Saturday, 25 September 2010


What a rise it has been. Some questioned his inclusion, moaning that the likes of Kerrigan and Parry should have been in the squad instead (yes, they were Lancs fans). But when, amongst your list of victims you include Bopara, Goodwin, van Jaarsveld, Chanderpaul, Cook and Trescothick, then you are likely to be noticed. Danny Briggs has had a barnstorming year, leading English wicket taker in the 20/20 with 31, he even came into his own in the Championship, turning into a genuine spin threat.

Effectively 4th in line to the spin throne, it's just amazing even now, to see his name especially, amongst the lists for touring parties to Aus. That's certainly not to say he hasn't deserved it. Completely the opposite. Nic Pothas said in the latest issue of SPIN that some Hampshire players' faces didn't seem to fit with the England set up. Two of those mentioned have made it into the performance squad, justifiably. To have both openers score over 1300 runs for the season is brilliant. To have both of them English is even better and for one to be born in this county is the icing on the cake.

I expected Carberry to go to Australia in some playing capacity. I also half expected, half blindly hoped that Adams would be on the same plane, so overall it was a very pleasing squad announcement. To see none of, in my view the three best batsmen of 2010 (Adams, Hildreth, Lyth) involved with the main squad, whilst Bell waltzes back into the group of 16, has done little to repair my views on ECB selection.

But that should not detract from the marvellous achievements of these three Hampshire players, who have absolutely destroyed the selectors' door using Cosgrove as a battering ram. They richly deserve their chance, and some.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Scheduling the 2011 T20

Now, as absolutely bloody fantastic as the Finals Day win was, it did feel like being handed one of those foil blankets after finishing a marathon, such was the mix of elation with relief at having finally completed the tournament. In short it was way too long in terms of number of matches played. 144 games to eliminate 10 of the 18 sides? It had shades of the IPL in how it made many people crumple to their knees in front of the TV during yet another dead rubber from the County Ground in Derby shouting "Why?!! WHY?!!!!".

The saddest part, for me, was that after some of the losses, I found myself not being bothered by the defeat. For someone who's life is ruined by the rugby season, where Wednesday through to Saturday are spent worrying about the Saturday fixture, then Sunday to Tuesday are spent recovering from the match before starting the cycle all over again, it is pretty damning on the tournament as a concept for me just to go "doh" at a result then get on with my life.

Sixteen group games made half of them meaningless, whilst playing against half the country removed a lot of the local derby feel. I think that it has already been decided that the tournament will return in 2011 to a 6 team group with 10 group games, just like 2009. This is a good move, bringing back the regions and reducing the games, but there are still changes that I would make to the calendar:

- Group games will only be played on weekends.

- The group stages will run from the start of June until the end of July.

- Teams will only play one match a week with the exception of two weeks, where two games will be played.

- Group games will be played alternately home and away, so a home game every two weeks.

- Quarter finals will be played on the first weekend of August.

- Finals day will be played two weeks later on the Saturday.

This scheduling has a number of benefits. Firstly it spaces out the group games so that, coupled with the reduction in group matches, each game carries more importance and is more of an event. The way it will be spaced out is so: Start of June to end of July covers 8 weekends, so teams play one match a week, except for two weeks where they play two matches a week, say a home game on Friday and an away game on Sunday. This again allows for more importance to be placed on each match, and also allows for more time during the week to play Championship and one day matches, de-cluttering those schedules too.

Secondly, playing the games on weekends only offers the chance for higher attendances, as a greater number of people will be able to attend on Friday evenings and Saturday and Sunday afternoons than on Tuesday evenings, for example. The spacing out of these games, coupled with better ticket price management, would boost attendances as people would be more willing to pay to see a game once a fortnight at £15 each, rather than £20 each twice a week.

The tournament can still make the most of the supposedly best weather, whilst also allowing CC matches to be played in decent weather too. And whilst it is still spread out, the tournament should hopefully not be played over such a long period as to make overseas players difficult to come by.

Playing the quarter-finals a week after the last group games allows form to still be carried over, whilst the two week gap between QFs and Finals Day means that clubs have enough time to sell tickets for Finals day properly. The quarter finals would be played on the Saturday and Sunday, one in the afternoon and the other as a day nighter straight after, so all four can be broadcast. Finals Day arrangements would stay the same.

To keep Sky happy, each round of matches would be played over all three days available, so they would in effect still be able to show three live matches a week.

