Waiting and watching

Some people wonder why we watch or play cricket? What is it about 11 players per side, plus umpires and scorers (not forgetting the most important people – those providing the food and drink) running around a field brandishing pieces of wood, throwing and bowling a hard ball at each other and putting sticks in the ground?

I know that’s a basic view of cricket and dear reader, you know there’s a lot more to it than that…but according to this years Wisden almanack, there’s a theory that cricket has Icelandic roots! Whatever version they played or invented was far from genteel, included killings, beheadings and other activities more akin to Game of Thrones. (Confession time – I’m probably one of the few people on the planet who hasn’t seen even one episode of GoT…I’m working on hearsay).

So, I’m very pleasantly surprised to arrive at Lord’s today to find over a hundred like minded souls who have turned up in the rain and in the full knowledge that play is unlikely for a few hours but are more than content to watch it rain, engage in conversations, read or even write blogs!

There’s an accepted level of idiosyncrasy in society generally and today those of us in that category are here in numbers!

Relaxed England captain waiting like the rest of us!
Surprising number of drain outlets in the outfield !

After the rain stopped and whilst the ground was being made ready, a walk around a quiet Lord’s gives the chance to find a few nooks and crannies…

Under the walkway between the new stands
Any ideas?
Surprising amounts of greenery off the pitch!

A delayed start at 2.40pm means 40 overs lost to the day – some can be recovered tomorrow and Sunday. A cooler (or ‘fresher’ as weather people like to call it) day and the ball is doing a bit more than yesterday.

Durham lose two quick wickets but Trevaskis makes his 50 as he’s joined by Carse as they add a handy 50 odd. Carse is just the person for a few lusty blows when you need to score that next batting point – and he does, with one ball to spare but not without dispatching Hollman into the top tier (yes, top) of the Tavern Stand and Holden sent to retrieve the ball! Hollman is still learning his craft!

Carse gives it some welly!
Holden looking for the ball!
Found it!

Eventually Durham subside for 350 with Trevaskis 80no. Batting isn’t easy but with application and cutting out the silly shots, runs can be scored. This is not the score the Middle had in mind at 11.00am yesterday but let’s see what the last session brings.

Well that passed without too many issues until just before the end Stoneman goes swiftly followed by Bamber as the night watch leaving the Middle on 88/2. Unless someone grabs this game by the throat (cue B.A. Stokes?) then there’s little chance of another 28 wickets falling in the next two days to force a result but we’ll be waiting and watching!

PS thank you to everyone who flocked to the previous blog/rambling in such numbers as to break all records! Greatly appreciated.

Has the world gone Potty?

This is round seven (of 16) of the County Championship and it’s only just mid-May! How crazy is that? And there’s a lot of talk about the rare feat of 1,000 runs by the end of May being achieved soon. That’s different from 1,000 runs IN May but then only a very few achieve that!

It’s a reflection of the crowded fixture list and overcrowded number of competitions, as well as the ECB succeeding in its unwritten strategic plan to write off the first class game in England. Media commentators today underlining the point that the ECB has allowed itself to be business and not cricket dominated so much so that you could pay yesterday to have the Test squad details sent to you before the general release.

And precisely what would those pounds have gained for you?

But I digress…Lord’s today is a picture as the Middle host Durham. I had hoped to see the latest up and coming bowling star from Durham – ‘Chamber’ Potts (or to give him his real name – Matthew). Given his England selection, I suppose the need to keep him fit for the tests, since the ego-fest which is Broaderson cannot continue for ever, takes precedence especially as Archer and a host of others are out for the season (again)!

What the media seemed to have overlooked is that while Chamber has been ripping out bats this season like it’s going out of fashion, it’s second division batting and from what I’ve seen below the standard of the first division and certainly well below tests…but let’s hope he makes the transition (or is at least given a chance)!

Stokes is playing as is Lees – so at least some England players are getting real match practice; as is Petersen from SA in readiness for the second half of the test season.

