Just when you think you’ve seen it all!

After a break – enforced by the vagaries of the fixture list – my faith in the fairness of British society was renewed today with the sight of cricket players in whites and playing with red balls!

A short visit to the Oval to see Surrey take on West Indies A team brought about this grand renewal. Some of the WI stars of the future were on display and whilst none was clearly ripping up the proverbial trees, there are a few players who could develop into good players.

The match lacked atmosphere since a) its a friendly and b) the crowd of less than 500 looked well dispersed across the acres that are The Oval. The match petered out into a tame draw as there was no other imperative for either side to force a win but there were some performances of note – the bowling of Holder and Smith and for a while the batting from Campbell promised  a lot.

And just when you think you’ve seen everything there is to see on a cricket field, I have never seen an eight-one offside field as WI had from time to time. For non-cricketing experts, there are nine fielders and usually five field on one side of the pitch and four on the other (in essence the ball is likely to go anywhere in the field having been struck by the batsman), sometimes six are on one side and three on the other and so forth. The more prominent the number of fielders on one side or the other, the more important it is for the bowler to bowl appropriately so that the ball is likely to be hit towards the side with the most fielders.

Seven on one side and two on the other is not unknown but does require greater skill by the bowler whilst eight-one is almost never seen but I saw it in action. Holder and Smith both used this field setting from time to time and it worked but it also telegraphed to the batsman where the ball was going to be bowled; some shots got runs, some not and the odd ball generated a wicket – caught in the main – as the batsman was frustrated and lost patience – and their wicket.

So, when you think you’ve seen everything…

How about the pose below for a leg before wicket dismissal? It was taken milliseconds after the ball struck Campbell on the pads and almost knocked him over – clearly out – but he saved himself from falling over. He has the skills to develop into a good West Indies batsman and if the walk off the ground was a guide – being the slowest seen for some time; a good 2 minutes – he has the style of a WI test player too!

Well bowelled!

Wagner in mid air…striving for the next wicket

Hadn’t noticed the Essex accent/estuary English in full voice at Chelmsford until today when Porter and Cook S were encouraged with shouts of ‘well bowelled’. To my warped sense of humour I began to wonder what other modes of dismissal or other cricketing terms could be so mid-treated?

However this is potentially my last visit to Chelmsford for two full months (depends on how ‘work’ finishes tomorrow). August 29 is the next first class game here but it clashes with two other Home Counties games – Middlesex v Sussex at Lord’s and Surrey v Notts at the Oval – reckon that could be the Championship decider!

And no live cricket for the next two weeks! Don’t do T20 as a matter of choice and the tourists match v India holds no attraction as these have lost their value over the years and when 14 play 14 over fixed length innings then I’m being taken for a mug if that’s supposedly first class cricket!

And so the hard work of taking wickets continues with the quicks in action this ‘morning’ as the annoying PA announcer insists on calling the first session of play! It’s well after high noon!

As the sun beats down he then tells us it’s going to be hot(!) and to take precautions. A refreshing breeze has got up so much so that in some parts of the shade at the ground it’s almost blowing a gale…but it makes things comfortable but by the time the evening arrives, it will be as cold as midwinter in the shade. I know other sports play in the cold but not many soccer or rugby matches last over six hours and nor do you need several sets of clothing to meet the temperatures of the day!

Anyway, Byrom is soon gone for 54 which brings Abell to join Hildreth. They add over 70 before the long break, the latter reaching his 50 – why isn’t he in the England set up? What has he done or not done? The PA announcer has caught the one eyed approach – the fifty was only poorly applauded – and the number of balls and boundaries was overlooked too! Shame!

And so the hard work continues!

Abell tries getting forward to Harmer

Food and drink XI sustains hard work and my first ever long stop!

Bess begs for a wicket
A long stop in first class cricket? It’s not what you think!

The four day day/night match at Chelmsford looks to me after two days as one where hard work is required and should be rewarded.

The first two sessions had Somerset toiling while Bopara and ten Doeschate prevailed – the latter outscoring Ravi considerably but both made centuries – the first two first class centuries for Essex this season and July is next week!

This bat-fest and hard work for wickets gave me time to ponder whether an eleven could be formed from those with either food or drink as a last name…but current players only? Well, how about:

  • Joss Cobb – Northants (ok..a cob being a type of bread roll, or an alternative name for hazelnuts)
  • Michael Pepper – Essex
  • Matt Lamb – Warwickshire
  • Chris Sole – Hampshire
  • Will Beer – Sussex
  • Phil Salt – Sussex
  • Phil Mustard – Gloucestershire
  • Josh Tongue – Worcestershire (ox tongue is regarded as some kind of delicacy?!)
  • Graham Onions – Lancashire
  • Jamie Porter – Essex (porter is a kind of fortified beer) and
  • Joe Tetley – Cambridge Uni (I know, stretching it a point as this is a brand name but all this food and drink can be topped off with a cup of tea!)

