By Mark Kidger (@markFromMadrid)
Last night was a make-or-break night for several teams, with the final pieces of the qualifying puzzle supplied in the last round of games, today.
In last night's report I - idly - assumed that the ECB would apply common sense and that the same Tie-breakers would apply in the Blast as in the Royal London One Day Cup. They have not, and they do not!
The relevant extract from the playing conditions is:
The tie-breakers for teams finishing on equal points will be:
22.214.171.124 The team with the higher net run rate in the Group Matches will be placed in the higher
position (see below).
126.96.36.199 If teams cannot be separated by 188.8.131.52 above, this will be done by drawing
So, unlike in the ODC, where a number of wins in group matches is the first tie-breaker, here only Net Run Rate is important. With 1st playing 4th and 2nd playing 3rd in the other group at home in the Quarter Finals, there is a distinct advantage both to obtaining a top-two place and to topping the group. So, even for sides that have already qualified before these games (Durham, Lancashire and Worcestershire from North Group and Somerset and Gloucestershire from South Group), like grid position in Formula 1, the higher you are, the more significant your advantage.
In North Group, Notts Outlaws, Birmingham Bears and Yorkshire Vikings are all after the remaining spot while, in South Group, Kent Spitfires, Glamorgan, Surrey and Sussex are in a blanket finish for two places. According to results, Kent could top South Group, or fail to qualify: it is that close.
An additional factor is a band of heavy rain moving south-east which, at midday, was hammering London, East Anglia and the home counties. With the West country dry and the rain about to reach Kent, Gloucestershire and Sussex were no doubt feeling happier than Yorkshire, Kent and Somerset about the prospects of play.
Just one game in North Group as Northamptonshire host Yorkshire Vikings. Northamptonshire are already guaranteed to finish bottom of the group, while the Vikings need to win this game in hand by a wide margin to keep open their chances of a Quarter-Final place. Of the three teams chasing one place, the Vikings have the worst NRR and, with the Vikings playing the Outlaws in the final game, would be eliminated if rain does not allow a result against the Outlaws unless tonight’s result pushes them ahead on NRR. To complicate things further, the Bears are 1 point ahead and also have a better NRR going into the game. Yorkshire welcome back Liam Plunkett, but Kane Williamson has bone damage to a finger taking a catch against the Outlaws on Friday. David Willey captains the side in the absence of Steve Patterson with a broken finger.
Northamptonshire won the Toss and elected to bat. Despite a slowish start, 68 from 39 balls from Josh Cobb kept the score moving. David Willey took three wickets in 4 balls in the penultimate over to knock back their chances of a big total but, despite this, 162-8 was strongly competitive. Chasing 163 to stay alive in the competition, Yorkshire lost Kohler-Cadmore for a duck to the fourth ball of the innings, but Lyth and Willey then set off in pursuit of the target at a furious pace and then accelerated. Yorkshire, needing the victory and, preferably a big one to improve run-rate, were cruising, with Willey and Lyth utterly dismantling the Northants attack, with Willey eschewing boundaries to score mainly in sixes. When Lyth fell for 66 from 41 balls, the job was all but done with Willey out for 79 from 42 with 7x6 from the next ball. Yorkshire won by seven wickets with 27 balls remaining and keep themselves alive.
Mission accomplished for Yorkshire who go ahead of Notts Outlaws by 0.05 on NRR and thus just need to match their result in the last game to go through.
Two big games and a dead rubber here. Gloucestershire host Sussex and Kent host Somerset, with a lot riding on both games. In the third match, Middlesex and Essex are in a three-way battle with Hampshire to avoid the wooden spoon in South Group. Victory for Gloucestershire would put them level on points with Somerset at the top of the Group, although their NRR is currently inferior and would all but eliminate Sussex, who would have to win their last game and hope for either rain in the Glamorgan v Surrey game or a narrow Surrey win combined with a big Sussex victory against Middlesex on the previous evening. For Kent, a win would seal qualification and open the chance of winning the South Group; defeat though would leave a must-win match on the last evening against Essex.
Unlike the final round of games, which all start at 1930 BST, Somerset had the advantage of starting at 2000 BST, half an hour after their rivals from across the River Avon and knowing how that match has ended before their own game did.
Gloucestershire v Sussex
Sussex may point to their four rained-off games if they fail to qualify, but a hit or miss attack also has a lot to do with it. When the Sussex pace attack comes off, as demonstrated by the two T20 hat-tricks that it has obtained this season, it is well-nigh irresistible; when it is off target, balls race to the boundary so much faster. Sussex went into the game without ace gunslinger, Luke Wright, injured, with Danny Briggs captaining the side. Gloucestershire picked the same squad as for their well-nigh miraculous win against Surrey, expecting to play the same XI, but gave Jacob Lintott a first start for Gloucestershire, having played T20 for Hampshire last season. Sir Robert Hunt described Jacob Lintott as “not looking very athletic, in fact, he makes Noema-Barnett look like Kate Moss”.
At the Brightside Ground at Bristol, Gloucestershire won the Toss and elected to bat. Tymal Mills immediately showed what a threat he is with a brutal fast over, including a delivery that hit Maxy Klinger and a brutal short ball that was neck high. Some tight bowling, particularly from Rashid Khan, who the batsmen were entirely unable to pick and Chris Jordan, made scoring tricky in the middle overs. 85-3 after 12 overs presaged a total around 170 but, despite some quite wild bowling from Tymal Mills, mixed with more brutal deliveries, Gloucestershire were never allowed to get away. With real difficulties to get the ball away, wickets started to fall quickly as the batsmen hit out. Jofra Archer’s last oversaw three wickets fall (a catch in the deep, a clean bowled from a hoik and a run-out) and just six runs scored. Gloucestershire’s final total of 159-9 was bitterly disappointing. With Michael Klinger’s back giving him a lot of trouble, it appeared initially that Chris Dent, who has been playing for the 2nd XI this week, was going to field for him, with Ian Cockbain took over the captaincy. However, after a delay, Klinger, who has been taking strong analgesics to allow him to play recently, joined the side on the field. The first over from David Payne was extraordinary, with three skied balls, two that went close to Lintott without being chances and a huge skier that Andrew Tye just missed over his shoulder, with the ball bouncing off his hands: 13 off the over, but it could so easily have been two wickets. Early omens for Gloucestershire were not good as Salt swung merrily and the bowling and fielding were, at times, shoddy. Salt finally fell after scoring 60 from 30 balls and then Jacob Lintott, captain of Clevedon CC, came in, gave the ball some air and, after two dot balls that were cheered loudly by the crowd and two singles, then took wickets with the last two balls of his over, the second of which utterly bamboozled Deloy Rawlins and clean-bowled him.
