The T20 Blast roars back with a point to prove

The Natwest T20 blast returns as domestic 20-over cricket in England ticks into its 14th year, but this time around it feels as though the competition has something to prove.

Since 2003 the format has been the glitz and the razzmatazz of English cricket, providing big hits, breathless action and thrills for fans young and old.

But now, much like a car with miles on the clock that knows the new model is about to hit the market, the T20 Blast has to prove its continued value to cricket in this country.

The ECB’s announcement of the new city-based T20 competition, which will launch in 2020, is hanging over this year’s competition like a dark cloud. The assertion from the powers that be is that the new competition can reach new audiences for cricket.

While the current competition will still remain, in making that assertion the implication is that the T20 Blast is failing. Heck, it’s a competition that ECB Chairman Colin Graves labelled as ‘mediocre’ just a couple of years ago.

And yet evidence piles up to the contrary. Advance ticket sales for this year’s competition were significantly increased on this time last year.

Next week almost 20,000 fans will pack in to Old Trafford for the Roses clash with Yorkshire and, in doing so, will set a record for a British domestic attendance outside of London. It will be a similar story at Headingley, as the cross-Pennines rivals stick two fingers up at the notion that the Blast is failing.

The reality, however, is that outside the capital, the Roses match is the exception rather than the rule. Attendances at other grounds around the country don’t reach the heights that are seen by the world’s other premier T20 competitions – namely the IPL and the Big Bash League.

Being able to attract the world’s best players has also been pinpointed as a potential plus-point for the city-based competition.

But take a glance around the T20 Blast this season and you won’t have to look to hard to see superstars.

Australia’s destructive limited-overs opener Aaron Finch will line up for Surrey, the world’s best white-ball spinner Imran Tahir takes to the field for Derbyshire, New Zealand stars Brendon McCullum and Tim Southee are in Middlesex’s ranks while Mohammad Amir lines up for Essex fresh from clinching the ICC Champions Trophy with Pakistan.

That’s to name but a few. The T20 Blast can, and does, attract the very best.

So question marks are everywhere around the 2017 T20 Blast. It will be scrutinised probably like never before, against the backdrop of the looming changes that are coming in 2020. At that point the competition will become an afterthought, a secondary competition trailing on the coattails of the new multi-million pound bells-and-whistles city-based shindig.

At least, that is, in the minds of the administrators. It will not necessarily be the case in the eyes of the cricket public who, over the next two months, will lap up some of the finest T20 cricket on show anywhere in the world.

They will witness some of the greats of the game in action, enjoy nail-biting last-ball finishes and cheer every enormous six with the same gusto they have since James Kirtley bowled the first ball of the inaugural Twenty20 Cup in June 2003.

Those fans have continued to relish the Blast, or any of its previously less marketable incarnations, ever since and they will do so again this time around. And yes, they will build inconceivably long beer-snakes.

The beauty of the format is that fans of every team, even Derbyshire, believe they can go and win it.

So question marks: yes; an uncertain future: for sure; a point to prove? Definitely.

But that buzz of excitement remains on the eve of the tournament. It needs to be a good one.

 

Book Review: Caught in the Middle by Mike Procter

I have to be honest here: I have heard of Mike Procter, but I know very little of him. So when his autobiography dropped from the Cricket Publishing heavens, I was more than happy to give it a read.

Procter takes us on a journey full circle, from his beginnings at Natal and back to his last competitive game also for Natal. In between, he has shown himself a player of distinction as an all rounder, a manager, a selector, a commentator, a pundit, a writer and a match referee.

What cannot be doubted, something I was unaware of before reading this book, is his importance to South African Cricket.

He managed the first touring side when they came out of the wilderness to India in 1991, South Africa’s triumphant first appearance in the Cricket World Cup in 1992 and the first home test match in twenty one years, when the West Indies were the visitors.

Amongst the expected stories, Procter gives his account of the suicide bombing in Karachi in 2002; the political upheavals that limited his own test career and the movement to unite South Africa; the incident between Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds that ended his career as a Match Referee; the business dealings that left him practically penniless and; his involvement in Kerry Packer’s World Series in the 1970s.

