Featured

Carry on up the blog!

Why Cricket and why 51 days? Well, Cricket has been my main sporting passion for over 50 years and I had the chance – at long last – to follow an Ashes tour and, bowing to pressure from friends and family, resorted to resort to blogging my ‘adventures’ and now I’ve got the blog-bug, I’m carrying on! All the mistakes are mine, the opinions are mine and are not associated with any organisation I am currently involved with!

 

Playing like chumps Notts champs?

We reach Day 4 of Essex v Nottinghamshire in the County Championship with Essex starting at 86/4 needing a total of 441 to win! Ok, that’s not realistic given the poor batting performances seen from Essex so far this year but resistance from the middle order – Bopara and Wheater, to lesser extent Coles, Harmer and Wagner – is needed to show some mettle.

Porter – virtues as a bowler were extoled yesterday – took his role as night watchman seriously and hung around for a time but losing Bopara very early on (caught by the sub-wicketkeeper for today Tom Kest off the nippy Matt Milnes) showed the lack of backbone and application.

The game is in the mind and whilst the target was way off in the distance, Bopara fell to the old ‘one/two’ trick from young Mr Milnes – a well pitched up delivery striking the pad for  good lbw appeal as the first ball, the second in Sir Geoffrey’s corridor again pitched nicely and Ravi couldn’t resist a nibble – as they say done like a kipper!

7583873760_IMG_4047 (2)

Bopara – kippered!

The rest followed – Wheater tried, Harmer looks out of sorts in this game with both ball and bat, Coles has more of a reputation than a record to speak of, Quinn was regarded as the ubiquitous rabbit at #11 but Wagner could be relied on to hang around and strike a few runs.

7583873760_IMG_40557583873760_IMG_4053 (2)

Wheater tried whilst Harmer struggled

It was clear that Essex were going to lose – and they did by 301 runs – but there was some very odd play towards the end; maidens followed maidens, runs were declined when they were there for the taking and whilst Quinn may not be known for his batting, he seemed competent and for fellow Kiwi Wagner to treat him in this way was inexplicable.

Body language speaks more wider and more loudly on most occasions than verbally and Wagner’s body language implied to me that a) he didn’t want to be there and b) if there’s a ‘work to rule’ approach of doing the minimum and with less than good grace, then that was Neil today. I may be reading more into his body language than is there but it’s clear nonetheless that all is not well. He did not back up ready to run for any other batsman, leaned on his bat and crossed his legs as if he’s strolled up a hill and wanted to admire the view. All very odd and baffling to the spectators – around 500 of us turned up to watch (and why do we..? knowing full well that the cause for Essex was hopeless? Perhaps that’s another subject for another time?).

7583873760_IMG_4084 (2)7583873760_IMG_4072

But what is clear is that whilst the champs were playing like chumps and have been doing so since day 1, Notts secured an excellent victory and their first at Chelmsford it seems since 1984?

The only team in Division 1 I haven’t seen in Championship action so far this season is Somerset (to be remedied next week) but to me the best organised teams and squads, and best consistently performing ones too, are Surrey and Notts. It would not surprise me to see these two taking a good lead as the summer progresses and nor would it be a surprise if Notts emulated Essex’s performances of 2016 and 2017 – Champions of Division Two in one year, promoted and Division One Champions the next.

But what do I know? I’ve been watching cricket for over five decades and still don’t always understand what’s going on – and Wagner today was baffling everyone – but that’s the attraction and why we all keep going back to watch more and more!

7583873760_IMG_4076 (2)

Harry Gurney found pace and dust from the pitch

7583873760_IMG_4088 (2)

And the winning catch – the first victory by Notts over Essex at Chelmsford since 1984? (even before I started watching Essex ‘live’!)

Can I have a p please Bob?

Jake Libby bowled by Wagner…51; and stump in mid-somersault.

Those of you mature enough to remember the quiz Blockbusters and enjoyed the contestants asking Bob Holness for a p, would regard Tom Moore’s innings of 87 in 80 balls with 7 fours and 7 sixes (70 out of 87) as a blockbuster as he played on one leg with the other injured. He strode across the Notts innings and the day’s play like a colossus (ok Colossus had two legs but you know what I mean).

So returning to Chelmsford for the third day of the Essex v. Notts match (3rd and 4th in the Championship before this round began) having taken a day off yesterday dealing with another p – three pricks for my first set of injections for my upcoming visit to the England tests in Sri Lanka. Another three will follow in due course once I’ve organised them but am now an expert on how to avoid rabid dogs and cats, bodily fluids in the wrong place as well as unsanitary or unclean medical facilities but to eat fruit which I have to peel! Clearly travelling is more involved than people think.

