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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Final Ashes Test Sees Familiar Scenario

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.

INTRODUCTION

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, Root being 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 Bartlett and 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.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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.

Yes I Can
NAS West Norfolk branch chair Karan McKerrow posted this graphic on facebook this morning.

Now for my usual sign off…

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Railway art at Stuart House…
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…where I was for a cheque presentation in connection with the King’s Lynn Beer Festival, where the charity to benefit was my own NAS West Norfolk.
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Preparing for the press photographs to be taken.

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NAS West Norfolk will be running regular drop in sessions at this scout hall on Portland Place, South Lynn

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The main room (but there are several other substantial rooms in this place)

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A peculiar bug with a stirped carapace.

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The Last Domestic 50 Over Final At Lord’s

Some thoughts on The Royal London Cup and England v Australia, and plenty of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Somerset are heading for a comfortable win over Hampshire in the final of the Royal London Cup – the only question being whether they will complete the job before I finish this post or not. Meanwhile at the Ageas bowl England are trying to beat Australia in a World Cup warm up match (the tournament proper begins on Thursday.

A CRICKETING WATERSHED

This final is a ‘last’ in two different ways. It is the last to take place at Lord’s, and it is the last domestic 50 over final to involve anything approaching full strength sides, because next year this tournament will be taking place at the same time as “The Hundred”, a new competition in which sides will contest matches of 100 balls per innings, and the best players will all be involved in that competition. Fortunately, although Somerset have been definitely the better side it has been a decent match. Hampshire were 180-8 at one point in their innings, but boosted that to 244-8 so that at least Somerset had some work to do. 56 from Northeast and 55 not out from Fuller (this latter contributg to the final fling mentioned above) were the top scores for Hampshire. Jamie Overton took 3-48, Josh Davey 2-28 from eight overs and remarkably Tom Abell, mainly a batter, had 2-19 from five. 69 from young wicketkeeper/batter Tom Banton at the top of the Somerset innings is the highest score of the day so far, Azhar Ali the other opener made 45, and James Hildreth is currently 45 not out, batting now in the company of youngster George Bartlett.

England are very much in the game against Australia, in spite of the fact that Australia were allowed to play a team of 12.

PHOTOGRAPHS

First, a new find for me – a couple of tiny little birds I spotted while out on a short walk earlier today and which (with help from Lynda Keen on twitter as well as my bird book) I have been able to identify as goldfinches:

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Here are my remaining photographs:

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The Royal London Cup Playoffs

A look at the playoffs in the Royal London Cup and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Today features the Royal London Cup playoffs, with Somerset playing Worcestershire and Lancashire playing Middlesex for the right to join group winners Hampshire (clear favourites to win the competition) and Nottinghamshire in the semi-finals. Although my last set of predictions worked out horribly, only one being correct, giving me a tally of 28/49 overall I shall be trying again with these two matches.

THE STATE OF PLAY AND PREDICTIONS

  • Worcestershire v SomersetSomerset 337-8 from 50 overs.
    The main contribution to a fine batting effort for Somerset was 112 from 20 year-old wicketkeeper Tom Banton (his second century of the competition), and he was well backed by useful contributions all down the order. I predict that Somerset will defend this total and therefore take their place in the semi-final against Nottinghamshire.
  • Lancashire v MiddlesexLancashire 210-3 from 38.2 overs.
    96 from Jennings and 68 from Croft have put Lancashire in a strong position. Nevertheless, given some of the totals I have seen chased down recently I am going to predict that Middlesex win this one and go on to play Hampshire in the semi-final.

In addition to these two matches Scotland and Afghanistan are playing an ODI. Scotland have amassed 325-7 from 50 overs and Afghanistan are 41-1 in reply at present. I think Scotland will defend their impressive total, which gives me thee predictions: Somerset, Middlesex and Scotland.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off..

