Monday, 21 August 2017

Is county 2nd XI cricket fit for purpose?

Posted by Tony Hutton

It must be admitted that the ramifications of the current county cricket fixture list are wide and varied. Probably very little thought has gone into the effects on county second eleven cricket, one of the poor relations of the county game. The fact that everything at this time of year is centred on the all powerful T20 format means that those county players not involved are having to play second eleven cricket to try and get some practise and either to stay in or regain form.

Last week I featured the appearance of Lees, Ballance and Brooks in the Yorkshire second team at Durham. Today at Todmorden Lancashire fielded a side including Hameed, Chanderpaul, Davies, Jones and Jarvis all regular first teamers plus a few more with considerable first team experience.
Durham on the other hand featured only Graham Onions, recovering from injuries, together with eight or so regular second team players.

This has not been uncommon in this fractured fixture list throughout the season and begs the question what is the purpose of county second eleven cricket? My own opinion is that it should cater for the young up and coming players to give them experience of three day cricket as a stepping stone to first team championship games. They will need one or two experienced colleagues alongside them ideally those nearing the end of their careers, but to use it purely as a source of practise for regular first teamers seems to defeat the object.

The counter argument of course is where else can they go? We have seen the unedifying sight of county players appealing for Saturday league games on social media just to get a few overs under their belts. The answer of course lies in the ridiculous fixture list which has been thrust upon us with no proper county cricket at the peak time of the season. There should be a regular programme of county games all season where players out of form or recovering from injury can get practise at a proper level. Test players should be released to play in all games which do not clash with Test matches - perhaps a hard thing to find these days!

This leads me on to a wider theme highlighted at Todmorden today. No scorecards were available for quite a sizeable crowd which suggests second eleven cricket does not matter to Lancashire at least.
Good crowds for matches at club outgrounds are not unusual in the north of England, although probably unheard of in the south. Second eleven cricket is not promoted or publicised. It is hard to find out the overnight scores, without searching all the county websites. Some give scores others do not. There is no uniformity and second eleven games at soulless Test match stadiums are a complete waste of time. People will not turn up, no atmosphere, no facilities.

I realise I am whistling in the dark, nobody will take any notice, nobody cares. Well a few of us do!

Grey Fox Trophy

Posted by Tony Hutton

Sunday's match conveniently not far from home was the semi-final of the Grey Fox Trophy, a competition for club sides of over fifties from the county of Yorkshire. I remember seeing the first final which was played at Headingley a few years ago and won by a team known as the Bradford Buddhies.
The umpires and the two skippers line up before the start.

Today the two semi-finals were played at New Rover Cricket Club, on the Leeds northern ring road.
Earlier in the day, with a 10.00 a.m. start, Horsforth Hall Park had beaten Bowling Old Lane from Bradford by 60 runs. The second semi-final, which I saw, started at 2 p.m., or at least would have done if the umpires had remembered to bring the new ball out with them.

Cayton over fifties.

Cayton, from the Scarborough Beckett League, who had beaten the Wetherby Wrinklies in the previous round, soon appeared to have a side drawn from several clubs in their league, whereas their opponents Hepworth/Idle from Bradford were all one club men.

Hepworth Idle over fifties.

The team from Scarborough batted first and I was interested to see that one of their opening bats was none other than Brian Heywood, co-author with his parents of two marvellous books on the history of Todmorden cricket club. Brian is also deeply involved in cricket and rugby league heritage programmes and it was a pleasure to meet up with him again.

The rules of this competition provide that a batsman should retire when he reaches 30 and after a brisk start Brian's partner was dismissed. Brian himself had to retire with a pulled hamstring just one run short of the 30 maximum. Fortunately it did not seem too serious and he was able to field later.
Runs continued to come quickly against some understandable problems in the field for some of the not too mobile fielders, although it must be said one direct hit from the boundary edge brought an unlikely run out.. Several players reached the thirty figure and had to retire and in total four wickets fell in a final figure of 216 -4 in thirty overs.

Match in progress at New Rover.

This was a daunting task for the men from Bradford but they gave it their best shot and although falling well short they went for the runs right to the end with a respectable total of 157-8. So Cayton, plus guests, go through to the final which will almost be played on home ground for them at North Marine Road, Scarborough on Sunday 10th September when they face last years winners Horsforth Hall Park. Last year's final, also at Scarborough, saw Hall Park win by one wicket off the very last ball of the match. So hopefully another close contest is in prospect.

