Category: County cricket news (page 1 of 35)

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.

Yorkshire take the second of a hat-trick of County Championship titles

It’s oddly reassuring that Yorkshire should win the title again. It provides the kind of clarity that is rarely seen in English domestic cricket. We can state with some conviction that they are the strongest county at the minute – stronger even than Herefordshire.

When a team does well one year before falling flat on its arse the following year, it makes you think the County Championship is more influenced by weather and blind luck than anything else. Back-to-back titles are therefore welcome. Being as no-one’s won three in a row since the Sixties, it probably even counts as an ‘era’.

Yorkshire have won in fine style as well. Unbeaten, they currently have nine wins and four draws to their name, which means they’ve beaten the climate as well as most teams. They’ve also achieved this with roughly half their team having been co-opted by England at any one team – the better half too.

The absentees

Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow constitute the bulk of Yorkshire’s first-choice batting line-up and they’ve also been without their leg-spinner (Adil Rashid) and fast bowler (Liam Plunkett) for quite a lot of the time. That should really be debilitating, but not a bit of it.

Is it admirable that they’ve coped with these losses or does it reflect badly on county cricket in general? If the Yorkshire second XI is the second best county side, who’s providing the competition? Who’s testing the players out?

Jonny Bairstow for one could do with playing some level of cricket better than the County Championship. He’s hit five centuries and averaged a hundred, but England still don’t seem convinced of his worth.

Other statistics also hint at an uncomfortable story. Tim Bresnan’s averaging 50 with the bat this year. James Middlebrook’s averaging less than 20 with the ball. Ryan Sidebottom, five years after he faded from Test cricket, is averaging even less – just 15 rus per wicket.

Sidebottom, Brooks and Patterson

Yorkshire’s pace attack is not just good, it’s almost a template for how to succeed in county cricket – three hard-working, reliable fast-medium bowlers who almost certainly won’t get called up for England. This is the gold standard. This is what teams are striving to put together.

Maybe we’re wrong about Brooks and Patterson. Maybe they will play for the national side, but it’s hard to avoid the feeling that they’re the kinds of players more likely to be on the cusp of doing so than actually taking that final step.

This has all descended into angst

Which wasn’t our intention. We really did intend on lauding Yorkshire. The county that’s given England Joe Root and Adil Rashid deserves its success and no-one can deny they’re the best. Then again, perhaps it’s only fitting that their success should be celebrated with a big old moan.

To Yorkshire! [Grumbles dismissively and wanders off to make a cup of tea.]

Promotion day in the County Championship

There are still two matches to go in the second division of the County Championship, but somehow we already know both the counties who will be promoted. What this basically means is that the other seven teams in that division were sufficiently crap that they failed by a distance.

There will now be eight further pointless matches. If only there were relegation as well – that’d add a bit of jeopardy. Imagine being in the third division of the County Championship. We’d really have to ignore the teams down there, to the extent that we probably wouldn’t even acknowledge when they’d earned promotion.

The two teams promoted from division two are Surrey and Lancashire. Surrey think that they achieved their aim in fine style with Gareth Batty securing an innings victory with a hat-trick. Sadly for them, Lancashire went one better, earning promotion via a drawn match in which Rob Key made a hundred. What could be more magnificent than that? Even Glen Chapple couldn’t get him (or indeed anyone) out.

Twenty20 Finals Day doesn’t always scream ‘elite sporting event’

Last year, we took Birmingham’s appearance in place of Warwickshire in the T20 Blast as being a watertight scientific experiment into whether a future of city teams would lead to better cricket. Birmingham won the tournament, seemingly proving that it would, although the findings were somewhat compromised by their sickening cheating in the final against Lancashire. There’s also the fact that their performance could conceivably have been the result of improved alliteration rather than their city name. Bloody variables.

This year, the city v county angle seems even more relevant with discussions ongoing about either supplementing or replacing the current Twenty20 competition with some sort of trendy franchise thing where all the matches would be played in a block with more (literal) fireworks.

Our position on this is at odds with most people who have a history of following county cricket. We’ve always found each of the county competitions and the domestic season as a whole to be as bloated as Mr Creosote. We’d welcome a cull. A city-based franchise league would achieve this, but then so too would splitting the competition into several divisions. Either’s fine with us.

