County cricket talking points: Somerset win big as Middlesex are docked points

Croak

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Authors: Rio Sports

Ball one: HH looking AOK for LCCC and ECB

With less than half the scheduled overs bowled (in Manchester, in September – who’d have thunk it?) the showdown at the top of Division One turned into a damp squib, nine points each and as you were. There was time for Haseeb Hameed to dig in with 88, more than twice the score managed by any other batsman, ground out in five and a half hours on solid defence and occasional attack. While it would be absurd not to take him on an Ashes Tour, whether he makes the starting XI will depend on a few more innings of this kind delivered in the next few months. All talk of scoring rates, positive body language and taking the game to the bowlers (the “Alex Hales” case, one might say) can be shelved, because 30-0 at lunch will be a very good score with Patrick Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood firing on all cylinders. No opening option is better suited to leaving it or blocking it, as the Kookaburra ball fades and softens – the runs can come quickly at No6, No7 and No8.

Ball two: Tres bien from Tres

The big winners – indeed, the only winners – in Division One, were Somerset. They won the battle of the basement with Warwickshire, who look doomed to play Division Two cricket in an echoey Edgbaston next year. After young captain Tom Abell found some runs in this challenging first season leading the side, old (some might say very old) captain Marcus Trescothick celebrated his recent contract extension with a four-hour undefeated century that set Warwickshire far too many, despite some fight being shown as the weather threatened to add a fourth draw to its haul last week. The man still called “Banger” due to his youthful fondness for the foodstuff is nearly 42 now, but has barely aged since he gave up the international game. Unlike actual bangers, lean might be the word to describe Banger’s recent returns but, with three crucial matches to play as Somerset eye survival, form might be turning up to join class just when needed.

Ball three: Chris Read waves farewell to Trent Bridge

After weeks and weeks of writing about Nottinghamshire winning match after match, Daryl Mitchell stepped in to stop the Midlands juggernaut with a brilliant undefeated century to wrap up a win that took Worcestershire 36 points clear in second, albeit having played a match more than the pursuing pack. Perhaps (shades of Bradman after the three cheers at the Oval in 1948 – though nobody really believes that story surely) too many Nottinghamshire batsmen had a tear pricking the eye at the thought of captain, keeper and record breaker Chris Read playing his final match at Trent Bridge. Plenty in the crowd did after all.

Chris Read
Chris Read of Nottinghamshire is given a guard of honour by the Worcestershire side as he walks out to bat on day three of their Division Two match at Trent Bridge. Photograph: Harry Trump/Getty Images

Ball four: Northamptonshire get wake up call from Sussex late order

Northamptonshire went third with a win over Sussex that illustrates the perils of enforcing the follow-on. After Ben Duckett’s barnstorming 193 and Rory Kleinveldt’s five wickets had secured a first-innings lead of 254, the visitors were asked to have another go and, possibly with the freedom of not having much to lose and possibly against bowlers consciously feeling fatigued and subconsciously feeling they had earned a rest thank you very much, they made a much better fist of things. David Wiese joined the gifted Jofra Archer with the Northants’ bowlers having delivered over 130 overs and taken 18 wickets and presumably with half a mind on a massage and a sit down. 127 runs were plundered in the next 25 overs, leaving Northants with a tricky 140 to get – which, to their credit, they did, four down. Alex Wakeley’s decision was vindicated but there are easier ways to win a cricket match when you are so far ahead.

Ball five: Colly’s not for wobbling

That said, timing a declaration is no easy matter as Joe Root found out at Headingley and Paul Collingwood found out at Chester-le-Street. Perhaps with the West Indies’ chase in mind, Colly held off inviting Kent to have another go until he had 370 runs banked and no chance of defeat. The visitors, unsurprisingly, never got near that target but, despite the efforts of Durham’s newly anointed record wicket-taker, Graham Onions, a previously migraine-stricken Sam Billings and Mitch Claydon (not the worst No11) held on for the draw. Got to lose a few you expect to win if you want to avoid turning big leads into draws – not that it matters much in terms of points in Durham’s blighted season.

Ball six: Man with clipboard and stopwatch steps in

As a student, it takes a little while to grasp the concept of Equity in English Law (some of us probably never did), but its maxims – supplementing Common Law – can be very useful in getting to the right result when the Law is behaving like an ass. Surely the ECB should have drawn on such discretion in considering Middlesex’s penalty for a slow over rate in the now infamous “crossbow match” at the Oval last month. As the contest drifted to an inevitable draw, Middlesex could have declared and slung down a few meaningless overs but, in so doing, recovered the two overs they failed to bowl in the first innings, restoring their over rate to the prescribed level over the match as a whole. Gaming the system possibly – but everybody does it and, as we see all day every day in Test cricket, over rate regulations treated with something bordering contempt by all parties, until a suspension looms and panic sets in. But no. Middlesex have been docked two points by someone because them’s the rules and there’s no appeal. One place above the drop, they are points the 2016 champions can ill-afford to give up.

This is an article from the The 99.94 Cricket Blog
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