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

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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.


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. Always felt that Hildreth should have likely been give a test run at some stage. Worse players have had a game in the last decade.

    Name one Bradders?

    I can’t.

    Not now.

    1. Tom Westley

      No Somerset player is ever worth talking about, so that cuts the list in half. Will all these early-season pitches be deemed below-average on account of the high frequency of wickets falling, and the unfair advantage offered to dobble-merchants?

  2. It would be nice if some openers scored some runs. You could argue that the middle order looks OKish if you move Bairstow up and then have Root-Malan-Bairstow-Stokes-Foakes. But Cook and Stoneman are going to continue because nobody else can make 20.

    How many wickets would Porter have to take to get a call up? I know that until Anderson and Broad retire we are now going to see a succession of either wayward fast bowlers, jobbing left armers or Chris Woakes (and I can sort of see a reasoning behind that) but does that mean Porter may as well just dail it in for 18 months? Or would another 75 wicket season get him in? 100 wickets? 200 wickets?

    1. It looks bad if you put it like that, but would you bowl Anderson Broad and Porter? That’s three bowlers (four including Stokes) who don’t do that much differently. Imagine giving them the Kookaburra. (You don’t have to imagine that hard, it pretty much happened last winter.) The only other question is whether you replace Anderson (no) or Broad (probably no).

      The best he can hope for is that two out of them and Woakes get injured, I’m afraid.

      1. He has got a year or so to put himself at the front of the highly competitive fast-medium new ball bowler queue ready for someone’s retirement. Chris Woakes heads that queue at the minute.

        No matter how competitive that queue becomes and no matter how weak the old ball bowler queue looks, England have to avoid confusing the two, as written about here several times. This is the main mistake county cricket followers make when putting names forward for the national side.

      2. Yep, I completely agree. It is just one of those weird things of selection in sport. Looking within his own team, a couple of half decent 80s for either Westley or Lawrence would probably have them touted as potential England solutions. Whereas Porter could probably take 70 wickets in 8 matches and still not get near the team.

      3. It’s comparable to someone like Foakes or Cox making those scores. They’re shooting for the same spot in the team as one of the few nailed-on places, and so their chances of Test qualification are much reduced.

  3. This may be unfair, but the appointment of Middlesex’s Ed Smith as national selector, working under Middlesex’s Andrew Strauss as director of cricket, may further limit the chances of players from ‘unfashionable’ counties such as Somerset.

    In other news, I am the same age as James Hildreth. Does this mean I am too old for a Test call-up?

    1. I get the feeling that Somerset and Essex in particular at the moment are a bit of a pain for the ECB. Ideally, they want that top division to be Yorkshire, Lancashire, Surrey, Notts, Hampshire, Middlesex, Warwickshire and an 8th team that rotates depending on relegation, then England can just select from that.

  4. Is anyone else finding the County Championship particularly hard to follow on Cricinfo this year? The layout is horrible, the report headlines don’t have a score summary and a simple list of scores is not in evidence. I’ll forgive the temporary if entertaining aberration where the link to Div. 1 took us back to early in the 1999 season with Phil Defreitas (of all people) as the early season leading runscorer.

    1. The county scores happily appear at the top of my version of the general Live Scores page. I do miss the liveblog’s score bot though.

      Don’t know if this Twitter helps or hinders more, but it certainly does exist.

    2. You’re meant to be following the IPL as far as Cricinfo is concerned. Only dinosaurs are interested in the CC.

      Even when you pick UK edition (it keeps reverting to US for me, no matter how many times I correct it), the live scores don’t put the CC games at the top, instead it’s behind random games involving teams I’ve never heard of from the subcontinent.

      1. I guess it’s alphabetical or something but I really don’t care about the ALOKOZAY AHMAD SHAH ABDALI 4-DAY TOURNAMENT.

        I mean, if it’s that or the IPL, sure, I’ll take it, but…

  5. I’m going to assume that Middlesex somehow contriving to lose to Derby has pretty much condemned Leics to finishing bottom of Div 2 again.

    1. Hey, they’re certainly not shy of an engineered result to screw over an unfashionable county and keep the righteous order of things alive…

  6. To me, it seems like England could do a lot worse than picking someone like James Hildreth, who has been around long enough to have his weaknesses figured out and then be able to adjust to that and continue scoring runs.

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