However, Finch and Wiese hammered the ball to all parts and Sussex seemed to be cruising, before Benny Howell got both with consecutive balls and, again, hope, however forlorn, returned as the crowd came to life, before the comment “that’s a terrible ball” started to repeat itself persistently. Sussex won eventually by four wickets with six balls to spare and were far from flattered by that margin. Gloucestershire were left to watch nervously events at Canterbury, while Sussex knew that they were still very much alive in the competition.
Sussex move ahead of Glamorgan into fourth in South Group and only have to avoid defeat in their last game to go through: a tie or a rained-off game would suit them nicely as their NRR is massively superior to Glamorgan. Surrey must win and hope that Sussex lose to Middlesex to go through on NRR.
Kent v Somerset
Kent have won 10 of the 14 previous meetings, with one abandoned and 3 Somerset victories so, on paper, the odds were stacked against Somerset. Unusually, Kent picked a 15-man squad, with Marcus Stoinis back after his hamstring injury, although not in the final XI. With the heavy rain clearing more than an hour before the start, the danger of a drastically shortened, or abandoned match was lifted.
Somerset won an on-time Toss after some great work from the groundsmen to make the outfield playable and put Kent in. The decision became debatable when Kent reached 58-0 from just five overs, with Daniel Bell-Drummond and Joe Denley enjoying themselves immensely. However, Denly and the Bell-Drummond fell in quick succession, and the scoring rate slowed considerably, with Max Waller taking two, cheap wickets. Sam Billings and Alex Blake then put together a rapid partnership before exploding and putting Jerome Taylor especially, to the sword. Blake fell for 42 from 22 balls, but Sam Billings kept on swinging, finishing with 57 from 35 balls, with able support from Sean Dickson’s 20 from 9 at the end, leading Kent to 231-5, including six penalty runs. Somerset needed a huge innings from someone but lost Myburgh quickly. Peter Trego scored swiftly, but fell for 30 from 18 and Somerset could see the run rate required rising rapidly. Steven Davies looked to be the main hope, but then fell for 45 from 25 balls, the RRR over 13 when he fell to make it 91-3. However, incredibly, after ten overs, Somerset were actually slightly ahead of Kent’s score at the same stage. Corey Anderson joined James, and 29 came from their first ten balls together, 42 from the first 16. One six went into the flats overlooking the ground; a top edge flew over the boundary.
Eventually, Corey Anderson swung once too often and a swirling edge went high in the air allowing Sam Billings to chase 30 yards and pull off a brilliant catch. 138-4 after 12.5 after a partnership of 47 from 21 balls. With the fall of Anderson, singles came at will, but Somerset needed at least two boundaries each over and could not get them. Hildreth fell finally for 45 and, with it, any remote chance that Somerset had of victory departed with him. However, Lewis Gregory was not going to die wondering and swung for his life, helped by a catch off a no-ball. The equation came to 30 from 8 when Milne bowled a high full toss that Gregory skied and was caught off, before John Lloyds, the TV umpire (and ex-Somerset player) called the delivery a new ball and, Milne had to be removed from the attack, with Tom Abell taking a boundary of the subsequent Free Hit. Grant Stewart came on to finish the over and went for two boundaries and bowled a wide, leaving 18 needed from the last over.
1st ball, Claydon to Gregory: boundary, 14 required.
2nd ball, Claydon to Gregory: a single, 13 needed from 4.
3rd ball, Claydon to Abell: Abell misses… a bye to the ‘keeper, 12 needed from 3.
4th ball, Claydon to Gregory: swung to leg, cut off on the boundary by Heino Kuhn who appeared to touch the rope as he fielded, two runs after a long delay. 10 needed from 2.
5th ball, Claydon to Gregory: Yorker, missed. Cut off just short if the boundary for three byes. Six need to tie.
6th ball, Claydon to Abell: a single on the On side and Somerset lose by five runs.
Somerset’s seven-match unbeaten streak ended and Kent, Somerset and Gloucestershire will dispute the top 3 places in South Group in the last round of matches, with Somerset who have finished their games, having the NRR advantage over Kent in second and Gloucestershire.
Middlesex v Essex
Yet another disappointing T20 campaign comes to an end at Lord’s, with rumours circulating that Dan Vettori may pay the price for two wins in 12 matches to date, six straight defeats and a battle to avoid coming bottom in South Group. Steve Finn and Nathan Sowter return to the squad for the “Machines”, who are captained by Dawid Malan now that he has no international commitments. Essex won the Toss and put Middlesex in.
This proved to be an evening when the stuttering Middlesex batting functioned reasonably well, even if the commentary stream did not. 210-3, built around 77 from 38 balls by Eoin Morgan and 78 from 52 by Paul Stirling powered Middlesex past 200, although the fans had seen Middlesex score 220+ and still lose comfortably this season. Essex though set off with gusto and, although they fell to 33-2 in the fourth over, Varun Chopra and Dan Lawrence kept Essex well up with the run-rate: the Middlesex nightmare of being unable to defend 220+ was repeating itself. Essex cruised to victory, winning by six wickets with four balls remaining. Poor bowling, dropped catches and generally shoddy fielding contributed to the Middlesex nightmare.