Inserting the opposition means you have hopes of running through the batting quite quickly but at 81/1 at lunch, that’s not the outcome intended! Lees made a patient 44 and playing at Lord’s with its slope would have helped his preparation. Or were the Middle frightened of the Durham attack given the batting frailty of late? Who knows? Time will tell.

The MCC kindly invited spectators to walk on the outfield at lunch and it would have been churlish not to accept. This happens about twice a year so is not to be sneezed at. The sheer joy cannot be described but the view from the probable test pitch allows the imagination to run riot.

Use your imagination to picture facing the bowling!
This snap shows the slope!
Glorious Lord’s
The new
Ancient and modern mixed – in old fashioned monochrome!

By tea Durham had reached 178/4 with Petersen homing in on his 50 and honing his skills in advance of the August test. Stokes provided a brief cameo so short that it wasn’t a cameo more a ‘cam’. But the two cover drives were sublime, the switch hit awkward and the shot to get out…appalling!

Lees looking the part!
But lbw!
Andersson – frustrated
Fast bowlers like the police look younger every day! Ethan Bamber!

The pitch looks another ‘made to order of the ECB’ to be flat, almost bowler hostile (given the state of the Duke this season) and has all the hallmarks of 400 a side. I suppose it’s a way of building innings and learning how to bowl sides out but I’m not convinced how this fits within the ‘red-ball reset’ – let’s see!

Stokes – switch hitting never looks elegant!
Not quite right – caught in the deep

Silly mistakes in the main have been the downfall of each bat so far and Petersen is no exception – silly shot and gone for 48 but useful Lord’s experience. The odd ball does something but with application batting should be reasonable on this pitch.

de Caires in full flow!

And so it proves; The Middle fail to take another wicket as play ends on 256/5. Not quite what the Middle had hoped and a firm foundation for Durham.

Not the most enthralling or exciting day, but when the world’s gone potty, sensible is probably the best thing!

When the…

When the…

Night watch lasts nearly 90 minutes and scores his second 50 of the match (batted at #11 in the 1st innings) and your spinner goes for eight an over, you know you’re in trouble!

And Middlesex are!

Which way is this going to spin?
High levels of concentration!

Nottinghamshire reach 113/3 at lunch on day 3 at the Home – a lead of 333 – with Fletcher (the said night watch) scoring at pace with Duckett in support for a swift 20-odd and demolishing Hollman’s spin in the process with sweeps, ramps and switch hitting.

Duckett – so easy to get into knots when trying something different!

Fletcher highlighting his innings with a 6 into one of the openings in the Grandstand – quite a feat of accuracy.

The strategy is clear – score quickly but not so madly as to collapse – and reach a lead of 400/450 by tea and then run through the Middle. Based on their first innings, Middlesex will do well to reach the current lead but rain is forecast for sometime tomorrow so Nottinghamshire need to balance their plans accordingly.

When the…

Wheels come off and the afternoon session brings 182 runs for the loss of two wickets. Mullaney raced to 100no before declaring at 295/5 and a lead of 515. Clarke deprived of his century being stranded on 68. Mullaney’s century off 55 balls was punctuated with eight 6s.

Clarke – classic driving

However it must be stated – and somewhat churlish of me given I’m surrounded by Notts supporters – that the pitch is so flat and brilliant for batting, the boundary on the Grandstand side very short and the less said about the Middle’s bowling the better.

But you can only play in the conditions and opponents given to you.

Middlesex now need to bat for four sessions – and a minimum of 127 overs – or score 516 to win. Given they lasted less than two sessions in the first innings, the auguries are not promising.

When the…

Innings starts with a second ball dismissal (Stoneman) and swiftly followed by de Caires (b Fletcher) for another 🦆 and you still need another 516 or to bat for loads of overs, things look grim.

de Caires – oops!

By the close, after the pace of the innings has slowly moved from a stop to a crawl, the pressure of the scoreboard begins to tell and one more trudges back to the Pavilion. At 69/3 there’s only one way this is going!

When you…add all that up, you just know it’s not going to be your day/session/match!

