First class cricket is dead. It’s boring, predictable, and nobody likes it. In fact, the only way to save it is to make the players wear coloured clothing, play music every time there’s a boundary, and cut the duration of matches to two days. Oh, and scrap the counties and create artificial city-based franchises packed full of overseas ‘stars’ too. Then the bloody thing might become more watchable.
Sorry about that. Tom Harrison suddenly hacked into my computer. Fortunately a real cricket supporter is now back in control.
Yesterday was a fantastic finale to the county championship. For the second year running things went down to the wire. Somerset retained their division one status after bowling out Middlesex (more about them later) for a paltry 113. And Hants managed to stay up without the help of the ECB for a change. They held on magnificently for a draw on the final day. Who’d have thought that batting time could prove so captivating? Not the T20 sell outs that’s for sure.
Down in division two, my team Worcestershire wrapped up the title after defeating Durham … who might not have any players left next year. Keaton Jennings announced this week that he’s leaving the Riverside. Apparently he thinks it’s more important to move counties than move his feet.
I’m absolutely delighted with Worcs’ success so please forgive this personal indulgence. We regularly lose our best players to wealthier counties – we even lost Tom Kohler Cadmore mid-season this summer – yet the club bounces back time and again. The squad is packed full of young English players, many of whom are local, and it’s clear that Steve Rhodes and the management are doing things the right way.
Daryl Mitchell, one of the few experienced heads, has been a rock this year. Talented young guys like Joe Clarke and Brett D’Oliveira have batted around him, and new skipper Joe Leach has bowled admirably. He might only be medium pace, but Leach’s 69 wickets at 19 is absolutely tremendous.
Teenaged paceman Josh Tongue has also been a revelation. He’s one of the most promising fast bowling prospects in the country, bowls with good pace despite his tender years, and thoroughly deserved his 47 wickets at 25. Honourable mentions also go to Ed Barnard and wicket-keeper Ben Cox, who’s one of the best glovemen around.
One of the things that made this year’s championship so remarkable was its unpredictability. If someone had predicted that Essex would win the title, and the champions Middlesex would be relegated, they’d have been laughed out of town back in April. The fact that Worcs finished above glamour boys Notts in division two is also quite remarkable. It just goes to show that money isn’t everything in cricket … well, not yet anyway.
On the subject of Middlesex it’s strange how a club that was on cloud nine this time last year – who can forget that emotional win against Yorkshire on the final day? – has fallen from grace so rapidly. Although Nick Compton and Nick Gubbins had dreadful years, none of their other batsmen played too badly (albeit not brilliantly). Their problem was probably the bowling. Although Tim Murtagh did his usual stuff, Steve Finn and James Harris had somewhat underwhelming years. Losing Toby Roland Jones to England surely didn’t help either.
It was also a little surprising to see Warwickshire struggle so much. None of their batsmen, some of whom have impressive pedigrees, averaged over 40. Jonathan Trott and Ian Westwood were mediocre, Ian Bell had a dire year, and Sam Hain was simply atrocious. The latter’s failure to develop as a first class cricketer is particularly disappointing. Although Hain has enjoyed some success in white ball cricket, he’s simply not fulfilling his considerable talent at this point.
Although I feel a little sad for Ian Bell, whose career has gone down the toilet spectacularly after being dropped by England, I’m hoping that The Bears’ relegation might persuade Moeen Ali to stay at New Road. There were rumours earlier this year that Mo might move back up the M5 to Edgbaston. With Worcestershire now a division higher than Warwickshire for the first time since … I can’t remember when …. the Beard to Be Feared might as well stay put. You listening Mo?
I’d be interested to hear everyone’s thoughts on this year’s championship. It’s brilliant to see that domestic first class cricket is still a brilliant product … even if the ECB seem unable or unwilling to market the competition properly. The argument that first class cricket is too slow for the modern age is absolute codswallop in my opinion. It’s just an excuse to do nothing and grab the low hanging T20 dosh.
Before I sign off I’d like to nominate my championship players of 2017. I’d love to hear your choices too. I’m going for the legendary Kumar Sangakkara as TFT player of the year. You can’t argue with 1491 runs at an average of 107 with 8 centuries! When does he qualify for England again ;-) ?
When it comes to the young players I can’t see past Essex’s Dan Lawrence, who averaged 45 at just 20 years of age, and Jamie Porter who took an amazing 75 wickets at just 17. What a future these two young cricketers have.