Not a lot of batting but the bowling should be good!

Pepper impressed a large number of the Essex faithful yesterday – most of whom have seen many players come and go over the years, and the general consensus is that he is an England player in the making! Remember you saw it here first!

The run-fest resulted in Essex declaring at 517/5 off 150 overs some 35 mins before the scheduled ‘tea’ break; Bopara made 118 whilst ten Doeschate was not out on 173 – fine knocks both, although Ryan tended to only offer one shot each ball towards the end (hooking to leg) in an attempt to speed up the scoring rate. To their credit, at no time did Somerset give up although they looked down-hearted; they did not have all nine fielders on the boundary to stop the runs flowing as Essex tried in vain against Notts last week.

** incidentally Bopara and ten Doeschate took the score from 212/4 to 506/5 – the Essex record for the 5th wicket was in jeopardy until…

It seems that ten Doeschate needed to be reminded of the tea break as the declaration came suddenly when a drink was brought on to the field for him for no real reason and then everyone just walked off. I’ll come back to his captaincy later.

In the 10 overs before tea – taken 15 mins late – Somerset managed 39/0; this looks like a game where runs will flow and bowlers and fielders will need to work hard for their wickets.

A leg-side feather after tea does for Davies c Wheater b Wagner for 41 at 55/1. Enter George Bartlett with over an hour and a bit to the scheduled close – not an auspicious sight as Playfair records his highest score as 28 – and Somerset need another 462 to get to level terms or 312 to save the follow on. But pluckily did he bat against all that Essex could throw at him. A very hard chance down the leg side (a backward short leg was positioned – Pepper) was put down; no fault of the fielder as it was very sharp and very fine deflection but ten Doeschate immediately swapped Pepper for Harmer in that position and Pepper was despatched to the fielding ring like a naughty school boy…hmmm, yes, the game is hard but that seemed too harsh.

Later Cook A made some fielding change suggestions which were implemented and towards the end Westley suggested having a long stop which again was put in place straightaway. I have never seen a long stop in first class cricket so this was a first in over 50 years of following the game. There was no clear reason as the wicketkeeper seemed capable but it became clear later that they were trying to feed Bartlett the hook and were hoping for a mistimed one to go straight down Westley’s throat at long stop. The tactic didn’t work but Bartlett was out just before the close of play for 42 whilst Ed Byrom is still there on 53 at 140/2 – still 237 away from avoiding the follow on. On this pitch this should be possible.

With regard to the day/night nature of the game, we haven’t seen the excessive swing and seam of other matches but then it’s been unbroken sunshine for the past two days. The crowd was smaller than the first day (always seems to be the case) and little, if any, corporate entertainment in action…giving up a whole day’s work is more attractive than giving up a half-day and then your own evening! Numbers fell away after the tea and probably before and still no mass influx of people coming along after work – that’s just not happening.

One other aspect of day/night cricket is the ability to travel home after the game has finished. Spectators and members are not all locally based, nor have cars parked in the exclusive car park at the ground! Several travel long distances and not always by car so are using public transport, and even if they did stay to the end, then travelling back home by rail should be ok, but then they have the challenge of more public transport to complete the journey home. Not all towns and villages have bus services during the evening and not everyone can afford taxis…so they come along, pay full admission price but then have to leave well before the end to get home at a reasonable hour and at reasonable cost.

Porter in full flow – yet perfectly balanced!

No – not seeing double – Essex have two Cooks!

Wagner straining to take the first wicket

Long stop?

Doh!…that’s nuts and a dusting of Pepper

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No need for snicko here…or is there? Pepper (on debut on his birthday) gets a bit of a dusting from the West Country quicks

The 4,500 doughnuts ordered for the ODI at Old Trafford on Sunday were delivered a day late – to the embarrassment of all concerned, especially the doughnut eaters of Lancashire!

I feel the same level of embarrassment is being felt in the Somerset dressing room at the ‘long break’ in the day/night match at Chelmsford against Essex – 3rd vs 4th (again…places were moved around after the last set of matches!). My understanding is that with an uncontested toss**, the visiting side have the first choice to bat first and looking at the straw coloured strip (ok, it has a tinge of green but there’s very hot weather forecast and any dampness will soon be gone; after all it hasn’t rained in Essex in weeks!) batting first was the clear option. But no! They decided to have a toss and Essex are batting…and probably batting Somerset out of the game having reached 116/0 off 33 overs in the first session (yes, I know, it’s ridiculous…all those overs in that time! Whatever next?)

