The end of another cricket season – many thoughts!

Ageas-Bowl-410Tuesday (24th September) saw the start of the last cricket at The Ageas Bowl this year – it seems to have gone quickly – and that probably means the end of summer and cooler weather!  But, at least we had a good summer when it eventually arrived (despite the snow at some early matches in April) and the t20 was a resounding success in the summer sun.  I haven’t really written much about the cricket this season (a few groans about why the County Championship points system tends to encourage too many draws), so maybe now is a good time to summarise what I have enjoyed about this year’s cricket.

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Matt Coles

Of course, the most enjoyable thing this season has nothing to do with Hampshire, but connects me back to my northern ties – Durham have won the County Championship again, well done lads!
But, what of Hampshire?  Well the last game was a wonderful win in only three days by an innings and 31 runs.  There was little to gain other than some respect, but Essex had an outside chance of reaching second place.  There performance was poor in the light of that factor and I would have batted first if I won the toss, but they chose to field and Hants managed to reach maximum batting points.  In reply Essex collapsed twice and only Napier showed any real grit.  So, Hants boosted themselves to fourth place in the table with this win.   However, nine draws out of 16 games played sums up the problem of County Cricket and I really think it is time for the ECB to make a re-think of the points system.  A few games have involved declarations, which should have enable a positive result (and that is to be applauded even when Hants loose), but it is clear from some games that such an approach is frowned upon in certain circles and that generally there is no real encouragement (from the powers that be) to engineer results in rain affected matches.  But why is this happening, why are games ending up in a draw?  At the Ageas Bowl I think that the wicket, when dry, is very flat and easy to bat on (after all when any sort of spinning wicket is produced the club gets fined as we have seen in the past), but Hants also face a problem in the four day matches of not having a genuine strike bowler who can take wickets through sheer pace (the recent arrival of Matt Coles has illustrated the problem as did well at Leicestershire and in the last match at The Ageas Bowl, where he took 10 wickets in the match, but, he is not what I imagine as a strike bowler, but he is quicker than the other bowlers at Hants) and the flat wickets make this problem worse!  If it is not possible to change the wickets and it is not possible to find a bowler who can take 10-12 wickets per game, then the only solution lies with more declarations and, as I have said before, this requires an incentive, probably through the points system, but also a financial incentive from promotion.

Yet, despite these problems we do very well at limited over cricket, where there is an increased need for the batsmen to take risks and play across the line – this tends to increase the success rate of swing bowlers such at Chris Wood and explains some of the success Hampshire have had.  When combined with the batting capabilities of Carberry (now selected for England), Vince (who has improved dramatically this season), Dawson and Adams the team is an excellent unit for one day cricket and especially t20, but these forms of cricket tend to encourage loose shots and I have seem too many such shots during the four day matches (this was Vince’s problem in my view).  We have seen some amazing cricket this summer and perhaps the most memorable moment was CarberryCarberry scoring his 100 off the last over of a t20 match, almost being run out in a match that saw over 400 runs scored in only 40 overs!  There were some wonderful overs bowled by Mascarenhas, who will be sorely missed, and despite his loss of pace he remains one of the most difficult bowlers to score off in limited over cricket.  Despite failure at the semi-final level in the YB40 game (to Glamorgan) and in the semi-finals of the t20, we played some wonderful limited over cricket and the batting looked deep, but occasionally likely to fail at the top.  However, the question rises should we be happy with limited over success, or should there be more determination to return to the top flight County cricket?  One of the topics of discussion during some of the cricket this year was the incentive for player and club to win County matches – our conclusion was that there is very little financial benefit for the club and even player transfers appear not to benefit the club financially.  There is little likelihood that gates will change for County matches and the only possible change might be the demographic change in age groups that might increase the numbers of retired people who watch cricket ( not a particularly viable solution to the problem).

There are many changes planned for next year and one area of concern is that the t20 cricket will be spread out across the season.  I am surprised by this, and I am not sure I totally believe that spectators wanted this, but the format will be primarily Friday nights through June, July and August (I believe), but problems attracting foreign players for such a tournament may be a problem and may lessen audience size!
The 40 over competition will be replaced by a 50 over tournament, to match international games, but I think these longer games may have a smaller audience as they take most of a day to play.
I also understand County matches may start on a Sunday, which may cause some problems with infrastructure support (public transport) if they run late!