One thing we would miss, however, is the amateurism. There’s something quintessentially English (nod, wink) about slapdash professional sport. A lot of the time, this phenomenon is annoying or embarrassing, but on Twenty20 Finals Day, it is a thing of wonder.

It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what it is, but it’s something about everyone being half-cut on a summer’s day and no-one taking things too seriously. The mascot’s race is symbolic of this. The crowd tend to take it just as – if not more – seriously than the cricket itself. You could take that as a sad indictment of the nation’s premier short format domestic tournament or as a comment on the fundamental pointlessness of all sport. Or you could just laugh.

Twenty20 Finals Day doesn’t always scream ‘elite sporting event’ but then it’s also far more enjoyable than most elite sporting events. There are times when you want grim-faced determination, but there’s also room in this world for getting another pint so that you can be back in your seat in time to see a giraffe deck it while trying to plough through a ball pool.

Remember Tim Bresnan?

Of course you do. He played for England as recently as last month (against Ireland – what do you mean you don’t remember?). But do you remember what he was? You probably remember Tim Bresnan as a diligent and accurate third seamer, but once upon a time he was an all-rounder.

Maybe that’s generous. He was more accurately a lower order batsman who could make runs and when you see a 22-year-old like that, it’s natural to predict further improvement. However, the 2007 season in which he made three hundreds and averaged 48.5 remained a bizarre aberration until recently.

Having floated away from England’s Test team like a wiry-haired buoyancy aid, Bresnan had also sunk to number eight in Yorkshire’s batting line-up like a partially deflated wiry-haired buoyancy aid. It was from this position that he made 100 not out against Somerset last month – only the fourth first-class hundred of his career.

This week, he did it again, making 169 not out in a dementedly protracted partnership with Jonny Bairstow against Durham. At the age of 30, could Bresnan finally fulfil his promise and become an actual all-rounder?

We’re wishing him all the best – although not because he’s a loveable fatty, which is what you’ll no doubt assume. Now seems an appropriate time to restate our belief that he is no such thing and has in fact gained this reputation largely because of his abnormally round head. His big tree trunk arms may add to the impression as well, but he’s surprisingly fat-free. We have previously described him as being like a burly puma and cannot currently improve on that.

Glen Chapple is playing cricket and pretending he’s not great at it

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

So we’re calling him out on it.

For every Shivnarine Chanderpaul, trying to convince people he’s still got it at the age of 40, there’s a Glen Chapple, sidling into a coaching position and inexplicably trying to convince everyone that he hasn’t still got it.

Chapple’s not fooling anyone.

Playing against Gloucestershire, he’s not opened the bowling and he batted at eleven. He made 29 not out off 13 balls and we fully expect him to prove his worth with the ball later today.

Presumably, the thinking is some sort of misguided ‘give youth a chance’ thing. Bollocks. Youth has plenty of chances. The whole sport’s geared up towards youth. People are forever getting selected on promise and potential. Give middle-age a chance, we say.

None of this self-effacing last-into-bat, coming-on-second-change cobblers. Get stuck in. Whippersnappers are there to be spanked by wily old gnarldogs. That’s the natural order of things. Do what you are meant to do, Glen, and don’t stop doing it until you are either 100 per cent grey or 100 per cent bald.

You give youth a chance and you end up having to come to terms with names like Fynn Hudson-Prentice. What the hell is that? This is something worth fighting to hold at bay.

Leicestershire complete their sentence

At some point in 2013, Leicestershire were cut by the thunder. From then on, draws and losses appeared to be the only possible outcomes following four days of championship cricket. That’s a dispiriting world in which to live, sounding almost like something imposed on them by a judge.

However, the great thing about the County Championship is that you can end a run of 992 days without a win and immediately start talking about promotion to the top flight. Lewis Hill hit the winning runs to end Leicestershire’s extraordinary winless streak and then did precisely that.

It’s a way less forgiving environment than it used to be though. Back in the day you could have gone that long as the whipping boys for the other 17 first-class counties and still been in with a chance of winning the title the following year. Glorious redemption takes a little longer these days.

But has a baton been passed (and doubtless dropped)? The beaten side, Essex, are now bottom of the second division and haven’t won since the first match of the season. Start the clock!

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