Chirpy chirpy cheap cheap…Essex v Hants Day 2

A glorious English summers day – sun, no rain, slight breeze…almost warm enough to take your pullover off – had the potential for Essex to turn the screws against Hampshire, leading by 25 overnight with seven wickets in hand.

Hampshire started quietly- well the bowling did anyway for about 40 minutes – but the chirping from the team was one of the loudest and longest I’ve heard for a long time. Consistent, persistent and a team effort all round.

Three overs after the first change – Fuller in the main – brought a swift change. Lawrence progressed in style with a cover drive to die for – in the style of Cowdrey, Graveny, Gower et al – and reached his half century. All seemed set for batting until tomorrow when the wheels started to come off. Bopara and Lawrence left in quick succession.

Classical cover drive by Lawrence…stylish!

One feature of the game has been the high number and proportion of leg before decisions from both umpires; not necessarily all as correct as they should be, but then spectators are 100m away and it’s a lot easier watching! And ok…they must be correct since it says so in the scorebook; but my old school report for PE said ‘excellent effort this term’ but I’d had my arm in plaster all term and had not done any PE lessons at all! So it must be right!!

Harmer was out lbw!

But the lack of application and patience leads to an Essex collapse in cheap style! If Hampshires five for 24 yesterday was bad, Essex managed to beat that with six for 19…the lower orders seem to hold their wickets cheap and lacked any adhesive qualities. All this means Essex are dismissed just before lunch for 214 – a lead of 96.

Of the 20 wickets to fall so far, 12 have been leg before…an unusually high percentage!

When Aaron Beard is your #9 ahead of Porter and Cook SJ then you know you have a long tail. Aaron attended the secondary school I worked at (not teaching!) and it’s clear from his batting stance of feet pointing at 90 degree angles that there’s something not quite right about cricket tuition in schools! Anyway, he doesn’t last long…

Beard…beaten all ends up by Edwards

So Hampshire have a nasty period before lunch to negotiate and lose opener Alsop for 2 and lunch at 5/1 – and yes, you’ve guessed, out leg before!

Half way through the afternoon session finds Hampshire 35/7 Harmers taking 5/11 so far helped by such inept batting that you wouldn’t believe! Northeast stumped, Rossouw caught sweeping badly and Rahane (who I’d really wanted to see) out first ball after lunch nibbling outside the off stump! He’s lasted three balls in two innings. The crassness of the batting beggars belief. These three were the most guilty of poor application!

Rossouw…good idea for your second ball?
Crane caught by ten Doeschate off a rebound from Wheater

And so it continued…inept, pathetic, awful – do not do the batting justice. Weatherly carries his bat for 29 after a short stands with Abbott and Crane but the inevitable arrives just before tea – Hampshire all our 88 and lose by an innings and 8 runs; I wonder whether this is one of the worst defeats ever seen? Losing by an innings when the opposition only scored 214?

First class this was not; 17 wickets falling in just under two sessions today; the whole match over in just under five sessions – I feel short changed but not as much as the hospitality tents which were empty until just before 3pm when numbers arrived in droves for a barbecue/afternoon tea and it was all done and dusted in under 45 minutes!

The last wicket (Fidel Edwards) falls to leg before (the 15th of the three innings game) and the 12th wicket of the match for Harmer (12 for 61).

And the 15th and last lbw!

Little to chirp about at the end but when you sell your wickets cheap, this is what you get! I wonder if the ECB regard this as cheap too or just an extra long version of the Hundred? Seemed like it.

No one’s watching…Essex blast Hampshire and it’s not T20!

For some…watching was too much but at least they turned up!

After a break and an away game, Essex return to ‘fortress’ Chelmsford for a Division One match against Hampshire.

This game was originally scheduled to be played Monday to Thursday when care homes need to do something with their clients but after pressure from County members, this game (and Middlesex v Glamorgan) were brought forward one day to give something tangible for working members to be able to see some play at weekends; the rest of the season is noticeably bare of weekends!

