Bob Willis Trophy Round 2 Final Day

A look at the Bob Willis Trophy as round two draws to a close.

INTRODUCTION

We are into the penultimate possible session of play in round two of the Bob Willis Trophy. five of the matches are now finished, four still in progress. Only one match looks set to end in a draw.

THE FINISHED MATCHES

Several finished yesterday (see that my previous post), including the match between Kent and Sussex which Kent won for the loss of just one wicket. Hampshire completed their win over Middlesex today, making hard work if it as they lost seven wickets while chasing down 158. This match took place at one of the less well known of county venues – the Brunton Memorial Ground at Radlett. The two bowlers who troubled Hants were at opposite ends of the experience spectrum – Tim Murtagh with over two decades of top level cricket behind him took three, a haul matched by Thilan Wallalawita, a left arm spinner, who is playing his first season of first class cricket. Even more noteworthy in terms of difference in experience were two of the Kent heroes in their game against Sussex. Darren Stevens took five wickets in the Sussex second innings, at the age of 44, while Jordan Cox scored 238 not out for Kent at the age of 19. Cox is also a recognized wicket keeper, although Oliver Graham Robinson, also on England’s radar, had the gloves for Kent in this match.

THE MATCHES IN PROGRESS

The game between Worcestershire and Glamorgan is the one that is likely to end in draw – Worcs batted on in their second innings until their lead stood at 357, and there were less than two full sessions to play, a decision which seems unduly cautious.

Notts have been set 188 to win by Yorkshire and have responded to the challenge by collapsing to 80-6, putting Yorkshire in control. Gloucestershire have set Warwickshire 239 to win and the latter are 30-3 thus far. Finally, Surrey are facing a target of 337 and are currently 118-6, with all six of the wickets falling to off spinner Simon Harmer, who also took six in the first Surrey innings. Playing the ‘Casabianca’ role for Surrey is wicket keeper Jamie Smith, currently 33 not out. Incidentally, while his bowling achievement in this game has been immense, even if Harmer gets all the remaining wickets it will not be an Essex record – Walter Mead took 17 in a match against the 1893 Australians. It will be a record for Essex v Surrey at Chelmsford, beating leg spinner Peter Smith’s 13 wicket haul in 1950 (the same Peter Smith who three years earlier belted 163 from no11 against Derbyshire). Harmer will not get his all-ten – he has just taken a catch off the bowling of Aaron Beard to account for Jamie Smith and put Essex on the brink of victory (shades of the NZ v AUS game when Richard Hadlee took 9-52 in the first innings and the one he did not get was Geoff Lawson who was caught off the bowling of Vaughan Brown by Richard Hadlee).

The Bob Willis Trophy has already produced a clutch of magnificent matches, several towering individual performances and generally a huge amount to savour.

Nottinghamshire are now 97-9 against Yorkshire, and Glamorgan are doing their bit to breathe life back into their game against Worcestershire – they have slumped to 5-3 chasing a purely nominal 358. Update on the Notts v Yorkshire match – Notts are all out for 97, medium pacer Jordan Thompson 3-6, off spinner Jack Shutt 2-14. Yorks have won by 90 runs after conceding a first innings lead of 91. Both are local products – Shutt hails from Barnsley, while Thompson is from Rawdon, Leeds (which many years ago gave the world Brian Close).

Gus Atkinson has gone to the bowling of Harmer who now has 7-56 in the innings and 13 in the match. Surrey are 145-8, and the end seems nigh in that one as well.

After showing some fight Warwickshire have just lost their fourth wicket at 50, and now 52-4 needing a further 187 to win.

Surrey have just lost their ninth wicket, and Beard has his second. Essex have just taken the final wicket to win by 169 runs, and the final wicket went appropriately to Harmer, given him 14 for the match, a new Essex v Surrey record. It is also Essex’s tenth straight win in four day games at Chelmsford.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Tomotoes just starting to develop a hint of their eventual red colour.

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The Second Round Of The Bob Willis Trophy

A look at goings on in the Bob Willis Trophy

INTRODUCTION

The second round of the Bob Willis Trophy has by and large produced another fine set of games. In this post I look at developments in these matches.