There are two heartwarming chapters written by Mark Nicholas and John Saunders – Procter’s coach as a teenager. Both have no doubt about his talent and the legacy that he has left behind.

After reading this book, I have to say I fully agree with them.

Each chapter is informative and always interesting. No point is laboured or self-indulgent. What comes across is a man who is very talented, but also humble about his achievements.

There isn’t a negative comment about anyone that he has worked with or played with. In this respect, it is an honest book about a humble man who just happens to be good at, and in love with, cricket. As a bonus, particularly for those who are quite partial to stats, the appendices are worth a read.

What seems to be a constant thread throughout the book is that politics and sport do not mix. Some have argued that politics has stopped Procter (and many others) from having more of a successful international career. Procter himself, however, sees it like this:

“What is a test career compared to the suffering of forty million people?

“Lots of people have lost a lot more in those years and if, by missing out on a test career, we played a part in changing an unjust system then that’s fine by me”

That is Mike Procter.

Read this Book.

It’s a damn good book.

Title: Caught in the Middle: Monkeygate, Politics and Other Hairy Issues
Author: Mike Procter and Lungani Zama
Pitch Publishing 2017
Price: £16.99
Available here

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Jeevan Mendis: a critique of his first visit to County Cricket

It is farewell – at least for now – to Jeevan Mendis, after an early-season stint that, while not tearing up the trees and re-writing record books, made him a worthy contributor to the Derbyshire cause.

Few people will have known that much about him when he was engaged. I knew the name, but ‘Mendis’ in Sri Lanka is like ‘Smith’ over here and I could have been confusing him with several others of similar name.

His entry on Cricinfo confirmed a player of nomadic bent, happy to go and turn his arm over wherever required and he did that in the East Midlands, with conditions not really in his favour.

The lot of the leggie in England in the season’s early months is not a happy one. The wickets are slow, damp and more conducive to the Darren Stevens of this world.

Cut your fingers across the seam, get it down on a length and line, then sit back to enjoy the results. Rip it all you like between your fingers, the likelihood is that a ball won’t turn off straight until late on the third afternoon in April and May. There might be a little bounce at times, but sometimes it will be so slow as to not worry first-class players and can sit up, asking to be hit.

Leg spin is the hardest spinning art to master, but also the most enjoyable to watch and complex to face. The real exponents of the art have a range of deliveries and grips designed to bamboozle.

Time was when leggies racked up wickets and ran through tail-enders like a bush fire, most of them simply carving and hoping. Most players can handle a bat now, so the easier pickings aren’t there and you have to work hard to get through nine, ten, jack and disguise the variations.

Mendis finished his stint as leading wicket-taker for Derbyshire, taking thirty wickets in the four-day game and another nine in the RLODC, where he went for five-and-a-half an over.

He often got one at the start of a spell and, while he could bowl the loose ball that is common to the craft, he got a lot right. It was a pleasure to watch him bowl and you could see him thinking through the variants and tossing down a range of deliveries to lure the batsmen to their doom, like sirens on the rocks once did to sailors.

He came with the reputation as an all-rounder, though his technique was largely a decent eye and questionable technique. Too often he edged, leaden-footed, to the slip cordon and he had a peculiar habit, when playing through the leg side, of taking off the bottom hand to the detriment of power and sometimes his wicket.

Yet he won the Falcons the one-day game against Northamptonshire with a bucolic cameo, and his frenetic assault at the end of the second innings against Glamorgan made a difference to the game. Chasing 180 and over 200 are more different psychologically than statistically. A situation where he could just go in and club it was made for Mendis.

He was a good fielder, too, and from his arrival to his departure he kept a broad smile on his face that was to his great credit. There have been some surly and less communicative cricketers in the county game over the years, but Mendis fitted well into a dressing room where much focus is placed on team spirit and he was popular with team mates and supporters alike.

Will he be back? Derbyshire could do much worse, but such decisions rely on winter recruitment and the area of greater need.

I would like to think that for another year the wickets might suit him better, and he will benefit from his first real experience of England. It crossed my mind that he would be a decent T20 signing, if Imran Tahir weren’t already here, but Mendis proved himself a very handy cricketer across the formats.