So, I am sure there will be plenty to discuss next year and I foresee some problems attracting larger crowds to the longer tournaments, but at least we have a test match at The Ageas Bowl to look forward to (even though the ground had to be “inspected” to get this generous award, lol!

Durham vs Hampshire – YB40 on TV

Up to now I haven’t had many chances to watch a live match on TV that involves my two favourite teams – I guess I will support Hants though.  It is nice to see that the skies are clear, only a slight amount of cloud and some sunshine; although, the wind looks strong.  Sadly, the ground looks quite empty.

Durham_DynamosDurham won the toss and elected to field and dropped an early catch off Vince, not too good a start, which was followed quickly by an optimistic hack from Carberry that did not go to hand.  The loss of both openers was a major set-back for Hants, leaving them at 36-2.  this forced Adams and McKenzie to slow down the scoring and try to stage a recovery.  But the loss of McKenzie for 18 was a further set-back that gave Durham the upper hand. Adams continued to bat well scoring boundaries whenever a wide ball was presented until he fell to Collingwood for 32 leaving Hants on 112-4.  It was Liam Dawson, described by one commentator as “not a six hitter”, who rescued a reasonable score for Hants out eventually for 69 at 150% scoring rate.  But Wood went cheaply attempting an extravagant shot instead of giving the strike to Tanvir, which left Hants on 224-9 off the 40 overs.

This TV coverage gave me my first opportunity to watch Tanvir’s bowling in details (impossible at full speed and live), I had already noticed something odd about his run up and TV analysis shows he bowls more off his back foot and has a shortened delivery stride.  This may account for the no balls and it will be interesting to see how he goes in this match.

Hampshire_Royals_LogoTanvir struck early for Hants, bowling the Durham captain Stoneman for a duck, but Durham struck back quickly, looking aggressive with early boundaries.  Mascarenhas did not come out to bowl and apparently had a back spasm, while Carberry was unable to field after having being hit on the thumb when out.  However, Tanvir and Wood settled into a rhythm and Durham were quieter over the next few overs, but Ervine’s drop of Mustard, an easy slip catch, might haunt Hants.  Eventually, at the end of the first Powerplay, Durham had reached 29-1, slightly behind Hampshire’s score at the same stage of the game.  James Vince came on to bowl at this point, because of the loss of Mascarhenhas, and promptly missed an easy caught and bowled chance off Borthwick.  Sadly rain arrived after 12 overs and the fielders left the field to sunshine, rain and a rainbow!  The target was lowered by 7 runs and two overs were lost.  Durham took hold of the game after the rain break and immediately attacked Briggs and Vince, while Mustard moved to 50 off 55 balls (an expensive dropped catch now).  As the Durham innings grew in strength, Hampshire looked ragged in the field and, along with the dropped catches, this was not Hants at their best.  That both Borthwick and Mustard were dropped early added to the frustration of Hampshire as Durham moved to 164-2 when Mustard was caught out on the boundary for 92 off 90 deliveries. The arrival of Paul Collingwood meant there was no loss of momentum and despite the loss of Borthwick for 80 off 82, Durham were now 201-3.  the loss of Stokes to Tanvir for only 3 was only a slight hiccup.  Tanvir was Hampshire’s best bowler with 4-39, but the loss of Mascarenhas was too great and Durham won in the 36th over by 6 wickets.

For me the interesting take home message was that Tanvir can bowl well without no-balls.

Hampshire vs Derbyshire – YB40 match

derbyshire-cccHampshire had slipped off the top of the Group B table by the start of this match and needed a win to secure that position again with a game in hand on many of the other teams.  For me derby shire represent something of an unknown in this 40-over competition, they got promoted in the County Championship last year and must have some strength, but would that work in a 40-over situation – Hampshire have shown how different the games are and have done poorly in County Cricket and yet win one day trophies.