THE BOB WILLIS TROPHY

The game between Northamptonshire and Somerset ended yesterday, with Northants subsiding to a heavy defeat. Jamie Overton collected four wickets in each innings for Somerset, while 35 of Northants’ first innings tally of 67 came from Ben Curran, youngest of the three Curran brothers. None of the other matches have ended yet, the situations being:

  • Worcestershire v Glamorgan – Worcs made 455-8 from the 120 overs that is the maximum length of time a first innings is allowed last in this competition. Glamorgan are 305-6 after 102 overs.
  • Yorkshire are 135-3 in their second innings against Nottinghamshire, which gives them a lead of 44 with seven wickets to fall.
  • Middlesex began their second innings against Hampshire with a deficit of 44 and are now 124-3.
  • Leicestershire are 85 behind Derbyshire with six second innings wickets standing.
  • Kent and Sussex are involved in an extraordinary game at Canterbury. Sussex made 335 in the first innings, to which Kent responded with 530-1 from 120 overs, a lead of 195. There were double centuries for Jordan Cox (238 not out) and Jack Leaning (220 not out), who shared a partnership of 423 unbroken for the second wicket. Sussex are now 18-1 in their second innings. Only three higher innings totals for only one wicket have ever been recorded at first class level – 561-1 declared for Karachi Whites v Quetta, 555-1 declared for Yorkshire v Essex and 549-1 declared for Rhodesia.
  • Gloucestershire are 59 runs ahead of Warwickshire with seven second innings wickets standing.
  • Durham conceded a first innings advantage of 128 against Lancashire and have only cleared half of that off while losing seven wickets.
  • A great combined bowling effort from Jamie Porter (right arm medium fast) and Simon Harmer (off spin) gave Essex a first innings lead of 75 over Surrey, and Essex are currently 165-4 in their second innings. Porter now has 335 first class wickets at 24 each. The only knight of the realm currently playing first class cricket scored 42 in each Essex innings. Varun Chopra has just tossed his wicket away for 39 to make it 167-5. This brings together the long and short of current Essex cricket – Paul Walter at 6’7″ is joined by Adam Wheater who is a full foot shorter – not the biggest difference in a partnership ever seen – I have seen a picture of a discussion between batting partners Joel Garner (6’8″) and Alvin Kallicharran (5’4″), while for the ultimate ‘long and short’ of top level cricket should it happen would be a partnership between Mohammad Irfan and Poonam Yadav!

In other cricket news Jimmy Anderson has indignantly denied claims that he is considering retirement, saying that he is still targeting another tilt at the old enemy in the 2021-2 series while also acknowledging that he did not bowl well in the recently concluded test match.

SOLUTION TO MY LAST NEWS

I set this yesterday:

Pinwheel

Here is Pall Marton’s published solution:

Sol

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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All Time XIs – Ones That Got Away

Today we look at players whose careers caused them to make major moves.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to another ‘all time XI‘ cricket post. Today our we look at players whose talents were overlooked somewhere along the line, but who came through. We have an XI mainly comprising players who made it big after their first county overlooked them, with an overseas player to boost them and an XI of players who moved countries to make it. A little bit of good news – when TMS live coverage, as opposed to the ‘retrolive’ I am currently enjoying, resumes, it will be without the obnoxious Boycott.

THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY – COUNTY

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium pace bowler. While his mentor and fellow Cambridge native Tom Hayward was lobbying Surrey on his behalf the man himself wrote to Essex requesting a trial. The letter was ignored, but thankfully Surrey listened to Hayward. 61,237 first class runs at 50.65 and 197 centuries rather emphatically demonstrates which county got this one right!
  2. *Wilfred Rhodes – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. There is an entry in the Warwickshire year book for 1897 which reads “unfortunately it was not possible to offer a contract to W Rhodes of Huddersfield.” In that same year of 1897 Bobby Peel, the incumbent Yorkshire left arm spinner, disgraced himself and saw his first class career brought to a sudden close. Rhodes was given his chance for his native county, took 13 wickets in the match first time out for them and never looked back. He and Hobbs opened together for England just before World War 1, and on one occasion against the old enemy they put on 323 together to launch the innings, Hobbs first out for 178, Rhodes second out, with the score at 425, for 179.
  3. Charles Burgess Fry – right handed batter. Having grown up in southwest London, albeit attending boarding school in Derbyshire (Repton, where he competed for sporting honours with the Palairet brothers, Lionel who subsequently opened for Somerset and Richard, assistant manager of the 1932-3 Ashes tour party) he began his county career for Surrey. Unfortunately for him and Surrey he took a slightly too obvious shine to the wife of then skipper Kingsmill Key, leading to his departure from the county, and the start of his association with Sussex.
  4. Phil Mead – left handed batter. He began his career with Surrey, where he was considered to be mainly a bowler, and they let him go. He signed for Hampshire, and ended his career with the 4th highest career aggregate of first class runs (55,061) and also 4th highest ever tally of centuries (153) ever assembled.
  5. David Gower – left handed batter. When Leicestershire made enquiries about speaking to a talented teenage left hander his native Kent raised no objections, and David Ivon Gower headed for the east midlands. A few years later at the age of 21 he was making his England debut and announcing his presence at the highest level by hitting his first ball at that level for four and going on to score 58. Later that year he scored his maiden test century, and then that winter his maiden Ashes century, ultimately becoming only the second England batter to reach 8,000 test runs. When he decided to leave Leicestershire, he considered two options, Kent and Hampshire, and for the second time it was Kent who missed out, as he signed for Hampshire.
  6. Len Braund – right handed batter, leg spinner. Like Phil Mead he failed to make a sufficient impression on the folk at The Oval. He headed for Somerset, and after an incident in which he was selected for a game at Lord’s before having served his residential qualifiying period he went on to a distinguished career for both Somerset and England.
  7. +Ben Foakes – wicket keeper, right handed batter. To be unwilling to drop the veteran James Foster to make way for a talented youngster is understandable, but allowing said youngster to fly the coop altogether is less so. Foakes signed for Surrey, and has subsequently played for England, a position that many think should be his as a matter of course, rather than merely for a handful of appearances.
  8. Albert Trott – right arm slow bowler, right handed batter. Overlooked for the 1896 tour of England after a sensational start to his test career (and the captain of that party was his brother Harry) he made his own way to Blighty and signed for Middlesex. In 1899 and 1901 he combined a haul of over 200 first class wickets with a tally of over 1,000 first class runs (an equivalent in today’s shorter FC season would be 100 wickets and 500 runs). He and Wilfred Rhodes were together when the Players completed a dramatic chase of 501 in under seven hours to beat the Gentlemen at Lord’s in 1900.
  9. Jim Laker – off spinner. When Surrey made enquiries about signing a young spinner from Bradford no one up north thought to raise an objection. James Charles Laker duly became a Surrey cricketer, and went on to become the greatest off spinner of the era, and possibly the greatest England ever had, with all due respect to Mr Swann.
  10. Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. Lancashire failed to impressed by a young quick bowler, and he headed for pastures new, in this case Northamptonshire. In the next few years Lancashire would discover just what a rick they had made, as Frank Holmes Tyson blazed across the cricketing skies like a meteor. In a final irony Tyson’s greatest cricketing moments came in partnership with Brian Statham of Lancashire.
  11. Derek Shackleton – right arm medium pacer. A reverse of Phil Mead, who was overlooked at The Oval because his bowling was not up to standard. Shackleton was viewed in his native north (he was born and raised in Todmorden) as a batter, his bowling rarely used. He moved south to Hampshire, and after a brief and unsuccessful dalliance with leg spin he reverted to his natural medium pace, and in 1949 achieved his first season haul of 100 first class wickets, a feat he would repeat for every season until 1968, 20 successive seasons in total, ending his career with the eighth highest total of first class wickets ever recorded.

This team has a fine top five, a genuine all rounder in Braund, a great keeper who can certainly bat and a great quartet of bowlers. Tyson and Shackleton would probably combine well as an opening pair, and Trott, Laker, Braund and Rhodes are an excellent looking slow attack.

