9/3/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
We end this round of the Championship with just the top three sides still able, mathematically, to be crowned Champions. While Surrey duly wrapped up a huge victory against Nottinghamshire early on Day 3 – an innings and 125 is a comprehensive winning margin – Somerset have been trying to overcome an irritatingly tricky opponent in Yorkshire, although Day 3 ended with Somerset, apparently, finally getting on track for victory in that one. Meanwhile, in the basement duel, Lancashire cruised to what should have been a challenging target against Worcestershire and Essex were making a good attempt to flog their rain-affected match against Hampshire into life, trying for a Route One victory: the only real option available to them if they wished to win.
To find out how it all happened and who was successful and who not… read on!
Lancashire v Worcestershire
Probably even the most hardened Lancashire fans gave their side little chance of chasing 314 to win, with most resigned to defeat against a direct rival, but chase it they did, and they pursued it in style. Yet, halfway through the afternoon session, it looked as if it was just a matter of time before a Worcestershire side, on the up, finished-off another hapless opponent. After the early loss of night-watchman opener Tom Lester, who was run-out by Ed Barnard – hardly an auspicious start – Haseeb Hameed and Rob Jones then fell to Barnard in the space of three balls. At 47-3, the writing was on the wall. Although resistance stiffened, wickets continued to fall often enough that the Worcestershire fans were convinced that they would finish the match off some time in the afternoon or evening. What no one anticipated, from 178-6, was Dane Vilas and Josh Bohanon, would come together and put on 139 runs together in 36 overs when their initial target could only be a desperate attempt to survive for a draw.
Vilas – captain, wicket-keeper and, it seems, super-hero – scored a magnificent 107*, while Josh Bohanon, playing just his second First Class match, added to his burgeoning reputation with a career-best 78*, his second fifty in four innings and is yet to be dismissed in single figures in his First Class career. Life will get harder for him, but he may just have helped to ensure his side’s survival in Division 1. However, despite temporarily lifting Lancashire to fourth in the table, before other games had finished, they are only nine points clear of the bottom-placed rivals, but with other teams below them having two games in hand.
What it means: The bottom of the table is so tight that Lancashire’s win has pushed them up to fifth, but only 2 points clear of the relegation places and nine clear of the bottom team. This campaign is beginning to look like the blanket finish in 2017 that sent down Middlesex. Lancashire visit Taunton next and will have no illusions that they will face a result pitch, although Somerset need big batting points too and will bank on getting them batting first. Worcestershire are eight points behind Hampshire and safety and now play Hampshire in another dog-eat-dog encounter. Again, the loser will be in deep trouble with just three games to come.
Yorkshire v Somerset
Late on Day 3, Somerset had managed to regain some control of a situation that was slipping away from them. With their attempt to set a testing target stuttering, in came Lewis Gregory to join his captain, Tom Abell. The resultant bombardment lasted under thirteen overs, as Gregory scored 6x4 and 3x6 in a 41-ball 57. Craig Overton came in to replace him after a partnership of 93 in 76 balls and produced an 18-ball cameo, adding 62 in 40 balls until Tom Abell declared when his partner was run out. Somerset who, two sessions earlier, had been 29-3, had turned the match around and set Yorkshire a daunting 419 to win or, more likely, a day and a handful of overs to survive. The situation had “draw” written all over it if Yorkshire made any kind-of start.
When a team has come in for such a pounding, there is always a danger that its will to resist has been drained. Somerset could hardly believe their luck when Lewis Gregory removed both openers in his first four overs with the new ball. At 4-2, the Tykes were hanging-on with their fingertips. However, in the morning, night-watchman, Josh Shaw, hung on almost until Lunch, making a career-best 42 and, from 8-2 at the start, added 86 more runs, to leave Somerset increasingly desperate, before that man Lewis Gregory trapped him LBW nine minutes before Lunch. After Josh Shaw’s efforts and with Kane Williamson well set, Yorkshire had a solid platform to save the match and Somerset must have been feeling nervous. What the White Rose got, though, was a post-lunch horror show as the Overtons and Gregory scythed through the middle order. As Sir Geoffrey would have said: “94-2, pretty good, 143-8, not so clever”. The pacemen needed a rest, but Jack Leach was getting nothing from the Headingley pitch, and so, unusually, his introduction into the attack produced some relief. Matt Fisher and David Willey batted together for more than an hour increasing the frustrations as Somerset started to get horrible imaginings of an escape for the Tykes. Jamie Overton though could not be denied, and when Fisher fell to him, Jack Brooks followed quickly too. Jamie Overton finished with 4-25, with 4-33 to Lewis Gregory, leading Somerset to a 224 run win that keeps alive, just, their hopes of a first Championship pennant.
What it means: With four matches left for each, Somerset are thirty-two points behind, meaning that their equation is simple – they need to make up 8 points per game on the Londoners. It is a tough ask, although that Somerset – Surrey game at Taunton still looms in the penultimate round. Somerset will still need to make up significant points different even if they were to beat Surrey by an innings. For Yorkshire, the situation is bleak. The win for Lancashire leaves them bottom but one, albeit only one point behind Hampshire. Yorkshire are one of six sides that can be relegated but are in deep trouble unless they can turn around their recent slump. Such is the log-jam of teams that a win in their next game at Nottinghamshire will give them a real chance of finishing third in the table, but a defeat would be a severe blow to their hopes of survival.
