It’s time for another of our midweek roundups. It’s what we do when there’s no single burning issue to discuss but a plethora of smaller talking points instead.
I’ll start with Shahid Afridi’s amazing century against Derbyshire in the T20 Blast quarter final. He blitzed 101 off 43 balls. Pretty impressive I think you’ll agree.
Normally I’d argue that a blazing century against Derbyshire ain’t much cop. After all, they’re hardly the most fashionable county. However, last night their attack featured South Africa’s Hardus ‘the hard man’ Viljoen and New Zealand’s Matt Henry – both bowlers I quite rate.
Obviously Afridi has zero respect for reputations. He absolutely destroyed both of them. Their combined figures of 8-0-94-1 weren’t exactly what poor Derbs had in mind when they signed them up on presumably lucrative deals.
The second semi saw Glamorgan overpower poor Leicestershire. It was pretty much game over after 11 overs when the Foxes, who didn’t bat particularly cunningly, slumped to 87-5. There’s very little time to recover in T20 cricket and so it proved.
Although I have nothing particularly against Glamorgan (I’m half Welsh after all) I actually wanted Leicestershire to win this one. Glamorgan’s team seems about as Welsh as Biltong. Do they have much of a soul? Leicestershire, on the other hand, always seem to lose their best players to richer counties so they get the sympathy vote.
It will be interesting to see who wins the remaining quarter finals. One imagines that Notts will overpower Somerset (although it could be close), but the Surrey versus Warwickshire game is harder to call. Netbet Sport make the Londoners favourite but Surrey haven’t been very consistent this year.
I’m tempted to say that Birmingham will win. They have some good younger players and the likes of Sam Hain can be very dangerous. The wily Jeetan Patel will also play an important role. On the flip side, however, Surrey do have a lot of talent. It might be time for me to erect a fence and sit on it.
I’d be interested to know whether everyone has enjoyed this year’s Blast. The crowds have been pretty good (from what I’ve seen) and the unpredictability of the competition has made it quite compelling. There doesn’t seem to be a standout team so perhaps another minnow will lift this year’s trophy?
Obviously, however, The Blast is arguably on borrowed time now that Harrison’s Hairbrained Have-a-Hit is on the horizon. From 2019 it will be completely eclipsed.
And what a difference a new all-singing and all-dancing city-based tournament will surely make. After all, English crowds will finally have the chance to see the world’s biggest overseas T20 stars in action. Players like, erm, Shahid Afridi no less.
The next bit of news – if one can call it that – is the imminent commencement of the second test against the Windies at Headingley. Are you excited? Didn’t think so.
The first test at Edgbaston was utterly depressing if you’re worried about the future of test cricket. Yes the crowds were good – obviously the novelty factor enticed a few more punters to turn up – but the cricket was so one-sided that the Edgbaston square almost tipped over at one point.
How on earth are tests like this, against subpar opponents who aren’t remotely competitive, in the least bit sustainable? The only real winner was Alastair Cook’s batting average. The West Indies looked dispirited and unmotivated throughout. I’ll be amazed if England don’t win comfortably again at Leeds.
There has been lots of talk about introducing two divisions in the aftermath of Edgbaston. Do you think it’s worth a try? The positives are that promotion and relegation might provide extra context and excitement to test cricket. The amount of tedious one-sided games should also be reduced.
Unfortunately, however, one wonders what effect (particularly financial implications) the introduction of two divisions would have on the poorer countries that find themselves in the second tier. With reduced sponsorship opportunities available, and presumably less TV income, it really could be the end of countries like the West Indies. It’s hard to see how Sri Lanka might benefit too.
In order for two divisions to work, and resuscitate test cricket in general, there would have to be a strict NFL-style revenue sharing agreement in place. Good luck trying to get India, England and Australia to agree to that!
However, before I sign off I should mention that there was some good news for test cricket this week: AB de Villiers has decided that he wants to resume his international career in all three formats. Apparently he feels refreshed and energised after taking a break and now feels able to contribute again.
This is obviously very good news for South Africa. It also bodes well for test cricket in general because it suggests that box-office stars still want to balance earning big T20 bucks with representing their country at the highest level.
It’s possible we’ll see more top players take a temporary break from test cricket but then return to the fold later on. Perhaps stars will do what they can to look after themselves and their families financially (while the going’s good) but then pursue career ambitions in the long-form thereafter.
The big worry, as I see it, is that top players simply give up on test cricket entirely and keep chasing ever increasing T20 pay-cheques. At least AB’s return shows that top players still care about the long-form.
Written in collaboration with NetBet