INTERNATIONAL ESCAPEES XI

  1. Roger Twose – left handed opening batter, occasional medium pace bowler. He played well for Warwickshire but was never able to attract the attention of the England selectors. So when the opportunity to play for New Zealand arose he accepted gratefully. His test record was modest but he did superbly in ODIs.
  2. Roy Marshall – right handed opening batter. When he first appeared on the scene there were those who thought he would be a match for the ‘three Ws’ who dominated Caribbean batting at the time. In the event he signed for Hampshire, and scored stacks of runs for them, his test promise remaining unfulfilled.
  3. Stewie Dempster – right handed batter. A brief but spectacular career for New Zealand, which saw him average 65.72 in 10 test matches ended when he signed for Leicestershire, who he served well for a long period.
  4. Kevin Pietersen – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. Believing that his talents were going unrecognized in his native South Africa he moved to England. With an English mother the qualifying period was less for him than if he had had no connection to England, but still long enough for him to burn his bridges at one county (Nottinghamshire), and it was only after a move to Hampshire that he played for his new country. He top scored in both innings of his debut test, albeit in a losing cause, and at the end of that series played the innings that ensured that England would regain The Ashes. He went on to average just a bit below 50 in test cricket.
  5. Basil D’Oliveira – right handed batter, right arm medium pace bowler. The colour of his skin condemned him to second class status in his native South Africa, but he managed to escape, helped by John Arlott. By the time he was called up for England he was 35 years old, but he still averaged over 40 in test cricket, playing his last match at that level as a 41 year old. The events surrounding the aborted 1968-9 tour of South Africa finally forced people to take notice of the way South Africa conducted itself, and a visit by Bradman in 1971 in which he met with South African leader Vorster and was shocked by the latter’s behaviour and attitudes led to the final banishment of apartheid South Africa, although Ali Bacher and others made misguided efforts on their behalf by doing things like organizing rebel tours, it was only after the abolition of apartheid that South Africa were readmitted.
  6. Sydney Smith – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. He was born in the West Indies, long before they became a test nation. He got to show what he could do in front of wider audience because he qualified by residence for Northamptonshire. He did the double in his first season for them, and enjoyed a most distinguished career for them.
  7. +Sammy Guillen – wicket keeper, right handed batter. He was picked for his native West Indies for a tour of New Zealand, stayed there and ended up playing for them later in his career.
  8. Simon Harmer – off spinner, useful lower order batter. After playing five tests for South Africa he decided to sign for Essex as a ‘Kolpak’, and has rendered them colossal service. He is now qualified by residence for England, but the rise of Dominic Bess, the fact that Amar Virdi is clearly knocking on the door, the presence of spinners of other type such as Leach and Parkinson, and the more distant but visible prospects of the likes of Liam Patterson-White and the all round talents of Lewis Goldsworthy mean that at least as far as I am concerned it would be a retrograde step for him to be selected for England at this stage. This is not intended as a reflection on Harmer, a denigration of his qualities, or least of all a suggestion that people who have started elsewhere should not play for another country. It is his misfortune that he has qualified at the same time as England after a fallow few years have started to develop some serious spinning talent.
  9. Jofra Archer – right arm fast bowler. The Barbadian born fast bowler, inspired by Chris Jordan, decided to try his luck in England. Having qualified by residence for his new country he played a crucial role in its triumph in the 2019 World Cup, including being chosen the bowl the ‘super over’ that settled the final. He subsequently had some great moments in the test arena, and will be part of England’s plans for some years to come.
  10. Neil Wagner – left arm fast medium bowler (mainly bouncers). Another who left South Africa to find fulfillment elsewhere, in his case in New Zealand. He has had considerable success for New Zealand.
  11. Clarrie Grimmett – leg spinner. He had cause for reckoning that he had to move if he was going to make the most of himself as a cricketer – as it happened he was already 38 by the time his native New Zealand gained test status, and in spite of treading a winding road that involved trying his luck in NSW and Victoria before finally breaking through for South Australia, he had been playing test cricket for over five years for his new country. His test career ended when he was not selected for the 1938 tour of England, but he played on in first class cricket until World War Two caused Australian first class cricket to be suspended in 1941.

This team has a good top five, a genuine all rounder at six, a fine keeper and four well varied bowlers. Archer and Wagner should combine well with the new ball, and D’Oliveira and Twose can provide seam back up, while Grimmett, Harmer and Smith are a fine trio of spinners.

THE CONTEST

The contest, for what I shall call the ‘Learie Constantine Trophy’ would be a good one. I certainly could not forecast a winner.

LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

I have introduced the concept and the teams, but just before bringing th curtain down I have an excellent video from Alex Collins about the importance of conservation:

Time for my usual sign off…

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The first time I have ever seen a swan on the patch of grass outside my bungalow. They are much more aquatic in nature than ducks, and walk very inelegantly.

