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Last week’s County Championship news… today!

Suppose we should try and catch up. We’d left it so long we were thinking about doing a double round-up after the matches taking place at the minute, but then we thought about how long that article would end up being and decided we had to do some nettle grasping.

Middlesex didn’t play…

So Yorkshire clawed back some ground. They were playing Nottinghamshire, which apparently guarantees you a load of points these days. Despite being 51-6 in their first innings, they won by 305 runs. Andy Hodd and Azeem Rafiq – neither of whom are first-choice players – salvaged that innings and then Tim Bresnan and Jack Brooks hoovered up wickets either side of a Gary Ballance hundred. When the dust settled, Yorkshire were five points adrift of the leaders.

Surrey are still winning

It’s very unsettling. They were playing Lancashire, who appear to have undergone some sort of metamorphosis in the close season, from a competent bowling/inept batting side to a competent batting/ineffectual bowling side. Mark Footitt took seven in the second innings and might finally feel a bit better about leaving Derbyshire for Surrey.

Hampshire are second from bottom

Ahead of Nottinghamshire, but they did at least draw with Somerset. Sean Ervine hit a hundred in each innings, but the match was most notable for Roelof van der Merwe and Craig Overton putting on a couple of hundred run for Somerset’s ninth wicket.

Durham are third from bottom

But have a game in hand on Hampshire. They also drew. Jeetan Patel took five for Warwickshire in their first innings, but Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick made daddy fifties to deliver this season’s de rigueur rain-affected draw.

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Yeah, maybe worth taking a look at him in other formats

Alex Hales

Alex Hales (via YouTube)

Boundaries are smaller, the white ball does sod all, fielding restrictions are imposed. There are all sorts of reasons why one-day cricket is different from Tests, but all are of secondary importance to the simple fact that it is.

England’s quadruple nelson was built around a record hundred for Alex Hales which then set things up for a successful game of Stick Cricket for Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan. It’s interesting to note that these three batsmen are respectively: struggling, out-of-favour and outright rejected when it comes to the Test team.

It’s hard to avoid asking questions. How can they be so dominant in one-day cricket and yet struggle to keep their heads above water in Tests? Could Alex Hales not go out and play the same way and make 171 off 122 balls in the longer format? Why can’t Jos Buttler just play his natural game?

It bothers us that the formats are occasionally portrayed as being so different as to almost be separate sports. But at the same time, there are differences. We know this simply from the evidence above. Whether it’s the scrutiny, the ball, the constant self-questioning as to what ‘the right thing to do’ might be, a good one-day player does not necessarily make a good Test player.

So should we completely disregard one-day performances when attempting to gauge Test worth (and vice versa)? No, of course not. There is huge overlap too. All three of the one-day batsmen mentioned earlier have a tremendous eye, which is an asset in all forms – an entry requirement even. If they assess risk and reliably choose appropriate shots, they are well on their way to becoming successful Test cricketers. All three have had at least some Test success anyway.

So having argued ourself in circles, what exactly is our point here? We suppose it’s just a plea for people not to reach any kind of concrete conclusions about anyone ever. If a player can’t help but pepper the boundary in 50-over cricket, don’t cry ‘get him in the Test team!’ – but don’t dismiss his achievements as irrelevant either.

The campaign to persuade excited fans to say “yeah, maybe worth taking a look at him in other formats,” starts here.

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A quite possibly harrowing development involving a car number plate

Bert writes:

It’s been months now since The Revered One departed this plane of existence and ascended to the Sky (Sports studio). Such elevation cannot but affect a man, but I must say I had thought that Robert the Great would be immune, that he would be able to maintain his humbility and humilness. After all, that’s why he is worshipped across the land.

So it was with considerable shock and disappointment that I came across this car parked just outside Wembley last Saturday. Surely not, I thought. Surely this is some sort of joke. But there it was, parked right in front of me, challenging my denials with its stubborn existence.