The winners Cayton leave the field. Brian Heywood in the centre in sun hat.

Diamonds hit by perfect Storm

posted by John Winn

A large crowd assembled at Clifton Park, York yesterday for Yorkshire Diamonds' fourth game in this year's Kia Women's Super League. Their opponents on what began as a sunny afternoon were Taunton based Western Storm. The Diamonds began the game with two wins to their name which put them ahead of Storm in the table but with the latter having a game in hand.

Storm won the toss and elected to field and after the early loss of the feisty Sri Lankan, Chamari  Atapattu, run out by a direct hit, Lauren Winfield and New Zealander Sophie Devine tucked into the Storm attack. The latter holds various records for fast scoring in T20 cricket and a couple of her sixes which left the ground were quite breathtaking in their height and carry. The pair rattled along at ten an over until Devine was bowled by Shrubsole and although Winfield went on to make 58 and Katherine Brunt added 22 the innings rather tailed off and our forecast of 170 proved optimistic as the innings closed on 160 for 7. Most economical of the bowlers was another Kiwi, Holly Huddlestone, whose four overs cost just 19.

Just time for a lap of the ground and a chance to say hello to a few familiar faces and we were off again with Rachel Priest and England captain Heather Knight opening the batting. After a steady start Priest in particular took the Diamonds' bowlers to the polishers as the powerfully built wicket keeper showed that she could hit just as cleanly as her fellow country woman Devine. peppering the gardens behind the mower shed with sixes. Devine suffered the most with 19 coming off her solitary over but Diamonds were let down by some poor fielding with catches going down and at times the fielders seemed slow to pick up the flight of the ball. One stunning catch was taken, very low down in the deep by Jenny Gunn, but a no ball had been called. Brunt and Gunn were the most economical of the bowlers, the latter's action presumably having satisfied more expert scrutiny than mine. 108 without loss was posted in the twelfth over and by the fifteenth 'start the car' was the order of the day. By the time I had walked to the other end of the ground four overthrows had  finished the game: a ten wicket win for Storm, 106 not out off 65 balls for Priest and 48 not out for Knight.

Driving home I picked up commentary on Southern Vipers v  Surrey Stars from Southampton which was being played in increasingly heavy rain and where a late flurry of runs, including four more 'buzzers' saw the Vipers to a position where when DLS was invoked they were in a winning position. In the third game of the day, played at Stanley Park, Blackpool, Lancashire's Thunder came second to Loughborough's Lightning. Surrey head the table with Southern second, Yorkshire third and Western fourth. More action on Wednesday when Surrey play Western and Lancashire take on Southern. Diamonds' last group match is at Arundel on Saturday against Southern.

Off to Todmorden tomorrow then MCC v Nidderdale League at North Stainley on Wednesday.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Runs a plenty at Riverside

Posted by Tony Hutton

Tuesday 15th August and heading north again this time to Riverside, Chester le Street to see three days of the Second eleven championship game between Durham and Yorkshire. Again nothing at stake for these two teams but a chance for some of the young talent in both sides to show what they can do and also a chance for more established players like Lees, Brookes and Ballance in the Yorkshire side to regain form and fitness.


Durham opened the batting with two eighteen year old local lads in Scott Steel and Ross Greenwell. They both took their time against the experienced Jack Brookes and James Wainman, now twenty four, who needs to break through into the first eleven. They put on 55 for the first wicket and both were out with the total on 67. Both wickets fell to Jared Warner, who worked up a good pace.This brought together what might be termed two overseas 'mercenaries'.

Hospitality tepees put up for Sunday's match between Sunderland and Newcastle United for Paul Collingwood's benefit.

Gareth Harte is a South African who was signed by Durham at the start of the season after scoring a big hundred for the second team. He holds a UK passport and has previously played for MCC Young Cricketers and four other first class counties. The other player is Josh Phillipe, an Australian batsman wicketkeeper who played for Taunton cricket club last season and is with Newcastle cricket club who play at Jesmond this season.

Panoramic view of Riverside complete with Lumley Castle in the background.

Whatever their backgrounds they can both bat and put on 87 for the third wicket before Phillipe was caught off Will Rhodes (who departs for Warwickshire at the end of the season) for 37. Harte went from strength to strength with good support from a succession of partners, including two more local lads Sol Bell and Josh Coughlin and a trialist from Middlesex Harry Podmore. They all scored runs with Bell, only seventeen, making a very promising 38, Coughlin 30 and Podmore, more of a bowler really, a very good 51 not out.

