By Mark Kidger (@MarkfromMadrid)
Royal London One Day Cup, Round 6/7: Clarifying Qualification Scenarios.
Confused? You will be! Once again, seven games over two days to start Round 7 of the ODC in the South Group, when a lot of sides have not yet completed Round 6: somehow the concept of all eighteen teams playing games at the same time has not reached the scheduling computer. The final result will be that while some sides will have just one match left, others will have as many as three to go. No one said that the ECB’s scheduling had to make sense, so we can feel perfectly comfortable that it does not.
However, where the ECB wishes confusion, the inevitable progress of qualification is bringing clarity, if only slowly. It all adds up though to a situation where, before this round of matches, there were only three sides who could start planning for the 2019 ODC campaign. While, now, there are a few more who know that they will not be in the knock-out rounds or, as the ECB is pleased to call it, “play-offs”, as we assume that the concept of a knock-out will only confuse kiddies, their mothers and County members.
We start at Oakham where Leicestershire hosted Lancashire. This was almost certainly a dead rubber – Leicestershire, who have been scoring 300+ and losing, were, jointly with Glamorgan, already out. Lancashire, who could only reach 9 points, despite every effort of Sir Donald Jennings, could only try to win the last three games, boost their already healthy NRR and hope that some kind of mathematical miracle (probably involving a lot of rained-off matches) could sneak them somehow into third place in the group. Jennings’s place was taken by Haseeb Hameed who has just scored consecutive centuries for Lancashire 2nds, suggesting that he is getting some form back.
This was always going to be an uphill struggle for the Foxes after strikes by Onions and Mennie left them 5-2 after just 15 balls. When they came on, the spinners were well-nigh unplayable and slowed the scoring almost to a stop. The only batsman to find any fluency was Mark Cosgrove, with 52, before Dane Vilas stumped him sharply off Matt Parkinson, who ended with the remarkable figures of 10-2-30-4. Stephen Parry – remember him? He played 2 ODIs and 5 T20s for England in 2014/15 – Liam Livingstone and Matt Parkinson combined for 25-3-77-6: not your typical figures for a spinner in a 50-over game. Parkinson is another of the crop of young English spinners who are suddenly sprouting like mushrooms and will be disappointed if he does not at least get to try life with the Lions this winter. After Parkinson had finished his spell, Parry was given the job of bowling in the slog overs at the end of the innings: his last two, the 45th and 47th overs, produced a maiden and three singles respectively… an indication of just how hard scoring was. When you are chasing 173, an opening stand of 42 at well above the asking rate is a pretty good start. When Davies fell, Liam Livingstone came in and blitzed a 39-ball 50, as Hameed accumulated. Hameed reached his 50 from 66 balls, signalling that is 2nd XI form was no mirage. The target was reached in under 26 overs, with Livingstone 90* (6x4, 7x6) and Hameed 55*.
Where it leaves the sides: The win moves Lancashire to 5 points with two games left, but the best NRR of any of the 18 teams. It looks very much as if 10 points will be needed to qualify, but a wave of abandoned matches could have conceivably reduced that to 9, giving Lancashire an (unlikely) backdoor route. In the end, though, the results on the following night have slammed the door on Lancashire’s hopes.
At Taunton, the West Country derby was a dog-eat-dog affair. Somerset knew that, with a defeat, their interest in the competition would end. Gloucestershire needed the win to re-start a stalled campaign, knowing that a loss would make a top three spot unlikely. There was a slightly delayed start and the threat of a rain-curtailed chase, making Gloucestershire’s decision to field a wise one, despite fielding a very much weakened attack. When Somerset were 145-2 after 20 overs, they looked well on their way to a massive total and to leaving Gloucestershire’s campaign dead and buried, but a double-wicket maiden for the under-rated Benny Howell removed Trego, who had hammered 74 from 63 balls and then Matt Renshaw for a fourth-ball duck. Hildreth then committed suicide, run out by Chris Dent and, suddenly, both set batsmen and the overseas star had gone, and Somerset were 149-5 and, with rain and Duckworth-Lewis threatening, in need of some stability. It could have been far worse because a jittery Somerset offered three un-taken runout opportunities and a – hard – chance was grounded but, without anyone knowing quite how, persistent bowling, some poor batting and suicidal running from Somerset frittered-away the advantage. The final total was 211ao, with the bewildered Anthony Gibson describing as “not so much a collapse, as a complete disintegration”. Somerset, criminally, left ten overs unused. To think that Somerset won their first two games with such ease that some neutrals were wondering about a Somerset treble this season. With ten overs needed to make a game and rain expected at any moment, Somerset were, logically enough, not quick getting through their overs although, with Gloucestershire well ahead on D/L, the umpires kept the players on despite some light drizzle. Unfortunately, heavy rain was not far behind and, when it arrived, Gloucestershire were 39-0 after six overs, with the D/L par score 11! This left everyone watching the radar anxiously as the groundsman was probably watching his Square taking another beating and thinking of the problems that Noah faced with wicket preparation. The storm started to move away, but the damage was already done as a new storm system approached, and the umpires abandoned the match as no result. It was a cruel blow for The Shire, particularly given the fact that had Gloucestershire chased the target down in 40 overs, their NRR would have been improved by about +0.5.