Surrey v Nottinghamshire
Surrey duly completed the last rites of their game against Nottinghamshire. A win by an innings and 125 having scored only 375 is about as one-sided as you can get. Starting the day 83-2, Nottinghamshire should have taken the match at least well into the afternoon but, in the end, could not even survive until Lunch on Day 3. Nottinghamshire went from a comfortable 78-1 in the last hour of Day 2, to a miserable 149ao. The last nine wickets fell for seventy-one, as Nottinghamshire surrendered to Morkel, McKerr and Tom Curran. The manner of their surrender, having been 101ao in the first innings, is particularly alarming now that thoughts of the Championship are turning into a fight for survival. For Surrey, the news that they can demolish a side twice so convincingly even with Amar Virdi taking just a single wicket in the match and with a rookie seamer is an extraordinary guarantee for the last few games of the season. Conor McKerr, in just his seventh First Class match, starred with 4-26, with Morne Morkel taking 3-29.
What it means: Surrey’s demolition of Nottinghamshire has reinforced their claim to the title as Champions-elect and, with Somerset taking the same number of points from this round, their position is significantly reinforced. Depending on results, Surrey could even be crowned Champions before travelling to Taunton. Nottinghamshire are still fourth, but now just twelve points clear of relegation and, like Lancashire, one place below them, have one game fewer to play and are thus now in deep trouble.
Essex v Hampshire
Having lost the whole of the first day, Essex were faced with just one way to win: the Route 1 way of an innings win. For much of the last afternoon, it seemed that Hampshire might just hang on. Starting 17-2, after only three overs they had sunk to an apparently unsalvageable 24-4. However, Hampshire were making things harder than necessary for themselves. Just as Kyle Abbott and Sam Northeast seemed to be adding a little stability, night-watchman, Kyle Abbott, was needlessly run out as he took on the throw from Cover, leaving Hampshire 67-5. Northeast and Tom Alsop were still together at Lunch, 87-5 and held on for nearly twenty overs in all, adding just 28 together, but doing just what Hampshire needed: to use up time; runs were irrelevant. The problem was though that batsmen were getting in and then getting out, as Peter Siddle and Simon Harmer winkled-out batsman after batsman before they could do enough damage to halt the victory charge. With Gareth Berg, no mean batsman, due to come in at ten, Hampshire still had the batting left to salvage the draw, if only someone could play a long innings and give the rest someone to bat around. However, a 41 from Northeast, 51 from Alsop, both dismissed by Harmer just as they threatened to play that long inning, was just not quite enough to stop Essex.
Halfway through the afternoon session, Liam Dawson fell and, with him, the score now 131-8, seemingly went the Hampshire hopes, but there was still a twist to come. An hour and a half later, Tom Alsop was still there and reached his fifty. With Gareth Berg solid at the other end, the pair had added fifty and hope was beginning to grow again in the Hampshire camp. It was a flame that was cruelly extinguished just when panic could have started to set in. Forty minutes remained until the last hour was due to start and, had the pair still been together then; anything could have happened.
Finally, though, Harmer tempted Alsop once too often, Michael Pepper juggled the catch but held on, and Essex were just one wicket short. Still, Hampshire refused to die as Berg and Fidel Edwards hung on, and the game entered its final hour. Essex took the new ball and watched in increasing disbelief as the last pair gallantly saw it off. Finally, it was the return of Harmer that ended the innings, with Berg LBW for 38. Essex had beaten the clock and won by an innings and 52 and enhanced their chances of some useful prize-money at the end of the season.
What it means: Hampshire, in sixth and Worcestershire, bottom, are separated now by just two points. Worcestershire plays host Hampshire in the next round. This game will be another, colossal battle for survival. The Essex win has lifted them to third, twenty-five points clear of relegation but, they will still need to watch their backs in the run-in: thirty-five points behind Somerset, they are far closer to relegation than they are to the runners-up spot.
The Division Two promotion race looked set to receive a big shake-up today, with Sussex already losing to Middlesex, who are putting in a late charge and Leicestershire on the verge of defeat to Gloucestershire. Kent started the day looking set to do no better than a draw, meaning that Warwickshire and Middlesex started the final day of matches looking set to be the big winners from this round of games. However, Kent had, on Day 3, managed to dismiss a stubborn Derbyshire and enforced the follow-on: could a Kent attack that had spent 157 overs in the field already over Days 2 and 3 and that faced another long day in the field, lift itself and apply the coup de grace on the final day and thus keep itself in the promotion hunt?
Middlesex v Sussex
It is a standard claim in the circus for the ringmaster to cry out that the acrobats are going to try, as their next trick, “something still more difficult”. This is the way that Middlesex are making their promotion push. Suddenly, a little spark that has been missing since early last season, has ignited and Middlesex are looking like the team that won the Championship in 2016; the team that was expected to run away with promotion this season. After defending small totals to turn around their last two games, Middlesex have now produced a devastating performance against a side that has been in supreme form recently. You have to be impressed.
What it means: Middlesex are producing a promotion push that is reminiscent of Surrey’s charge up Division 2 in 2011 to go from bottom in July, to snatching the second promotion spot on the last day, ahead of long-time leaders, Northants, who faded in the final few rounds. Surrey won six of their last eight matches that season. Now up to fourth, Middlesex are still thirty-two points behind Kent with just four games left, but look to be real contenders as the sides above them falter in the run-in. Sussex are third, as Kent’s against the odds win has pushed them out of the promotion spot that they occupied at the start of the day and now lie 9 points behind Kent. In the next round, Middlesex travel to Bristol to play a side that has more than once been their bête noire, knowing that they have to keep winning and hope that Kent and Sussex drop a lot of points. Sussex play the faltering Leicestershire at Hove and need a win to keep up the pressure on Kent and hold off the Middlesex charge.