By the time I arrive Jamie Porter (another p) is in full flow and bowling without any luck as the Notts batsmen constantly play and miss. Porter – one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year – is destined I’m sure to play for England but he seems to be nowhere near the current progression of Lions to ODI to Tests; he was picked for the Lions tour last winter but missed it due to injury. The Essex faithful will want him to play for Essex for as long as he can. Today was one of those days where there was no help from the pitch for the quicks; you needed to keep it pitched up and the wickets will follow. Porter may just be regarded as an English domestic specialist and may struggle on overseas pitches but he is repeating the form of 2017 into the Spring and early Summer of the 2018 season.

7585924752_IMG_3994 (2)

The pitch looks increasingly straw coloured as we reach day 3 and has the potential to be a batsman’s paradise but with 15+ wickets falling on day 2, perhaps Essex were still in one day mode but looking at the points table (another p) Essex and Yorkshire have the fewest batting bonus points for any team in the first division and the way the Championship is panning out, those extra points could come in useful.

Nottinghamshire seemed to have caught the bug of poor batting and their performance (another p) was below par early on – Essex kept nibbling away, Porter’s early display was eclipsed by Wagner’s pre-lunch spell of tight, penetrative and quick bowling and wickets fell with increasing regularity.

7516846896_IMG_3956 (Edited) (2)

P for pointed end of the stump! Libby just didn’t see it as he was bowled by Wagner for 51. (This shot being a few milliseconds before the one at the top of the blog).

Playing (another p) and missing seemed to be the order of the day before lunch as Root showed only too often whilst Taylor, Wessels and Patel fell.

7516846896_IMG_3952.JPG

By early afternoon Notts had reached 143/7 when Tom Moores entered the fray accompanied by a runner as he had twisted his ankle earlier in the day. Tom is son of Peter (ex-England and now Notts coach). There was little expectation among the crowd as Tom’s highest score to the end of last season was 41…so he won’t be around for long and with a runner there could be some fun and games! But no…he is a clean striker of the ball and was soon dispatching the bowling to all corners; as other batsman fell, he farmed the strike brilliantly and forsook so many singles that a century would otherwise have been there for the taking. Harmer was dispatched for 26 in one over, Bopara (eventually brought on as an alternative to the mauling being given to every other bowler) went for 13 in one over and was not seen again. Porter tried but was off target compared to his morning spell; Wagner, Quinn, Coles – all were treated with distain and fielders retreated to the boundary – four increased to seven and even nine at one stage – and the Essex performance became an embarrassment – not the style of the Champion County (I think their crown will be going elsewhere come September).

Moores batting was fierce hitting and clean striking of the ball but allied with clever placement and on occasions, just sheer brute force, often ignoring his injury to play a range of strokes (some of the Essex faithful began to doubt the extent of his injury…but then adrenaline was pumping!).

7585924752_IMG_4029 (2)

The pitch looks a batting paradise but from day one there has been a bit of inconsistent bounce increasingly as the pitch dries out under the Essex sun and the Notts spinner (who is held in high regard) should be eager to bowl.

So if one player on one leg can score 87 at more than a run a ball, how could Essex do with eleven players with two fit legs each fare in chasing down the 4th innings target of 441?

The inconsistent bounce did for Cook (lbw b Millnes 0) at 6 for 1. There was once, it seems, an unwritten theory that England captains were never given out lbw (after all the crowd have come to see him bat, not the umpire umpire) but once you’re an ex-England captain…anyway.

The wheels came off as Essex struggled against a fine attack and their own minds – this game is played in the mind as well as on the pitch – and chasing 441 for one of their largest ever 4th inning totals to win may seem beyond their mental and playing powers – one last p.

7516846896_IMG_3977 (2)

Looks odd…the batsman is Moores’ runner!

It takes an age…or two or three

7583947440_IMG_3937 (2)

“Yes Simon – it’s one of those days!”

Back to the County Championship today and the first day of Essex v Nottinghamshire at Chelmsford.

After the unrelenting pace of the past month of one day games and the world record by England yesterday (remember it’s only 10 days ago that they lost to Scotland and the end of the world was forecast…but that’s the pace of life nowadays…nothing seems to be remembered beyond the short news cycle) going back to the four day game is a change for players and spectators alike; after yesterday’s events at Trent Bridge things seem tame and lacklustre but that’s only to be expected.

Nottinghamshire bat first and after an early alarm reach 103/2 at lunch and by mid afternoon 166/3. Taylor of Kiwi fame makes a finely paced 50 with power to add. Billy Root being left handed looks a mirror image of his famous brother and wears 66 – the game against Yorkshire could have umpires seeing double!

What is noticeable about the Essex faithful is how one-eyed they are; probably more than any other set of members. Only good play by Essex is recognised and when you applaud the other side for a fine shot or innings, the feeling of being a traitor descends. As more spectators arrive, the balance towards fair recognition moves but only slightly.

Which brings me into my first ‘age’ point – looking around today I would suggest that the average age of spectators is in the region of 70-plus which makes me feel quite good but it is predominantly white, male and middle-class – I suppose the four day game has, over recent years especially, become the summer refuge for the retired!

