A look at the county championship at half way in it’s ‘conference’ stage, solutions to a couple of mathematical teasers and plenty of photographs.
Although two teams, Derbyshire and Durham, did not play in the last round of the championship which concluded yesterday most have played five matches which makes it halfway through the ‘conference’ stage of the season. Thus it is an appropriate time to look at the groups in detail.
SOMERSET CLOSE OUT HAMPSHIRE
After I finished yesterday’s post only one match had a definite result, Somerset beating Hampshire by 10 wickets. Josh Davey and Craig Overton each took five wickets in the second Hampshire innings, and Byrom needed only one delivery to score the two runs Somerset required for victory. Felix Organ for Hampshire scored seven off 108 balls, one of the slowest innings in the history of the championship. The slowest non-duck (ducks by definition don’t have a scoring rate!) in championship history was Brian Hardie’s four singles in 142 minutes for Essex in the 1970s, while Lancashire stonewaller of the 19th century Dick Barlow (the Barlow of “my Hornby and my Barlow, long ago”) twice played innings of five in 150 minutes. Ever since Gloucestershire prevented them from making it three wins out of three Hampshire have done very little right. Here Organ’s abandonment of any attempt to score runs cost them, as they only just avoided the innings defeat and simply could not put Somerset under time pressure. When Gloucestershire saved the match against Hampshire the draw was accepted because Gloucestershire were about 60 ahead and Hampshire would only have had three overs in which to chase them even had they taken the final Gloucestershire wicket. Hampshire’s approach in their second innings basically left them only one route out of trouble: bat for the whole of the remainder of the match.
Durham and Derbyshire were not involved in the last round of fixtures. From the point of view of 5th place Essex, stuffed by Nottinghamshire in the last round, a victory for Derbyshire in that match would be preferable even though it would temporarily put them last: if Derbyshire won they would have between 56 and 64 points depending on bonus points, and Durham between 53 and 61, meaning that Essex would be 15 points off second place, while a Durham win would mean they have between 69 and 77, and Derbyshire between 40 and 48, giving a worst case scenario of Essex being 21 points behind second place. Also, the Durham win would mean that Worcs on 66 points, 14 better than Essex are in fourth, making even the modest achievement of a place in division two for the closing stage of the season tough for Essex, whereas a Derbyshire win would mean that at worst 4th place is on 61 (if Durham score full bonus points in defeat), nine better than Essex and not too much of a challenge to overhaul. The anomaly in this group, caused by the decision to award extra points for the draw this season in that Worcestershire, yet to win a game, are third out of six. For the group as a whole, a big win for Durham in that game in hand would probably be the best result, sending them top and effectively making it three clubs battling for the top two spots and three clubs fighting to avoid ending up in division three.
A clearer picture in this group, with Gloucestershire and Somerset looking likely to hold on to the top two places, Hampshire and Surrey third and fourth and Middlesex and Leicestershire bringing up the rear. Somerset’s position is especially meritorious as they started on minus eight due to a particularly graceless complaint from Essex being acted on by the ECB (the pitch, for a game that Somerset had to win to become champions in 2019, was a poor one, but no action was taken during the game, and Essex did enough to take the title, which makes their subsequent action in putting in an official complaint especially mean spirited). Middlesex have been good for long periods of most of their games, but when they go off the rails it tends to be in a big way – crashing through the protective barriers and down into a deep ravine littered with boulders. They had the better of the first innings in each of their games against Somerset but had two horror batting collapses in the second innings of those games which gave Somerset two chases that were stiff but manageable and both of which they pulled off. Leicestershire have decent batting but a calamitous lack of bowling. Hampshire started excellently but after being baulked by Gloucestershire in their third match have been able to do little right. Surrey have had their moments, such as their utter destruction of Hampshire in round four but also handed Middlesex their only win of the season, at Lord’s. Gloucestershire have been superb.
