Unless you have been living under a rock for the last week you would know that ‘Proper Cricket’ has returned to our radio waves (because apparently, it’s not ‘entertaining’ enough for TV, we’ll have to put up with the endless IPL for the foreseeable future, sigh). Here at View From The Outfield we appreciate skill and will strive to recognise good performances, so welcome to our new County Championship version of Charlie Jennings’ successful T20 team of the week from last season.
We saw plenty of superb centuries and some terrific bowling in game week one, so here is VFTO’s team of the week.
Mark Stoneman is a guaranteed shoo-in for one of our openers spots in the side, on his Surrey debut he smashed an impressive 165 to kick-start his life at the Oval in style. The former Durham man struck 24 boundary fours and one maximum during his 267-ball stay at the crease as he helped his new side to a mammoth 454 first innings score, a score that proved far too large for Warwickshire who fell a run short of making the hosts bat again. Adding to his runs, Stoneman leapt like a salmon to take a stunning slip catch to remove the dangerous looking Ian Bell in the second innings off the bowling of Mark Footitt.
Joining Mark at the crease to face the new ball is Jimmy Adams of Hampshire. Whilst he may have struggled in the first innings against Yorkshire at Headingley, but then so did most of his team as the South coast team collapsed to 141 the veteran opener more than made up for it in the second innings. Adams top-scored with 72 to help guide Craig White’s men to an unlikely four-wicket win in Leeds against League favourites Yorkshire. He, alongside Michael Carberry, ensured the visitors got off to a solid start in their pursuit of 320 by sharing 91 for the opening stand. Adams eventually fell to Azeem Rafiq but by that time the opener had struck 11 fours and helped his side to 160 and halfway to a memorable win.
At three, is Yorkshire’s losing captain, Gary Ballance. In a game where wickets tumbled for both sides Ballance impressed to give the England selectors a reminder of his talents. During the first innings where many batsmen failed to trouble the scorers too much, the Zimbabwe-born batsman struck a crucial century to guide his team to a respectable total of 273 after being inserted by Hampshire. He whacked 17-fours during his 190-ball stay at the crease before being bowled by fellow England man Liam Dawson. He once again top-scored in the second innings striking a half-century during an innings that saw wickets clatter all around him as the hosts fell to a disappointing 187 all out. His team may well have lost but this was well and truly a captain’s performance from Ballance.
At four, Jonathan Trott, the former England man produced a one-man battle to save his side from embarrassment. On an absolute road of a pitch at the Oval (as it so often is) the ageing batsman – who like most of his teammate failed miserably in the first innings falling for a duck struck a majestic 151 to add some form of respectability to a result that without him could’ve been an absolute annihilation. They did ultimately fail to make Surrey bat again despite Trott’s dogged effort but that in truth was down to the failings of the first innings. During his 291-ball stay at the crease, he struck 19-fours before becoming Footitt’s second victim of the match.
Being an Essex fan I had to stick one Eagle in the team, but mercifully I don’t think anyone can accuse me of being biased for sticking young Dan Lawrence into the XI. The 19-year-old continued to prove the adage ‘if you’re good enough you’re old enough’ is 100% correct as he rescued a draw from the jaws of defeat for Essex with a brilliant match-saving century. In total the youngster batted eight hours and batted the entire final day to frustrate Lancashire. Bare in mind that Lawrence faced the likes of James Anderson and Kyle Jarvis in this knock makes it all the more impressive. He faced 333-balls and struck 18-fours in total during his mammoth heroic effort in Chelmsford.
At six, another man who starred at Chelmsford, but this time for the opposition, Lancashire. Dane Vilas – who made his debut for the Red Rose in the east of England, made a half-century in each innings to put his new county in complete control in Essex. He scored a vital 74 in the first innings to top score, and it proved pivotal after seeing his side fall to 160/6, he helped guide the visitors to 319 all out which after the hosts were dismissed for just 159 gave the Red Rose a handy first innings lead. A lead he, alongside Alex Davies stretched to an unassailable one to ensure the visitors were in a no-lose situation entering the final day. He struck 92 in the second innings including just five fours. Although his side couldn’t get over the line, the South African’s debut will please coach Glen Chapple no ends.
Behind the stumps batting well below his usual opening berth is Vilas’ partner in crime Alex Davies. The Red Rose opener struck a maiden first-class century for the visitors at Chelmsford to help bat the game away from Essex. After a first innings failure edging Jamie Porter behind for just five, the opener went on the offensive to ensure Lancashire would enter the final knockings of the match on the front foot. He hit a magnificent unbeaten 140 off 265-ball including 21 fours to help his side to 317-3 declared.
Taking the all-rounder spot for the side is the evergreen, Darren Stevens. He will perhaps have a lot of bowling to do given the lack of bowling resources in this side but you can’t not pick him after his exploits after lunch on day three brought a hurried end to Kent’s encounter with Gloucestershire. The veteran finished with staggering figures of 6-22 as the Spitfires dismissed their West Country visitors for just 61 to secure a staggering 343-run success. Stevens is not only handy with the ball he is pretty good with the willow too, striking a 50 in the first innings, a fine all-round display by the Kent man.
Being a bowler myself this is where I really get excited. Onto the wicket takers, and we’ll start with a spinner (everyone side needs a spinner despite what the ECB may tell you). Being the early season, wickets were hard to come by for the finger tweakers but Stephen Parry of Lancashire was the pick of the slow-paced bowlers. He held an end up vitally in what proved a long final day for the visitors – who ultimately fell short of their desired result. Parry took three for 28 in the first innings including the vital wickets of Adam Wheater (1) and Dan Lawrence 37 either side of Lunch to turn the game on its head. An impressive display of bowling from the Lancashire man.
Hampshire’s second man of the XI is Kyle Abbott. The South African was a controversial and perhaps surprise arrival to the Ageas Bowl on a permanent deal seemingly giving up any international hopes he may have for a spell in the English County system. But if he continues to churn out performances like the one he produced at Headingley the South Coast side will be in dreamland. Whilst his first innings efforts weren’t spectacular (2-64) his second innings exploits were nothing short of remarkable as he bowled his new county into the ascendancy. He finished with figures of 7-41 to rip through the Yorkshire batting line-up as they collapsed to 187 all out.
Bringing up the tail is Surrey’s Mark Footitt, it was a toss up between him and Gloucester’s Liam Norwell, but Footitt’s spell in the first innings against Warwickshire means Norwell will have to carry the drinks and the oranges this week. The former Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire man produced a brilliant spell of 6-14 to decimate the Bears batting line-up as the visitors collapsed to a paltry 81 all out to be put immediately onto the back foot. The left-arm seamer removed dangermen Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott without score during a spell that put the hosts in control of the encounter early on.
So there you have it, that’s our XI, did I forget anyone? Have your say below or contact us on Twitter @ViewFromTheOut.
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