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!

Essex v Gloucestershire – strong light stops play!s

A warmish day compared to recent times and venues welcomes Gloucestershire as the visitors for a day/night extravaganza in Chelmsford.

Essex win the toss and elect to bat and no interviews whatsoever! A small crowd for this lunchtime start on a work day soon grows and sees Chopra run out Cook (Sir A) for 18. Given that Sir A doesn’t play T20 and that next year onwards sees this competition as a ‘development’ tournament Sir A probably won’t play…so when will he play his next one day game? I suggest never…today could be his last as Essex have no further interest after today’s game.

Sir As last one day innings?

That brings an overall sense of ‘after the Lord Mayors show’ to proceedings but that’s the way the tournament pans out.

One other aspect of the day/night extravaganza is that it brings out some of the T20 element somewhat early in that the group around me is inversely proportional in size to the volume of noise produced (let alone the lack of knowledge) and then there’s the relationship to the volume of drink consumed; by the end of hour one they’ve each reached the bottom of their third pint- and there’s another seven to go!

Rest assured they didn’t make it to the end of the Essex innings let alone the rest of the game!

After an hour and a bit, Essex reach 104/1 off 21; Chopra 63no Westley 19no. The Gloucestershire captain is ringing the bowling changes but this looks like a fine batting track, a lighter green than the rest of the square but doesn’t look too dry. There’s little evidence of the ball doing much so the one wicket to date…no make that two…as I write – have been run outs! Chopra the ’cause’ in both cases. Essex are on track for min 250 but probably need closer to 300 in these run fests as the cool of the evening will, no doubt, take effect.

After 35 overs Chopra is homing in in his century (the least he can do given his appalling running and run outs), Patel is fresh in at 11no and Essex 176/4;

still on track for 300; some of the umpiring has shown its inexperience with a reserve list umpire here but in general, the sun is beating down, you find a corner out of the wind, sit back and enjoy…if only the PA system and the over excited PA man would tone things down!

Essex went for the slogathon approach but the wheels came off – all out 293 in 50th over. Chopra made his 150+ but no one else really made many.

There are two sounds in cricket which chill to the bone – the first is the sound of your boots as you walk across the Long Room on the way back to the dressing room for nought – that’s all you hear! And the second is the ultra-partisan crowd at the CloudFM County Ground when anyone other than an Essex player does well…the silence is deafening.

However I’m glad to say that this was broken this afternoon after Hammond (great Gloucestershire name!) put down a sitter in the outfield just in front of me and was roundly barracked but next ball, the first of the next over he pulled off an amazing full stretch catch in the deep…shame TV is not here but the crowd did applaud at length. Perhaps they’re just ultra-hard to please or their grumpy levels are set too high? Who knows?

An hour in and Gloucestershire reach 86/2 off 20 – both Essex spinners on early. Dent 43no and Bracey 15no are steadying the ship. Duckworth says 102 at this stage. In the past couple of hours the temperature has dropped five degrees, cloud cover is almost 100% and hence the ball is doing more for Essex than in the sunlit uplands of the afternoon for Gloucestershire. Beard seems to be able to extract a bit more than most but it’s a close run thing – a close shave for Beard one could say!

Beard…certainly added a yard or two of pace

Both teams give the impression of wanting this over as quickly as possible but if Dent can make one in the innings then its favourites for Gloucestershire but there’s a long way to go as yet.

Black batting gloves….nows there’s a novelty!

Gloucestershire make steady progress and either exceed the Duckworth or keep close to it as wickets fall. Bracey is playing well in support of Dent who goes for a fine 80, a couple of quick wickets – to Beard and Harmer – bring Essex back into the game but their issue of the fifth bowler has been their weakness all tournament long; today it’s shared between Bopara Westley and Lawrence- batsmen all – and their 10 overs go for 73!

Coles gets in on the jumping approach

Bracey steer Gloucestershire home with Howells help (and Hammond as a Runner) with balls to spare. I’m convinced that the lack of information on the scoreboard is hindering the fielding captain as Harmer whose today’s captain brings Bopara back for the 47th over when he didn’t need to (unless Porter was injured or unwell as could be the case) and he got hammered. Coles whose lack of discipline we’d hoped was a thing of the past bowls a no ball and the free hit goes for six…and that’s the match!

