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.

Day 4 – change of ball, rail replacement services and warm temperatures!

And so to Twickers for my second love – rugby union – and the final of the Aviva Premiership. The hope was that Wasps would make it to the final for the second year in succession but it was not to be as they were railroaded by Saracens in the semi-final last week.

My technical knowledge of the game is not, in my opinion, worthy of being able to provide a detailed analysis of the match or individual phases but it was clear that for the first 10 minutes or so that Exeter would provide worthy opponents and the prospects were for an exciting and excellent final. However, having taken an early lead, Exeter then succumbed to an onslaught by Saracens so much that a substantial lead was built up by half time; Exeter seemed to lose the ability to do the basics right which is essential in any and every sport. Again, team dynamics are key and as soon as one set of errors crept into the Exeter game, then others followed; Saracens on the other hand went from strength to strength.

Exeter perhaps made the mistake of not choosing all their experienced players to take the field from the start – their standard improved noticeably once the experienced players came off the bench but by that time it was too late. I doubt if any team could beat Saracens in their current string of form.

Twickenham always puts on a great show and the atmosphere from the 75,000 in the ground was tangible. There were no issues between fans – the final draws an eclectic mix from all of the Premiership clubs – and you can find yourself in the middle of fans from the finalists, but also most of the other large clubs who nearly made it to the final four. It was all very good humoured – as rugby always is – and with temperatures in the East Stand reaching the high 20s as the late spring sun shone all afternoon, the beer flowed and a great time was had by all.

And was it warm! The forecast had been for rain or showers and having set out under cloudy skies, a series of layers of clothing seemed to be a good idea! How wrong that proved as the travails of travelling and the fun of a rail replacement bus service kicked in – at least the coach had air con but London underground still needs investment to improve their carriages!

Whilst appreciating that the rail system needs work and investment and choosing holiday weekends when travelling numbers are low to do the work seems fine in theory, it’s clear that not that many Network Rail managers venture out on such days to experience the fun of rail replacement services! Almost doubling the time for each journey is not a lot of fun.

But back to the rugby experience – there are few large events which come close to a full house experience at Twickenham but it is very family friendly and youth oriented which is great for the game. Ok, test matches can’t always be played during school holidays so there were very few if any youngsters at Lords this week – and if we believe the ECB children don’t like cricket anyway (so…didn’t they see the keenness of the exhibition by the youngsters at the lunch interval on the outfield at Lords – or were they too busy with their backs to the play?) but the old adage of capture their imagination at an early age and they’re hooked for life. The only aspect which needs work is to increase diversity across the game or at least the paying public – Twickenham tends to look like the British middle class at prayer but that, along with cricket, may have more to do with its imperialist past and history (and possibly ticket prices!) than we like to think.

Anyway, no more live rugby watching for a few months and it’s back to white ball cricket for the next couple of weeks – heading off to see Essex play Surrey in the Royal London one day cup late, assuming the forecast rain holds off.

And finally…an interesting yet probably futile statistic – 75,000 attended the Aviva Premiership final yet only 61,000 the European football final in Kiev – kicking off at 10pm local time was probably not a good idea to attract the local fans?

Day 3 – another day another ground


Everyone wants to watch this game!

The odyssey brings me this afternoon to the County Ground Chelmsford for the Royal London One day cup match of Essex versus Somerset – a day/night affair.


My third game of cricket in three days at three different venues – what a contrast!

The freely open spaces of the Oval, the relaxed and welcoming approach, letting the cricket speak for itself in stark contrast to today! The history and majesty of Lord’s, the atmosphere of a Test match – a keenly fought contest of strategy and plans; and to today to what can be best described as ‘shabby chic’  of the County Ground Chelmsford, cooped up like battery hens as swathes of seats have been covered and taken out of use, barriers directing you to where to go, a PA system which can’t be heard everywhere but where it is has regular irrelevant bursts of musak and adverts for whatever the county are trying to sell, free wifi in name only as it can’t cope with numbers of users…

But each in its own way reflective of our cricket history and traditions.

To the cricket…floodlights on from the start, Somerset choosing to field in cloudy overcast conditions hoping the white ball will seam or swing but we shall see!

After 30 minutes, Essex reach 52 for 2 off 7 overs – set off like a steam train but likely to perish if you live by the sword; it looks like a 300-320 pitch but it will need one steady head to get Essex there. After an hour Essex reach 78 for 3 with Chopra dominating everything. The bowling seems innocuous.

