6/21/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Warwickshire’s royal progress has been halted sharply. One line of thought among the other nine sides was that it may be no bad thing for Warwickshire to run away with the Division Two title, leaving second accessible still to (almost) all the sides in the division. Kent may have lost their first game of the season but, since then, have looked better with every successive game. Having bowled out Warwickshire for 125 in reply to their own 197, Kent had started the day 4-0. By the Close they were 359-6, 431 ahead and will presumably bat on for as long as they can tomorrow. Briefly, Warwickshire were back in the match with Kent at 44-2 and Bell-Drummond and Kuhn dismissed but 133 from Dickson and 119 from Denly buried the visitors, who have been hammered flat and surely will be unable to raise themselves and save the game from here. Zach Crawley is still there with 47* in company of Harry Podmore and Warwickshire will face at least 5 sessions to chase something over 450 to win.
At Grace Road, Middlesex have probably seen their promotion chances end. On Day 1, Kevin Hand was enumerating, modestly, the Middlesex 2nd XI, which he felt was as good as most 1st XIs in the Division. Sadly, this is not translating into the overwhelming dominance on the field that many fans and pundits expected pre-season. It is obvious that something is wrong in the dressing room and, in many senses, it feels like the situation in 2008 when a talented side could not get its act together and a return to Division One was eventually sealed with a completely renovated team that held few survivors of relegation in 2007. On the field, Leicestershire pushed on from 353-8 to 427ao, with Colin Ackerman scoring 196*. A stand of 90 between Ackerman and Gavin Griffiths for the ninth wicket flogged a Middlesex attack that seemed to consist of Tim Murtagh and four net bowlers. While Murtagh took 5-60 at just over 2 runs per over, the other four bowlers took 5-344 at nearly double the economy rate. When Middlesex batted they faced a test of mettle. Sides have shown that the Grace Road pitch is full of runs and although it did start to get a little crabby – it had been used the day before for a one-day game so this was its third day of action – there was no excuse for Middlesex to fall to 233ao when the top six all got a start and the score had been 200-4. Many times, frustrated fans have threatened to set up a web site called MiddlesexBattingCollapse.com: now, it seems more necessary than ever. Six wickets for 33 in 11 overs was a top-drawer collapse by any standard. Paul Horton did not enforce the follow on: he is giving his bowlers a rest, allowing the pitch to deteriorate further and plans to kill off Middlesex definitively. Even the fall of Horton for a duck, leaving Leicestershire 0-1 at the Close could not change their dominance. More important than 0-1, Leicestershire are 194 ahead and almost certain to set a target over 300 that will surely be too much for Middlesex to chase.
The games at Arundel and Swansea are beginning to look like draws. Sussex were 439-5 overnight at Arundel and moved on serenely to 552ao. In the course of this progress, Burgess just missed out on becoming the third centurion of the innings, while runs were added all down the order to support him. In reply, Martin Emmerson must have feared the worst at 2-1 and 43-2, particularly as his best mate Dave Bracegirdle is feeling very cheerful indeed and will have been following events in the south with a mischievous eye. Durham though are growing in self-belief and beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, a promotion challenge may be on the cards. 90* from Will Smith and a stand of 82 with Paul Collingwood as helped Durham to 202-4 at the Close. They are still 350 behind and could well be forced to follow on, but some sensible batting should help them to a draw. Even if Sussex do enforce the follow on – the only likely route to a positive result – the Sussex bowlers will, most likely, have at least a hundred overs in their legs when they do it: it would be asking a lot to bowl out Durham a second time.
At Swansea, the game is progressing slowly as a lot of time was lost to rain on Day 1. Glamorgan moved on from a stuttering 175-7 to a much healthier 283ao thanks to runs from Andrew Salter (born in Haverford West) and the tail. In reply, all the top four for Derbyshire have made runs. They have ended the day 207-3, 76 behind and will need to press on if they are to force a win: ideally, they will aim to bat almost all day and get 250 ahead; even so, the match situation seems to favour a draw more than a positive result.
Cynical Gloucestershire fans predicted a first innings collapse, in reply to Northamptonshire’s 282ao but even the most pessimistic could not imagine what was about to happen. From 25-0 before the penultimate ball of the day yesterday, Gloucestershire fell to 26-5 in just 5.3 overs. It was snouts in the trough time for the bowlers: Ben Sanderson took the honours with 5-16, but Steven Crook’s 3-11 was just as devastating. 62ao was embarrassing on a blameless pitch. There is no question that the Gloucestershire batting is desperately low on confidence and are struggling to make any kind of score. Against Kent and against Middlesex, the second innings was much better but, today, batsman after batsman got a start and got out second time around. At 72-5 the game looked likely to finish in two days. Gareth Roderick and Ryan Higgins added 100 and seemed to be restoring some sense to the innings, but both fell in the space of five balls and 172-5 – and hope – became 172-8 and desperation, as Kieron Noema-Barnett followed Roderick and Higgins back to the Pavilion quickly. On this occasion, Brett Hutton with 6-57 was the destroyer for the hosts. Craig Miles and Matt Taylor showed some spirit with an unbeaten ninth wicket partnership of 73, but Gloucestershire are just 25 ahead and the early season optimism at Bristol is evaporating like a snowball in a furnace.