So, with minimal advertising (let’s be honest…none!) the expectation that the ground would be heaving with spectators- and a few dads being taken out for Fathers Day – was just a vain hope. The Essex faithful flocked in their tens rather than hundreds – put off perhaps by the poor forecast and a truncated and disjointed morning session. All eyes seem to be centred on Old Trafford and the billions watching in Asia so even if the UK audience had something else to do, cricket wasn’t their first choice (at least not here in Essex!)

Play began 35 minutes late after a light shower and Hampshire batting after winning the toss. The ball zipped about in the damp and cloudy conditions and Hampshire found themselves 8 for 3 in less than 30 minutes – must be the quickest time a bonus point has been earned!

Ajinka Rohane lasts two balls…and this is the second which turned him ‘inside out’

Another break and back for 25 minutes before lunch and Northeast and Rossouw progress to 43/3 with no more alarms. It’s as if they’re playing on a different pitch from before…strange but let’s see.

None of the Hampshire batsmen exuded confidence or tenacity!

Yes, they are playing on a different pitch or so it seems as Hampshire reach 94/5 by early afternoon; however a couple of questionable decisions both earlier and later mean they crash 24/5 to be all out for 118 just after 3pm. Poor display by Hampshire, good bowling by Essex although flatter to deceive and a number of poor umpiring decisions (at least three if not five wickets fell to the umpires judgment- they’re consistent which is what you want but both seem to be having an off day).

And as the weather improves, and I’m proved wrong as Dads have finished their special lunches at various venues and spectator numbers for the afternoon increase- almost approaching a healthy level but let’s not get too excited! Some still can’t watch or don’t want to!

Eleven overs before tea (extended day due to weather) see Essex glide to 37/0 with no real issues. The Hampshire bowling is perhaps a bit too full and too quick as the clouds roll in (non-threatening) and the breeze picks up to be quite strong. Hampshire need wickets…and soon!

The openers fall within balls of each other and both to leg before…although Sir A was initially given out to a catch (which looked ok from afar) but soon changed to lbw; Browne went similarly although from afar it looked an ‘iffy’ decision but there we are.

Westley fell for a few and at 64/3 Essex looked wobbly but this is a pitch where batting hasn’t been easy and overhead cloud has helped but as it dries, as it warms, it suggests batting will get easier and ending the day at 147/3 it’s all Essex today. Perhaps Hampshire will rue agreeing to the change of start date but it was good sport, reasonable weather and (eventually) a decent crowd but the ECB need to do something to promote awareness of the county game or change its name to the Extermination Cricket Board!

Security first…or Middlesex v Sussex Day 2

Carson from Downton Abbey still knows how to serve coffee!

Apparently there’s some bigwig American family staying close to Lord’s which means that roads around Regents Park are closed off, protected by armed police as are parts of the park itself. But the theme of safety first seems to have spread itself along the St. John’s Wood Road and into the Pavilion.

Sussex start the day with a lead of 30 runs and buckets of wickets in hand having dominated in all areas yesterday except for the toss!

Through Brown and van Zyl they grind down the Middlesex team through to lunch by which time both have their half centuries with van Zyl looking set for a century. Middlesex look dejected, the bowling at best mediocre, Rayner looking as if he’s going through the motions and the whole team just hoping that something will happen sometime and a collapse will follow and put them out of their misery.

After lunch, Brown accelerates from 50 to 90 in no time as the new ball only has the effect of making batting easier, runs scored faster and the prospect of any wickets being taken ever more remote.

Brown duly scores a good hundred before falling shortly thereafter whilst van Zyl already has his century under his belt and looks set for more. A few wickets fall but this brings Will Beer to the wicket and the prospect of Middlesex batting soon before tea gets higher. However, Beer has other ideas and, to his immense credit, plays within his limits of strokes and shots whilst van Zyl reaches and passes 150 and the grinding down of the opposite side continues.

Beer playing within his capabilities and strengths

After tea, Beer scores his maiden championship 50, equalling his first class best, van Zyl improves his championship best with 173 (more by himself than all eleven of Middlesex!) and the lead stretches still further. The biggest prize for Middlesex is Roland-Jones first maiden in the 25 overs he’s bowled which have gone for over 100! It’s that sort of day for them!

Declaration bowling from Robson…or just some variety?

