Category: County cricket news (page 3 of 49)

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.

Verdict

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.


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.


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