7/1/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
The Royal London One Day Cup is, as Sir Humphrey Appleby would have put it, “in the propinquity of its ultimate and regrettable termination”. A September One Day Cup Final at Lord’s was the highlight of the season for decades, with counties and their supporters desperate to reach the Final. It has seen multiple formats, including starting as a 65 over competition with a maximum of 15 overs per bowler, followed by many years of 60 overs. It has also seen the unexpected (who now would believe that, for many years, it was a blistering innings by Geoff Boycott that produced the record score in a Lord’s Final?) Now, the old and popular knock-out format long abandoned (I wonder just how much fans regret, like me, that we no longer see the Minor Counties and the recreational cricketers of the County Boards fighting through various rounds for a place in the last 16 and the chance to carry out a giant-killing – games such as Devon v Somerset, or Durham County Board XI v Durham were the lifeblood of the competition). Now, the Royal London One Day Cup has become a hybrid version of the old Benson and Hedges Cup, with its 55 over format, league + knock-out structure and mid-season Final. The old B&H was always the ugly sister of the one-day competitions, never taken quite as seriously by the counties, although the silverware was always welcome, especially when one of the less-fashionable teams won. However, next year will see the final Lord’s Final. Like John Cleese’s parrot, it will be no more; it will cease to be. No longer does the Lord’s Final see noisy sell-out crowds, with tickets all-but-impossible to obtain but, still, more than twenty thousand fans were in Lord’s, undoubtedly helped by the fact that one of the counties that makes up the Greater London area was a finalist.
Both teams came from the tight and hard-fought South Group. Hampshire had topped that group with a 5-2 record, while Kent had just squeaked into third place with a 5-3 record. While Hampshire had overwhelmed a Yorkshire 2nd XI in the Semi-Final, thanks to a brutal James Vince century, Kent had to defeat holders Nottinghamshire in the eliminator and then North Group winners Worcestershire in the Semi-Final: in both cases, Kent had won on the back of a devastating Heino Kuhn century. The trouble with such runs of form is that they have a nasty habit of running out just when you need them most. Before the Final Kuhn had had a modest run of scores in the competition of 36*, 117, 113, 4, 124* & 127, the “4” against Essex was just to prove that he is human after all.
Before the Final, Reece Topley had expressed a fear that the Topley family curse would hit him. His father was Twelfth Man four times for Lord’s Finals and never did make it into the playing XI; now back from injury, Reece Topley made it five-out-of-five for the Topleys as Hampshire opted to play leg-spinner Mason Crane instead of left-arm seamer Reece Topley in this Final. The word from the Hampshire camp was that Crane had received a pain-killing injection to allow him to play and that it will be last time he plays for his county for the rest of the season.
On the Kent side, a devastating century and a lot of wickets against Middlesex was obviously no preparation for a 50-over Final, so Grant Stewart missed out, but Darren Stevens and Matt Henry were back in the XI.
Sam Billings won the Toss and decided to chase on a warm and sunny morning, with what appeared to be a pretty good pitch beckoning, with the sides lining up:
Kent: Bell-Drummond, Kuhn, Denly, Dickson, Billings, Blake, Stevens, Haggett, Podmore, Henry, Qayyum.
Hampshire: Rossouw, Alsop, Vince, Northeast, Weatherley, Dawson, McManus, Berg, Wood, Steyn, Crane.
Despite the danger that the Kent attack of Harry Podmore and Matt Henry could be hard to cope early on, with a slightly green pitch that had not yet dried out in the sun and might be expected to get better and better through the day, James Vince admitted that he had wanted to bat first, so Sam Billings’s invitation suited him nicely.
One always felt that Kent needed early wickets, but Hampshire made a solid start. 25-0 from 5 overs. 58-0 from 10, with Callum Haggett’s opening over going for 18. By then a sinking feeling may have been growing in the pit of Sam Billings’ stomach that he had made the wrong call. On came Darren Stevens, up came Sam Billings to the stumps: it was lovely to see a wicket-keeper standing-up to a seamer. 15 overs, 90-0 and Hampshire scoring comfortably at a run-a-ball with few alarms. The writing was on the wall that Hampshire could run up a huge score.
With Callum Haggett bowling with all the control of a faulty paint spray, it was Joe Denly’s turn to come on and try his luck. It is hard to recall that Denly was an integral part of the England limited-overs sides in 2009/10 and was a promising leg-spinner to boot. This season, Denly’s bowling has been dusted-off, and he has had some success, particularly in the red-ball game. Initially, it seemed that he was giving Rilee Rossouw some problems, but Rossouw got through them, and the breakthrough refused to come. 20 overs, 126-0 and Hampshire were starting to accelerate, even if they were treating Darren Stevens with respect still.
Finally, on came Imran Qayyum and out went Tom Alsop for 72: flighted delivery, two or three steps down the wicket, miss and Sam Billings whips off the bails. Kent needed the wicket, but 136-1 from 22.2 overs was not the greatest of starts, and the bad news was that it brought in James Vince, who had a point to make to Ed Smith. At the 30-over mark, it was 193-1, Vince was getting into his stride, Rossouw was playing with increasing freedom and Kent seemed set to be chasing a massive total: 380-400 looked all too possible.
