My 2014 cricket season
April – 2nds friendly v Sussex 2nds at Blackstone
Not the easiest ground to find, and possibly the smallest car park … so I had to park up in Blackstone village. Lancs’ website had suggested this was a one day game, followed by a two day game, so was slightly surprised to see the teams dressed in whites for a three day friendly.
Pleasant enough day, although it did feel like the match was in a field in the middle of nowhere. A little more sun and less wind and that could have been a bonus. As for the cricket Crofty looked lost, Karl Brown looked good for his century, but my jury is still out on Kyle Jarvis. What does that say about the state of cricket in Zimbabwe?
Undermining comment of the day must go to the Sussex contracted player yelling at a trailist “what you running backwards for?” when the latter was trying to cut of a boundary. Sussex don’t bother with team spirit then, clearly. Or maybe their pros are just selfishly worried about being out performed by a youngster from Zimbabwe with first class experience. That was a disgrace.
May – 1st XI LVCC v Middlesex at Lord’s
From freezing cold on the first day to blazingly hot on the fourth day. But the weather not only made a difference for the spectators, it allowed the toss to be possibly vital, as Lancs batted under cloud on day one, whilst Middlesex enjoyed the sun on the second day. Why does so much rest on the toss?
This match gave me a first sight of Jos Buttler. There seem to me to be 4 aspects to the wicket-keeping debate:
1) the need to average above 30 rather than below. The last possibly only regular Lancs keeper to average over 30 was Luke Sutton; but
2) catches win matches (and sometimes championships). What price catching / missing Mark Ramprakash in single figures in the final game of the season in 2007?
3) But Jos Buttler was, simply, a breath of fresh air coming out to bat at a score of 83/4 before lunch on the first day, to score the first of two half centuries in the match, then there is
4) potential. Buttler is only 23, he can improve his wicket-keeping. But 23 is same as Luis Reece. Both born in Somerset, why does it take so long to develop players within the Lancs structure?
But welcome Jos.
Too many players seem too good for the seconds but struggling in the firsts. Don’t think we deserved too much out of this game.
From here is looks like it will be tough to survive in division one. Talk about missing Simon Katich!
June – 2nd XI v Leicestershire 2nds at Arundel (2nds T20 finals day)
Confession time: this was the first ever Twenty20 game that I had watched. It is also 20 years since I first watched Andrew Flintoff play for Lancs’ second XI at the Oval, 1994 revisited
Whilst, I certainly don’t think Fred looks unfit coming out of retirement, he clearly is not ready for first team action, and I am not at all surprised that the club coaches came to the same conclusion. Like them, I do however, welcome him back to the club. If it is to be a long term venture – Fred has been quoted as wishing to play for 4 years to help Lancs win trophies, my suggestion would be that he also plays for the Lancs CCC Colts side (rather than St Annes) in the Northern League as their one senior player allowed much as Jason Swift did in their first year. That would sit nicely alongside his “working with and encouraging the youngsters” and he should find it inspiring, whilst gaining match practice.
But what of the cricket? Arundel Castle is another ground ticked off, but, simply Leicestershire looked like they wanted it more. Matt Boyce batted well, but interestingly Jordan Clark’s 50 was quicker. Lancs allowed Leics to score 20-30 too many, mainly due to 13 wides and insufficent dot balls (22 compared with 32).
It looked more like a training exercise for Lancs, more practice for out-of-form batsmen (Reece, Procter) and more overs for out of sorts bowlers (Jarvis) – irrelevant to their T20 credentials. Or more precisely a single over for Jarvis – what has become of the former Zimbabwe test player?
1st XI LV County Championship match v Somerset at Taunton (First day only)
Watched this with a couple of friends who were due to see their first complete day of cricket. Their previous experience was dipping into a couple of Somerset matches against recent touring sides. Thankfully a day of championship cricket at less than 2.5 runs an over, hasn’t put them off. But they might be off to Twenty20 next time!
Arriving around 11:30 with the covers still on, prospects did not look good. But not long after settling into seats almost behind the bowlers arm, the covers slowly came off and we were only facing a loss of 9 overs. Plenty of time to count the four, yes four, pavilions at Taunton; Andrew Caddick, Colin Atkinson, Old and Ondaatje Pavillions makes the old joke of Liverpool having a cathedral to spare a little thin.
