Category: County cricket news (page 1 of 75)

Faf du Plessis at Lancashire – a window into South Africa’s present?

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

It’s almost two years since Graeme Smith played his last Test. More than that since Jacques Kallis retired. Their departures left Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers as South Africa’s senior batsman and all this time later, Amla and de Villiers remain the senior batsmen. Things haven’t moved on.

Two other willow-wielders have been fixtures in the side in that period – JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis.

When you’re ready

Quite often a young batsman who bowls a bit will rise up the order from number six or seven, ditching the bowling in the process. JP Duminy seems to have achieved the opposite. A promising batsman once upon a time, he has since transformed into a specialist number seven who turns his arm over semi-regularly.

Chipping in and filling a niche for the team is all well and good, but it is seven years since Duminy made his Test debut. South Africa would have hoped for some solidity from him by now.

Then there’s Faf du Plessis. It went largely unnoticed, but he did actually make 86 in the Cape Town runfest. There haven’t been too many other fifties in recent times. As with Duminy, just when South Africa need most from him, he’s delivering the least.

Once upon a time…

Faf du Plessis played for Lancashire. They signed him in 2008 as a Kolpak player and he played for two seasons. He was billed as being one of South Africa’s future stars. As we remember it, he was pretty crap and we were therefore greatly surprised when he subsequently took to Test cricket like a doped Russian to athletics.

Du Plessis had played for Todmorden in the Lancashire leagues in 2007, so he knew the conditions. Despite that, he averaged 25 in his first year of county cricket.

To be fair to him, it was a low-scoring year for Lancashire, although Mohammad Yousuf swanned in, made an unbeaten double hundred and swanned off again to show him how the overseas star thing was supposed to be done. Paul Horton made three hundreds. Du Plessis made none.

In 2009, more runs were made in general, but du Plessis still only averaged 31 and still didn’t make a hundred. For context, team-mate VVS Laxman made four hundreds and averaged 65. Another non-local, Ashwell Prince, averaged over 50.

The package

People were quite forgiving and this may have been because du Plessis was billed as ‘a package’. This wasn’t  another way of calling him a cock, it was a way of saying he was a great fielder and also bowled a bit – leg-spin as well, for which people will always extend initial generosity.

In his first year at Lancashire, du Plessis took eight first-class wickets at 40-odd. The second year he took four wickets at 40-odd. This is a neat synopsis of the story of his bowling. Not so much diminishing returns as diminishing investment.

So why is this relevant?

We’re not sure it is. It was a long time ago and players develop and improve – we just wonder whether there’s been a certain reversion to the mean going on with du Plessis of late.

At the start of 2015, he was averaging over 50 in Test cricket with four hundreds to his name. Now, early in 2016, he averages 41 with the same four hundreds. If England can thank R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja for precipitating his run of poor form (as well as those of other South African batsmen), then it’s also true that he hasn’t particularly bounced back as a better player might have done.

Basically, what we’ve taken nigh-on 600 words to say is that du Plessis seems more of an averaging 40 type of player than an averaging 50 type of player and while he’s one of the senior players letting South Africa down in this series, maybe he’s not actually quite as good as people thought he was.

Cor! Strength! (and core weakness)

If bowlers didn’t require torsos, Sussex might have been all right. Side strains, pectoral injuries and dodgy spines meant that Chris Jordan played six matches, Ajmal Shahzad played five and Tymal Mills just two. It’s hard to win much without your pace attack and relegation has ensued.

If they can find a way of grafting bowling arms to hips in time for next season, Sussex might do okay. The skiddy trajectory may even result in a greater number of lbws. Otherwise, they’re probably in the right division – particularly as they’re now without Mike Yardy’s nurdlesome grit.

Meanwhile, Paul Edwards points out that Yorkshire’s winning margin in the first division, 68 points, is greater than the gap between runners-up Middlesex and bottom-placed Worcestershire.

With hindsight, it’s not entirely clear why anyone else even bothered taking part. In many ways they didn’t.

A straightforward easy-to-follow climax to the County Championship

No, really.

No totting up bonus points in matches you had assumed were irrelevant. No poring over the rules to find out when exactly those bonus points are earned. No keeping track of all of this across three different matches.

For once, it’s simple. Unless we’ve missed something (highly likely) then if Sussex lose, they are relegated. If they don’t lose, Hampshire are relegated.

Here’s the scorecard.

At the time of writing, Sussex look very much like they are going to lose, but Mike Yardy’s in and Mike Yardy’s a county titan, as oxymoronic as that is. We suppose someone also has to survive at the other end, but Yardy’s titania is surely infectious enough for that to be no issue.

We fully expect Mike Yardy to be dismissed the moment we click ‘publish’.

In the cold September rain

Apparently it’s been slatting it down all day in the South-East. Bad news for Surrey, who are pushing to become second division ‘champions’ in one of the few matters left unresolved this domestic season.

We use inverted commas around ‘champions’ in much the same way as if we were saying ‘most insightful’ football phone-in. It seems an entirely inappropriate word to use in reference to the second division of the County Championship.

Surrey are of course vying for ‘supremacy’ with Lancashire, who would have stolen a march on them had they not themselves been playing in Essex. We say playing; we mean lounging around indoors mournfully pawing at the rivulets of water running down the windows.

The other issue still outstanding is whether Hampshire will definitely get relegated from division one or not. They almost certainly will, but it’s not yet definite. Needing to win convincingly with either Sussex or Somerset losing while also gaining very few bonus points, they haven’t got off to a particularly good start. The Hampshire batsmen in particular have disappointed, being caught behind off every single ball they’ve faced.

Thus far that’s one ball, but a collective golden duck is still very much on the cards. Should this happen – as it almost certainly will – they will surely struggle to overhaul the 340-run first innings deficit. Our money’s on Hampshire relegation and Surrey ‘winning’ the second division after a pair of near-washouts.

Geraint Jones slashes to great effect


Photo by Sarah Ansell

If, as a cricketer, you’re going to be remembered for just one moment, you might as well make that moment the climax of the most exciting passage of sport many of us will ever see.

Even if it wasn’t the hardest catch, for safely taking it England fans will forever owe Geraint Jones a debt. We’re not saying he could get away with murder, but we could probably let burglary or hijacking a plane slide. Surely even Surrey fans wouldn’t begrudge his leaving cricket with a win in the domestic one-day final.

Not only did Jones top score for Gloucestershire on the day, he was also involved in the pivotal moment of Surrey’s innings. When Kumar Sangakkara slapped the ball to mid-on, Jones should have been there – but he was off the field having a slash. Will Tavare safely took the catch and Surrey promptly folded. With those utterly reliable hands of his, Jones probably didn’t even splash upon hearing the roar.

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