Rob Key's car

There are other possibilities, of course. Maybe this was some other Key, Derek Key for instance, a sales executive from Tring. Maybe this was un homage from a committed Keyist. Maybe this was just a random set of letters and numbers that only coincidentally represents the lad Rob. But the likelihood of any of these being true is extremely small. It was just my shipwrecked imagination desperately clinging to some driftwood of hope that came up with these nonsenses.

No, I fear we must accept the truth, that Rob Key is the kind of person who has a Range Rover with a personalised registration on which he describes himself as Boss. In other words, a wanker.

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What Jason Gillespie taught us as Yorkshire coach

Jason Gillespie looking all serious at Scarborough (via Yorkshire CCC Twitter video)

Jason Gillespie looking all serious at Scarborough (via Yorkshire CCC Twitter video)

Jason Gillespie’s leaving Yorkshire at the end of the season. Disappointingly, he never picked up the accent.

We always thought that Gillespie would make a terrible coach on the grounds that he did a really bad job of explaining his nickname in a TV interview in about 2003.

He has turned out to be a brilliant coach. We have learned from this.

What we have learned, specifically, is that Jason Gillespie is a brilliant coach.

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A new low for cricket – a new low for the world

This represents so much of what’s wrong with the world.

You can’t even see the full horror from that. We saw it because it had been retweeted by Michael Vaughan.

‘Look, England’s cricketers like footy! They’re playing footy! They’re having pens!’

And just look at them all. Just look at their gleeful footy-playing faces. Just look at their footy-playing attire.

Jos Buttler has a cap on backwards. Other players are wearing hi-vis tabards – sponsored hi-vis tabards, no less.

For pens.

For footy.

If some dark-minded warlock felt moved to create the physical manifestation of ‘banter’, this would be it.

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Warwickshire v Middlesex match report

You may or may not know that the one quality we always look for in a piece of writing is brevity. If you have submitted a match report and seen it hacked to a skeleton, you will know this.

Ged has submitted countless match reports. We semi-regularly tell him to keep them short.

Last time we told Ged we like short writing, he responded by producing a 2,500 word report on a match between Warwickshire and Middlesex, told from four different perspectives.

To save innocent homepage visitors’ scrolling fingers, we have published it here.

Send your match reports to king@kingcricket.co.uk. If it’s a professional match, on no account mention the cricket itself. If it’s an amateur match, feel free to go into excruciating detail.

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The ins, outs and merits of England’s one-day plan

Liam Plunkett

It’s not an elaborate plan. It’s not particularly intricate. It is however consistent and that is perhaps of greater importance than anything else.

Previously, England seemed to pick 11 players before deciding how to play based on what they ended up with. This led to an ever-changing formula from which no-one really benefited (other than the opposition).

England’s current plan basically boils down to having a diverse bowling attack and plenty of batsmen. Whether that’s right or wrong, they’re sticking with it – which at least means the players know their places in the world.

Take Adil Rashid for example. England want a leg-spinner and he is the best available, so he can relax, knowing an imperfect match won’t see him dropped for Stuart Broad.

Pace bowlers like Broad and James Anderson are, in fact, accorded little value. They aren’t seen as two of England’s most successful bowlers so much as they’re seen as just two more right-arm fast-medium bowlers – one of the least valuable commodities in one-day cricket. The two of them aren’t being preserved for Test cricket. They’re being omitted from the one-day side because the one-day side doesn’t want them.

The point here is that while taken in isolation some of England’s decisions might seem odd, they make sense when you consider the overarching philosophy.

Pakistan are different. Pakistan change their team frequently, but there doesn’t seem to be a framework underpinning these decisions. In the first one-day international they included two slow left-arm all-rounders and omitted their leg-spinner. No-one was quite sure how this decision was arrived at. Nor does anyone have any confidence that they will both remain – including the players themselves.

If nothing else, the inclusion of both Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz (or as Cricinfo would have him “Mohammad Nawaz (3)”) smacked of a play-off. Whether that was true or not, that was surely how two near-new players would have taken it. This seems a cruel and ineffective way of gauging their worth.

For as long as the Pakistan plan revolves around selection of two slow left-arm all-rounders, Wasim and Nawaz (3) can be confident of their places in the side. Should one or the other of them have a poor game however, they can fully expect that grand strategy to change.

