Cannabis or revolver? County Championship cricket!

I fully understand the need for increased security in the current times we live in but I’m fascinated about the varying levels of scrutiny I’ve experienced.

At Lords I’m questioned about any miniatures I may have under my hat, at the WACA in Perth umbrellas were regarded as blunt instruments (trombones were ok), in Sri Lanka no one worried, at the Oval it’s a open arm welcome and jolly banter when there’s a search (tests and internationals only) but at Chelmsford it just gets bizzare!

The last two days my bags were thoroughly searched and the contents broadcast by the security guy for all to hear. Rest assured there’s never anything inappropriate in my backpack!

When asked if he could do ‘the usual bag check’ I asked what that was. I was told that he’s looking for cannabis or a revolver! Now, whether that’s for his own use I didn’t ask but I sit here wondering what such a combination would do at a first class cricket match.

Given the average age of those attending I would venture that some may have experimented with the former many years ago (remember most of the Tory leadership candidates had done something at sometime) but I reckon the most radical thing the current group of spectators would do is join the provisional wing of the Women’s Institute and use strawberry rather than raspberry jam in a sponge! And as for the revolver…not quite sure about that.

Anyway today’s check was ‘any glass in there mate?’ as he pointed to my backpack. No…I replied, ‘Ok… thanks’ and I was allowed in. What worries me now is who in the crowd has the revolver!

By the way, after 45 minutes Warwickshire can’t remove the Kiwi night watchman as Essex progress to 116/1 and Sir A another 50. Lead is now 200

By lunch, the Essex ‘net’ progresses to 169/4 off 62 overs (33 in session!); thanks in the main to 83 by Sir A (still not converting those 50s into centuries…but then no one else is doing so either here at Chelmsford- home or away teams).

A minor collapse in losing three quick wickets was somewhat stabilised but losing another two in the first over after lunch by Brookes sees the score move to 190/6 by 2pm and a lead of 275.

Only two scores of over 300 have been made here all season (and both by Essex) and on the evidence of Warwickshire’s first innings, this should be ample but bat until tea, lead by 350 and bowl after tea.

Tea arrives, almost on time, as Essex reach 299/7 and a lead of 383. Lawrence has made a fine 74 and Harmer 43 as they grind the opposition down. There’s been an element of declaration batting but nothing too serious.

Wickets today fall in clumps; Wheaters attempt at a second reverse sweep ending his innings prematurely. Reverse sweeping 32 years ago didn’t look good (M W Gatting will know) and it doesn’t work now.

Wheater leans on his bat after the reverse sweep fails

There’s only one result for this game now and Warwickshire have been off the pace ever since ball one on Saturday and don’t look like working miracles.

Yates – ready for close fielding

The World Cup effect seems to have started with an excellent crowd here for a working Monday – the top of the Pearce Stand looks full. There’s also a bigger smattering of youth here today – some I suggest have played truant – but also younger people than average. Nonetheless care homes must be empty today and people can roam the streets free in the knowledge that most of the old folk are at the cricket!

Pearce stand…packed out
Wonder if anyone’s got the revolver?

What will be interesting is how long the effect lasts – shall we see such numbers when we have to wear ski suits to watch cricket ? And also the response of the ECB to the public reaction and the vast numbers watching the free to air Final and following on line – I’m told the final had more on line followers than all other sports combined yesterday. Come on ECB…ride this wave, make the changes, ditch the Hundred, resurrect the county 50 over game and bring cricket back to the people!

Rush of blood after tea by Lawrence sees him return to the Pavilion post haste. The only reasons the cognoscenti can see for continued batting are – Lawrence to reach 100 (didn’t happen), Harmer to reach 50 (which he didn’t), Essex to score over 300 (yes they did) or to set a target of 400 (which they did).

Rush of blood – fish eye view

Warwickshire reappear (Essex with substitute keeper) to bat for 3 and a bit sessions, 110 plus overs or score 400. Based on their first attempt that doesn’t look likely. But they stick to the task manfully and reach the end of the day at 67/1. The one falling to Beard. The plan tomorrow must be for Harmer to take one end and rotate the quicks from the other.

But that’s for tomorrow and I wonder what I’ll be searched for but I couldn’t find the revolver!

Supersport Sunday but for me…the Aussie takes it!

On a day overrun with the prospect of excellent sport – Wimbledon, Grand Prix, Tour de France and the World Cup Final – all on TV as I’m not prepared to pay exorbitant prices even if tickets could be obtained- I take myself off to the CloudFM County Ground for Day 2 of Essex Warwickshire.

Bring me sunshine?