Where it leaves the sides: The abandonment and one point each keeps Gloucestershire alive, they are 4th in South Group, level on points with Somerset, in 3rd, but with a game in hand. They need to win their last two games, at least one of them by a significant margin to improve their NRR and even that may not be enough if other results go the wrong way. Although a combination of a big win in their last game, a lot of rained-off games and other results going their way *could* see Somerset go through in third, with 9 points, it is, to say the least, unlikely.
At Beckenham, my old stamping ground from Uni days, Joe Denly and Heino Kuhn carried on where they had left off in the previous match. A swift partnership of 93 for the first wicket – Daniel Bell-Drummond 48 in 42 balls – set up the attack and Denly and Kuhn needed no second bidding as the Surrey attack was put to the sword. With Kent on six points from 5 games and Surrey on 5 from 5, the winner would see its qualification chances survive, the loser would, almost certainly be out barring some remarkable results in the remaining games. Kuhn lost Denly for 78, but continued sublimely on to a century from 90 balls. The 300 came up in the 41st over. Surrey’s problems were illustrated by Gareth Batty’s ninth over, bowling to Alex Blake, he went 6 6 6 6 W 1, with Batty ending the over on 9-0-96-1. Kuhn fell to Morkel – the one Surrey bowler to come out of the slaughter with credit – for 117, but the damage was done. Although 384-8 was fewer than looked likely, Surrey were left with a hopeless chase to stay in the competition. Surrey needed a good start. There were plenty of boundaries, but wickets in consecutive overs for Henry and Claydon left Surrey in big trouble at 33-2. From there it was all downhill as wickets fell regularly. Surrey were all out for 164 and Kent won by a small matter of 220 runs.
Where it leaves the sides: The win improves further Kent’s already healthy NRR, leaving them 2nd in the South Group with two games to play and means that their fate is in their own hands. One win will probably be enough, three points from the last two games will most certainly see them qualify. Surrey’s interest in the competition has ended. Kent are in a shoot-out with Hampshire to top the group, while Surrey are 8th.
At Sophia Gardens, Glamorgan faced Sussex, hoping against hope that they could finally get a win against a Sussex side that had to win the game, or go out of the competition. Sussex had both Joffra Archer and Chris Jordan back from the IPL, meaning that they felt that they had the firepower to defend any reasonable total. Glamorgan asked Sussex to bat and reduced them to 125-5, with the top four all getting in and then getting out. Luke Wright gave some momentum with 41 from 34 balls, opening the batting, but then the innings stalled badly until Burgess and Wiese first stabilised the situation and then set about setting a target. Burgess was particularly brutal, his 50 coming off 39 balls with this third six, while Wiese’s 50 was more sedate, coming off 48 balls, before both falling in eight balls as it looked as if a 300+ total might be on. Jordan and Archer added 25 in 23 balls before Archer was out to the last ball of the innings and 277-8 looked like a stiff target for a side low on confidence to chase. Glamorgan were always up with the RRR and had wickets in hand, needing 33 from the last four overs. With wickets in hand, this was always going to be in favour of the chasing side, and Glamorgan won by six wickets with ten balls to spare.
Where it leaves the sides: The win does not help Glamorgan, who were already out, but has also ended Sussex’s interest in the competition: there is no combination of results, however unlikely, that would see them qualify. Sussex are 7th in the South Group with one game left and Glamorgan remain bottom.
In the North Group, at Trent Bridge, Nottinghamshire hosted Group leaders, Worcestershire. Here, the scenario was clear: if Worcestershire won, they would need just one point from the last two games to ensure qualification, while defending Champions, Nottinghamshire, would be out. Nottinghamshire would not have been best-pleased to see Moeen Ali showing that he plans to get his Test place back with a fine, individual bowling display after an insipid winter and IPL campaign. He removed the top three scorers for Nottinghamshire and caught Chris Nash, as Nottinghamshire staggered from a healthy 116-2, scored at 5.3 an over, to 199-9, during Moeen’s mean spell of bowling in mid-innings. 10-0-33-4 will not see Moeen promoted to the top of the list of Dave Bracegirdle’s favourite players of the week. 202ao was not a total that looked likely to challenge Worcestershire. However, Luke Fletcher and Jake Ball tore into Worcestershire. At 21-3 in the ninth over the match was right in the balance again. There was no relief with the introduction of Samit Patel, who seems a better bowler now than when he had his abortive England career, as D’Oliviera fell in his second over to leave Worcestershire 28-4. Suddenly, the Nottinghamshire miracle was on and Dave Bracegirdle was cooing again on commentary. Wickets continued to fall regularly and, at 74-6, Worcestershire’s innings was in ruins and crawling along. Incredibly though, Daryl Mitchell and Ed Barnard seemed to be inching Worcestershire to their target before Mullaney ended a partnership of 63. That was effectively the end. Ed Barnard struggled to score and the RRR rocketed as Worcestershire could barely managed 2-an-over when they need 8 and more. Nottinghamshire finally bowled them out for 164 to send Dave Bracegirdle into raptures with a comeback win against the odds.
