if no specialist spinner is deemed necessary.
  • George Bartlett – plays at no7 if Stokes is unavailable, on the understanding that his off-spin will come into the equation.
  • Stuart Broad – slots into his accustomed role as Anderson’s new ball partner if Sam Curran is injured, would also replace Anderson as senior bowler if he was injured, and may start if neither of our extra-fast bowlers is available.
  • Ollie Pope – in the event of injury to any of my suggested nos 3-6 he is the next cab off the rank.
  • Dominic Sibley – if one of my preferred openers is injured he gets the nod.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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The County Championship Second Round

Some thoughtd on the recently concluded round of County Champ;ionship matches.

INTRODUCTION

The second round of County Championship cricket matches of 2019 has just finished, with Kent completing an eight-wicket win over Warwickshire. In this post I will look at each match in turn for points of interest and singificance.

THE MATCHES

I will deal with the drawn matches first.

  • Glamorgan v NorthamptonshireGlamorgan 570-8 declared and 70-1, Northants 750
    A travesty of a game. 1390 runs for 17 wickets, an average of 81.76 runs per wicket tells its own story of a pitch that quite clearly never offered anything to any bowler of any description. Glamorgan should be slapped with a hefty points deduction to punish them for producing such a pitch. With a maximum of 24 points available from a single game I suggest a 50 point penalty, to make this offence worth slightly more than two maximum point victories. This sort of match is far worse than a low scoring affair that finishes early.
  • Gloucestershire v Derbyshire– Derbyshire 291 and 388-3 declared, Gloucestershire 350
    Slow batting here combined with a surface that offered little to bowlers saw a match that looked like a draw from a long way out. Wayne Madsen scored a double century for Derbyshire today and Alex Hughes reached a century.
  • Surrey v Essex Surrey 395 and 324-6 declared, Essex 448 and 0-0
    Surrey made the game safe, with 98 from Rory Burns, 69 from Ollie Pope and 54 from Will Jacks, before declaring to get in a quick over at Essex in order avoid being docked a point for slow over rates. There was some interference from the weather during the four days.

Now we have the games at which defnite results were achieved.

  • Nottinghamshire v SomersetNottinghamshire 263 and 126, Somerset 403, Somerset won by an innings and 14 runs
    Somerset’s victory was created principally by the efforts of four players. Lewis Gregory with 6-68 in the first Nottinghamshire innings and a quickfire 50 with the bat, George Bartlett and Tom Abell came who came together after Somerset had lost three quick wickets in their innings and put on 223 together, Bartlett making 133 and Abell 101, and Jack Leach with 6-36 in the Nottinghamshire second innings did the business for Somerset. Joe Clarke failed twice for Nottinghamshire, and although there were some decent scores in the first Nottinghamshire innings no one looked capable of making the sort of runs that Clarke can when he gets going. Somerset go into the one-day tournament with two wins from two, the only team to have managed that. 
  • Hampshire v Yorkshire Yorkshire 554-7 declared, Hampshire 302 and 208, Yorkshire won by an innings and 44 runs
    This was nearly even worse for Hampshire than the actual result – at one stage they were 59-8 in their second innings before Liam Dawson (92) and Keith Barker (64) staged a resistance act that put the pitiful efforts of the Hampshire top order into perspective. 
  • Warwickshire v KentKent 504-9 declared and 124-2, Warwickshire 346 and 280, Kent won by eight wickets.
    Warwickshire were probably nine first innings runs short of escaping with a draw – that being the margin by which they avoided the follow-on. At one stage an innings victory for Kent looke likely, when Warwickshire were 121-7 in their second innings, but Tim Ambrose (107) and 19 year old Henry Brookes (84, a new career best), put on 144 together, which meant that Kent had a run chase to finish the game, something they never looked like failing to do. Opener Zak Crawley had a fine match with scores of 108 and 45 for Kent, and Warwickshire opener Dominic Sibley scored 132 in their first innings, his fifth hundred in as many games. Brookes is selected for his bowling (now 24 wickets at 26.08 from seven first class games), but this 84 was his third fifty in ten first innings, and he now averages 29.33 with the bat as well – a more than handy second string to his bow.
  • Durham v Sussex Durham 224 and 189, Sussex 202 and 212-4, Sussex won by six wickets
    Stian van Zyl scored an unbeaten century to guide Sussex to victory in this match. Liam Trevaskis made 54 in the first Durham innings, and South Africa Gareth Harte 74 not out in their second, while Luke Wells hit 98 not out in the first Sussex innings. 
  • Leicestershire v WorcestershireWorcestershire 553-6 declared, Leicestershire 302 and 233, Worcestershire won by an innings and 18 runs.
    After Worcestershire piled up a huge total Josh Tongue with 4-46 and Ed Barnard with 3-40 did most of the damage in the Leicestershire first innings, and then Charlie Morris took a career best 7-45 in their second. 
  • Middlesex v LancashireMiddlesex 265 and 200, Lancashire 427 and 39-3, Lancashire won by seven wickets
    Middlesex were flattered by this result – two of the three wickets they took before Lancashire completed victory fell to the rarely used bowling of Sam Robson. A target of 39 presented no opportunities for big scores, but Haseeb Hameed followed up on his first innings hundred by remaining unbeaten. Glen Maxwelwas the destroyer in the Middlesex second innings, the Aussie’s off-spin snaring five victims. Haseeb’s return to form has generated considerable excitement because he did well for England before an injury interrupted his progress, but he has had two successive very poor seasons before starting this one well, and it needs more than one big performance to earn an England recall – I certainly put Zak Crawley ahead of him in the pecking order, and regular readers know that I have my own unorthodox solution to England’s top order woes as well, so Hameed is definitely not above third in my personal pecking order for opening options.

I will look tomorrow at some players who could be considered for England (and bear in mind that the next test match is not until July, and is against Ireland, surely an opportunity to blood some new players) and will pick out a suggested squad.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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