With the correct marketing, scheduling and pricing of tickets, the ECB could turn the 20/20 from an exciting yet ever so slightly fading fad into a genuine breadwinner. One that defines the weekends of the high summer and does more to boost interest in cricket than Groundhog Day masked by cheap music and dancers and other gimmicks. 20/20 is a serious business and so it must be treated thus. The first port of call for the ECB must be the calendar wallchart.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Sloppy end

It was going to happen, wasn't it? Nothing to play for, no threat of relegation whilst the team we were facing very much had that threat. That was the difference at the end of the day and we deserved to lose. You could say we were not favoured by the conditions but Warks wanted it more, Woakes bowled well and for the fourth time in 6 innings our batting was frankly crap.

Slug again made it clear to all that taking a positive approach was the way to go, much like Cork on the first day, but the top order didn't learn, though Dawson can certainly hold his head high after these last two matches saw him be, in my view, our best batsman. Adams got the runs he needed to pass 2500 for the season, an amazing feat, and if a Lions call doesn't come then Miller will be getting abuse from more than just Dimi.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Fantastic effort

No, not the Hampshire top order (in the dog house, the lot of you!). Actually, one of them. Liam Dawson showed that his 50 against Kent wasn't a one off by playing a very accomplished innings in extremely tough conditions. On arrival Messrs Adams, Carberry, Hughes and Vince were all back on the balcony with their feet up, and the two at the crease, Dawson and Slug, didn't look comfortable either. Early on in his innings Dawson looked very shaky as the Warwickshire bowlers found swing and movement on a greenish wicket and in close conditions., playing and missing at multiple balls. However as his innings progressed Dawson soon found his feet, and the middle of the bat, scoring slowly yes but vitally occupying the crease, something the others seemed unable to do.

Having got a hold of conditions he looked a lot calmer at the crease, looking like he belonged in the middle at four, finally. His judgement of the line of the ball was excellent, vastly reducing the risk of getting out by simply getting the bat well away from the ball when it wasn't threatening his pads or the stumps. It was imperative that he stay at the crease until the close of play and though that came sooner than everyone was hoping, he was still not out and so job done for the day effectively. This has been Dawson's second vital knock in a week, and though neither of them have been huge scores their effect on the innings has been huge. It's safe to say that this late charge with the bat will give White plenty of selection conundrums next season.

You just can't overlook Corky either. Whilst Dawson treated everything outside offstump like a fresh dog turd, Cork was the veritable fly, launching himself at anything given a bit of width, and it paid dividends. 41* from 38 balls is pretty good as far as counter attacking innings go, the way he dispatched everything sent from the Pavillion End was particularly pleasing. Of special note was his cover drive off of Miller. It was one of those shots that as soon as you heard the sound of ball hit bat, you knew immediately what the outcome would be. Dawson wasn't completely Mckenzie-esque, though - the one over Tahir bowled was handled very positively by Dawson, who laid down a marker to show that he wasn't going to be tied down by spin.

Slug's shot to get out to must surely carry some sort of punishment, such was the mushed brained effort. However I think having been spared the pain of seeing the first four wickets then I'm not too despondent!

The transition from U19s to test cricket

I thought about having a look at how the age group set-up supports the national side. In an ideal world there would be a steady stream of players progressing through the age groups and going on to represent their country at the highest level. Obviously in reality it never runs this smoothly, but for England it makes for interesting viewing. Between 2000 and 2008, exactly 100 players represented the England U19s youth test side. I chose this time frame as firstly I couldn't face looking further back than 2000, and secondly this puts all of the players in the 20-30 age bracket - ripe for test selection. Of these 100 players, 13 have gone on to play test cricket.

On the face of it, this is an ok-ish return. 1 in 8 making the test grade sounds about right. It looks even better - amongst these 13 players are Anderson, Broad, Finn, Cook and Prior, all current English test players. Also included are Bell, Panesar and Bresnan.

However, the other names do not make for such pleasant viewing:

Ravi Bopara - 10 tests.

Liam Plunkett - 9 tests.

Chris Tremlett - 3 tests.

Kabir Ali - 1 test.

James Tredwell - 1 test.

To be honest only Bopara and possibly Tremlett can hold any hope of playing test matches again, whilst Panesar too will be concerned about his own test prospects. Therefore I believe that the recent history of the England U19s should be looked upon with slight disappointment. Yes it has provided us with a very decent pace attack, but apart from that it's only other products that are enjoying proper runs in the test side are an under-fire opener and a wicketkeeper who very much divides opinion. The last three England U19s players to play test cricket have been Finn, Broad and Cook, showing that the yet more recent history is even worse.