The roses counties are dominating this group, though Northamptonshire are still just about in the hunt for second place. Kent’s struggles are mysterious – they have what looks a decent squad, but no one has been performing consistently. The batting in particular has been poor, while their bowling has been over reliant on the veteran Darren Stevens. Sussex are struggling with the bat – they have some very impressive bowlers. It is very likely that Oliver Edward Robinson will be involved with England and so miss quite a few games which will make their already tough task even tougher.
Each of my previous two posts contained a mathematical teaser from brilliant.org. I now present solutions and explanations:
From two days ago:
The answer is that Saed wins. Here is Saya Suka’a published explanation:
There are only 14 maximum legal moves possible with this arrangement, so the player taking the even turns will win (if they can preserve it up to the very last turn).
Okay, so they can go rook but no castling allowed. The spaces are 1-2-1-2-1, and it’s a game of “Go East”, so we are only interested with the 2-1-2-1 part of the spaces. The leftmost token has a twin in the second one from the right, and the other two are also likewise. The magic incantation is “Mirror, mirror until you hit the wall”.
I asked you to name a five minute time frame for Ivan’s return, because brilliant had given a set of multi-choice options that basically killed the problem. When Ivan sets out the time is between three and four, so the hour hand is somewhere between those two numbers on the clock face. We are then told that he returned between seven and eight and noticed that the position of the hour and minute hands were reversed from when he went out, which means that the hour hand is between seven and eight and the minute hand is between three and four. When the minute hand is positioned at three it is fifteen minutes past the hour, and when the minute hand is positioned at four it is twenty minutes past the hour. Thus if we call the exact time of Ivan’s return T, then in mathematical notation 7:15<T<7:20 – Ivan got home some time after 7:15 and before 7:20.
Brilliant’s four multi-choice options were 7:15, 7:18. 7:35 and 7:37, and as you can see only one of those is actually within the time frame – 7:15 is one edge of said frame and not actually quite a possible time. This poor selection of possible answers spoiled a really good problem.
My thanks to Charlotte Hoather, who commented with her answer, a good effort, yesterday.
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…
A look back at the first round of the county championship, especially Middlesex v Somerset, plus some photographs.
This post looks back at an extraordinary turnaround in one of the only three fixtures in the opening round of the County Championship to have a definite result (Gloucs beating Surrey and Hants beating Leics were the other two).
Somerset won the toss and put Middlesex in (see here for more on the early stages of the match). At low water mark Somerset were 89-9 facing a Middlesex total of 313. Marchant de Lange and Jack Leach, nos 10 and 11 for Somerset added 83 for the final wicket to save the follow on (there would have been no sensible case for Middlesex declining to enforce it). When Middlesex were 87-2 at the end of the second day they still looked firm favourites, but great bowling efforts from Overton, Davey and Leach restricted Middlesex to 143 in their second innings, leaving Somerset 285 to win. Three wickets went fairly early, but then Tom Abell and George Bartlett shared a good partnership before Abell was dislodged for 84. Steven Davies and Craig Overton both fell cheaply, and the target was still over 100 away when Lewis Gregory walked in to join Bartlett. Gregory, who had picked up a five-for in the first Middlesex innings came to the party for the second time in the match, and he and Bartlett were still together when the winning run was scored, Bartlett 76 not out, Gregory 62 not out. Appropriately, it was Gregory who sealed the win. Leach’s total match figures of 4-61, going at less than two an over, were huge news for England, since unless they are prepared to go seriously radical and drop Sophie Ecclestone a line there is no other serious specialist spin option for the test team at present – Matt Parkinson, with 62 wickets at 25 each in FC cricket ranks second to Leach, having a similar bowling average but only about a fifth of the number of wickets. Gregory has Woakes (definitely) and Oliver Edward Robinson (probably) ahead of him in the England pecking order. Abell and Bartlett may also be on the radar, and the runs they made in uphill circumstances will count heavily in their favour. On the debit side the other two Toms, Banton and Lammonby failed to do anything of note this time round. Ethan Bamber of Middlesex may have out himself on the radar with a fine bowling performance.