With a lead of 343 and 4 overs left in the day, the declaration comes. I appreciate safety first but this is bordering on insanity. The batting after tea almost came to a halt, the bowling was humdrum beyond description and the game meandered meaninglessly; not even a change of gloves and messages from the captain – all sense of urgency or goals was lost.

The worst case for Sussex would be for Middlesex to score over 500 by lunch on Day 4 and to have to chase 200 or so in two sessions. Given that Middlesex have been outplayed in every area except tossing, that doesn’t seem likely.

Harris…Middlesex best offering for limbering

Even when it comes to limbering up mid-innings, Sussex have the callisthenics down to a fine art so much so that their quicks must be contortionists!

Sussex expert callisthenics- bordering on contortion!

Middlesex had everything to lose and nothing to gain from a nasty four over session before the close but in that time, the Sussex bowlers looked more menacing than all of the home side had done in the previous 120+.

What is noticeable is the different team ethic and approach between the sides. Ok, Middlesex are down and probably out but Sussex seem to be better organised, have a whole team approach (inc coaching staff) and a visible determination to win promotion and from what I’ve seen…they and Lancashire should get it. They may need to take more risks as the season progresses and less safety first…but then if it’s in the neighbourhood, then who you’re gonna call…?

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife…Middlesex v Sussex Day 1.

Photo from BBC London – I’m the one in a pink jacket and purple trousers!

Whilst the one day circus rolled back into London for SA v Bangladesh, the first class County season continues with a match brought forward a day following the outcry of the madding crowd of county members when the fixture list originally had this game to be played when working people couldn’t watch it!

Perhaps Middlesex will regret asking for that change since after winning the toss they celebrate lunch (full Sunday roast plus Yorkies for £12.95 in the Pavilion) at 77/5 having won the toss and batted. Sussex came out with all guns blazing, Middlesex less so and with few knowing where the middle of the bat was.

Humid sunny conditions aided the bowling in terms of movement but it’s a pitch where patience and resilience are needed with time spent waiting for the sun to dry what looks like a good batting surface.

Playing and missing seemed to be the order of the day for Middlesex and as regular as the buses going down Wellington Road but interspersed with the occasional sound of bat on ball but more likely a soft nick to the keeper and Sussex exclamation of joy; the bowling was quite superb!

A surprise and from the Middlesex perspective probably the highlight of the day was the opening of the outfield to spectators at lunch. This is a rare event at Lords especially so early in the season before any big matches.

However many times you do this, it just adds to the magic of the place…walking down the steps where the famous and not so famous have tread, walking to the middle, the view of the majestic Pavilion, the close up view of the media centre but most of all the slope! You just don’t appreciate it from afar or on TV…it’s something to behold!

Lunch turns into 138 all out by mid afternoon and an abject performance by Middlesex especially after winning the toss and batting but let’s see how it goes?

Sussex reach a belated tea interval at 78/1 off 18 overs. They make batting look simple and straightforward. The bowling by Middlesex is too full, too wayward, too off line…just too awful for words with the exception of Tim Murtagh. Salt progresses well and is on course for a 50 if not a lot more.

Interestingly, the weather has changed as if it’s a different day; more cloud cover (this morning was blue sky from edge to edge), the wind has progressed from a cooling zephyr to a vibrant breeze and the temperature dropped several degrees.

And so it seems we’ve two vastly different innings. Sussex end the day at 169/4 with the power to add to what should be a substantial lead but there’s more strife to be seen in this match I’m sure and less of a madding crowd tomorrow.

Apologies for the lack of photos but other than the range of callisthenics on display – primarily from Sussex – for bowlers warm ups – there was little else of note; even for a very subdued and understated ladies day (perhaps the message about how this doesn’t sit well with modern ways, is getting through!) but tomorrow’s another day, another innings, more strain and strife.

Groping again but the tail wagged! Essex v Kent Day 2

Brown wagtail on the outfield – a portent for the Kent tail to wag

The day begins overcast with the prospect of cloud, a few showers but sun too so Essex carry on from overnight and add 10 runs for the last two wickets in half an hour or so, maiden after maiden. There was little to gain other than Kent winning the final bowling point. Sometimes the strategy is difficult to follow and this was one of those times…and we’d see it again later.

