Three of the past four days have seen me get to grips with the revised 50 over Royal London one day cup. Two visits to Fortress Chelmsford and one to the Oval give me cause for concern.
With the advent of the Hundred franchise competition, the ECB in its wisdom and strategic foresight decided to play the long form one day cricket in parallel to their new format. With so many county players contracted to the new competition the ECB regards the 50 over competition as a ‘development’ tournament for up and coming young players alongside seasoned old professionals who are probably disgruntled on missing out on the new cash flow!
Take away any TV coverage (ok, not free to air anyway) and the sponsors must be deliriously happy especially when there is next to no media coverage or reporting other than in the odd corners of the internet.
And decide to do this just as England become world champions in this format! Who thought this up? And why didn’t someone take them aside and kept watch over them until these thoughts subsided?
But as you will see, I think this is part of the grand plan to end county cricket as we know it!
Firstly at Chelmsford, Worcestershire cranked up over 330 with Haynes and D’Oliveira (names of old but only the latter is related) each scoring hundreds against what can only be regarded as some of the worst Essex bowling seen in many a year. Proper and consistent length was non-existent. ‘Twas men against boys!
Before the matches I saw in person, scores were either low or excessively high and only the odd game saw any type of close or thrilling contest.
Essex under lights then compound the felony by batting as if they’d never seen electric lights and rolled over like rabbits in headlights. Mind you, I’ve never seen a rabbit in headlights so I’ve no idea if they roll over or not – more likely are run over.
So one sided, the match ended over 90 minutes in advance and is the worst ever result for Essex in 50 over competitions!
One thing I had forgotten during the past year, is the sheer silence of the Essex ‘faithful’ whenever the opposition do well. Not a sound – even the musak mad DJ shuts up – I feel inclined to start applauding at excellent cricket but fear I run the risk of the ‘wrath of the faithful’ – perhaps the four day game will be better?
Taking myself off to the Oval for Surrey v Northants – had not seen the latter in years due to the divisional structure – turned out to be an exercise in patience. The forecast had been promising but was completely wrong and the match called off with just 5.3 overs completed.
The last in this little trilogy was the visit of Kent to Chelmsford. Oh, for the Kent of old! But this side had the ‘old’ Darren Stevens and the rest were youngsters with little or no one day experience. And it showed!
Bundled out for just 158 in next to no time meant an Essex charge to win by 9 wickets with 20 overs – and another 90 minutes to spare. But this wasn’t the first match to be completed – Notts despatched Leicestershire in even shorter time!
Spectators will not flock to watch poor quality games and sponsors will walk away or just not bother, especially if they don’t get any media or marketing coverage. So, is this the next stage in the ECBs plan to dispense with counties?
The Championship is played at the ends of the season, this 50 over is in direct competition with a glitzy glamourised newcomer, the T20 brings in beer sales and crowds for the counties and this season has less coverage.
So what’s left? Tests and the Hundred – that’s all they need! And even with the ECB handout, counties will struggle to survive financially. The likes of Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Northants, Kent and perhaps Worcestershire could be the first to go – and when one or more does, the ECB will fold the rest into franchises and…
But let’s hope not! One small change to encourage supporters especially at Chelmsford is to address the stewarding and learn from others!
The North Korean style at Essex involves creating a ring of steel around the playing area towards the end of the innings! What are they expecting? A mass pitch invasion?
Given the demographic of these matches – the average age is closer to retirement than any other – means they are more likely to overdose on Sanatogen or Wintergreeen than anything else. And as for the energy and suppleness required to vault the boundary boards…well, Max Whitlock is not here to show us how!
Sanatogen is/was a ‘tonic’ wine to help give old people energy and vigour and Wintergreen – have never seen it so, dear reader perhaps you can tell me, can you still get it and do you eat it, drink it, rub it in, smell it or smoke it?