Derbyshire v Kent
At the start of the day, the Kent attack had spent already 157 consecutive overs in the field. One imagined that they would be feeling so weary that the threat, if any, to Derbyshire, would come from the spinners. The hosts were 82-2 at the start of play and with Hughes and Lace at the crease, both apparently batting soundly, there was little hint initially of the drama to come as the Kent chances of forcing a result ebbed and flowed.
Kent’s final target was 110, which they made with some comfort, although pushed deep into the last hour to obtain the win and having got through some nervous moments as their rivals got ahead and built a lead. Derbyshire know that probably, had they held out another twenty minutes, they would have saved the game. There were two keys to the Kent win. First, the collapse from 99-2 to 137-6, as Matt Henry and Adam Riley seemed to have sealed a winning position then, as Derbyshire built a lead, and every run counted double, the sudden collapse of the tail. It had all looked so different not long before Kent set out on their chase, with Harvey Hossain batting for more than three hours, defying the Kent attack. Hardus Viljoen and then Tony Palladino gave him plenty of support, both batting for more than an hour. At 262-7, Derbyshire were 101 ahead and approaching safety. Kent needed quick wickets and, as on other occasions, this season turned to Joe Denly’s increasingly useful leg spin. Denly had already removed Viljoen and proceeded to dismantle the Derbyshire tail, taking the last three wickets in four overs on either side of Tea, leaving Hossain stranded on 62*. Denly’s 4-36 was a career-best and, as more trust is shown in his bowling, he has responded with some excellent spells and big wickets.
The target was 110, with plenty of time to get them, but it could so quickly have been different if either of the last two wickets had added even twenty runs. Callum Ferguson removed Sean Dickson early, but Zak Crawley and Heino Kuhn, who was particularly severe on the bowling, scored at more than seven an over to ensure that there were no scares. Even if the loss of three quick wickets, as Crawley, Kuhn and Denly fell, slipping from 77-1 to 87-4, must have made hearts flutter a little, there was plenty of time and a lot of batting to come. With just twenty-three more needed to win, Daniel Bell-Drummond and Sam Billings could ease back on the pace and get Kent over the line for a six-wicket win.
The main danger for Kent is the damage that 223 consecutive overs in the field will have done to their attack, with games now effectively been played back-to-back. There will be some tired legs after their new ball attack bowled a total of eighty overs in the match and even part-timer, Joe Denly, bowled more than 41. How well the Kent players recover for their next game may dictate their chances.
What it means: Kent’s win pushes them back ahead of Sussex and leaves them in pole position to accompany Warwickshire back into Division 1. They will play Northamptonshire at home, with the visitors seemingly sinking back into a slump after crushing back-to-back defeats. A win will keep Kent clear of the threat of Middlesex’s late charge and maintain the pressure on Sussex. Derbyshire play wooden spoon favourites, Glamorgan, at home, with a tight battle between a bunch of sides to finish in the top half of the table giving Derbyshire something to play for.
Glamorgan v Warwickshire
Warwickshire’s demolition of Glamorgan gives them both twenty-three points and an extra day of rest between matches. Ian Bell’s match-winning double century and 10-110 in the match for Jethan Patel were the difference between the two sides. Glamorgan made a spirited effort in their second innings, reaching 137-3, but although Brown, Carlson and Lloyd all got starts, none of them could cash in and get past fifty as Hain and Barker had in support of Ian Bell. Glamorgan’s fate was sealed as they fell from 137-3 to 202-9. Even though Smith and Hogan added 63 for the tenth wicket and, briefly, threatened to make Warwickshire bat again, the fact that the only fifties made by Glamorgan in the match came from the #8 and #10 batsmen, illustrates their problems. Glamorgan have tried to resolve this by signing Sam Cook for their last four games, as they try to avoid the wooden spoon.
What it means: Warwickshire’s win leaves them twenty-four points clear of Sussex in third and forty-seven clear of Middlesex. With Durham the visitors next week, Warwickshire can put one foot in Division 1 with another win, although probably they will not be able to seal promotion before the penultimate round. Glamorgan are thirty points behind Northamptonshire and have just one win all season. Another defeat would leave them on the brink of sealing the wooden spoon.
Gloucestershire v Leicestershire
What to make of the extraordinary events at Bristol? Gloucestershire have no overseas player and have a host of bowlers injured, had lost their previous Championship game by a considerable margin and also their last three Blast games yet, came through to win this match against promotion-chasing Leicestershire by a significant margin on the back of captain, Chris Dent’s, first century of the season. What is more, he made into an unbeaten double and looked like the batsman who only two seasons ago, had as good a record as any of the openers picked to tour with either the main side or the Lions. Gloucestershire fans were sceptical that the bowlers could repeat the feat of dismissing Leicestershire a second time, suggesting that the Bristol wicket is usually as flat as a pancake by the last day and pointing to the ease with which the home side had batted, but could not argue with the evidence of seeing the Foxes 24-3 inside ten overs, chasing a nominal 494 to win. David Payne and Craig Miles, who have both come through some difficult times in recent weeks, had done the initial damage before Ryan Higgins got in on the act to leave Leicestershire 52-5 and sinking fast. After some resistance from Mark Cosgrove and Ben Raine, Craig Miles had made the critical breakthrough, ending a fifty partnership just before the Close.