But what you can enjoy is the skill on display…and here’s a few photos to ponder.

Always gives of his best – Test or County…it’s the same!
Which way is this one going?

How to stop the runs?

I thought it would be ‘one of those days’ when I heard that Heinz announced that they’ll be selling their ketchup in paper bottles (need to check it’s not April) and to grey overcast Lord’s conditions. Ideal for bowling!

And so it proved…Mullaney went first ball for 92. From the Pavilion roof it looked like the ball held its line, whilst he was expecting it to move down the slope? Or vice versa? Anyway…first strike to the Middle.

One of the delights of a day at the cricket is the opportunity to ‘people watch’ so this bulging pocket of a spectator in front of me intrigued me. Perhaps he knew the Middle would need to plug the runs!

TRJ having bowled so well yesterday for no reward then ripped out another three in next to no time but after a spell lasting 80 mins it was time for a rest. The overcast sky giving way to clouds and increasing sunny periods.

TRJ has been unlucky with injuries during his career and who knows how well he would have been for England? We shall never know. He has the air and gait of a Victorian ploughman trudging his weary way home as he walks to his mark but turns and changes in an instant to a fine fast-ish bowler.

Notts are eventually all out for 415 on the stroke of lunch as the sun bursts through. The last pair made 63! Fletcher 50 before giving Simpson his 6th catch but TRJ was clearly the best of bowlers.

But with Afridi back in Pakistan, stopping the runs will be a challenge for the Middle going forward. Perhaps my fellow spectator should call by the Middlesex dressing room?

How will the Middle fare? Probably better now that the sun’s out and it’s getting better to bat on but…

And exactly that…it’s a different game when the sun’s out; bordering on straightforward batting. Robson goes cheaply misjudging the new ball and de Caires magnificently run out for 5 puts the Middle at 27/2 early on but Stoneman and Handscomb dig in, see off the shine and at tea are 91/2.

Robson gets everything behind this one!

Broad is loosening up for his (assumed) next appearance here at the start of June and is still a fine bowler but he needs to let his bowling do the talking and leave the histrionics to others…it does his ‘image’ little good.

Broad – doing what he does best
Realising there’s no DRS!
Perhaps one of the last few times I’ll see him in action?
Again…more frustration!
Robson avoids this bouncer from Pattinson
De Caires doesn’t look so assured!
Pattinson in full flow

This round of matches look like heading for high scoring draws – 500 plus in the first dig seems to be the standard. And yes, we’re never satisfied but the balance between bat and ball needs to be restored if the ‘red ball reset’ is to have any chance. Can you see Australia or India or anyone else preparing flat tracks for tests? If you can, please go and lie down until you feel better!

In the blink of an eye after tea, Stoneman walks back to the Pavilion dismissed and the floodgates open – not in terms of runs, they flowed to a degree but wickets. Middlesex are dismissed just before the close for 195 and Nottinghamshire do not enforce the follow on with a lead of 220; extended to 226 in the one remaining over.

There’s only one way this match is going. Middlesex need to stop the runs tomorrow but attack the wickets and get among the runs themselves but Nottinghamshire seem to have the upper hand with the runs!

Who says no one watches the Championship? Grandstand almost as full as a Test!

Back at the Home

With Essex not playing and Surrey playing away, I’m back at the Home of Cricket for the next few days. A second division clash between top of the table Middlesex and Nottinghamshire.

Restricted view from the top of the Edrich/Compton

A good sized crowd – augmented by 1,000 or so school children as part of the Middlesex drive to encourage the sport in schools – sees two England ‘outcasts’ in Hameed and Duckett reach 104/1 at lunch against the Middle who are resting their Pakistani ace and boy, does it show!

Murtagh strikes early – luckily – whilst the others seem to be having an off day; Toby Roland-Jones (who surely has the ring of a law firm about his name) being the exception.

Duckett is approaching his whilst Hameed scores his 50 just before lunch. The scoring rate dropped (38/1 at 11.30) over the last 90 minutes as the clouds rolled in but we still have a ‘Simpsons sky’ (as per the start of each episode).

