Pope, pitches, pacesetters: 3 county cricket talking points we don’t want to talk about

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That’s the royal we. These aren’t things that we, the county cricket community, are for some reason collectively overlooking. These are just three things that we, King Cricket, don’t really want to talk about for one reason or another. That’s what we’ve chosen to talk about today: the things we don’t want to talk about.

Number 1: Ollie Pope

Surrey’s Ollie Pope is a popular subject for articles and conversation at the minute because everyone has a different opinion about how he’s perpetually bobbing about in Lions Mere.

If you don’t know Lions Mere, that’s probably because we just made it up. It’s a metaphorical body of water that holds all the English cricketers who are clearly too good for county cricket but who somehow aren’t able to perform in Test cricket. Quite why they have to be in water, we don’t know. We suppose they don’t really. You can envision your own figurative sub-international cricket limbo if you want.

> Let’s anchor Ollie Pope as a flighty middle-order shotmaker and see where he takes us

Ollie Pope averages 50 in first-class cricket, so every time he makes a hundred – or even a comfortable looking 40-odd – people say stuff like: “See! See! He’s really good. He should be playing for England.”

The reason why we don’t want to write about Ollie Pope is that there’s a tilting-at-straw-men quality to this campaigning. Everyone knows Pope averages 50. Everyone still thinks he’ll have a good Test career. It was just that he was a bit rubbish over the winter and so he’s quite reasonably been asked to take a step back with a view to hopefully taking a couple of steps forwards. Why have an argument with your own shadow? It is pretty obvious to us that soon enough Ollie Pope will be playing for England again. Maybe not in the very next Test, but probably pretty soon after that. Certainly before the end of summer. So what is there to say?

The only thing worth talking about with regards to Ollie Pope is his ownership of wicketkeeping gloves.

Number 2: County pitches

Pope made 83 last week in Surrey’s 603 all out against Gloucestershire. The home team replied with 443-2 and then that was the end of the game. This brought another “See! See!” which was the “See! See! April pitches don’t render medium-pacers completely lethal.”

As we said in our piece about fast bowling and county cricket’s diesels, county pitches are far less of an issue than the fact there are 46 million games a year. It’s not so much that medium-pacers are encouraged by the conditions typically seen in the Championship, it’s more that fast bowlers are discouraged by the relentless schedule.

Do you know when the relentless schedule is not such a big issue? At the very start of the season before fatigue has set in. Do you know when groundstaff have a decent amount of time at their disposal to get pitches prepared? At the very start of the season when they’ve just had a big long spell with no cricket at all and there’s only one home match a fortnight.

April is not peak season for medium-pace.

Number 3: Early season pacesetters

Surrey are top of the table.

We don’t want to talk about it.

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  1. I’m glad for the editorial direction that the second division doesn’t count.

  2. In the early days of this website , “indifference to Ian Ronald Bell” was one of the big things.

    Ollie Pope is at a similar stage of what might well be a similar career to that of Bell, so “not wanting to talk about Ollie Pope” seems, to me, a quite natural and consistent editorial line.

    Not wanting to talk about Surrey is surely just another way of describing your natural humanist instincts, KC.

    The bit about early season pitches and later season fatigue s far and away the most interesting thing you didn’t talk about in this article. But there is an important aspect of the topic that you didn’t mention at all while not talking about this topic, which is the matter of early season weather.

    So far this season, the weather has mostly been conducive to long-form cricket but sometimes the early spring weather makes for fiendishly difficult batting conditions (even against gentle medium-pace bowling) and sometimes it denies us the possibility of results. The other point, of course, is that English conditions in April and May are almost unique to English first class cricket and unlike conditions that you find for test cricket, especially test cricket elsewhere in the world.

    In recent years we have played almost half the English first class season in April & May, then the rest of it gets sandwiched between a plethora of short form competitions, bringing KC’s “fatigue because they play to much” point to the fore, along with “is a T20 match a night or two before good mental and physical preparation for a four-day match?”

  3. All this rather misses the point that Hampshire have a player called Felix Organ. Even the West Indies name generator couldn’t have come up with that one!

  4. Oh King, I come bearing complaints. Thou dost provide these blue lines that transport us to different worlds within our computer, each with its own KC article and comments. Whereupon one comes across something worth commenting on. Alas! There seems no outlet to such creative outpourings for the webbing site does declare rudely “Comments are closed”. Wherefore this banishment? Whatfore? Whenfore shall we expect a remedy? And howfore?

    1. Hmm. We had a megaspam problem a couple of years back when we were getting thousands of comments a day and it was really slowing the site down. We made a whole bunch of changes to combat it and one of them worked. We’re not sure if closing comments on old articles was the one.

      Bit disappointed the ‘back end’ doesn’t seem to provide a running tally any more because from memory we’d sailed past a million blocked comments over the years.

      1. Ah, a random stupid comment of mine has led me to walk down the memory lane. I enjoyed the birthday piece again – thanks KC!

      2. Our 10-year anniversary was a long time ago, wasn’t it?

        As The Scientician said: “Time…”

  5. Megaspam, ‘back end’, memory, ‘a whole of bunch of changes’ – it’s getting very technical around here.
    I think those ‘thousands of comments a day’ ‘a couple of years back’ was when Bert used to be more active with crosswords and mathematical problems and suchlike.

    1. Blaming Bert for thousands of spam comments a day seems fair enough to me…especially if Bert doesn’t bother to show his metaphorical face around here to deny responsibility.

      My website never reached the giddy heights of thousands of spams a day, but my spam blocker log claims many hundreds a month, until September 2020 when suddenly the volume of such spam started to drop to mere dozens per month, currently a tiny trickle. No idea whether there was a technical change then (e.g. WordPress upgrade) or maybe it was at that juncture that Bert decided he had better things to do.

      As far as I know I have never received a spam delight of KC’s 2009 “Comment Of the Week” quality, but I have been very remiss in the matter of reviewing spam before it gets sent for secure destruction. Who knows what I might have been missing?

      1. Dick Snooker actually evaded the spam filter.

        Who knows what gems were lost among the millions that didn’t.

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