Starting the day on 117-6, 367 short, with only four wickets left, only an astonishing partnership could salvage the draw but, despite some substantial tail-end resistance, wickets fell at regular intervals. Seventeen-year-old Ben Charlesworth, playing in only his second First Class game, who earlier in the season was playing for Oxfordshire, came on for his first bowl of the match and duly dismissed last man, Mohammad Abbas with his first delivery to seal a win by 328 runs and, in the process, obtain his maiden First-Class wicket. For Gloucestershire, the bowling honours went to Ryan Higgins, who added 4-28 to add to his first innings 4-26, produced his career-best match figures and took his fiftieth First Class wicket in the process. Higgins has only played fifteen First Class matches, but has taken his 51 wickets at just 19.2 apiece in his career. Still only 23, Higgins is England-qualified as his family moved to Berkshire from Harare when he was a child and worked his way through the Berkshire age-group sides, before playing for Middlesex U-17s and winning his England U-19 cap. In him, it looks as if Gloucestershire have finally found a replacement for Wil Gidman.
What it means: Consecutive defeats to Kent and Gloucestershire now have ended any real hope that Leicestershire had of promotion. They now drop to fifth, behind Middlesex, thirty-nine points behind Kent. Gloucestershire, in contrast, leap from ninth to sixth and are breathing down the neck of Leicestershire in the table. Just eight points separate sixth from ninth, so there is a formidable log-jam in the lower part of the table and sides can rise or drop several places easily. Just nineteen points behind Leicestershire, a top-five finish that would be a remarkable result given the wild changes of fortune that they have suffered is not impossible.
Durham v Northamptonshire
With only pride to play for, it was a matter of who wanted it more. The game ended well inside two days, as Durham’s Jekyll and Hyde season continued with a script out of the Hammer House of Horror: it would have been wholly appropriate if a sinister Peter Cushing had been the umpire at the Pavilion End. With Northamptonshire starting the second day 189-6, already ahead, Durham needed quick wickets and much better batting second time around to make a game of it. The quick wickets came, as the last three batsmen all made ducks and Northamptonshire slumped from being 189-5, just before the Close on Day 1, to 198ao. The last five wickets fell in 22 balls for only 9 runs: Northamptonshire’s fragile batting has got no better. However, this time they did not have Middlesex in front and would not be punished for their profligacy. Chris Rushworth and Matt Salisbury, with 4-52 and 4-44 respectively, must have gone back into the dressing room anticipating putting their feet up for the rest of the day and then coming out to defend a target. Little did they imagine that they would be bowling again less than three hours later and defending only a token chase. The only time when it looked as if Durham might just fight back was when Paul Collingwood joined Cameron Steel. Durham had already lost four wickets clearing the deficit of 69 and were soon to become effectively 4-5, as Sanderson and Gleeson swept all before them. When Collingwood and Steel fell in successive overs for 27 and 50 respectively, Durham resistance was all but over: they slipped to 133ao, leaving Northamptonshire just 65 to win, which was just too few to entertain any hope of defending. 4-34 for Sanderson, 3-26 for Gleeson and 3-15 for Buck ensured Northamptonshire, barring catastrophe, a third win of the season, which duly came by seven wickets. At 45-3 there was just the chance of a real wobble, but Wakeley and Levi added the last few runs, and a sigh of relief will have fallen over Wantage Road, while at the Riverside, the patrons will reflect on a season of three steps forward and two back.
What it means: Northamptonshire’s win pushes them back thirty points clear of Glamorgan and leaves them at the back of the tight group that extends up to Gloucestershire, in sixth. Durham are one point and one place ahead. With Durham travelling to Edgbaston and Northants to Canterbury, both have tough games to come in the next round against opposition desperate to win, so they may find themselves more adrift of the top half of the table by the end of this next round.
8/18/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Friday night saw a full round of matches in the Vitality Blast to determine the final qualifying places for the Quarter Finals and the crosses between teams. While three teams had qualified in each group before tonight’s games, the actual order of those teams was undecided in both and thus the home/away Quarter Final assignations. For example, Kent and Gloucestershire could have finished anywhere from 1st to 4th in South Group and any one of Sussex (who could finish as high as 2nd, or as low as 5th), Glamorgan and Surrey could take the final Quarter Final place. The North Group started the evening only a little less complicated, also with three teams (Yorkshire Vikings, Notts Outlaws and Birmingham Bears) in with a chance of the final place in the Quarter Finals, with Durham Jets and Worcester Rapids competing for top spot and Lancashire Lightning lying in wait for a home draw if either should slip up.
Meanwhile, rain encroaching from the west gave Birmingham Bears some slim hope that maybe they could get the double-cannon that they needed to qualify, in the form of winning their own game, while the Vikings – Outlaws game failed to give a result.
So, how did the action play out?
Durham Jets v Derbyshire Falcons: Durham’s game was abandoned without a ball bowled. The point ensured Durham a home Quarter-Final, with only Worcestershire Rapids able to overtake them. The equation was simple: if Worcestershire won, they would finish top; otherwise it would be Durham. In the end, Durham were pipped to top spot by 0.039 on NRR, equivalent to 10 runs and will host Sussex in the Quarter Finals.
Yorkshire Vikings v Notts Outlaws: This was the critical game, with the winner guaranteed to qualify for the Quarter Finals whatever the other results were on the night. Yorkshire won the Toss and elected to bat. The start to the innings was explosive, with the first ball of the innings hit for four and then a wicket to the second. Andrew Lyth and David Willey then added 92 at 8-an-over, giving Yorkshire hopes of a total of 190+ but, when Lyth departed to the first ball of the thirteenth over, caught behind for 44 from 36 balls, the momentum slowed. Willey departed for 51 from 40 balls two overs later and with him the hopes of a really imposing total, although Kane Williamson tried to push on, but had little effective support in his 44 from 26 balls, run out from the last ball of the innings. 163-6 was a useful total, but not one that you felt should be impossible for the Outlaws to pass. For the Outlaws, 1-16 from 4 overs of Harry Gurney and 1-2 from Steve Mullaney’s single over were the difference between chasing 164 to win and chasing a total in the range of 180-190.