Playing and missing, prodding and groping by Essex to no avail

Kent proceed slowly so that overall after 90 mins total play only 35 runs had been scored at 2 per over. Not a spectacular to set the pulses racing a la One Day stuff but it was a day for the connoisseurs – the new ball needed to be seen off, batting is never going to be easy on this track, scoreboard pressure from the loss of early wickets, the general feeling that Kent could struggle in Division One; not a day or situation to encourage new watchers or the young to follow the game.

If today had been a youngsters first experience of first class cricket, then they could be lost forever. I suggest most readers will either have had their first exposure to cricket by family playing at local clubs, watching local games or, like me, via TV (and it was only terrestrial and black and white in my day!). So by 35 minutes after lunch, Kent reach 71/3 off 34 overs, high percentage of maidens (well over 35%), wickets all falling to catches, a strategy of alternating quicks at one end and Harmer spinning at the other. Some decisions seemed marginal only to those being dismissed but all looked fine from afar.

Kuhn in dayglo dismissed caught…one suspects a few choice Afrikaans words were used?

Robinson looking to get some fluency
Cook S in mid-flight

By tea time – taken on time, Kent reach 118/5 off 58 overs. Slow going but tense none the less. Both Robinson and Mulder on 13no. Will they save the follow on which looks far off?

After tea, things for Kent go from bad to worse as wickets fall with regularity and no one really getting settled. Did the overcast skies and the Essex pace attack take full advantage compared to the sunnier skies of the same time yesterday when Kent didn’t look as if they could buy a wicket? Well, who knows?

So at 137/9, the follow on looked far away and the question among the cognoscenti of Essex was would it be enforced? Are the bowlers tired? (They haven’t played for 10 days or so and spent most of yesterday watching Sir A batting…so they’re probably shattered after 15-20 overs today).

But the arrival of a brown wagtail on the outfield (had to check via internet as to the type…ornithology is not my forte) was a portent for the Kent tail of Milns and Qayyum to show what could be done. And didn’t they! They added 45 for the last wicket, the best partnership of the innings, showed grit, determination, application and patience which the batsmen failed to display. Admittedly the Essex strategy creaked at the seams; the new ball didn’t do the trick for once, the alternating quicks at one end, spin at the other had worked all day but couldn’t deliver the coup de grace…no plan B, no ‘do what they least expect’. But eventually just on the stroke of 5.55pm, they succumbed for 182 – a lead of 131 for Essex.

And…shock horror all 96 overs were bowled with 10 minutes to spare – would have been earlier if Pepper had not been hit and needed attention. It can be done!

And the tail wagged, and wagged, and…

A day for connoisseurs given the scoring rate, state of the game, etc. And interestingly on both days, the last hour has been the most interesting and intense!

A much smaller crowd – half of yesterday’s but it is a working day but where were the youngsters on half term? Only 20 or so I reckon today out of attendance close to 1000? We do need to attract the young to the game and perhaps they’ll come next season…and there were more opinions expressed among the spectators today than solutions to the current political scene but that’s for another time. Today was more prodding, groping but a wagging tail saved the day!

Tongues, tonsils, groping, drooping, turns and twists – Essex v Kent Day 1

Tongue out when you’re concentrating!

Apologies to my regular readers if you’ve been expecting a blog on the Royal London One Day Cup Final but I’ve been blogging as a guest on another blog site. So, we’re back to the Championship and Tests from now on.

There’s lots of tongues here today at the CloudFM County Ground – and tonsils to boot – as the latest Division One round of matches reaches the end of May and the ‘Battle of the Bridge’ which seems to be the marketeers view of every game between Essex and Kent; the ‘Battle of the Dartford Crossings’ doesn’t have the same appeal!

An uncontested toss sees Essex batting on a dry whiteish pitch with a hint of green. I’m sure there’s a relevant paint colour to match but everything looks like magnolia to me! The day started sunny and warming but increased cloud cover and a cold wind take the edge off. According to my Alexa there’s a 47% chance of rain today but more forecast tomorrow.