So where should the blame lie for this apparent lack of successful player movement through the age groups? In my opinion it is not down to just one factor. Firstly I don’t think that the ECB do enough to monitor and develop players and use the age groups enough to their advantage. The latest trick appears to be naming half the English qualified county players in groups according to where they fit into the test tree.

This is all good and well if these players have been assessed in development squads and A teams throughout their careers, but this season’s lists have shown how wide of the mark they in fact are. For example, the ‘A’ bracket, i.e. players on the very cusp of the test team, consists of four players – Carberry, Moore, Amjad Khan and Mahmood. Out of those four only Carberry has shown any sort of form or fitness this season to warrant a mention at selection meetings.

The players’ counties must also take some criticism though. An argument could be made, and is made by some, that the kolpak ruling is not allowing young players to spend enough time in their county first XIs so as to develop their own game. To an extent this holds some truth – the journeyman kolpak players that aren’t as good as most of the county squads end up filling in gaps as a cheaper solution. However, quality kolpaks can do wonders for a young player’s development, and so there is very much a place for them in the game.

Likewise the increased number of player transfers between counties is making it more and more difficult for homegrown players to cement a place in the side, and is vindictive of the quick-fix success sought after by many counties in search of trophies and Division One status. The thought of developing a team of homegrown players, though appealing to every county, is not financially viable for many and so these players will suffer.

The U19s as a concept is an absolutely fantastic idea of course. It gets a group of relatively unknown, unproven young talents together on a tour and it teaches them to take on responsibility and pressure they would never otherwise face back home. I think that the ECB need to get a better understanding of how to handle players that have played for the U19s team and help them progress smoothly, whilst the counties must realise the long term benefits of having these players in their side. If this can be done then fewer players will fall through the net available to carry them into the test team.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Leaving it late

It's fair to say that Hampshire have been involved in more than their fair share of nail biting Championship finishes this season, not all of them going our way either. Indeed the last match went against us in the last over, whilst our first win of the season came when McKenzie slapped a six with just 7 ball to spare. Great for the CC as a concept, not good for us nervy types. This match against Kent was no different, in fact I think it was even more nerve wrenching than the previous, given the context of the match. There were of course permutations that meant a draw in this match would mean that we would only need like 3 bonus points against Warwickshire to make Kent have to beat Yorkshire to stay up, or something.

However the main plan was to win the damn thing, and improve on our paltry win tally of two for the season. To win we had to bowl Kent out again, no mean feat as the pitch appeared to settle down through the third day and scoring became easier. To pull off a win, Hampshire would need accuracy, aggression and sustained pressure, as well as a few early wickets. The bowling attack, admittedly criticised by me on occasion managed to do the job with enough time to boil an egg. A single, perhaps underdone in some people's view, egg. The plan to utilise the spin in the wicket was apparent as Briggs came into the attack as the first change bowler.

Briggs and Vince combine to remove MVJ

Corky rose to the occasion, snapping up three wickets, including in my opinion the key wicket of Stevens, who attempted some shot that should never be seen of again in County Cricket. Ever. Nick Knight Jr hung around longer than first innings, ending up Kent's highest second innings scorer with 71 before the man of the moment, Tomlinson, trapped him in front. Chipping away at their lower order seemed to last an eternity, time and balls slipping away as tailender after tailender ate up some time in the middle before inevitably falling to one of the successful bowling triumvirate.

Cork appeals successfully for Jones' wicket

Bowling Carbs instead of Dawson was mind boggling and above all bloody frustrating, but it gave us more overs to play with, and in the end it proved decisive as Tommo was given the ball to send down an over with according to some reports just 5 minutes left in the match. The field was not exactly, umm, defensive, which proved crucial as a very close infielder, wearing the shirt of Adams clung on to a glanced short of a length ball from Tommo, leaving Cook, the number 11 to ponder what could have been. Hampshire? Well they were a bit pleased with the whole thing.