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Ones That Got Away
The teams in tabulated form.

 

All Time XIs – Non-Cricketing Birthplaces

My latest variation on the ‘All Time XI’ theme – an XI of cricketers with non cricketing birthplaces, which I then use for a little look at birthplace in cricket, mentioning a couple of current interesting cases.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to my latest variation on the ‘All Time XI theme. Today our XI are linked by born in ‘non-cricketing’ countries – which is to say countries not generally associated with the game, since the ICC, the sport’s global governing body has over 100 members and affiliates. After introducing the XI I will share some of my own thoughts on the relevance or otherwise of birthplaces. I will look at a couple of current cases in detail. Before moving in to the main body of this post I would like to thank the pinchhitter (latest post here), who you can also visit on twitter @LePinchHitter for including links to a number of my recent posts in their own efforts.

THE NON-CRICKETING BIRTHPLACE XI

  1. Paul Terry – right handed opening bat, born Osnabruck, Germany, 16,427 first class runs at 36.66. He played for Hampshire and briefly England. Even by 1980s standards his treatment by the England selectors was utterly disgraceful – he was pitched in at the deep end against the 1984 West Indies who were en route to a ‘blackwash’ of their hapless hosts (whether the 1980 or 1984 fast foursome was the more awesome combo is discussion topic for another post – in terms of pitching a debutant in against them it is a bit like asking whether a punch from Muhammad Ali or Jack Dempsey would do more damage), got horrifically injured and was callously cast aside, never to be heard from again at international level.
  2. Archie Jackson – right handed opening bat, born Rutherglen, Scotland, 4,383 first class runs at 45.65. I covered this man in the ‘what might have been XI‘. Although it has been the birthplace of some talented cricketers down the years, Scotland is not widely thought of as a cricket hot spot.
  3. Ted Dexter – right handed bat, right arm fast medium bowler, born Milan, Italy, 21,150 first class runs at 40.75, 419 first class wickets at 29.92. A swashbuckling no 3, a fine fielder and his bowling is by no means negligible. You can find out more about him in my Sussex post.
  4. George Headley – right handed bat, born Colon, Panama, 9,921 first class runs at 69.86 (he averaged 60.83 in test cricket, with 15 fifty plus scores, of which he converted ten into centuries, a conversion rate ahead of everyone other than Bradman. Also the progenitor of a cricketing dynasty that at the time of writing spans three generations (son Ron and grandson Dean) and two test teams (the West Indies and England), and may yet go to on to join the Cowdreys (all five players shown are of the same family) in producing a fourth successive generation of first class cricketers.
  5. Mike Denness – right hand bat, born Ayr, Scotland, 25,886 first class runs at 33.48. A fine batter for Kent and later Essex, his test average was actually six runs per innings higher than his first class, in spite of a horror run in the 1974-5 Ashes which induced him to drop himself as captain.
  6. Natalie Sciver – right hand bat, right arm medium, born Tokyo, Japan, 3,538 international runs at 31.87 and 104 international wickets at 23.23. A genuine all-rounder, her wickets tally looks low because of her internationals have been limited over and T20s. She is also an outstanding fielder. She also has a shot anmed after, the ‘Natmeg’ where the ball is played under the batter’s leg (descriptions of the ‘draw’, a shot favoured by some 19th century batters suggest she may not have been quite such a pioneer as this suggests, but there is no doubting the stroke’s value).
  7. *Freddie Brown – right hand bat, leg spin and occasional right arm medium, born Lima, Peru, 13,325 first class runs at 27.36, 1,221 first c;ass wickets at 26.21. He played county cricket for Surrey and Northamptonshire. After being part of the 1932-3 Ashes winning party but not playing a test match on tour, he next went on tour when he captained the 1950-1 Ashes tour party (the tour is sympathetically chronicled by Bill O’Reilly in “Cricket Taskforce” and Jack Fingleton in “Brown and Company”, two excellent reads both penned by Aussies). Brown’s team went down 4-1, dogged by injuries and ill luck, but his efforts as captain (third choice – George Mann and Norman Yardley were both offered the job but already had commitments they could not renege on) were universally appreciated. It was on that tour that with an already ill equipped bowling unit hit by injuries he turned to medium pace in an attempt to plug a gaping hole and did not fare badly. I reckon that with the combination I am giving him he would be both a good and a winning captain.
  8. +Geraint Jones – Wicket keeper and right hand bat, born in Papua New Guinea, 9,037 first class runs at 32.45, 599 first class catches and 36 first class stumpings. I mentioned him briefly in my Kent post, and also gave him a place in my ‘Tried and Untrusted‘ XI.
  9. John Barton ‘Bart’ King – right arm fast bowler and right hand bat, born Philadelphia, USA, 415 first class wickets (in 65 appearances at that level) at 15.66, 2,134 first class runs at 21.34. The original ‘King of swing’ – the first bowler to deliberately use swing as a weapon. Various first class counties tried to persuade him to settle there and play for them, including one county who tried an ‘out of the box’ approach – they offered to set him up with a wealthy widow who was a fan of the club if he would come and play for them. The very first international game of cricket was between the USA and Canada in 1844, while the first documented tour to leave English shores in 1859 was also to North America, and the first of WG Grace’s three overseas trips (in 1872-3) was to Canada and the USA. At one time the possibility was entertained of the USA joining England, Australia and South Africa as a test playing nation. Philadelphia was the strongest cricketing outpost in those parts, with the Newhall family also boasting impressive records. It would seem likely that King developed the technique of swinging the ball from baseball (as the slightly later Australian Frank Laver did, with remarkable effects in the test arena). The game of course did not build on these promising beginnings in that part of the world, although maybe with Liam Plunkett heading that way it will experience a rebirth there.
  10. Ole Mortensen, right arm fast medium bowler, right hand batter, born Vejle, Jutland, 434 first class wickets at 23.88, 709 runs at 8.97. Part of a Derbyshire bowling unit of considerable effectiveness, but one that was also decried by nativists (yes, USians, we have them too, although not usually in high office) because as well as him it featured Devon Malcolm, born in Jamaica, and Alan Warner who was actually born in this country but who was often assumed by those who judge on physical appearance not to have been.
  11. Ian Peebles – leg spinner, right hand bat, born in Aberdeen, Scotland, 923 first class wickets at 21.38, 2,213 first class runs at 9.13. Peebles did play a few games for England, and numbered Bradman among his test victims, but was largely victim of endemic English mistrust of wrist spinners. He had a distinguished county career with Middlesex. After his playing days were done he turned to writing and achieved arguably even greater success there, with “Woolley: Pride of Kent”, “Batter’s Castle”, “Spinner’s Yarn”, “The Fight For The Ashes 1958-9” and “Batters Castle” among his considerable and very readable output, which also includes a chapter on Pelham Warner in “Cricket: The Great Captains”. I would expect him to turn out a splendid chronicle of this team’s endeavours!