A Middlesex Watcher
Today, social media has been abuzz with various items about radio commentary. Let us pass over the news that the BBC has, again, lost commentary rights for overseas Tests to TalkSPORT Radio. The cash-strapped West Indies Cricket Board, for which a tour by England means lots of wealthy, visiting fans, full stands, a windfall for hotels and a much-needed injection of foreign exchange, was always going to take the highest offer and, if that was not BBC’s Test Match Special, quality of product would not come into it. No, the first item in question was a cricket A-Z that defined “L is for local” and went on to mention that Martin Emmerson is “never knowingly unbiased”. Martin, for some reason, took exception to this.
This is an old saw. There is a group of commentators who one of their colleagues has occasionally (“occasionally”, as in “a few times each session of play”) refers to as “the one-eyed brigade”. Dear old DT has got that wrong – as usual. One of the glories of the county commentaries is the fact that there is none of this TMS faux impartiality. Each of the commentators who follow their team around, day after day through the season, season after season, is a fan just as fanatical as any of their listeners. Kevin Hand admits that, in his early years, he even got too close to the team and his hero-worship showed up in the commentary. Kev really thought that his heroes were invincible and to watch them struggle so desperately, as they did in 2006, 2009 and, especially, 2010, was very hard for him. Long-time listeners will swear that more than once there was a catch in his voice and he genuinely seemed on the verge of tears when watching failure. Marty is a proud Sunderlander. He makes no secret of the fact that the Roker Riviera is heaven on Earth, chunters that it is “grim down south” (he takes exception to the idea that the weather is too bad for cricket “oop norf” and delights in every flood, storm, or cold snap down in the frozen south), follows local non-league football with passion and loves Durham cricket with unquestioning devotion. Marty has various things clear and one is that Yorkshire is definitely not in the north but, on a good day, when Durham are playing well and he is feeling charitable, he may grudgingly accept that Manchester is in the north and possibly even Middlesborough too.
For one glorious session of play in 2011, I was able to share commentary on Durham v Nottinghamshire with Martin Emmerson and Dave Bracegirdle, who are always squabbling on Twitter like an old married couple. We were in the huge TMS box at Chester-le-Street with its superb view of this lovely ground. There is no better commentary pairing in County cricket: they bounce off each other like the two Ronnies or Morecambe and Wise. Part of the fun of listening to them is that they are so passionate about their respective sides, but never one-eyed: they both appreciate good cricket, even when their own side is on the wrong side of it and they are unquestionably the best pairing to listen to if you just want to enjoy the game and do not care about the result.
One of the innovations about county commentary when it was extended to all eighteen First Class sides – and now, even to some Minor Counties games – is the fact that the commentary is set up with a home commentator, a visiting commentator and a neutral “third voice”. It is fine for Marty, or Kev, or the Girdler, or Bob Hunt to gush about their own side because you will also hear the other side of the story and you will hear too that third voice who has the specific mission to be neutral and to allow the other two commentators to show their true feelings. It is one of the great strengths of the commentary.
So, what is the great news of Kev this week: a piece of news that will have social media buzzing during the Derbyshire game? There are a number of Middlesex fans – some one suspects are Kevin Hand fans in reality – who have been with him since he started (“Tony in Twickenham”, “Derek in Hurstpierpoint”, “Texas Tom”, PJ Meade and yours truly may just occasionally have been mentioned by Kev on commentary, along with a few others – it was Texas Tom who suggested that Kev should have his own chat show called, “Speak to the Hand”). Today, ZK Goh, another familiar name, presented his Kevin Hand Middlesex Commentary Bingo. Not a mention of rhubarb in it, but some very sharp observation from someone who has been a long-term listener.
So, here it is:
Fans have pointed out that there is no mention of promotion for Middlesex and, of course, in the first session of play in the Northants game, he must have said: “promotion is a bare minimum for Middlesex this season” at least half a dozen times. Kev, you never learn! That kind of prediction almost always ends in tears.
So, print out your cards – versions for various other commentators will, no doubt, follow – put on Kev’s commentary and see how quickly you can shout “HOUSE!!!!” I doubt that it will take long.
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