Stone Rises But Batting Hopefuls Sink

I love the early championship fixtures. Spring has arrived, the sun is creeping out (well, occasionally), the magnolias are in bloom, and young England hopefuls get the chance to impress the selectors. What’s more, there are no domestic white ball distractions. It’s first class cricket all the way – unless you’re glued to the IPL but that’s another story.

So who impressed the selectors in the first round of matches? Did Haseeb Hameed compile the perfect patient hundred or Joe Clarke dazzle with delightful flicks and drives? Erm. No. I’m afraid not. Most of England’s young batsmen fluffed their lines in seamer-friendly. Instead it was often the influx of overseas fast bowlers that stole the show.

Our roundup starts at Old Trafford where Notts swept aside Lancs by six wickets in what became something of a shootout. Lancs were swept aside for 158 and then a paltry 73 in their second innings. Hameed made just 3 and 19, Jennings made a disappointing 11 and 27, and Jos Buttler made … a lot of money in India.

Although Notts won quite comfortably in the end, thanks mainly to Jake Ball and Harry Gurney (who took 9 and 8 wickets respectively in the game), they managed to lose an astonishing 4 wickets chasing the not-so-challenging total of 10. I bet there were a few anxious looks in the Notts dressing room when they lost three top order batsmen for just five runs.

Because the Yorkshire versus Essex match was abandoned without a ball being bowled, the only other game in division one saw Hants defeat Worcs. Although James Vince’s side came through comfortably in the end they had to battle for the first three days.

Hants were always in a decent position thanks to Vince’s 75 in the first dig, which set up a team total of 290 – a pretty competitive effort in the context of the other early-season scores. Worcs fought hard but could only respond with 211, and Hants were able to build a decisive lead thereafter.

Set a ‘good luck with that’ chase of over 300, Worcs’ young side simply couldn’t cope with the quality and experience of Kyle Abbott and Fidel Edwards. They were dismissed for 127 with only Aussie Travis Head putting up some resistance. Clarke made scores of just 20 and 15 in the game. However, the promising Josh Tongue picked up a few wickets.

Down in division two, Middlesex started their season on a high with a good win over Northants. However, once again it was the more experienced guys who impressed rather than England’s fringe players. James Harris and Tim Murtagh thrive in early-season conditions and they easily out-bowled both Toby Roland Jones and Tom Helm.

Gloucestershire’s win over Kent was also notable for the performances for a couple of older heads: New Zealand’s Matt Henry and Mr County Cricket himself, Darren Stevens. Having said that, a few of Gloucs younger players did put in eye-catching performances.

The wickets taken by young bowlers Matt Taylor and Craig Miles certainly bode well. The underrated Gareth Roderick also made a half-century. He must be one of the most consistent and consistently underrated keeper-batsmen in the country. He seems to score runs every time I look.

Daniel Bell Drummond’s 61 in the second innings was probably the bright spot for Kent. It was notable because none of the other young openers on England’s radar managed to make a good impression. Can you see DBD as an England player in the near future? Personally I’m not convinced but he does seem to have his admirers. And I’m sure they’ve seen a lot more of him than me.

The most exciting performance of the weekend, however, was that of a young English bowler rather than a batsman. The man in question was Olly Stone, a guy mentioned by yours truly as a possible difference-maker in the 2019 Ashes. He took a superb 8-80 for Warwickshire against Sussex and lit up a match that otherwise petered out into a rain-affected draw.

I really like what I’ve seen of Stone. He’s got genuine pace, something England clearly need, and he’s got that aggressive attitude to boot. It’s probably a bit early to claim he’ll be match-winner at international level but the talent is clearly there.

Let’s just hope Stone can stay fit after his ACL injury a couple of years ago. Olly should take inspiration from Pat Cummins, who has done so well for Australia since overcoming serious injury.

