County Championship Round Five Preview

A look ahead to the county championship matches starting tomorrow.

This post looks ahead to set of County Championship games starting tomorrow. There are some very tasty looking clashes there.

PREVIEWS

Yorkshire v Kent: Yorkshire have made a decent start to the season while Kent are struggling badly. Adam Lyth looks to continue a strong start to the season with the bat, while Dom Bess will be looking to continue the revival of his career following his move from Somerset. For Kent Zak Crawley could do with a decent score and Darren Stevens will be out to produce another performance to demonstrate that age is just a number.

Leicestershire v Surrey: The reverse of this fixture was drawn, with Hassan Azad producing a career best innings to make it so. Hassan Azad and his opening partner Sam Evans will both need to contribute for their county to have any chance. For Surrey a number of their batters have been scoring runs with Ollie Pope foremost among them. Amar Virdi will be looking ti produce a significant performance, especially with several other spinners faring well.

Warwickshire v Worcestershire: The west Midlands derby. Robert Yates and Sam Hain are names to watch for the home side, while Worcestershire have drawn all four of their matches so far.

Middlesex v Gloucestershire: Gloucestershire are top of the group and will be looking to consolidate. Middlesex have had a poor start to the campaign and need to rebound after a having lost to Somerset after being well ahead. Ethan Bamber is one to watch for Middlesex, while for Gloucestershire there are three players who may well wish to make a point to their former employers: Ryan Higgins, Tom Lace and George Scott. The first two named have had good moments already this season, and with Stokes injured Higgins may well reckon that a big performance at Lord’s would secure him his England cap.

Lancashire v Glamorgan: Glamorgan beat Kent in under two days last time out, and will be looking to continue that form. For Lancashire Matthew Parkinson has already produced a career best this season and will be looking to bolster his own England credentials and it is possible that the pace attack will be led by a combination of an old master and a young pretender: James Anderson and Saqib Mahmood.

Northamptonshire v Sussex: Sussex have been trusting to youth this season, especially in the bowling department. Oliver Edward Robinson was rested from their last game to manage his workload, and I expect he will be back for this one. Jack Carson has had a magnificent start to the season and I expect him to feature once again. For Northamptonshire much will rest on the batting of Ricardo Vasconcelos. Look out for a potential contest between the left handed Vasconcelos and off spinner Carson – off spinners often fare well against left handers.

Hampshire v Somerset: For me the tie of the round. These teams are second and third in their group. For Hampshire there are three key figures: James Vince who could do with a big score against a serious bowling attack, and their opening bowlers Kyle Abbot and Mohammad Abbas. For Somerset Craig Overton will be looking to continue a fine season, Lewis Goldsworthy made a hugely impressive debut in the last game and I hope he will be in action again.

Nottinghamshire v Essex: Having just broken a winless run dating back to 2018 by thrashing Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire will be keen to kick on, while Essex were unable to make anything happen on the road Worcestershire produced for their last game. Haseeb Hameed will be hoping to continue his revival. For Essex look out for Dan Lawrence with the bat and Simon Harmer with the ball.

SOMERSET’S TRIO OF TOMS

Somerset have opted this season for three Toms at the top of their order: Lammonby, Banton and Abell. Abell is looking very solid at no3, having produced significant scores in every game to date. Lammonby has had a struggle, and needs some serious runs soon just to prove that that the 459 runs at 51.o0 from his first six FC matches, which had some people touting him as an England opener, were not a flash in the pan. Tom Banton has not shown any signs of being a suitable red ball opener, though he has done very well as an opener in limited overs cricket. My own reckoning is that if Banton is going to succeed in FC cricket it will be as a middle order batter.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

A “Rest XI”

In this post I envisage myself selecting a ‘Rest’ XI to play England in an old style ‘test trial’ match. One of my XI had played test cricket, but qualifies by virtue of not being official first choice for his position.

This post harks back to the days of ‘test trial’ matches, a common example of which was England v The Rest. In it I select, with explanations, my opposition XI if such a game was to played in the run up to the first test against New Zealand. There is one player in this XI who has test experience, while the rest have none. I also name a couple of reserves.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

Hassan Azad (Leics): Left handed opening batter, now averaging 43.89 in FC cricket, with five centuries at that level. His career best 144 not out came against Surrey this season, with his side needing to bat out the match to avoid an innings defeat, and his innings ensured that they accomplished that mission.

*Ricardo Vasconcelos (Northanmptonshire): Left handed opening batter, occasional keeper, captain. Two 150+ scores so far this season, one of them 185 not out in a monster run chase, have seen his FC average move above 40. Although both openers are left handed Vasconcelos is much more attacking than Azad who is very much a sticker.