Elsewhere the most significant news from an England perspective were scores of 74 for Burns, the opener whose place is under scrutiny after a tough winter, and 133 for Foakes, who should be first choice keeper, and who must have improved his stocks with that effort.
Here are links to the cricinfo profiles of the players mentioned above in an England context:
A brief look back at the opening day of the county cricket season and some photographs.
Today saw the first day of play in the county championship and the weather thankfully did not pay a huge part in the action.
A TENSE DAY AT LORD’S
I opted to follow the action in Middlesex v Somerset at Lord’s. Somerset won the toss and decided to bowl. A combination of ordinary fielding (at least four chances went begging) and Sam Robson who cashed in on some of the former to rack up 165 gave the opening day honours to Middlesex, but not by much. The close of play score was 293-8, Lewis Gregory taking four wickets, while Jack Leach did an excellent job as a spinner on day one in England, keeping things very tight (he bowled 22 overs and had 1-43 to his name).
Elsewhere there was some vintage stat padding by James Vince at the expense of Leicestershire, Oliver Graham Robinson the Kent wicket keeper scored a fifty and Oliver Edward Robinson the Sussex fast medium bowler and useful lower order batter did likewise.
Originally posted on aspiblog: INTRODUCTION Welcome to the latest installment in my “All Time XIs” series. Today we are looking at Somerset. In the course of our journey we will meet heroes of the past, stars of the present, a couple of hopes for the future and the man who when I get round to…
When I created this post OTD last year Bess was riding high and having felt it necessary to exclude Leach I hoped he would continue to go well and justify my faith in him. Not helped by some mismanagement over the winter he has gone backwards since then, and I would remove him from the XI and replace him with Brian Langford, who took 1410 wickets at 24.79 in 510 first class appearances. Thus the revised XI is Trescothick, Gimblett, Palairet, Hildreth, Braund, *Woods, Botham, Garner, Langford, White, +Luckes. I also have some new photos to show…
Welcome to the latest installment in my “All Time XIs” series. Today we are looking at Somerset. In the course of our journey we will meet heroes of the past, stars of the present, a couple of hopes for the future and the man who when I get round to creating it will be captain of the “What Might Have Been XI”.
SOMERSET ALL TIME XI
Marcus Trescothick – left handed opener who scored stacks of runs in his long and distinguished career. He was selected for England against the West Indies in 2000, showed masses of character in surviving an early onslaught from the veteran pacers Ambrose and Walsh, going on to score 66 on debut. That same winter facing the very different challenges posed by a dry pitch and some crafty spinners in Sri Lanka he made his maiden test hundred. Runs continued to…
Continuing my all-time XIs series with a look at Somerset.
Welcome to the latest installment in my “All Time XIs” series. Today we are looking at Somerset. In the course of our journey we will meet heroes of the past, stars of the present, a couple of hopes for the future and the man who when I get round to creating it will be captain of the “What Might Have Been XI”.
SOMERSET ALL TIME XI
Marcus Trescothick – left handed opener who scored stacks of runs in his long and distinguished career. He was selected for England against the West Indies in 2000, showed masses of character in surviving an early onslaught from the veteran pacers Ambrose and Walsh, going on to score 66 on debut. That same winter facing the very different challenges posed by a dry pitch and some crafty spinners in Sri Lanka he made his maiden test hundred. Runs continued to flow against all opponents for some years. At Edgbaston in 2005 after England had been badly beaten in the opening match of that year’s Ashes series at Lord’s a display of controlled aggression brought him 90 on the opening day, after Ponting in spite of losing McGrath, the bowler most likely to cause such a decision to succeed, to injury on the morning of the game put England in. His England career was ended my mental health issues at the back end of 2006, but he returned to Somerset and went on scoring runs for them right up until the end of the 2019 season. He was also a fine slip fielder and bowled respectable medium pace.