Stevens' horror hack ends his resistance

So it was Tommo that clinched the match, and it was Cork who picked up key wickets, but for me the most satisfying performance was that of Briggs. I doubted if he could step up on a day made for him - wickets on offer on a fourth day on a pitch conducive to spin. Seeing Blob Key dismissed with a flat fuller ball, and MVJ edge a beauty to a waiting Vince was all I needed to convince me that my doubts were very much misplaced. I've said it before but this kid is a bloody miracle and the wicket list goes to prove it. MVJ and Blob Key join an ever expanding collection of victims that includes di Venuto, Bopara, Blackwell, Trescothick, Chanderpaul, Goodwin and Maddy. Not bad for a year's work, and though Tahir will have the CC spinner's spot nailed on next year he is going to struggle to find his way into the 20/20 side.

Tredwell is given out caught behind

Cork and Tommo stepped up when it mattered, taking 7 wickets between them in the innings, as both take their season tallies into the 40s after this match. Certainly not the opening pair we were expecting at the start of the season, but both have performed admirably, Cork must take extra credit for playing his heart out day in, day out in all forms of the game for just about the entire season and the burden (or pleasure in Corky's case) of captaincy from July onwards. He has sat out just one match, the Leics CB40 match, since and will be well deserving of a break this time next week. Tommo? He marches on, bringing the ball back into the right handers at a decent pace and outrageous accuracy, celebrating everything like it's a trophy and just being pretty much the most liked member of the squad.

The moment Hampshire realise they've done it

The run cushion afforded to the bowlers, after the top order's hard work on the third day, was built on in the morning by the bowlers and superbly marshaled by Vince at 5. An extra 30 runs for himself, and an extra 58 runs for the team put the game out of Kent's reach, and tentatively into the hands of Hampshire. So Warwickshire await now in the final match of the season, Hampshire have nothing to play for but pleasingly are sticking with the same thirteen man squad that took on Kent. I think it is important for White to maintain continuity within the side even though circumstances have very much changed. Firstly it shows that we are still taking the game seriously, and secondly it tells the players that take to the field that we are not going to be letting up - a healthy amount of pressure to keep the professionalism and competitiveness present within the side.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Applause for Daws

The boots of a retired international are always difficult to fill in a team. Even more difficult is when the position needing filling is the number four spot. More difficult still when you yourself have endured a tough season where you have been in and out of the team and floating between batting positions. It's a nigh on impossible task when the player you are filling in for is Neil McKenzie.

Dawson though seems to be able to take these punishing tasks on without much complaint. Brought into the team for the most important CC match of the season he could perhaps be forgiven if he had succumbed to the pressure of the situation. Hampshire were in a strong position when Dawson came to the crease, yes, but the innings still required a positive innings of substance that would provide impetus for the team. In an innings of 71 balls the position of strength had been transformed into a position nearing dominance, as Dawson played his way to his first 50 of the season, against let's be honest a not bad bowling attack. After Adams and Carbs set the platform, Dawson and Hughes sped things up, taking on the spinners and keeping Hampshire in front.

After Hughes' departure, Vince joined in, hitting his first 16 runs in boundaries. The most important part though was that these two saw the innings into tea without any further loss, and Dawson brought up his deserved 50 soon after the break. He was out very soon after (for 50) but his job was done. People have been critical of him, and it has been very disappointing seeing him being unable to nail down a spot in the side after his very promising debut CC 2008 season. Whether it's concentration, confidence, technique or a combination of all three and some that has caused Dawson to struggle in the side I'm not sure but for the latter part of this season it would appear that he is coming out of this dip. His innings in the CB40 at home to Leics was the Dawson of old, oozing with confidence and conviction in his shots, making it a pleasure to watch.

So the match is still carefully balanced somewhat, though Hampshire will be confident of getting enough runs in the morning quickly enough to firstly secure their position, and secondly to give enough overs in which to bowl Kent out for a win that would finalise safety. For Dawson his job isn't done yet - the pitch is taking spin so his left armers could be crucial in the hunt for the win. In terms of the next match he will have rightfully earned the number four spot again, and hopefully faith from White that he is worth very much persevering with and can become a fixture in the CC team. A good bowling performance in the fourth innings wouldn't do much harm to his cause.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Better, better

Well we got more play than expected today, and it was great to see us actually capitalise on the amount of play available. There has been some slight criticism aimed at Tommo lately. Not because he has been bowling crap, far from it he has been hitting his length perfectly. The thing is he hasn't been making the batsmen play often enough. The economy rate has been excellent but the wickets column has been lacking. However this match he appeared to be himself again. Swing has always been his greatest ally, and though conditions weren't a swing bowler's dream, he got the ball to talk enough to consistently force the batsmen to play, and his post tea spell was phenomenal. Stevens and Blake were goners in the space of two balls, whilst Bandara and Coles also succumbed. Added to that was Cork's removal of the key wicket, MVJ the over following the double strike, and his rabbit Blob Key.