Rikki Wessels and Alex Hales gave the Outlaws a quick, if rather brief, start, with Willey castling Wessels for 16 to the last ball of the third over, but Alex Hales and Jake Libby kept the Outlaws well ahead of the asking rate. Even though Lyth had Libby stumped for 30, Tom Moores came in and hit powerfully, with Hales acting as the anchor, and the Outlaws cruised to their target with an over to spare. Hale finished with 71 from 56 balls and Moores with 43 from 26, with the margin of victory of 8 wickets every bit as comfortable as it looks on paper.
Birmingham Bears v Worcestershire Rapids: The Bears won the Toss and elected to put in the Rapids, knowing that they had to win and hope that a local deluge rained-off the Vikings – Outlaws game. The Rapids knew that a win should put them ahead of Durham Jets to top the Group on Net Run Rate. Unfortunately for the Bears, they ran into the double-whammy of Moeen Ali in inspired form with the bat and rain in the North that stubbornly refused to reach Leeds. After an opening stand of 80 between Clarke and Moeen at almost 10-an-over, Moeen cut loose with Calum Ferguson as sleeping partner and put on 74 in 38 balls, before adding 30 in 12 balls with Ben Cox before falling stumped for 115 from 56 balls. If Moeen is needed by England, he is in prime form and ready. The chief sufferer was Aaron Thomason, who went for 53 from his three overs. With Moeen’s departure, the scoring rate slowed, and Ben Cox and Ross Whiteley were both run-out from the last two balls of the innings, but 209-5 left the Bears a formidable chase.
Ian Bell and Ed Pollock gave the Bears a tremendous start and their opening partnership of 55 was made well in advance of the asking rate. Unfortunately, although the top seven all reached double figures, no one was able to go on and make the sort of contribution that was needed to push the Bears over the line. No one passed Adam Hose’s 45 and, although the scoring rate kept right in touch with the target, wickets kept falling just as it seemed that the Bears were getting on top. Finally, with the batting knowing already that their hopes of qualifying had gone, the chase ran out of steam and 20 were needed from the last over, but Patrick Brown, who finished with 2-23 in a high-scoring match, allowed just 4.
The Rapids just sneaked ahead of Durham Jets on NRR. Had the Bears lost by five runs instead of by 15, it would have been the Jets who topped the group.
Leicestershire Foxes v Northamptonshire Steelbacks: This was a dead rubber, with the Steelbacks, with the worst record in either group, already certain to finish last in the North Group and the Foxes unable to finish any higher than sixth. Northamptonshire won the Toss and elected to put the Foxes in. The Steelbacks had an awful start when, after a quiet first over, Gareth Wade bowled high full tosses with his first and third delivery of the second over and was removed from the attack after just one legitimate delivery. Worse, the legitimate delivery was hit for four, with Wade finishing with the extraordinary figures of 0.1-0-9-0 and his over being completed by James Cobb, who restored sanity by delivering five legitimate deliveries – his only deliveries of the match – and conceding just three singles. From the relatively high point of 24-0 from 2.4 overs, Leicestershire slumped to 37-4 from 6.1 and were never in the match after that. Harry Dearden held the innings together with 61 from 40 balls and, when he was out in the eighteen over 27 came from the last 15 balls of the innings. All in all, 148-7 was a decent recovery, but never likely to be enough.
The Steelbacks needed a start, and Ben Curran (the brother of Sam and Tom) gave it to them in partnership with Ben Duckett, with fifty from the first 29 balls. The back of the chase was broken and, although Ben Curran fell for 29, Ben Duckett and James Cobb kept the run rate close to 10-an-over in a partnership of 40. The fall of the captain, Wakely, in the fourteenth over though led to a horrible wobble as the Steelbacks lost four wickets for 15 runs in 25 balls before Graeme White came in and leathered 2x4 and 2x6 in a 9-ball 21* to see the Steelbacks home for only the second win of the competition.
Sussex Sharks v Middlesex: Middlesex put Sussex in and saw Sussex make a fantastic start, with the score 58-0 after just four overs, with Phil Salt reaching a fifty from 18 balls and then pushing on. Salt fell finally for 66 from 25 balls, but Luke Wright and Laurie Evans took up the charge, leaving horrendous damage to the figures of Tom Barber – 2 overs for 35 – and James Fuller – 4 overs for 53, although he did have the compensation of 3 wickets. It was utter carnage. Thirteen came from the last three balls of the innings and Middlesex’s case was not helped by the amazing total of 19 wides.
215-5 was a formidable total, and the betting was that Middlesex would not be able to get close to it. When Ben Scott fell for a duck to the fourth ball of the innings, the Middlesex supporters could be heard diving behind the sofa. What happened though was a blitz on the Sussex bowlers so brutal that it appeared that Middlesex would win with several overs to spare. Paul Stirling, who has blossomed this season, hit 58 from 29 balls and, in partnership with John Simpson, they put the Sussex bowlers to the sword. Together they put on 122 in 49 balls, leaving a highly gettable 92 from 67 balls for the rest of the batting. At that stage, it seemed that Middlesex were set to end the Sussex chances and with rain at Cardiff, Surrey would sneak into the Quarter Finals by the back door. Even when John Simpson followed soon after for 62 from 29 balls, Middlesex were right on top, and Eoin Morgan kept the scoreboard moving and Middlesex well on target to win.
