Gale Gets Mouthy, Cook Simmers, Northeast Stars: Championship Roundup

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Afternoon all. I hope you had a pleasant Easter. Mine involved failing miserably to limit my kids’ chocolate quota (and then paying a heavy price for that failure).

Fortunately however, my negligence as a parent didn’t prevent me from enjoying the last round of championship matches. Indeed, the only bit of my Easter that was vaguely tolerable was locking myself away in my study so I could enjoy some cricket.

Possibly the biggest story from the weekend was Yorkshire’s big win against Warwickshire. Young Ben Coad just keeps producing the goods. He took ten wickets in the match and completely decimated Warwickshire’s much-vaunted batting line-up.

The main talking point of the game, however, was Andrew Gale’s criticism of the ECB for insisting that Jonny Bairstow rest. After all, he’s only had the last four months off. And England probably won’t need him until the test matches in July anyway. I sense that Andrew Strauss has got this one horribly wrong.

Another interesting result was Essex’s big win at Somerset. The match was very much in the balance until the fourth innings when Alastair Cook’s 110 gave Somerset’s young attack a lesson in top class application.

Lewis Gregory, the Overtons and Jack Leach might have fancied their chances when Essex’s chase began – after all 255 looked a relatively challenging target – but they simply couldn’t get England’s former captain out. In the end Essex cantered to victory with Tom Westley chipping in with an unbeaten 86.

I feel this was quite a significant result for Essex. Division one is never easy for promoted sides so they’ll feel much more established after starting the season well.

One wonders what was going through Andrew Gale’s mind when the scores came in though. Why was Cook, who looked more knackered than anyone at the end of England’s India tour, available to play for his county when Bairstow wasn’t? Hmmmm.

The other two matches in division one ended in relatively high-scoring draws. There was a stalemate between Hampshire and Middlesex, where the much loved Michael Carberry and the less loved Rilee Rousouw both fell agonisingly short of centuries, and another stalemate at The Oval.

The second of these matches looked quite appetising from afar – even though neither team was able to force a win. Spectators would have witnessed the (nearly) 43 year old Chanderpaul making 182, and Jordan Clark, a cricketer almost twenty years Shiv’s junior, making 140.

Surrey responded with some big runs themselves. Scott Borthwick and Kumar Sangakkara also reached three figures and apparently played very well indeed. Oh how Durham could have used some of Borthwick’s runs (as we’ll see later).

Those who talk down the championship, and think the new city-based T20 is the only way to save cricket, should study the scorecard from this game. What offers a better experience – watching Chris Gayle smack the ball around for 45 mins or soaking up two genuinely great players demonstrating their craft over a period of hours? I’d take Chanderpaul and Sangakkara every time thanks. There’s still a lot of quality in the championship.

Down in division two there were results aplenty. Worcestershire recovered from 1-2 (with both openers making ducks) to thrash Glamorgan by 8 wickets. The stars were the very promising old Malvernian Tom Kohler-Cadmore, who made 102, and 19-year old seamer Josh Tongue, who took 5-45.

I have to confess that despite being a Worcestershire fan I’d never heard of Tongue before. It was good to see him give our Welsh neighbours a good licking. Boom boom.

The game between Derbyshire and Northants was straight from the Tom Harrison handbook: sometimes you’ve got to risk losing to win. Maybe it was a quick phone call from the ECB’s chief exec that persuaded Derbs captain Billy Godleman to declare with his side on 351-1 (a lead of 325)?

Either way it didn’t work. Northants chased the runs down for the loss of seven wickets in 65 overs. Ah. Houston we have a problem.

Elsewhere mighty Notts elbowed Durham aside with ease. James Pattinson and Luke Fletcher were simply too much for the northerners to handle with both bat and ball. I hate to say it but this one was very one-sided.