It was really good to see Briggs pick up a wicket, he will be ever so important come the fourth innings, as the pitch is taking spin and has done throughout the match. Frustratingly Wood isn't 100% match fit, managing just 5 overs but the others stepped up nicely, Slug taking on the first change mantle with glee, removing Denly and Tredwell to give himself respectable figures. By the end of the innings, Tommo had 4, Cork had 3, Slug 2 and Briggs 1. It was pleasing how Cork kept to his bowling plans rather than turning to various part timers when things weren't quite going as expected. The Denly/MVJ partnership was a good'un but trust was placed in the frontliners and their returns were handsome.

When Coles edged Tommo behind to Bates, Hampshire secured the third bowling point and in doing so sentenced Essex to Div 2 cricket in 2011. Hampshire go into the third day with all 10 second innings wickets still intact after Jimmy and Carbs negotiated the last 12 overs with conservatism but most importantly without error, giving us a 38 run lead. It doesn't need me to explain how important this third day is to Hampshire and their season, as for all of the goodness that has come out of this second day, the match is still very much in the balance. The first task for Hampshire will be to bat out the day, no mean feat on this wicket. We must also bat aggressively. If we find ourselves in a position where we can force a result, then we need to have enough runs behind us so as to remove any chance of a successful Kent run chase. This however must also be juggled with having enough time to hopefully take all ten of their wickets on the last day. Quite a headache for Cork I can imagine, and quite a big day in store for the Hampshire players not least numbers 3, 4 and 5, who will be vital for building the lead we so dearly crave.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Kent and season thoughts

Yes there are still probably 7 days left of the season, and Hampshire can still save themselves, but I just have this nagging feeling that we aren't going to survive. In truth we are not fully deserving of first division status next season - winning just two CC matches in a division that includes Kent, Warwickshire, Essex and Lancashire is not acceptable, and for that relegation wouldn't be a crushing blow. The performance today is a case in point. The scoring was slow, very slow in fact given that we chose to bat having won the toss. Once again Adams can hold his head very high, top scoring though at a perhaps disappointing strike rate. Vince by all accounts played a typical Vince innings, but the rest of the batsmen should be severely disappointed with the efforts today. If we win the toss then we should make the absolute most of the advantage, not surrender it to the opposition. Kent batted equally cautiously, as both sides I think did not hide the fact that they are fighting for survival. The two teams are paralysed with fear of messing up, and the winner (and there will be a winner on this pitch, I can assure you) is the one that actually plays their normal game. If that were to happen then you would have Hampshire as favourites, but anything can still happn. First thing (if there's play) is to get the batsmen playing at just about everything. Even if it results in a few boundaries, it will at least keep the bowlers in the hunt for wickets. The opening bowlers need to be incisive, Whilst Briggs really must come to the party on a wicket that is obviously taking spin. Dawson too should be given overs, though I doubt that will happen.

 To be honest I think in a way this season has answered more questions than it's asked. For that I feel more optimistic about the future than I did say 2 or 3 years ago where we were releasing 5 or 6 fringe and academy players a season and losing a quality player a season (still contracts to be tied up this season though). For example, what have we learnt this season?:
- Hampshire post-Pothas is not as apocalyptic as we first thought.

- Benham will sadly never be good enough to play in the Hampshire top 6.

- Wood has what it takes to play to a high standard in all forms of cricket, and must surely take over (I say through gritted teeth) from Tommo.

- Briggs is a bloody miracle and will surely be one of the top off-spinners in the country in a few years time.

- Vince can score over 30 more than twice a season and is our best bet at three in the 20/20.

- Carberry can put two good seasons together.

- Who's Michael Brown?

- We need at least one fast bowler who can bowl at more than 80mph in the CC

- Dawson is NOT a top 5 batsman, though I think there is still a future for him at 6 or 7.

- Cork isn't here just for a nice pension and the sun.

- We haven't lost our identity as a club following the tie up with the Royals. To be honest I quite like the name and the kit.