Anyway, the first exchanges are Stevens and Podmore testing Cook (Sir A) and Browne outside the off stump with some regularity. Four slips stand ready to pounce as prod follows prod, the tonsils exercised at every hit of the pad, play and miss etc. Cook (Sir A) seems to be prodding and missing more than usual; haven’t seen so much outside off stump play from him in a while. What I have noticed both at this match and the last is his tendency to stick his tongue out whilst concentrating hard; I just thought it was me but no, others do it too!

Prodding and prodding

By lunch Essex have prodded and plodded along to 92/2 off 31 overs (a good over rate can be done! And all seam too!). Cook (Sir A) 35 and Lawrence 14. It’s great too see an almost full house on the members side of the ground and a goodly number on the public side too; message to the ECB is play these matches when people can watch, and they’ll come in numbers!

Add in some good weather too and it would be even better; but today is sunny and warm but then when it clouds over, the wind gets up and the mercury drops! And for once, it seems that the care homes have kept all their residents indoors as the average age of spectators is considerably lower than normal!

Tea…almost on time (see…it can be done) sees Essex 197/3. Cook (Sir A) 78 and Bopara 23; Lawrence was the only wicket to fall in that session for 42. All a bit flat; flattening pitch?, flattening of bowler/fielding pressure? Who knows. Weather alternates between sunny and overcast… little help for bowlers this afternoon. Grit and determination from Cook (Sir A)…century looks pencilled in. Kent look flat, just keeping in the game, feeling their way in Division One.

And the century was inked in. A fine knock, struggling at times, fluent at others but never really in danger. Kent went flat in the afternoon session (lunched too well?) and this continues into the evening session. It’s hard to see how Kent will take their next wicket. Bopara and the Knight add 130 runs before they set off for two leg byes but the Knight’s too slow and is run out. Nonetheless with the batting to follow 275/4 boded well for 450/500 sometime tomorrow afternoon.

Congrats on the century

But there was a series of twists and turns…new ball taken and the run out, new batsmen needing to make a start. All this means a collapse of 5 wickets for 26 runs as the lower orders collapse and Kent are back in the game! 303/8 at the end of the day has honours even but shaded to Kent as Essex should have been better.

And the only way was to be run out

It could be a pitch where bowlers need to optimise the new ball and batsmen play themselves in; hard graft will succeed but we shall see.

But it’s a day where we only see ducks outside the boundary but one where you need a blanket or fancy dress to keep warm!

Duck on the boundary
Sooooo cold you need your own blanket – and it’s June later this week!

There’s more twists and turns to come and even Cook (Sir A) concentrating so hard…

Essex v Notts -how to bat (Notts supporters should brace themselves!)

Today, for once, words fail me so I’m going to let the photos do the talking!

 

Best way to counter spin bowling is to get forward?
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Or play and miss to the quicks?
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And even further forward?
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And play and miss at the other end?

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You can’t get any further forward…or can you?
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Perhaps Broad will have more luck bowling?

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For every Notts lunge, there’s countless straight bat play by Sir A
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Even Westley played it straight against the quicks

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The exceptionally long arm of Matt Carter
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Broad discusses the lbw law with Sir A – or was he asking him about his sheep? Umpire Lloyds doesn’t look that pleased!
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The long arm from the other end!
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But they’re chums in the end!
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Chelmsford city centre – less than two minutes from the County Ground

 

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Facial expressions!

Middlesex v Leicestershire…fine margins lead to regrets later?

Lord’s in all its glory

A fine Spring day with Lord’s looking magnificent in clear sunshine and a pale blue sky, the outfield looking like a chessboard, and a vociferous large group of well behaved school children feasting on the overall magnificence just makes for sheer pleasure; add the tension of a well fought first class cricket match and there’s nothing to beat it…anywhere (ok, my Aussie readers will have their views as will several in the UK but for me, this is bliss).

The match in question is day two of a second division County Championship game between Middlesex and Leicestershire and through the vagaries of the fixture list, this is the only time this season I get to see Leicestershire and I didn’t see them last season so it just had to be done.

Yesterday saw Middlesex after a shaky start reach 325/8 and probably ahead in the game. Today the pitch looks as if it’s drying under the warm sun and reasonably flat but both sides from what I’ve seen are making slowish batting progress – the switch from one day to four day is clearly an increasingly difficult challenge.

