Gary Naylor brings us the final over of the week in County Cricket for last week.
Ball One - Whilst the attention of the Dutch sporting public is firmly fixed on how their squad will find yet another way to cock up a football tournament, their cricketers are showing the value of teamwork in topping the CB40 Group A table by a distance. The men in orange won the er, local derby with Essex by five wickets with more than 13 overs to spare. Impressive stuff from Peter Borren and co, but an Essex side featuring eight men with over ten years’ experience of List A matches really shouldn’t be getting turned over like that.
Ball Two - Lancashire finally got off the mark this season with a narrow two wickets win over rock-bottom Durham. The Championship winning formula clicked at last, with a team effort exemplified by late order runs and wickets shared amongst the bowlers and all-rounders. In sharp contrast, Durham’s runs came
almost exclusively from England’s forgotten man, Ben Stokes, whose 121 was 70 runs higher than the next best innings in the match; and their wickets from England’s not quite forgotten man Graham Onions, whose 41.3-8-11-95 deserved more support. Twice Champions in recent years, Durham have much to do if they
are to avoid the drop this time round.
Ball Three - Middlesex crushed Sussex by ten wickets with runs from the late-order again proving the momentum shifter. At the key Number eight position was ex-Sussex man Ollie Rayner, whose season’s average of 40 is beginning to prove a point I made earlier this season - he’s a better batsman than bowler. Not that his bowling is too shabby, with his twelve wickets this season costing 33
each and still the late-summer round of matches to come for the off-spinner. Sussex’s equivalent player, Luke Wright, also averages 40 with the bat, but has just one wicket so far on his way back from the IPL. Sussex have 29 fewer points than Middlesex after seven games each and can’t wait much longer for their middle order all-rounder to fire.
Ball Four – Sometimes, it just happens. I recall John Carr (of the crazily two-eyed stance) suddenly scoring century after century one season before, almost as quickly as he blossomed, retiring from the game. At nearly 29, Nick Compton’s ton in the drawn game at Worcester takes him over 200 runs ahead of the second highest scorer in Division One (Ashwell Prince, would you believe) at
an average of almost 80. It’s probably too late for an England call-up, but if he carries on like this and England face an Autumn of trial by spin in India, would it hurt to find a slot for a man who appears to find batting as easy as others find it difficult in this bowlers’ season?
Ball Five – How do you learn how to play cricket? There are lots of coaching methods these days with science to the forefront, but playing the game still looks a good option to me. Ned Eckersley of Leicestershire is 22 and against Glamorgan batted 43 overs at Number Three for 41 runs. He then put on his gauntlets and kept wicket for 129 overs to nine different bowlers. After half an
hour, he was back in the middle batting 110 overs for an unbeaten 137. That’s the kind of experience coaches can’t teach. And burn-out? At 22? Never!
Ball Six - Cricket, like anything worth doing, has a cruel side and never has this been more clear than in the case of Gloucestershire’s young all-rounder, Christian Purchase. Playing for his county Seconds, he would have been on top of the world having smashed Ireland A all round Bath in a three-day game, finishing
156* with a Gaylesque boundary count of 11 fours and 16 sixes. Two days later, he was part of a bowling attack that were taken for 414, as Ireland A got over the line five down. Here’s the card. And since his blitz, the young man has scored 0, 1 and 3 in three completed innings. Purchase, it seems, can’t buy a run. But he has the time, and, one suspects, the talent to come again.
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