County cricket news
Scan the homepage of this website and you could easily reach some incorrect conclusions. The post about Alastair Cook has attracted 50-odd comments, so presumably that’s a hot topic, right? Not really. The vast majority are about Lancashire v Middlesex, a relegation dogfight (involving different breeds) which seems to be capturing the imagination.
Humans are prone to perceiving events as if they’re stories and from that perspective the 110th over of Lancashire’s first innings would seem to have been crucial to the narrative. With seven runs needed off it to preserve first division status for at least another day, the mighty Glen Chapple slogged a six and then wangled three more off the next ball.
It was the moment when the protagonist is down and almost out and the fact that our hero lived to fight another day surely means the story must now culminate in triumph. Except that’s not really the case. Like one of those foreign language films about a goat herder that you record on the basis that it’s supposed to be really good, but never actually watch because it also seems massively depressing, this final chapter of the 2014 season could just as easily end up describing a very slow demise.46 Appeals
Lancashire started their must-win-by-a-mile match quite well, but James Harris and Ravi Patel secured a batting bonus point for Middlesex which means we now have a clearer idea of exactly what each team needs to do to survive.
Lancashire need to either score 350, or declare with fewer than eight wickets down for a score of over 300 thus denying Middlesex a bowling point. All Middlesex need to do is bowl at Lancashire until they’re inevitably all out for under 300 because they can’t bat.
In theory, Lancashire could also declare for a score of between 250 and 299 with fewer than five wickets down, but that would be picked up by the ECB’s declaration monitor who has been dispatched to the ground for precisely this reason.
Genuinely. We’re not making that up. You can’t declare with the intention of denying the opposition bonus points, even if it might help you avoid relegation. Bonus points are mental.28 Appeals
You know what we’re doing with that headline, right? That’s your theme for the week. Every time your mind idles, hopefully that’ll be what rises to fill the void. You’re welcome.
There’s basically just one thing left to play for in the first division of the County Championship and that’s ‘being in the first division of the County Championship’. Lancashire and Middlesex are the two teams involved in this unseemly squabble and they’re playing each other.
It’s not a ‘winner takes all’ scenario though. The winner might still get relegated. Lancashire need to absolutely hammer Middlesex to stay up. Captain, coach and opening bowler, Glen Chapple, gave a sense of the likelihood of success with this rabble-rousing speech:
“It’s a chance for us to escape, I suppose.”
Lancashire’s chances are further diminished by player availability. If James Anderson’s absence is matched by Steven Finn’s, they will also miss Tom Smith, their top wicket-taker and third-highest run-scorer. Usman Khawaja is also missing and if they’ve been able to draft in Junaid Khan to replace him then bowling isn’t exactly the problem at Old Trafford.
We feel like we’ve been writing about Lancashire’s batting for most of the season, but it’s actually worse than that. Here’s something we wrote in 2008, the last time Lancashire were relegated.
To sum up that piece: Paul Horton, Steven Croft and papering over the cracks with overseas players and imports. Now here are Lancashire’s first-class centurions in 2014:
- Ashwell Prince – three
- Paul Horton – two
- Steven Croft – two
- Usman Khawaja – one
- Jos Buttler – one
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, as they say in Bolton.14 Appeals
The final of the domestic 50-over competition is an odd thing. It took place yesterday, in late September – a fortnight after the semi-finals, three weeks after the quarter finals and a month after the main bit of the tournament. You can see why it works that way, but with the days shortening, it feels a bit like it fizzles out rather than building to a climax.
Durham won and for all the talk of modern scoring rates, it was another low-scoring affair. A party can’t always be dancing and laughter. Sometimes, if it’s your party, it’s more about doing an awful lot of laborious housework. Or, if it’s our party, it’s an oud bruin and a high quality motion picture starring Rowdy Roddy Piper. (Has he ever starred in a substandard film? Not to our knowledge.) Not sure what our parties translate to in this analogy. Probably something Duckworth-Lewis affected.
Yesterday, Ben Stokes drew most of the headlines for taking a couple of wickets and making 38 not out, but it’s been Paul Collingwood who’s been the star of Durham’s campaign. He finishes the competition among the top ten run-scorers and the top ten wicket-takers. He scored 427 runs at 53.37 at over a run-a-ball and took 14 wickets at 22.85 at less than four-an-over. We’ll resist the temptation to write another 5,000 words on him, but suffice to say he’s still underrated and always will be.10 Appeals
The Champions League is on. We managed to watch half of one innings, but it’s such a stupid, managed tournament, it isn’t really sport in any meaningful sense, so it’s back to county cricket.
First-class but second-rate
In these triple-format days, is first-class status as meaningful as it once was? We ask because Leicestershire have now gone two full years without winning a single match in the County Championship and it reminded us of something we read in WG Grace’s Classic Guide to Cricket.
Apparently, in 1890, it was suggested that county cricket be divided into first, second and third classes with eight teams in each. This struck us as being not at all a bad idea – an extension of the current league system, in effect. It would allow minor counties a route to progress and would also motivate those struggling in the second tier who at present basically find themselves playing for nothing.