From there, it did not go quite as Hampshire had wanted. Vice lofted Qayyum to Joe Denly at long-on, falling for 23. 193-2. However, Rossouw was still there and duly reached his century in the thirty-fifth over, and Kent still had a sizeable problem. Sam Northeast and Rossouw continued to accumulate runs. After 40 overs Hampshire were 262-2 and always looking set for a score in the 360-380 range. That fortieth over featured a straight drive from Rossouw, aimed straight at the umpire, that had him diving for cover, as self-preservation took over from dignity. However, to the first ball of the forty-second over he lashed out at Joe Denly and was caught at mid-wicket for 125. 270-3. Two overs later, Liam Dawson chipped a catch to cover point and Denly had another. Sam Northeast has his fifty, but wickets kept falling at the other end as Kent clawed things back. Lewis McManus hit Denly high into the Lord’s sky, and Sean Dickson dived forward to reach it: 297-5 with just over four overs to go and Kent were clawing their way back as Hampshire imploded somewhat. Then Weatherly missed his second ball and Denly had a fourth wicket. 297-6 with just 24 balls left. Thirty-three came from those last four overs as Hampshire finished on a record score for a Lord’s Final of 330-7, although it should have been a lot more as they only managed 68-5 in their last ten overs. However, with such a brilliant start, it was always likely that Hampshire would struggle to keep up the momentum in the slog overs as batsmen came in and tried to play shots with little or no reconnaissance. In truth, it was a massive score for a Lord’s Final and just reflected how well Hampshire have batted in the competition.
For Kent, it looked like a case of Kuhn or bust. For Hampshire, Chris Wood and Dale Steyn with the new, white ball. For two overs things seemed pretty good: 16-0, with Kuhn, looked in pretty good form – and well he should. The next two overs produced just two singles, as Hampshire showed that 331 would take some getting. Still, after nine overs it was 55-0, and Kent were going nicely at just better than a run-a-ball, well up with the asking rate. Had Daniel Bell-Drummond and Heino Kuhn been able to keep this up for 20 overs, they would have put the Hampshire fourth and fifth bowlers under terrific pressure. Unfortunately for Kent, the last over of the Power Play saw Kuhn run out as Gareth Berg dived and threw at the stumps from close range, with just one stump to aim at as Kuhn tried to run a suicidal single. 55-1 and Kent could not afford another quick wicket. That though is what they got. The scoring rate had dipped significantly with the fall of Kuhn, Kent were little above 5-an-over and needed some momentum. Joe Denly went after Gareth Berg and only lobbed a catch to James Vince. 17 overs, 83-2 and Hampshire, were on top.
James Vince introduced an all-spin attack with contrasting fortunes: Liam Dawson bowled his first 4 for 14 runs and kept a tight lid on the scoring; Mason Crane’s first three went for 29. The Crane gamble was failing, and so Vince brought himself on and reined-in the scoring at the other end. Denly and Dickson were scoring as many singles as they wanted, but the boundaries needed to stop the required run rate from rising stubbornly refused to come. Crane came back, and Dickson swiped at him and lifted a catch to Rossouw.
30 overs: Kent 158-3, Hampshire 193-1.
Kent desperately needed someone to score, score big and score quickly.
33 overs. 168-3 and the RRR now over 9. The match was slipping away from Kent.
Daniel Bell-Drummond was still there, but he was struggling to raise his tempo up to a run-a-ball when Kent needed significantly better than that to get back into the game. Finally, in the thirty-fifth over, the killer blow: Chris Wood bowled Bell-Drummond for 86. 179-4 after 35 overs. From there on it was just a matter of how large the margin of defeat would be as Hampshire’s bowlers and fielders hung on to their prey like an angry bulldog as the usual crazy mix of run outs and dismissals to wild slogs sunk the chase without a trace. 40 overs, 217-6 and Dale Steyn back into the attack: not a bad change to be able to make for the last ten. Sam Billings was still there, but the best score from the Kent bottom six was the 12 of Darren Stevens. Berg finished it off by having Sam Billings caught by Dale Steyn for 75.
Kent were 269ao and lost by 61 runs, with 2.5 overs left to bowl but, in reality, it was not even as close as that rather large margin suggests. To a degree, it was self-inflicted, because there were no fewer than four runouts in the Kent innings, but run outs are an operational hazard when you are chasing a big total and falling behind the run rate against a side as professional and clinical as Hampshire have been in the knock-out phase. The Hampshire fielders backed-up their bowlers brilliantly and, as a side, were just too good for Kent on the day. Unquestionably, the better team won, although the losers can console themselves that they are doing enough to suggest that they may be a force to reckon with next season in both red and white ball cricket.
5/30/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkfromMadrid)
The rather bizarre scheduling of the Royal London One Day Cup continues unabated. Games are being played almost every day but, strangely, the one day with no ODC games at all was the Bank Holiday Monday. There must be some logic behind this, but as yet no one seems to have found it. We have now had two days with three and four games each, meaning that fourteen of the eighteen teams have a game, although the weather is playing an important part, with the majority of the matches were affected by rain. The ODC has a somewhat hybrid rain rule, with ten overs required to make a game in the Group Phases and 20 overs thereafter.
With the completion of today’s games, every team in the North Group bar Yorkshire will have just three games left (Yorkshire have two) while, in the South Group, three of the sides will have completed six of their eight matches. It is a good moment to take stock given that there is so much equality in mid-table in both groups. In fact, the South table has six of the nine teams tied on six points.
So, first, what are the criteria for ordering teams in the case of equal points. Section 16.11.4 of the Playing Conditions gives the criteria as:
1. Most wins in Group Matches.
2. Net Run Rate in Group Matches.
3. Most points in matches between the teams that are level.
4. Drawing lots.
In practice, it is incredibly unlikely that there will ever be a tie on NRR.
Let’s start at The Oval. Surrey hosted Sussex, but the game was called-off early as the playing surface turned into a boating lake.
Where it leaves the sides: One point each left Surrey 8th on 5 points and the worst NRR in the group although, with three games left, they are just 1 point behind Somerset in 2nd. Sussex are 6th, on 6 points, with two games left. Surrey are likely to need to win their last three games to qualify and, on the way, boost their NRR. Sussex need to win their last 2.