However there’s a glimmer of hope – today has been one of the county’s ‘school days’ – primary school children and a few secondary school ones too, come to the ground, experience the match, have a tour of the ground (even dare I say go in the cricket school), have the opportunity to play on the outfield and be back at school in time for the end of the school day. Enthusiasm abounded and it was good to see as behaviour was good if noisy for the old folk!

But I think Essex missed a trick or two…they were only allowed on certain parts of the outfield at lunch (most had left by tea), the field was empty of children half way through the lunch break and what a difference a few autographs from a few players would make! This may have happened behind the scenes but I think not. In Australia and elsewhere this would have had a much higher profile! And we wonder why children aren’t interested in cricket or sports, don’t play outside and prefer their games machines?

The third age aspect is that of the Essex team – ten Doeschate is serving a two match ban, Foster…? So this gives Westley a chance to captain (and it’s clear he’s learning as he goes) and for the youngsters to make their mark. There’s a lot of youth (relative) in this Essex squad who if they fulfil their potential then more honours should come their way. I reckon the squad is as good as any across the country perhaps only outdone by Surrey? The risk is that the frustration of youth may encourage some to seek their fortunes elsewhere?,

By tea Notts had progressed as had Taylor to his century and with Billy Root, who contributed 32, put on a stand of 123 (doubled the score) when Billy fell just after tea. The Essex bowling seemed off colour this afternoon and Wagner forgot his lines especially when confronted with a mix of left and right handers. Harmer restored a little balance but it’s clear that both sides need time to readjust to the long game.

The pitch had some inconsistent bounce early on if you pitched it correctly but as the sun shone, it got better and better for batting. I was thinking three days would be enough for a result here but seems that four may not be long enough!

7583947440_IMG_3928 (2)
Root and Taylor planning their next move…whilst Westley just wonders!
7583947440_IMG_3917
One of those days when chances are missed

By late afternoon Notts had reached 257/4 when Wessels fell to an Harmer lbw but there seem to be fewer and fewer (or is it less and less) demons in this pitch. It will be interesting to see how Essex and Cook (back in the county fold) venture on this pitch…by the fourth innings it could be ‘fun’!

Whilst it was not a problem in terms of numbers today, at least 20% of the ground seating was blocked off due to the position of the pitch on the square or the TV gantries etc already in place for the T20 some two weeks away! It’s not a problem in terms of getting a seat etc but all of the area is usually allocated to members and so we were crammed in a bit more than usual and, I’m not sure if it’s me, but the seats seem to be especially uncomfortable this year. The ground is crying out for redevelopment (and has been for the past 10 years at least) so when it is redeveloped, put some proper sight screens in as well as better gantries etc for the TV crews!

And whatever age you are, you can’t but be fascinated to know how the following overheard conversations finished…so with apologies to any of my readers who unbeknownst to me took part in these conversations:

  • “Shall we go to Tracy’s nuptials or not? And if not, what excuse can we make?”
  • “Will someone please shut the Hayes Close dog in? It’s barking is…”
  • “What do you reckon to this speech to the Cricket Society ‘do’ ?”

Tomorrow’s blog may be shorter or even non-existent as I make my first preparations for my trip to Sri Lanka for the November tests – the first set of injections! I wonder where they’ll put the needle…?

7583947440_IMG_3909

“Close but no cigar!”

One day diet

My diet of one day matches ended with Australia’s efforts to play England at the Oval in the first of five ‘let’s milk this cash cow for what it’s worth’ one day series.

Commitments mean that I cannot go to any more one day 50 over games this season and through choice I don’t do T20.

The diet ended on starvation rations as the second tier or ‘new look’ Australia one day side were just out of their depth. Whilst they have some brightly shining stars and would be stars, not all the working parts work and the team dynamics is well below expected standards (team dynamics is an old favourite topic of mine on the blog as readers will attest!).

Admittedly England played well and can only play the team put up against them with the spinners doing well on this track and well supported by the quicks.

I’m still convinced that Willeys run up is too long as he seems to stutter at the end and Wood is all body power from much more career sustaining. A few highlights from Australia’s batting – Maxwell eventually came good with 60, Agar of 2013 Ashes memories made a sound 40 but the rest didn’t click and were bowled out for 214 in 47 overs was never going to be anywhere near enough.

England didn’t start well but after a few initial alarms – Hales seems out of form, not surprising if you just restrict yourself to white ball cricket; there’s no second innings to give you another chance, to get you back into form, nick, rhythm or whatever you want to call it. Morgan and Root almost saw them home but not quite and had to leave it to Ali and Willey. Why the Aussies didn’t use spin more, who knows but they seemed overall to be the standard of a poor county side and from what’s been seen so far, England have little to worry about, Australia have it all to do but I must admit I like the look of Stanlake, he’s got something about him and could well do well in years to come. Is he a candidate for the Ashes tour next year? Who knows but he could well get a test call this coming Aussie summer.

