Day 68 – new Champions!

Today is my last day of live cricket watching this season – my 68th! Works out four days in every 10 spent watching cricket live!

There’s only one match in town – Surrey ripping into Yorkshire! A win and Hampshire losing means another (!) championship title for Surrey! But first there’s work to be done! These matches don’t play themselves!

Lunch arrives at 12.36 (an odd time) and I assume with something to do with making up lost time. But it sees Yorkshire reaching 171/6 – losing four wickets in the session but leading for the first time in the match by 17. Hampshire look like self-imploding so an excellent crowd at the Oval could be in for something ‘special’ this afternoon – let’s see!

And within 75 minutes of lunch, it was all over! Hampshire’s loss filtered through but not before a few more Yorkshire wickets fell – you could see their hearts weren’t in it and were all out for 208. Surrey needed 54 which they knocked off in under 6 overs.

Not quite ‘wild’ celebrations started but it was evident that this was THE competition everyone wants to win. The general consensus is that this squad does not know how to lose (and haven’t so far) and even when things looked grim, they stuck to their task.

This championship was won in May with convincing wins against Hampshire and Northamptonshire when things didn’t look great as regular readers of these ramblings will recall.

I’ve seen many things over the last 68 cricketing days – England losing both an ODI and a Test, a tie, impressive batting, bowling and fielding, great company and conversations, as well as days of quiet contemplation and often bewilderment!

And my next live cricket should be in NZ next year unless we’ve all been blown to kingdom come by Vlad the new impaler but there’ll be ramblings on other things until then.

In the interim, some of the final day highlights…

That’s what winning the Championship means!
None of the Yorkshire batters were really comfortable
Patterson – last to go!
Championship winning shot!
Celebrations started early…
And when you don’t mind giving an interview…
But this says it all – including a nod to Surrey’s previous triumphs!


That didn’t amount to a Hill of Beans!

The choice facing me today was either to see what the carnage at the Fortress (more like a mud patch I hear) was all about and be home in time for an early tea or to go back to the Oval as the champions-designate continue to dominate Yorkshire – and at least I get to see a full days play!

Four day cricket watchers tend not to be in the first flush of youth so as the tube decanted at Oval station, one got the sense of what a day out at the care home of the future could look like! Add to that a strong aroma of Fisherman’s Friends and embrocation and the picture in your mind’s eye is complete.

I somewhat startled people undertaking a ‘survey’ before I boarded the tube about how ‘young’ people felt and how ‘young’ I was – only one answer needed – ‘very!’

But back to the main event; an early start, overcast and floodlit saw Surrey succumb to 299/9 before Lawes and Worrall gained the third bonus point and guided Surrey to 333ao just after the new ball.

I would have thought that would have indicated to Yorkshire to keep Surrey batting until the conditions improved but no! Out they came to face Roach and Worrall with the new ball. Finn Bean (regarded as a good prospect?) and Lyth set out.

Batting was not easy and soon Lyth was back in the Pavilion and Mr Bean joined by Hill – not once did they stand for the ideal photo! And with Mr Bean misreading a Lawes straight one on the stroke of lunch goes for 12 and Yorkshire 49/2.

If only they’d switched round!

Tea arrives (with a presentation to Micky Stewart on his 90th birthday) with Yorkshire 158/7 – still 175 behind. Kohler-Cadmore made a reasonable 50 but others came and went not with rapid succession but in clumps. Surrey at one stage had no Plan B (but that’s typical of cricket nowadays) and were too erratic with at least one ball every two overs going down the leg side to give Foakes more of a workout than he perhaps had planned!

Foakes’ workout for the day!
To the right…
To the left…
And upwards – appealing!

However, Lawes showed his promise and class – destined for England one day – and got among the wickets. Most dismissals have been bowled or caught behind indicating there’s a bit in this pitch (still) so care is needed.

Elsewhere with Hampshire needing to make a large score to win, Surrey need to keep calm but I suspect the weather on Friday – if the matches last that long – will have the last word (for the moment)?

