Category: County cricket news (page 1 of 46)

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.

Where are your ‘bad pitch’ thresholds?

Cricket pitch (CC licensed by peter lowe via Flickr)

What is a bad pitch? We can get some sort of an idea by working out what we deem to be a good pitch – but there’s more to it than that.

Most people will say a pitch is bad when wickets fall too easily. When a pitch gives too much assistance to bowlers and batting becomes a bit of a lottery, that’s a bad pitch.

But where’s your threshold? And is it the same for pitches that aid quick bowlers and those that aid spinners?

Now the obvious point to make at this juncture is that turning pitches will often (but not always) turn more as a game wears on, whereas a seaming pitch is probably more likely to flatten out – so they are different.

But set that aside, because the point we’re making is really just that we impose different standards and that these standards will vary from person to person. There is no universally agreed definition of a bad pitch that will be applied by everyone in exactly the same way.

As we implied earlier in the week, we believe much of the angry hoo-ha about turning pitches is down to people’s perceptions of normality. In England, seam bowling is commonplace and so becomes a major aspect of many county cricket fans’ internal templates for how things should be.

This is what explains the bizarre level of anger that is sometimes directed towards counties who prepare turning pitches. It is a bunch of people with a skewed template of normality struggling to accommodate reality. These people’s response is generally a heartfelt desire to impose their idiosyncratic standards on the world in the firm belief that everyone else’s take on things is wrong.

So this is another reason why the bad pitch debate can at times become surprisingly heated. It tends to pit insularity, parochialism and lack of self-awareness against a bunch of people who like to define themselves otherwise. It is an unusually fundamental disagreement for something seemingly so trivial.

Spin bowling is abnormal – ask any county cricket supporter

Ravi Patel (via County Championship Twitter)

In England, spin academies aren’t so much schools of excellence as institutions built to keep the weirdos away from the normals. Seam bowling is normal; not to be remarked upon. Spin bowling is other.

If people see a lot of something, they become conditioned into thinking it’s the default. So it is with county cricket supporters and seam bowlers. The English and Welsh domestic game is built around earnest fast-medium trundlery such that no-one really bats an eyelid should a team be seamed out for 76 – but spin a team out for 236 on day one and people will begin revving their grumble machines, aiming to hit a screeching pitch by the end of day two.

Somerset need to beat Middlesex and have bonus points go their way to be in with a shout of staying in the first division of the County Championship. They are playing on a pitch on which this could happen. Middlesex are playing on the same pitch and have complained that this is unfair. Well what is a good pitch anyway?

Domestic first-class cricket pretty much steps aside for the peak of the summer these days. Consigned to the damper pitches of spring and autumn, seam bowling has taken on even greater importance. Perceptions of normality have therefore skewed even further in that direction and tolerance has dropped. “Get back to foreignland, you weirdo spin types! That’s not the way things are supposed to be here in Blighty.”

Throw in a few batsmen who’ve forgotten how to face a turning ball – or who never knew in the first place – and you’ve a wonderful recipe for skittlery garnished with outrage. This nation is not short of people with faulty templates for the world telling everyone how things should be. All the rest of us can really do is try and enjoy it to the full when reality once again disappoints them.

So the County Championship’s over then

Essex take the field (via Twitter)

Honestly, you take the trouble to inform people how things stand in the County Championship and the damn thing only goes and gets itself decided five minutes later.

Essex won their match by an innings and let’s not bother getting too mathematical about what Lancashire would need to do to to draw out what is clearly inevitable. Let’s face it. Essex are going to win.

After the first round of matches, we said we couldn’t see them winning many games this year. “They don’t seem to have enough bowlers,” was our reasoning.

After two matches, we revised this view. “At some point Essex’s wafer thin attack is going to be too knackered to achieve anything. We’re adamant about this.”

By the end of May, we were saying: “We may have to stop thinking of Essex as being inked in for relegation what with their currently being top of the table and all.”

They’ve pretty much stayed there every since.

We still think they’ve got a wafer thin attack, but it is apparently a very robust wafer and rather more effective than we knew.

Jamie Porter was the big surprise to us – he has taken 64 wickets at 17.85. Simon Harmer has also done way better than expected and has picked up 63 wickets at 20.19.

Lancashire will doubtless be wishing that they’d managed to retain the services of The Great Neil Wagner as he is Essex’s next highest wicket-taker with 24 (albeit at 41.37). His locum, Mohammad Amir, took 14 wickets in three matches at 13.50.

Who else? Um, Ravi Bopara has 12 wickets at 40, some fella called Samuel Cook took six wickets – as did Matthew Quinn and Aaron Beard – while a bunch of people have taken three.