The match turned on the first ball of the fifteenth over, with Middlesex needing 58 from 36 balls and, seemingly, cruising. Danny Briggs bowled to James Fuller, who hit it back towards the bowler. Briggs half-stopped it and tipped the ball onto the stumps, with Eoin Morgan out of his ground. What followed was pure Middlesex: there was plenty of batting left, the target was not a difficult one, but the panicked big time. Three balls later Franklin edged Briggs through to ‘keeper Burgess: 161-5. In the next over, Tymal Mills bowled Steve Eskinazi and, even more critically, had James Fuller, who could have won the match in two overs of clinical hitting, caught: 166-7 and Middlesex sinking fast. Archer bowled Andersson with the last ball of the seventeenth, and it was all over bar the shouting. Middlesex had imploded when it seemed easier to win and, with Middlesex now trying to play out the overs, a noisy crowd celebrated Chris Jordan taking the last two wickets with the third and fourth ball of the final over of the innings. Incredibly, Middlesex had lost by 31 runs and the tones of “Sussex by the Sea” rang out around the ground.
Would this win be enough though to get a home draw in the Quarter Finals? That depended on the goings-on at Canterbury.
Essex Eagles v Kent Spitfires: Kent won the Toss and elected to field only to see Wheater and Chopra end the Power Play 58-0 as the Kent attack struggled to contain the batsmen. 40 for Wheater and 37 for Chopra gave Essex and an excellent start, backed-up by the middle order. Only Matt Coles, who came in for the last four balls of the inning, failed to get into double figures as Essex looked to end a disappointing campaign on a high. The scoring rate had slowed a little in mid-innings, but 25* from 10 balls from Ravi Bopara pushed Essex past 200, and the qualifying scenario for the South Group started to get very interesting, with Sussex looking at the possibility of a wholly unexpected home Quarter-Final.
202 seemed like a big chase, but Denly and Bell-Drummond went off like a train. Shane Snater’s first over went for 23, as Bell-Drummond reached 50 from 27 balls. It looked as if Kent would make light of the target. When Denly fell for 45, the openers had put on 98 in 8.4 overs. Heino Kuhn came and went, bowled cheaply by Ravi Bopara, his dominant form of the One Day Cup long-forgotten. Sam Billings though is a superb limited-overs bat and, with Bell-Drummond, the target was reduced to a seemly simple 51 from 32 balls. Bopara and Snater kept the batsmen to a run-a-ball over the sixteenth and seventeenth overs, and the target started to get just a little tight. It came down to 9 needed from the last over. Bell-Drummond hit the first ball for a boundary but fell to the second for 80 from 51 balls. Coles then limited Gavin Stewart and Dickson to two singles. With three to win from two balls, the pressure was back on Kent to stay calm. Coles bowled the penultimate ball to the hero of the Kent One Day Cup Semi-Final victory, Gavin Stewart, who got the winning boundary and Kent had sealed a home Quarter-Final that looked to have possibly escaped them.
Hampshire v Gloucestershire: Gloucestershire were put in and struggled to time the ball. The outfield was slow, and the batsmen were allowing far too many dot-balls. At the same time, Maxy Klinger seemed to be struggling with his movement with the back injury that he has suffered from throughout the Blast campaign. Hammond and Cockbain fell quickly, leaving Gloucestershire 21-1 from 5 overs, with both out before Klinger had got off the mark and managed just 29-2 from the Power Play overs. In the end, the Shire struggled to 144-8, centred around Maxy Klinger’s 43. The lesson was that anything pitched up was almost impossible to get away, but short deliveries could be dispatched, as reflected by the fact that sixes (eight) in the Gloucestershire innings far exceeded the fours. For Hampshire, Chris Wood took 4-16 from his four overs. Gloucestershire were, quite literally hamstrung by Kieron Noema-Barnett pulling a hamstring badly early in his innings and being unable to bat again; more critically, he would not be able to bowl on a pitch likely to suit his dibbly-dobbly pace.
In reply, Payne bowled Dickinson from the fifth ball of the first over and, unexpectedly, James Vince did not come out to bat at the fall of the wicket. This was a deliberate tactic ploy as Hampshire set out to swing hard during the Power Play, which was what Gloucestershire had totally failed to do and paid for. Initially, Hampshire found timing just as hard as Gloucestershire had, but then David Payne bowled another poor over (he had been horribly off-colour at Bristol the previous night), and suddenly Hampshire were up and running. Andrew Tye came on to bowl and bowled an equally poor first over. Maxy Klinger was fuming in the field but, with a bowler missing, his options were minimal. Overall, it was a repeat of the previous night at Bristol: poorly directed balls down leg, misfields (sometimes giving away boundaries), dropped catches and a generally shoddy performance. At the end of the Power Play, Gloucestershire had been 29-2, while Hampshire were 67-2. 42 in 18 balls from Rossouw broke the back of the chase and solid scores from Sam Northeast (37) and James Vince (48*) ensured that there was no way back. Even a third wicket in two matches from the previous night’s debutant, Jacob Lintott, was no consolation for a second consecutive pretty desperate performance.
Gloucestershire who before the game last night, must have expected to top the South Group, now face a trip to Worcestershire Rapids and an in-form Moeen Ali with a point to prove.