Not quite what the Middle were expecting at the toss – opting to bowl/field first. Where is the next wicket coming from?

I take advantage after lunch of sitting in the upper tier of the new Compton/Edrich stand as the pitch is on that side of the ground and witness three wickets falling fairly quickly (all caught behind giving Simpson four catches to date and nothing to do with the sky) and also aircraft inbound to Heathrow. The upper tier is so high that you can almost make out the colour of the pilots eyes! And in the teeth of a strong breeze which brings the temperature down a few degrees!

Players like ants
And with a small telephoto lens…you can see a bit more!

The players look like ants and you have a poor view of the play. It’s akin to the top of the RiverBank Stand in Adelaide, the National Stadium in St George’s, the Galadari at the Oval and several others I’m sure. Ideal for corporate and other types who just want to be seen at the cricket and drink themselves stupid.

You need a modest telephoto lens to be able to see what’s happening and whilst being at the same height as the media centre just confirms that those without TV close ups are probably as clueless as the rest of us. Sorry…it’s not for me.

The lower levels enable a better (and warmer) view. You’re probably wondering dear reader why I’m rambling on with so little about the play. That’s because there’s so little to write. Tea arrives at 227/4 with Hameed now close to his century and Mullaney close to his half.

In the Ashes players were told to practice batting on one leg – seems to be working!
And with a ‘fish eye’ look!

Other than the end to end sunshine in the first session, it’s been sunny intervals for the rest of the day and the match has the hallmark of becoming 400 plays 400 as the pitch looks bone dry and relatively easy to bat on…but let’s see!

By the close, Notts reach 329/5 and have clearly had the better day; not what the Middle expected at 11am or did they? Did they prefer not to bat first? Who knows…but I’ll be back at the Home tomorrow to see what happens.

PS in response to be inundated with one suggestion, this blog now has its own Twitter account @cricket51days – so if that makes access to these ramblings easier, then great!

Day for the diehards (again)

The car park attendant was worried that he’d be out of a job soon as a) his car park was almost empty when I arrived just before the start of play and b) everyone was parking ‘neatly’. Day 4 of county championship games are running the risk of being days for the diehards – those of us who turn up even in the worst weather since ‘it’s going to get better soon’.

Harry Duke in full flight trying to save 4 byes!

At the start of play only about 250/300 in attendance – augmented by a coach party of Yorkies (fans, not chocolate bars) – but even so upset one Essex member as he was ‘surrounded by them’. Numbers are low because, dear reader, I’m sure you realise that the good folk of Essex are extremely pious and being Sunday morning are attending to their spiritual needs but will flock to the Cloud in great numbers later! (Note to self…must stay off the strong coffee! These fantasies are getting worse!)

Let’s hope Essex v Yorkshire ‘gets better soon’! Fifteen wickets in three days play doesn’t augur well for the probability of a maximum of 25 falling on the last day.

However, within 90 minutes Yorkshire had lost their last five and managed a lead of 62, with 74 overs left in the day. Harmer – on whom so many Essex hopes lie – took two for close on 150 as the match is now 403 plays 465. Perhaps he’s missing teaming up with Porter who seems to be so far down the pecking order it’s criminal!

Harry Brook – has all the shots and class to be an England player
Harmer checking that the bails work!

At lunch Essex reach 19/0 with no alarms and by tea 119/0 again ‘alarmless’; Sir A 80no and Browne 29no – the latter playing himself into some kind of nick after his few recent innings. Yes, this match is going nowhere fast and we all knew it at 11am this morning but it’s a funny game so you never really know.

Brook – ready to bowl!

After 45 minutes more play, another drinks break and then four balls (from Duke the wicketkeeper) the teams shook hands but not before Sir A had scored his second century of the match and Browne using the time for an extended net and a half century. Time called at 167/0

The winner has been the pitch which after the first 20 minutes on Thursday has become a bats paradise – yes, it gives players the chance to learn how to build and play long innings but it’s not offering anything to the bowlers of both sides who must be very dispirited – two of the three matches here so far this season have developed into ‘bore draws’ and unless better pitches come along ‘days for the die hards’ will become ‘weeks’

Decisions, decisions…

Spoilt for choice as I embark on my 31st day of cricket watching in the last 60 days – how lucky am I?