My team features a strong top five, two genuine all rounders, a keeper who can bat and three superb specialist bowlers. The bowling has five front liners plus Dexter, with spin options in Peebles and Brown, so that won’t let it down. The keeping, with Jones having the gloves is not of the very highest standards, and someone would have to make it clear to Jones that he is expected to stand up not just for the spinners but also for Sciver (some of whose wickets have come by means of stumpings) and possibly even Dexter.

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE (IR)RELEVANCE OF BIRTHPLACE

I am far more concerned about the quality of a cricketer than where they are born. If you can hire a top player do so regardless of their origins. What I object to is the use of second string foreign born players who qualify as ‘English’ on a technicality while having neither the intention nor the skill to play for England. Apart from anything else it has a record of proven failure – Leicestershire, one of the most notorious followers of this policy have been stone last five times in the last ten seasons. If somebody is good enough they might hail from a lunar colony (read Andy Weir’s “Artemis” for one version of how such a thing might work – come to think of it I could imagine Jazz Bashara faring pretty well as a crafty spinner!) for all that it matters. That said, there are a couple of current cases I am going to touch on…

SIMON HARMER

After playing five tests for his native South Africa with some success, Harmer, not thinking he was getting picked regularly enough decamped for this country, and a contract with Essex. He has been wonderful for Essex, a fact that I have acknowledged by naming him in my ‘All Time Essex’ XI, and that this year’s Wisden has acknowledged by naming him as one of the ‘five cricketers of the year’. He has now been based in this country for long enough to qualify by residence, and of course that means that thoughts are turning in some circles to whether to pick him for England. My answer is in the negative, not from lack of respect for Mr Harmer, nor from any worry over someone representing two countries – has happened before and probably will again, but because with Bess looking established in the off spinner’s spot for England and young Virdi doing brilliantly at Surrey I believe it would be a retrograde step and a slap in the face for the two players I have just named to select Harmer at this juncture. I will finish this subsection by re-emphasising that this is not anti Harmer in any way – both his play and his on-field conduct have been impreccable, it is about the best interests of England looking forward, which I consider to lie in developing and encouraging the young spinning talent that we have. That leads on to…

