A look at goings on in the County Championship, with particular reference to Somerset and Gloucestershire.
This post looks at the action in the County Championship with particular reference to the game I am following, but a brief mention of some significant events in one of the other matches.
SOMERSET’S SECOND INNINGS WOES
Somerset took a slender first innings lead (three runs), as they took the last two Gloucetsershire wickets early this morning. However, they quickly lost nos 1,2,3 and 5 in the order to plummet to 37-4 in their second innings. The two most experienced members of the line up, James Hildreth and Steven Davies are currently together and have advanced the score to 55-4 as I write. Ryan Higgins, a crafty right arm medium pacer who is also a good middle order batter has 2-13 from seven overs in this innings. He currently has 1802 FC runs at 34.00 and 133 wickets at 21.37, from 39 matches, and though there are valid concerns about his pace at international level he may yet get his England chance. If Woakes’ IPL commitments prevent a return to England for the NZ test series then Higgins might be an option at no7 if England want to play five front line bowlers.
For Somerset’s top order there are several issues: Tom Banton is not looking, or at present scoring, like a natural opening batter and Tom Lammonby who started this season with 459 FC runs at 51.00 and three centuries has amassed five runs in four innings (including a pair in this game), meaning that his record now stands at 464 runs at an average of 35.69. It would be as premature to rule him out of future England consideration as it was premature of those who advocated his elevation on the strength of a good showing in six first class matches, but he has work to do to convince people that his good start at FC level wasn’t a flash in the pan. Only Abell of the three Toms at the top of the Somerset order has any current form to talk about. As I typed this last section Steven Davies has gone to make it 68-5, with Overton joining Hildreth.
NEWS FROM LONDON
Down at The Oval Surrey are in a commanding position against Leicestershire. Leicestershire scored 375 first up, but Surrey in reply are 391-4. Ollie Pope, looking to shore up his claim to a middle order slot in the England line up, is 172 not out, Ben Foakes has also made good runs, sharing a stand of 229 with Pope, and Jamie Smith who will don the gauntlets for Surrey if the England selectors do the right thing and select Foakes as their keeper is 32 not out.
Surrey have moved on past 400, and in the game I am listening to, that man Higgins has snagged a third wicket by clean bowling Overton to make it 71-6 and bring Gregory to the crease, Higgins 3-18. Now it is time for my usual sign off…
Continuing my ‘all-time XIs’ series with Leicestershire, including a little challenge – can you find a more economical player to player linked chain that spans the whole of test cricket’s 143 year history than the one I have included while covering George Geary?
Welcome to the latest installment in my series of “All Time XIs”. Today we will look at Leicestershire. However, before getting into the main body of today’s post I have a small additional thing to do…
INTRODUCING MY MOTHER’S BLOG
Yes, my mother has started blogging. Her first post, about the camellias that grow near her home in Cornwall can be viewedhere – and I urge to you do so, and to offer her comments and support.
LEICESTERSHIRE ALL TIME XI
Cecil John Burditt Wood – an opener who had limited support from the rest of his batting order. He holds two batting records to this day: most times anyone has carried their bat through a completed first class innings (17 – two ahead of joint second place WG Grace of Gloucestershire and Dick Barlow of Lancashire), and the unique double feat of carrying his bat for centuries in both innings of a match, which he did against Yorkshire – 117 not out in the first dig and 107 not out in the second, and his team still lost by nine wickets. At the end of that match George Hirst paid him a Yorkshire tribute – “next time master Wood, we’ll get a gun and shoot you out”.
Les Berry – another opener who could never count on much support from lower down the order (Leicestershire have not historically been a strong county, and they are not currently bucking that trend).
John Steele – a solid right handed batter and capable purveyor of left arm spin.
