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Surrey’s festival of cricket drew a huge crowd – let’s extend it to every county
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Surrey’s festival of cricket drew a huge crowd – let’s extend it to every county

1) Red-letter day at red-ball festival

The match between Surrey and Essex at the Oval drew a crowd of more than 6,000 on the first day, Sunday being designated “the festival of red-ball cricket”. Even with plenty of weather about, almost 14,000 attended across the duration of the match, a record this century.

None of the events around the ground were particularly innovative (a talk from Alec Stewart, the outfield open at lunch, an Xbox family zone etc) but the branding was. It also takes considerable effort to coordinate such a day. Congratulations to all involved.

Other counties focus similar efforts on other matches in the calendar, but surely the time has come to select a couple of days in the season (allowing all counties a home game) and promote the Championship nationwide? Who knows, maybe the ECB could be prevailed upon to release their contracted players and get the kids in to see Mark Wood bowling to Jos Buttler with three slips and a gully?

2) Home Sweet Home for Patel and Lawes

It should get boring writing about Surrey’s Championship season – you can wait a long time for something as unexpected as their huge defeat that closed the first tranche of matches – but it doesn’t. Partly that’s due to the English season’s challenge of maintaining excellence in differing conditions, even with different balls, but it’s also a product of the need to maximise the use of resources.

That Jamie Smith provided the backbone of a par first innings with a century was no surprise but Ryan Patel, in at No 7, matched the new England wicketkeeper’s ton in the second dig, extending Essex’s target from manageable to unlikely on a pitch that had consistently offered something to the bowlers. Over to Tom Lawes to carry the leaders to victory, his four for 26 securing a 13-point swing over the team that started the match in second.

Both were playing just their third red-ball match of the season; both are local lads; and both came through the academy system at the Oval. Having money is one thing; using it wisely is another.

Essex’s star batter, Jordan Cox, missed almost all the match having had an appendix operation. Surely in such circumstances, the match referee should be allowed the discretion to apply the concussion replacement protocol and return the game to XI v XI?

Jamie Smith walks out to bat for Surrey against Essex.View image in fullscreen

3) Abell proves up to the task

Somerset leapfrogged Essex into second after a remarkable win at home to Warwickshire. After Michael Burgess had hit 147 from No 8 (not really fair that, is it?) and Oliver Hannon-Dalby had taken six for 56, Alex Davies declared, setting Craig Overton’s men 410 for the win on the last day.

But Somerset’s Tom Tom Tom Tom club beat out a rhythm of runs (Kohler-Cadmore 49, Lammonby 26, Abell 152*, Banton 81) and with James Rew hitting a quickfire 57, the Taunton faithful could cheer another victory. Warwickshire tried eight bowlers, but outside Hannon-Dalby and Michael Booth, the other six took just three wickets in the match. Without a win all season, the Bears will have to find some penetration if they are to avoid the drop come the autumn phase of the programme.

4) Take wickets? Kent can’t

So too must Kent, who are rock bottom, 30 points adrift from safety and looking doomed. It’s no fault of the batting unit, who compiled two innings over 340, but left the Utilita Bowl with a six-wicket defeat after being asked to follow on. That was enough to lift Hampshire to fourth and on to the fringe of the race for the pennant.

Kent have tried 14 options with the ball this season, but it’s telling that Wes Agar has the best average at 34. Matt Parkinson is the leading wicket taker with 22 but, as is the lot of the leg-spinner, he’s paying a hefty 57 runs apiece for them. In contrast, the teams they will have to overhaul to stay in Division One, Worcestershire and Warwickshire, have three and four bowlers under 24 respectively. Catches win matches, but bowlers save seasons.

5) The James Anderson end at Old Trafford?

It was Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy at Southport as the oldest swinger in town warmed up for his swansong at Lord’s with the first six Nottinghamshire wickets. Even he (and Nathan Lyon, making Lancashire’s attack the most wicket-laden ever to play in a first-class match) couldn’t get past Joe Clarke and Lyndon James, whose undefeated stand of 136 ensured the match petered out into a rain-affected draw.

Will Jimmy Anderson play for Lancashire again? England are already clasping him close to their bosom, so maybe not, but maybe August in a One-Day Cup match alongside Rocky Flintoff? Romantics would love that. How about 8 August v Middlesex at Old Trafford as a final farewell?

Jimmy Anderson playing at Southport.View image in fullscreen

6) Belter of a match with Bracey the star

If “Singh Dale … McIlroy … Bracey” isn’t quite “Jones … Bowden … Kasprowicz”, try telling that to the people at Cheltenham and the thousands more watching online.

Last ball of the match, Glamorgan on 592 for nine, the scores level, the umpires conferring, the batters conferring, the field moving, the record books about to be tossed out of the pavilion window.

Ajeet Singh Dale, bowling superbly, finds Jamie McIlroy’s edge and it flies high and fast towards the leaping James Bracey who, with no gauntlet on his right hand (prepared to throw down the stumps), takes a sensational one-handed catch and Imran Tahirs his way round the ground. After that, nine other catches and a double hundred, we can forgive him. Neither side deserved to lose and neither did, the match tied. County Championship cricket won though.

Source: theguardian.com