This was a 16:40 start and would be a day-night match under the splendid lights at The Ageas Bowl.  The weather was warm at the start and it looked as though it should be a good game.  Derbyshire won the toss and, much to my surprise, asked Hampshire to bat first.  However, Hampshire got off to the worst possible start loosing Vince for nought off the fifth ball of the first over.  This was a shame, Vince was in very good form at the start of the season, and it looked like Vince didn’t think he had hit the ball, which was caught by Turner in the slips.  Despite this early loss Carberry looked in top form once again and was well supported by the Captain Jimmy Adams as they added 41 before Adams was caught on the boundary for 24 off 18 balls.  This partnership added momentum to the Hampshire innings, which was continued by McKenzie.  Sadly, the excellent innings by Carberry ended with the score on 114 when he was caught behind on 53 off 62 deliveries, this loss was worsened when Ervine was run out for only 9 runs, leaving Hants on 133 for 4 and when McKenzie went the score was 137-5, which was worrying and the large crowd was a little restless.  Despite this difficult situation, the Hants batsmen continues with their positive approach and Dawson made a solid contribution (a run a ball 34), but it was the diminutive Wheater who turned the game, ripping into the Derbyshire bowlers, scoring 70 runs off only 41 balls to turn the game Hampshire’s way.  Despite the loss of Wheater’s wicket Mascarenhas added a quick 19 and Hants ended up on 277-8 after the 40 overs.  This left Derbyshire to score at almost seven runs an over.Wheater

Derbyshire did their best and all of the batsmen got some runs, but they were continuingly falling behind the asking rate, which was soon up to 8 and then 9 runs per over.  As each batsmen tried to “open their shoulders” and increase their scoring rate, wickets fell and by the time they were 194-5 it looked an impossible task and the last few wickets fell quickly.  Hampshire eventually won by 46 runs and returned to head the Group B table – an excellent performance showing, once again, that their strength is with the limited over game!  The t20 season starts next week and it will be interesting to see how well Hants defend two limited over titles.

Hampshire vs Gloucestershire – well I declare!

You would almost think that Jimmy Adams (Hants captain) had read my last cricket blog – there were more declarations in this match than ee usually see in a season!  This match started with the loss of the first day to rain and the likelihood of another draw.  So, when I arrived at The Ageas Bowl on day two, in dry but grey weather, I was already wondering if Hants had a game plan that might lead to a win.  For weeks, most of the spectators I have spoken with are all of the option that Hants lack a real quality strike bowler who could be relied upon to take 20 wickets in a match.  It was interesting to note, on arrival, that Hants had signed Sohail Tanvir, the Pakistan medium fast bowler, and he replaced David Griffiths on the team list.  The immediate question was “is this the required strike bowler”?
Hampshire won the toss and asked Gloucestershire to bat, which suggested that Hants believed they could take wickets and force a result.  Tanvir immediately looked a threat as he trapped the Gloucestershire opener, Klinger, LBW for only four runs.  However, the expectation was short lived as a new issue arose – no balls!  Tanvir eventually took two wickets for 95 runs, not a particularly exciting return, but at the cost of 13 no balls (26 extras for no balls alone).  As Gloucestershire batted into the second day these no balls built up and the extras moved to a ridiculous 53, including a total of 32 no balls!  This is effectively giving the opposition a batting point.
The crowd was already restless as the extras built up, but tempers really frayed when another bowling farce, between Dawson and Carberry, was started – time wasting for a declaration we assumed, but not a great spectator sport.  Gloucestershire eventually declared at 410-9 after eight overs of “slow spin”, but no one could really understand why the wasted overs were necessary to ensure the declaration.  What happened next took everyone by surprise – both teams forfeited an innings, Hants effectively throwing away any batting bonus points, leaving Hants to score 411 to win, with a day and a half still left in the match.  This confused us spectators even more as Hants really only had to score at two an over, not loose wickets, and they would stroll to a win – after all batting is supposed to be our strength.
It was mot a good start as the captain was given out caught behind for a duck.  However, Carberry and Dawson made up for their bowling farce by scoring at more than three an over until Dawson was out for 27, with the score at 63.  This induced one of the most dramatic collapses I have ever watched, in no time Hants were 74-5 and wickets continued to fall – 88-6, 136-7, 170-8, 182-9 and all out on a mear 212 off just over 62 overs.
What is difficult to understand is why runs were not accumulated without any risk, keeping wickets in hand and taking the game into the final day.  Hampshire should have strolled to a win over two days!
So, what next?  I am not convinced we have the required strike bowler, our best bowler on the day was Mascarhenis who took four wickets, but is he fit enough to keep doing that in four day matches?  I can see how we win one day matches, but I doubt we can get out of division two without a stronger bowling attack.
As for my ideas about declarations that encourage a result, I stand by one I have suggested, but I also think there needs to be more (early) communication to the spectators, so that they understand what is happening.