Glamorgan v Surrey: For both Glamorgan and Surrey, the equation was simple – win and hope that Middlesex could pull off a win at Hove. With both sides needing the win there was some high-octane cricket. The Glamorgan top three all scored at a rate close to or above 200 as the first five overs brought 67 runs. No one though could push on to a decisive score, and wickets fell, bringing the inevitable brake on the headlong scoring. Even though no one in the top six scored fewer than 21, no one could score more than 39 and, from looking set for 225-230 if you double the score at 12 overs, 183-8 was a disappointing effort as the Surrey bowlers hauled their team back into the match. Tom Curran with 3-30 and veteran, Gareth Batty, with 0-23, each from their full stint of four overs, had much to do with the total being at least forty short of what seemed likely at one point.
With the storm clouds gathering from the West and Sussex looking to be on the verge of defeat, Surrey knew that if they could get in five overs, there could pull off an amazing heist. Rain delayed the reply and, with more rain imminent, Burns and Finch needed quick runs to ensure that they would be ahead on Duckworth-Lewis. Aaron Finch scored 44 from just 16 balls as Tim van der Gugten, in particular, was treated brutally, his over going for 24 (3x4, 2x6). The umpires kept the players out, taking them off after the minimum five overs for a result had been completed, at which point Surrey were 60-0, well ahead of the 37 required on Duckworth-Lewis. The rain stopped, a rope went around the field and play was set to re-start, but it started raining again, and the umpires bowed to the inevitable. Surrey, who had the best NRR in the country, missed out on the Quarter Finals by a single win.
The Quarter Final line-up
Worcestershire Rapids v Gloucestershire
Durham Jets v Sussex Sharks
Somerset v Notts Outlaws
Kent Spitfires v Lancashire Lightning
Notts Outlaws, Lancashire Lightning and Birmingham Bears are in a close tussle for the title of Kings of domestic T20 cricket. Interestingly, Durham Jets, who were agonisingly close to winning North Group, have the third-worst record in the country (how many fans would have put Gloucestershire or Glamorgan as one of the three sides with the worst historical record in T20? Most would, I guess, have one of the two in their list). In contrast, despite having won the Blast in 2008, Middlesex are competing with Derbyshire for the title of, historically, the very worst T20 side in the country. While, begging their pardon, not too many people would go to Derby expecting to find a great depth of talent, the fact that year after year, Middlesex sides packed with talent struggle in this format, suggests serious structural problems: the one year that Middlesex won the competition with some gloriously carefree cricket, was the year when the dressing room was, reportedly, riven with strife and the members were in uproar. It is also interesting that Surrey, with traditionally the biggest chequebook in the country and frequently the biggest star names, have not been more successful historically in T20.
The numbers for historical success and failure are quite interesting. At the conclusion of the 2018 Vitality Blast qualifying, the overall Domestic T20 numbers for the years of competition are as follows:
7/12/2018 1 Comment
Gloucestershire and Kent are building up a fine rivalry. Their fourth meeting of the season was the first of their two Vitality Blast meetings, after Gloucestershire had won an extraordinary home Championship fixture and drew (in extremis) the return, with Kent winning a high-scoring One Day Cup game - the fixture between the two sides so far this season in which the result has not been in doubt almost until the last ball. Last season, Gloucestershire won both Blast games and have continued their domination in this shortest format in another tight encounter. T20 may not be everyone’s cup of tea – it certainly is not mine – but you would have to be a bit of a curmudgeon not to enjoy the games that these two sides, both of which have suffered from hard times in recent years due to near-bankruptcy caused by the need for ground improvements, have been serving-up when they have met. Speaking of curmudgeons, Sir Geoffrey himself would not enjoy the Blast, but you can bet that he is watching how is beloved Yorkshire are getting on from his hospital bed, and we wish him a speedy recovery.
Kent are very much one of the form sides this season, doing well in all three competitions. A game against a Kent side that can boast the incredible run-scoring feats of Heino Kuhn and the extraordinary talents of Joe Denly with his hat-trick and century in the previous Blast game is a severe test for any side. The Blast though is the cricketing equivalent of guerrilla warfare, where two overs of mayhem can turn a result on its head and a mix of skill, luck and power can see a smaller side beating what, on paper, is a much stronger one. Having not been at the races in their first Blast game, against Somerset, Gloucestershire beat Middlesex – their favourite whipping-boys – while Kent have started with good wins against Somerset and Surrey.
This fixture was brought forward several hours on account of another game being played later in the day so, sadly, the crowd was relatively sparse to see what was a humdinger of a match. Gloucestershire started badly with the news that having seen Perera return to Sri Lanka after playing the two games for which they expected to be missing Andrew Tye, the ACB withdrew permission for Tye to play the game as he had only landed in England in the morning. (The fact that the game had also turned into an afternoon rather than an evening fixture may also have influenced). Gloucestershire were thus without an overseas player. With Benny Howell, Gloucestershire’s fixer in T20, injured, it was a return for Graeme van Buuren and Kieron Noema-Barnett.
So far in the Blast, Gloucestershire have relied on a lot of, individually modest, contributions. Yesterday’s game was no exception: the top 6 all got into double figures, but it was Noema-Barnett’s 31 that was the largest individual score. Wickets thus fell regularly and, at 147-6, with just three and a half overs left, there was a danger that the innings could subside to an inadequate total. Enter Jack Taylor at #7, still banned from bowling, but capable of hitting the ball a long way. 42 from 23 balls swung the momentum away from Kent and, just briefly, Gloucestershire were looking at a total around 190. With only 10 – “only ten”; those words would give poor old Sir Geoffrey a relapse – from the last over, following eight from the previous, Gloucestershire were kept to a stiff, but gettable, 184-7. For Kent, Mitch Claydon’s 1-26, with an excellent penultimate over, was probably the difference between 184 and 190+, while Joe Denly opened the bowling for Kent and removed the still dangerous Michael Klinger and Ian Cockbain.