David Gower – a left handed batter of the type for whom words such as elegant and graceful were invented. Unlike those above him in this order he did get the chance to prove himself at the very highest level, and 8,231 test runs at 44.25 is an eminently respectable record. His greatest series was the 1985 Ashes when he scored 732 runs, including scores of 166 at Trent Bridge, 215 at Edgbaston and 157 at The Oval. Five years after that he scored another 157 at The Oval to save a match against India. Another notable effort was his 154 not out in eight hours to save the 1981 test match at Sabina Park, Jamaica (England would lose their next ten test matches against the West Indies). A combination of narrow-mindedness, inflexibility and possibly (on the part of then captain Graham Gooch – see my Essexpiece) envy from the England setup brought his international career to a premature close, which led to his retirement from the first class game. Immediately after his final departure England had an unqualified disastrous tour of the subcontinent. Gower, who had scored 200 not out against India at Edgbaston in 1979, could scarcely have fared worse than most of the England batters who were selected. In addition to his batting Gower was, until a shoulder condition affected him, a superb fielder.
James Whitaker – a heavy scoring batter in his day (he was a county team mate of Gower for some years) who only got one England cap – England selection practices in the 1980s and 1990s were inconsistent at best and downright scandalous at worst, and the teams that emerged as a result of such practices tended to have very ordinary records as one might expect. Whitaker eventually became part of the 21st century England management structure and did well as a national selector. Although not completely eradicated, England selections in the 21st century have featured many fewer “WTF? moments” than used to be the case in the 1980s and 1990s, when they were almost the rule rather than the exception.
*Ewart Astill – an offspinning all-rounder who did the season double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets eight times in the course of the 1920s. Although he never got to perform the role due to the class based obsession with amateur skippers that prevailed in his day I have named in captain as I believe that he would have been good at the job.
+Paul Nixon – an excellent wicket keeper over many years, and a useful batter as well.
George Geary – a right arm medium-fast bowler who could bowl a good leg cutter, possessed immense reserves of stamina (in one test innings at Melbourne on the 1928-9 Ashes tour he had figures of 5-105 from 81 overs – yes you read that right, 81 overs in a single innings) and was also a useful lower order batter and a capable fielder. His CV includes two Ashes winning moments – at the Oval in 1926 he clean bowled Arthur Mailey to win the match and the Ashes, and at Melbourne in 1929 he smote a four through mid on the get England to their victory target of 332, which won them that match and out them invincibly 3-0 up in the series. Also, he features in what I believe (though feel free to comment if you reckon you can outdo me on this one) to be the most economical player to player chain spanning the whole of test cricket’s 143 year history. My rules are these: everyone in the chain must have played test cricket, and there must be a verifiable link between any two successive members of the chain. My chain runs as follows: Billy Midwinter who played for Australia in the inaugural test match in 1877 was also a county team mate of WG Grace who played for England in the first test match on English soil in 1880, WG in his last test match was a team mate of Wilfred Rhodes, who in 1926 was a team mate of George Geary, who in retirement coached at Charterhouse where one of his charges was Peter May (Surrey), who after his own distinguished career was done became a selector and was chair of the panel that picked Chris Broad(Nottinghamshire), whose son Stuart is now an England regular, making Stuart Broad, the current player, the seventh link in the chain. There are several other ways to link Grace to people who played in the inaugural test match, but no way to link Rhodes directly to any of them. Geary has the second cheapest ever first class ‘all ten’ to his name – 10-18 against Glamorgan, bettered only by Hedley Verity’s10-10 for Yorkshire vs Nottinghamshire.
David Millns – the last person to have worked at a coalface before becoming a professional cricketer, a right arm fast bowler, he was also a useful lower order bat (left handed). Injury problems meant that he never got to represent England. After his retirement he became an umpire and has done well at that job too. People who have been following this series will have already noted that I am sparing in my use of the term ‘all rounder’. This is because getting into following cricket when I did meant that with Ian Botham (Somerset) going into decline I witnessed a time when England were absolutely desperate for all rounders, and many people who were not good enough to warrant the label (in many cases inadequate in both departments) were touted as all rounders in an effort to fill the Beefy shaped hole in England’s ranks. In reaction against this I will only describe someone as an all-rounder if I genuinely believe that they would have warranted selection based on either part of their skill set. In this side in addition to Astill who was a genuine all rounder there are three players who have useful secondary skills that are not enough for them to be described as all rounders, at least in my book: John Steele, George Geary and Millns.