Four changes to the Essex side following the mauling by Notts last week – out go Chopra, Lawrence, Coles and Quinn and in come Browne, Cook S, Pepper and ten Doeschate. Pepper making his county debut on his 20th birthday!

Browne and Cook A are opening and as you can tell from the score have set off as if they are being chased by a wild bull – both have 50s and with the power to add, the second session could be thrilling. After all these two put on 371 in the corresponding day/night match against Middlesex last year, so they know how to play pink ball cricket!

Only Bess and Trego so far have shown any element of control – at one stage 4.4 overs went runless in this run-fest; perhaps taking the pace off the ball is the key to this pitch.

The hottest day of the year would seem ideal for a day/night match but surprisingly as the evening progressed it became increasingly pleasant if not chilly towards the end  – having experienced, now, 10 day/night days of first class cricket both here and in Australia, the weather has to work in your favour. Adelaide was colder in the evening than some April days at the top of the Lord’s Pavilion and last year at this time was bitterly, bitterly cold when the sun dipped down…so it’s very much hit and miss.

But back to the action – Browne was run out, backing up for 66 much to the annoyance of a few in the crowd but Essex benefited from such a mode of dismissal last week, so they can’t complain but he and Cook A (to distinguish from Cook S) had put on 151.

Cook A followed at 176 for 96 lbw to Bess – who bowled, it seemed for most of the day/night and even later took the new ball; this was Cook A’s second successive lbw dismissal. Perhaps something to think about?

But the opening partnership was a joy to behold with fine stroke play and also knowing when to play and miss!

Browne and Cook A in imperious form

Bess has skill beyond his years and whilst his test elevation came through misfortune to others and serendipity on his part, I think he could be around the England test side for a few years.

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Bess – looking “cool” in the heat!

The fast bowlers were concerned about the state of the pink ball that almost from the start they wanted it changed and pestered the umpires to change it – not a good idea to pester umpires on day one…or any other day come to that!

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Ump…Can’t you see the ball is out of shape?

By ‘tea’ Essex had reached 204/3 after Westley went cheaply (again); he is a confidence player and needs a run of matches to regain his self-belief. Perhaps being dropped from the England test side after last summer (and all the hype he had around him) has affected him; let alone the lack of a consistent first class programme to regain his form. He will come again.

This brought Michael Pepper to the crease and to first class cricket. Excuse the humour but he was given a dusting by the quicks but defended resolutely. He has determination and plays with one of the straightest bats I’ve seen for a long time and it was a delight to behold. Let’s hope a coach doesn’t get hold of him and change his approach.

Pepper with a straight bat and a classical look

He fell to Bess – a marathon spell – for 22; with these two youngsters coming to the fore (ok, it’s very early days for both) I have hope for English test cricket!

What this does mean is ample opportunity to put a team of foodstuffs together from current and past players…Mustard, Onions and Salt are among the current crop of first class players; need a bit of time to come up with the other seven needed!

As for the crowd, the members areas were busy but not full (most were taking shade cover wherever they could rather than offering themselves up to be roasted in the bleachers) and a few drifted away at the end of the second session (used to be known as ‘tea’); as for the ‘let’s attract those finishing work at 5pm/6pm to come along for the evening’ – well, I saw two…and they were members and didn’t stay that long. Also not helped by a lack of advertising and promoting – so if the public don’t know, how can they be expected to turn up? Ok, a few also drifted away to follow some football tournament on the TV but in the main a good number of members, perhaps a few more than for a ‘normal’ game stayed for longer. Did they spend more? Did the bars and food outlets take more than normal? Doubt it…but the ice cream van did a roaring trade at ‘lunch’

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And whilst ‘tea’ was taken at the due time – it can be done when players put their mind to it – what was baffling was why the floodlights were switched on when the sun was still streaming and some in the crowd were still sun-bathing. Not a good PR exercise in how ‘green’ county cricket can be (am sure there’s an ECB directive somewhere to waste energy and money) but even the floodlights at Canterbury could not overcome the sunshine issue when shadows brought play to a temporary halt but it meant that Middlesex had to bat in the night time and the ‘traditional’ pink ball bowling seems to have brought them to their knees (again); I know the ECB are trying but it’s still not quite right.

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**Apologies…seems the uncontested toss allows the visiting team to bowl first; just shows how confusing the whole situation is!

Playing like chumps Notts champs?