Consider this: the only other spinners in the country with more than twenty championship wickets are Simon Harmer at Essex (surely the season’s best Kolpak?) and Stephen Parry at Lancashire – both in division one. Mendis, with his haul, sits between the two. That gives a little context and perhaps allows his true worth to be seen.

It is a long time since Derbyshire had a reliable spinner and Mendis, all things considered, did a grand job.

In conclusion – not the best overseas player in Falcons’ colours, as that accolade has stiff competition, but some distance from the worst. He can be proud of his efforts and his attitude and from a supporter’s perspective, he was always worthy of your attention.

At the end of the day, that counts for a lot.

This piece originally appeared on Steve Dolman’s personal website here. It appears on DEC with the author’s permission.

“I felt a bit excited” Hamidullah Qadri on his exceptional debut for Derbyshire

When I finished my GCSE exams, way back in 1996, I had a fantastic Summer: the sun shone, I was carefree while awaiting my results in August and I filled the long days either practicing in the nets with my friends, or playing matches at the weekend for my club.

Hamidullah Qadri is no different, but while I spent my days playing for a small village in the Peak District, Qadri has been netting with, and last week making his debut for, Derbyshire Cricket Club.

It’s no mean feat at the age of 16. When you consider on debut he returned match figures of 6 for 76 – five of those wickets coming in the second innings, as he spun Derbyshire to their first championship victory in over two years – you realise what an exciting talent this young man is.

It is only when you learn Hamidullah Qadri’s full story, however, that you truly appreciate what an exceptional human being he is.

Following Qadri’s impressive debut it was no surprise that he was named in the squad to face Durham at Chesterfield today.

As I spoke to this young man, born in Kandahar, Afghanistan in the year 2000, it became obvious why Director of Cricket Kim Barnett was confident enough to make him the first player born this century to play first class cricket, and also the youngest ever to do so for Derbyshire.

Having seen Qadri bowl in the nets, whilst Derbyshire Second XI played the Unicorns at the start of the season, I asked him about his rise through the ranks.

“I’ve been playing with the juniors over the last 4 or 5 years,” he told me, “and was fortunate to have a scholarship with the academy last year. I got to work with great coaching staff, Mal Loye and Steve Stubbings.

“They helped me out with my game, which made me able to play a few games for the second eleven and I performed quite well and then I was called up to the first eleven for the game against Glamorgan.”

This might sound quite matter of fact from such a young man, but it was clear that nothing phases him.

I remember making my debut for my club. I was nervous appearing in a friendly as a junior, and remember bowling a wide to lose us the game. Qadri, though, on finding out he was making his debut at a test match ground for Derbyshire First team said: “I felt normal, to be honest.

“I felt a bit excited. I wouldn’t say I was nervous, just maybe a little excited.”

Again, to take this in his stride where most of us would have been a nervous wreck is testament to the make up of this talented individual.

It came as no surprise, then, that the step up from second eleven cricket to First Class Cricket wasn’t daunting either. Although he did admit the standard was the tough, it was clear he wasn’t scared to move to the next level.

“Obviously First class is tougher than anything I’ve played in before, but I just backed my skills and then bowled according to the plans I was set by the captain, me and the senior guys.”

If only it were that simple, I wouldn’t have been playing on the village green. However, he made it look simple against Glamorgan and most importantly he looked like he enjoyed it, playing the game with a smile on his face. That came through, too, as he talked about school and cricket.

“I enjoy my studies, I enjoy going to school, I enjoy playing cricket,” he said, “The only thing that got me close to playing professional cricket is the enjoyment of the game.

“If I enjoy it, I work harder at my skills. I know my game: what I need to do is work on my weaknesses and that will help me get closer to my full potential.”

How refreshing to hear a played talk of his enjoyment of the game and how it has helped him.

If Qadri needed a role model at the club for enjoying the game, he has one making his debut for the club against Durham. Imran Tahir has arrived and Qadri is excited to be sharing a dressing room and pitch with the exuberant South African.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting him,” he said, “He’s world class. He’s the number one bowler in the world and I’m sure I can learn a lot from him.”

