Middlesex County Championship-winning hat-trick video – what a way to snatch a MacGuffin

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At one point today, Middlesex and Yorkshire ceased slithering against each other and began to slither together. Working independently, neither would reach the MacGuffin. Working together, they could get close – at which point it would become ‘every man for himself’ in a bid to wrest the prize from Somerset’s less-than-vicelike grip.

The joint slither manifested itself as Yorkshire’s two opening batsmen dobbing the ball up in the expectation that each ball would be clubbed to the fence. The fact that Middlesex lost three wickets during this heap of bollocks passage of play did at least mean the crowd had something to laugh about while they waited for a declaration and the recommencement of hostilities.

When that moment came, Yorkshire managed to produce little more than a light slapping. With nothing to lose, they persevered with this approach long after it made sense. Middlesex dispatched them with a Toblerone Jones hat-trick which allowed them to saunter over to Somerset and snatch the MacGuffin.

Here’s the hat-trick ball.

At the bum end of the table…

Hampshire utterly failed to bowl out Durham, lost the match and got relegated. Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwich were the run-chase heroes, which is great news for Surrey, who have flashed the cash and signed them both.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


Why risk it when it's so easy to sign up?


  1. Twas not a Toblerone Jones hat-trick. Twas a team hat-trick (not that such things are official) with Finn taking the first of the three wickets in three balls.

    I was there.

    At the start of the next season (can hardly wait) Tobias will be on a hat-trick when he bowls his first ball of the season.

    Did I mention that I was there today?

    I was there.

    1. Sorry to break this to you, but while witnessing the team hat-trick, you missed Toblerone Jones’s hat-trick.

      Last ball of one over, first two of the next.

      1. Crumbs – in the excitement we (I’m talking about those of us who were there) all missed that one.

        Utterly thrilled for the lad.

        I did take the precaution, before leaving home this morning , of setting the vid to record the day’s play, just in case there was something worth watching .

        I wonder how often a first class hat-trick has also been a team hat-trick by virtue of such circumstances. Not often I hasten to guess.

        It did all seem to switch from “still squeaky-bum” to “we dare to dream” to “we’ve done it” in the blink of an eye.

        What a day!

      2. Today’s vitriol, does it really matter? A period of cricket in the horse latitudes with booing from the crowd, then a bit of Machiavellian theatre as the buffet bowling kicks in, some poor old boy in the pavilion has a cadenza and has to be escorted out with blood pressure going into orbit, a fantastic end, scrumpy hangovers, warm beer commiseration. All brilliant stuff and an advocate for supporting county cricket as Disney T20 looms on the horizon. Just a thought. EC.

      3. Silverware has turned Ged into a gibbering madman.

        I experienced something similar last week.

        Still recovering the ability to spake.

  2. Oddly I feel less upset about the result from the point of view of someone who wanted Somerset to win, given that Middlesex rather than Yorkshire came through. For some reason the result feels rather less contrived given that Yorkshire were bowled out, given that it was Yorkshire who had dished up the declaration bowling, even though the contriving was presumably mutual. Also a Yorkshire victory would have been by the narrowest margin on the table. You could look back at every bonus point lost during the season and inspected which one Somerset might just have picked up. At least Middlesex finish some way ahead.

    Got to feel for Tres though. Even Rogers (regardless of however many times he tormented England fans).

    1. As for the mutual contrival, George Dobell has it that:

      …the sides agreed an equation. After the possibility of a target of 210 off 30 overs and 220 off 32 was rejected – negotiations took place, James Franklin the Middlesex captain later admitted, while he was on the toilet – it was eventually agreed that Yorkshire would be required to score 240 in 40 overs to win.

      To achieve that situation, however, Yorkshire were persuaded to serve up what might be politely be described as “help yourself” bowling. So Adam Lyth and Alex Lees delivered nine overs that cost 120 runs in the understanding that Yorkshire would then chase their target come what may.

      “I told James Franklin that we would go for it and I’m a man of my word,” Andrew Gale, the Yorkshire captain, said afterwards.

      Which is near-enough the smoke-filled roomy stuff I didn’t like the smell of.

      1. Not sure how I feel about this.

        But you can’t honestly have expected them to just play out a draw and hand the trophy to Somerset?