The match at Chelmsford has the look of 400 plays 400 unless there’s something special happening whilst Surrey/Northamptonshire looks more like coming to a conclusion today.

And the forecast for Chelmsford is worse than the Oval…so the Oval it is and it didn’t take long for Surrey to take the last two wickets and enforce the follow on…207 ahead. However the clouds came over, the lights came on and a very light drizzle delayed the start of the Northants defence.

Somehow or other, we’re about 8 overs behind expectations at lunch. Never quite understand rain breaks when it’s not really raining! No one put an umbrella up, no one rushed for cover during that exceptionally light almost non-existence drizzle but we still had to wait for it to pass! Club cricketers across the land would have been straight out there!

I suppose the difference is these are professionals and can’t risk an injury but they are in the entertainment business and watching non-existent drizzle doesn’t rank high on my list of ‘how to be entertained’! I imagine the rules are made by some health and safety ‘expert’ at the ECB who probably knows the price of everything and the value of nothing or how cricket works!

Interestingly, a counter argument to ‘they’re professionals’ is that the outfield wasn’t covered or mopped up after the rain and it was okay to run around on, so why not play?

There’s always the bad light argument to add to the pot but the light was the same at the start of the innings as it was at the end of the other. Just seems odd.

I know the weather is one of the loved variables of cricket but it’s management can border on the absurd!

In terms of play, Northants reach 14/2 at lunch with Gay having been hit on the elbow twice in the last over (no common sense applied like ‘let’s go off for lunch and get things sorted’) which lasted 5 minutes and long enough for Foakes to need two drinks! Why?

After lunch…the first over of a spell and a wicket falls! To me this is one of the odd features of this season so far – I reckon I have seen that happen close to a dozen times! Atkinson does for Procter for 9 (80+no first innings) and a long ‘hang time’ gave Curran S time to move three times in perfecting the catch!

A long afternoon session (2 hrs 45 mins) was brought to an early end by the worst light of the day as the grey clouds rolled in, full of threatening rain but who knows. Surrey bowlers had kept to their lines and lengths throughout (ok, the odd exception but in the main very tight) which brought Northants to 140/7 before the umpires decided they needed a cuppa. There’s a nominal 39 overs to go but it looks like Northamptonshire will be heading up the M1 in their coach sometime this evening.

And so it came to pass, Surrey winning by an innings and 5 runs and didn’t really break into a sweat (and certainly didn’t need any spin this innings). Twelve wickets in the day shows Surrey’s class.

The Atkinson/Overton partnership really took the game away from Northamptonshire yesterday and just added scoreboard and mental pressure but Surrey would still have won but it would have taken longer.

So my decision for tomorrow has been made for me!

When there’s no one else…you have to do it yourself!
‘I bet I’m going to be caught’ thought Kerrigan!
Gay – blow after blow on the arm
When your name is too long for your shirt, give yourself an airport code!
Keogh – down the wrong line but got away with it!
Just avoids the gloves!

Strange game, cricket!

Even better weather today attracts me to the Oval for Day 2 of Surrey v Northamptonshire (I know I saw them for three days last week but that’s the way the fixture list crumbles).

The pitch at the Oval is so far to the left of the ground that it’s almost in Archbishop Tenisons’ front garden – not that the ArchBish who hasn’t been around since the 17th century would notice a cricket match in his garden, which is concrete anyway…but you get my drift!

Yesterday across the nation saw similar scoring rates so that Surrey resume today on 266/6 with Curran S in sight of his first century. But it was not to be…he lasted a short time and Northamptonshire snuck out another so that at 271/8 they were thinking of batting before lunch.

Sometimes even the umpires can’t bear to watch (only joking!)