The rate of scoring slows as the power plays take effect and Chopra with Bopara plough on. The bowling is all pace but there’s no discernible swing or seam sitting at long leg/off etc. The constant adverts begin to wear the patience down (where you’re unlucky enough to hear them) but the crowd builds and the afternoon beer flows. By the evening, the flowing will become rivers!

Essex CCC and the ground are trying to be something they’re not…they try to promote the game in the Premier League/Rugby Premiership style in terms of off-field activities and infrastructure and support but it just doesn’t work in this shabby chic – develop the ground and facilities and then upgrade the model and bring in the razzmatazz but it doesn’t work now!

Chopra and Bopara bring up the 100 partnership and then the 150 even with Somerset turning to spin -this is not their usual Ciderabad type pitch and you wonder where the next wicket is coming from – body language says it all! After minutes of ‘messing about’ with bat changes, measurements, ball changing and the obligatory drink for no reason, Bopara falls the next ball for a fine 73. Chopra reaches his hundred and some in the crowd go wild with excitement – the job is only half done at 215-4 after 40 overs. But still on track for 300/320.

The end comes at 313 after Chopra falls for 160 in a real tour de force but the rest, forcing the pace, were after the Lord Mayor’s Show in more ways than one. This is a young and inexperienced Essex bowling attack – Wagner and Harmer as overseas imports excepted – so we shall see if 314 can be achieved.

I’m heading home as it’s chilly in the late afternoon and will get a lot colder as the sun sets. Day/night cricket in the UK only works when there’s a heat wave…and that’s not today!

I also need to check on the Test – the lack of wi-fi and any other scores from the PA was poor (perhaps the announcer is paid by the advert or musak blast) – and to prepare for Day 4 of this odyssey and a change of ball/game/venue and number of players – the Aviva Premiership Final (an annual treat) at Twickers calls – all subject to rail replacement bus services over a Bank Holiday weekend to boot!



Sports odyssey Day 2


Lord’s for Day 2 of my odyssey but Day 1 of the first test of the English season. England win the toss and bat and reach 33 for 2 at the first sponsored drinks break. Stoneman and Root each going for 4 whilst Cook progresses to 21. None of them look at ease against a fiery Pakistan attack playing as if they’ve not held a bat for months or they’re still in Australia and New Zealand mentally! Forecast for lunch 65/3.

But this is more than just cricket…this is Lord’s in all its Spring glory, almost a full house, the hum like no other and not a Barmy in sight! The first cork reached deep fine leg just before drinks and the steward is now busy keeping the outfield clear of the rain of corks! This is how test cricket should be watched!

Lunch is reached without too many more alarms at 72/3 Cook 46 and Bairstow 10. No one has looked comfortable so far but this Pakistan attack is quicker than it looks – all in the mid-80s on the speed gun!

So…where are we? England won the toss and decided to bat; at least Root has learned from Adelaide! On balance that was probably Pakistan’s session as to lose three wickets in just over the hour was not the start England wanted. Forecast for afternoon drinks…117/3.

Drinks reached at 105/4 Cook 56no Stokes 5no. Bairstow playing down the wrong line for 27 – no Barmy song for the one who’s ‘too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off you..’!

Stokes looking to redeem himself! Cook just sails on and Pakistan off the pace in the early afternoon sunshine. Perhaps too much sticky toffee pudding for lunch or the fasting for Ramadan kicking in.  Perhaps also…the early afternoon sunshine drying out the pitch, making batting easier or…a combination of all of the above?  Forecast for tea 148/4

Tea 165/5 Stokes 36 Buttler 13. Cook made a fine 70 but was bowled playing down the wrong line; his footwork had improved but the poor footwork seems to be generic across the whole team so far.

Forecast for the close of play – England 275/7

Oh dear…just proves that the more you watch this wonderful game, the less of an expert you become. I suppose at tea I was hoping for an attacking onslaught by Buttler and Stokes but the opposite happened with both out quickly. Stokes to what looked like an innocuous lbw appeal which was overturned on review and Buttler out to a one day shot. Interestingly, the more cloud cover, the more wickets, the more difficult it is to bat?