Jack Walsh – an Australian left arm wrist spinner, and my overseas pick. He holds a several Leicestershire bowling records, and gives this side a bit of variety.
Haydon Smith– a right arm fast bowler, who had some great moments in partnership with Geary, including a spell of consistent success in which they bowled together unchanged through four straight opposing innings none of which totalled as much as 80. On one occasion he let Harold Larwood have a bouncer, and when it was his turn to bat he had to face Larwood. Smith edged one of Larwood’s expresses into the slips where it was scooped up on the half volley. Smith instantly turned for the pavilion, and when the fielder tried to say that he had not caught it (a fine piece of honesty), Smith, who had a stutter, said “Yes you f-f-f-f-ucking well did” and continued his walk back to the pavilion – lesson learned about dishing out bouncers when you are genuine no 11 yourself methinks.
This team comprises a top three who are definitely capable of giving the innings a solid foundation, two high quality middle order batters, one left handed and one right handed, a genuine all rounder, a wicketkeeper who can bat, a medium-fast bowler who can bow a dangerous leg cutter, a left arm wrist spinner and two purveyors of out and out pace in Millns and Smith. With Geary and Millns both capable of providing useful batting support the order looks quite solid (which would be a bit of a novelty for Leicestershire!).
Maurice Hallam and Barry Dudleston were both fine opening batters, and when Darren Maddy’s career started I thought he was going to become an England regular, but he did not kick on. Willie Watson, Chris Balderstone, Sam Coe, Ben Smith, Clive Inman and Peter Marnerall did good things for Leicestershire, although Inman and Marner were both told to go elsewhere by Ray Illingworth because he felt that with them around the team could not function as such. Illingworth himself could have had the role that I gave to Astill, but he was noted for under bowling himself as captain (Brearley mentions this in “The Art of Captaincy”) and does not strike me as having been quite so complete a player as Astill. The wicket keeping position was not contested in my book – although Roger Tolchard was named as reserve keeper in a few England tour parties that was largely a way a smuggling in an extra batter rather than a tribute to his keeping. Dick Pougher (pronounced ‘puffer’) was an early Leicestershire fast bowler who was part of the MCC bowling attack that routed an Australian XI for 18, the lowest score ever recorded by a team with that designation, whileJonathan Agnew, Les Taylor and Alan Mullally all got picked for England, but none were convincing at the highest level (although the first named of course has first dibs on a commentary gig, while the last named would have given extra variety as a left arm bowler). Harry Gurney, a left arm fast bowler who started with Leicestershire before decamping to Nottinghamshire, would have increased the variety of bowling available to this side, but though an England career seemed likely at one stage he is actually not quite in the front rank even of current performers. I have been restricting myself to one overseas player, and felt it important not to play fast and loose when dealing with a county in whose dressing room Afrikaans was once the first language. That meant that having chosen Walsh for the variety he provides I had to overlook one great and one high quality fast bowler, Andy Roberts and Winston Benjamin, and also one of the most talented batters ever to emerge from The Land of the Long White Cloud, Stewie Dempster (he did actually play briefly for his native land, so I felt that I could not regard him as a forerunner to Ben Stokes).
Yes, we have finished our look at Leicestershire, and it remains only for me to provide my usual sign off…
Looking at the state of play in the final Ashes test match and in the closing stages of the County Championships, a couple of dates for the diary and some photographs.
The final test of this year’s Ashes series has no bearing on the destination of the urn – Australia have already ensured possession of that with their victory at Manchester. However, an England win would tie the series (previous examples of such include 1962-3, 1965-6 and 1972). This post looks at that, and at the closing stages of the County Championship.