Harte brings up his century for Durham.

Harte just went on and on batting for five hours and ending on 160 not out. A very technically sound player he was untroubled by the varied Yorkshire attack. He rarely hit the ball in the air and scored twenty two fours. Durham declared after a very good day's work on 393-5 and managed to dismiss opener Tattersall before the close.

Alex Lees in full flow.

The second day belonged to Alex Lees, who has been sadly out of form for the Yorkshire first team recently. He played himself in against the experienced Graham Onions, also trying to get back into form after injuries, and the Middlesex man Harry Podmore. It has to be said that all the other Durham bowlers were very young and inexperienced but Lees played with growing confidence throughout the day, hitting the ball in the air far more than Harte. His initial partnership of 210 with Will Rhodes put Yorkshire well in control, 200 runs coming before lunch and another 200 between lunch and tea.

Lees gets to his century.

Rhodes made 77 before being caught behind, but one does wonder whether Yorkshire have made the right decision in releasing him. Next man in was Gary Ballance, Yorkshire's first team captain, returning after a hand injury. He made a fine 69 in quick time, with seven fours and two sixes and looked in pretty good form until dismissed by young Steel, who would have been delighted to dismiss an England batsman.
Exit Gary Ballance out for 69.

Lees went on to a double century before skying a catch at 385-4 to give another young bowler Mark Oswell a valued wicket. Matthew Waite who had been doing well for York, piled on the pressure with a not out 50 before Yorkshire were eventually all out for 508 with the tail rather collapsing to leg spinner Whitehead who ended with 4-71, the only figures that looked slightly respectable.

Lees out for 202.

So an uphill struggle for the home side on day three and when they were 88-4 it looked a certain victory for the visitors but Harte, yet again, and the younger of the Coughlin brothers, had other ideas and proceeded to bat their way out of trouble with a fifth wicket partnership of 159. Harte was on the verge of his second century of the match when caught down the legside  for 96 by substitute wicker keeper Ben Birkhead, who took over from Andrew Hodd when Ballance departed to play for Yorkshire first team in the T20 game at Headingley.

Andrew Hodd fielding at mid off after Birkhead took over as wicket keeper. Logan is the bowler.

Josh Coughlin batted through to the end which came just before 5 p.m. with a fine 72 not out as the players shook hands on a draw. Good entertainment throughout for the very small crowd in the huge Riverside arena and lots of good young talent on show from both sides although the two stand out performers Lees and Harte were in a class of their own.

Cricket at the seaside

Posted by Tony Hutton

Having abandoned Sedbergh due to the poor weather forecast we had noticed that a dry weather day was suggested for the east coast, so with another favourite destination available at Cleethorpes for day two of Lincolnshire v Hertfordshire off we went on Monday 14th August to see the champions elect of the Minor Counties East Division.

   Sign on the promenade at Cleethorpes            

Lincolnshire have had quite a drastic change in personnel since I last saw them and one of the key men in the divisional championship win this season has been batsman Matt Lineker, formerly with Derbyshire second eleven, who has been scoring lots of runs both for Lincolnshire and his club side Bracebridge Heath. He was at it again yesterday with top score of 98 after opponents Hertfordshire had been bowled out for only 143 earlier in the day. Star bowler was another new man to me in Alex Willerton who plays for the Cleethorpes club and took 5-27 yesterday.

Picturesque entrance gates sponsored by Sky Sports.

Lincoln batted on this morning  with Dominic Brown and skipper and wicketkeeper Carl Wilson putting on almost a century partnership for the the seventh wicket. After Brown went at 305-7, Wilson, not a bad player for a number eight, carried on regardless. When the allotted ninety overs were up he had made a splendid 87 not out, which included nine fours and two sixes and Lincoln with what appeared an unassailable lead of 202.

View of the Cleethorpes pavilion.

Steve Gale this year's star performer in Minor Counties cricket with five centuries already had failed in the first innings and surprisingly did so again in the second when caught off that man Willerton. Herts 10-1 and in big trouble. Enter skipper Sikander at number three to play a captain's innings. Originally from Pakistan he has moved around the Home Counties club circuit for some years and even played for Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire for a while. His quick fire 47 gave the visitors some hope and he supported opener James Scott who played the anchor role of the innings for a fine 70 which set the foundations for a solid reply. Scott is the elder brother of two other Scotts who have both played for Middlesex seconds.