England made 184 – well below what they expected when they won the toss. Pakistan bowled well and took advantage of the shoddy footwork – perhaps I should be a judge on Strictly Come Dancing as the footwork wasn’t there to be seen!

Pakistan reached 50/1 at the close with few alarms and the English bowling looked as if it couldn’t knock the skin off a rice pudding! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…Broad and Anderson have too much sway in this side, one if not both are past their best but no one in management had the cojones to do anything about it…; they bowl to defensive fields not attacking ones, and woe betide any captain who tries to interfere and change, but it’s time someone did!

But, who takes their place? The same could be said when Harmison and Hoggard were unceremoniously dumped in favour of…? Now is the time before we are shamed by the Aussies next year!

As for spin  – give Bess of the Durbervilles a go but as Gooch said today…the cupboard’s not bare, there is no cupboard! There are young spinners starting out but no one to replace Swann as a match winner – Bess is number 12 on that list…let’s hope we don’t need a #13!

Anyway, we are where we are: a day for the connoisseur and a true day of test cricket played at the best venue in the world…and I’m thankful for that and that I saw it!

Tomorrow is another day on this short odyssey and a change of diet…an afternoon of one day 50 overs before the drunks arrive and spoil the evening!

Seven days in May…a sporting odyssey

Scott Borthwick’s frustration at not getting the decision he wanted!

Fixture lists, coincidence or happenstance mean that for seven days out of eight I have the opportunity to watch my two favourite sports live and local and with world class performers at each opportunity! How lucky is that?

This blog was intended to be more of a reflection of each event rather than any blow by blow account but once you get started (you know how it is…)

Day One – May 23…Oval, London Surrey v Gloucestershire Royal London one day cup 50 overs a side match.

This tournament is squeezed into three weeks for the league matches and just a bit longer for the knock out stages/final…and the final final at Lord’s. Pressure on the fixture list next year and the empty spaces at past finals means a move away from 2019.

Watching one day cricket takes getting used to after the intensity of four day championship games but, just like the players, it doesn’t take too long to adjust.

With both sides wearing black as their coloured clothing makes distinguishing between the two sides a bit of a challenge – coloured clothing was how the game was originally played so there’s nothing new there!

These games can follow a set pattern and become instantly erased from the memory as one morphs into the next but I shall do my best not to be too disparaging recognising that this format is different!

After an hour or so, Gloucestershire make sound progress and look on course to make 270-285 in their innings (incidentally where the time passing or scores are quoted I am writing contemporaneously). Surrey try a different technique for the ‘middle overs’ of having three spinners bowl the 20 or so overs and it seems to work well. Batty with all his experience, Jacks the new kid on the block whilst Borthwick is playing as an all rounder having started his career as a spinner. Jacks and Borthwick bowl at least one bad ball per over…the new kid is learning but Borthwick hasn’t…that’s why he only played one Test and now plays as a batsman and not a front line spinner- shades of Steve Smith?

As the day progresses, batting gets easier, the pitch less damp looking (but not wet in anyway) but Surrey hold fast and it looks as if Gloucestershire will be some 20/30 runs short of par. But then Dernbach comes back! One day he’ll realise that he’s not as good a cricketer as he thinks he is…and today is not that day but others do realise and he’s taken out of the attack having let Gloucestershire back into the game to end on 282/6 with Higgins 81no…a good knock, some sub-standard bowling and the odds look like favouring the visitors!

Surrey get off to the worst of starts losing Roy for a duck in the first over but Jacks and Elgar bring about a transformation – Surrey are clearly ahead within 30 minutes and even more so after the hour and beyond! Jacks goes to his hundred off 86 balls and 66% of his runs in boundaries – offering catching practice to the crowd too! Elgar uses his bat like a Wand Of Youth making a steady 50 and you begin to wonder where the next wicket is coming from? No sooner said than both Elgar and Jacks fall to shots trying to force the score – the former for 50, the latter for 121 off 100 balls. He strikes the ball well but can he stroke the ball? Would like to see him in the longer form of the game.

But Surrey soldier on after the loss of the wickets – Burns and Foakes and then Pope see them home and inside the allotted 50 overs so their net run rate should improve (it will help in the final reckoning I think for this South Division); the Gloucestershire body language implies that they gave up ages ago – the innings by Jacks was enough to discourage anyone…just like a de Villiers onslaught which we shall see no more (and no…Jacks is not the new AB).