It’s hard to avoid the feeling that Essex have won the County Championship with half a bowling attack.

The moral of the story is that if you’re going to rely on two bowlers, make sure they’re bloody effective and just hope to hell that neither of them gets injured.

What in the name of all that is good and pure is going on in the County Championship?

Nice bit of SEO there. Anyone searching “what in the name of all that is good and pure is going on in the County Championship” is now highly likely to end up on this page. In your face, Google algorithm. [Watches the ad revenue roll in.]

Yes, it’s the time of year when we all return our gaze to the County Championship having been momentarily distracted by Test matches, holidays and the like. Many people will be finding themselves asking “so what the hell’s going on then?”

Yes, what the hell IS going on?

There are three matches to go, including the ones currently underway.

Essex have a bit of a buffer over Lancashire in that they could go wholly pointless in one match and still remain top of the table. Hampshire are another good chunk further behind in third.

At the bum end of the table, Warwickshire haven’t yet hit triple figures. Two teams will go down.

Is that table above accurate?

No. It’s out of date. We think it’s from just before the latest round of matches.

Actually, we screengrabbed it midway through the afternoon session. We don’t imagine they’d have updated it with bonus points from the latest round of matches, but you never know.

Any big matches to watch out for?

Essex are currently playing Warwickshire in a head v bum match. Somerset are playing Lancashire in a similar sort of match that doesn’t lend itself to anatomy in quite the same way.

Other than that, no match is obviously more important than any other, which actually means that most have something riding on them.

Any players to watch out for?

We went with these guys earlier in the season.

If we’re talking about those who’ve helped their team to near the top of the table, little-known young bucks Alastair Cook and Shivnarine Chanderpaul have been making plenty of runs. (We presume Cook will play another couple of games for Essex.)

Bowling-wise, Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer – both of Essex – are the top wicket takers, while Ryan McLaren has been doing the heavy lifting for Lancashire.

Oh, and Neil Wagner’s back is back for Essex, along with the rest of him.

Anything else?

No, not really.

So why did you go to the trouble of including the subheading?

Don’t know.

Haseeb Hameed might carry his bat

England are still very much in the market for a Test opener, you feel. Mark Stoneman is making a fist of things, but they’d quite like another top order batsman or two to take to Australia.

At the time of writing, Lancashire are four wickets down but Haseeb Hameed is still holding firm. We wouldn’t bet against him carrying his bat – although neither would we put much money on him breaching 20 even if he manages it.

When Shivnarine Chanderpaul makes 23 of the runs in a 24-run partnership, you can be fairly certain that the guy at the other end hasn’t really been looking to impose himself on the bowlers.

Doubtless this is the right approach though. Haseeb Hameed is not a blocker, so if he’s playing that way then it’s surely for very good reason.

2017 Twenty20 Finals Day – most of the story in scorecards

Notts win T20 Blast (via ECB)

We rather love Twenty20 finals day, which has always seemed to strike a good balance between elite sport and village fete.

A lot of short format competitions seem to be striving for the po-faced tribalism of football, but the annual climax of the original has always erred on the side of fun. It’s a day-long festival centred on cricket. There are worse things in the world. Like AIDS.

You probably didn’t need an example.

We only managed to follow this year’s edition via the intermittent checking of scorecards. In a world of video clips, Twitter and live blogs, it was a refreshing experience. There’s something to be said for telling the story to yourself based wholly on a bunch of numbers.

We see Samit Patel did well, which is never a bad thing, and so did Steven Mullaney. We’re afraid that no matter what he does in his career, the latter will always be the guy whose mum’s his biggest supporter.

We’re also aware that the Natwest lady jammed her angular trophy into Dan Christian’s eye at the post-match presentation.

The one thing we couldn’t find was a scorecard for the mascots race, so if someone could fill us in on how that one played out, we’d really appreciate it.

Arrow stopped play at The Oval

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t fire arrows at people – or indeed anywhere near them. It is what is known as “very dangerous”.

Someone fired an arrow into the middle of the Surrey v Middlesex match today.

Here’s the arrow.

Cricketers don’t wear armour. That thing would absolutely tear through a cable-knit sweater, so everyone went off.

Any of you say “that’s a crossbow bolt, not an arrow,” you’re missing the bigger picture here, which is that medieval projectiles shouldn’t barge their way into cricket matches uninvited.

Shahid Afridi made a T20 hundred yesterday

And everyone is, as usual, missing the point.

Shahid Afridi is the least T20 cricketer to have ever graced the format. Here’s why.

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