James Morgan

2018-04-18T13:58:36+00:00 April 17th, 2018|County Cricket|14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. AndyB April 17, 2018 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    I can see no reason why Stone should not bowl as well as ever and stay fit after his ACL injury. As a Warwicks and West Brom supporter (the least said about the latter the better) I recall Zoltan Gera snapping the cruciate in one knee, coming back and a couple of years later doing the other knee. Somehow he seemed even quicker after the two operations (and he was quick to start) and he was still captaining Hungary until recently (in his late 30s) some years after the ops. However, I would suggest Warwicks ban all celebrations by Stone.

  2. JackieL April 17, 2018 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    You shouldn’t overlook the bowler friendly conditions. Scores are relative. There is a tendency to set a benchmark as if the game is played to the law of averages. The batsmen who got runs in very tricky conditions are impressive – the bowlers less so. The bowlers who didn’t take wickets are the ones to worry about. I don’t read a lot from one game where scores plummeted. What has happened to taking time to get into the season? Too much media and social network criticism is knee jerk reaction which somehow goes against how the game is played. One thing about the IPL you get to accept that one ball undoes the finest and not think too much about it. Move on to the next batsman. It’s a team game. The next match.

  3. oreston April 17, 2018 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Young “Oliver” Stone, with his extra yard of pace, is clearly one of England’s few potential Natural Born Killers. The Doors to an international career, and a place in captain Root’s Platoon, will surely open for him, so long as he doesn’t suffer a Reversal Of Fortune.
    There you are James – I made the bad puns so you don’t have to 😀

    • oreston April 17, 2018 at 4:56 pm - Reply

      Yes I know he only produced Reversal Of Fortune (directed by Barbet Schroeder) but gimme a break!

      • James Morgan April 17, 2018 at 5:52 pm - Reply

        You forgot to mention that he was born on the 4th July. Maybe.

        • oreston April 17, 2018 at 7:26 pm - Reply

          First thing I checked… but sadly his birthday’s in October. That would’ve been unimprovable.

  4. Andy Cheese April 17, 2018 at 6:28 pm - Reply

    Surprisingly Jake Ball is looking good. Maybe ECB were right to take him to Australia ??

    • Silk April 18, 2018 at 11:21 am - Reply

      Maybe we bowling in April with a Duke ball is irrelevant in a conversation about overseas Tests.

  5. SimonH April 17, 2018 at 6:45 pm - Reply

    Is it better for Plunkett and Willey to be not playing in India because their franchises aren’t selecting them or to be not playing for Yorkshire because the ground isn’t fit despite only one shower falling during the actual scheduled playing days?

    Meanwhile India’s masterplan of buying up Moeen Ali then him not playing so he can’t re-find any form before the summer Tests is progressing nicely.

  6. SimonH April 17, 2018 at 9:26 pm - Reply
  7. Marc Evans April 17, 2018 at 11:05 pm - Reply

    If the County Championship is going to be a breeding ground for test match development the present round of matches illustrates the futility of playing in April perfectly. For decades now April has generally been a damp squib of a month, totally bowler friendly, illustrated by the number of wickets taken by extremely ordinary bowlers and the total lack of impact made by batsman when they had an opportunity to take to the field atall. How can this help English cricket develop? Once again we’ll pick a bunch of bowlers who’ll do OK domestically, but once they’re overseas on flat tracks they don’t have the skill set to be matchwinners. You’ll also have batsmen unused to playing consistently long innings.
    Play a Benson and Hedges style one day tournament in spring when to unsettled weather has less of an impact, you can leave 2 days to complete each match, which used to be the case, and leave the County Championship to summer when conditions are more conducive to developing test match qualities. It also allows the English IPL players to continue in India without missing out on much needed long game practice. Then finish the season in September with a 20-20 tournament, where again the closing in weather makes less of an impact.
    Personally to me its a no brainier. I really don’t see the point of the present round of county championship matches. They mean nothing in the grand scheme of things and are certainly no guide to form or talent.

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