Category: County cricket news (page 2 of 49)

The Hundred is not going to be a big deal, people aren’t going to talk about it and it won’t attract a new audience

T20 Blast Finals Day (ECB)

Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer. After that, build a whole stupid thing around the stupid answer and then pin all of your hopes for the survival of your sport on how well the stupid thing fares.

The ECB are going to launch this 100-ball competition and they don’t give a shit that pretty much every existing cricket fan thinks it’s a bad idea. This is because they’re after a “new audience”.

Over at Wisden, we’re saying that this stance is moronic and completely misses the point about how people latch onto a sport in the first place.

Pondering how to attract a new audience, the ECB asked people who don’t like cricket what they would like to see. These people entirely unsurprisingly told them that they would like to see something that differs from the sport that they don’t currently like.

They have asked people who don’t understand cricket to identify cricket’s flaws and make it better. These people don’t profess to be expert sport designers, but their collective voice has given rise to something new anyway.

Surely a smarter way of going about things would have been to ask existing fans how they first came to the sport. These are the people who have gone from not liking cricket to liking it, after all. They therefore provide some sort of template for how people are typically won over. Identify the themes and you can maybe identify areas where you could be doing better.

A few weeks ago we asked people on Twitter how they were won over. Pretty much everybody was influenced by friends or family. That’s how people get hooked – through their interactions with other people.

Even if there was one defining moment that finally tipped the balance, they’d normally been worn down by the sport for a long time beforehand. Maybe they always heard it on the radio. Maybe they played in the back yard with a parent. Free-to-air coverage may well have played a part, but seeing the action alone is not enough.

If you’re immersed in a cricket environment, you’ll probably get into cricket. That’s generally the way it works. A cricket environment is not just what’s on the telly, it’s what people around you are talking about. The conversation matters. Get enough people talking about something and it becomes a big deal and when something’s a big deal, it makes headlines.

If existing fans hate a tournament, they aren’t going to enthuse about it and if existing fans aren’t enthusing about it, that oh-so-vital conversation is stillborn.

Here’s the link to the Wisden piece again.

We’re mostly talking about Ollie Pope again this week, with maybe a dash of James Hildreth and a soupcon of Keaton Jennings

Ollie Pope (via ECB)

A combination of (a) the current state of the England cricket team and (b) the nature of early season cricket means that we’ve almost exclusively been talking about batsmen so far this summer.

This isn’t actually all that great for those of us who consider batsmen necessary impediments to the progress of cricket matches. Maybe later in the year, we can focus on fast bowlers and spinners. Please let that happen.

But priorities are priorities and England need people who can make runs, or at the very least avoid edging to slip while someone else makes runs from the other end. (Hard to justify having excessively lofty standards at the minute. We’d definitely settle for prolonged runless crease occupation from a number three.)

A few weeks ago, Ollie Pope made a hundred for Surrey and we took notice because not very many people have been making hundreds, let alone children. (How High by The Charlatans came out a year before Pope was born. We still think of How High as being one of the “new” Charlatans songs. (We went to the same school as Tim Burgess, incidentally, although he is quite a bit older than us.))

This week Ollie Pope made another hundred. In fact he made 158 not out in Surrey’s 414 all out against Yorkshire. That is a good knock – and not just because three of Kevin Pietersen’s first six Test hundreds were 158.

Oddly, just as it did last time, Pope’s hundred again coincided with one from James Hildreth, who made 184 for Somerset.

Finally, Keaton Jennings made 126 in Lancashire’s innings victory over Nottinghamshire and that too seems significant.


Nope. Draw your own.

Are you in The Wisden Cricket Weekly Gang?

Do you mind if we tell you a barely relevant story? If you do mind, you’re probably reading the wrong website.

We’re very confident that the pure hilariousness of this tale cannot possibly be conveyed without first-person experience of the person involved, but we’re going to tell you anyway because it’s one of the funniest things we’ve ever heard and we like to share.