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100 Cricketers – Bringing Up the Century

The final post in my “100 cricketers” series, with updates from the County Cham;pionship and some of my photographs. Also features a complete listing of the 100 cricketers.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the final post in my “100 cricketers series“, which completes the century of cricketers with a player who frequently completed centuries. The introductory post to the series can be found here and the most recent post can be found here. Before the big reveal it is time for a…

COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP UPDATE

The second round of matches are now into their third day of four, and the situations are:

  • Hampshire v YorkshireYorkshire 554-7D, Hampshire 223-5
    Sam Northeast continues his fine start to the season, currently being on 85 not out, while he is getting support from Liam Dawson (39 not out). Ben Coad has taken two wickets for Yorkshire. If Hampshire reach 405 and avoid the follow-on this game will definitely be drawn. If they do not then Yorkshire should enforce the follow-on and hope to bowl them out a second time – failure to do so would be to accept a secon successive draw.
  • Nottinghamshire v Somerset Nottinghamshire 263 and 111-7, Somerset 403
    Nottinghamshire are in a spin, and it it is looking like a second straight victory for Somerset. Jack Leach, Somerset and England’s slow left-armer has taken 5-22 so far, the other two second innings wickets going to Jack Brooks. Will George Bartlett (one of my Five to Follow) get a chance to deploy his off-spin? Lewis Gregory (another of the five) augmented his first innings 6-68 with a quickfire 50 yesterday, but has not added to his wickets tally in this innings. Joe Clarke (the third of the five to be involved in this game) suffered a second failure, being out for 2 again.
  • Surrey v EssexSurrey 395, Essex 368-6
    A massive fightback by Essex has them almost on terms. Dan Lawrence made 93 and Essex skipper Ryan Ten Doeschate is 124 not out. Tom Curran has three wickets for Surrey and Morne Morkel two. 
  • Kent v WarwickshireKent 504-9 declared, Warwickshire 262-7
    There are two results on the cards – a Kent win if they get Warwickshire out before the total reaches 355 (follow-on avoidance target) and enforce the follow-on and bowl them out a second time, or a draw if Warwickshire get to or beyond 355. Dominic Sibley, opneing the innings, is 128 not out, and Warwickshire’s hopes of escape rest largely on his shoulders. Matt Milnes has three wickets and Harry Podmore and Darren ‘Benjamin Button’ Stevens (he is now 43 years old) have two each.
  • Durham v Sussex Durham 224 and 159-9, Sussex 202
    A nailbiter in the making – Durham have fought back somewhat from 106-7 in their second kinnings. Liam Trevaskis could not follow up on his first innings 50, collecting a blob this time. This means that of my Five to Follow only Philip Salt, who will be batting before too long remains to contribute. David Wiese has five wickets for Sussex.

STOP PRESS! Somerset have made it two from two, beating Nottinghamshire by an innings and 14. Jack Leach took 6-36 and Jack Brooks 4-22, as Nottinghamshire sank for 126. This means two wins out of two as they go into a month’s break in the championship for a one-day tournament. Somerset are looking very strong contenders, although they will need their top order to score a few runs somewhere along the way. This effort in his first bowling spell of the new season has surely confirmed Leach’s place in the England squad. Now back to the regular updates…

  • Glamorgan v NorthamptonshireGlamorgan 570-8 declared, Northamptonshire 403-3
    This one is being capsized by an overload of runs. Vasconcelos (South African) and Newton shared a triple century opening stand for Northamptonshire, the former making 184. The bowlers have had no chance on this pitch, so I will not quote a\ny figures.
  • Gloucestershire v DerbyshireDerbyshire 291, Gloucestershire 350-9
    Gloucestershire’s advantage in this match stems from three significant innings – Wicketkeeper Roderick making 98, Higgins 74 to follow up his bowling efforts and Bracey 65. For Derbyshire Luis Reece has 3-65. 
  • Leicestershire v WorcestershireWorcestershire 553-6 declared, Leicestershire 302 and 10-1 (following on)
    Another one that looks like the pitch is too favourable for batting for its own or the game’s good. Worcestershire have given themselves a chance by bowling Leicestershire out and enforcing the follow-on. Tongue (a 21 year old seamer who came into this match with a bowling average of 24) took 4-46 in the first Leicestershire innings, and was backed up by Barnard (a 23 year old who came into this match averaging 28 with both bat and ball) with 3-40.
  • Middlesex v LancashireMiddlesex 265, Lancashire 333-4
    Yesterday Haseeb Hameed claimed headlines with his 117 (196 balls, 298 minutes), today’s play has been disrupted by the weather. He had had two very quiet years prior to this season and I reckon he needs more than one century to earn a recall to the England side. Jones is currently 82 not out and Vilas 50 not out. If the weather does not win this one then Lancashire will.