What do we learn from this one day diet? In reality not a lot as each match just melds together into the memory and each match becomes instantly forgettable. What it does do is bring punters through the gates and noticeably greater numbers than the Championship even on the first day which seems to be the spectators day of choice when the real excitement is there on days three and four- there’s so much good and challenging cricket in the Championship and can be tense in the extreme – can you remember the last one day match you saw when the outcome wasn’t clear until the last over? No? Me neither!

So I’m back to the four day stuff next week and probably not go to another one day match until next season but shall keep an eye on this series and the rest of the 50 over cup, but let’s hope that there are a few one day watchers who now want to try a day or two of the Championship and with school holidays on the horizon the youngsters can go along…but oh, there’s so little to be played as the one days become even shorter and more akin to evening club games…perhaps that’s where the youngsters need to be encouraged to go?

And finally…whoever decided that the long air filled tubes you bang together was a good idea didn’t have the misfortune to sit beside the crèche at the Oval! Whoever they are deserve to have one inserted….(I’ll leave it to you to decide where and how!)

No worries for England?

7583932960_img_3830
With these two both in the Australian side, could we see them winning one day by a ‘short head’?

One of the things that has perturbed touring teams and their supporters ‘back home’ is the lack of preparation offered by the home ‘board of control’; not only the lack of preparation but also the quality provided.

The Australian one-day side is making a short tour of England to play five one-day internationals against England (to help swell the coffers?) starting on Wednesday at the Oval. It’s only a matter of weeks since these two sides did battle down under in a one day series so why now? Other than filling the international fixture list and grabbing the income, I suppose the main aim has to be to promote the England one day side (ranked the best in the world at the moment?) in advance of the ICC World Cup which will be in full swing this time next year.

So, England are preparing by trying to play cricket against Scotland whilst the Australians have two warm up games – against Sussex on Thursday and Middlesex yesterday (June 9).

What can we learn from this and in particularly the Middlesex match -well, in essence nothing!

Australia were using the match as pure practice and warm up (fully understood) and Middlesex used the opportunity to play a mix of first and second XI players against some reputedly world class opposition. Of the batting Maxwell failed to get a score when he needs one (will probably come good very soon), Marsh S, Head and Finch performed as expected whilst the Middlesex bowling left something to be desired and Finn did not improve his England recall chances at all; it’s regrettable but I think his England days are over (his strike rate was phenomenal) – fallen from grace after another visit to Australia last winter and not re-appearing on any radar but that would augur well for Middlesex for a few years, although Lancashire have been in his thoughts it seems.

Middlesex batted like a mix of the standards that they are and collapsed at the end to lose by 101 runs. Of the Australian bowling, they too here are into the second string since their main Ashes victors are injured or resting. Billy Stanlake is quicker than he looks, Neser probably more of a handful and the two Richardsons – not related it seems…after all who gives their offspring names of Jhye Avon? The latter from WA where, I recall from native Australians, that they regard any Australian west of Adelaide as ‘odd’ (am being polite and paraphrasing!).

But I saw nothing that should worry England over the next five encounters, Australia are ‘up for it’ notwithstanding all DIY ribaldry that will come their way, but as Lyon replied when asked did he had sandpaper in his pockets, his reply was ‘no mate, just the Ashes!’ Ouch!

Overall an enjoyable day and the chance to become re-acquainted with some Aussie Ashes heros and more practice at watching one day matches.

A few snaps…

7583932960_IMG_3828

7583932960_IMG_3846

Things I have learned! Bird diarrhoea, tame primroses and full tosses!

There are three things I’ve learned today which I didn’t know when I got up:

  1. Bird shit contains more water/moisture than you would think and ‘The Economist‘ is not very absorbent!
  2. Paint comes in a shade called ‘wild primrose’ which implies there should be a ‘tame primrose’ and
  3. If you bowl two full tosses as no balls in one day cricket, you are removed from the attack!

I make no apology for using ‘bird shit’ as a term since it’s good enough for this week’s Economist magazine to describe the streets of San Francisco. How did I find that it has more moisture than you’d think? Well, I was sitting at the cricket (as above) concentrating on the game (more to follow) when the spectator in the row in front and three seats to the left shouted out ‘Did you feel that?’ and wondered why he had been sprayed with ‘something’; looking down I discover that my trousers, jumper and camera were covered with the contents of a long-departed bird no longer having diarrhoea! I had ‘copped the lot’ whilst the other spectators just had the fall out from the edge of the ‘catchment area’.

Having changed into my older trousers before I set out today, the damage to clothing was not catastrophic but as I did not have anything to clean the ejectamenta away, accepted  took the offer of a small tissue from a sympathetic spectator (which went nowhere towards clearing things up) but had to resort to the Economist magazine I happened to have in my bag – unfortunately the paper used was not particularly absorbent – so I had to leave things to dry in the afternoon sun. It took over an hour and a half to dry out, leaving me surprised at the moisture levels contained in bird shit!