Half an hour after tea and Yorkshire fall 4 behind the follow on target! Poor shots by the York bats but excellent bowling by Surrey who enforce the follow on!

Three of Surrey’s England stars!

Mr Bean is an early casualty as Surrey start to swoop like vultures; by the close another goes leaving Yorkshire at 89/2 still 65 behind.

This Surrey side, irrespective of everything else, knows how to win and knows how not to give up. A fine foundation for the future (if only the ECB would do things sensibly!).

It’s been great to watch Surrey all season. Will I be witness to Surrey’s crowning tomorrow? Now that’s a real hill of beans!


A better class of Pope?

Whilst events of the past few days have been underlined by the history of the UK from its Protestant days, events at the Oval showed a better class of Pope!

The penultimate round of Championship matches pitches Surrey against Yorkshire and Hampshire against Kent as Surrey and Hampshire battle it out for the supreme prize of the summer. Eight points separate them so each of the last two matches are vital not least in terms of bonus points.

Surrey are inserted on a cloudy and cool September morning as Yorkshire feel this is their chance since their batting last week left a lot to be desired.

With Burns back in the Pavilion for 4, Amla for not very many it looked tense for Surrey but at #4 strides out Pope – these ramblings and the media as a whole has sung his praises before and today was to be another long singing session. Reaching 82/3 at lunch (should have been 82/2) from 4/1 suggested an even morning but it was clear that Pope was in no mood to hang back.

Dancing down the pitch, the occasional lofted drive but so many sublime strokes exquisitely positioned and timed meant no one was going to tame him.

This was an innings to savour.

Just enjoy!
Clark didn’t make it look too easy!

Some support from Foakes but later from Clark saw the score progress from 136/5 to 246/5 at tea. Over 160 runs in the session with Pope on fire! He passed his fifty in the blink of an eye and before you knew it, he was into the 90s!

Very rarely – if at all – have I taken two consecutive photos of consecutive balls when a bat goes from 90 to 100; so here they are!

Ducking? No…fierce top edge for 6
Reverse sweep for 4…and a hundred!

The pace continued after tea, Clark goes to a fine fifty but once he and Pope had added 142, Pope tried to cut and goes for 136…almost 50% of the runs scored! Clouds start to roll over but even with the lights on (Will clubs be able to afford them next season?), things got gloomier and play was abandoned at 292/6.

But the talk of the day was the sheer better class of Pope!


One brings two…

There’s a phrase in cricket of ‘one brings two’ – in other words, once one wicket falls a second follows almost straight after.

Joe pops into Lord’s to see his brother for a few minutes
Billy had plenty to do patrolling the boundary!

But today at Lord’s one Root brings two!

A truncated and ‘on/off’ day sees Middlesex progress from 132/4 to 261/5 by tea but two hours play lost to rain means there’s little to gain from today.

Stoneman gets his head down for a classy century – accelerating to make up time after the first rain break – and goes for 128 trying to force the pace, second ball against the Welsh spinner. Simpson – another fiddler/twitcher but more subtle than most – grinds his was to 62no at tea – or rather when the rain returned.

A valiant attempt after tea to restart saw the new ball taken before the rain returned and the umpires put us out of our misery and called it a day at 286/5.

All to play for still, but my last trip to Lord’s this season.

Stoneman celebrates!
Northeast and Cooke deep in concentration
Simpson – muscles aplenty!
Was Cooke wondering ‘how did that miss?’



Back to…’normal’?

Whilst the nation is in turmoil as it seeks a new ‘normal’, the ‘old normal’ of poor batting displays is never far away!

When the world’s on its head…

After the crash-banging, ‘allegedly’ new, style of test cricket and the thrash and bash of the one day stuff, ‘proper’ cricket returns to Lord’s with Middlesex hosting Glamorgan after a hiatus of 52 days in Division Two of the County Championship.