But no! Atkinson and Overton stuck to their task and addded a record 124 for the ninth wicket before Overton went. ‘Frankie’ Worrall (last seen in these ramblings for Gloucestershire and before that for South Australia in Adelaide) lasted two balls – 6 and out – to leave Surrey at 401ao on the stroke of lunch.

Kerrigan – flexible legs?
Keogh – clearly you need bendy legs to be a spinner!
‘Frankie’ Worrall* – first ball 6
Second ball – out; same footwork (!), same shot

Northamptonshire’s performance confirmed my thoughts from last Sunday in that they lack the ‘killer’ edge in their attack and will struggle to roll sides over twice. Without this, I fear they are doomed to the Second Division (or whatever the ‘experts’ at the ECB decide to have in place next season).

Did someone lay a new pitch during the lunch break? Northamptonshire at tea are 87/5 and with little by way of established batting to come. Surrey’s bowlers have extracted a bit more pace and life from this pitch so that they have the dominant position. Northamptonshire never really got going although I must say that Will Young’s lbw looked ‘generous’ (no, not that Will Young…this is the NZ one!).

Frankie’s snazzy socks!

I suppose the thinking has to look ahead to the follow on and tomorrow – more overcast than today so…? What would you do? But there’s the last session to go.

I do feel sorry for any weed which has had the audacity to peek through the outfield here. At each break, the grounds staff are hunting them down – so any deciding to appear in the last two hours…well, this awaits:

Perhaps I should check my lawn for weeds every two hours?

Post tea and the high clouds as forecast roll in, reducing the warmth of the very sunny and pleasant afternoon. For a while, nothing really happened – bowling wise – and McManus and Procter were starting to look a bit settled but…almost on the hour, one fell then another and…

By the close, 8 down and 250ish behind – looking like following on and perhaps defeat? The complete reverse position Northamptonshire were in this time last week! Strange game, cricket

* you need to be a ‘certain vintage cricket nut’ to get Worrall’s nickname!

Alastair in his pomp

A slightly warmer day than of late greets a large number of spectators to Day 1 of Essex v Yorkshire at the Cloud County Ground (the FM has been dropped as people were expecting to dial into a radio station, and not a facilities management company) and the prospect of Root’s first first class appearance this season. Incidentally the snappers are out in force!

England’s last two captains!

Early arrival was necessary not only to gain a members car park space but also to beat the geriatrics in the race to the best seats! And by the start of play some areas were packed. Where were these people on Sunday?

Looks idyllic in Spring sunshine

Browne’s early departure in the first over and Westley’s later sees Essex lunching on 63/2 with Sir A holding things together on 31no, clearly batting himself into some kind of nick.

Yorkshire have kept to their game plan and bowled well as a group on a pitch with a reasonable green tinge; whether it gets flatter remains to be seen but yesterday’s rain was welcome for the outfield.

As often at the Cloud, the pitch position means large swathes of the ground are cordoned off squeezing members into even smaller spaces whilst the large area set aside for commentary boxes is devoid of seats/chairs but an ideal empty spot. I sometimes think that the game is being played for the benefit of someone other than the paying public and members.

The afternoon passes with sunny periods just like the Essex batting – occasional bursts of scoring interspersed with periods of maidens so much so that tea sees the score 138/2 Sir A 62no and Walter 43no – the latter carrying on from his long stay on Sunday.

The Yorkshire bowling looked less threatening with Brook (thought he was a rising star as a bat) and Root bowling for the last 25 minutes or so. Essex need to increase the scoring rate otherwise batting points will go begging and can Yorkshire take seven more in 44 overs? Well, the way Essex have been playing this season…probably but that all remains to be seen.

Again, not something you see every day!

By the close Sir A had made his century and went for 107; one of his cover drives was ‘worth the gate money alone’ as Richie used to say. Last week he couldn’t buy a run but today…he’s covered in riches!

Bess tries his best
Hill in action

Cook S was sent in as night watch for 4 overs but Walter, homing in on his best score and possibly a century for the second time in five days, managed to keep stealing the bowling.