      2. That’s match fixing, designed specifically to exclude Somerset from the mix, and as such is a disgrace.

        If you and I play a round of golf in which we are mutually generous with our giving of putts (anything on the green, for example) one of us will win and the other players will have been cheated out of it. How does this differ?

        I’ve revised my “well done” for Middlesex. They are guilty of fixing the season finale to the advantage of only two of its three interested parties.

  3. Here’s another factor in the digust, or at least my own disgust: the 2016 County Championship is probably going to be the last one with any serious claim to validity or integrity as a top-tier domestic sporting title.

    From next year, the system of “each side plays each other side home and away” is being terminated. Now “each side will play most other sides home and away but not all of them”. Logical for scheduling reasons, and it means that the calendar can be cut down without removing first-class cricket from a couple of the counties, or merging them into amorphous super-counties, which was apparently the other option. (If it had to be done, I’d have gone for three smaller divisions with “play each other home and away” myself, or even “two divisions but you play each other only once, with an even number of home and away fixtures”. At least that maintains some semblance of balance and integrity – but what do I know?)

    However logical or even “necessary”, the changes render an utter nonsense of the concept of a sporting league, not just because the ultimate validity of “everyone plays everyone else and then we’ll see who’s best” has been jettisoned, but made worse as teams’ fixture lists will necessarily be seriously unbalanced.

    Notts were clearly the weakest team in the CC this year, in practice if not on paper. Suppose that in a tight title race, the champion’s fixture list included Notts home and away, but the team in second place had only faced Notts away. If the championship margin were just a couple of points, what “integrity” would this title have? Even worse if the top two had only played each other once, on the champion’s home turf.

    In truth the destination of the title has always been tossed around by Fortuna’s fickle wheel. Bad luck with injuries, the whims of England selectors, your captain’s statistical skill at coin-side guessing, umpiring blunders, meteorological misfortune… but the addition to this list of “the very structure of the competition itself” is an unfortunate one.

    At least they’ll be playing their best available teams and doing their utmost to win whatever the lopsided fixture list throws at them. Oh wait, no they won’t, they’ll be fielding half their second XI because their city franchise has got a game on, on the evening of day three.

    So 2016 was county cricket’s last big chance to get it right, to crown a final worthy winner its long and illustrious list. Somerset will never have another chance to win a “proper” title. If a ciderman or ciderwoman feels let-down that they didn’t have a fair go at a properly-contested title this year – never mind whether his or her team would have done exactly the same thing had the situation so arisen – I can’t say I’m unsympathetic.

    For comparison, neither Border nor Northerns ever won the South African first-class inter-provincial competition despite 30+ seasons apiece of trying and three second-places each, while it was the top-level event generally known as the Currie Cup. Then franchise cricket came, provinces were merged to form the professional top-tier teams, and a ghost of an inter-provincial first-class (yet second-tier) competition played on as the Sunfoil 3-Day Cup. Northerns won that competition in its second year – finally first-class champion of the provinces! But a second-rate championship, not a taste of the real thing. I appreciate there are no plans afoot to degrade county cricket further by the addition of franchise or zonal four-day cricket as the “proper” domestic first-class tournament in England and Wales, but this can only be put down to a lack of commercial appetite for such a beast. The preference seems to be to degrade the status of domestic first-class cricket in its entirety.

    Perhaps I’m being too harsh on declaration bowling, which has a certain tactical utility and a long history in the game – though the pretence of playing top-level sport while it’s ongoing is a shaky one, and it’s hard to argue it constitutes “sport” or “a contest” or “the spirit of the game”. One might hand-wave that it’s “entertainment”, of a sort. Does it not stick in the craw even of its proponents that it is recorded for posterity in the annals of first-class statistics? That there’s something wrong with a bowler begging a batsman to donate his wicket before the declaration so his first-class average is not so badly burned, and the batter dutifully doling out a simple catch? That the equation of runs required and overs to reach them is determined not by the physical exertions of the players, but set by verbal negotiation between captains?

    Perhaps this truly is what four-day cricket is all about. But if so, the ICC can take away the fifth day of Test matches over my cold, dead, switched-off radio.

    1. Teams in the smaller first division will still play each other home and away. It’s only in the second division where it’s all unbalanced.

      City based T20 is also set for a 2018 start so you’ve another year of full validity yet.

      1. That might sound like fantastic news to you, Yer Maj, but it removes all integrity from the Championship wooden spoon.