When the season is indeed over I will address each of these points properly, as well as looking at a few other things directly related to this season. But for now we can only look in trepidation towards the second, third and hopefully fourth days play. A win has not been as urgent this season as it has now, and our backs are well and truly against the wall.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Thanks, Mac

The title says it all to be honest. After more comebacks than Jesus or Michael Jackson, playing in matches on dates we all thought he'd be in SA for, the curtain finally comes down on Neil McKenzie's season with Hampshire, and in short it has been a pleasure. A pleasure to watch a world class player form part of the backbone for a team wracked by injuries. To slot into Hampshire Cricket life just like that, taking on plenty of responsibilities, including two captaincy stints (one unexpected), securing the middle order and playing a key role as a senior player in a very young 20/20 team. After the retirement of Crawley we were desperately in need of a proven run getter and Bransgrove and White made that happen by convincing McKenzie to join as a kolpak. It was quite a coup and despite greyblazer's dislike of his technique McKenzie brought some of the batting that saw him earn a recall to the test squad a few years ago. He started slowly but quickly found his stride, hitting his first CC century in Hampshire's first win, teaming up with Herath to chase down a very tough total with little time to spare. He was in and out of the 20/20 side before forming a rock in that side too, striking 50s against Gloucs, Somerset, Sussex (crucially, to see us into the knockout phase) and Somerset again, in the Final in which he was deservedly man of the match. It was a fitting reward, as he provided something that had been missing from the side in years previous. We boasted and still boast plenty of quick scoring stroke makers, the likes of Lumb, Ervine, Benham, Mascarenhas etc. However what we lacked was a focus in the top order. Yes 20/20 is all about runs scored as quickly as possible, but there is still a place for a batsman to tick along at a strike rate of 120, provided that others build around him. McKenzie provided that, the unflappable middle order man who was just as happy chasing as he was setting a total. In short we would never have won the 20/20 without McKenzie.

But it's not just about the stats with McKenzie. He has been a visibly positive influence on the younger players that form such an important part of the Hampshire team. Standing at second slip McKenzie had all number of opportunities to impart knowledge onto Vince and Bates stood at first slip and wicketkeeper. And not just cricket knowledge either, as noted in the Lancs home blog, the golf swing received a thorough breakdown from McKenzie between deliveries. I suppose what has impressed me above all is the way that he has integrated himself into the squad, in doing so becoming one of the most popular members of the squad. Pre match football warm up would always include McKenzie either entering into a fake argument with Cork (with whom he got on particularly well with), pulling off a wonder save in goal, charging up and down the field or just anything that would raise both laughs and spirits. Not once did he give off a look of "I've played Test cricket", as can happen with some overseas or high profile kolpak players. I guess this reflects both upon his personality and his professionalism. He was offered a job and so as a professional cricketer he intended to carry out that job to the very best of his abilities. In a way that encapsulates the man. Mind you you have to get down and do the hard yards when due to match injuries you are tasked with batting out a day to save a match with just seven other fit players under your assumed command, one of whom having taken a ball to the face.

That's the sort of character White wanted from his signing, and he got repaid handsomely and some. Thankfully McKenzie's job has not ended here, as announced earlier in the day was the news that he would in fact be returning next season to carry out the same role as middle order pillar, run machine, mentor and leader. It will of course dampen the rumour of Hildreth coming to The Rose Bowl, but in truth another year of McKenzie, guaranteed, pretty much signed, ink dried, keep the kit and the car, is all we could have wished for. To say that I'm chuffed with the news would be a huge, huge understatement.

Saturday, 4 September 2010


Argh, how can three points mean so much? Well, simple because basically next week is the relegation decider. I could bemoan the woeful first innings batting efforts - yes the conditions were bowler friendly but we should have grafted. I could also go nuts about the fact that we let Lancs move from 144-5 to 398 all out, the phase of play that killed us off in the match. However that would just be depressive and sadly treading on old ground. What I will do though is focus on the efforts of the Hampshire second innings, in particular the man who very nearly carried his bat, occupying the crease for nearly two days. Having seen off some tricky overs on Wednesday evening, Jimmy Adams spent his Thursday doing sadly what not many other Hampshire batsmen could do. Didn't stop him though. Friday? Clearly he wasn't keen on the Aigburth changing rooms as another 4 hours in the middle passed by. Almost frustratingly in a way he did a similar thing to Scarborough and managed to fall short of 200 by 6 runs this time. The associated stats are quite unbelievable. For 10 hours and 35 minutes he faced up to the Lancashire bowlers, seeing off 506 balls (the 507th got him), striking 20 fours in an innings that eclipsed all others this season in the country timewise. It's extremely difficult to comprehend the existence of this innings. It defies just about everything associated with the modern game, where in half a day Sachin Tendulkar scored 4 more runs than Adams did. But such is variety of cricket. This man has two 20/20 centuries to his name this season, yet personally batted on all four days of this match, racking up 199 runs and taking his personal CC tally for the season to 1194.