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Hampshire vs Kent – County Championship match

Kent-Cricket-logoWednesday 5th June saw a warm sunny day at The Ageas Bowl and the arrival of Kent for a four day match.  Hampshire won the toss and sensibly elected to bat.  It was a steady start, at times slow as Carberry and Adams scored at two an over! The first wicket fell at 80
, bringing Dawson (36) and then McKenzie to the crease. The highlight of Hampshire’s first day play was McKenzie who, with Ervine (86) shared a fifth wicket partnership of 189.

The second day saw Hants score 455 all out, but after failing to get more than 3 batting points, an earlier declaration could have occurred – too much caution in my view. Kent looked solid at the beginning of their innings against the nee ball, but lost four wickets by close of play.

Day 3 saw the heavens open (luckily I was in Emsworth at TOFC), but Kent made an early declaration to help make a result possible. Hants had a first innings lead of 134, but lost three early wickets for 53!

This brought us to day 4, bright sunshine and the possibility of declaration by Hants. I didn’t really expect to see Northeast and Key bowling total rubbish and I think this was too contrived! This farce eventually ended when Hants declared at 207-3 leaving Kent 342 off 84 overs. Key and Northeast went for 108 off 9.3 overs! There must be a better way to engineer a victory for one of the sides without resorting to such poor quality cricket.  However, the rest of the day was entertaining and the crowd stayed to watch a finely balanced match.  Kent lost 8 wickets before finally closing up shop and ensuring a draw, but it was close!  A much better finish than other draws.

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The crowds stayed.

Lancashire visit – from the sublime to the ridiculous

Hampshire_Royals_LogoLast week saw the arrival of Lancashire for, first, a one day match (40-over) and then a four-day County championship (Division 2) match.  There was even the promise of some sunshine and some summer-like weather!

The one day match was a 16:40 start and on arriving I discovered that the cameras were at the game – I was unsure if the building work would prevent this, but obviously not.  What a game this turned out to be, maybe the cameras helped, but there was some amazing batting on show and more drama than anyone would have thought possible.  The announcement of a change to the Hampshire team reflected an injury to the “new” wicket keeper Wheater – the announcement that Bates would play was met with a loud cheer – but it was not Bates who went out to stand behind the stumps.  Having won the toss, Hampshire elected to field, but that injury to Wheater meant they had to send a message to London to get Bates to return quickly from his second XI match and, in the meantime, there was debut appearance by an academy player – Tom Alsop – who made an excellent job of being thrust in at the deep end and took an excellent catch to dismiss Croft.  this young man will be a major asset in my view.  Bates eventually took over wicket keeping  from Alsop, in the 16th over, and looked as good as he usually does.

Hampshire had made a very good start and dismissed the opener Moore and number 3 (Croft)  for only 29, but a superb stand of 112 between Prince and Brown ensured Lancashire carried momentum into the final stage of the game where Cross and White added a rapid 59 runs for the sixth wicket and led Lancashire to a respectable 244.  This looked a reasonable challenge until Carberry arrived at the crease and set about making one of the best inning I have seen – an unbeaten 150 off 115 balls that included 5 sixes, one of which produced a major dent in the side of the Sky TV van parked on the terrace!  While Vince went early for only 25, Adams batted with total confidence and made 66 off 61 deliveries to guide Hampshire to a comprehensive victory.  What a great day’s cricket, which made up for the cold evening!

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Hampshire%20Cricket%20whiteSo, after such an exciting game in the YB40 tournament, I was looking forward to the four-day game with the hope of an exciting game and, hopefully, a victory for Hants.  Even better was the news that the weather was set to improve and warm up by the last two days.