There’s about 600 or so others here at the start of play so it’s not being played to empty grounds; although there is the option of watching two of the above events in the Pavilion (members only) but why would you when you’ve..,

Warwickshire start their first innings and reach 57/4 lunch off 30 overs; not a poor effort but a very poor one. No one seems to have any idea against some excellent fast bowling and seem dumbstruck by spin; ok, they’ve lost two key men to the Lions match but the standard on display would surely shame second eleven games.

Appealing…Sri Lankan style!
Tongue out…concentrating!
Spin finger protection
The look in Ambrose’s eyes say it all as he edges Siddle down Westleys throat!
Looks a nice cover drive…except that it went down cover’s throat. Siddle again!
Not such a good shot…caught by the keeper!

An extended afternoon session…just because Warwickshire were nine down at the appointed time sees them dismissed for 161 off 66 overs. No one really settled although Burgess and Ambrose (not sure if spies or a comedy double act) showed the most cohesion but when clouds rolled in a bit more, Siddle was offered the ball and ripped out the middle and lower order as if turning a herring into a kipper. But with a lot less smoke! Five for 33 all told was as fine a display of fast bowling, seam and swing as you’d ever see and the experts here at Chelmsford have him picked for the Aussies in the Ashes.

Overall it’s five wickets for the Aussie, two for SA, one for NZ and one for England born players! Suppose it says it all about County cricket!

Essex have a lead of 84 – not quite what they had in mind earlier before lunch and Warwickshire making a bit better effort this afternoon; but we’re half way through the game, it’s still cloudy and forecast to be that way, but I wouldn’t want to face Harmer batting fourth!

Essex enjoy what looks like an extended net with no alarms or concerns and have a lead of 150 or so at the close. The only blemish being Browne falling to Rhodes just before the close. Rhodes is becoming a ‘golden arm’ – the player you turn to when you need a wicket.

The World Cup Final is building up nicely…time to pop home and see the end. Wonder how it will go?

Patience, perseverance and concentration.

Look at the spectators in the background- some found it too exciting!

After two weeks of being a tourist, I’m back to the day job of self employed cricket watching. It’s day 27 of the season for me and rocking up at the CloudFM County Ground for Essex v Warwickshire; originally scheduled for September but swapped since Worcester was not able to cater for the home fixture due today. Confused? Warwickshire and Worcester are different counties, home matches switched round and so forth…It will all become clear!

However the cricket today was absorbing and a true four day pace. Essex reach 73/2 at lunch off 32 overs with Cook (Sir A) taking root whilst Browne And Westley were too extravagant on such a day and surface. Overcast yet on the cool side of warm meant that the Warwickshire bowling caused issues from early on. Hannon-Dalby so far bowling seven overs, six of which were maidens! Slightly indifferent bounce especially from the Hays Close end meant that patience and perseverance are key.

Now that’s how to concentrate!

By tea Essex reach 169/4 off 65 overs (bowled within the four hours expected!) but could have been better. Cook (Sir A) went to a false shot outside off, Lawrence caught behind having made 84 and 61 respectively and were sitting pretty at 157/2. The Warwickshire bowling has looked indifferent this afternoon, lacking the penetration needed but applying pressure via maidens. It wasn’t until Will Rhodes appeared just before tea to nip out the two batsmen that things improved. Rhodes looks quite slippy and is more of a handful than batsmen think.

Not the score from Wimbledon! Just v tight bowling!

But by tea I suppose each side is reasonably happy, Essex the more so but given that there’s only been two scores of more than 300 here all season, then a clattering of wickets can only be expected later. Warwickshire would have 240/250 in their heads as a good days work having elected to field, but let’s see.

Honestly…I write each part of the blog at convenient intervals so my hint of an Essex collapse was no more than that; but I’m equally not surprised when they collapse from four down at tea to be nine down an hour or so later at 197/9. Other than Lawrence and Sir A, no one has shown any tenacity or more importantly patience to wait for the bad ball…too many loose shots for most people’s liking.

Workmanlike approach by Olly Stone

A waggle of the tail – Beard and Quinn – add a level of respectability – and wag until the 94th over of the day before the innings closes at 245. Both sides are probably content with their days work…but a bit more patience could have meant…

Quinn dodging a bouncer

And to make it clear why this match is being played now:

Warwickshire’s home ground – Edgbaston – has been under the control of the ICC for the World Cup

No other Warwickshire Ground was available/made the grade

Agreed to move the home fixture to Worcester

Worcester is then flooded during June and Ground is not fit for play.

Solution – move the Essex away fixture to a home fixture and move the home one away in September!


