Things come along in threes including three for England?

Three things have brought tremors to the world of cricket this week…well rumblings among the cognoscenti rather than apoplexy!

Firstly in Australia the ‘traditional’ home of cricket on TV – Channel 9 – is moving to a mix of subscription service and free to air across other broadcasters. I say traditional in that C9 was the spiritual home for Richie, Bill and Chappelli with newer interlopers joining over the years from the conveyor belt of the Australian dressing room to the comm box. This tradition is just over 40 years old…hardly a long established one compared to ABC who lost the Packer War all that time ago. And the reason for the change…money! C9 had a poor press for its lack of increasing inclusiveness in the comm box, too white, too male, too traditional but its presentation and technical skills and expertise were second to none.

Secondly and closer to home is the news that the BBC will not be broadcasting TMS from either Sri Lanka or the WI next winter and probably not SA the year after. The reason…money! The broadcast rights belong to the host cricket nation/board and they’ve sold them to the highest bidder in each case which wasn’t the BBC but a Murdoch company (Sky still have these overseas TV rights).

Thirdly and most intrusive is the first innovation for the 2020 new T20 competition from the ECB. It’s not T20 but 100 balls per innings! Whilst spun as an innovation and a new format, it’s really about how to fit a cricket match into the TV schedules without disturbing the prime time audience and viewing figures. The whole match will now be over in 2 hours 30 mins; it also seems that each of the 18 counties rolled over and agreed – even though 10 of them will not host a match, since they’ve been guaranteed large sums of cash each from the TV deal…so it’s not about cricket, it’s about money!

But let’s blog cricket…here at the County Ground Chelmsford the need for sun tan lotion and finding the right shade from the sun is an unusual topic of conversation for late April. Here you can tell the pitch from the square as the former stands out clearly with only a hint of a green tinge. How it plays remains to be seen but this is probably one of the defining games of the season – last years champions playing the runners up. New faces for Lancashire in Jennings and Onions, no new faces for Essex and not an old one either…Cook who was key early last season doesn’t appear until next week.

Three wickets here in just over 90 mins bring Essex to 48/3 and an impressive start for the Lancashire quicks – Onions knows his stuff and how to bowl well. Batsmen seem out of nick or confidence or both which leads me to look elsewhere across the other games in progress. Twenty seven wickets in nine active games in 90 minutes suggest the issue is endemic. Ok…seven of those are Durham alone but underscores the too early start to the season when good seamers and quicks can flatter to deceive…but we shall see.

Essex managed to scramble to 150 against some useful bowling – and we saw some leg spin too! But the perceived wisdom among those that know is that Lancashire will struggle to match that score we shall see.

Wickets are falling everywhere even faster than before so unless it rains Monday looks like an empty cricket day!

But looking forward and to the photo above- what are the odds that these three Lancashire batsmen will feature in the England top 4 after the 2019 Ashes? That’s Hameed, Livingstone and Jennings in the photo (left to right).

Wickets keep tumbling here at Chelmsford and elsewhere. The successful combo of Harmer and Porter has not diminished by the restful winter -Lancashire are 88/6 in just 24 overs with another 22 still left in the day or just over an hours play to 6.30pm. Porter has four, Harmer two and no one seems able to play either of them with any degree of authority or confidence. These two (so far) look like the powerhouse Essex will need to retain their prime position.

Porter will get an England call at some stage and will do well on English greentops and seamers/swingers: is he quick enough or will become quick enough for the faster pitches of Australia and SA… I think he can be pencilled in for the coming winter tours as Broad and Anderson come to their end.

18 wickets fell today with honours even. A small lead would help either side as Lancashire will not want to chase a lot in the 4th innings. The amount of wickets is not conducive to four day cricket and while both sides bowled well, some batted as if they’d never held a bat before. But this seems to be the problem today across the land with over 125 wickets falling in 9 matches – I can’t see many games getting past day three..why so many issues involving the number 3?

Perhaps tomorrow will be different?