Backs to the wall for Hertfordshire.

After a mid innings collapse precipitated by Andy Carter, formerly with Notts, Cowell and Kazmi repaired the damage with with 43 and 79 respectively. What had looked like a two day victory for Lincoln turned into hard work for all their bowlers. Left arm spinner Adam Tillcock, another former Notts player, wheeled away for twenty overs but could not get a wicket this time round and Herts had achieved their first objective of taking the game into day three.

Adam Tillcock grazing on the boundary edge.

Next morning tailenders Waring and Kulkarni added sixty odd runs for the ninth wicket to prolong matters into the afternoon session, but Lincolnshire had no problem in scoring 143-3 to win the game by seven wickets. They look worthy champions and will surely give Berkshire a good game in both the one day and four day finals coming up shortly.

The official Lincolnshire county flag flies proudly in a neighbour's garden.

Weekend in Cumbria

Posted by Tony Hutton

Saturday 12th August saw us heading north along the A1 and then west along the A66 (apparently soon to be re-branded as Route 66) in the direction of Cumbria. Main target for today was to try and see cricket at the remote outpost of Kirkby Stephen of the Eden Valley league. I tried once before but it was rained off. Low and behold after a sunny morning and a good lunch at an old haunt, the Morritt Arms, Greta Bridge, we arrived at our destination during a steady downpour.

Fortunately the rain soon stopped and we made out way down to the pleasant ground at Hills Bottom alongside the River Eden and Wainwright's famous coast to coast walk which is signposted Robin Hood's Bay 108 miles and St Bees 82 miles. Mopping up operations were underway and every prospect that play might start in due course. So after a trip to the local tea shop and a walk round the interesting town we returned shortly before play commenced at 3 p.m. with a reduction to forty overs per side.

Mopping up operations at Kirkby Stephen.

The attractive ground has a lovely background of the Pennine Hills and is well fenced off to keep the local livestock at bay. When the sun eventually came out and the runs began to flow for the home side it proved to be a most attractive place in which to watch cricket. The visitors were Braithwaite, a village which adjoins Bassenthwaite Lake near Keswick, and yet another ground still on my wanted list.

The modern pavilion with the church in the background.

After an interesting circuit of the ground with plenty of attractive photo opportunities it was soon time to move on. When we eventually found the result, some days later, we discovered that the home side made 165-6 with top score from wicket keeper Andy Todd, batting at number eight. Best bowling for Braithwaite came from Gilbert Pyke, one of three Pykes in the side, with 3-29.

The Pennine Hills around Kirkby Stephen.

In reply Braithwaite just managed to avoid defeat and clung on for a draw largely due to number three batsman, Jason Pyke this time, with an innings of 75. Julian Cann had by far the best bowling figures with 5-15 from just four overs but could not quite clinch victory with the last pair together on 141-9. Match drawn.

Another view of the Kirkby Stephen ground.

We were then off to Kendal, our overnight base through delightful scenery around the Howgill Fells and up the far side of the Lune Gorge before dropping down into Kendal. Close to our hotel we were able to re-visit Netherfield cricket club where two games were going on. The main ground was hosting a Northern Premier League game between Netherfield, the league leaders, and Chorley, who had been bowled all out for 77 before we arrived. Mark Clarkson had taken 5-21, including a hat trick to make Chorley 16-4. Marc Hadwin also took 4-7 as second in the table Chorley were routed The home side duly knocked off the runs with only three wickets down to reinforce their big lead in the table. We saw a brief glimpse of South African professional Obus Pienaar, who scored 20 not out to complete the victory in his final appearance before returning home.

Netherfield on the way to victory over Chorley.

Meanwhile on top of the banking, towards the ruins of Kendal Castle, Netherfield third eleven were taking on Bare, from near Morecambe, in the Westmorland League. The home side were bowled out for just 85 and Bare won a close match by just three wickets. Plenty of spectators watching both games again in very attractive surroundings.

Netherfield's third eleven's last pair batting against Bare.

