Morning all. I hope you had a good weekend. Mine was a bit of a blur really. I made the annual mistake of watching Eurovision, drinking far too much, and then getting angry when our song finished third from bottom. But before I could say “sod the lot of them” I realised that other countries actually take this competition seriously whereas we generally sneer at the event and send C or D list pop stars. Is it any wonder that nobody votes for us? Perhaps SuRie should’ve pretended she was Annie Lennox.
Anyway, onto matters at hand. The good news is that Ireland started their first ever test match at the Malahide over the weekend. There was a good crowd in, thus proving that test cricket still has relevance, the TV cameras were there, and Ireland even started the game well too. Unfortunately it all went a bit downhill from there …
For starters Sky shunted the match over to the ‘red button’ channel as soon as the bloody IPL started. That meant that those streaming the match via SkyGo, or those who were watching on a Now TV pass, could no longer watch. This irritated me as much as Eurovision judging panels giving an inane Moldovan entry douze points. Sky had the choice of screening yet another IPL affair (one match out of God knows how many) or an historic test match … yet they chose the former. If I had any hair left I’d have torn it out.
I find it utterly depressing that a T20 match on the other side of the world – one single game out of a tournament that many people think goes on too long anyway – should take priority over a test match that Irish cricket had been building towards for decades. I can’t imagine that many UK-based cricket fans would have preferred to watch the T20. With Ireland playing Pakistan, it’s not as if the UK’s Asian communities would have unanimously chosen the IPL either. Hmmmm.
After a good start, the game also seems to be drifting away from Ireland. The debutants made a really good start when they reduced Pakistan to 159-6, but half centuries from Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf ultimately helped them recover to 310 all out. I thought Tim Murtagh bowled beautifully for his 4-45.
Unfortunately however, Pakistan’s bowlers have Murtagh’s skill but a little more pace; therefore they proved very tricky indeed in helpful conditions. Ireland’s batsmen just weren’t quite good enough and they struggled to 130 all out – which would have been worse without good knocks from Kevin O’Brien and Gary Wilson. Fortunately, however, Joyce and Porterfield survived the final session of the day when Ireland were asked to follow on. Perhaps there’s still hope?
The big news in the county championship was more timely runs for Keaton Jennings as Lancs notched an impressive win over table-topping Notts. With Ed Smith and the selectors meeting on Tues, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jennings replace Mark Stoneman. However, he’s probably not a shoo in at this point. Nick Gubbins and Rory Burns have also done well in recent weeks so it could be a close call.
A couple of other young players also impressed at the weekend. Joe Clarke made 105 against champions Essex, and Dan Lawrence scored 71 in the same game. As for the bowlers, Olly Stone took 5-49 in Warwickshire’s win over Northants. Jake Ball didn’t do himself any favours though. His analysis of 2-101 off just 19 overs in Notts’ defeat was rather worrying. Is he consistent enough to be an international fast bowler?
The other championship performances that caught my eye were James Hildreth’s 184, which underlined yet again his status as probably the best recent county batsmen never to have won a single England cap (in any form of the game), and young Will Rhodes’ 100 in Warwickshire’s successful chase of 179. It was also interesting to see both Craig Overton and Dom Bess make good runs for Somerset as they push for victory against Hants.
Talking of Hampshire, it was intriguing to see James Vince 60-odd not out over night. Do you think he’ll retain his England place if he goes on to make three figures today – the day before the selectors convene? One player who won’t be in Smith’s plans, however, is Graham Onions- despite his great performance for Lancs over the weekend. It was great to see one of county cricket’s elder statesmen roll back the years with 6-58 on Sunday.