The winning hit

One very curious incident happened today – at just before 7.30pm after 44 overs strong light stops play! Sky Sports News have had a camera, reporter and strong TV light on all day by the side of the boundary. At 90 degrees to the wicket it hinders neither batsmen, bowler or umpire until…when combined with the illuminated hoarding it seemed to upset one of the players or umpires; so for five minutes strong light stopped play; the simple solution would be to turn off the over-glowing hoarding but no…advertising must take priority!

The ‘strong’ light in the afternoon

So Essex and Surrey depart this tournament- the former through lack of a fifth bowler and ill discipline throughout, not concentrating as they should have and Surrey just too bad for words. We now get to the business end…and could Middlesex make it to the final final? Who knows!

Middlesex v Glamorgan – too cold to eviscerate chickens!

The cold of the wind from the Urals last week has been replaced at Lords but an icy draft direct from the polar ice cap…or so it seems. But when the clouds break and the sun breaks through some people are actually taking their jackets off! Most however are wrapped up as if it’s January!

After one hour Glamorgan reach 84/2 off 15 with Cooke 31no and the marvellously named Marnus Labuschagne 2no only having just arrived. Tight close bowling is the noticeable feature of Middlesex one day strategy this season and whilst depleted by international calls (Ireland in the main) or injuries they’ve continued this into this game. Roland Jones and Helm to the fore and Harris initially but it looks like Sowter will be the key. A minimum target of 290/300 is what Glamorgan need to set but it looks a tall order from here.

Labuschagne is clearly broad shouldered – he has to be since his shirt name extends almost from one armpit to the other ! There’s a prospect of a multiple letter dismissal (33 characters) later in the day but let’s see!

The second hour passes at speed as Glamorgan reach 165/4 off 30 Root 25no and Hemphrey 22no doing some rebuilding work after two wickets fell close together at 116/4. Sam Robson not only bowling but wicket taking! Middlesex seem a little at sea with Taylor making lots of suggestions for Eskinazi as captain to implement but then that’s what you want from your highly paid overseas player. Seven bowlers have been used and I suspect that Harris is either injured or out of sorts/favour as Scott, Holden and Robson have each had a bowl. Middlesex needed to find a fifth bowler in any event but if one of the mainstays is in doubt then you have issues which seem to be the case here.

Anyway Glamorgan still need another 120+ from the last hour and a bit to make a decent game of it, so it could be a bit of fun!

Well I got that wrong! Scott et al were the fifth bowler after all as Harris came back. He’s one of these bowlers whom you never know what version will turn up. He bowled between rubbish and buffet today but on other occasions I’ve seen him rip the middles out of an innings as if he’s eviscerating a chicken! Now that’s a word you don’t seem in many sports or cricket reports…’rubbish’ !

Glamorgan made 285ao in the 50th over with innings of note/class from Hemphrey 87 and Cooke 46. Sowter as suspected and Roland Jones got among the wickets (seven between them). I suspect that 285 is about 20/30 short of a good score but if Glamorgan bowl well and if Middlesex bat badly and if…and if…

Sixty minutes in to the innings and Middlesex are ahead of the duckworth at 92/1 off 15. Robson 50no and Gubbins 36no. This after Holden went without scoring in the second over. Glamorgan to their credit have stuck to it; they seem a completely different team and approach to the omnishambles I saw this time last year at Chelmsford where they just capitulated. And Middlesex too…a more positive approach to the one day stuff than last year. I assume both changes are due to fresh coaches – perhaps that’s what some other teams need? At this juncture Glamorgan need to take wickets to win whilst Middlesex need to keep to plan and it’s theirs!

One big issue with holding this tournament at this time of the season is the weather especially the temperatures. Easter was exceptionally warm but since then the weather has got cooler and cooler until today when finding any spot at Lords to keep warm was impossible. The Long Room was packed and even huddling over the radiators only brought temporary relief. How players only need short sleeves to play is beyond me.

One theory which held sway earlier in the tournament was that it was too cold for the ball to swing too much and perhaps today was that day too and explains why Sowter has had such good games – he’s clearly found it warm enough to run through sides like eviscerating a chicken!

An hour and 45 into the innings and just over half of the overs see Middlesex reach 152/4 – a couple of quick wickets bring Glamorgan back into some form of contention but I could take the cold no longer. Eskinazi, Simpson and Scott would see Middlesex home; not too much to spare and probably confirms that Glamorgan were 20/30 short.

Middlesex have probably surpassed themselves in climbing to 2nd in the South Division and in clear contention for a knock out round place; it all depends on the results on Tuesday.