Middlesex progress in a stately fashion to 349ao with a most unfortunate run out of Bamber who backed up just a little too far and the straight drive by Helm ricocheted into the stumps leaving the side one run short of their fourth batting point.

Will Middlesex come to rue the other chances of missing out on one run and one point at the end of the season? Given the fine margins involved in each match and hence the Championship this could be so…after all Nottinghamshire just survived in Division one last season by the merest whisker! All goes to prove that the slimmest of margins in professional sport really do matter and you have to take advantage of every one – not easy but…

Leicestershire lunch on 62/2 with Azad falling for 21 on the last ball of the session to a pearler from Harris. I think batting on this surface gets easier once you’ve settled in; it’s not easy with the odd ball keeping low but if you bowl to your field wickets will come (7-2 offside means you need to be on your game…no margin for error), runs will flow if you persevere and the team which does those better should prevail! But…we shall see!

By tea Leicestershire had progressed to 189/4 – a bit of a recovery from 113/4. Neither side in this session showed any dominance. Middlesex’s second string bowling looked adequate but lacked penetration.

Selection may have had something to do with it? Roland-Jones and Finn absent, Murtagh with Ireland but I did think that an opening combination of Helm and Bamber bodes well for the future. Harris looked off the pace, Rayner really needs dryer pitches whilst Scott provided a few overs of rest for the others. Cosgrave for Leicestershire came and went for 26 but Ackerman and Dearden steadied the ship.

Cosgrave departs

Leicestershire should be the team everyone beats so a good performance by Middlesex is required if they are to stand any chance of promotion at the end of the summer. A bit more oomph from both sides could help each of them.

Middlesex think tank
No…there’s not two balls!

The century for the 4th wicket partnership came a little while after tea with both batsmen making half-centuries. But then the wheels came off after each went within 10 runs. You can make runs on this pitch as both sides have found but no one seems to be able to reach the century. From 223/4 to 257/9 at the close does not augur well for the resilience of the team. Take out the 120+ scored by Ackerman and Dearden then the rest look poor.

Ackerman has one of the straightest legs in his batting stance seen for some time

And the fine margin of a mistake at 223/4 makes the rest of the innings and a deficit of close to 90 somewhat challenging going forward but it’s these points which turn matches.

Essex v Notts…new ball, new game?

Samit, this should hurt?

There’s nothing quite like a sunny day, the greensward of the outfield, shade from the tree lined boundary or a cooling breeze and the sight of County Cricket in full flow and that’s what we have today at Chelmsford as Essex play their first first class home match against Nottinghamshire.

The first session was noticeable for its relatively slow pace compared to the crash bang wallop of the past few weeks of the Royal London and Notts who on winning the toss elect to bat on what looks from a distance a greener surface than we’ve seen so far this season.

Tight bowling by Essex coupled with a fair bit of ‘nip’ off the pitch mean that Notts took their time, played themselves back into four-day mode and reach lunch off 31 overs (well done Essex) at 76/2, both not out batsmen on 20 – Slater and Clarke. The toughness of the play so far is highlighted by the percentage of maidens – well over 30% which is high by modern standards.

Batting was never easy but 2×26 in one photo?

The crowd and atmosphere are calmer than recent games but I reckon a number of care homes in Essex and Notts are short of a few residents today – the average age here seems to be very high and when men start taking off their trousers, it’s time to move away and find a quieter spot!

The Championship is an acquired taste but the bedrock of the test and international teams; I know the ECB are trying to liven things up but this fixture runs Tuesday to Friday when most people and the ‘new target’ audience are either at work or school. There’s only one first class cricket match played this coming weekend and it starts on Sunday!

Tea…and whilst I had my tongue in cheek about the care home organised visits to the cricket, there’s a group near me who are leaving now since their bus is going at 4pm and will go ‘wivvvartcha’ if you’re not there! I could tell they were OAPs since they left 30 minutes before they needed to, just to be sure they were there on time! Everyone did as they were told by the organiser! At least they were all fully clothed!