Harold Gimblett – the man who still holds the record for most career first class runs for Somerset, and the highest first class score by a Somerset native (310). On his debut against Essex, after being called up at the last moment, he scored 123 in 79 minutes, winning that season’s Lawrence Trophy for the fastest first class hundred of the season in the process. As with many others who plied their trade for a county who were generally on the fringes of things he received less international recognition than he deserved.
Lionel Palairet – a stroke making batter of the late Victorian and Edwardian period. In the 1901 season he scored 100 runs in a morning session on five separate occasions. One of those was in a game against Yorkshire that tests credulity: On the first morning Somerset were rolled for 87, to which Yorkshire replied with 325, only for Somerset to score 630 in their second innings, nos 1,2 and 3 all scoring hundreds. Facing a victory target of 393 Yorkshire crumbled to 113 all out, and defeat by 279 runs, their only defeat of the season. He was picked twice for England, Old Trafford and The Oval in 1902, a pulsating three run defeat that settled the destination of that year’s Ashes and “Jessop’s Match” – see my Gloucestershire piece, an extraordinary one wicket victory.
James Hildreth – a free and heavy scoring middle order batter who somehow completely escaped the notice of the England selectors during a distinguished career. He was used a fielding substitute during the 2005 Ashes, but never got closer than that to the test arena.
Leonard Braund – at a time when Somerset had few reliable batters, and were not unknown to struggle to get 11 players together for their matches he was a very consistent run scorer, rated as one of the finest of all slip fielders and was a high quality leg spinner. Braund was one of the three centurions in the Somerset come-back mentioned in connection with Palairet (Frank Phillips was the third), and, mirabile dictu, the following season Yorkshire were again champions, again lost only one game and again it was Somerset who were their undoing. This triumph was very much down to Braund – he made the highest individual score of the game and captured 15 wickets in the two Yorkshire innings. In 1907 he found himself in a “good player were at t’other end” scenario, when Albert Trott comprehensively ruined his own benefit match by taking four wickets in four balls and then shortly afterwards ending such resistance as Somerset had offered by doing the hat trick – and poor Braund observed this carnage from 22 yards away, emerging with 28 not out.
*Sammy Woods – born in Sydney but Somerset through and through. Captain through some very difficult times, and my choice for that role in this side. An attacking right handed bat and a right arm fast bowler.
Ian Botham – all rounder, a third acknowledged expert in the art of slip fielding alongside Trescothick and Braund in this side. I have him in the position in the batting order from which he scored his two most iconic centuries – 149 not out at Headingley in 1981 to breathe life back into that year’s Ashes when it seemed that Australia were in charge (Bob Willis then took 8-43 to complete the turnaround – see my Warwickshire piece) and then a few weeks later, after he psyched out the Aussie lower order at Edgbaston (a spell of 5-1 in 28 balls, and the only wicket to go a really difficult ball wasRay Bright), with England looking to push home a first innings advantage at Old Trafford he settled the destination of the Ashes and the series by reaching his century off 86 balls, eventually finishing with 118 off 102. After 53 balls of that Old Trafford innings he was on 28 not out, meaning that his last 90 came off 48 balls.
Dominic Bess – an offspinner and handy lower order bat, who I would hope still has a lot of his career to run. I have selected him in this team because I have been hugely impressed by what he has done in his career thus far, and because I felt obliged for reasons I will explain later to overlook another current England spinner. I first wrote about him in this post, on July 19, 2017, and he has done plenty right since then.
Joel Garner – my chosen overseas player. A right arm fast bowler of extreme accuracy who was especially awkward on account of his great height (6’8″, which coupled with a leap in his delivery stride and a high arm action meant that the ball was coming down from a height of somewhere in the region of 10 feet above ground level).
