Category: County cricket news (page 1 of 47)

“The other 10 balls will add a fresh tactical dimension”

 

T20 Blast Finals Day (ECB)

Of all the very many sizeable questions that arise from the ECB’s plan to introduce a new 100-ball format to cricket, the biggest one is surely this: how did they decide who had to have the “fresh tactical dimension” quote attributed to them?

To quickly bring you up to speed, the 100-ball format is designed to be a “unique selling point” (or as Stuart Broad put it “a slightly different unique selling point”). Because of that necessary uniqueness, it can’t be broken down into five-ball overs because then it would still be 20 overs a side. Nor can it be broken down into six-ball overs because of maths.

How do you resolve a knotty little problem like this? The ingenious solution – which everyone involved must have listened to, comprehended, and then agreed was definitely excellent and appropriate – is to have 15 six-ball overs and then a 10-ball over to finish.

This 10-ball over sticks out a bit, doesn’t it? Maybe you could brand it and make a big deal of it. We’d brand it The LeftOver. The ECB went with a subtler approach. They decided that it would add a fresh tactical dimension.

This is a pretty transparent attempt to make the best of things having already invested a great deal of time and having had a great many meetings about your brilliant new 100-ball format. Clearly, the ECB were beyond the point of turning back.

The organisation backed itself into a 10-ball over corner and “fresh tactical dimension” was the best weapon it could lay its hands on to fight off criticism. Someone had to say those words. Publicly. No-one would have wanted to, but someone had to.

Did they draw straws? Did they put names in a hat? Did the top execs pull rank? We’ll never know. All we know is that ECB Chief Commercial Officer, Sanjay Patel, commented: “The other 10 balls will add a fresh tactical dimension.”

Poor ECB chief commercial officer, Sanjay Patel.

ECB chief commercial officer, Sanjay Patel will be the managing director of the new competition. You have to assume they gave him the job and a few extra quid to try and make up for the embarrassment of having his name associated with the fresh tactical dimension quote.


Olly Stone is who we’re talking about this week

Olly Stone bounces Luke Wright (via ECB)

Warwickshire’s Olly Stone bowled a bouncer and on the strength of that became the county player everyone’s talking about this week.

In the 18th over, Stone dismissed Luke Wells and then the very next ball he bounced out Luke Wright. If you play for Sussex and you are a Luke W, maybe try and avoid facing Olly Stone if at all possible.

The Wright bouncer was one of those “argh, avoid it – oh no, I’ve hit it while trying to avoid it” dismissals, which is very satisfying because the bowler has made the batsman both frightened and out, meaning the victim is doubly humiliated. It is also encouraging when England are looking for some slightly quicker bowlers.

After the third day’s play, Sussex’s Michael Burgess said: “Olly Stone bowled quite quickly and well.”

This seems relatively fulsome praise considering his team still had four wickets left at that time and he probably didn’t much want to motivate Stone any further, being as he’d already taken the first six (he finished with 8-80).

Encouraging the notion that Stone might be able to do some of the main things you want a bowler to do in cricket, Burgess added: “They just had one of those spells where we seemed to keep nicking them and they seemed to keep catching them.”

Without recent speed gun data, it’s hard to know whether Stone is officially fast or just a ‘brisk’ bowler who was having a delightful day. For what it’s worth, his Cricinfo profile page says that he bowled “in excess of 92mph” last year, which by our reckoning means he has previously bowled at least one ball at 93mph.

Further cause for optimism comes in the fact that Stone missed near enough two years of cricket thanks to an injury sustained while celebrating a wicket. That elite level of injury-proneness is the mark of a true fast bowler.

“He needs to learn to go through the gears and not bowl 100 per cent all the time,” said Stone’s captain Jeetan Patel, who appears to know a thing or two about the nature of county cricket.


I Don’t Like Cricket, I Hate It – the county cricket and crying Aussies edition

A semi-regular feature in which we ask a fella going by the name of Prince Prefab about cricket – even though he hates cricket. We are in bold. Prince Prefab is not.

King Cricket: We’re speaking now on the eve of the County Championship and I am all the way excited to hear how this competition impacts on your life.

It does not. Unless there are crying Australians I’m not interested. Although I do love counties. I like to look at maps of the counties. Might get a county map and get it framed.

It literally has zero impact?

I’ve honestly never given it a single thought. Probably thought about badminton more. And I’ve never thought about badminton.

The only thing I know about county cricket (and I suspect that it probably isn’t the case any more) is that Yorkshire are the only team to have players only born in Yorkshire play for them. Was that ever the case?