On line, I was also asked what colour paint to choose for a kitchen and recommended magnolia, being the limit of my decorating knowledge, only to be advised that ‘wild primrose’ would be the choice. This led me to think that logically if there is wild primrose, there should be ‘tame primrose’ – and the Pythonesque scenario of being attacked by bunches of wild primroses each Spring but not to worry about those indoors as they had been tamed! Sad, and odd I know, but the cricket was not that exciting at that time.

Until…just before the end of the Essex innings, the Kent and NZ bowler, Henry was taken out of the attack mid-over since he had bowled two full toss no balls in his nine over spell to date. That was something I had never seen before nor was aware of as a regulation – as it seems were most of the crowd. It’s a rare event but I did – clearly having major flights of fancy at this stage – wonder what would happen if, in one innings, several players were withdrawn from bowling by this regulation and what would happen if all 11 players fell foul – would the innings end? Could this be an odd form of match fixing?

And so to the cricket – Essex v Kent in the last round of league matches in the Southern Division of the Royal London one day cup at Chelmsford. Kent had already qualified for the next phase but an Essex win would mean that they also qualify and could gain a home advantage in the next phase.

I use the word ‘phase’ since it’s being called the ‘quarter finals’ but only involves four teams – all delightfully odd and British! The top teams in each division qualify for the semi-final whilst those finishing second and third play each other (cross-divisions) in the ‘quarter finals’ to see who plays the division winning sides in the semi-finals. (You have to live through it to see it makes sense!).

This match was the 2nd v 3rd in the group as well as a local derby so a bit of ‘needle’ could be expected. Early on Kent looked an excellent side with a lot of team-encouragement and chirping clearly audible from the boundary edge. They looked very sharp in the field and exuded all the confidence that a team gains from momentum from winning regularly. From ball one, each bowler found the right line and length and had Essex on the back foot, somewhat shell-shocked in comparison to the team from last Wednesday!

After losing both openers for 42, Westley and Lawrence set out on a rescue and rebuilding mission and by the 15th over had reached 64-2 at 4.2rpo. It was at this point that the seagull appeared and things changed for Essex…they reached 103/3 by over 25 and whilst consolidating they did miss out on several runs as they tended to run the first one slowly; tight bowling by Stevens (1-37 off his 10 – and aged 42!) kept things in check and almost turned the pace into a county championship match-style; aided by Qayyum offering a spin option, the pace slowed but wickets looked secure, poised for a late order explosion. Blake – the chirper in chief – seemed to be the least effective of the Kent fielders and soon became a ‘target’ for some ribaldry – it’s ok talking the talk, but walking the walk counts too! A score of 250 looked good at this stage.

But Essex – Bopara and Lawrence – began to dig in; not in the ‘test match’ sense of digging in to secure the game over a longer term but digging in to provide the platform for later. Steady was the progress and the partnership blossomed against the second string Kent bowlers and later against the front line bowlers as the wheels began to fall off for Kent.

By 40 overs and 223/3, a score of 270/280 seemed on the cards and a better result than seemed likely earlier but the Essex batsmen took full advantage and with four overs to go reached 278/4 – Lawrence had gone for 115 and Bopara on 84* was angling for his ton (I learned later that the partnership at 187 was the highest ever Essex had made against Kent for the 4th wicket in this style of competition – going back over 50 years!).

However, the pace quickened, the bowlers visibly lost heart as they went for six after six, consecutive on occasions and Bopara reached his ton and more – ending on 125 – and Essex on 337/7. At the half way stage, this seemed a competitive score (especially given the earlier scoring rate) and with Kent on a confident winning streak and a sound batting line up, it looked like ‘game on’ and anyone’s match.

Commitments prevented me from staying for the Essex innings – not least a change of guano-covered clothing – but suffice to say that the wheels really came off as the sun went down. Kent were all out for 184 – three less than Bopara and Lawrence made between them.

Kent had qualified for the next round already so the result only mattered in terms of getting a home or away tie – so did they really play at 100%? Research suggests that in such situations teams are only 95% as effective as normal and did they really have their whole heart and soul in the game? It’s probably unavoidable as you know you have done all the hard work to achieve your first objective and you just can’t avoid taking this approach – after all, how many ‘last test of the series’ tests did Australia lose under Steve Waugh’s captaincy when they had already won the series?

So perhaps, the bird shit was a lucky omen after all for Essex…or was it?

Henry strives to make the next breakthrough
7583934960_img_3766
Every spin bowler has their own idiosyncrasies – Qayyum pretends to be a flamingo?
7583934960_img_3752

Stevens – on the money and miserly – showing the youngsters how it’s done!
7583934960_img_3763

Not quite where intended.

Darby day, balls, bails and feet!