Too much geography! ‘I’m a self employed cricket watcher…get me out of here!

One of the delights of Canada is the sheer variety of things to do and see, places to visit and enjoy…especially when it comes to the great outdoors (the climate is such that when it’s warm, you get into the great outdoors since winter lasts so long!).

So today it’s the delights of Hamilton (Ontario), waterfalls along the Niagara escarpment and early evening down by the lake (Lake Ontario that is…one of the Great Lakes). One thing you learn a lot about when you visit Canada is geography!

Deep enough in the forest of the escarpment for my own ‘I’m a celebrity…’ bridge walk!
The owner received a knighthood from Queen Victoria for beating off the Americans!

A brief stop at Castle Dundern in Hamilton (there’s little else happening here on a warm July Monday); but…for Castle read ‘manor house’ (guide book) or ‘Villa’ (as the explanatory signs said) or just ‘house’ – my Essex (UK) readers will understand when I say Hylands House is larger!

And so to waterfalls…for which Hamilton is renowned (as well as being the first host city of the Commonwealth Games in 1930…pub quizzers please note). The famous Niagara Falls cut through the rocks of the Niagara Escarpment (in essence a high ridge of land stretching for miles and miles) which has fertile soil and climate for grape growing (and wine) as well as providing the local rivers with something to fall over. (Told you there’s lots of geography here!). And so some photos of a couple of waterfalls, the escarpment and a bridge for my own ‘I’m a self employed cricket watcher…get me out of here’ photo op!

Tews Falls
Somewhere in there are two waterfalls as you look from Dundas Peak

Views from Dundas Peak looking towards Hamilton

Dundas Peak from the escarpment (the viewpoint of the last photo is the small ridge on the horizon

Webster Falls named after a Mr Webster from Gloucester

And finally, Lake Ontario looking first towards Toronto and then towards Hamilton from a lovely little lakeside village called Port Credit (pronounced PorCredi…v French); and given the size of the properties and yachts dotted around you need a lot of credit to live here.

Hence, as a self employed cricket watcher…get me out of here!

More tourist snaps…but none of the nudist beach!

One of the hidden gems of Toronto is the Toronto Islands Park. It costs C$10 to get there by water taxi from the harbour front – a journey of less than 10 mins. It has everything you could want for a day out in all seasons including a ‘clothing optional beach’ and it’s where Toronto goes to relax.

So here’s a few photos to whet your appetite for a visit when you visit!

Stunning cityscape from the Islands

Tranquillity can be found anywhere in the park (even when teeming with people).

Taxis ply for trade…but people tend to go back on the free ferry; doesn’t seem very economical as far as the taxis are concerned.

Bike hire is the best way to get around the islands…they’re car free but home all year round to 700 people, who don’t seem to mind having tourists and park goers passing by every ten seconds or so!

I have more photos but looking at other people’s holiday snaps can be one of the worst types of torture known to man!

Return to Niagara…17 years later.

One of the first intercontinental family holidays all those years ago was a week long trip to Toronto (using accumulated air miles etc) and a day trip to Niagara Falls complete with Maid of the Mist boat trip (the last boat on the last day of the season that year…so we only just made it).

So on my nth trip to Canada since then took in a full day in Niagara Falls, the wineries of Niagara on the Lake and some spectacular views all round…so enjoy!

Upstream from the Falls
And as you approach the Falls, there’s no inkling of the drop or spectacle to follow

And this time…the walk behind the water!

Horn blowers…the Canadain boats (can take up to 700 at a time); the US boats are a lot smaller
All the ponchos are recycled- saving the planet

The American side…and the actual Niagara Falls; the famous ones are the Horseshoe Falls!

The gardens are equally spectacular

Dainty…Niagara on the Lake
Lake Ontario…and you can just see Toronto on the other side, some 60 miles away but you have to drive round the side of the Lake!

If you only make one visit to Canada, make it here. Add it to your bucket list!

Happy 152nd birthday!

No one has yet made it to their 152nd birthday (although I’m told pension actuaries have calculated that the first person to live to 150 has been born and is alive somewhere on the planet – some people need to get out more!) so this birthday celebrates Canada being formed exactly 152 years (and now one day) ago.

The twin towers of Mississauga- locally known as the Marilyn Monroe buildings!

So, following my own advice, I’m getting out more to experience Canada Day at first hand in Mississauga Ontario (Mississauga is Canada’s fifth largest city…a useless fact unless you’re doing a pub quiz or TV game show for money…remember you saw it here first!).