Grateful, but a little surprised that Lancs chose to bat on a clearly greenish strip. The day clearly belonged to Paul Horton – what a crucial knock. He was responsible for 21 out of 24 4s hit on the day, remarkable when you consider Alex Davies edged one through the slips and Tom Smith almost played on whilst cutting for another. Good to hear the reception Jos Buttler received, he was clearly well loved in these parts. But as I say the day was Horton’s: a score of 140 compares very favourably with no-one else topping 18. Thanks.
July – 2nd XI friendly match v Middlesex 2s at Merchant Taylors (First three days only)
Just how big are the playing fields at Merchant Taylors? Impossible to walk all the way round, there must be at least eight cricket pitches. The walk within the school grounds was nearly as long as that from Moor Park station.
This match was being played on the ground that suffered a wash-out earlier in the season in what should have been its first championship (and first class) match. I was told that the previous first class match at Merchant Taylors had been played on the ground next door, so strictly speaking this seemed to be on the Old Merchant Taylors Ground rather than the School ground – perhaps the two closest first class grounds?
Given it was on a ground identified to be used for first class matches, I was a little surprised by the amount of uneven bounce, right from the start of the match. So much that even Chris Rimmer was confident the match would not go 4 days, which was good news at least for me as I could not go on the Friday.
Much of the talk at the match, amongst members, was naturally the test versus India which started during the match, and many spectators deserted in favour of Lord’s. Everyone it would seem has an opinion on Simon Kerrigan, who as we now know was left out of that test and subsequently from the squad for the next test.
To start with Lancs 2s were up against a Middx side that included Dan Christian, Joe Denly, James Harris and Ollie Rayner (maybe 300 first class matches and almost 50 international appearance between them). But at least it meant a testing game for a more youthful and inexperienced Lancs side. 1st team call ups by Middlesex evened things up when three of their side were substituted to due to first team commitments, although Harris’s were for Glamorgan as he left the game to go back there on loan. The heavy roller (maybe) and changed personnel almost allowed Lancs to make a game of it but certainly pushed it well into the fourth day.
Do first team call ups undermine the integrity of the match, of the 2nd team even? Personally, I don’t beleive so, but coaches can push the boundaries when they know someone has no chance to fulfill the fixture, but the facility to substitute is good for unforeseen circumstances.
Comic moment has to go to Liam Hurt for successfully simultaneously lifting Arron Lilley and Tom Bailey: one on each arm, whilst walking the boundary rope.
Finally I have to give credit to Liam Livingstone for progressing from 85 not out with a 646 in three balls to reach his hundred. Nervous nineties? Shame to hole out two balls later. Excellent innings, in complete contrast to anything else I saw in the first three days. Hopefully Liam will have first team opportunities sometime soon and at a time when he is in form. Extras even top scored for Middlesex in their first innings, due mostly to the way the ball bounced (or not) and some wayward bowling. Across both Middlesex innings extras managed 110 runs, in what ended up a reasonably tight match. Credit also due to Ashley Gowers (top score for the 2s prior to this match was all of 25) for making the most of the new ball to record an 85 ball 100, his fifties coming up in 43 and 42 balls). Seems wicket keeping runs in the family as he is the nephew of John Simpson.
August – 2nd XI SET semi-final v Sussex 2s at Horsham
Sometimes, it is worth being optimistic in the face of all the evidence.
Semis (and finals) are bonuses for supporters. Well worth the trip for my monthly cricket fix and my 4th SET semi-final. Scorecards: 2009 revisited, 2010 revisited, 2012 revisited, 2014
An early morning ‘phone call to Horsham CC had confirmed it was raining hard. So there was little point of taking the 9am train. However, having booked the day off work, in advance, I was bored enough to ensure I took the 11am train but with little encouragement from internet weather websites. Sure enough, shortly after my arrival at the ground at 12.30pm it was raining again – hard.
It is a strange feeling being one of less than half a dozen sitting quietly in the pavilion, waiting. All the talk was whether the bowl out would be indoors at Hove or whether the Horsham wicket and run up areas would be dry enough. But perseverance was rewarded as the clear up started under clearer skies. Before long the Sussex team were summoned back from Hove only unloading their kit at 3pm.