That was the case until not quite as long ago as you’d probably imagine. Okay, let’s talk about crying Australians then. How did that whole thing seem to you, viewed from your position ‘outside cricket’?

Brilliant. Great fun. A right laugh. Didn’t understand the crying. I’ll cry at anything; I’ve cried at a wedding in Neighbours but if I intentionally set out to do something and then got caught doing it and then decided to apologise for doing it, I don’t reckon I’d cry.

Also, why was that lad’s dad there when he was saying sorry and crying? I reckon 12 is the cut off point for having your dad with you when you’ve fucked up.

We should probably try and pin that down actually. Here in the UK, 12 means high school for most people – maybe the first year, maybe the second. We need to imagine a high school scenario where you’re in pretty major trouble for dishonesty to work out whether or not it still makes sense to have your dad there for the apology.

Well, for context, (although this is not about dishonesty) I was about ten, playing football in the street with my dad. I was taking a penalty against our neighbour’s drive and he was in goal and I scored an amazing goal but the ball kept rising and smashed our neighbour’s garage window. Now, bearing in mind it was my dad’s fault for letting the ball get past him, and I was TEN, he ran inside and made me go and knock on the neighbour’s door, show them the damage and apologise. He watched this from behind our curtains. That, I believe, is proper parenting.

So what you’re saying is that by the age of ten, your dad felt it was absolutely legitimate for you to face the music alone? I think that’s only part-way conclusive though because maybe his involvement influenced that decision. Would it be fair to say that if he hadn’t been in nets, he might have accompanied you for the apology? (By the way, our favourite detail in this story is that he felt it necessary to return home at speed.)

Yeah he legged it. You know what, I’ve changed my mind. If you want your dad there, fine. Quite touching in a way. This isn’t about masculinity, this isn’t about being strong, burying emotion; like I said I love a good cry. Men should cry, it does you good to have a cry now and again, but I don’t understand what the tears were for here. In fact I don’t understand the whole thing. Cheating in front of 20 cameras. What did they think would happen?

Well this is the thing. Some feel that maybe they were up to lower-grade no-good previously or were up to the exact same sort of no-good but had previously managed to avoid being detected. We’re of the opinion that even if they’d never done this exact thing before, it would be weird if the sandpapering were an absolute outlier.

We suppose the crying was a moment of clarity. Kind of: “We lost sight of the bigger picture and now we see how annoyed everyone is, we kind of feel bad for letting everyone down.” Does that ring true?

Yeah, I can see that. Also, I’m not saying it wasn’t intense. The whole world laughing at you, accusing you, your prime minister’s having a go – bet it was horrible. I mean, even I was interested and as you know, I have no interest in cricket.

This seems like a bit of a non-sequitur at this point in the conversation, but you say that I have to ask you this. Which is the worst county?

Cheshire.


Who will initially be named as a County Championship title contender but actually end up getting relegated?

Essex celebrate 2017 survival (via ECB)

The first week of the County Championship is a great time for predictions. We’ve gone through a whole bunch of previews to pick out the three teams who have most often been mentioned as favourites this year and we’re now going to try and predict which of those favourites will actually end up getting relegated.

This is an odd feature of county cricket. For some reason teams’ performances vary enormously from year to year. Twice in recent memory the champions have been relegated the following season (Lancashire in 2012, Middlesex last year).

Who will it be this year?

Essex

Essex are reigning champions but it still isn’t all that easy to work out how they ever manage to win a game. Thanks largely to Jamie Porter, Simon Harmer and Neil Wagner, they are favourites to win the Championship (which to be honest only compounds the feeling that they absolutely won’t).

Surprise relegation rating: All but guaranteed to go down.

Lancashire

Lancashire have form in being relegated when no-one really expects them to be relegated. They have also strengthened their team over the winter by signing a couple of Durham’s best players (Keaton Jennings and Graham Onions), which would make relegation even more of a surprise and therefore even more likely. Throw in the fact that we support them and things really don’t look good. (We’d also like to point out that Shivnarine Chanderpaul will play for Lancashire again this season, encouraging the notion that he’s just going to carry on playing cricket until his age meets his batting average.)

Surprise relegation rating: Highly likely to go down.