Some of my readers will be pleased to see I’m off on more travels which means fewer words and more photos; whilst others may welcome the break from my feeble attempts at reporting on cricket. I’ve left the runfest which is the World Cup behind but should be back to cast an eye over the later proceedings from the UK.

Celebration Square gearing up for celebrating

The celebrations are a time to reflect on the nation as a whole, the equal and welcoming society it has become; ok it has its problems (the neighbours are kicking up more of a fuss than of late) but Canadians are judged on being Canadians, not where they came from, what jobs they do, where they live, what they believe, what they look like or any of the hang ups Europeans and especially Britain has been clinging on to in an anally retentive mode for decades.

It has taken Canada not time at all to be this welcoming – perhaps others can learn how to do it too?

Another day, another batting collapse but Surrey are on the charge!

Few words today as the match was done and dusted by 12.45pm as Surrey demolished Warwickshire on Day 4 of this Division One championship match.

It dawned as one of those days with the delicious prospect of any result. Surrey needed seven wickets, Warwickshire another 150 or so and even very long odds on a draw.

But it all fell apart for Warwickshire in the last 45 minutes; they’d progressed to 190/4 after an hours play, Sibley showing why he’s on the cusp of possible higher calls farmed the bowling well whilst keeping the scoreboard ticking over to within 100 of the target.

Then Curran S decides that things needed ‘sorting’ – a fine lbw dismissal started the rot and the procession began! Warwickshire lost six wickets for 25 runs in a blink of an eye.

Again no adhesive qualities shown, the idea seemed to be to hit yourself out of trouble but when it works it looks great but when it doesn’t, you just stop doing it? It’s like hitting your head against a brick wall…when it hurts you stop? Perhaps not as a first class cricketer? But so many batting collapses in so many matches this season suggests the balance has moved to favour the bowlers, but has it gone too far?

Anyway, Surrey’s first Championship win of the season and the Champs are not giving up without a fight!

Patel devises Batty has to go!
Second try…
Foakes snaps up the stumping chance!
Morkel can still make the ball ‘sing’
Let’s have another go at Batty!
Same delivery…but caught and bowled by Batty running to extra cover!

Sultans of swing have batsmen in dire straits? – Essex v Somerset Day 3

It’s not just at the Oval yesterday or Lord’s for the World Cup today where batsmen have found things a but on the tricky side since after two days at Chelmsford 26 wickets have fallen in overcast and humid conditions but it’s more than just poor batting. Essex are 249 ahead with 4 wickets left but soon collapse to 183 all out in 40 mins playing time leaving Somerset 267 to win in almost six sessions.

The overcast and humid conditions mean that the ball is nipping about for both Somerset and Essex bowlers – each side has its sultans of swing – Groenewald and Gregory, Porter, Siddle and Beard. Essex are batting as if they have a plane to catch almost in one day style! Every ball has to be hit either out of the ground, or have its cover knocked off – why? Patience and application will get you there! This is a pitch and conditions where you need to work hard and be prepared to wait. Wheater is especially guilty nibbles at one so far outside hips off stump that second slip would have taken the role of keeper! The rest follow like sheep. The only exception in this game from reports is Sir A’s batting on Sunday and to an extent yesterday. It makes you weep and you wonder what you’re watching – these are professionals yet…?

Somerset lose both openers inside two overs (with seven on the board); pitch has nip in it but swing and seam should see Essex home; but to have 32 wickets fall in 6 and half sessions….technique and temperament come into question + for all concerned.

Somerset are not top of the table for no reason and Hildreth and Blanton look like steadying the ship but still going for four an over! Hildreth has never played for a England and one wonders why? Blanton looks to have the potential to do so but both keep tapping the pitch like pigeons nibbling seed but this is just adding to their nervousness and mindset that the pitch is full of demons and devils being exploited by the sultans! It just sends the wrong message to the rest of the team…adding to the pressure and mental pressure. It’s been said many times…this game is played in the head.

So…why did Hildreth nudge the last ball before lunch into W heaters gloves…they had made sure this was the last ball – there was no need but Somerset lunch on 64/4.

Hildreths eyes say it all! Why? Last ball before lunch…why?

But worse…a lot worse was to come!

The outcome was Somerset collapsing to 117 all out by 2.45pm – less than an hour after lunch. Kamizake batting, lack of application, spirit, desire, skill…you name the attribute! Hampshire collapsed badly here last week in a similar fashion but to see a second team do so badly so soon after the last fiasco of a match leads one to wonder all sorts of things. Do visiting teams want to avoid the M25 in the rush hour on their journeys home? Is the skill level in the first Division just so inept as to be bordering on scandalous? Where is the technique for test matches being learned? For all 40 wickets to fall in 7 and a half sessions of a 12 session match just beggars belief!