The following day was the main event, day one of a three day Minor Counties championship game between Cumberland and Buckinghamshire at the delightful Sedbergh School ground. Not much at stake in what  was the final round of matches with Lincolnshire already assured of the Eastern Division title. We had originally planned to stay for two nights to see the first two days, but a very bad weather forecast for Monday made us change our minds. Of course the forecast was not as bad as expected and they only lost about a third of a day's play but the rain did appear on day three which was washed out completely and the game ended in a draw.

Sedbergh School pavilion.

Cumberland batted first, in fine conditions, and despite a somewhat hesitant start with Zelem, Brownlow and Sam Dutton all going cheaply, a fourth wicket partnership of 174 between opener Michael Slack and skipper Gary Pratt put the home side in control. Both batsmen looked set for centuries soon after tea, but sadly Slack was out for 94 bowled by the sixth bowler of the innings Masoor Khan. However Pratt, who had started quietly, showed his full range of shots, being particularly severe on anything outside the left hander's off stump, raced to his century and didn't stop there.
The classic view of Sedbergh cricket ground and Winder Fell.

When the first innings ended after 90 overs, Gary Pratt had made an immaculate 143 not out. Due to the wet outfield the ball did not run to the boundary very often and his innings only contained eight fours and two sixes. There must have been a record number of twos. The one blemish was the run out of the recently prolific Matty MacKiernan, for just eight runs, when Pratt sent him back rather too late in the day. However a score of 319-6 was pretty good going and as ever we had enjoyed another good day in the Sedbergh sun.

Pratt and Slack pile up the runs during the afternoon.

After our departure, the shortened second day saw star bowler left arm spinner Toby Bulcock in his element before the rains came. As Buckinghamshire were all out for 176, he took all but the first and last wickets to fall and finished with the remarkable analysis of 30-15-39-8. Cumberland batted again but lost three early wickets before play ended with them on 56-3. This drawn game meant that Cumberland finished in fourth place in the table.

View from the northern end of the ground.

The one day competition final is between Lincolnshire and Berkshire at Wormsley on Wednesday 23rd August and the four day play off final is also between the same two teams this time at Banbury cricket club starting on Sunday 27th August.

Turned out nice again

posted by John Winn

September will have to pull out all the stops if 2017 is not to enter cricketing lore as a poor summer but it has by no means been  the worst when the records are consulted. In recent years I remember 2012 as pretty bad and several postings reflected this. Just a glance at the titles of entries that Tony, Brian Sanderson and I made at the time sees the words wind, rain and wet crop up on several occasions but a look  much further back to 1956,  a time when blog wasn't even in the dictionary and a posting was likely to be stuck on a notice board, shows that 2017 perhaps hasn't been too bad after all.

Wisden for 1957 describes the previous year's weather as 'atrocious....which ruined match after match and was the wettest summer in memory' and a look at just a few weeks in high summer or what passed for it and the impact of the rain on Yorkshire's championship programme should make us grateful for the present times. Here are extracts from Wisden covering the period 28th July to 28th August during which Yorkshire played nine (sic) three day matches

July 28th to 31st v Glamorgan at Middlesbrough Cricket was confined to the first day, match drawn

August 1st to 3rd v Kent at Scarborough the match was restricted to the last day, no decision

August 4th to 7th v Lancs at Old Trafford rain delayed the start by three hours, match drawn

August 8th to 10th v Leicester at Grace Road Play continued in rain for some time before the match ended fifteen minutes early, match drawn

August 11th to 14th v Worcestershire at Bradford Yorkshire won by ten wickets despite the complete loss of the first day to rain

August 15th to 17th v Leicestershire at Scarborough Play was restricted to just over three hours on
the first day. No decision

August 18th to 21st v  Notts at Headingley The match could not start until half-past two on the second day, Drawn

August 22nd to 24th v Essex at Southend only one hour's play possible on the second day and following a sporting declaration by Yorkshire, Essex won by five wickets with a ball to spare when seven runs were taken off the last over bowled by Trueman

August 25th to 28th  v Kent at Dover Kent's season died as it had lived, plagued by miserably wet
weather. Match drawn first innings points to Yorkshire

Nine matches, only  two resulting in victories, only one at Headingley out of five home matches,  and hours and hours spent watching it rain and seven days washed out completely. The final test at The Oval lost over twelve hours to rain.

The semi finals for the National Club KO are now known and will be played on Sunday 27th of August, 12:00 starts

East Grinstead v  Wanstead and Snaresbrook

Wolverhampton v Ormskirk, let's hope for decent weather.