Surrey

Surrey seasons are now routinely split into two or three phases. The first phase is when they’re talked up as potential champions, overrated young talent and big name old-timers having encouraged the notion that the county is ‘back’. The second phase is when an equally unjustifiable number of columns discuss why the things predicted in phase one haven’t actually happened. Phase three, if it happens, coincides with a late season resurgence as the county narrowly avoids relegation and in terms of media coverage is basically the same as phase one. In terms of playing staff, Kumar Sangakkara has sauntered off and Morne Morkel has turned up to wonder why the hell they need a seam bowler like him for all these nibbly green Championship pitches.

Surprise relegation rating: Pretty likely to go down.

Conclusion

All three favourites, simply by dint of being favourites, are in with a very good chance of being relegated – but county cricket being county cricket, the very fact that we’ve now weighed up the likelihood and made a prediction probably means that none of them will be relegated.

Additional conclusion

The County Championship is mental.


Two reasons why squad rotation in county cricket is a very bad thing

Ravi Patel (via County Championship Twitter)

County cricket doesn’t get enough media coverage that it can get away with resting players. That’s the two-second version of the point I’m making over at Wisden.

Whether they say as much or not, counties rotate their squads. There are two problems with this.

1. It makes teams shitter

There are currently too many matches for a county to have its best XI playing at its best every game. Players need time off and when the best players are given time off, the matches they miss become of a lower standard. Cricket also has few big names and pitting eleven blokes no-one’s heard of against eleven other blokes no-one’s heard of doesn’t help win people over.

2. Players end up specialising

The triple format nature of cricket means that in practice player rotation tends to equate to specialisation, whether the player wants to do so or not. There is already far too much of this shit. Enough.

Conclusion

There should be way fewer county matches such that it becomes physically possible to play and perform in every match in every format.

You can read a longer, better-argued version of this here.

 


Reece Topley postpones overuse injury for a year

Reece Topley (CC licnsed by Kyle Andrews via Wikimedia)

Reece Topley’s not going to play first-class cricket this year. He’s been injured a lot – stress fractures mostly – so Hampshire asked the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) what they should do.

The ECB pretty much said that there’s altogether too much domestic cricket for a pace bowler recovering from serious injury to get through, so maybe pare back his workload a bit. It’s not entirely clear why they gave the impression that the injury is what tipped the balance.

Topley will play white ball cricket this year and then, all being well, will try and suffer another stress fracture next year upon his return to first-class cricket.


Alex Hales is not ‘turning his back’ on Test or first-class cricket

Alex Hales (Channel 5)

Not least because he isn’t currently a Test cricketer. But that’s not really our point.

Imagine you have three important things to do today, but you’re kind of pressed for time. If you’re anything like us, you’ll favour the ingenious solution of doing a really half-arsed job on all three. Other people are different. Some might decide to do two things reasonably well and totally sack off the third.

This is Alex Hales’ view. He could spend half the summer driving around the UK to play four-day matches in front of very few people, but it would mean less time to practise one-day batting and also less rest. It is, in short, not his top priority.

Playing in the County Championship might even be a distraction. The more watchful approach and different footwork employed in first-class cricket might actually hamper his short format game.

So why bother playing it? Because he might get another shot at Test cricket? You’re pitting might-play-Test-cricket against almost-certainly-will-play-World-Cup there.

Alex Hales is not turning his back on first-class cricket because it is not about first-class cricket. First-class cricket is collateral damage. Alex Hales is actively focusing on the shorter formats. He is being professional.

More on this topic in our post about Adil Rashid’s identical decision last week.


Why is Adil Rashid giving up first-class cricket and becoming a white ball specialist?

ICC

Because he’s pressed for time.

Adil Rashid has signed a white-ball only contract with Yorkshire for the 2018 season. Some will say he’s looking to become a short format specialist because it’ll allow him to buy a bigger car or house or whatever, but that’s missing the point.

The point is that Rashid is not going to play Test cricket under England’s current captain. He is however going to play 20- and 50-over cricket under Eoin Morgan and so the 2019 World Cup is his overwhelming focus.

There is only so much time to hone his one-day game before then and adequate rest is likely to prove far more important than fiddling around with a red ball, bowling in a different way to different fields.

The margins are fine in international cricket. A player with 100 per cent focus on a particular goal is likely to do better than one with 90 per cent focus on it.

It’s not greed. It’s professionalism. We spelled it out with Mark Wood as the example last week. The IPL and England one-dayers take precedence over first-class cricket for anyone likely to make England’s 2019 World Cup squad.

Another example

This month’s Wisden Cricket Monthly features an interview with Jason Roy in which he says he’s “ready” to play Test cricket.

He’s wrong, but only in the sense that you can only really perfect something if you actually practise it. Seven first-class innings between September 2016 and July 2018 will not amount to much practice.