Much more exciting was the game at New Road, where Worcestershire hosted Leicestershire: not exactly two sides that you would have picked pre-season for high-octane excitement, but that did not stop the patrons seeing 756 runs in the day. Leicestershire made a fast start, and all the top six scored runs, with the lowest contribution Delport’s 20. Horton, Raine, Cosgrove and Ackerman all reached 70, with 75 runs coming from the last 38 balls of the innings as Leicestershire reached 376-4. In reply, Moeen Ali, playing his second ODC game after returning from the IPL where his returns were modest, fell for a 3-ball duck. But Callum Ferguson and Joe Clarke (Rikki Clarke’s little brother) added 140 in 20 overs and Worcestershire, remarkably, cruised to their target with nearly three overs to spare. Callum Ferguson scored 192, ably supported by fifties from Clarke, Mitchell and D’Oliviera. Ferguson fell with Worcestershire seven short of their target of 377 to win and got over the line in style, winning by six wickets.
Where it leaves the sides: Worcestershire top the North Group with four wins and 8 points and a positive NRR. Wins in two of their last three games will see them qualify, while even one win may be enough. Leicestershire are bottom of the group with one win, two points and negative NRR and would need a remarkable combination of results to qualify, even if they win their last three games by wide margins.
The deluge that ended any hopes of a game at The Oval took a little longer to arrive at Canterbury but duly did so, leaving Messrs Duckworth and Lewis in charge. After their high-powered start to the ODC campaign, Somerset are now slowing and have lost three of their last four games. A poor start saw them 17-2 and 65-5 in an innings reduced to 42 overs, staggering along drunkenly at 4-an-over. Renshaw and Gregory combined in a century stand, but there was little after that and 221 was never likely to challenge Kent, even after Daniel Bell-Drummond fell third ball. With rain approaching, Kuhn and Denly made sure that the scoring was brisk and, with play halted after 16 overs, were way ahead of their target of 61, on 88-1 and would have, most likely, cruised to a victory even without the rain.
Where it leaves the sides: Kent are 5th in the South Group with three wins and three games to go but a negative NRR. With just 1 point between second and 8th, that NRR may mean that they need to win all three games to progress. Somerset are 2nd by virtue of the best NRR in the group putting them top of the clatch of sides on 6 points but, with three defeats, will need to win their last two games and hope that results fall for them. Their fate may rest on Kent and Gloucestershire not winning their game in hand.
At Derby, where the 2nd in the North Group played Yorkshire in 3rd, the weather, played spoilsport. A win for Derbyshire would leave them almost guaranteed a Quarter-Final place, while defeat for the visitors would leave Yorkshire’s chances hanging by a thread. The umpires tried to start at 2:30 pm and held the Toss, but the rain returned. A new attempt was made at 3:15 pm in a game reduced to 24 overs, with Derbyshire sailing out of the blocks like Usain Bolt when he’s in a hurry, but the innings lost momentum as Yorkshire reeled them in and a final total of 189-6 was bitterly disappointing. When Yorkshire fell to 71-3, there was a window for Derbyshire to get back into the match, but Kohler-Cadmore and Ballance, who sound like a comedy duo, were short on laughs as they upped the scoring-rate, with Kohler-Cadmore offering several catches to spectators in the back of the Grandstand. However, just when it looked as Yorkshire would win with overs to spare, Olivier and Rampaul – not a bad pair to be able to call on when you need desperately a breakthrough – induced a collapse with three wickets falling for three runs in eleven balls, making Derbyshire firm favourites again. When Rampaul dismissed Kohler-Cadmore with the first ball of the penultimate over to complete a 5-wicket haul, it seemed that the match was over, but Matt Fisher came in at #10 and smashed 24 from 8 balls to win the game with a ball to spare. This was an extraordinary finish to a match that swung one way and another.
Where it leaves the sides: Derbyshire are third, with a game in hand over Yorkshire, who have moved into second. Yorkshire have the best NRR in the North Group and with two wins should qualify comfortably. However, just 2 points between 2nd and 6th mean that number of wins and NRR may be needed to separate sides.
In the clash of the bottom sides in the South Group, with both teams looking unlikely to progress, Essex hosted the only one of the 18 sides without even a point from an abandoned game. After a poor start and the fall of three quick wickets. Glamorgan tried to set up a platform, with Jamie Porter taking the top four in his 4-29, Ravi Bopara and Matt Coles strangled the Glamorgan middle order. Despite the efforts of Chris Cooke, without whom Glamorgan would not even have got close to 200, a total of 200ao never looked likely to be enough. Essex reached 50 in the eighth over and 100 in the sixteenth, as Varun Chopra and Adam Wheater took the Glamorgan attack apart to make sure that they were well ahead in Duckworth-Lewis should the rain return. The truth was that they could have stopped, mid-innings for a pie and chips and a pint and still won at a canter. An opening stand of 189 left the game done and dusted before Tom Westley came in and blasted a four and a six from his first four balls, effectively denying Chopra the chance of a century. The game ended with over 18 overs to spare and Chopra 98*.
Where it leaves the sides: Glamorgan were out, mathematically, even before this game, while Essex have jumped up into 3rd and given themselves a chance of sneaking into the Quarter Final if they can win their last two games, especially as this huge win has boosted their NRR. However, with two of the six sides tied on six points having a game in hand, even a wash-out would give those two sides an advantage over Essex.
At Merchant Taylors’ School, early drizzle led to a delayed start and a reduction to 45 overs. Middlesex, who have been Jekyll and Hyde in the competition this year, looked set for a good total as Eskinazi and Holden set about repairing a slow start. Reece Topley (who is coming back from yet another of the injuries that has plagued his career) and, more surprisingly, James Vince, halted the Middlesex momentum. Seven batsmen got starts, but no one could make a significant score and Middlesex fell short of 200 when 250 looked like the minimum necessary to make a game of it. Middlesex needed to bowl out Hampshire to win and, despite a couple of wickets for Steve Finn, it never seemed likely to happen, with the batsmen staying comfortably ahead of the RRR. Even the fall of three quick wickets to leave Hampshire 140-5 was little more than an inconvenience as Adams and McManus brought the visitors home with more than six overs to spare.