DUANNE OLIVIER

This young quick bowler made waves in his native South Africa, and like Harmer has actually played for them at international level, but he has now decided to make a life and a career for himself in England, and good luck to him. In a few years from now he will qualify for England, and the question will be whether to pick him or not. My answer will depend on the situation regarding English fast bowling at that time – if picking him means blocking the career development of a home grown talent then the answer should be “no”, but if the fast bowling situation is less rosy then there would be a serious case for picking him.

OVERSEAS AND ‘KOLPAK’ TYPE PLAYERS

On overseas players my feeling is straightforward: if you can get one of genuinely top class standard go for it, but don’t sign any old overseas player just for the sake of having one. With the ‘Kolpak’ types I would ask myself two questions: first, are they of top class or possessing the obvious potential to become top class?, second, am I sure that they offering me something that the players I already have cannot provide? If the answer to either of the foregoing is a no, then don;t do it, and if the answer to the first of the two questions is only a ‘maybe’ I would be strongly disinclined to proceed.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our look at cricketers with non-cricketing birth places is done, and it now remains only for me to provide my usual sign off…

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The only flower that is fully out on my fuchsia – but there are a couple of other buds clearly visible.

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In among the gravel borders of my garden, a small sea shell.

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A collared dove among the greenery (only the giant pigeons of which there are far too many count as ‘aves non grata’)

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Non-cricketing birthplaces
The team in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – Essex

Continuing with the all-time XIs, today is the turn of Essex.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest post in my All Time XIs series. Today we are dealing with Essex.

ALL TIME ESSEX XI

  1. Graham Gooch – A huge run scorer over a very long period. In 1985 he made 196 at The Oval to ensure that England would regain The Ashes. In 1986 he made centuries against both India and New Zealand. In 1988 he scored 459 runs in a series against the West Indies that they won by four matches to nil (the series opener was drawn due to the weather), in 1990 he scored over 1,000 test runs in the home summer, the first (and to date) only time that such has ever been achieved, including 752 runs in a three match series v India (333 and 123 in the opener at Lords, 121 and 2 in the second and 88 and 85 in the third). In 1991 at Headingley he scored 154 not out against the West Indies in a team total of 252.
  2. Alastair Cook – England’s all time leading test run scorer by some margin, the left handed opener’s greatest series was against the Aussies in their own backyard, in 2010-11 when he helped England to a 3-1 series triumph (a scoreline that frankly flattered the Aussies) with 766 runs at 127.66. After digging England out of some trouble at Brisbane with 235 not out he scored 148 in the win at Adelaide, contributed a half century at Melbourne after Australia had been rolled for 98 in their first innings and finally at Sydney responding to a modest Aussie total he batted for over eight hours scoring 189 to set England up for another innings victory, a unique third in an Ashes series.
  3. Percy Perrin – a big run scorer at a time when Essex as a whole were not the strongest of sides. He hit 68 fours in making 343 not out, a boundary count rivalled only Brian Lara who hit 62 fours and 10 sixes in his 501 not out, against Derbyshire at Chesterfield in 1904. Unfortunately for Perrin, this innings was ultimately unavailing as Derbyshire ended up winning by nine wickets (Essex 597 and 97, Derbyshire 548 and 149-1).
  4. *Keith Fletcher – the man who captained Essex to their first county championship in 1979, and until Gooch overhauled him Essex’s leading first class run scorer.
  5. Nasser Hussain – a big run scorer through the 1990s, also the captain who initiated England’s climb back from bottom of the world test rankings, where they found themselves in 1999 after losing a home series against New Zealand in the immediate aftermath of a humiliating exit from a home world cup (in those days there was less separation between red and white ball cricket). Like many of his era he was mishandled at test level in the early stages of his career, which had an adverse effect on his overall career figures.
  6. Stan Nichols – an attacking left hand bat and right-arm fast bowler (does that remind you of any all-rounders of more recent vintage? hint – think Durham in county terms) whose first class career brought him over 17,000 runs and 1,800 wickets.
  7. +James Foster – a useful middle order batter and one of the finest wicket keepers ever to play the game.
  8. Peter Smith – a legspinner and a lower order batter who once scored 163 coming at no 11 (he and Frank Vigar, a rather more sedate type of player put on 218 for the tenth wicket, turning 199-9 into 417 all out).
  9. Simon Harmer – a South African born off spinner who played five test matches for his native land before deciding that English cricket offered brighter prospects he has been a key part of Essex’s recent successes, not just with his wickets, but also with some useful lower order runs at vital times.
  10. Charles Kortright – one of those whose name gets mentioned in discussions about just who was the quickest bowler ever. He produced what today would be described as an ‘epic burn’ when he cleaned up W G Grace, a notoriously reluctant leaver of the crease, with a snorter of a ball, saw that worthy look at the wreckage and head, face like thunder, towards the pavilion and chimed in with “You’re not going already are you Doctor? There’ s still one stump standing”.
  11. Walter Mead – a crafty medium pacer who still holds the record match figures for an Essex bowler – 17 wickets in a tour match against The Australians in 1893.