Back in our first year of university, we stayed in catered halls, so all of our food was cooked for us in a big canteen place. We ate a lot of lattice fries and bacon chops and got a fat face.

One of our friends, who lived in G-Block with us, was from the North-East. He was a kind and generous man, but he also had what might be described as a chequered past. He had briefly been in prison for assault or ABH or something and had been a bit of a troublemaker in his youth.

He was warm-hearted, but also kind of intimidating if you didn’t really know him. Upon learning that he’d done (a very small amount of) time, you’d probably have thought to yourself: “Yes, that seems like a thing that would have happened to this person at some point.”

This is important because you need to have the vibe of this person. We are talking about a hard-edged adult person who you didn’t necessarily want to be around when he’d had too much to drink.

One day, he and a group of us from G-block were standing in line in that canteen, each of us holding trays that would soon be loaded with food. This was a thing that happened several times a day. Standing with trays in our hands was a very ordinary part of our lives.

For reasons known only to himself, on this occasion our friend looked up and down the line at us all and uttered the immortal words: “Hey… We’re The Tray Gang.”

It wasn’t a joke. It was more of an observation.

Like we said, we cannot possibly convey how funny it was to hear a man like him say something so spectacularly juvenile. You’ll tell us we need to get out more, but truly this was one of the great moments of our life.

The point of this story, insofar as there is one, is that it’s funny to be in gangs when they’re harmless and inoffensive and you don’t have to whack a snitch or something to gain admission.

All you have to do to join The Wisden Cricket Weekly Gang is sign up to receive the Wisden Cricket Weekly email, which is mostly written by us.

Go on. Do it.

Critics are calling it: “Similar to Cricket Badger but with more links to Wisden stuff”.

Mark Wood’s IPL experience with Chennai Super Kings has helped him make his choices – but where will he go next?

Mark Wood (ECB)

You may remember that earlier in the year, we wrote about the weighted, weighty decisions faced by Mark Wood this season.

Wood’s long format career has been in the balance of late. An IPL contract seemed likely to keep him out of all early season first-class cricket and a consequence of that would have been reduced likelihood of playing any Test matches.

Fortunately, he bowled a load of toss in India and on such small things do career paths hinge.

Mark Wood’s performance for Chennai Super Kings

Wood took 0-49 from four overs in the opening match of this season’s IPL. He was the most expensive bowler on either side. He hasn’t been asked to play again.

At some point since then, Wood approached the team bosses and said something like: “Um. If you don’t really need me, could I maybe go home and play cricket?”

The Chennai Super Kings people said yes.

So what happens next?

In the short-term, Wood will attempt to secure a Test spot by playing precisely one first-class match for Durham ahead of the Pakistan series.

Technically, he is “the man in possession” having played England’s most recent five-day match, only it never really seems to work like that for bowlers.

Also, he didn’t make an unarguable case in his most recent Test outing and there’s also a case for saying that England would be better off trying to identify a short-pitched specialist as the third seamer.

Whether he plays the Pakistan Tests or not, that single County Championship match is the only one Wood is likely to be available to play until England’s short format commitments come to a close on July 17. Durham then have just one more Championship match in which he’ll be able to showcase his red ball competence before the India Test series starts. He’ll probably be rested for it.

What happens longer term?

That’s the bulk of Wood’s season. That’s his opportunity to “nail down a Test spot”.

Should he fail to achieve that aim – which, given the circumstances, seems entirely possible – he could instead train his hammer on the shortest format and try and nail down an IPL spot.

A man who prepared for this Test summer by playing the IPL and who prepared for the IPL by playing a one-off Test match might at some point conclude that he’ll get better results if he narrows his focus.


Being a professional cricketer can really get in the way of being a professional cricketer these days.

We’re talking about Harry Brook this week

Harry Brook (via ECB)

Well the message is clear: if you want to identify batsmen who will one day go on to play for England, contract a very heavy cold, take time off work and watch a bit of the Under-19 World Cup. You’ll have to endure quite a lot of Alan Wilkins, but at least you’ll also see the future.