Farmer White– a slow left arm bowler of extreme stamina and accuracy. In the course of the 1928-9 Ashes series in which all matches were played to a finish (and England won 4-1) he ploughed through 542 overs in the five test matches. In the Adelaide match (and beautiful place though it is I would doubt that Adelaide is on many bowlers’ lists of preferred destinations!) in great heat he bowled 124 overs over the course of the two Australian innings, collecting match figures of 13-256.
+Wally Luckes – a wicket keeper who rendered 25 years service to his county. He batted low in the order on the instructions of his doctor (on one occasion against Kent he was sent in at no 5 and scored 121 not out, so he could make runs). His neat and unobtrusive style of wicket keeping was massively appreciated by the bowlers, but was so very unobtrusive as to absolutely fail to attract the attention of the England selectors. As already mentioned he was largely restricted on health grounds to batting late in the order, and he made a name for himself in tight finishes. Against Gloucestershire in 1938 he hit the third and fourth balls of the last possible over of the game for fours to give Somerset a one wicket win (Ben Stokes, if you are reading this, you and only you are permitted to say “what, he didn’t wait until the fifth and sixth balls to complete the job?”). In 365 first class appearances he took 587 catches and executed 240 stumpings.
My chosen XI consists of four specialist batters, three genuine all-rounders of differing types, three specialist bowlers of differing types and an excellent wicketkeeper. I have two out and out pacemen of contrasting approach in Garner and Woods, a right arm swing bowler in Botham, and all types of spin other than left arm wrist spin (White, Bess and Braund). The only type of bowling not available to this side is left arm pace. Other than that, unlike far too many real Somerset sides it looks both balanced and formidably strong.
SOMERSET PRESENT AND FUTURE
Somerset have never won the County Championship, and deep into the 1980s had never finished higher than third. They have been runner-up a number of times in recent years, including in 2019, and in 2016 when they topped the table going into the final day of the season but lost out when Middlesex and Yorkshire connived to create a result out of what looked a certain draw (Middlesex being the beneficiaries in the end). Firmly established in front rank of current players are Jack Leach, who I considered for the left arm spinners slot given to White, Lewis Gregory, a right arm fast medium bowler who is also a useful lower middle order bat and the Overton twins, Craig and Jamie, robust lower order hitters who both bowl right arm at above medium pace (Jamie on top form can be genuinely quick). Also rapidly establishing himself is Tom Abell, a right handed batter who seems to positively relish playing long innings against the red ball (a rarity in this day and age), and who has shown himself to be a shrewd captain. Finally, three youngsters who are at various stages of emerging talent, all of whom I expect to be seriously big names before too many years have passed are Tom Banton, an attacking top order batter and sometimes wicket keeper, George Bartlett, another top order batter who also bowls off spin, and Lewis Goldsworthy, slow left arm bowler and middle order bat (and the only player so far mentioned anywhere in this series whose birth year begins with a 2) who had some memorable moments in the under-19 world cup. That elusive County Championship should not remain elusive for many more years with this kind of talent on tap.