Adams - on a par with London to LA
So Adams occupied the middle for 10 and a half hours. In that time, Paula Radcliffe could run 4 consecutive marathons and be into her fifth. You could watch pretty much all of the Inser - Mahut match in full. You could fly from London to Los Angeles. You could play three rounds of golf. You could take the Eurostar to Paris, come back again then go back to Paris. I'm sure the last one would be a preferred way to spend 10 and a half hours by Adams himself, but as it was he found himself trying to save a game from the second day, and by the end of the match stood head and shoulders above any other batsman in the match. Special mention has to go to Danny Briggs. In the current team I think batting at number 11 is just about fair, but he showed the sort of fightback approach he had displayed against Durham's pace attack in April. Having joined Adams following the departures of Bates, Cork, Wood and Tommo, any Lancashire thoughts of a quick wrap up were put to bed as Briggs went about eating up 16 overs by himself, scoring 15 and helping Adams to add 88 to the total. It was a truly monumental effort by the two of them, showing some of the character and resilience seen in the Somerset bloodbath at Taunton last month. There would perhaps be questions about why Adams didn't score a bit quicker, but to me he went about the whole match in the best way. He wanted to secure the draw (very nearly he succeeded) and he would have been lambasted had he suddenly attempted a 20/20 style knock once Briggs came in, and got out 8 balls later. This match was all about time but sadly there was perhaps just 5 minutes too long in the match. Wood should also be congratulated on his wicket haul for the match. For a debut performance to warrant cries of "where has he been?" clearly shows that he impressed and certainly has a future in the fourth day game. I think that he has the makings of a very good first change bowler and one that will serve Hampshire extremely well in the years to come.

So it was defeat in the end, Lancashire just crawling home but we put up a bloody good effort from day three onwards. Sneaking a win would have been out of this world but just that little bit too much to ask. The most important thing to do now is not dwell on the match in terms of the result. Look very closely at the first innings 'batting', take a good look at ourselves and how we bowl at the tail, give Adams a huge pat on the back then move on to Kent. The final CB40 match will offer the chance for rest for some, whilst also giving the likes of Wood and Briggs more game time. McKenzie will captain in his last game, I think White would be wise to play his CC replacement in the CB40 match to get him into the swing of things. My money would be on Dawson, who apparently scored very big in the seconds, and has featured for the 40 over team lately.

Photo of course courtesy of Sarah Ansell.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Desperate times

Once again an inability to kill off the opposition tail has left us staring defeat in the face, this time at the hands of Lancashire. The equation is simple, to be honest. We need to bat out the whole of tomorrow and well into the fourth day to stand any chance of the result not being a loss. Having had Lancashire 144-5, in reply to our paltry 160, we let them run riot as the tail wagged and wagged until they were all out for 398. Thankfully we didn't lose a wicket before close. In Adams, Carberry, Hughes and McKenzie we posess the best top four in the country, in my view. Reputations are one thing, actually doing the hard work is another and two of those will need very big scores to turn this situation around. On the bowling front Wood was a bloody miracle. On debut in the Championship he did his utmost for the team, and with fine success, picking up three middle order wickets, including the sloth Chilton. Sadly he wasn't exactly backed up by the others, McKenzie chipping in with two lower order wickets to prevent yet more damage.

Overall it was a pretty terrible day, meaning that we MUST win at least one of our two remaining games. Warwickshire look on course to beat Kent, so it may be that Kent will be scrapping for their very survival next week. It may be worth drafting Griff in to the team for the Kent match. Tomlinson has been incredibly accurate but he just isn't picking up the wickets of late. This has been our downfall on numerous occasions this year and Griff is a wicket taker at the end of the day. The other question will be who comes in for Macca? It will most likely be Benham, who like last season will have to come into the side with an extremely vital role to play in the middle order. Why we keep doing this to ourselves each season, leaving it to the last to try and get out of relegation danger, I don't quite know. If I did I guess I wouldn't be here now.