The score progressed to 157/7 having been 131/2 an hour or so after lunch. Wickets fell in clutches as the tight bowling played on the minds of the Notts batsmen but to lose five wickets so quickly suggested more of a lack of application rather than technique. The pitch looks as if it’s drying out under a very warm sun and should turn into a batting paradise later in the game but we shall see. Maidens creeping up towards 33% of over bowled; would normally expect to see low to mid 20s.

After 72 overs Notts are all out for 187. Poor effort after 131/2; tight bowling, loose one day style batting all add up, or in this case don’t add up to a decent score. And to think at one stage last season Notts were the front runners but only just scrapped home to retain their first division status. I know it’s very early days but the omens are not that favourable! But let’s see what Essex can do…after all Broad is due some wickets!

Samit…that’s the way to play!
Broad trying to bat

Essex just made things look easier (not easy) as they progressed like a ship in sail along the Thames Estuary to reach 68/0 at the close. Will this game last four days? Who knows but I’m off to Lords tomorrow to see Leicestershire for the only time this season.

More images of Broad’s batting
Fletcher not quite getting the shot right…caught in the deep seconds later
Perhaps Broad’s better at bowling to knights of the realm?

England v Pakistan ODI -Oval – water in all its forms with the essence of cricket

The longest delay of the season so far sees the England v Pakistan ODI at the Oval delayed by morning showers and a start 75 mins late. England win the toss and elect to field. England are odds on to win the series and the World Cup to follow.

One hour in and Pakistan have crawled to 55/2 off 14. Nothing special from Pakistan but tight seam/swing bowling by England. Jofra Archer (NB not Josh the farm machinery dealer from Ambridge) from a distance doesn’t look especially quick but from 22 yards I’m sure he is – the keeper is two paces deeper. Pakistan are playing as if 225/250 is a reasonable score. There’s no apparent edge or needle to this game both sides using the series as World Cup warm up games. Surprisingly (or not) the crowd seems overwhelmingly English with few Pakistan supporters; those that are here are dotted around in small numbers. Shame as it would add to the atmosphere – which at present is becoming increasingly overcast with the threat of rain but then equally quickly the sun will break through for a pleasant Spring afternoon.

And then the rain came…well to be more precise, the hail – enough volume and force to top up a chilled Sauvignon Blanc if you held it outside of the umbrella! I’ve never seen hail stop play but then I’ve only been following watching the game for five decades so it proves there’s always something new! And after strong light stopped play yesterday, what next is in store?

By that stage Pakistan had reached 80/2 off 19 and they were just meandering- perhaps they’d heard the forecast?

The teams did come back briefly at one stage between the showers but once the hail came and the outfield seemed to a have had a light dusting of snow then it became clear that play would be delayed.

Inspections came and went but with one organised for 18h40 with play at 19h00 it became very obvious that we’d seen everything for the day. An inspection of 30mins plus – again unheard of in my experience- despite all the Ground staff efforts and the TV guy wiring up the stumps as if to give the impression of a restart, the inspection was just kicking the can down the road (perhaps infected by the similar processes down the road in Whitehall) before play was called off as time to fit in a ‘proper’ game of 20 overs per side had run out.

So, despite the rain/hail and water in a can (never seen that before either!), a great time was had. Why? I hear you ask. Cricket is not just the play in the centre, the chess in human form, the balancing of the spheres of runs gained and runs conceded, it’s about the people you’re with or meet.

If you’re by yourself there’ll invariably be one or more other spectators nearby to start a conversation; if you’re in a group of whatever size there’ll be plenty to talk about, enjoy each other’s company and even have long periods of silence in just soaking it all in.

So today was a group day – with friends old and new – all enjoying the occasion and chatting about everything, anything and even the cricket when it was being played and when rain/hail stops play. And even interacting/apologising to others nearby for the general quiet destruction of their own peace and quiet – the offer of cake/wine will normally sooth any simmering discontent!

But that’s the essence of cricket…not distilled, brewed, canned or formalised (just look out for the packaged World Cup formula/format), it’s a game way beyond that. But if you could bottle the essence of cricket then the world would be a much better place but for the moment it’s water everywhere including in a can!