If lager companies did ‘views in sport’ then probably… the best in the world. (My Adelaide and other Australian readers may want to take me back to the Adelaide Oval to prove otherwise!)

Today is derby day (not the horse race, that was yesterday) and the derby match between Middlesex and Surrey in the penultimate round of league matches in the Royal London one day cup.

But I ask why is everything that’s written ‘derby’ pronounced ‘Darby’? Must confuse non-English speaking people no end! And why only ‘derby’ why not other words containing ‘er’ …someone somewhere should know!

As ever all the cricket views and thoughts are contemporaneous and not written with the benefit of hindsight…so here we go.

The Lord’s Pavilion is heaving as you would expect on a glorious sunny summers day at the start of play.

Both sides need to win this match as the group is so close but Surrey are 8th out of nine whilst Middlesex are 6th. Net run rate will be key so the winners need to win in a one-sided way! I fear Surrey have too much to do and Middlesex can be in the mix for third place and in the quarter finals (which are not strictly quarter finals as only 6 teams can qualify!). Sussex are probably out of the running in the South as are Glamorgan whilst Kent and Hampshire make the running and could well have the top two spots taken.

Middlesex get off to a poor start losing Gubbins without scoring- although he’s apparently the Middlesex player of the month (for May!) Good job it’s June! Morkel playing his second game for Surrey takes the wicket.

After 30 mins, Middlesex reach 43/1 at 5.6 rpo, Morkel is on the money with a lot of playing and missing and the occasional run; forecast to be just shy of 300 but after an hour the pace slows and it’s 62/2 at 4.8.

Curran T (or currant as my predictive text wants to call him) is back from the IPL and into the attack with a new hairstyle including a streak (shades of Anderson past come to mind c 1999). Any early pyrotechnics have vanished and the forecast reduced to 270/280 but probably not enough.

By 90 mins play the wheels have come off for Middlesex as wickets fall and runs dry up 85/4 at 4.5. The pace attack and Curran 2-14 at present mean 250 will be a good score. Surrey will need to catch the express train to increase their NRR if they want to shoot up the table.

After 2 hours and 115/4 at 4.2, runs have slowed to a trickle but Dernbach is expensive and bowling too many wides . Surrey need to replace him. Only Stirling has made any resistance or score and nears his 50.

Wickets fall and as the adage has it, runs dry up as they struggle to 145/5 off 35…250 will be a marvel!

Sitting in front of the Pavilion provides another dimension from the overcrowded balcony and just adds to the curious nature of Lord’s- the balcony overcrowded and noisy (not everyone following the cricket but talking about everything else in loud voices so that no one else can concentrate); the church like silence of the Long Room where every sound is magnified to the embarrassment of the emitter; and the front of the Pavilion behind bowlers arm…a sight to savour!

I note that the two latest Test countries of Ireland and Afghanistan have their flags flying from the Nursery End but with insufficient flag poles South Africa and WI have been removed- I wonder whose decision that was and how they made it? Names in a hat?

Bowling full has its merits which Surrey are reaping with Curran T -piston arms flailing- keeps striking. Middlesex reach 170/7 at 4.2 off 41; Stirling made 67 and was solid in more ways than one!

Curran has 3-18 off 7 overs and 230 will be a good score from here. Surrey’s out cricket has got a bit loose easing the batting pressure with Stoneman dropping a sitter in over 49 but Burns redeemed the situation next ball. Slowish over rate and all out for 234 after 50 overs. Dernbach 2/57, Curran 4/33 – see what I mean? Middlesex probably 30 to 40 short.

Bails, feet and ball all in the air except for Burns! When a reverse sweep/paddle goes wrong, you look a …

Surrey get off to a shaky start and are 38/2 after 30 mins off 7.1 overs but ahead of the run rate. Stoneman is run out by his partner (Jacks) for 18 so…in the last week, dropped by England, dropped a catch today and run out by your partner…when it’s not your day/week, it’s not your day/week- as Blair said, things can only get better.

They struggle to reach 61/3 off 12 after an hour with Foakes and Burns needing to perform a rescue, which they do reaching 102/3 off 20 at 5.1, ahead of the required rate and Duckworth/Lewis.

Foakes seems to be playing off the front foot more than previously or that I’d noticed so far this season, perhaps that explains some of the odd fields set for him. Burns still bobs and weaves before each delivery and if these two can…

After 2 hours they reach 135/4 off 29 at 4.7 ahead of the rate required. Burns tries to be too clever and a reverse sweep/paddle doesn’t come off and he’s bowled as seen above. Ball, bails and keepers feet all in the air at the same time! Burns makes 40 and out comes Pope – spoken of as the next English pope (there hasn’t been one for centuries) but there’s not enough runs to spare for him to make one today.

But on they plod, slowly at first so much that the rates needed and current begin to converge but after a while, it becomes increasingly obvious that Surrey will win.