MAURICE TREMLETT – A TALENT DENIED
When Somerset went to Lord’s in 1947 to take on Middlesex who were on their way to that year’s County Championship they took with them a young fast medium bowler named Maurice Tremlett. He took 3-47 in the first Middlesex innings, and then in the second innings 5-39, all of those wickets coming in a spell of five overs during which he conceded only eight runs. Then, batting at no 11 he joined Horace Hazell, a slow left armer who already had a reputation in tight finishes (he was Luckes’ last wicket partner in that 1938 game against Gloucestershire) and won the game for his side with a little gem of an innings which included a straight six off spinner Jack Young. This sort of debut should have set the stage for an illustrious career (and maybe if physicists are right about there being parallel universes that is what happened in one of those). Sadly England’s desperate need for pace bowling options at that time and maybe Tremlett’s own nature intervened. Various coaches, and at least one international captain, Gubby Allen, in the West Indies that winter, tried to mould him into the genuine fast bowling article. Changes to the length of his run up (four strides added in an effort to generate more pace), the position of his hips, thighs and feet, and so on led to a loss of his greatest natural asset, the outswinger, control and confidence. Within a few years he had packed in bowling save for occasional attempts to break a partnership and was making his way as a specialist batter, in which capacity he did fairly well but was never of international standard. He was also for a period a highly regarded county captain, which is why when I have created it he will be captain of the “What Might Have Been XI”. In a counterfactual novel dealing with the cricket of this period (or that parallel universe!) Tremlett, not messed about with, would have developed into an attacking no 8 bat and new ball bowler with a hugely successful test record. In the real world it would be two generations before a Tremlett, grandson Chris, would enjoy serious test match success as a bowler, playing a vital role in 2010-11 Ashes triumph.
In addition to Leach and White the left arm spinner’s berth could have gone to Edwin Tyler, Beaumont Cranfield or Horace Hazell. Roy Virgin, Brian Rose and Mark Lathwellwere three fine opening batters (and there are those who would say that had be been properly handled Lathwell could have been a great batter). In the middle of the order three names who might have had a place were Jack MacBryan (who would have expected to be unlucky – this is the guy who played test cricket but never batted, bowled or fielded, since the match he was selected for was ruined by rain, and there was evidently something wrong with the way he hung around in the pavilion), Brian Close, who taught Somerset how to win in the 1970s, and Peter Randall Johnson. The last named played in an era when residential/ birth qualifications were taken very seriously by the powers that be, but less so by Somerset, who found ingenious ways round these rules. In Mr Johnson’s case Somerset went for the absolutely brazen approach of airily telling the powers that be “oh yes, he was born in Wellington”, which was the truth but not the whole truth – they failed to mention which Wellington he was born in, and yes, it was the one in New Zealand! Bill Alley, an Australian born batter and medium pace bowler merited consideration. Arthur Wellard, a fast medium bowler and big hitting batter (25% of his 12,000 first class runs came in the form of maximums) was also a candidate, but with Woods and Botham nailed-on selections his presence would have unbalanced the side. ‘Crusoe’ Robertson-Glasgow, a Scottish born pace bowler and no 11 batter did not make the cut as a player but has the consolation of being my first choice to write about this team’s performances. Finally, only one Somerset born bowler has ever lifted a senior world cup: Anya Shrubsole – and I did think about it. Somerset has had some splendid official overseas players down the years, with Viv Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Justin Langer, Greg Chappell and Martin Crowe all authentic greats, but as usual when it came to the overseas player I went for a bowler, in this case Garner. The off spinner’s position could have gone to Brian Langford, who had a long and distinguished Somerset career, while Vic Marks also played for England as an off spinning all rounder. Ian Blackwell, a big hitting middle order bat and left arm spinner simply could not be accommodated. Among the wicket keepers the wonderfully named Archdale Palmer Wickham (nicknamed ‘snickham’ such was his incompetence with the bat) was clearly s splendid practitioner. More recently Piran Holloway, Craig Kieswetter, Jos Buttler and Steven Davies would all have their advocates.
Readers may have other players that I have not mentioned in mind, and suggestions are welcome, but remember to consider the effect that your suggestions will have on the balance of the side.
Yes, our rollercoaster ride through Somerset cricket is at an end, and all that remains is my usual sign off…
A look at the early stages of the ‘winner takes all’ match between Somerset and Essex for the County Championship.
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 Cookwill 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.
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 thoughts on The Royal London Cup and England v Australia, and plenty of photographs.
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.
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:
A look at the playoffs in the Royal London Cup and some photographs.
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 Somerset – Somerset 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 Middlesex – Lancashire 210-3 from 38.2 overs.
96 from Jenningsand 68 from Crofthave 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.