At least last time around someone won. Halcyon days.
Out of the three draws in the latest round of matches, the points scored ranged from Middlesex’s 10 to Warwickshire and Surrey’s 13. Surrey v Somerset was the only fixture to reach the fourth innings and Durham v Middlesex didn’t even get halfway through the second.
Player of the week
Ooh, let’s go with Adil Rashid. Not because he made 63 and then took four wickets, but simply because he actually managed to grip the ball at all. Here’s a picture of him wearing lots of clothes.
Anything else to report?
Oh, wait. We should probably say something about the table too.
Warwickshire are now top. Quite what this means is anyone’s guess being as they’ve played 50 per cent more matches than Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire in second and third and three times as many as Lancashire in fourth.
Surrey are bottom, obviously.
The modern world is in thrall to the list. Everything has to be ranked. Everyone has this urge to say who’s better than whom, which innings was better than which, and which bowling performance was the greatest of all time.
They even abbreviate ‘greatest of all time’ to GOAT these days. You’d think the greatest in history wouldn’t change so often, but apparently the term’s used so frequently that no-one has the time to write it out in full any more.
Well we’re getting in on the action. Here’s our list of the top ten single figure scores in the first division of the County Championship so far this season.
- Jake Ball, Nottinghamshire – 9 not out
- Neil Wagner, Lancashire – 1
- Ben Stokes, Durham – 9
- Michael Richardson, Durham – 9
- Haseeb Hameed, Lancashire – 9
- Greg Smith, Nottinghamshire – 9
- Arun Harinath, Surrey – 9
- Steven Davies, Surrey – 8
- Tom Curran, Surrey – 8
- Karl Brown, Lancashire – 8
That Wagner knock in particular was all class.
We’ve attended a County Championship match on a double trousers day before. Sitting still, steadily losing heat throughout the day, you don’t quite realise how cold you are until your bone marrow turns solid.
You don’t know what that feels like? You’ll know it when it happens.
Ravi Rampaul didn’t mind the cold. They always make out like it’s extra tough for West Indians, as if they’re a different species or something. The truth is, Ravi’s well padded – and not in the ‘preparing to bat’ sense. He has valuable insulation for when the mercury starts to plummet and this is what allowed him to take 5-85 against Somerset.
Or maybe he was just well prepared. Maybe he washes his balls in iced water like that Russian guy who sauntered off despite having been shot in the head in the Pine Barrens episode of The Sopranos. Meanwhile the rest of us are left shivering, smarting from poison ivy and squeezing sachets of ketchup and mustard into our mouths in our desperate bid to survive the harsh conditions.
Marcus Trescothick made 127 in the same match. He’s pretty well padded too.
If you’re wondering where we’ve been, we’ve unfortunately been too busy writing things to write things. One of these written distractions was about Rob Key.
Cricinfo gave it the coveted midnight on a Friday slot at the top of the homepage, clearly of a mind that this would be perfect for Key fans who would almost certainly be hitting city centre bars until the early hours before returning for a light spot of reading before bed.
It briefly mentions warehouses, biscuits and Ini Kamoze and we misquote Kevin Keegan, but it’s mostly a fairly straightforward look back on Key’s career. We didn’t think Cricinfo would want our usual Key tone. Maybe we were wrong.
Don’t think that we didn’t get carried away though. We overshot our target word count by 100 per cent and only succeeding in hacking it back to 50 per cent over. Fortunately, they let us off though on the grounds that “it’s not every day that Rob Key retires.”
The batsmen (and bowlers) of Middlesex, Warwickshire, Yorkshire and Hampshire busied themselves scoring hundreds and double hundreds. Nothing of any real consequence came about as a result of this behaviour.
The players representing Lancashire and Nottinghamshire stuck to double figures and that game therefore reached some sort of meaningful conclusion. Lancashire won.
The County Championship being what it is, Nottinghamshire remain top despite having now lost half of their games.
The most meaningful contribution of the week unquestionably came from the man who we may begin referring to as The Great Neil Wagner.
As we all know, Neil Wagner isn’t perfect and he may occasionally let you down, but he can also take 11 wickets on his Lancashire debut. Fellow debutant Liam Livingstone, who last year hit 350 in a one-day game while playing for Nantwich, played the innings of the week, making 70.
- Jonny Bairstow – 246
- Sam Robson – 231
- Jonathan Trott – 219 not out
- Liam Plunkett – 126
- Sean Ervine – 123
- James Vince – 119
- Sam Robson – 106
Kudos to Sam Robson for cropping up twice and double kudos to Jonathan Trott for being Jonathan Trott, but hell those numbers tell a soporific story.
Ryan Sidebottom took 4-80 in one of those matches and deserves some sort of medal for being the only one keen to drive a game forwards.
Jake took 4-63 and 2-29.
Bobby didn’t play.
Eat more vegetables, drink a bit less, but don’t go overboard with either. No-one likes a puritan.
You can now find different answers by clicking a link on the Rob Key crossword page.
Photo by Sarah Ansell
It’s a reference to a headline pun that’s overused on this website but which isn’t itself a pun. Jokes don’t come much weaker than that. Except for all our other ones.
Is Gary Ballance back? Sport is brutally cold and England won’t go into the first Test of the summer with an empty batting slot where James Taylor would have been. They’ll pick someone in his place. Possibly Gary Ballance.