      2. Plenty of sports (come to think of it, mainly US ones) have ‘uneven’ schedules and strange rules about who plays which other teams and where they play them. It’s not my favoured system, but I’m not massively upset by it.

        Cricket is idiosyncratic and illogical in many ways (which is why yesterday’s ‘controversy’ isn’t as big a deal as if something similar had happened in most other sports), and has had unusual scheduling rules in the County Championship in the past (particularly in the early days, if I remember correctly teams didn’t even always play the same number of matches as each other).

        The illogical and idiosyncratic stuff is a large part of the appeal, to be honest.

      3. I think we should stop fretting about the City-based T20 starting in 2018. I can’t see any way it could realistically start until (ironically) 2020.

  4. Well, it seems that contrived chases are still allowed, as long as it is entirely down to setting up a winning/losing (rather than drawing) scenario for both teams, not allowed to game the bonus points.

    While I’m not keen on it, I can see the rationale.

    The contrivance was not done “to exclude Somerset”, it was done because both teams playing at Lord’s had a shot at glory. That shot at glory was achieved, in Middlesex’s case, by being many points ahead of the rest at the start of the final round – fair enough – and in Yorkshire’s case by being a tiny bit ahead of Somerset and scoring enough bonus points to stay in the hunt for the title – also fair enough.

    I am not a neutral, but I suspect that most neutrals got an afternoon to remember, rather than the petering out draw that was the alternative. I think cricket as a whole benefited from the wonderful afternoon.

    I don’t think I am quite a gibbering madman, Sam, but my febrile reaction has definitely been to “spake even more than usual” rather than “be unable to spake”. I don’t even want the other teams to shove it – I think both Yorkshire and Somerset have played a wonderful part in what was possibly the most exciting climax to the county championship in living memory.

  5. Everything’s getting far too serious around here.

    Can we impose a word limit on comments, and a policy of at least one cat picture per season?

    While we’re at it, can somebody find Bert’s sense of humour and return it to him?

      1. Off-piste a bit, Ged, but what is going on between you, Prince Charles and John Selywyn Gummer?

      1. Bert, I draw your attention to the playing conditions for the County Championship 2016, in particular those playing conditions pertaining to Laws 14 and 42:


        You might not like what happened yesterday, but you can be sure that what happened occurred in accordance with those playing conditions, which clearly prohibit collaboration in the matter of bonus points but also clearly accept the principle of agreement between captains, appropriately disclosed in certain circumstances.

        Some people (I am not one of them, btw) have suggested that Somerset and some other counties were not entirely operating within the spirit (or possibly even the letter) of the playing conditions pertaining to Laws 7 and 10 (pitch preparation and maintenance) this season.

        None of these are “fixing” or “handcuff” matters – if the authorities want to tighten up some of these playing conditions for future seasons they might choose to do so. If it were all up to me, top of the list of changes to first class playing conditions would be including the right for umpires to report pitches for being too flat/unyielding for bowlers, as well as for being too bowler friendly, as we have discussed on this site many times.

      2. In the mythology of my family history, Keith the Cat (picture linked above), back in the 1950s, especially liked the Advisory County Cricket Committee Playing Conditions document as the lining for his cat litter.

        Sadly, most of my father’s archive photographs and negatives have been lost to posterity, so we can only surmise how that might have looked.

        If only Ceci or someone with creative Photoshop skills were able to produce a facsimile of that myth, then perhaps all who have been reading this lengthy thread might be pleased and satisfied with its conclusion.

      3. Clearly Middlesex and Yorkshire didn’t break any of the laws, but in that they allow such an affair, the laws are wrong. Any contrivance between captains is contrary to the spirit of sport. You don’t discuss what will happen with your opponent in any other sport, because it is inherently unfair on those teams (in a league) who are not included in the discussion and yet who are materially affected by the discussion. It’s a stitch up, albeit one that the laws of cricket perversely allows.

        The reference to handcuffs, by the way, was accidental. It was just the first joke that came to mind.

  6. I’m sure we can all agree the only fair thing to do is to disqualify Middlesex, Yorkshire, Somerset and Durham, and award the title to Surrey.

    1. By that token, Daneel, surely the whole of the first division is tainted and therefore should be disqualified, as should Essex, Kent, Worcestershire, Sussex, Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire.

      Whichever of the remaining counties had the most points should be awarded the county championship.

      Crickey – Leicester/Leicestershire has had a good sporting year.

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