No one is supposedly watching this competition (according to A Strauss – head of the performance review of English cricket) but the numbers at Lord’s today belie that! The Pavilion is humming and rammed with spectators enjoying late summer sunshine and warmth and Middlesex among the wickets.

In commemoration, the Long Room has a portrait of the late Queen surrounded by Aussie test players from a recent tour. All I’ll say is that you can tell it’s the Queen!

Losing your first two with 9 on the board within 15 minutes was not a good start for Glamorgan but with a mix of grit, determination and more loose shots than you can shake a stick at, they reach 109/5 at lunch. Better than it looked at 70/5 when the ball was doing things off the pitch but the wiser heads of Murtagh and Roland-Jones knew exactly what to do and did it better than the others!

The afternoon promises more of the same especially if, true to form, it starts reversing in the next 10/15 overs. But we’ve seen Cooke in these ramblings before grind Surrey into the ground but I think this pitch is a bit different. Who knows what’s in store?

Two hours later and they’re walking off with Glamorgan 214ao. Cooke made a promising 50, Patel threw his bat for a quick 30-odd but the rest was just awful batting, shot selection and ‘ring rusty’! Glamorgan are supposed to be the second best side in the Division!

Cooke didn’t always find it that easy!

From where I sat I couldn’t tell if the ball reversed but the odd one did keep low so there’s the possibility that the pitch will deteriorate and you don’t want to have to chase too many in innings #4. No spin but five catches behind suggests good bowling but poor selection.

Sense prevails and tea is taken so let’s see what the Middle can do!

One thing Glamorgan did was set off like an express train and so do Middlesex (4 plus an over). Batting seems to be easier as the pitch dries under an increasingly warm late summer sun – so much so that the areas of exposed flesh among the spectators increased as did the application of sunscreen in some parts of the ground!

Nor did Stoneman
Harris…just legal

Or it could be that the Glamorgan attack is not as good? However, poor shot selection and/or lack of footwork (seen regularly in the Glamorgan innings) seems to have been transferred to the Middle’s men as they succumb to 92/4 from 90/1.

Harris (formerly of this parish) did the damage but missed out on a hat trick! Stoneman provided the steady undercurrent of support (72no) as stumps are drawn at 132/4.

I suppose Middlesex are the happier side and will be looking for a lead in excess of 100 but they’ll need to persevere – you need to get your head down and graft if you’re going to succeed on this pitch!

So the ‘new’ normal of hard work for rewards will be very much like the ‘old’ normal and life moves on.

The Warner stand, not looking ‘normal’


Bazb*****ks – England v SA Lord’s

Foresight and hindsight are two of the sights you don’t use your eyes for but we all possess them in some form of other. I suppose all the ‘more experienced’ cricket watchers have seen things come and go with varying changes of pace over time and their verdict on ‘Bazball’…well:

‘It’s inevitable…can’t last’, ‘the wheels will come off spectacularly’, or come up with other doom merchanting.

In fact, this new approach is not new! It’s been around for ages, been tried by other teams over the years with varying degrees of success. Sri Lanka in the 1980s and 1990s, Australia with Gilchrist in full flow, WI from time to time are immediate examples which spring to mind.

Nortje not quite sure what to do with this Stokes delivery?

What sets them apart is that they had a team of star quality players…and England don’t have them yet! But today at Lord’s was more ‘Bazb*****ks, but don’t lose heart!

But back to the here and now; today (and this Test) was back to the England of recent times and years. Experimental fields, over use of the short stuff, no Plan B, lose control of the game when the foot should be choking the life out of the opposition and so forth; well documented in these ramblings!

However, the key for me today was the issues with the batting – footwork non-existent, one day style of thrash and bash when things got too tough. Crawley – trigger movements all over the place, shows his brain is scrambled; Lees flatters to deceive, Root and Jonny have the inevitable poor games; Stokes in two minds – go like a bat out of hell or drop anchor; Foakes no footwork; Broad – as ever thinks he’s better than he really is; and you can’t ask the rest to rescue you!