D Charlton took this course of action earlier this year, reflecting on Harry Brook’s performance that “there was something about [him] that had stardust on it.”

Similar conclusions could be drawn this week after Yorkshire beat Essex despite being bowled out in 18.4 overs on the first morning. The story of the match is the comeback, but the story of the scorecard is Harry Brook.

To outline this, let’s have the batting podium for each innings of the match.

  • 1st innings: Ballance 22, Pujara 9, Bairstow and Leaning 7
  • 2nd innings: Lawrence 48, Harmer 36, ten Doeschate 18
  • 3rd innings: Brook 124, Bairstow 50, Pujara 41
  • 4th innings: ten Doeschate 34, Lawrence 32, Cook 26

You’re not mistaken – the batting podium really did just become a thing.

It’s tempting to look at which bowlers are doing the damage in these low-scoring matches, but that 124 really is out on its own.

Watching highlights of his various innings, Brook seems to combine exquisite high-elbowed off-side play with gnarly shovels and hoicks to leg.

This is an excellent combination. Who among us hasn’t idly imagined a sci-fi film in which the consciousnesses of Rahul Dravid and Paul Collingwood are each battling for supremacy having been downloaded into the same body?

This is the glorious conclusion to that story. Rahul Dravid realises that Paul Collingwood is a really great bloke and Paul Collingwood realises that Rahul Dravid is a really great bloke and they agree to share the body and workload. They are greatly happier than they ever were living solo.

This week we’re talking about Peter Siddle bowling in a woolly hat

We’re going to be upfront about this: today’s post is largely a means of trying to exploit our readership in a most-likely forlorn bid to remember a very trivial thing which we cannot currently remember. But let’s have a few words about Matt Renshaw before we get into that.

This was going to be another Matt Renshaw piece. Last week Renshaw made 101 out of Somerset’s total of 202 and we were very much impressed. This week he made 112 out of 216, which is basically the same thing.

One thing we greatly enjoy in county cricket is when one player is very dominant. This scenario allows us to ignore everything else that is going on and just keep writing about the same player. This makes life an awful lot easier because the County Championship is big and sprawling and our attention is not.

The downside is that eventually we run out of things to say. (And in this case another downside is that Renshaw is an Australian person.)

Fortunately, once we’ve acknowledged the main guy’s brilliance, there’s usually a very minor detail from elsewhere in the County Championship that takes our interest and we can just start writing about that instead. (Another thing we greatly enjoy is digressing – although technically, going by the headline, the Renshaw stuff’s actually the digression. This next bit’s ‘the main story’.)

Today Peter Siddle bowled in a woolly hat. Here’s a screengrab from footage shot from behind (which, it turns out, is pretty much the worst angle from which to try and clearly distinguish between hat and hair).

Peter Siddle in a woolly hat (via ECB)

Our position on this is that we prefer seam bowlers bowling in woolly hats to spin bowlers bowling in sunglasses. Beyond that, we haven’t yet formed much of an opinion.

It’s a matter to give some thought to, certainly, but sadly we have not had any available thought capacity due to an unexpected side effect of Siddle’s hat bowling. When we saw him doing it, the first thing we thought was: “This sort of reminds us of that time we saw a player wearing a sunhat on a really cold day but then when we looked more closely it turned out he was also wearing a woolly hat under the sunhat.”

Here’s the thing. We can’t remember who that person was and it’s really hard to stop thinking about it. We’re so close to knowing. So close.

We’re not googling because that’s against the rules, but we figure it’s okay to give you guys the same limited information we have at our disposal in the hope that you just instantly know who it might have been. Then we can just all forget about Double Hat Man and really focus on the bowling-in-a-hat issue instead.

We’re pretty sure the person was from the West Indies and that he played for Somerset about the same time that Ian Blackwell did. That’s all we’ve got. Anyone?