Most of the photos I took today show inept batting technique (Ok Gregory tried to prolong the game by hitting Harmer for three successive sixes and a few other boundaries) but I feel short changed. I know…the one day stuff is just batting gone made whereas the four day game is bowling gone mad but of the current crop of Championship players who would you ask to bat for your life?

Porter considers what to bowl next
Gregory in full flow! Note Wheaters v wide stance!

Jack Leach getting in a tangle…remember he’s opened the batting for England!
Beard takes the last wicket of Brookes…looks mesmerised or stunned!
But earlier he’d removed Gregory with this one! Reckon this could be my photo of the season (but I said that in my last blog!)

On the evidence of the first class season to date we are in dire straits but yesterday and today belong to the sultans of swing!

Which to choose?

My best photo of the season…so far! Patel b. Morkel (but a no ball!)

One of the ‘advantages’ of being a member of Surrey and Middlesex is the chance to come across the ‘great and the good’ popping along to watch the game, none more so than at the Oval which is the ‘local’ ground for our friends in Westminster – past and present. But the grounds also offer brilliant viewing facilities and you feel you’re never too far from the action. So today I’m left with a choice of which of my photos to put first in this blog.

So whilst the World Cup continues in its seemingly never ending quest to find a winner (we’re only just over half way through and it seems to have been going on since time began), there’s the refreshing alternative of the longer game to relish !

After other commitments yesterday I’m faced with earlier choice – the relegation battle of the Oval or the dash for the pennant at the CloudFM County Ground Chelmsford.

Both matches were evenly poised overnight but having seen Essex eviscerate Hampshire only last week, the lure of the relegation zone match between Surrey and Warwickshire won the day today.

A forecast of hot humid weather and the prospect of Surrey’s seamers and swingers to claw themselves back into the match sees Warwickshire overnight 89/1 in response to a feeble 194 from Surrey.

And I’m not disappointed – Morkel and Curran S followed by two Clarks (one with an ‘e’ the other without) keep things tight all morning with seam and swing and make batting a test of character as much as skill. Yates reaches 48no just before lunch but Warwickshire lose four wickets in the session; at the break they’re 176/5 – nearly at parity.

Overcast conditions are having their sway and the odd drop of light rain is sprucing up a green pitch, which, from afar looks incredibly similar to the rest of the square in being so green but when up close looks very dry and nowhere near as green as from a distance.

Sibley, Hain, Hose and Lamb have all departed this morning and in moments of deep though give rise to…is it possible to name a team of 11 garden implements to play a team of 11 farmyard or other animals but all must be first class cricketers? One for a cold November afternoon I think!

Interestingly all the Warwickshire wickets today have been caught behind or in the slips (one exception of an lbw) but swing and seam are doing it here. The only concern for the Champions is how they’ll bat against the Warwickshire attack if they have to chase down a large lead? And who said Championship cricket was boring? It’s a matter of knowing where to look (as well as patience)!

And as the following photos show, batting was never easy in these conditions against test class bowling (in the main) and batsman after batsman turned inside out. The occasional cover drive got through and was so pleasing on the eye.

Tough going against a swinging ball for most Warwickshire batsmen
But classic shots were still possible!

The end of the fifth session of the match comes with the end of the Warwickshire innings for 230 and a lead of 36. Morkel extracting some real nip and bounce from the Pavilion End after lunch; each taken by Foakes with consummate ease. The test of a good keeper is that you don’t hear the ball thud into the gloves and Foakes is in that class. Undoubtedly the best keeper in England by a long way. There’s something in the pitch and the overhead conditions that the ball is swinging madly – seven of the 10 wickets fell to catches behind or in the slips.

Surrey face a long session after tea with the aim of wiping off the deficit and taking a decent lead into Day 3. This they achieve with some style – Burns batting with flair, Stoneman settling in for a score and the runs come at a fast pace, against bowling which, to be honest, can only be described as ‘moderate’ which then questions the Surrey first innings!

By the end, a lead of over 100 with the power to add; but it all depends…on the choices the batsmen make, and, of course, the overhead conditions tomorrow which seem, in the current spate of hot humid weather to be the ultimate decision maker. But what I can say…this is the best day for Surrey all season (and about time too!).

Burns in full flow

Surrey justifiably proud of their Champions pennant (at last)!

My choice tomorrow is ‘fortress Chelmsford’ but come Wednesday when each match reaches Day 4…who knows?