International cricket is poorer through AB’s retirement but it had to come some time.

And talking of international cricket…off to Lord’s for the test tomorrow. Will this summer see the end of the road for one or more of Cook, Broad or Anderson; I think two are coming to the end of their run-ups but who takes their places?

Day 2’s blog…tomorrow!

And thanks to Wiki for helping me with the Elgar simile!

Seems the ECB have no idea too!

My last blog was titled ‘I have no idea’ but it seems that this is spreading.

The ECB seem to have mismanaged the pre-launch of the new ‘100’ tournament to such an extent that it seems that no one has any idea of what’s going to happen, who’s going to play, possibly take it away from one of the largest cricket stadia in the UK, how many overseas galaticos are going to attract the new audience, who are the new audience, how do counties and the game cope with the T20 Blast at the same time let alone tests happening as well!

And that’s before we get to the actual playing conditions – 100 does not divide by six so the concept of a 10 ball over has been born. But no one knows when this over can be bowled, does it have to be at the end or can it be any time or can it be bowled by more than one player? And what about no balls and wides – there’s talk that these will just count as extras (correct) but do not warrant an extra delivery. There was one report of abandoning the leg before as a mode of dismissal, and stripping the scoreboard of all but the most basic information – runs and balls. If you’ve spent ages working out the plans so far and have come up with this wide range of no idea nonsense then how has the time been spent, and more worryingly how much money has been spent coming up with this mishmash of ideas?

Then add to the mix the fact that the left hand and right hand at the ECB seem to be saying different things to different people – and these are the people at the top of the management structure!

So…should cricket followers worry?

The new tournament is aimed at a new audience and not the current county member or devout 20/20 follower; it seems to be aimed at the casual spectator (mums and kids), children who don’t follow cricket (they’ve not noticed the children who attend test matches or are playing a game ‘out the back’ at County matches or are covering the outfield at lunch and tea with impromptu games?), people who don’t know who the stars are but would turn up to see what’s going on between a few pints and what’s happening on their phones and so on.

I suppose all of this resonates with the 1960s and the introduction of the Gillette Cup knock out tournament- seen to some at the time as the end of civilisation as they knew it!

I suppose we just need to give it a chance and see what happens but the planning and media utterances so far imply that no one has any idea.

And then the ECB say that no money has been paid to any County for not staging a test match but then Glamorgan have been allotted a load of cash for that reason.

I know there’s a lot of concern that the executive team at the ECB and elsewhere in cricket administration have little or no experience of playing the game at reasonably high levels but the more you sit and ponder you begin to think that they don’t have much experience of running a whelk stall let alone multi million pound/dollar businesses!

So when I blog that I’ve no idea what’s going on in the game I’m watching or have no idea what to write about then it seems I’ve either started a trend or, more likely, just jumped onto the bandwagon where everyone has no idea!

I have no idea!

One of the unexpected pleasures of being a blogger, and some could say it’s a challenge, is that you can start each post with absolutely no idea what you’re going to write about or how it’s going to end up. Today could be one of those days when I have no idea!

So, here goes…fine weather for Spring and the (relatively) local choice of Lords or the Oval. Middlesex/Gloucester at the former (div 2) or Surrey/Yorkshire at the latter (div 1) – Northern line or Circle line?

Plumped for Lords – ok, the Oval is nice but Lords in the Spring (or any season) is the best place in the world to watch cricket. Under the Morton Bay fig trees at the Adelaide Oval is a close second but this is the place!

The Pavilion is heaving – the first day is always the best attended for some reason – but it’s especially busy today. Perhaps the lack of cricket here so far this season, the lack of Championship games here over the next few weeks, the attractiveness of playing Gloucestershire for once, or the possible imploding of the Middlesex season on the near horizon? Who knows?

After 30 mins Middlesex have made 39 without loss, the occasional blip but so far so good. The pitch has a tinge of green and looks like a good batting pitch but we shall see.

After an hour Middlesex progress to 69/0. There’s more life in the pitch bowling from the Pavilion end which seems to have slowed the scoring rate from close to 6 an over to 4.5 – still quite quick.