The County Cricket Ground Name Awards

St Lawrence Ground, Kent (Sarah Ansell)

It’s high time someone handed out a bunch of awards to the various county grounds for their names.

A couple of ground rules.

  • Rule one: Only one award per ground
  • Rule two: No googling. The jury will not be finding out who the hell any of the sponsors are if they don’t already know

Now let’s get started with absolutely all the way the easiest award of all.

Coolest sponsor – The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, Kent

This isn’t even up for debate. The sponsor of Kent’s ground is (a) a perfectly drinkable beer, (b) a perfectly drinkable beer named after an aeroplane, and (c) a perfectly drinkable beer named after the coolest-named aeroplane of all.

Most misleadingly named ground – The 1st Central County Ground, Sussex

Sussex is not in any way central.

Typography awards

We’re actually going to have to make this a whole section of its own, which we’re pretty sure says something about (a) the nature of sponsorship and (b) the state of the frigging world.

Most offensively noisily named ground – The SSE SWALEC, Glamorgan. Shh, be quiet. What’s the matter with you? Have you got caps lock stuck on or something?

Ground name that basically looks like a typo – The 3aaa County Ground, Derbyshire. Our cat’s feet have typed more meaningfully than this.

Most contemporary abuse of the basic structure of the English language – The Cloudfm County Ground, Essex. There are three things that modern marketers hate above all else. (1) Spaces between words where there should be spaces. (2) Upper case letters where there should be upper case letters. (3) The correct part of speech at the end of a slogan or tagline (which doesn’t actually apply here, but the other two reminded us of this).

It is an absolute piece of piss to write a slogan these days. All you have to do is use the wrong part of speech for that final word. Let’s make some up. No idea what these would be for. They could probably apply to anything.

  • Remember amazing
  • Believe in extraordinary
  • Discover incredible

(We were aiming for gibberish but still had to google the second one because when we read it back we felt like someone had maybe actually used it for real. Turns out there’s a Tracey Emin sketch of a small bird called Believe in Extraordinary which was made to celebrate Team GB’s participation at the first European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan. It’s not very good, but you can get a print of it for £2,000.)

Ground most likely to have been named after a character from the film Rushmore – Fischer County Ground, Leicestershire

No idea who or what Fischer is. Our best guess is Max Fischer from Rushmore, played by Jason Schwartzman, which we are well aware is a very bad guess.

Here’s a needless shot of Max Fischer to break up the text a bit.

We haven’t watched Rushmore in ages.

Most overblown and utterly misleading name for a ground – The County Ground, Northamptonshire

The County Ground? THE County Ground? Take a look at the rest of this page. You are in fact A County Ground.

Most unlikely sponsor – Lord’s Cricket Ground, Middlesex

Who’d have thought that the Home of Corks would (a) stoop to sponsorship and (b) choose an Australian heavy metal band from Wollongong as the sponsor.

(Having trawled through their discography, our favourite Lord song title has to be By George! from their 2003 album A Personal Journey. Our second favourite is The Battle of Venarium from 2013’s Digital Lies. Sadly, none of their other song titles are really much good.)

Mystery sponsor awards

  1. Ageas Bowl, Hampshire – We’re about 80 per cent certain it’s insurance, but we wouldn’t bet heavily on that
  2. The Brightside Ground, Gloucestershire – Initially thought it was white goods, but think that’s actually Brighthouse
  3. Emerald Headingley, Yorkshire – Honestly no idea
  4. Blackfinch New Road, Worcestershire – Cider? No, that’s Blackthorn, isn’t it? No idea
  5. The Cooper Associates County Ground, Somerset– Solicitors or something? This one’s really opaque and unfamiliar

Most international – a tie!

We believe that Emirates Riverside, Durham, and Emirates Old Trafford, Lancashire, are both named after an airline.

Must try harder/be greedier for sponsorship money – a tie!