THE TEST MATCH
Australia won the toss and put England in to bat. England were somewhat fortunate to reach a semi-respectable 294, Rootbeing dropped three times en route to 54, while Buttler with 70 produced his only major score of the series, and Leach again showed his ability to hang around, lasting 80 minutes (43 balls) for 21. However, in addition to Root’s good fortune Denly, Stokes, Bairstow, and all-rounder Sam Curran, in for Jason Roy, all scored between 14 and 22, and in all cases were culpable in their own downfall. Denly and Burns put on 27 together for the first wicket, the biggest opening stand by either side in the series to date. Archer dealt swiftly with both Australian openers, Labuschagne and Smith have had a good partnership, but Labuschagne has just gone for 48, LBW to that man Archer, adding to this match’s substantial tally of ‘nearly but not quite’ innings and the even more substantial match tally of innings ended by batter error.
I have to say that I am a bit worried about how this match is going, because a 2-2 series draw would give the England selectors something to hide behind and excuse inaction, whereas a 3-1 beating would surely compel action. For similar reasons I take scant comfort in Buttler’s 70, which may simply have bought him an extension to a test career that has yielded inadequate returns for a specialist batter. I hope Anderson can regain fitness because the young speedster Archer and the wily veteran swing merchant Anderson in partnership is an enticing prospect.
SOMERSET SOON TO CELEBRATE
Somerset are poised to win their first County Championship, having ruthlessly disposed of Yorkshire, while the best their only rivals, Essex, can hope for in this round is to avoid defeat at the hands of Warwickshire. Tom Abell produced a gritty performance in the Somerset second innings, when Yorkshire might have stayed in contention had they taken quick wickets, and with more aggressive efforts by Tom Banton, George Bartlettand Lewis Gregory to back him up Somerset ended up with a huge lead, and a dispirited Yorkshire collapsed for the second time in the match. Warwickshire put up 517 (23 year old Matthew Lamb 173) against Essex, who could only respond with 324, and made to follow on, 101-1 so far at the second attempt. Somerset have 205 points with two games to go, and Essex, playing their penultimate game, and with no chance of the 16 for a win are currently on 192 points, which if they avoid defeat will become 197. Thus at worst Somerset will be in a position from which one more win in their last two games will guarantee them the title, as would two draws, while even a draw and a defeat would leave them heavy favourites. Other than Somerset the only teams not to have won a county championship are Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire (who were twice named Champion County in the 1870s, before the competition was out on an official footing in 1890). In the second division Lancashire disposed of Derbyshire in a match made notable by Josh Bohannon, whose previous highest score in a fledgling career was 98 not out, but who this time round scored 174, batting at no 3 and coming in after the fall of an early wicket. One big hundred does not make an England test player, but if he continues to score heavily from near the top of the order the selectors would have to take note (this innings gives him a record of 660 first class runs at 47.14).
Matthew Wade has just fallen to Sam Curran to make it 118-4 in the test match. Mitchell Marsh, whose medium pace somehow accounted for five England wickets, is now at the crease.
I have two major events coming up – Sunday is Heritage Open Day, and I will be stewarding at Lath Mansion, Nelson Street from 2PM to 4PM. A week on Tuesday is the second “Yes We Can” day at the Corn Exchange, and I will be helping to run the NAS West Norfolk stall.
Some cricket, some music including references to the Classic FM Hall of Fame, some stuff about upcoming local elections and some photographs.
An odd combination of topics to appear in a title, but all will be made clear in the course of this post. There will of course be some of my photographs as well.
