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.