The decision that was most difficult in selecting this XI was who to have at no 6. As well as Nichols, Johnny Douglas and Trevor Bailey, both England regulars in their day had very obvious claims, but I went for Nichols both because of his left handed batting and his more aggressive approach in that department. Bowling wise this team has the pace of Kortright and Nichols, medium pace from Mead, off spin from Harmer, leg spin from Smith, with Gooch as a sixth option, while there are five top of the range batters, an all-rounder, a keeper-batter plus the possibility of runs from Smith, Harmer and Kortright.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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Championship Decider Features Five Frontline Spinners

A look at the early stages of the ‘winner takes all’ match between Somerset and Essex for the County Championship.

INTRODUCTION

One of the greatest of all English cricket seasons is drawing to a close, with the last fixtures thereof, the last round of County Championship games having got underway at 10:30AM today. The big game is at Taunton, where Somerset take on Essex in a “winner takes all” clash for the title. A draw would be enough for Essex as they currently head the table, having deposed Somerset from that position in the last round of games. This post looks at what is in store of the next four days.

AN EXPECTED BATTLE OF THE SPINNERS

Needing to win, Somerset had to prepare a ‘result’ pitch, and with two international quality spinners to call on it was thus no surprise, even with Simon Harmer in the ranks of the opposition that a ‘Bunsen’* was prepared. The nature of this pitch is illustrated by the fact that Somerset have included a third front line spinner, South African Roelof Van Der Merwe, in addition to Leach and Bess, while Essex have selected Aron Niijar, a slow left armer who pays 42 a piece for his first class scalps in addition to Harmer, while Tom Westley, mainly a batter, may get a go with his spinners as well. Somerset have won the toss and are batting, and have made a poor start, with Sam Cook bagging two wickets with new ball (a rather better known Cook will be opening the batting for Essex when the time comes). 

My own view is that in the situation, and given their bowling strengths, Somerset had to prepare a pitch of this nature and rely on getting the better of the battle of the spinners. Somerset’s pace bowling is in the hands of Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton, while Essex have Jamie Porter opening the bowling with Cook. Somerset have Tom Abell to provide seam bowling back up if needed, while Essex may turn to Ryan ten Doeschate and/or Ravi Bopara for help in that department. It would only be fitting for this season which has seen that World Cup Final, two last-ball finishes on T20 finals day and various other remarkable finishes to conclude with one final battle going right to the wire, and I hope that is what happens. James Hildreth’s bat is starting to sound quite sweet for Somerset, and Abell at the other end has played a number of gritty innings this season, and the could use another today.

This would be Somerset’s first County Championship, whereas Essex have won quite a few over the years, so as an inveterate underdog supporter I am rooting for Somerset. Whichever team wins this will be winning their second trophy of the season, Somerset having won the 50 over competition (the last occasion on which that will truly be a first team contest, due to The Hundred starting next season), while Essex won the T20 trophy on Saturday.

*’Bunsen’ is a piece of rhyming slang – Bunsen burner = turner.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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