Sending in #11 to slow down the scoring when you’re in need of batting points seems odd but there we are. Close sees Essex 234/3 having had the better of the day. I suspect Yorkshire having won the toss would have preferred Essex to be all out for that score!

The Yorkshire fast attack is best described as ‘monochrome’ – all right arm, fast medium bowlers, and, to be honest, if it were not for their numbers on their shirts you’d have difficulty distinguishing between all four.

By the close, the pitch was less green and more beige indicating that it has the potential to be a 500 plays 500 match especially as the potential from the Yorkshire bats is greater than Essex.

One interesting side issue was that 90 overs were bowled in five and a half hours and Yorkshire timed their play exquisitely so that the last ball of over 96 was bowled as the clock ticked over to 1800. Professional to the second! But the day belongs to Sir A!

Essex get out of gaol!

I can say with some degree of accuracy that the crowd at the 4th day of the Championship match at Chelmsford has doubled by lunch time to, oh, at least 200. Ok, it’s an overcast and chill day, there are other attractions locally no doubt (not sure what the ‘Ammers are up to) and the prospect of an Essex defeat will surely persuade the one-eyed Essex folk that there are better things to do on a Mayday Sunday.

After an hour and just as the new ball taken, Essex actually gain a lead but it’s taken them nine and a half sessions. By lunch, two more wickets have fallen – Critchley to a poorly chosen drive and Kushi caught behind for 30 not quite to the shiniest new ball but out nonetheless. Critchley and Walter had added 100 and Walter and Kushi 50, in quick time. So proving that it is possible to bat on this strip and raising the prospect of batting all day for a draw. Not quite what I thought yesterday!

Kushi is one of the young players Essex have and whilst it was a brief innings, it’s clear he’s a stylish and confident bat.

Kushi driving
And defending!

The lead at lunch is 36 with 5 wickets down; Walter (who only ever seems to play when Harmer is in the side?) slowly progressing to 79no and approaching his career best, but let’s not jinx it!

Which brings me to the other thought I had today is that the conditions appear to be ideal for swing, seam and plenty of wickets; other than the cold there’s little difference between todays weather and Friday’s. But I suppose it underlines the fact that science cannot explain why the ball swings in certain conditions and not others! Just as science can’t explain why bicycles don’t fall over when you ride one!

Northamptonshire need to get among the wickets and soon. They don’t want to chase too large a total and have no time to do so. Chasing 130/150 in the last session could be ‘interesting’

By mid afternoon Walter had gone for 93 just missing his best score (perhaps I jinxed him) and Essex are clearly just going to bat all day. The lead is closing in on 100 and whilst there’s plenty of overs and time, I fear Essex will look to get a lead of 150+ by 5pm and then agree a draw but there’s life (and hope yet for Northamptonshire).

Close up of Sanderson’s bowling grip
And again!

Of course, that strategy only works if you don’t lose wickets at intervals – regular or otherwise! Since at tea, another has fallen (Harmer 13) to leave Essex 88 ahead with three wickets – and 36 overs – remaining. Essex scored 52 in that two hour session. Hardly brighter cricket but needs must!

During that session the crowd has thinned out – either due to cold, the state of the match or better things to do. With such low numbers – I counted 18 spectators in the public area (and I suspect most of those were members) – the Championship is becoming even more unaffordable for counties and more dependent than ever on the one day game and ECB handouts. But then that’s probably the ECBs strategy all along!

Essex not only cleared 200 but 300 and stuck to their guns all day! Poor light after tea possibly meant Northamptonshire were restricted to spinners only but maiden after maiden saw Essex strive towards the safe harbour of a draw. The lead with 20 overs left was close to 120 which in the trash and bash game is nothing but here…

With 50 nominal minutes left, a maximum of 14 overs to chase 132, the teams shook hands. It would have been interesting to see if Essex could have used their full attack given the poor light but we’ll never know!

So well done Essex and hard luck Northamptonshire but it does underline the need for top class bowling attacks if you’re going to succeed and sustain in this Division