At the minute, poorer counties seem aghast that they might lose their first-class status, but perhaps if it were a more fluid thing, it wouldn’t seem such a cataclysmic event. The blow would be further lessened if they were still involved in 20- and 50-over competitions, which could perhaps be expanded so that minor counties could also qualify for them.
If you’re wondering how things panned out in Grace’s day…
“The scheme of classification did not give general satisfaction, and a newspaper warfare was kept up for some time afterwards.”
We imagine it would be much the same outcome today.
Second division but Test class
How’s Cheteshwar Pujara getting on playing for Derbyshire, you ask? Not enormously well. In three innings, Pujara has made 7, 0 and 16.
You wonder how much he’ll really learn without spending meaningful time in the middle. Fortunately, he gets to bat against Leicestershire next week.20 Appeals
Not one of ours, unfortunately. It’s by Cricinfo’s David Hopps – a Yorkshireman hisself.
“Their first Championship win for 13 years is a lesson to English cricket, based as it is on a strong commitment to player development – among all ethnic groups, and extending beyond the privileged classes.”
Which is precisely why, even as a Lancashire supporter, we see it as a win to be celebrated rather than resented.14 Appeals
The Pennines have long separated good from bad, but there’s been an odd inversion in county cricket this year.
White Rose good
Nottinghamshire were the only team who could have prevented Yorkshire from winning the County Championship. Being as Yorkshire are positively monstering them with just one more game to go, the title is basically theirs. The flat-capped monophthong favourers made 532-9, which was already enough even before they reduced Notts to not-many-for-six.
Considering they’ve spent most of the summer without their two best batsmen, Yorkshire have batted well this year. Adam Lyth has scored way more runs than anyone else, continuing a rich tradition whereby players we suggest you watch finally come good many years after we’ve tipped them. His alphabet-straddling opening partner, AZ Lees has also averaged over 40, meaning Yorkshire have frequently benefited from strong starts.
Red Rose bad
Lancashire, however – their batting has not been so crash-hot. Here are Yorkshire’s batting averages for this season and here are Lancashire’s. Compare and contrast. Then weep softly for a bit. Then imagine what Lancashire’s would be like without the two overseas imports. Then bawl uncontrollably for a bit.
Lancashire’s 320 all out against Sussex in their current fixture doesn’t sound so bad until you realise that they were 192-8. Sussex should top 400 which should pretty much relegate Lancs. Frankly, they deserve it. They’ve batted badly for years now with few signs that anything might improve.
Kemar Roach then?
He took 4-64 as West Indies beat Bangladesh. He also said things on Twitter, which we’ve included in our latest Cricinfo round-up. Roach comes across as being… an interesting chap.23 Appeals
Cities disappear in the summer. Winter has cities, summer has counties – or at least that’s the way it used to be. Now Birmingham have won a cricket tournament and we don’t know where we are. The weather has been unseasonably cool this last week. Even the climate’s confused.
Our viewing of Twenty20 finals day was limited to some of Lancashire’s semi-final, so we asked an entirely impartial and not-at-all fictional friend what went wrong for the Red Rose in the final. They said that Birmingham cheated.
We’re nothing if not conscientious when it comes to establishing facts. We know that one person’s word doesn’t amount to proof, so we asked a second friend whether this was true. They said: “Yes, it’s true, Birmingham cheated. They cheated really badly.”
It’s a sad day for cricket.9 Appeals
Most people’s knowledge of Simon Kerrigan’s bowling amounts to eight overs on his debut. That’s not a huge amount to go off and those overs too in circumstances that can be considered exceptional and therefore perhaps not properly representative of his ability. On the other hand, he still has to get past that.
Test cricket can be like a bike race that starts with a steep hill. You can have a five grand time trial bike and one of those ridiculous sperm-shaped helmets, but unless you’ve got low enough gears to start off in, you’ll never get moving in the first place. Some kid on a mountain bike will spin past you and make you look like a fool. Mountain bike kid might only do 10mph and be disqualified for getting in people’s way, but at least he got going.
If we were Simon Kerrigan, we’d want to be damn certain we had it in us to survive in Test cricket right now this minute. He is 25, he will get another chance – but he is unlikely to get two. Would you want your final chance at Test cricket to come not long after your first when you’re only 80 per cent certain you’ve overcome what went wrong first time around, or would you rather wait until some point in the future when you’re positively insulted that you’ve not yet been selected because you know – just know – that you’re the best spinner going?
We suppose that later chance might never come. Hopefully that rear sprocket’s large enough.27 Appeals
After whipping the first division’s whipping boys, Northamptonshire, with their whipping boy whipping whip, Middlesex are now 19 points ahead of Yorkshire and 22 ahead of Sussex, both of whom have a game in hand. Yorkshire would need to win to go top. Sussex would need to really, really handsomely win to do so.
Yorkshire’s next match is against Lancashire, so all they really need to do is bat competently and the rest should take care of itself. Sussex’s next match is against Middlesex, so they won’t go top, but nor will they lose that game in hand.
A lot of Middlesex’s success thus far has been built on the work done by their openers. This is great news for England, in that Sam Robson is averaging about 50. However, it’s bad news for England, in that his opening partner, Chris Rogers, is averaging almost 50 per cent more and scoring almost 50 per cent quicker as well. Rogers even treated himself to a six at one point.6 Appeals