We reach Day 4 of Essex v Nottinghamshire in the County Championship with Essex starting at 86/4 needing a total of 441 to win! Ok, that’s not realistic given the poor batting performances seen from Essex so far this year but resistance from the middle order – Bopara and Wheater, to lesser extent Coles, Harmer and Wagner – is needed to show some mettle.

Porter – virtues as a bowler were extoled yesterday – took his role as night watchman seriously and hung around for a time but losing Bopara very early on (caught by the sub-wicketkeeper for today Tom Kest off the nippy Matt Milnes) showed the lack of backbone and application.

The game is in the mind and whilst the target was way off in the distance, Bopara fell to the old ‘one/two’ trick from young Mr Milnes – a well pitched up delivery striking the pad for  good lbw appeal as the first ball, the second in Sir Geoffrey’s corridor again pitched nicely and Ravi couldn’t resist a nibble – as they say done like a kipper!

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Bopara – kippered!

The rest followed – Wheater tried, Harmer looks out of sorts in this game with both ball and bat, Coles has more of a reputation than a record to speak of, Quinn was regarded as the ubiquitous rabbit at #11 but Wagner could be relied on to hang around and strike a few runs.

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Wheater tried whilst Harmer struggled

It was clear that Essex were going to lose – and they did by 301 runs – but there was some very odd play towards the end; maidens followed maidens, runs were declined when they were there for the taking and whilst Quinn may not be known for his batting, he seemed competent and for fellow Kiwi Wagner to treat him in this way was inexplicable.

Body language speaks more wider and more loudly on most occasions than verbally and Wagner’s body language implied to me that a) he didn’t want to be there and b) if there’s a ‘work to rule’ approach of doing the minimum and with less than good grace, then that was Neil today. I may be reading more into his body language than is there but it’s clear nonetheless that all is not well. He did not back up ready to run for any other batsman, leaned on his bat and crossed his legs as if he’s strolled up a hill and wanted to admire the view. All very odd and baffling to the spectators – around 500 of us turned up to watch (and why do we..? knowing full well that the cause for Essex was hopeless? Perhaps that’s another subject for another time?).

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But what is clear is that whilst the champs were playing like chumps and have been doing so since day 1, Notts secured an excellent victory and their first at Chelmsford it seems since 1984?

The only team in Division 1 I haven’t seen in Championship action so far this season is Somerset (to be remedied next week) but to me the best organised teams and squads, and best consistently performing ones too, are Surrey and Notts. It would not surprise me to see these two taking a good lead as the summer progresses and nor would it be a surprise if Notts emulated Essex’s performances of 2016 and 2017 – Champions of Division Two in one year, promoted and Division One Champions the next.

But what do I know? I’ve been watching cricket for over five decades and still don’t always understand what’s going on – and Wagner today was baffling everyone – but that’s the attraction and why we all keep going back to watch more and more!

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Harry Gurney found pace and dust from the pitch

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And the winning catch – the first victory by Notts over Essex at Chelmsford since 1984? (even before I started watching Essex ‘live’!)

Can I have a p please Bob?

Jake Libby bowled by Wagner…51; and stump in mid-somersault.

Those of you mature enough to remember the quiz Blockbusters and enjoyed the contestants asking Bob Holness for a p, would regard Tom Moore’s innings of 87 in 80 balls with 7 fours and 7 sixes (70 out of 87) as a blockbuster as he played on one leg with the other injured. He strode across the Notts innings and the day’s play like a colossus (ok Colossus had two legs but you know what I mean).

So returning to Chelmsford for the third day of the Essex v. Notts match (3rd and 4th in the Championship before this round began) having taken a day off yesterday dealing with another p – three pricks for my first set of injections for my upcoming visit to the England tests in Sri Lanka. Another three will follow in due course once I’ve organised them but am now an expert on how to avoid rabid dogs and cats, bodily fluids in the wrong place as well as unsanitary or unclean medical facilities but to eat fruit which I have to peel! Clearly travelling is more involved than people think.

By the time I arrive Jamie Porter (another p) is in full flow and bowling without any luck as the Notts batsmen constantly play and miss. Porter – one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year – is destined I’m sure to play for England but he seems to be nowhere near the current progression of Lions to ODI to Tests; he was picked for the Lions tour last winter but missed it due to injury. The Essex faithful will want him to play for Essex for as long as he can. Today was one of those days where there was no help from the pitch for the quicks; you needed to keep it pitched up and the wickets will follow. Porter may just be regarded as an English domestic specialist and may struggle on overseas pitches but he is repeating the form of 2017 into the Spring and early Summer of the 2018 season.