By Monday evening over a third of the first class games for this season will have been played – the new way of things! So we can start to read how the season is progressing and could progress for teams. Middlesex were expected at the start of the season to bounce back into the first division but after four games so far they’ve had one draw (rain affected match v Glamorgan), a win against Northants who seem to be well off the pace this season and probably the side everyone will beat, and two losses away to Derbyshire (their first win in years) and to Sussex when there was a good chance of winning it themselves. Mid table is ok but the risks of going on either direction are great. Hence it’s important for a win here this weekend and a good batting performance to boot. The bowlers have done well but the batting has yet to get out of first gear…perhaps this is the game to change that and looking at the batting order – including a rare appearance by one E Morgan – it should deliver! Let’s see!

Ninety minutes into the first session and the first wicket falls – Robson for a pleasant 36 – and the 100 approaches. Gloucestershire seem an ‘ok’ side so far, nothing spectacular but then, as we’ve seen before- what do I know?

Lunch and Middlesex reach 121/1. From what’s been seen so far, bat sensibly and the runs will flow, Gloucestershire pace attack looking very second division!

Half way (time wise) through the afternoon and Gubbins falls for 99, seemingly sailing towards his ton but undone by the Aussie Worrall who has all three wickets to fall as Middlesex reach 186/3 and that rarest of all sights…Morgan in whites playing a first class match; his first since?

Can anyone find the ball?

At tea Middlesex reach 258/3 with Malan gliding towards a 50 whilst Morgan looks like a one day player trying to play a four day match; he’s scratching around but staying there. As for the Gloucestershire bowling…too wayward, straying down the leg side too much and generally lacking consistency.

Gubbins as he goes for 99

Morgan falling into the shot

Malan playing with a straight bat!

As the day progresses, cloud cover builds and there’s a noticeable drop in temperatures as the wind picks up adding a premium to some seats in the lee. The ball is doing little as the seam and swing conditions arrive and Middlesex make steady progress beyond 300 – they’ve already doubled the batting points for the season to date!

What will the new ball bring as the lights come on? It’s bad enough to stop play south of the river but they’re made of sterner stuff here!

Well, the new ball did the trick with three wickets – Malan and Morgan made 76 each and each out lbw, but Middlesex make 356/6 in the day and have the edge I would suggest but as we’ve seen before…I often have no idea!

What are the chances? One in 92?

Today’s the sunniest and warmest May Day bank holiday since time began, it seems. So what better way to enjoy the spring sunshine than at the Oval for the last day of Surrey v Worcestershire?

The game is ambling to a draw but the chance to see some fine batsmanship should not be turned down but what does keep following me around is the number 92.

That was the first innings lead Essex had over Yorkshire at the Chelmsford match I’ve been watching, it was the number of runs Essex still needed when they were all out and it’s the first innings lead Worcestershire have over Surrey here at the Oval. The difference being that the first innings were only concluded half way through the pre-lunch session on Day 4 here as opposed to tea time on Day 1 at Chelmsford. But what are the chances of two separate matches on at the same time having the same first innings difference and also being the two matches I’ve watched? Shame there’s no number 92 in the lottery!

But back to the cricket – Surrey in their second innings seem to be finding demons in the pitch which weren’t there 30 minutes ago but if they can overcome them, Stoneman and Burns have a fine opportunity to score some runs and contest the England opening spot ahead of the first test in just over two weeks time. We shall see

Towards the end of the Worcester first innings we played ‘spot the fielder’ as everyone other than the keeper was banished to the deep to save runs and get the number 11 on strike.

Surrey lose both openers after lunch and are still 18 behind. What a pleasure it is to see two spinners in operation and the overs just rolling by! The pitch has been said to be two paced but the odd one is starting to keep low. This should end in a draw unless there’s a major collapse but with half the day still to play and only 22 wickets falling in three and a half days that looks unlikely.

The Worcester spin twins of Head and Twohig are keeping things quiet and tight but only the odd rash Surrey shot is any cause for concern. There are probably many anagrams to be made from Ben Twohigs surname- hot wig being one – but a team of anagram names is probably for another time.

And Surrey reach 136/3 at tea – taken on time as the required overs had been bowled (it can be done!) and a lead of 44. I suspect stumps will be drawn at 5pm

Borthwick made a fine 82 as Surrey settled for the declaration at 4.50pm on 173/3.

Overall a fine match, well contested but the pitch was the winner putting some excellent batting on display as the season starts to pick up.

No more 92s today – I think there’s been enough over the past four days!