Where it leaves the sides: A third defeat and a NRR inferior to Somerset have left Middlesex’s chances hanging on winning their last two matches and relying on other results to go their way. Middlesex are fourth still, but that position is precarious given their poor NRR and the fact that they are level with two sides who have a game in hand. Hampshire now have daylight at the top of the South Group table and should progress with one win from their last three games.
The televised game was at Edgbaston, with both sides embedded in mid-table and needing the win. Again, rain intervened, with play scheduled to start at 4:45 pm, after a delay of nearly 3 hours, an intention scuppered by more rain. A new start was scheduled for 6:05 with the same result. Then a start was scheduled at 7 pm. Again, rain intervened, this time, terminally.
Where it leaves the sides: The point for a wash-out is more use to Warwickshire than to Northants. Two wins from the last three games should see Warwickshire into the knock-out phase, while Northants need three wins and to boost their NRR, although two wins and a wash-out may be sufficient.
4/26/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkfromMadrid)
'O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.'
No, I cannot imagine David Fletcher of BBC Radio Derby, even inspired by the legendary presence of Kevin Hand at his side, coming out with Hamlet’s declamation. Mind you, around about Tea on the last day of the second round of Division 2 matches, the same phrase would have been equally appropriate for the lyrical tones of the softly spoken, proudly Welsh, Ed Bevan.
While the game at Grace Road was eminently forgettable: let’s face it, it is uncertain that there would have been a result even in six days and the 1101 runs for 21 wickets were scored in 361 overs of tedium, the other two Division 2 games to finish were brilliant entertainment. If Grace Road pitches are going to be like this, Leicestershire can look forward to not losing home games, but visiting sides may be tempted to call the Seventh Doctor’s companion ACE, if she is still in Perivale and ask her to use one of her special Nitro explosive mixes on the pitch. It is the kindest thing that can be done to put players, fans and umpires out of their misery.
So, what were these bad dreams?
Derbyshire had not won a home match since the final round of the 2014 Championship. David Fletcher of BBC Radio Derby even had a note of the exact number of days since their last win. The two overnight batsmen had been removed within five overs in the morning. Middlesex were 95-5 and, let’s face it, they had been truly awful for nine sessions. Injuries to bowlers Toby Roland-Jones and James Harris did not help and a guy in the Car Park had missed a couple of sitters off Ollie Rayner, quite apart from the one dropped by a building worker on the roof of the terrace house down the road from the 3aaa ground, but that did not excuse 157ao and 95-5 by the batsmen.
Fair enough. Paul Srirling, John Simpson and Toby Roland-Jones showed some much-needed resistance with the bat, but: 223-8, nearly 60 overs to go. Come on! What could go wrong? Fletch was purring. Tom Helm at #10 had a career average of 12. Okay, so James Harris, who does have some notion of batting was still there and, in the absence of the Watford Wall (Steve Finn), Middlesex could offer the legendary Lambeth Lara – Tim Murtagh – at #11. Even Kevin Hand at his most optimistic would not have expected to enjoy his co-comm getting increasingly impatient and then watching him starting to have horrible imaginings. It was to be drama of the highest order.
As the ninth wicket stand passed the century, you started to hear David Fletcher say “if they don’t win this, they’ll have some explaining to do”. And he said it several times. And, of course, when you have Kevin Hand alongside, pointing out that “if Middlesex were to bat out time, which they won’t” (even Kevin Hand covers his back sometimes), they would be very close to their target of 442.
Tom Helm reached a first, First Class fifty. James Harris his thirteenth. Surely they could not bring of an escape – and even a chase – of such epic proportions that Derbyshire mums would be frightening their kids with tales of the Middlesex tail for years?
This is the sort of end to a cricket match that T20 can never match. Slowly rising tension. Every over survived increasing the chances that the impossible might happen. And, as one fan wrote in – and not for the first time with his side – “with Middlesex, it’s the hope that kills you”. Poor David Fletcher must have been in real medical danger when the occasional leg spin of Matt Critchley was brought out again to try and buy a wicket. He had already taken Toby Roland-Jones. Critchley tried a straight delivery. Tom Helm just missed it. A huge shout (that was just the local commentator). "Umpire?". The incoherent scream that might have been “he’s got him this time!!” In comes the Lambeth Lara who, in his Surrey days, was actually a decent all-rounder. Tim Murtagh is nothing but a gentleman and knowing that James Harris deserved a red-inker, he did not raise David Fletcher’s blood pressure any more.
That was so ridiculously tense.
Anything you can do, I can do better… at Bristol, the tension even went a step further. Like Middlesex, Gloucestershire had won a low-scoring first game of the season comfortably. Like Middlesex, they had a second game against one of the less-fancied teams in Division 2. And like Middlesex they had been embarrassingly bad for three days.
Gloucestershire had started the day at 133-5 and even that represented a considerable recovery. It is hard to imagine that any Gloucestershire fan expected the match to last the morning session. To have a hope of saving the match you needed you not out batsmen overnight still to be there at Lunch, right? When Ryan Higgins fell after 40 minutes, albeit after another valuable innings (Note to Gus Fraser: why did you let this boy go? In his first two Championship games for Gloucestershire he has taken 9 wickets and scored 107 runs) the last hope was called Kieron Noema-Barnett, who has been described by Gloucestershire commentator, Bob Hunt as “being so laid-back that if he were any more laid-back, he’d be asleep”.
When defeat is inevitable, you can sit back, relax and enjoy it. So, the Gloucestershire tail enjoyed themselves once Noema-Barnett was back relaxing in the rather smart Bristol Pavillion. Dan Worrall batted an hour and a half for fifty – his First Class best. The new ball came and went. Matt Taylor came in. Maybe he could accompany “Bobby” Bracey, to his century? After all, with Liam Norwell unlikely to bat with his hamstring pull, it was all about the personal landmark for James Bracey – who just happens to have come to Gloucestershire from Winterbourne CC (Yes: I grew up in Winterbourne and, emotionally, it is still home to me).