Now we are ready for the…

BIG REVEAL

All I have told you about the player who completes the century is that it is somebody who often did just that. So who is it? It is…

CLAIRE TAYLOR

15 Test matches yielded her 1,030 runs in 27 innings, with four centuries (just better than one per seven innings) and an average of 41.20, highest score 177. 126 ODIs produced 4,101 runs at 40.20 with eight centuries and a best of 156 not out. She was also a history maker, being the first English female cricketer to have a professional contract (yes, this distinction was achieved by someone born as late as 1975!). Claire Taylor’s successes blazed a trail for others to follow, and all the top England Women now have professional contracts, as opposed to having to combine playing at the top level with earning a living doing something else, which used to be the case. Her great record would earn her a place of honour in any case, but her historic importance makes the case unassailable. 

A LOOK BACK ON THE SERIES

No two people attempting a project like this would come up with the same answers, and I expect that all the cricket fans among my readers have people in mind who I have omitted and they would have selected. The problem with these exercises is the embarrassment of riches that one faces – I could have selected many more than 100. A number of young players have stood up to be counted in the early stages of this year’s County Championship. 

FOLLOWING ON FROM THIS SERIES

I have a few ideas for following on from this series, which I shall be thinking about while this round of Championship matches heads to its conclusion. I will finish this part of the post by presenting for the first time the whole 100 names in one place:

100 cricketers100 Cricketers Full List

LINKS, PICTURES AND OTHER STUFF

From The Pileus on twitter, a great quote on rail privatisation:

 

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Now comes a mathematical teaser from brilliant.org:

trickshot q

We end with my usual sign off…

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Tied in Taunton

A quick report on an extraordinary series of happenings at Taunton, which ended with one of the rarest of all sporting results – a tied cricket match.

INTRODUCTION

Today’s extraordinary events in Taunton have almost certainly sealed the 2018 County Championship for Surrey, who already have a substantial lead at the top and are in complete command of their own match against Essex. 

TWISTS AND TURNS IN TAUNTON

Lancashire were skittled for 99 in the first innings, to which Somerset replied with 192. In their second innings Lancashire reached 170, leaving Somerset an apparently straightforward task of scoring 78 to win the game. Then Somerset started losing wickets, and at 23-5 Lancashire looked favourites. A bit of a recovery followed, spearheaded by some sensible batting by Dominic Bess. Ay 75-8, needing three to win, it looked like Somerset were sneaking it, but then a ninth wicket fell. At 77 Jamie Overton played out a maiden to Graham Onions. Jack Leach then gave a catch off Keshav Maharaj, giving the South African spinner final innings figures of 7-37 (11-102 in the match) and ending the match in a tie. Genuine ties are very rare birds indeed – this is the first I have personally either heard or seen, and the last county championship game to end thus was in 2003, while only two test matches ever have, Australia v West Indies at Brisbane in 1960 and India versus Australia at Madras (now Chennai) in 1986. This was compulsive listening – I hope the US Open tennis coverage which gets underway shortly matches it for drama.

Somerset and Lancashire I salure for you for providing this spectacle, genuine commiserations to Somerset on the almost certain ending of their championship hopes for this season. Also congratulations to Surrey who have scarcely put a foot wrong in the four-day stuff all season and will deserve to see the championship pennant fluttering over The Oval next season. Vic Marks if you are due to be summarising in the test match it might be advisable to have something come up that prevents you from being there – certain of your colleagues, notably Mr Norcross, are likely to be unbearable.

 

A Classic Test Match

some thoughts about the recent test match between England and the West Indies, declarations and umpires.