Gloucestershire opened with the fit-again “Sid” Payne and with the recalled Graeme van Buuren. Van Buuren came to Gloucestershire with extraordinary career figures in South Africa but has never really prospered in England. Up against them was a power-packed Kent side that invites the bowler to leave the batsman at the crease because the one who will come in if you take a wicket is even more dangerous! This though was to be one of the days that van Buuren will remember with most affection, as he removed Joe Denly with his third delivery and went on to complete figures of 1-26 from his four overs. It is a measure of the problems that Kent’s rivals face that you get rid of Joe Denly and that only brings in Heino Kuhn. With Kuhn and the equally dangerous Daniel Bell-Drummond bedding-in, Billings and Braithwaite to come, the Power Play ended with Kent 54-1, momentum building and the chase seeming to be well under control.
Financial necessity has obliged Gloucestershire to trawl the counties for players who have never quite made it elsewhere, but who flourish in the Bristol air. Will Gidman was a classic example. Ryan Higgins is proving very much to be another. Middlesex fans are looking with fascinated horror at the progress of players who they have let escape, such as Harry Podmore and Higgins. Higgins came on, allowed five singles and got rid of Bell-Drummond. Then Klinger, a wise old bird in the captaincy, threw the ball to spinner, Tom Smith. Three dots, three singles and suddenly the Kent momentum was slowing. The run rate required went over 10 and Kent were in need of oxygen on the climb to the summit. Klinger kept switching his bowlers and brought on Matt Taylor. Taylor is genuinely quick, but then so is a paint spray too: when each goes right, both do a superb job but, when they go wrong, the results can be catastrophic. Kuhn and Billings swapped single but, the effect of the over from Taylor was somewhat spoiled by the third and fourth balls being launched into the far distance by Sam Billings. This started an unusual passage of play in which first we had two overs in which a wicket followed a six next ball and then, punctuated by a mean over from van Buuren. We then had two overs that started with a wicket as first Matt Taylor found his range and removed the dangerous Braithwaite and then dear old KNB came on and removed Heino Kuhn caught and bowled with his first ball.
Six overs to go. Kuhn gone. Kent 110-6 and, seemingly, fading fast. 75 from 36 balls or, to put it another way, +39 – that is… a run a ball and 39 more to find from somewhere. Would Kent die quietly? Would they, hell! Dickson and Haggett knew that they had to swing like crazy and it came off. Three overs to go. 34 wanted. Match in the balance again. Back came Ryan Higgins. The conversation with Maxy Klinger probably went something along the lines of:
“Ryan, get out your Superman cape again. This one is getting away from us.”
“OK, Cap. I’ll see what I can do.”
Just four from his first four balls and then Haggett was run out – following fine work from wicket-keeper Roderick. Twenty-eight needed from two overs. Sid Payne limited Kent to nine from the penultimate volley of six.
Higgins to Milne. Nineteen needed. Surely this was all over now?
Disaster! A wide, which the batsmen, with great presence of mind, also managed to run for. Two off the ball. Then another single from the extra ball. Sixteen from five.
Higgins to Milne. Boundary! And again… boundary! Suddenly Kent seemed to be marching unstoppably to a last over heist. Three balls left. Eight to get.
Ryan Higgins came to Bristol looking for 1st XI, big match experience. He was now getting just what he said that he wanted, with his side looking to HIM – yes! Ryan Higgins – to pull this one out of the fire. It cannot be a situation that he faced too often as a Middlesex player in a dressing room full of full internationals and Lions. Mind you, at moments like this; he may have been thinking fondly of the quiet anonymity of the Middlesex 2nd XI.
Fourth ball. Higgins to Milne. Both sides know that if Milne manages a third consecutive boundary, the game is just about over. Milne can only get it away for a single.
Two balls to go. Seven wanted. Whatever you do, Ryan, do NOT bowl a wide or a no ball. Higgins to Dickson. Hits. The batsmen come back for a suicidal second. Run out!
In comes Mitch Claydon. One ball left. Six to win. Five to tie. Who wants to be a hero?
Higgins bowls. Claydon swings. Chaos! Claydon misses. Higgins does too, but Claydon’s bat flies out into the covers as the batsman swings so hard that he loses his grip. Then it appeared that, with Claydon out of his ground and without his bat, he was given out stumped, although it seems that the umpire at the bowling end had called time, as the batsman was not running and the match was over, so the wicket did not go into the scorebook. Shredded nerves all round.
Both sides are now on two wins and one defeat. Sussex top the group with two wins from two games and the best NRR. Kent follow, and Gloucestershire, with a negative NRR, are in third. It is early days yet, with only Kent, Gloucestershire and perennial strugglers in this format, Middlesex, have played three games. But the signs are that Kent look likely Quarter-Finalists and that Michael Klinger, now much more relaxed with the news that his wife’s cancer seems to be cured, is going to produce his usual “quart from a pint pot” miracle with Gloucestershire and have the Shire in the Quarter Final frame too.
Peter Roebuck entitled a piece in his book “Slices of Cricket”, describing a game that I attended, “A Wild, Wild Run Chase”, describing a 40 over Sunday League game at Bristol. This one was a pretty wild run chase too. Do not believe the people who tell you that the Blast is poor-quality cricket (Yes, Toppers, I am looking at YOU!!!) You may not love Whackit, as T20 is often termed, but it can produce some tense, high-quality matches.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
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