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Typical Pakistan: magnificent one day, diabolical the next (according to the format)

Pakistan have actually achieved an even more impressive feat than becoming the top-ranked Test side. It takes a particular kind of artistry to become the top-ranked Test side while also maintaining ninth position in the one-day rankings. Hats off.

So what’s the difference? An obvious answer would be ‘Misbah-ul-Haq and Younus Khan’ but the truth is Pakistan weren’t actually that good even before that pair retired from the format. Aside from two series against Zimbabwe, a 3-2 win against Sri Lanka last year is all they’ve really had to celebrate in 50-over cricket since beating the same side in 2013.

Not that they’ve played series against West Indies, India or South Africa in that time. Haven’t we had this conversation already?

Sticking with those unarguable arbiters of worth, the rankings, it’s interesting to look at Pakistan’s individual batsmen and bowlers too. Mohammad Hafeez is their highest-ranked one-day batsman in 22nd place, followed by Ahmed Shahzad in 35th and Azhar Ali in 49th.

Somewhat unexpectedly, their bowling rankings are just as bad. While Mohammad Irfan is 10th, next best is Wahab Riaz in 45th and Yasir Shah in 49th. Perhaps this is a product of the ever-changing nature of their attack and perhaps their overall underperformance results from this too. Perhaps underlining that, Irfan has been dropped for this series.

Umar Gul’s back though. People have been talking a lot about Pakistan defying stereotypes this summer, but bowlers don’t come much more Pakistani than Umar Gul. He’s played for Pakistan over 200 times and we still can’t work out whether he’s the world’s shittest fine bowler or the finest shit one.

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Pakistan are slightly number one

If there is one great benefit to the ongoing turmoil at the top of the ICC’s Test rankings, it is that it is slowly starting to dawn on people that rankings are relative. Top can mean ‘out on your own, everyone else trailing in your wake’ or it can mean ‘hurray, it rained in Port of Spain’.

Pakistan being top does at least provide a better narrative than any of the alternatives. These itinerant cricketers have had more to conquer, so their narrow superiority seems less offensive to the somewhat unhinged types liable to get upset about the rankings.

Unusually for the current cricket world, Misbah ul Haq’s Pakistan also seem to possess the capacity to learn. After arriving in England early, because they were hugely inexperienced in these conditions, they got to grips with how to go about things and drew the series. Similarly, a year ago, they turned a second Sri Lanka tour into an opportunity to make amends when it could so easily have ended up as more of the same.

Their 2014 tour saw Rangana Herath doing the Rangana Herath thing, plodding his way to 23 wickets in two Tests to take Sri Lanka to victory. “We’re not having that,” said Pakistan and second time around they allowed him just two wickets and he was dropped for the third Test.

Compared to other modern sides, Pakistan are unusually disposed to fighting back. Let’s say it’s something to do with being forged in adversity. If nothing else, that at least allows us to characterise Australia, England and India as pampered prima donnas in comparison – and who wouldn’t want to do that?

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What are they feeding them in Northamptonshire?

It must be very calorifically dense. Earlier in the year, we pointed out that Rory Kleinveldt’s nickname could never be Kleinsvelte, but the South African doesn’t appear to be an outlier. He plays in a muscular-yet-flabby team that appears to be getting most its protein from pork belly and fried chicken.

But great weight is better able to carry that most vital of all cricket commodities – momentum. Despite the efforts of the frequently-mentioned-on-this-website-this-season Keaton Jennings, they swanned to the T20 Blast title with aplomb. Shit trophy though. Seeing Alex Wakely hold aloft a big metal Natwest logo seemed odd in the extreme.

We missed much of the final. Our abiding memory of Finals Day will therefore be the contribution of Durham’s Mark Wood in the semi-final against Yorkshire. Joe Root – a handy batsman – was beaten multiple times, while his England colleagues Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance were both comprehensively dismissed.

Northamptonshire aren’t afraid of Wood fire though. Anything but. All it did was encourage them to think of their victory pizzas.

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