The increasing number of spectators were, I think, slightly bemused that by 3.30pm a 17 over game was declared but to start at 4.15pm. It was almost like a challenge for more rain to come. It also prompted a Sussex member to declare: “at least there would be a proper match”. Ironic, when so many of the older members are supposed to be averse to T20 cricket! And then the odd aggrieved remark along the lines of “wasn’t Karl Brown playing in the T20 finals last Saturday?” from someone who might have known better.
And so to the cricket: Lancs were always in control moving into their sixth consecutive final, due to some tight bowling and controlled batting. Two contrasting innings; Sussex playing the ball around so with less dot balls, whereas Lancs’ batters looked that they wanted to hit almost everything out of the park. Afterall it was more like Twenty20 than a 50 over game.
There is often a debate over short sharp singles. Today, Mattie McKiernan ran out Luke Wells, one of the more experienced Sussex players, with an excellent pick up and throw from mid wicket. However, his next two attempts, under no pressure, were somewhat wilder. On such narrow matters matches can turn.
For once, a balanced 2nd eleven game with both sides playing 7 / 8 contracted players, although Sussex 2s had the more experienced XI in terms of games played. Praise where it’s due: it was a good call by Mark Chilton, as coach, to leave out Gav Griffiths of the travelling twelve players, to my complete surprise. Proving how little about selection and cricket in general I know!
September – 1st XI v Sussex at Hove
Cricket administrators are often criticised. But here are two aspects that Sussex CCC do right. The fourth day is free on the presentation of the tickets for the previous 3 days, and they operate a sit anywhere policy on Day 4 as a hook, presumably to greater involvement and appreciation.
So it was back to my favourite South Stand at the Sea End – the replacement for the much loved Gilligan Stand for the last day. Thankfully as, that also represents something they have got wrong. The 100 seats up there are reserved for life for those who have “bought” their own seat. Only 20 appear to have been sold, bad pricing clearly, as it offers the best view in Hove. The view and lunch by the sea (envious of the swimmers) leads to a genuinely good day at the cricket.
The first three days merely set up an intriguing finale that only finished after 5pm on the final day. Pleasant enough swapping stories at the boundary edge, bemusedly watching Chris Jordan’s lengthy follow through and his relentless testing of Ben Brown’s acrobatics behind the stumps as he extracted (too much) bounce with bouncer after bouncer.
Talking of newly centrally ECB contracted players ….. clearly, as everyone knows, Jos Buttler is far from the finished article. This game was not one of his better ones. He could be cruelly exposed in the Ashes next year. Has his England chance come too soon? If Lancs were perhaps a 100 runs short throughout the game, wicket keeping errors can easily add up to that amount. The missed stumping glaringly obvious, the possible nick by Ed Joyce less clear.
Nothing quite worked for Lancs, the game was a summary of their season. Chapple & Anderson could easily have won the game, if Nash, Joyce or Ziadi managed to nick off once on the countless play and misses en route to big scores. Nothing went right for Lancashire. Small margins again and again.
More positively Luke Procter’s first innings was the best I’ve seen from him, not the highest, but certainly the best and soundest. Plenty of fight was just what was ordered. His problem is where does he fit into the team? Batting at eight is not his place. I hope he can sort his technique to fit into a top three, it’s difficult to see what else is available, at the moment. Still, well batted, Luke, great display.
The day 4 talking point was when to declare, or should they take the extra points for a draw? Praise due for trying to force something, anything. What were at the time, considered irresponsible shots (and were in the first innings) should with hindsight be considered needed aggression to score the runs, once they’d decided to go for something. Positive cricket is what we have been crying out for.
Lancs currently appear to be a yo-yo club on the way back to Division 2. The question is are they better than in 2012 when they were last relegated. I’d say, yes, we have displayed fight under Chapple’s leadership and have promising youngsters, next year we need to start playing them – only Luis Reece was given a crack at Division 2 championship cricket. Next year, wherever we are, more need to be promoted and evaluated rather than kept in the seconds.
2014 will be remembered for (probably) Ashwell Prince and Glen Chapple’s last matches and certainly Kyle Hogg’s last match. Each will be sorely missed and hard to replace. Good luck in whatever the future holds. But we need to move on and I look forward to watching their replacements.
Player of the season, undoubtedly Tom Smith, but special mention to Steven Croft who fought for and secured his place back in the first team. Young player of the year: was there one? Yes: Alex Davies. One Day player of the year: Junaid? No: Karl Brown.