But swift, what light through yonder window shines? It was Matt Taylor’s shining First Class best score! Tea came. Tea went. And you could start to see the distant light of the unlikeliest of draws. “If Bracey and Taylor could hold out until 5 pm, Gloucestershire would be about 100 ahead and Glamorgan might well shake on the draw.” Bob Hunt showed that he did not have the exclusive on making mischief with a nervous co-comm! The comment cried out for Jon McEnroe to scream back “you cannot be serious!”
All good things… Matt Taylor was probably becoming embarrassed by the length of his stay in the middle, after an hour and a half batting. He was in good company… on the field at least. In his desperation to make the breakthrough, Michael Hogan had given Matt Taylor the company of the wicket-keeper and no fewer than seven slips: it was the day for the funky fields.
Adam Salter came back for what was probably one, final effort. He was still waiting for his first wicket of the season, having gone wicketless through the game with Cardiff MCCU and in the first innings here. Most likely Michael Hogan thought that he might make the batsman relax and do something stupid. So Taylor edged through to the ‘keeper and the Salter gambit was justified. Surely the Glamorgan bad dreams could be put to bed? In came Liam Norwell with a runner. Here the tension probably got to the batsmen. Norwell, who has a First Class century, can look after himself. If Gloucestershire had scored a quick thirty for the final wicket, with Bracey chancing his arm a bit, the chase would surely have been beyond Glamorgan. Norwell blocked to good effect. Bracey limited himself to a single from the fourth or fifth ball of the over and, although overs were ticked off, the vital number of runs to chase barely increased. The inevitable happened. Norwell, with his limited movement, edged a delighted Hogan to the ‘keeper and the target was a very gettable 83 when it could have been over 100 at a run-a-ball.
The light faded. Gloucestershire wasted time as wilfully as they could get away with. The bowlers bowled as far down leg as they dared. And there were nine men on the boundary. Unfortunately, Worrall’s radar was a bit off and he fed the batsmen runs. Fifty up in the eighth over. Thanks for the game lads. All over! Not quite... Matt Taylor took a wicket. No panic boyo. Shaun Marsh fell to Worrall for a duck. Now I have not been in the ground in its new configuration but, with Matt Taylor bowling genuinely fast in the late evening, sighting the ball must have been a tricky proposition by this point. At 67-4, with Taylor on 3-25, the bad dreams for Glamorgan must have been turning into nightmares. Yes. Now you should consider seriously panicking. The umpires kept the players out, but it was obvious that Glamorgan might only have two, or at most three overs to get the remaining fifteen runs.
In the end, Worrall’s seventh over was hit to all parts of Ashley Down and Glamorgan won what was, according to the scorebook, a comfortable victory. In reality, Gloucestershire should not have lost but, probably deserved to lose for not being ambitious enough at the end of their innings and for blatant time-wasting. Had they drawn, they would have gone second in the table. Small margins.
So, what can we take away from (nearly) two rounds of games in Division 2?
First, despite the sneering that goes on about Division 2, the product is good. Four days of tough cricket at Derby and at Bristol, with incredible tension and a result in the final session.
A good product, that interests no one? One newspaper printed a photograph of a stand at Chester-le-Street that was closed for safety reasons and headlined it with a comment that no one comes to watch the Championship. It is grist to the mill that demands that an unpopular niche competition be further cut. In fact, crowds continue to increase. Several of the games were attended by two thousand or more who paid on the turnstiles, plus an unknown number of members, whose attendance is not counted. Just think what football attendance figures would look like if season ticket holder were not counted. Add to that the fact that Radio London noted that Middlesex, the less supported of the two London sides, had 17000 unique listeners tuned-in to the Internet commentary of their game against Northants and that even Radio Derby had 4000 listeners (their words, not mine) and you see that the “one man and his dog” story is a complete fabrication.
Warwickshire stand proud and clear at the top of Division 2 after two games. They do look a good bet for promotion but let’s wait and see until they have played four or five games and the picture is clearer.
Two points cover Middlesex in second down to Gloucestershire and Sussex in joint sixth. This may not be the royal progress that Middlesex fans were hoping for (some, even genuinely seemed to think that Middlesex could win most, if not all their games this season). Two games are not enough to make judgements, but Middlesex’s win came against Northants, who have been badly beaten in both their games. Are we going to see a repeat of 2007 and the second season of Middlesex underperformance? On Friday, Middlesex host Glamorgan. Without overdramatising, that game already looks like a “must not lose”.
Derbyshire look like a decent side with a four-man attack, but it is hard to tell who might come out of the pack. Sussex are fancied as dark horses by some but have played out two draws on uncharacteristically flat surfaces, on which a result would have been hard to achieve in five days, let alone four. How will they do on more responsive surfaces? Watch this space!to edit.
4/25/2018 1 Comment
By Mark Kidger (@MarkfromMadrid)
Just two games were left on the last day. Both were so far advanced that there was every possibility that there would be no Division 1 cricket after Lunch. Instead, though, patrons got a pleasant surprise – and it was not that Andrew Strauss has resigned and that the 100-ball competition has been consigned to a dustbin in St. John’s Wood.
Starting in God’s Own Country, also known as the Leeds Lido, Yorkshire duly finished off their hapless opponents within an hour. After the Nottingshire Hari-Kiri the previous evening, this game could easily have been over in two balls. Instead, the ninth wicket pair of Tom Moores and Jake Ball entertained the patrons for around forty minutes, adding 57 runs and taking their stand to 66. Jake Ball must have been entertaining fond thoughts of a maiden First-Class fifty when Ben Coad decided to put an end to the fun by bowling a straight one at him. Two balls later, while Tom Moores watched helplessly at the other end, one short of equalling his career best, Coad got an outside edge from Harry Gurney. Coad finished with 6-81, 10-130 in the match and will be starting to check potential tourist destinations in Sri Lanka for the winter, ready for the days when he isn’t in the England XI.
