Day 41 of cricket!

Today is day 41 of watching live cricket since the start of March so I rock up to the Cloud to join how many more to watch the end of the friendly between First Class Counties XI v NZ. I’m the eighth car in the car park so numbers don’t look good!

And the spectators on the right need to be moved? 🤔

By 11.20 the spectators had just about outnumbered the stewards and late arrivals would have missed the first wicket of the day. Haines caught behind for 14. Is this the breakthrough the Kiwis are looking for?

Stewarding is a fine balancing act between safety and welcoming and ok, it’s not the most exciting or well paid job going so rule following is probably top of the job requirements. Given there’s about as many spectators as total runs needed (264) an officious approach may just be silly.

So much so in that one steward took great delight in moving one lone spectator from an area beside the sight screen – doing no harm and at least 100 metres from the nearest human!. The spectator was not best pleased…especially when minutes later two others moved into the seats he had been thrown out of, but by that time Mr Jobsworth had moved on!

You’ll gather, dear reader, from this ramble that there’s little by way of excitement so far to write about!

But to pick up a point I raised yesterday about spectators not asking for autographs etc I’m told that this is an ECB ‘directive’ and nothing to do with Essex CCC. Well, tell that to the Surrey and other players who gladly welcome autographs and selfies at the Oval, and on the boundary at Lord’s and (best of all) the NZ players signing autographs at the back of the Pavilion yesterday lunch time!

Methinks it’s easy to blame the ECB but counties need to look closer to home first!

But back to the action! Well, activity rather than action! After a nondescript 100 minutes and a rain break, lunch was taken early with the FCC 98 short of their target and 70 overs left. I suspect we’ll all be gone around tea time. Compton presses on to 70no and Gubbins 30no as the Kiwi quicks appear to go through the motions and have a reasonable workout before the test starts.

If sheer force of runs gets you on the England radar then Compton should be there already; what worries me is his back leg which seems to be left to think for itself in his stance and a few Yorkers could test him. Why are they no longer in fashion?

Within 80 minutes after lunch it was all over. Compton and Gubbins dramatically changed gear to achieve a win by seven wickets. Compton went for 119 – trying to be too clever against the spinner and his back leg let him down. But a fine knock nonetheless. Gubbins reached his half century but Ryan Patel scored the winning runs with a fine cover drive.

Not the slickest keeping
Patel ducks a fast one from Tickell
Gubbins driving
And Patel drives the winning runs

So what have we learnt from this glorified extended net? Seventeen plays twelve doesn’t work for the team of 17 – it’s too big as a single unit to provide eleven players with ‘proper’ match readiness. The Kiwis’ class on Friday was shown in spades whereas the FCC looked like a local league side at times.

NZ batting could be their weak link come Thursday whilst their array of fast bowlers gives them a lot of options. Blundell has a hard act to follow and could grow into the keeping role a la Bairstow; spin options look limited even though Patel has taken all 10 in a test – so he’s no mug! But dropping/missing six chances just makes the challenge even greater.

FCC won this match in 45 minutes on Day 3 with local boy Porter having great success on his first real outing this season. He’s struggled to get in the Essex side due to overseas signings! Calls for a England call up on the back of those 45 minutes I think are premature but take wickets galore and improve his batting/game awareness (not quite as bad as Ollie Robinson’s walk to square leg in Hobart) and who knows?

Compton’s purple patch and weight of runs should force him into contention at some stage this summer; Sibley I think is still work in progress. Blatherwick and Gibbon show early signs of promise whilst James should really be a bat who bowls and not vice versa. Haines…not sure but only seen him this once.

And a shame that none of these scores or wickets count in averages or career records but a useful marker nonetheless!

The season now enters the trash and bash with tests sprinkled around; I wonder what the date will be by the time I’ve watched another 41 days?

@cricket51days

Numbers…

Cricket revolves around numbers – runs scored, runs against, wickets lost, wickets taken – so much so that the numbers have to balance; there can only be one occasion when they don’t and that’s at the end of a winning game. One side must score at least one more than the other to register a win.

Jamieson – how did that miss?

The other number of concern is that they’re 11 players a side. In this game at the Cloud, there’s 11 fielding and two batting but the 11 who field can seemingly not have to bat! This doesn’t sit well with me but that’s the modern way of tourist matches.

But back to the numbers! In recent times names and numbers have been added to players shirts to help identification and I must say it does help. But here…who are the players? The numbers on the shirts are covered by long sleeve sweaters; the scorecard is completely blank so you need to fill it yourself but you’re not told who’s who? And as for the scoreboard don’t get me started! It easier to rely on the internet and websites than it is the scoreboard!

Ok it’s a friendly match, not first class and not that great in terms of quality from the FCC XI but the ECB still have the gall to charge £15 per day for what? Unnamed players playing badly?