Let’s not take anything away from South Africa – bowled supremely well, Nortje at 94mph one of the fastest I’ve seen at Lord’s (and elsewhere) and England got giving him the respect he deserves. Rabada – on one measure (strike rates) one of the best of all time. And solid bats who are difficult to get out but also quite stylish!

Will England change their side? Probably not. But you start to ask how many chances do you give? Is it time to blood new blood? Who’s knocking on the door on the four day game? Oh…silly me – it’s thrash and bash at the moment since that’s all that counts!

And finally, etiquette – each England bat walked off to silence but every wicket and boundary by England and miss by the opposition cheered to the rafters. Where’s the spirit of cricket gone?

So, here’s a few photos from todays play – short though it was…

Tube strike meant a different route to Lord’s – and how different!
Nortje – squat this time…
This time I’ll try…
Jansen at 6’ 8” still had the occasional short ball challenge!
Nortje – another short ball, another tangle
How many of us have batted like this?
A slow way to capture a view, and a quick way!
Lees – nearly wears this short one!
Where can I get a green shirt like this?
Crawley – lbw
Lees’ turn to be in a tangle
Jonny – look where your feet are? And bye bye
Nortje – really bending his back.

Foresight tells me that next week at Old Trafford and later at the Oval things will be better but I can’t see that far!


Rain wins!

The forecasters’ seaweed yesterday foretold of almost non stop rain today – not enough the reconstruct a biblical flood, but perhaps enough for a few flash floods so my plans were unsettled until drawing the curtains this morning revealed an overcast but dry start.

Nijjar b Shutt

Incidentally I did show this photo to one of the professional photographers at the ground today – he seemed underwhelmed or miffed that he didn’t get the snap? Who knows?

Further consultations with those reading the weather runes foretell the deluge starting at various times during the day but some play could be possible. So I replenish the lunch stocks courtesy of ‘St Michael’ and head to the Fortress. I’m lucky as both Essex and Surrey are at home and I’m taking the easier (and cheaper) travel option!

The RLODC match is Essex v Yorkshire – the latter offering a similar level of development players as Essex so it could be quite even.

The same pitch as Sunday’s game against Glamorgan is being used (300+ played 200) and hence the same short boundary. Humid but not overcast skies greet the Essex bats who seem to struggle to 43/2 off the first 10 overs; Yorkshire are being treated with a level of caution which may mean the end score is on the low side.

But Roelofson and Westley steady the ship with a 150+ partnership and reach 184/2 before the wheels really come off – one wicket brings another so much that the remaining eight fall for 56 and Essex are 240ao with 3 plus overs unused!

Shutt – disguising the ball?
Bess tries too!
This is coming my way!!
Revis – straining every sinew

Errors in batting and the order expose the level of failure on a pitch which from on ‘high’ in the Pearce Stand looks sand coloured and dry but from ground level has more than a tinge of green…perhaps that explains the batting style?

Yorkshire set off at pace – faster than Essex but are then pulled back by Snater (almost a hat trick) and Nijjar so that they are soon well behind the required par score – but did score more in the first 10 than Essex but lost more wickets!

Tattersall – first ball!

Stories of floods at Lord’s and elsewhere in London start to trickle through and hint that the clouds approaching may not be that friendly and the forecast reconstruction is on its way.

By 3.30pm or so, after 19 overs, Yorkshire are 76/6 and it’s been spitting since the start of the innings. But then the thunder around the ground brings clouds ready to open – and, boy! Do they open. An attempt to look at conditions sent the umpires scurrying to their Pavilion and within minutes, not only were the covers flooded but large puddles appear on the outfield and the drains unable to cope.

So Essex do take the win under the DLS system but really, the standard from each side was Second XI but charged First XI rates. If – and a big IF – this ‘development’ tourney is to continue it needs to have the same level of experience on each side, and lower entry fees!

That seems to make sense but when was the last time anything ‘sensible’ was decided by the ECB?