Where it leaves the sides: The win has kept Nottinghamshire alive. They are fifth in the North Group, one point behind the qualifying positions, but with an inferior NRR and one success fewer than the top two. They need to win both their remaining games and hope that results will fall the right way to allow them to continue to defend their title: the joker in the pack is the Warwickshire v Worcestershire match – if it is rained-off, Nottinghamshire cannot qualify. The defeat does not damage Worcestershire too badly: they still topped the North Group immediately after this match (falling to 2nd when Derbyshire completed their win). Their fate is still in their own hands – even one win in the last two games may be enough for them.
At Chester-le-Street, Durham staked their slim chances of qualifying on winning and winning well against Warwickshire who, in turn, knew that a win would give them an excellent chance of a top-two finish in the North Group. Warwickshire, not unexpectedly, put Durham in. Their decision was vindicated as Stone and Barker removed the two openers at a cost of just 8 runs. The pain in Martin Emmerson’s voice as he commentated on it was hard to bear. Tom Latham did not last long, but helped Michael Richardson to stabilise the innings and, with Will Smith, set about upping the run-rate. Although the middle overs saw the run-rate drop, a total of around 300 was certainly on. Michael Richardson fell for 111, but Will Smith kept up a rapid rate of scoring with his own century and Durham were able to post a challenging score of 299-8 to keep their slim hopes of qualifying alive, even if they might be disappointed that the final push could not add a few more. Warwickshire set off quickly, but fell to 14-2 as Rushworth and Dixon struck early, leaving the old warriors, Trott and Bell, to get the innings back on an even keel. Both made 50s and kept the RRR under control, although it was climbing steadily. The 150 partnership came up in the 32nd over with the batsmen accelerating and taking firm control of the match. At one point both Trott and Bell both had 83* from 97 balls, as they paced each other and struck out for victory. Trott reached his century first, but fell soon after to the persistent Collingwood. Bell followed him to a century and it became a binary outcome: Bell batts through, Warwickshire win; Bell falls, Durham sneak home, with the bowlers nibbling away at the other end. In reality though, you felt that while 20 more runs would have made Durham firm favourites, a target of 300 was not quite enough, hard as Durham fought. In the end, Warwickshire won with 7 balls to spare, with Bell 145*.
Where it leaves the sides: The win pushes Warwickshire up to third in the North Group with two games left and finally and definitively eliminates a brave Durham side. If their match with Worcestershire is rained-off, qualification will get messy and come down to tie-breakers.
Finally, at Wantage Road, the same scenario was being played out as at various other grounds: the visitors could survive a defeat with qualifying hopes intact, if only, barely; the hosts, with a negative NRR acting as the albatross, would be out if they lost. Derbyshire elected to bat and set a target. Progress was steady, rather than devastating but, at 136-0 after 30 overs and with the 150 up in the 33rd over, the platform had been set for a challenging total. In the end, Derbyshire could not convert wickets in hand into a big acceleration, but 265-2 at least gave them a chance, which became even better when the slightly shell-shocked Northants batting slipped to 14-2, with Rampaul and Madsen removing the openers in quick time. At 118-3, with Duckett and Rossington batting well, Northants were still in the game. From there though, wickets fell regularly and were shared around – the first six went to six different bowlers – as the RRR climbed steadily. Partnerships started for the 7th and 8th wickets that allowed Northants to dream, but they were nipped in the bud before they could become a real threat. In the end, Derbyshire won comfortably, by 51 runs.
Where it leaves the sides: The win puts Derbyshire on top of North Group on NRR from Worcestershire. If they win their last two games, they are through, whatever happens. Three points should be enough and two maybe if other results fall right.
All Alastair Cook Alex Hales BBC Radio Commentary Ben Coad Ben Duckett Birmingham Bears Chris Read County Championship County Cricket Dan Kingdom Darren Sammy David Bowden Day/Night Cricket Derbyshire Durham England Cricket Essex Glamorgan Gloucestershire Hampshire Harry Hill James Anderson James Vince Jamie Ramage Joe Root Jofra Archer Jonny Bairstow Kent Kevin Hand Watch Kevin Hand-Watch Lancashire Leicestershire Mark Kidger Middlesex Natwest Blast Neil Harris Northamptonshire Nottinghamshire Previews Retrospective Reports RLODC Round Ups Round-ups Season Review Somerset Stuart Broad Surrey Sussex T20 Blast Team Of The Week Virdi Vitality Blast Warwickshire Wocestershire Worcestershire Yorkshire