NZ declare at precisely 100 overs for 362/9 inc one ‘retired’ – Henry for 65no. Fletcher 50 no and Patel 36no add 64 in 45 minutes against some pretty innocuous bowling by FCC; it’s at this point in an innings bowlers show their true worth and to let NZ go from 219/8 to 362 without taking a wicket is poor, but there we are.

The FCC lunch at 59/1 with Sibley gone; his new stance/approach looked strained/stressed and far from comfortable. Compton goes mid afternoon for 39 and taking the chance to watch side on, (anywhere on the ground that’s not in the teeth of a cold breeze or so sheltered as to be able to fry eggs on the ground) his stance has too much weight over front foot so that the back leg waggles! Pin him back against the stumps and…?

Sibley…shouldering arms
Compton…too far forward?
Henry and Compton

From the NZ aspect, Henry and de Grandhomme look good; Jamieson looks out of sorts/match practice to start with going for close on 8 per over. Which begs the general question of how will players from the IPL will cope next week going straight into a test? We now have Tickner bowling (but not batting) same with Duffy before lunch, Fletcher takes over the gloves, and Williamson is fielding – all good match practice but…just jars.

de Grandhomme in full flow
Kyle Jamieson

And so it continues, just like tag wrestling but who’s on the field and who’s not? You tell me!

By tea FCC reach 143/4 with Haines 41no in steady and unspectacular form but that’s what his team needs!

Unfortunately after tea things start to go awry and wickets fall galore. This is a professional effort by the Kiwi’s and a near full strength test side against, and let’s be honest, a makeshift team of county players who don’t feature in the trash and bash.

Spectator numbers dwindled after tea – possibly close to 700 at its peak and a good number of NZ fans too!

By the close FCC had succumbed to 247ao with Lyndon James scoring a dogged 52. The Kiwis lead by 115. The last pair failed to bat ‘sensibly’ and now need to come out to bowl the one remaining over of the day. That would not have happened in times past.

And finally an apology to any of my dear readers who were upset by my comments yesterday on gardening. For the record, I’m also not keen on DIY, oysters, crabmeat, jobsworths, white vans in country lanes, patronising newsreaders, tea, rudeness, cold callers who call me by my first name when I answer the phone, and…sorry, there’s a list too long to number! 🤣

@cricket51days

There’s something missing…?

Having spent two days tidying up my garden in readiness for Spring/Summer (how can anyone take pleasure from gardening I have no idea! It’s purgatory!) the prospect of four unplanned extra days of cricket lifted my soul.

So things look even better when a grey overcast morning breaks into sunny periods as I write this at lunch on day 1 of a four day ‘friendly’ between a First Class County XI and NZ at the Cloud in Chelmsford.

It almost has the feel of an old fashioned tourist match (the last Kiwi tour match here I recall was a sell out, lasted three days against a class Essex side) with ostensibly eleven playing eleven and no ‘funny’ options.

In the past it’s been 13 against 13 or less, retire when you feel like it, treat it like an extended net or not as the case may be or decide not to play the last day as it’s ‘too hot’ said one Indian touring team in the recent past!

The FCC XI is essentially a mix of up and coming players and a few who have ‘been around for a while and not going anywhere’ but more relevant are not likely to feature in their county’s ‘trash and bash’ of the 20/20 beer fests.

NZ win the toss and bat; reach 74/2 at lunch with Latham (captain – no Williamson!) and Conway back indoors. It’s been an all seam attack so far of young quicks looking to make their way or in Porter’s case get a game here at the Cloud.

The pick has to be Jack Blatherwick – great name, straight out of a Jane Austen novel – who seems to be able to move the ball more than most; (Blatherwick that is, not Jane Austen – not sure she ever played first class cricket but then history may not have recorded it! 🤣). I suspect it’s swing rather than seam but from a distance at long on, it’s hard to be certain.

What is startling is the size of the crowd – close to 500 I’d say – given the complete lack of marketing by either the ECB or Essex, but then that just underlines where the priorities are!

By tea, after a nondescript afternoon session NZ reach 167/5. We now have 12 playing 11 as Ethan Bamber appears in the afternoon. The main news of the day being that Robinson is unfit (‘again’, or should that be ‘still’?) and presumably Bamber brought into the squad as a replacement. Will Young went for 46, Blundell quite cheaply and Mitchell 56 as the runs accrued. Am not sure where this match is going but that’s the beauty of the game I suppose?

A few photos of Will Young looking very sound
Blundell on the other hand looked jittery

A little flurry of wickets straight after tea hints that this pitch will take spin and NZ get into a tail spin but Fletcher (a name very well known in these parts) and Henry (well known from over the Thames) steady things and move from 219/8 to 298/8 at the close with Henry top scoring on 65no

The fast bowling has generally been much of a muchness, spin adequate but not really penetrative and the batting steady. But there’s something missing from this match…edge, needle, no real point to it other than practice for the tourists; it needs that little ‘extra’ to come alive and we live in hope that it turns up tomorrow!

@cricket51days

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!