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The pitch looks increasingly straw coloured as we reach day 3 and has the potential to be a batsman’s paradise but with 15+ wickets falling on day 2, perhaps Essex were still in one day mode but looking at the points table (another p) Essex and Yorkshire have the fewest batting bonus points for any team in the first division and the way the Championship is panning out, those extra points could come in useful.

Nottinghamshire seemed to have caught the bug of poor batting and their performance (another p) was below par early on – Essex kept nibbling away, Porter’s early display was eclipsed by Wagner’s pre-lunch spell of tight, penetrative and quick bowling and wickets fell with increasing regularity.

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P for pointed end of the stump! Libby just didn’t see it as he was bowled by Wagner for 51. (This shot being a few milliseconds before the one at the top of the blog).

Playing (another p) and missing seemed to be the order of the day before lunch as Root showed only too often whilst Taylor, Wessels and Patel fell.

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By early afternoon Notts had reached 143/7 when Tom Moores entered the fray accompanied by a runner as he had twisted his ankle earlier in the day. Tom is son of Peter (ex-England and now Notts coach). There was little expectation among the crowd as Tom’s highest score to the end of last season was 41…so he won’t be around for long and with a runner there could be some fun and games! But no…he is a clean striker of the ball and was soon dispatching the bowling to all corners; as other batsman fell, he farmed the strike brilliantly and forsook so many singles that a century would otherwise have been there for the taking. Harmer was dispatched for 26 in one over, Bopara (eventually brought on as an alternative to the mauling being given to every other bowler) went for 13 in one over and was not seen again. Porter tried but was off target compared to his morning spell; Wagner, Quinn, Coles – all were treated with distain and fielders retreated to the boundary – four increased to seven and even nine at one stage – and the Essex performance became an embarrassment – not the style of the Champion County (I think their crown will be going elsewhere come September).

Moores batting was fierce hitting and clean striking of the ball but allied with clever placement and on occasions, just sheer brute force, often ignoring his injury to play a range of strokes (some of the Essex faithful began to doubt the extent of his injury…but then adrenaline was pumping!).

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The pitch looks a batting paradise but from day one there has been a bit of inconsistent bounce increasingly as the pitch dries out under the Essex sun and the Notts spinner (who is held in high regard) should be eager to bowl.

So if one player on one leg can score 87 at more than a run a ball, how could Essex do with eleven players with two fit legs each fare in chasing down the 4th innings target of 441?

The inconsistent bounce did for Cook (lbw b Millnes 0) at 6 for 1. There was once, it seems, an unwritten theory that England captains were never given out lbw (after all the crowd have come to see him bat, not the umpire umpire) but once you’re an ex-England captain…anyway.

The wheels came off as Essex struggled against a fine attack and their own minds – this game is played in the mind as well as on the pitch – and chasing 441 for one of their largest ever 4th inning totals to win may seem beyond their mental and playing powers – one last p.

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Looks odd…the batsman is Moores’ runner!

It takes an age…or two or three

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“Yes Simon – it’s one of those days!”

Back to the County Championship today and the first day of Essex v Nottinghamshire at Chelmsford.

After the unrelenting pace of the past month of one day games and the world record by England yesterday (remember it’s only 10 days ago that they lost to Scotland and the end of the world was forecast…but that’s the pace of life nowadays…nothing seems to be remembered beyond the short news cycle) going back to the four day game is a change for players and spectators alike; after yesterday’s events at Trent Bridge things seem tame and lacklustre but that’s only to be expected.

Nottinghamshire bat first and after an early alarm reach 103/2 at lunch and by mid afternoon 166/3. Taylor of Kiwi fame makes a finely paced 50 with power to add. Billy Root being left handed looks a mirror image of his famous brother and wears 66 – the game against Yorkshire could have umpires seeing double!

What is noticeable about the Essex faithful is how one-eyed they are; probably more than any other set of members. Only good play by Essex is recognised and when you applaud the other side for a fine shot or innings, the feeling of being a traitor descends. As more spectators arrive, the balance towards fair recognition moves but only slightly.

Which brings me into my first ‘age’ point – looking around today I would suggest that the average age of spectators is in the region of 70-plus which makes me feel quite good but it is predominantly white, male and middle-class – I suppose the four day game has, over recent years especially, become the summer refuge for the retired!

However there’s a glimmer of hope – today has been one of the county’s ‘school days’ – primary school children and a few secondary school ones too, come to the ground, experience the match, have a tour of the ground (even dare I say go in the cricket school), have the opportunity to play on the outfield and be back at school in time for the end of the school day. Enthusiasm abounded and it was good to see as behaviour was good if noisy for the old folk!