INTRODUCTION

This post is devoted the second test match of the current England versus West Indies series, which ended at about 6:45PM on Tuesday. 

THE EARLY EXCHANGES

England batted first and reached 258 only because Ben Stokes (100) and Joe Root (59) were reprieved early in their innings by bad West Indies fielding. Kraigg Brathwaite (134) and Shai Hope (147) were the cornerstones of a the West Indies response, which eventually reached 427, a lead of 169. In the second England innings no-one reached three figures but there were solid efforts all the way down the line, and at 490-8 Joe Root decided to declare and give the West Indies a little session of batting just before the close of the fourth day. 

THE FINAL INNINGS

The West Indies made it to the close of the fourth day without losing a wicket. Brathwaite made 95 in this second innings, coming within five of becoming the first batsman ever to score twin centuries in a first-class match at Headingley (and this was the 534th such fixture at the ground), a feat that was finally achieved by player of the match Shai Hope, who also received support from Roston Chase (30) and Jermaine Blackwood (a rapid 41 in the closing stages) who ended up 118 not out, and appropriately enough scored the winning runs. 

There are two features that I am going to make specific comments about, starting with…

JOE ROOT’S DECLARATION

For all that the end result was not what he would have wanted I still say, as I said on twitter at the time, and again a day later when the result was imminent, that this was a good declaration, and that Root was entirely right to go for victory. I remember (though few others will as it was not actually a pafrticularly good match) the Australia v West Indies test match at Adelaide in 2009 when the West Indies were one match down in the series after being soundly defeated at the ‘Gabbatoir’ (a nickname for the Woolloongabba stadium in Brisbane, also known as the Gabba) based on what often happens to visiting teams there) but declined to declare, batting on into the final day. Australia faced a target of 330 off 81, and skipper Ponting decided to settle for the draw rather than going after this target. By the end of the day there were not many people left in the ground (I know whereof I write – I was one of the few who did stay right to the end). I condemn Ponting for this decision to preserve his team’s 1-0 lead in the series rathwer than trying to make it 2-0, as also I condemn the decision of Ryan Ten Doeschate today to extend the Essex second innings into the final afternoon rather than make a serious attempt to win the match by declaring at or even before lunch. PS when I wrote this paragraph I did not realise that Somerset’s “resistance” would be quite so utterly spineless – it now looks like Essex may get their victory after all.

While I do not quite as far as the legendary Sammy Woods (who played for Somerset in the lat 19th and early 20th centuries) who once responded to an enquiry about whether his team might have played for a draw in a game they ended up losing responded with “draws…they’re for bathing in” but I do not hold the draw in high regard and would much prefer a team take risks in the attempt to win than see them play safely for the draw. In the special case of a team being one match to the good going into the final match of a series I would condone a more cautious approach being taken, although Kevin Pietersen’s magnificent series clinching innings at The Oval in 2005 was hardly cautious!

To finish this section: Joe Root was justified in declaring when he did (as was David Gower at Lord’s in 1984 when the result was even more embarrassing for England, courtesy of a magnificent 214 not out from Gordon Greenidge), and this result stands to the credit of the West Indies batting, especially that of Brathwaite and Hope and not to the debit of Root’s declaration. 

SOME SENSIBLE UMPIRING

According to the strict letter of the law play in a purely day game cannot continue if the floodlights are providing more light than the natural light. I congratulate the umpires in this match for not acting with Emeritus Professor of Biosophistry like pedantry and curtailing play due to the light, thus depriving the West Indies of their well-earned victory. There seems little doubt that the light was bad enough to have warranted taking the players off, but the umpires realised given the match situation was such that the players should be kept out there. 

Here are a couple of links relating to this test match:

LOOKING AHEAD

The final match of this series should be good, and almost certainly will feature a moment of history as James Anderson goes into it with 497 test wickets to his credit. Then England have the task of taking on Australia in Australia. This is a seriously tough task, but I think that this England squad can do it.

PHOTOGRAPHS

As always I end this post with some of my own photographs:

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