Foakes makes a fine 80+ and Pope a half century to bring Surrey home. Have they done enough? If other results go in their favour on Wednesday in the final round and they annihilate Glamorgan then all things are possible. I have my doubts but who knows? And as for Middlesex three wins and four losses mean another poor 50 over campaign with only Gloucester away to try and retrieve something. Shame really as they have good players in the squad but it doesn’t just seem to gel.

But I think I’ll choose the ‘battle of the bridge’ as it’s been weakly marketed by Essex who take on Kent – it should really be the battle of the ‘Dartford Crossing’ but it doesn’t has the same ring! Perhaps they’re trying to build on the Nordic noir of excellent TV series ‘The Bridge’ but Essex v Kent has always been a bit of a Saga! (Aficionados will get the pun!)

Fine margins, treacle and a bloodbath!

Chopra goes for an edge from Ingram (who looks worried…but does he need to be?)

Professional sport is played to such a high standard that the smallest of nicks, pushes, prods, lobs, kicking errors, footballs slipping through gloved goalies hands can each mean the difference between winning and losing.

But here today at Chelmsford in the last day of this particular odyssey these fine margins came into play in the Essex v Glamorgan Royal London one day cup match and in the Glamorgan innings…fine margins in the occasional missed chance, the umpire looking the other way during a run out attempt and the difference between class and average seam/swing bowling. But I suspect will not matter too much in the grand scheme of things.

This match pitches the bottom two teams in the South Division…a win for Glamorgan would still leave them bottom whilst a win for Essex means the possibility of moving to at least sixth. All teams are so close it’s only really Glamorgan who can be ruled out of reaching the knock out stage. Essex need an overwhelming win to increase net run rate as this will come into play I’m sure.

Essex reduced Glamorgan to 58 for 5 and 100 for 6 but let them off the hook so that they reached 200 ao in 48.3 overs. They really should have got a lot less as Porter’s fine bowling more than admirably supported by Cook (S) had the batsmen playing as if the pitch were made of treacle. No footwork or sloppy footwork, and tentative play played in Essex’s hands (and occasionally out with the missed chance or drop) but Essex lacked the killer punch helped by some odd bowling choices…Harmer didn’t turn his arm over but Bopara and Coles had extended runs.

Porter in full flow, why, oh why don’t England pick him?

And no footwork!
Cook (S) straining to get the seam in the right place.

I suppose the thinking was swayed by overhead and forecast conditions – overcast and cool, rain yesterday and overnight with the prospect of lights on from ball one but not so far! The pitch unaffected by the weather looks from afar as dry(ish) but with a green tinge again, I suppose, adding to the idea of all seam bowling and to field when winning the toss (why the common approach now of ‘bowling’ when winning the toss as opposed to the traditional ‘fielding’ I have no idea. The team bats or the team fields, the team does not bowl! Ok, I’ll put this hobbyhorse back in its stable!).

Last wicket to fall – lbw – and still no footwork!

So…Essex need 201 to win but also need to win well within the 50 overs to increase their net run rate which will become key in deciding the final positions – in both Divisions. There was some uneven bounce in the Glamorgan innings but little seen in the Essex one. The Glamorgan bowlers knew they faced a challenge but Smith went for 20 off his first two overs (I think he tends to fall over in his follow-through and needs to amend his run up) and was cast out to the deep! Nonetheless, Chopra and Wheater go off like a steam train careering downhill with no brakes at well over 6 an over for a good period of the power play.

Sixes and fours fly in all directions and all of a sudden it’s a different game to the one I watched this morning – the Glamorgan body language says it all after just 10 overs…they know they’re heading back over the Severn Crossing sooner than they think. Two chances in the same over go begging (over 21 by which time Essex are 125-0 with Chopra 56 and Wheater 66) and it’s these fine margins which can decide games but Essex are so far in front that Glamorgan need a Vogon interstellar battle-cruiser to land on the outfield if they’re going to salvage anything from this game!

Seems that Essex will win between overs 30 and 35 but the question is who will get to their century first? This is turning into a bloodbath.

Chances go flying

The answer is neither as Wheater is out for a fine 88 – despite his odd stance and feet angled at 135 degrees to each other, Chopra is also denied his as Westley comes out to score the winning runs in the 32nd over – the team ethic is more important than individual goals (and he did have loads of opportunity to score faster) – memories of Hick being stranded on 98no after an Atherton declaration come flooding back – he too had his chances for a century in an Ashes test; but talking of team ethics and past glories…look who’s talking?

I reckon these two know a thing or two about the game but still return to their Chelmsford roots from time to time (Pring is probably after a scoop?)

So this little odyssey ends having seen a rained off day, good and poor one day games, the atmosphere, sheer delight and pleasure, and that indescribable thrill that a Lord’s visit and Test can bring and the variety provided by the Aviva final – all reaffirming that there’s no better way to spend a few days than watching good sport played well!