  • Edgbaston, Warwickshire
  • Trent Bridge, Nottingham

Greatest missed opportunity – the Kia Oval, Surrey

As with Ageas, we feel like this is probably going to be insurance, but really only because that’s generally the safest bet when it comes to cricket sponsorship. Could be a car – there’s a car called a Kia, right? Also could be a soft drink and they’re going for a Kia Ora/Kia Oval thing.

None of this matters. What matters is that they should have sought out sponsorship by the Belgian beer, Orval.

Surrey should absolutely 100 per cent play at the Orval. And they should sell Orval there. And also in all other cricket grounds. At an affordable price.

Who are we talking about this week: Matt Renshaw, James Hildreth, Ollie Pope or Sam Northeast?

Matt Renshaw, James Hildreth, Ollie Pope and Sam Northeast: four centurions in an April where wickets have arrived as frequently as buses on Manchester’s Oxford Road.

Clearly we’re talking about all four of them. But let’s say we’re pressed for time and can only talk about one. Who should that be? Whose hundred was the most admirable, impressive and meaningful?

The County Championship is a thing in its own right, but at this point in the season ‘talk’ generally revolves around possible future England players. As such, the way we gauge talkaboutworthiness is by asking and answering these three questions.

  1. Are you English?
  2. Are you young?
  3. Are you good?

Let’s do that for all four of them. Let’s do that for Matt Renshaw, James Hildreth, Ollie Pope and Sam Northeast.

Matt Renshaw, Somerset

Matt Renshaw (all images via ECB video)

While Matt Renshaw was born in Middlesbrough, the answer to (1) is technically ‘no’ – he is Australian.

However, the true thrust of the question is ‘how likely is this player to take part in an England Test match?’ and the answer to that is ‘highly likely, albeit infrequently because he’ll of course be playing for the opposition’.

At 22, Renshaw could yet play a part in very many Ashes Tests and this is largely because he is good. As we saw this week, he is the kind of batsman who can score an influential first innings hundred when only one other team-mate can get past ten.

Matt Renshaw is very important and worth talking about.

James Hildreth, Somerset

The other person to get past 10 in that first Somerset innings was James Hildreth, a man who is English, but perhaps too old to be considered for Test cricket. (Another way of looking at it is that he’s old enough to have made many hundreds and learnt plenty about batting – but that kind of thing doesn’t ever seem to elicit much excitement or talk.)

After providing support to Renshaw, Hildreth went solo in the second innings and made a hundred. He was dropped twice.

‘You don’t get that many lives in Test cricket,’ they say –  even though you absolutely do. (No-one’s picked for the national side because of their fielding, so Test teams pretty much always fall some way short of expectations in that area. All that really changes is that when you miss a catch in a Test match a commentator says something like, “you can’t afford to drop those at Test level”. To repeat ourself, you can, because everyone else does. That’s just the way it is. International teams are typically better than domestic teams not because they field better but because they bat and bowl better.)

Hildreth is unarguably good. He always averages plenty on that flat Taunton pitch that also somehow manages to unfairly favour the spinners and which just saw both teams double-dobbled for relatively low scores.

It’s worth mentioning that even at 33, a batsman who is good on flat pitches or turning pitches (or possibly both) is worth keeping an eye on with England’s next two tours being Sri Lanka and the West Indies.

James Hildreth is worth talking about.

Ollie Pope, Surrey

Ollie Pope is English and young enough to have been born in the year that Will Smith released Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.

How good is he? Well, we’re a bit short on data, but he’s apparently good enough to score hundreds at a time of year when very few can.

Ollie Pope is worth talking about.

Sam Northeast, Hampshire

If Ollie Pope eventually ends up in exactly the same career place as James Hildreth is in right now, Sam Northeast is roughly what he will be when he’s eight-thirteenths of the way there.

Northeast is not too young but not too old. While he has many hundreds, he does not yet have many, many hundreds. He is either at some sort of sweet spot of youth and experience or he is neither here nor there. He is English.

Sam Northeast is worth talking about.


On balance, everyone has a sufficiently equal case for being talked about that all you actually end up talking about is who you should be talking about.

“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.

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