Lancashire won the toss and batted making steady progress despite loosing wickets regularly.  A major contribution from Agathangelou (121 off 208 deliveries), in only his third first class game for Lancs and his first this season, helped take Lancs to 295 all out.

lancashire%20cricket%20club%20red%20roseHampshire middle order batted poorly and lost 3 wickets to Chapple for no runs.  Despite Bailey top scoring with 84, it was always going to be difficult to recover from the disastrous afternoon session and eventually Hants reached 258 all out, giving Lancs a lead of 37.

Lancs batted again but lost three wickets at the end of day 3, leaving them on 63-3 at close and the prospect of an exciting last day, in warm sunshine, with either Hampshire taking wickets or Lancashire declaring to give themselves a chance of a win – all possibilities existed.

However, this last day was the worst day of cricket I have ever suffered and brought it home to me why County cricket is failing so badly and why crowds do not come to these matches.  As, lunch arrived Lancs had batted on with only two wickets lost and a declaration early in the afternoon looked likely, but Lancs batted on with Cross and Croft scoring centuries.  Hampshire’s response was to gradually use weaker bowling with Carberry and Adams eventually bowling 10 overs between them, while Lancs went on to score 373 and declared to allow a draw and a slightly early finish for the very few remaining spectators.

It is a reflection of Hants bowling attack that they were unable to take wickets when the sun was shining, but it is a sad reflection of the County game that Lancs did not think declaring and trying to win was a possibility.  There has to be a change to the regulations to encourage victory at the expense of a draw and I have suggested before that bonus points should be forfeited when there is a draw – I stand by this idea and really think it should be implemented ASAP.

However, I also have to ask why Lancashire played on as long as they did, why they allowed the game to descend into farce and whether Hants should have partaken of this!  There were no winners in this game and the biggest looser was cricket itself!  After the excitement and enjoyment of the YB40 this game was a major disappointment.

Hampshire vs Durham – 40 over match

A week without cricket at the Rose Bowl was slightly broken up by the test match between England and New Zealand – what a strange match!  I guess there were a few things of interest beyond the result:

  1. DRS-sky-sport_628526tThe slow outfield made a much more interesting game of it, with only the very best shots earning a boundary, but also showed that the batting side should not expect to gather boundaries and that running is important.
  2. That test cricket can be played under lights.
  3. That the DRS system is an excellent mechanism to improve the reliability of umpires and should allow the use of home umpires (but only if the DRS scheme is used everywhere).
  4. That the lack of runners for injured batsmen may well worsen injuries and that the timing of test matches will not allow recovery – maybe larger squads will be needed.

The last day of the test was the day of the most recent YB40 game at The Rose Bowl, I am not too keen on the use of Sundays for these matches as public transport is poor and the last bus back into Southampton, for instance, is at 19:15, before the end of the game.  However, there was no way I was going to miss seeing Durham and I find that my loyalties are split these days!

Durham_DynamosThe day started with rain (well it started to rain once I set off for the ground) and the covers were on when I arrived, not a good start!  However, it quickly dried up and the game was started at 14:30 as a 36 over match.  Hants won the toss and elected to field, which looked a good decision in the conditions and proved to be so as Durham lost early wickets and stumbled to 45-4 when Collingwood was out for only 6 – a shame as I was looking forward to him batting!  Despite this terrible start, Ben Stokes rescued Durham with a tremendous 87 and some woeful bowling by Hampshire was punished by the later-order batsmen, who moved Durham to 241-8 in the 36 overs, which looked a good and competitive score.

Hampshire_Royals_LogoAfter the short break between innings (15 min) the weather was much better and it looked ideal for batting – warm sunshine and a light breeze.  This was confirmed as Hampshire began a batting onslaught despite losing the in-form James Vince for a duck and put on 133 for the second wicket (Adams out for 67 in the 19th over).  The victory still looked a long way away and the runs dried up for a while, but Dawson batted well scoring a rapid 37 at the close of the game to win the match, but it was a shame that Carberry was out on 96 in the penultimate over!

Sadly, I had to miss all of that late action as I went for the 19:15 bus (come on First, at least run a bus after the end of the game) and things got worse when it became apparent that the last bus had broken down.  I had to walk to Bitterne where I eventually caught another bus into Southampton – this is the problem with public transport!

Still a very good win for Hampshire and an excellent game to watch.