Tom Abell (Somerset): Right handed batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. He has contributed significant knocks to all three of Somerset’s wins so far this season. Somerset have opted for three Toms at the top of their order this season, Lammonby and Banton opening and Abell at three. Lammonby has struggled so far in this, his first full FC season, having been touted as an England possible based on 459 runs at 51.00 with three centuries from his first six FC matches and is at present further from England consideration than he was at the start of the season, though that could easily change. Banton is miscast as a first class opener – he has a fine record opening the batting in short form cricket, but has not looked anything approaching convincing opening against the red ball. My own feeling is that if he is going to make the grade in first class cricket it will be batting somewhere in the middle of the order rather than at the top.

Matt Critchley (Derbyshire): Right handed batter, leg spinner. He has been in good form lately, although his county are not faring especially well.

+Ben Foakes (Surrey): Right handed batter, wicket keeper. I include him in this side because officially he is not England’s first choice test keeper, due to the continuing indulgence of Jos Buttler. Buttler is one of England’s finest ever white ball batters and a decent keeper, but in red ball cricket he should not be keeping Foakes out.

Lewis Goldsworthy (Somerset): Right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The very definition of a bolter, with one FC appearance to his name. However, his performance in the fourth innings when he and Steven Davies steered Somerset home with them having been in some trouble showed that he has a superb temperament.

Ryan Higgins (Gloucestershire): Right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. After 42 first class appearances he has 1,965 runs at 33.87 and 151 wickets at 20.84. In Gloucestershire’s last game (see here) he took a good haul of wickets and played a crucial cameo innings that put his team ahead of the clock, enabling them to bring home a superb run chase. For my money, with Ben Stokes crocked, Cap 698 should be his.

Oliver Edward Robinson (Sussex): Right arm medium fast bowler, right handed lower order batter. Before I get on to his record a point of clarification: there are two Oliver Robinsons playing county cricket at present, and both like to go by Ollie, so when writing about them I use full names to make it clear which one I am talking about – Oliver Edward Robinson is the bowler and useful lower order batter who plays for Sussex and Oliver Graham Robinson is the keeper/batter who plays for Kent. Our Ollie Rpbinson, the Sussex bowler, has 270 FC wickets at 21.22 and has also scored 1,570 FC runs at 21.50, putting his averages just the right way round (credit balance 0.28). This season he achieved a new career best innings figures of 9-78 (match 14-135). He was rested for Sussex’s last outing to manage his workload, which suggests that an England cap is very much on the table (I have him down for number 699 as we are currently at 697 and Robinson comes after Higgins in the alphabet).

Jack Carson (Sussex): Off spinner, right handed lower order batter. The 20 year old has played eight first class matches, in which he 33 wickets at 22.03 a piece. He is a future prospect rather than someone likely to feature immediately – Jack Leach is first choice spinner, and England probably won’t select two for a home test, while Australia is not traditionally the happiest of hunting grounds for England off spinners, so the earliest time he is remotely likely to figure is summer 2022, but I would want a look at him in a game of above county standard anyway..

Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire): Right arm fast medium bowler. Until now, while possessing plenty of bowling variety this side his not offered up any real pace, and the young Lancastrian provides that. He has had some international white ball experience but has yet to receive a test cap.

Matt Parkinson (Lancashire): Leg spinner. 80 wickets at 23.53 in FC cricket for the young leg spinner, including a career best 7-126 this season to inflict an innings defeat on Kent. Unlikely to feature in tests this summer unless Leach gets injured, but absolutely should travel to Australia for The Ashes, and although I believe nos 698 and 699 are spoken for, Cap no 700 could be his.

This side has decent batting depth, with everyone down to no8 capable of significant contributions, a wealth of bowling options: three front line seamers of differing styles in Mahmood, Robinson and Higgins, with Abell available as fourth seamer if needed, a leg spinner, an off spinner and a left arm orthodox spinner, with Critchley’s leg spin also a legitimate bowling option. It also has the best keeper currently in the business, since he is not officially his country’s first choice. Now for the…

RESERVES

I am naming three reserves, an opening batter, a bowler who can bat well and a spinner:

Sam Evans (Leicestershire): Right handed opening batter. Azad’s regular opening partner, and really coming to the party this season as well.

Craig Overton (Somerset): Right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower middle order batter. He has already played four test matches, but has been out of favour after struggling at that level. This season he has found a yard of pace from somewhere which gives his bowling genuine menace, and he has been scoring important runs as well. His FC averages are just the wrong way round, 21 with the bat and 23 with the ball, but he should be on the radar, hence my naming him among the reserves.

Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire): left arm orthodox spinner. She has 106 wickets in Women’s international cricket across the formats at an average of 19.41 each, and is only 21 years of age. I for one would like to see her given her chance to play alongside the men, and to keep that thought in people’s minds I mention her here.

Feel free to use the comments to indicate who you would pick for a side of this nature.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Just a few pics today (the weather has not been conducive to photography in the last couple of days)…