My 2016 cricket season
June – 1st XI Specsavers CC v Middlesex at Lord’s
I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have described this match as boring, when explaining where I had been on my days off. So why was that?
What is the point of a 500 plays 500 pitch? The first innings not completed before the start of day 4? If Messrs Strauss, Harrison and Graves want to kill off interest in the county championship to fit in more T20 games, then they are doing the right thing by playing on pitches like this one at Lord’s.
Ironically the crowd was very good on the first day (a Sunday). The Middlesex supporters must be bored to death, watching games like this. The only reason 15 wickets fell in almost three days play was that Lancashire gifted so many as they attempted to up their scoring rate (sadly only after 110 overs had been bowled for reasons only they will know themselves). Although if a couple of catches had been held on the morning of Day 3, then the match may have turned out differently.
But one sided contests like this help nobody. Thankfully the Umpires called the game off, but if it was genuinely, as was announced, on the basis of the weather forecast, the status of the game and after consultation with the players and coaches, they could have done the previous evening.
After last year’s trip to the Oval, I have now endured two totally one sided matches, not due to the relative strengths of the two sides, but due to the pitch nullifying both sides’ bowlers. Why isn’t this sort of pitch docked points? Taking turn on day 1 is unfit for cricket, 500 plays 500 is “good”. Small wonder that the England team can’t play spin.
Lancashire are not a strong Division 1 side this year. This match evidenced everything that is wrong with Lancs’ batting. Lacking in confidence, it had to be overly careful and it was simply too slow. No one could understand why there was simply no effort to push on until after the 110 overs bonus point cut off.
The contrast with Lancs’ inability, uninterest, at Lord’s in reaching a bonus point milestone was later starkly emphasized. Lancs managed, with their two more experienced batters – both well set – to go from 310/3 to 334/4 between overs 100 and 110. Middlesex managed 356/4 to 409/5 later in the same match and when Notts played Lancs in the next round they managed 345/5 to 400/7 in the same 10 overs.
So why when a quick sprint in the run rate was needed was Livingstone kept back at #7? Haseeb Hameed is one of the club’s bright lights, very bright lights. When his experience increases he will play more shots, less dot balls. He already plays all around the wicket, looking at his wagon wheels.
Like Hameed, Parkinson is another of the successful u15 and u17 county champions breaking into the side. He can expect more signing of autographs.
August – 2nds friendly v Middlesex 2nds at Radlett
From Lord’s to somewhere in a field in Hertfordshire. Player motivation can’t always be easy.
A hugely enjoyable three days of cricket, sunshine and chat. One of the bonuses of 2nd XI cricket is that everything is so accessible. You can’t hide in a small crowd and I am thankful for many insightful, open, conversations that can often begin from purely wearing a totally faded Red Rose cap.
Lancashire would be happy with the result a 166 run victory, but perhaps less so that it came on the back of strong performances from Luis Reece who scored 167 runs (yet has been released) and Stephen Parry (seemingly not considered for the Championship side). As I’ve often said, you never know what to expect with the seconds. This game proved a good mixture of experience and providing youth with important experience of 4 day cricket. I look forward to watching more of the likes of Bohannon and Rob Jones; two prospects. The production line continues from age group cricket, through the academy to second team. The next step is the crucial one.
Seeing the reverse sweep in the fourth over, is a little alarming as a first scoring stroke but effective in moving the field around. Thankfully, it was put away after that as Luis made his second century at Radlett. Would be remiss not to mention Ravi Patel with 14 wickets in the match.
2nd XI Trophy Semi v Kent at Beckenham
Leaving aside the controversy of the venue, it was undoubtedly a welcome bonus for me for this 5th semi final in 8 years to be played in London / the South East rather than ‘at home’ in Lancashire. Rain in the morning allowed for plenty of views to be exchanged whiling the hours away before a mid afternoon start.
Once more Matt Parkinson showed his undoubtedly promise with 4/17 from 5 excellent overs. He and captain Parry ensuring that the good Kent start came to nothing as the Duckworth Lewis tables enabled a strong win. Only cloud on the horizon was to see the clearly rapid Saqib Mahmood limp off mid over.
After all the venue fuss, I wonder did all the Members turn up for the final?
1st XI Specsavers CC v Surrey at The Oval
To evidence the gulf between 1st team and 2nd team cricket – with and without intensity, look no further than Rob Jones’s debut in any form of cricket for Lancashire at the Oval. Fluent runs in the 2s but coming in at 99/4 soon to be 99/5 he did well to defend for over two hours, but looked totalled becalmed. More surprisingly, was that his fielding suffered also. Still feel he has a future.
Surrey’s first innings over-rate was awful. Nor will that improve whilst umpires are so generous with their ‘allowances’ within the calculation. How Surrey ended up only -2 after the first innings is simply beyond me. They took 40 minutes more than Lancs to bowl 79 overs, a mere 5 hours 40 minutes (an average of less than 14 per hour). In that time they should have bowled 85 overs, within the rules the umpires must have allowed for over 20 minutes of delays – ridiculous.
Lancs were totally outclassed by Surrey, even Ashley Giles admitting winning the toss was their highlight. But should they have bowled first? However, if one or two aspects had gone the other way, it might have been closer. Aside from crucial dropped (and missed) catches, given the ease of batting (numbers 9,10 and 11 made it look like a net session) on the morning of Day 4 – what would have happened had Petersen not holed out to prompt a dramatic collapse 26/6 in less than hour? Or if Croft had not followed immediately, drained from keeping duties in 30 degree heat for over 140 overs?
Even if Brooke Guest scores a pair in the next match playing as a ‘young’ keeper, the bonus would be dramatic: a Captain, top 5 bat and “best” fielder in the club, fit and alert and not setting the tone with 4 byes of the first ball of an innings. And why not use the energy of youth as a fielding substitute rather a fast bowler? Everything, other than slip fielding, seems to remain on seniority within the club.
Talking of setting the tone, I noticed, Lancs’ huddle actually sat down during a drinks break on Day 2, repeated at the warm up on Day 4.
In previous years having noted the excellent viewing available at Hove (the old Gilligan stand), the view is certainly impressive from above the site-screen at the Pavillion End at the Oval. Thanks.
Player of the season: Haseeb Hameed (4 centuries whilst opening when a teenager), Jos Buttler for the one day award. Young player of the year Has clearly. Luke Procter deserves a special mention and his cap. Like others this time last year, a three year contract may be offered?
Finally, good luck to Gavin Griffiths and Luis Reece. Decision to release such talent is beyond me. Lancashire are short of top order batting options and release the season’s top scorer from the seconds – why? Both are good enough to remain in the game.