Moving to South London, we had another game that looked a pretty open and shut case to the judge in the morning and ready for sentencing at Lunch. Hampshire started at 141-4 with their last two specialist bats together. After a little more than an hour, they were 163-6 and Surrey must have been anticipating an early Lunch. What happened was drama to match anything in Division 2 – Nay! That is hyperbole! NOTHING could match the drama in Division 2. However, with the pitch easing and Sam Northeast not inclined to follow the lead of the top order and surrender tamely, the game continued far into the afternoon. Surrey took wickets seven and eight without too much bother, although both Abbott and Wood showed the sort of stubbornness that the top order could have imitated. Where things got seriously weird was thereafter. Brad Wheal has no pretensions as a batsman – a career average of 6 testifies to that – but hung around as Sam Northeast got going. The new ball was seen off. Rikki Clarke bowled his heart out to some seriously funky fields – what do you call having three men just wide of square leg? Three square mid-wickets? It sounds like a serious medical condition! It was one of the oddest fields ever seen but, try as Rikki Clarke might (and he put in so much effort that he could easily have done himself a serious mischief), Wheal saw off everything thrown at him for an hour and a half and accompanied Sam Northeast to his century. There was never a realistic danger that Surrey would not win but, as the partnership ate up the afternoon session, there were not many neutrals around the country who were not rooting for Hampshire. Finally, Jade Dernbach pinned Wheal LBW and Fidel Edwards came in.
Now, the fairest thing that you can say of Fidel Edwards as a batsman is that he comes in after Wheal (career average 6) on merit. He is the sort of #11 who inspires the captain to declare pre-emptively at the fall of the ninth wicket. Even dear old Fidel hung around and the tenth wicket partnership started to prosper too to the delight of thousands following the score – updates were being fed into the commentary in other games as Surrey’s frustration grew. Yes, we all love a hapless tail-ender who somehow survives to the utter disgust of the opposition bowlers. Unfortunately, Matt Dunn is a spoilsport and got Sam Northeast to edge through to Foakes for a magnificent 129. The scorebook will say that Surrey won by 139 runs and they thoroughly deserved the win, but they were made to sweat a bit for it.
Up to the fall of the eighth wicket, the biggest takeaway of the match was the sight of a beturbaned spinner weaving magic. The sight brought back memories of a young Northants bowler nearly fifteen years ago: Monty is now gone, if not completely forgotten, a sad case of what might have been, but to see nineteen-year-old Guramar Singh Virdi, playing just his fourth First Class match, twirling like a demon, was to evoke memories of Bishan Bedi and of Monty Panesar at his very best. Amar Virdi did not get a bowl in the first innings, but he made up for it in the second, bowling 33 overs, taking 4-79 and showing a lot of skill. Of course, young players have shone and faded, but if this lad gets some turning pitches, he will be worth paying the price of entry to the ground to see him. Somerset play Surrey at Taunton on September 18th and, on this showing, Virdi versus Leach and Bess will be a wonderful contest to watch.
Where does that leave us after two rounds of games (which are really a bit more than one and a half rounds, but why make it simple for the fans)?
Popular legend has it that the human race split some time back into two species: Yorkshiremen and everyone else. In fact, anthropologists have suggested that there is more in common between your average Lancastrian and his daily routine and a bushman of the Kalahari Desert (I assume that our highly cultured readers need no explanation of where that is) than there is between a Yorkshireman and a Lancastrian (or a Yorkshireman and anyone else for that matter). It is not only in this anthropological sense that Yorkshire and Lancashire are divided: after two games, Yorkshire are top of Division 1, Lancashire are bottom and there is already a significant gap between the bottom two – Worcestershire and Lancashire – and the rest of the table. It is the sort of situation to make Fred Boycott drool with pleasure… which he duly did in a celebratory Twitter post. Despite the opening game wash-out at Headingley, as any Yorkshireman will tell you: the natural order has been restored (Fred Boycott may just have made that point for them) and Yorkshire’s twenty-one points for the crushing victory over Nottinghamshire has trumped Essex’s nineteen for their own narrow win over Lancashire.
While it is not yet time for panic stations either at Old Trafford or at New Road, the bare facts are that six of the eight teams in Division 1 have won a match in the first two rounds, while Worcestershire and Lancashire have lost both. Worcestershire have looked so far off the pace in both games that it comes as a surprise that they are not bottom, thanks to their solitary batting bonus point obtained against Hampshire. Thanks to their near miss against Essex and the frenetic finish against Nottinghamshire, the Lancastrian struggles have passed under the radar, but they have so far managed totals of 158, 73, 144 and 288.
Even with Surrey and Somerset having played just one game, the gap between Yorkshire – top – and Surrey and Somerset in joint fifth, is just six points. It is far too early to draw conclusions apart from the fact that the bottom two are going to have to improve a lot if they are to avoid having a long and very hard season. In contrast, Surrey looked very good in their win against Hants and now play Lancashire (away) and Worcestershire (home): given the struggles so far of their opponents, it might not be a bad moment to invest the few million that you made from Bitcoin, on a Surrey Championship win, before the odds crash. It is not impossible that, if weather and good fortune are fair for the South Londoners, that they could be sitting pretty at the top of the table with three wins from three on the evening of May 8th. Another game to look at that may be a pointer to the title race is Essex v Yorkshire on May 5th. Lest we forget, on May 8th we will have completed more than a quarter of the Championship and the table will, at that stage, start to be highly significant.
Three thoughts to take away from these games:
• Sides will be checking the fixture list eagerly to see when (and where) they play Lancashire and Worcestershire and will go into the games thinking that they are “must win” to keep up with their rivals.
• Ben Coad will, if he stays fit and maintains his form, tour with England this winter (a couple of injuries and he may even debut v India)
• And, long-term, maybe the most important takeaway – Amar Virdi really looks promising and we may even have the luxury of some stiff competition for the England spin spot(s) in a couple of seasons… I hope!
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