For a time, two of our most common thoughts while watching a Test match were, “At least Ballance is still in,” when England were batting and, “Get Ballance on!” when they were bowling. We like Gary Ballance. We like his doughy tenacity. We like the chaos of his part-time right-arm semi-filth.
Last year’s imballance was a strange one with our man seemingly decked by the coaching team’s faith in him. Returning from injury, he was thrust into England’s World Cup team at number three and short of practice, he floundered. England’s World Cup campaign was a catastrophe and he carried his newfound runlessness through to the summer, at which point he was dropped.
Experts love a technical weakness and declared this to be the cause of his ills. Gary is of a different mind. He reckons that far from being the problem, his technique is what got him to where he is.
The line between delusional stubborness and justifiably single-minded conviction is a narrow one and it is defined by how many runs you score. ‘Gary Ballance’s back’ hinges on what happens next.
There was a phenomenon in Premier Manager 2 where all of your team’s young players would improve by about 20 per cent over the summer break. If you stacked your side with teenagers and managed to avoid the sack, you were all but guaranteed promotion the following season.
Has something similar happened with Nottinghamshire’s Jake Ball? Has he gone from being Very Good ***** to Outstanding? Those five asterisks denote the highest level of Very Good, by the way. Don’t count them wondering whether we’re being filthy.
Ball’s said to have added the clichéd yard of pace over the winter (when will cricket go metric?) and has duly taken a five-for in the first match of the season. April is just about the worst time to judge a seamer though. It’s a little like judging an Olympic rifle competitor by how many barrel-fish they can shoot. Still, it’s all we’ve got to go off at the minute, so we might as well count the carcasses.
Five. Plus one in the first innings.
Fortunately, the modern world being what it is, we’ve more to go off than in days gone by. Nowadays we can get wrong-end footage of events in the County Championship.
Here’s some wrong end footage of Jake Ball’s five-for.
Drives us mental.
Why do people most often visit Cricinfo? To check the scores. Yet if we look at the current live matches, there is no way of telling which match is in which division, unless you happen to have memorised the teams in each league.
At the time of writing, the list of England domestic matches reads:
- Durham v Somerset
- Gloucestershire v Essex
- Hampshire v Warwickshire
- Northamptonshire v Sussex
- Nottinghamshire v Surrey
So that’s first division, then second division, then first division, then second division, then first division. Yet there is no obvious distinction between them unless you click through to the scorecard.
Smooth, Cricinfo. Smooth.
This is one small element which has contributed to this website’s official position of ignoring the second division.
One of the joys of county cricket is that the season is so long and sprawling and varied. There are countless stories to be told, concerning different players and their triumphs and despairs in the various formats. However, the canvas is so damn massive, the job of the media is surely to provide focus and help us make sense of things.
Cricket coverage is built on scorecards. You can easily follow the entire season without watching a ball being bowled; listening to a minute of commentary; or reading a single match report or interview. A very simple step towards providing greater clarity for county cricket followers would be for the world’s top scorecard repository to make it clear which division each frigging match belongs to.
As in ‘returned’. He hasn’t got anklosing spondylitis or anything.
Like many people, we have a soft spot for Monty Panesar.
Firstly, he lent his name to our assistant.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, he was for a time exceptionally good at bowling spin for England.
Now he’s back. Back at Northamptonshire at any rate. He also hopes that he’s pretty much back to himself after being blighted by paranoia and other mental health problems in recent years. There was that bladder control thing as well.
His low-key county return is therefore what we like to call ‘a good thing’.
Barney Ronay has written a nice piece for The Guardian about Panesar. We agree with much of what he says – not least because he agrees with much of what we’ve said.
He takes issue with the ‘Monty Panesar hasn’t played X Tests, he’s played one Test X times‘ line for similar reasons to us – namely, that if that one Test is a perfectly good one, it’s really not that big a problem. Also, since when has one-dimensionality been such a flaw for a bowler?
They say the animals are always the first to know, so we’ll ask Monty’s namesake how this latest comeback is going to pan out. We’ll get back to you once we have the details.
The wind is tearing the blossom from the trees and depositing it on the dirty wet earth. Men and women in thick winter coats turn their pallid faces to the skies, scrutinising the clouds for tip offs of impending rain showers. Firewood is gathered. Thermostats are turned up. It is time for the county cricket season.
The County Championship starts with six-ninths of a bang on Sunday with just three first division matches. A table comprising nine sides often only finds balance before and after the season, but even so this seems a strange way to start; not so much breaking the door down as gently pushing it open only to find that the cat’s somehow pulled up the carpet and the door’s now wedged.
So sliding through the narrow gap, what do we find on the other side? Durham v Somerset; Hampshire v Warwickshire; and Nottinghamshire v Surrey.
Is it worth looking to last season’s finishing positions to deduce which might prove to be the most meaningful fixtures? Counties seem to bounce up and down almost at random. Sussex were third in 2014 and in 2015 they were relegated. Middlesex narrowly avoided the drop in 2014 and were runners-up last year. The constant has been Yorkshire, who won in both years and were second the year before. As you’ll no doubt notice, Yorkshire aren’t playing.
The story is yet to unfold, you could argue. Weather permitting, let it do so.