But I think Essex missed a trick or two…they were only allowed on certain parts of the outfield at lunch (most had left by tea), the field was empty of children half way through the lunch break and what a difference a few autographs from a few players would make! This may have happened behind the scenes but I think not. In Australia and elsewhere this would have had a much higher profile! And we wonder why children aren’t interested in cricket or sports, don’t play outside and prefer their games machines?

The third age aspect is that of the Essex team – ten Doeschate is serving a two match ban, Foster…? So this gives Westley a chance to captain (and it’s clear he’s learning as he goes) and for the youngsters to make their mark. There’s a lot of youth (relative) in this Essex squad who if they fulfil their potential then more honours should come their way. I reckon the squad is as good as any across the country perhaps only outdone by Surrey? The risk is that the frustration of youth may encourage some to seek their fortunes elsewhere?,

By tea Notts had progressed as had Taylor to his century and with Billy Root, who contributed 32, put on a stand of 123 (doubled the score) when Billy fell just after tea. The Essex bowling seemed off colour this afternoon and Wagner forgot his lines especially when confronted with a mix of left and right handers. Harmer restored a little balance but it’s clear that both sides need time to readjust to the long game.

The pitch had some inconsistent bounce early on if you pitched it correctly but as the sun shone, it got better and better for batting. I was thinking three days would be enough for a result here but seems that four may not be long enough!

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Root and Taylor planning their next move…whilst Westley just wonders!
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One of those days when chances are missed

By late afternoon Notts had reached 257/4 when Wessels fell to an Harmer lbw but there seem to be fewer and fewer (or is it less and less) demons in this pitch. It will be interesting to see how Essex and Cook (back in the county fold) venture on this pitch…by the fourth innings it could be ‘fun’!

Whilst it was not a problem in terms of numbers today, at least 20% of the ground seating was blocked off due to the position of the pitch on the square or the TV gantries etc already in place for the T20 some two weeks away! It’s not a problem in terms of getting a seat etc but all of the area is usually allocated to members and so we were crammed in a bit more than usual and, I’m not sure if it’s me, but the seats seem to be especially uncomfortable this year. The ground is crying out for redevelopment (and has been for the past 10 years at least) so when it is redeveloped, put some proper sight screens in as well as better gantries etc for the TV crews!

And whatever age you are, you can’t but be fascinated to know how the following overheard conversations finished…so with apologies to any of my readers who unbeknownst to me took part in these conversations:

  • “Shall we go to Tracy’s nuptials or not? And if not, what excuse can we make?”
  • “Will someone please shut the Hayes Close dog in? It’s barking is…”
  • “What do you reckon to this speech to the Cricket Society ‘do’ ?”

Tomorrow’s blog may be shorter or even non-existent as I make my first preparations for my trip to Sri Lanka for the November tests – the first set of injections! I wonder where they’ll put the needle…?

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“Close but no cigar!”

One day diet

My diet of one day matches ended with Australia’s efforts to play England at the Oval in the first of five ‘let’s milk this cash cow for what it’s worth’ one day series.

Commitments mean that I cannot go to any more one day 50 over games this season and through choice I don’t do T20.

The diet ended on starvation rations as the second tier or ‘new look’ Australia one day side were just out of their depth. Whilst they have some brightly shining stars and would be stars, not all the working parts work and the team dynamics is well below expected standards (team dynamics is an old favourite topic of mine on the blog as readers will attest!).

Admittedly England played well and can only play the team put up against them with the spinners doing well on this track and well supported by the quicks.

I’m still convinced that Willeys run up is too long as he seems to stutter at the end and Wood is all body power from much more career sustaining. A few highlights from Australia’s batting – Maxwell eventually came good with 60, Agar of 2013 Ashes memories made a sound 40 but the rest didn’t click and were bowled out for 214 in 47 overs was never going to be anywhere near enough.

England didn’t start well but after a few initial alarms – Hales seems out of form, not surprising if you just restrict yourself to white ball cricket; there’s no second innings to give you another chance, to get you back into form, nick, rhythm or whatever you want to call it. Morgan and Root almost saw them home but not quite and had to leave it to Ali and Willey. Why the Aussies didn’t use spin more, who knows but they seemed overall to be the standard of a poor county side and from what’s been seen so far, England have little to worry about, Australia have it all to do but I must admit I like the look of Stanlake, he’s got something about him and could well do well in years to come. Is he a candidate for the Ashes tour next year? Who knows but he could well get a test call this coming Aussie summer.

What do we learn from this one day diet? In reality not a lot as each match just melds together into the memory and each match becomes instantly forgettable. What it does do is bring punters through the gates and noticeably greater numbers than the Championship even on the first day which seems to be the spectators day of choice when the real excitement is there on days three and four- there’s so much good and challenging cricket in the Championship and can be tense in the extreme – can you remember the last one day match you saw when the outcome wasn’t clear until the last over? No? Me neither!