The English cricket season is well underway. Because of an alteration to the structure of the two divisions of first class counties last season to a first division of eight teams and a second division of ten teams, it is now possible for all 18 first class counties to be in action simultaneously, as was not the case when there were nine teams in each division. Over this Easter weekend, for the first time since 1999 (the last season of the single division championship) all 18 of said sides have been in action. Glamorgan lost heavily to Worcestershire before today was underway. Leicestershire had also suffered an innings defeat at the hands of Gloucestershire. Essex and Somerset also finished early, a century from Alastair Cook anchoring Essex in their fourth innings chase of 255. Warwickshire only kept their match against Yorkshire alive into the fourth day because of some assistance from the weather, and having started the season with back to back innings defeats, and three shocking batting performances out of four innings, they must be considered heavy favourites for one of the relegation spots from division 1. Of the five remaining matches, Nottinghamshire are nearly done and dusted against Durham (since I wrote this Nottinghamshire have completed the job as expected, with nine wickets in hand), and it would also seem to be only a matter of time before Kent finish the job against Sussex (this match has also subsequently reached its predicted conclusion). A draw looks the most likely result in the Surrey versus Lancashire, although Surrey are not out of the woods yet. Hampshire and Middlesex also looks like being a draw, although again the Londoners are not quite safe yet. That leaves only…
DERBYSHIRE VERSUS NORTHAMPTONSHIRE
Overnight this also looked like a draw was the most likely result, with Derbyshire 128 runs to the good with 10 second winnings standing. However, some behind the scenes discussions obviously took place, since Northamptonshire spent the morning session of today feeding Derbyshire easy runs, handing Reece (168) and Godleman (156 not out) a new record opening stand for Derbyshire. A declaration at 351-1 left Northamptonshire two sessions to score 326 for victory. Whatever happens in these two session neither team will emerge from this match with much credit in my book. While Northamptonshire’s motivation was obvious, Derbyshire could easily have declined the offer, backing their batsmen to score off proper bowling.
The long Easter weekend is when the Classic FM Hall of Fame is unveiled. It is assembled from listener votes. Each participant votes for their first, second and third favourite pieces of classical music, and the votes are all tallied up. The Hall of Fame comprises the top 300 pieces that emerge at the end of the process, and they are played counting down from 300 to 1 between 10AM and 10PM on each day of the weekend (it used when it first started to be 9AM to 9PM). This is the first occasion on which there has been a clash between the Hall of Fame and live cricket. I have resolved that clash by listening to the cricket when it has been on five live sports extra, and to the music at other times. The only exception to this was on Saturday afternoon, when it was time for…
A shortage of available NAS West Norfolk Committee members meant that I was there for both sessions. The attendances were unsurprisingly low in both sessions. However, those who were able to make it had a good time. In the second session I renewed my acquaintanceship with Scratch 2, and next time I shall be moving on to another aspect of this program. Here are some pictures…
Various places in the UK will be going to the polls on May 4th. Last time I mentioned this subjectI said that I was between Labour and Green, and leaning towards Green. Since then, although I have yet to receive anything from any candidates a search of the King’s Lynn & West Norfolk borough councilwebsite turned up the following information about who was standing:
In view of the fact that there are three candidates in this list of four for whom I am absolutely unwilling to vote and that I regard failing to vote as unacceptable my vote will therefore go to Mr Collis, and I urge others who are voting in this election to cast their votes for Mr Collis as well.
Moving on from my own area, there also elections taking place much more extensively in Wales and Scotland.
The big debate in Scotland at the moment is over whether or not there should be a second independence referendum (#IndyRef2) following the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU, when Scotland was strongly pro-remain. It is not for me as a Sassenach to comment on whether or not Scottish independence is desirable since the only people who should be making decisions about the future of Scotland are the Scots, but I do believe that brexit is a sufficiently major change in circumstances as justify #IndyRef2, especially since one of the main claims of the no camp in 2014 was that an independent Scotland would not be able to join the EU. It would appear, if the article to which I link at the end of this section is anything to go on that the Tories seek to make the local elections in Scotland a sort of ‘pre-referendum’. Anyway, here courtesy of the website indyref2.scot, is a post that goes into detail on the issue, titled “Sending a message“.
I posted some photographs in the music section of this post, and I finish the post with some pictures mainly from outside…
ENDNOTE – CRICKET REVISITED
During the time it took to put the above photos up both Middlesex & Hampshire and Surrey & Lancashire have shaken hands on the predicted draws. These means that only the ‘declaration bowling’ game between Derbyshire and Northamptonshire is still to be settled.