The fixture list means this is the only time I’ll see Glamorgan this season (and only saw them once last) so the prospect of witnessing ‘Roland-Jones c Labuschagne b Van Der Gugten’ – a cluster of letters in a dismissal probably not seen outside Sri Lanka – will have to wait for a warmer time!

Surrey v Kent – but Street Kids World Cup and school children were the real highlights!

The impromptu spectators knock about at ‘lunch’ was more entertaining than…

Surrey win toss elect to bat and by 11.11 are 11/1 which soon becomes 11/2! Jonathan Trott has been spotted here in Kent regalia – presumably in a coaching role?

An hour passes and Surrey limp to 43/4 off 13: Clark 7no Elgar 12no. What can I say? The bowling’s not especially ferocious, Kent are on their game but the ball is doing a little; Surrey are trying to force the rate but wickets slow everything down. The pitch has the occasional patch of misbehaving but we still have two slips in place at this stage (most unusual). The weather is forecast for showers and we have periods of very warm sunshine and then periods of cloud so grey and looming that they bring an air (and feel) of overcast November days to proceedings from time to time.

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May or November?

The gloom matches Surrey’s mood and given that this is probably the match to decide the last place in the South Division and with their recent form in this format being so poor, they have the wrong mindset- they look as if they would rather be somewhere else and with the threat of rain increasing by the minute, perhaps Surrey are hoping for a wash out?

The oddly shaped fixture list (I know that’s a difficult concept) means that we’ve just reached the start of May and the premier one day County tournament is reaching its denouement…odd I know, but nonetheless the crowds are turning out.

By the end of the second hour, the wheels have come off the Surrey innings along with brake failure, engine seizure and all four tyres punctured! They are 99/8 off 29 overs, Elgar the only one showing any sense of permanence or adhesion is 47no. The batsmen seem to want to give catching practice to the opponents – they’re caught between the need to score and the need to try and preserve wickets and overs and most are failing the tests. A score of 150 would be good given the circumstances but that may be beyond the capabilities of McKerr and Morkel!

One of the top floors of the Pavilion stand was taken over this morning by Sir John Major (oh…how lucky he must feel not to be having to work ‘in sight of the Oval and just up the road’!) and his initiative for the Street Kids World Cup – this is running in parallel to the large jamboree and money making Mens ICC World Cup and aims to raise the profile of the underprivileged children in Test playing countries – most of whom sleep and live on the streets (and don’t think the UK is immune…it’s just that we’re so ‘up ourselves’ with Brexit et al that the real world gets ignored). And teams from each of the World Cup nations are coming to the UK to have their own tournament and today the Bangladeshi street kids came along to the Oval – and seemed to be really enjoying themselves!

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Some of the Bangladeshi street kids

The cloud cover over the past hour adds to the Stygian gloom over the Oval and Surrey in particular – the forecast rain is due in the next hour and should last until late afternoon but I don’t think it, even if it arrives, will save Surrey.

One grumbles, dare one say, about the slogfests that the 50 over game has become so in a way it’s refreshing to see a low scoring game but the lack of application by the batsmen is concerning. They only seem to have one operating mode and the need to change gear or rather mindset is beyond them at the moment.

 

Just after the 35th over Surrey succumb to 127 Elgar making 62no – thankfully because the rest were ****! This should all be over by the start of the rush hour including 45 mins for lunch!

The Kent reply starts immediately and after 14 overs lunch is taken at 63/1 Renshaw 11no and Bell-Drummond 33no. Only 65 more required off 36 overs so this should be over by 4pm. Surrey continue their downtrodden outlook (not surprisingly after they’ve batted do poorly) but they’ve been affected by injuries, call ups and non-availability of players but nonetheless they may be trying their best but it’s not enough.

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The adults impromptu game at lunch – the school kids soon took over as the adults tired!

One of the delights of the Oval is its sheer friendliness and overall welcome to one and all and everyone being allowed on the outfield at lunch is just one of the differentiating factors. This impromptu game enthralled those wandering around and with vocal support from the spectators just adds to the feeling of welcome and inclusiveness- others please note!

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Please note…this youngster took part in the impromptu game with his leg in a brace – the determination to play on this great ground is refreshing!
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Kuhn in dayglo!

There is nothing left to say – the game went beyond 4pm only because of a shower of rain just before 3.45pm – but it was beyond description. Kent won at a canter by some considerable distance. As I’ve said, today was more about the Street Kids World Cup and the school children playing on the outfield (the adults soon tired!) and with enthusiasm such as this for the game, then it’s in good shape.