I can’t see anyone stopping Notts this summer. Bookies like Betway see it that way, and all the pundits seem to agree with odds as short as 10/11 on April 18th. Notts look very strong in both batting and bowling. Unfortunately the disparity between the haves and have-nots was all too clear at Chester-le-Street.

The final two matches saw Gloucs thrash Leics thanks to a composed hundred from Will Tavare, whose 101 of 277 balls (a strike rate of about 37) would have made his uncle Chris Tavare proud. Liam Norwell also performed brilliantly with the ball and took ten wickets in the match. Only Ned Eckersley, who made 80-odd in both innings, offered much resistance.

And last, but surely not least, we must talk about Kent’s win against local rivals Sussex – if only to appease our very own Kent supporting writer Peter Jackson Eastwood.

In case you haven’t heard, the best batsman in the universe, a certain Mr Sam Norteast, made an absolutely scintillating 173 not out as Kent triumphed by the almighty margin of 226 runs.

People will surely be talking about Northeast’s innings for generations. By all accounts it was up there with Lara’s 501 against Durham and Bradman’s test best 334. The purity of Northeast’s stroke-play was a delight, and the ease with which he timed the ball an education in both technical excellence and pure aesthetics.

Northeast is clearly a genius. Every cover drive was met with astonished ‘oooohhs and ahhhhs’ from the crowd. Every square cut caressed to the fence had purists dribbling with delight.

Why oh why isn’t he in the England team? Presumably it’s just to give the other countries a chance.

James Morgan

Written in collaboration with Betway.

14 Comments

  1. Giles Falconer on

    A trifle disparaging of Sam Northeast’s innings against Sussex – a team much fancied to do well only a week or two ago, I feel. And no mention of Darren Stevens – just a few days short of his 41st birthday – he is playing as well as ever: a fifty and 5+ wickets in an innings in each of Kent’s two victories so far this season. Do I spot an anti-Kent bias here?

  2. The Bairstow issue is a disgrace. You are right about Strauss getting it wrong. Cook could be given the green light to play because he has no part in International white ball cricket. Your guess is as good as mine!

    • Giles Falconer on

      Only in Test matches (& he’d say he was playing to orders there). You may not be old enough to remember, but in country cricket (& esp. limited over games) Chris was a fast scorer, who often destroyed bowlers.

  3. Hampshire have been getting some flak for (among other things!) leaving Mason Crane out of their first two games. It could be pointed out that Somerset have also been leaving out Dom Bess.

    The real culprit is the schedule. Playing this many matches as this time of year is the problem.

    • Justin Collings on

      Against Essex Dom Bess was left out for van der Merwe which means your counter point doesn’t stack up (even though with hindsight it was a poor selection as an offie would have helped second dig).

  4. Couldn’t have given a quick mention to jofra archer’s first innings performance for Sussex against Kent- namely his taking 7 wickets and scoring 60 not out. I get that it was in a losing effort (and that he understandably faded in the second innings after pretty much carrying the team for two days) but surely those are noteworthy numbers for a still fairly unknown 22 year old.

  5. Harmy's Head on

    Hard to disagree with your assessment of Durham against Notts – our batting minus Stoneman and Borthwick looks paper thin – but Keaton Jennings’ 2nd innings hundred deserves a mention. He stood pretty much alone, carrying his bat for 102. We will really be down to the bare bones when he goes off on England duty. I would like to see how the much vaunted Northeast does in the real North East 🙂

  6. Bit late to the party, I wish Gale had kept his mouth shut about Bairstow even if I do agree with him.

    The Bairstow issue really highlights that the ECB still don’t manage fringe players that well. They have taken someone who is vital to the Test side and carried them round like a spare part, Bairstow shouldn’t have gone to the West Indies he was second reserve with the bat and with two keepers there already they didn’t need him.

    Will be interesting to see what happens with the IPL contingent later in the summer, they presumably won’t play the WI ODIs but will the likes of Stokes and Woakes who are playing every match out in India need resting from the WI Tests as well?

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