So I’m back to the four day stuff next week and probably not go to another one day match until next season but shall keep an eye on this series and the rest of the 50 over cup, but let’s hope that there are a few one day watchers who now want to try a day or two of the Championship and with school holidays on the horizon the youngsters can go along…but oh, there’s so little to be played as the one days become even shorter and more akin to evening club games…perhaps that’s where the youngsters need to be encouraged to go?

And finally…whoever decided that the long air filled tubes you bang together was a good idea didn’t have the misfortune to sit beside the crèche at the Oval! Whoever they are deserve to have one inserted….(I’ll leave it to you to decide where and how!)

No worries for England?

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With these two both in the Australian side, could we see them winning one day by a ‘short head’?

One of the things that has perturbed touring teams and their supporters ‘back home’ is the lack of preparation offered by the home ‘board of control’; not only the lack of preparation but also the quality provided.

The Australian one-day side is making a short tour of England to play five one-day internationals against England (to help swell the coffers?) starting on Wednesday at the Oval. It’s only a matter of weeks since these two sides did battle down under in a one day series so why now? Other than filling the international fixture list and grabbing the income, I suppose the main aim has to be to promote the England one day side (ranked the best in the world at the moment?) in advance of the ICC World Cup which will be in full swing this time next year.

So, England are preparing by trying to play cricket against Scotland whilst the Australians have two warm up games – against Sussex on Thursday and Middlesex yesterday (June 9).

What can we learn from this and in particularly the Middlesex match -well, in essence nothing!

Australia were using the match as pure practice and warm up (fully understood) and Middlesex used the opportunity to play a mix of first and second XI players against some reputedly world class opposition. Of the batting Maxwell failed to get a score when he needs one (will probably come good very soon), Marsh S, Head and Finch performed as expected whilst the Middlesex bowling left something to be desired and Finn did not improve his England recall chances at all; it’s regrettable but I think his England days are over (his strike rate was phenomenal) – fallen from grace after another visit to Australia last winter and not re-appearing on any radar but that would augur well for Middlesex for a few years, although Lancashire have been in his thoughts it seems.

Middlesex batted like a mix of the standards that they are and collapsed at the end to lose by 101 runs. Of the Australian bowling, they too here are into the second string since their main Ashes victors are injured or resting. Billy Stanlake is quicker than he looks, Neser probably more of a handful and the two Richardsons – not related it seems…after all who gives their offspring names of Jhye Avon? The latter from WA where, I recall from native Australians, that they regard any Australian west of Adelaide as ‘odd’ (am being polite and paraphrasing!).

But I saw nothing that should worry England over the next five encounters, Australia are ‘up for it’ notwithstanding all DIY ribaldry that will come their way, but as Lyon replied when asked did he had sandpaper in his pockets, his reply was ‘no mate, just the Ashes!’ Ouch!

Overall an enjoyable day and the chance to become re-acquainted with some Aussie Ashes heros and more practice at watching one day matches.

A few snaps…

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Things I have learned! Bird diarrhoea, tame primroses and full tosses!

There are three things I’ve learned today which I didn’t know when I got up:

  1. Bird shit contains more water/moisture than you would think and ‘The Economist‘ is not very absorbent!
  2. Paint comes in a shade called ‘wild primrose’ which implies there should be a ‘tame primrose’ and
  3. If you bowl two full tosses as no balls in one day cricket, you are removed from the attack!

I make no apology for using ‘bird shit’ as a term since it’s good enough for this week’s Economist magazine to describe the streets of San Francisco. How did I find that it has more moisture than you’d think? Well, I was sitting at the cricket (as above) concentrating on the game (more to follow) when the spectator in the row in front and three seats to the left shouted out ‘Did you feel that?’ and wondered why he had been sprayed with ‘something’; looking down I discover that my trousers, jumper and camera were covered with the contents of a long-departed bird no longer having diarrhoea! I had ‘copped the lot’ whilst the other spectators just had the fall out from the edge of the ‘catchment area’.

Having changed into my older trousers before I set out today, the damage to clothing was not catastrophic but as I did not have anything to clean the ejectamenta away, accepted  took the offer of a small tissue from a sympathetic spectator (which went nowhere towards clearing things up) but had to resort to the Economist magazine I happened to have in my bag – unfortunately the paper used was not particularly absorbent – so I had to leave things to dry in the afternoon sun. It took over an hour and a half to dry out, leaving me surprised at the moisture levels contained in bird shit!