Given a bit more experience, a bit more game-time, a few more hours instilling the decision-making that is such a key part of long format batting, Roy would surely make the grade as a Test cricketer.

So would Jos Buttler. So would Alex Hales. All those who dismiss these players as one-day specialists miss what they could become were they playing in a different environment.

The ECB doesn’t care

The ECB doesn’t give a shit. The England and Wales Cricket Board is happy to sacrifice these players’ long format opportunities because it means they’ll be fully-focused on the 2019 World Cup and the 2019 World Cup is The Big Thing right now. Everything else is secondary.

As far as the ECB’s concerned, the players are just ‘human resources’. If you play for England’s 50-over side and you want a more diverse career, you’re going to have to find a way of fighting for that yourself – but don’t come crying to the ECB if someone wholly committed to one-day cricket leapfrogs you.

This is modern cricket

The weighting towards short format cricket is particularly acute in England right now due to the home World Cup looming on the horizon, but this is still the fundamental situation throughout the world at all times. The fixture list is sufficiently congested that tough decisions have to be made and nine times out of ten first-class cricket will come out on the wrong side. A major consequence of that is that Test cricket also loses out.

Many will feel that nations are still putting out their best Test teams, but they are only putting out what’s best when viewed from a single moment in time when many of the country’s most talented players have already been reluctantly siphoned off into mono- or bi-format careers.

The benefit of first-class cricket for short format ‘specialists’

As a slightly less bleak conclusion to this article, we’d like to put forward a notion that could see the odd high profile cricketer actively seek out first-class cricket to improve their game. That notion is base training.

Four-day cricket offers a lot of game time. It offers hours at the crease and overs bowled and surely helps players groove their game in a less pressured environment. In that Wisden Cricket Monthly article, Roy says that his few games for Surrey last year helped him regain rhythm. Perhaps left to lash out in short format purgatory, that rhythm never would have returned.

It’s sometimes said that there are three main variables involved in training. The first two – frequency and intensity – are easy enough to find in short format cricket. Who knows, Adil Rashid may find himself wanting when it comes to the third one – volume.


Who is Tom Helm?

Tom Helm dismissing someone-or-other at some point (via Twitter)

We experienced a delightful nostalgic moment earlier this week when we read that Tom Helm had narrowly lost out to Tom Curran for an Ashes call-up.

“Who’s Tom Helm?” we thought.

We knew the name, we knew he was a bowler, but it’s been a long, long time since we had so little information at our disposal about a cricketer who was reportedly ‘knocking on the door’ for England selection.

We’ve been writing this site for over a decade now and throughout that time we’ve generally been on top of these things. This year, a family expansion has left us rather more out of the loop than normal, but that only seems to be part of the story.

Helm really does seems to have been residing wherever the hell leftfield is (on the left, we suppose – unless you turn round and face the other way).

He was named in at least a couple of narrowly-missed-out-on-selection articles earlier in the week, but even they emphasised that he didn’t actually play much first-class cricket this year and didn’t do anything too spectacular when he did appear. So how exactly did he make this leap from being unknown to being written about as a likely Ashes squad addition? There’s a full next-cab-off-the-rank interview over at Cricinfo today.

Presumably the cricket media’s been given a steer and presumably we’re no longer a functioning part of that (or maybe we should check our junk mail for press releases).

Anyway, the long and short of it in cliché form is…

  • 6ft4in
  • Insistent line
  • Lively pace

We actually made up the last one, but if a seamer doesn’t demand comment about their bowling speed one way or the other, you can safely commit to ‘lively’.

Ashes selection, if it happens, would be above and beyond what he was aiming for this year. “It was my first full season and I was over the moon to get out the end without being in a cast of some sort.”


We should probably mention Middlesex being relegated

Trescothick knee-catching the SS Eskinazi (via YouTube)

In a way, Middlesex were unlucky to be relegated as they only finished two points off fourth place. In another way, they weren’t unlucky because Somerset, Hampshire and Yorkshire all finished with more points than they did, which is kind of the aim of this whole endeavour.

As title defences go, it was poor; worse even than Lancashire’s relegatory 2012 because they could at least point to almost equally bad batting the year before.

Middlesex and Warwickshire will next season be replaced by Worcestershire (somewhat surprisingly) and Nottinghamshire (far less surprisingly) in the first division of the County Championship.

Notts have certainly waved goodbye to the raw-deal-getting Chris Read in fine style having also won both limited overs competitions in 2017.


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