Next week is quieter with only three days of cricket to see – two trips to Lord’s and one to either the Oval or Chelmsford (can’t decide which) – one day cricket for the Royal London Cup and then a chance to reacquaint myself with Australian cricket (no DIY involved) at the end of the week.

And finally finally…the delight of blogging! I had no inkling when the first ball was bowled today that I’d be writing about margins, treacle and bloodbaths…but then life is full of surprises and better for it!

Cricket…the bonds that bind

One of the self imposed rules for my blogsite is anonymity for myself and everyone else I may meet.

The intention today was to join some ‘old’ friends for a day at the cricket at the Oval but for the second year running in organising such an event, not a ball was bowled nor a player seen in the middle. (Sussex did start warming up) yet a most enjoyable day was had by all!

The same happened at Lords last May for Middlesex v Somerset so the chances of lightning striking twice seemed remote! But the lightning and thunder at the Oval were something to behold!

Not a ball was bowled on the latest day of this odyssey but something more than a step on the odyssey was achieved.

Friendships were reaffirmed (as if they needed to be) and cricket was almost an afterthought- in reality it was, as there was no play! Cricket possibly like most other sports has the ability to reaffirm friendships but I pose the question…in what other game could or would a group of friends gather to watch rain fall and no sport take place other than a cricket match in the vain yet hopeless hope that the weather would improve and the rain relent? Just as it has done as I write this blog on an over crowded commuter train on the way home as the sun bursts through and no indication that a drop of rain has fallen!

So there is no cricket to report…no sumptuous cover drives, no unplayable quick stuff, no quick singles to defy logic nor any indecipherable spin bowling…yet I have a warm inner glow of friends gathering for a catch up on children, grandchildren and reminiscing over acquaintances from times past, plus an update on gardens and allotments which felt at times that I had wandered into an episode of Gardeners World but all helped by copious amounts of food and drink whilst the rain fell, the lighting crackled and the thunder boomed overhead almost simultaneously!

Perhaps it is the wine speaking, but in what other sporting context would picnics be prepared, cheeses chosen with such care and cakes baked to provide sustenance to the inner man or woman through the long never ending showers or passages of play? Where else would such care and attention be paid?

So while there was no cricket to watch, a most enjoyable day was held and the bond of friendships reaffirmed (if they ever needed to be so in the first place) and a blog written when there was nothing sporting or related to write about.

Dare I say that there is something more important than cricket? Friendships are nurtured, tended and grown over years and decades and to have such friendships is an honour and a luxury that not everyone has and to have two consecutive occasions of ‘let’s go and watch some cricket’ when there has been no play at all can stretch some to the limits but I know I blessed with such good friends!

Tomorrow is the last day of this short odyssey of cricket (and rugby) watching with Essex v Glamorgan at Chelmsford but have no fear…there’s more but less intense next week!

Fifth day of the odyssey

Before I start on the travails of the fifth day, I need to address an omission from yesterday’s blog – for the first time in a long time, the ghost of Bill McLaren in having an expert of two sitting behind me wasn’t there and it was a pleasure to watch a game without others opinions being rammed down your throat!

Anyway, today -the fifth of this short odyssey- was the second innings of the one day Royal London one day cup match between Essex and Surrey at Chelmsford. Only the second innings as domestic duties were required this morning as well as keeping an eye on the decline of England and ascent of Pakistan at Lord’s.

One of the issues with one day cricket is that it becomes formulaic and becomes immediately un-memorable so one turns to find the more unusual aspects of the game. Well, I’ve been coming to the County Ground at Chelmsford for over 30 years and whilst the slope at Lords is of high renown there are aspects of other grounds which look unusual and here at Chelmsford there seems to be a hollow at one end into which feet can disappear- hence the umpire above looks as if he is footless as opposed to footloose!

And another thing.,.

Whilst Chelmsford is a little way from the coast, seagulls still visit from time to time but this one, patrolling the outfield at mid on, seemed to have a longer tail than most…like some cricket teams over many a year!

And to the cricket…Essex batted first and scored 294 with Surrey using the same strategy as last week of having three spinners bowling the middle overs. Surrey score 295 with wickets and overs to spare. Elgar, Roy and Foakes all batting well and with style and getting into the runs.

The good thing is that no team in either division is dominating the tournament yet so every game is important to every side and net run rate could come into play by the end. But we shall see.

Off the field and elsewhere, corruption stories are developing- seems the 1st Test in Galle in November I’m going to see has already been decided and parts of India v England in Chennai in 2016 were allegedly ‘fixed’. Some English and Australian players are having their integrity called into question but these are just allegations at the moment and giving the media something to feed on…when they really should look at the state of English cricket at test and first class level and also how and why Pakistan did so well when their own domestic game is in such turmoil.

Tomorrow is the odyssey’s ‘rest day’ and back to the Oval on Tuesday for more one day fare.