On line, I was also asked what colour paint to choose for a kitchen and recommended magnolia, being the limit of my decorating knowledge, only to be advised that ‘wild primrose’ would be the choice. This led me to think that logically if there is wild primrose, there should be ‘tame primrose’ – and the Pythonesque scenario of being attacked by bunches of wild primroses each Spring but not to worry about those indoors as they had been tamed! Sad, and odd I know, but the cricket was not that exciting at that time.

Until…just before the end of the Essex innings, the Kent and NZ bowler, Henry was taken out of the attack mid-over since he had bowled two full toss no balls in his nine over spell to date. That was something I had never seen before nor was aware of as a regulation – as it seems were most of the crowd. It’s a rare event but I did – clearly having major flights of fancy at this stage – wonder what would happen if, in one innings, several players were withdrawn from bowling by this regulation and what would happen if all 11 players fell foul – would the innings end? Could this be an odd form of match fixing?

And so to the cricket – Essex v Kent in the last round of league matches in the Southern Division of the Royal London one day cup at Chelmsford. Kent had already qualified for the next phase but an Essex win would mean that they also qualify and could gain a home advantage in the next phase.

I use the word ‘phase’ since it’s being called the ‘quarter finals’ but only involves four teams – all delightfully odd and British! The top teams in each division qualify for the semi-final whilst those finishing second and third play each other (cross-divisions) in the ‘quarter finals’ to see who plays the division winning sides in the semi-finals. (You have to live through it to see it makes sense!).

This match was the 2nd v 3rd in the group as well as a local derby so a bit of ‘needle’ could be expected. Early on Kent looked an excellent side with a lot of team-encouragement and chirping clearly audible from the boundary edge. They looked very sharp in the field and exuded all the confidence that a team gains from momentum from winning regularly. From ball one, each bowler found the right line and length and had Essex on the back foot, somewhat shell-shocked in comparison to the team from last Wednesday!

After losing both openers for 42, Westley and Lawrence set out on a rescue and rebuilding mission and by the 15th over had reached 64-2 at 4.2rpo. It was at this point that the seagull appeared and things changed for Essex…they reached 103/3 by over 25 and whilst consolidating they did miss out on several runs as they tended to run the first one slowly; tight bowling by Stevens (1-37 off his 10 – and aged 42!) kept things in check and almost turned the pace into a county championship match-style; aided by Qayyum offering a spin option, the pace slowed but wickets looked secure, poised for a late order explosion. Blake – the chirper in chief – seemed to be the least effective of the Kent fielders and soon became a ‘target’ for some ribaldry – it’s ok talking the talk, but walking the walk counts too! A score of 250 looked good at this stage.

But Essex – Bopara and Lawrence – began to dig in; not in the ‘test match’ sense of digging in to secure the game over a longer term but digging in to provide the platform for later. Steady was the progress and the partnership blossomed against the second string Kent bowlers and later against the front line bowlers as the wheels began to fall off for Kent.

By 40 overs and 223/3, a score of 270/280 seemed on the cards and a better result than seemed likely earlier but the Essex batsmen took full advantage and with four overs to go reached 278/4 – Lawrence had gone for 115 and Bopara on 84* was angling for his ton (I learned later that the partnership at 187 was the highest ever Essex had made against Kent for the 4th wicket in this style of competition – going back over 50 years!).

However, the pace quickened, the bowlers visibly lost heart as they went for six after six, consecutive on occasions and Bopara reached his ton and more – ending on 125 – and Essex on 337/7. At the half way stage, this seemed a competitive score (especially given the earlier scoring rate) and with Kent on a confident winning streak and a sound batting line up, it looked like ‘game on’ and anyone’s match.

Commitments prevented me from staying for the Essex innings – not least a change of guano-covered clothing – but suffice to say that the wheels really came off as the sun went down. Kent were all out for 184 – three less than Bopara and Lawrence made between them.

Kent had qualified for the next round already so the result only mattered in terms of getting a home or away tie – so did they really play at 100%? Research suggests that in such situations teams are only 95% as effective as normal and did they really have their whole heart and soul in the game? It’s probably unavoidable as you know you have done all the hard work to achieve your first objective and you just can’t avoid taking this approach – after all, how many ‘last test of the series’ tests did Australia lose under Steve Waugh’s captaincy when they had already won the series?

So perhaps, the bird shit was a lucky omen after all for Essex…or was it?

Henry strives to make the next breakthrough
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Every spin bowler has their own idiosyncrasies – Qayyum pretends to be a flamingo?
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Stevens – on the money and miserly – showing the youngsters how it’s done!
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Not quite where intended.