If Qadri can learn from him, as he credits previous overseas player Jeevan Mendis as helping him, then he will surely develop as a player and help him to achieve his goals, which in a true and unassuming manner he states as “Just to continue playing cricket, keep enjoying it, do well on the pitch, hopefully take some wickets and win some games for Derbyshire.”

Having seen him bowl and spoken to him, I am sure the record breaking Hamidullah Qadri has a big future in cricket. His calm and understated nature means nothing will faze him as he progresses in the game.

He believes in himself, but not to the point of arrogance, just to the point of knowing what he can do and knowing what he needs to do to improve. His Management, Captain and fellow players clearly trust and believe in him, and with his infectious enjoyment of the game shining through the fans will also love him.

I hope he keeps that enjoyment and doesn’t let it fade, as he embarks on what should be an impressive and fruitful career.

 

“Is it that important for English players to be good at it?” Bailey on day/night games

Hampshire captain George Bailey believes that day/night Test matches will not be played in England long-term despite the ECB trialling the format in this week’s Specsavers County Championship fixtures.

A pink ball was used in each of the nine matches to test day/night cricket – and to give England’s players a chance to practice in the conditions – ahead of an August Test against the West Indies.

But Bailey thinks that it will only work in other countries.

“I would have thought you’re not going to play day/night tests in England. I think day/night test cricket has a future in other countries but probably not here.

“So given that, is it that important for your English players to be good at it and is it so different that they wouldn’t be able to get enough exposure to it just playing a couple of tour games when they went to those countries, that they were going to play the tests at?

“The one thing I have said back home, that I continue to repeat, is I don’t think the ball is the same quality as the red ball and so I’d keep urging whoever is involved in that to keep trying to get that to be a better cricket ball.”

Bailey was speaking after his side’s draw with Somerset, who narrowly avoided defeat in the final session of a rain affected game.

Chasing 161 in the final 31 overs of the day, Steven Davies hit 47 to give his side hope but players shook hands with Somerset eight wickets down, Josh Davey and Craig Overton the not out batsmen as the visitors’ rearguard action salvaged five points.

“I had my heart in my mouth a little bit when they started to get a bit of a partnership but we’d seen all game it was so difficult to score and particularly as the ball got older, it became really difficult to score,” Bailey said.

“It was hard to drive under lights so we thought there was enough in our favour if we could put them under a little bit of pressure, and our bowlers have done a really good job all game.

“[It was] heartbreaking at the end when you only need two wickets and you feel like you’re on top, but in terms of the manner of the way we played, that was really pleasing.”

The result leaves Hampshire level on points with third-placed Yorkshire, while Somerset move off the foot of the table, now two points ahead of Warwickshire.

Coach Matthew Maynard expressed his relief over saving the match, but is concerned with how the team continues to bat. They have passed 300 just once in their last ten innings.

“We always knew it was going to be a challenging task and probably only one of our batsmen actually looked at ease out there, scoring at the rate required, and that was Steve Davies. Everyone else struggled to hit the ball.

“To be fair I thought they kept the pressure and applied the pressure. We’re obviously down on confidence, but the guys actually went out there – players like Eddie Byrom and Hildi [James Hildreth], they’ve tried to get the ball away and it was their undoing in the end, and likewise with Steve.

“It was quite a slow wicket and quite a hard wicket to score on, so yeah, relieved. Nice to get the draw but disappointed overall with our batting performance through both innings again.”

 

The County Championship made its first foray into the dark – but were we tickled pink?

County cricket has just completed its first ever round of day/night Championship fixtures. Featuring floodlights and a pink ball rather than red was always going to provide a vast number of talking points and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

But how did it actually go? Is it worth sticking with and what does it mean for the future of the longer forms of the game?

Here we examine what some are calling cricket’s stab in the dark and consider how the concept actually played out.

Why is day/night cricket happening?

Let’s be clear straight away, the County Championship isn’t leading the way in day/night cricket, nor was this innovation designed to aid the competition. This round of fixtures played under floodlights was primarily scheduled to allow England players to get used to the pink ball ahead of their first ever day/night Test at Edgbaston later this summer.

The Championship was therefore something of a Guinea Pig to allow the international stars to acclimatise.

But that’s not to say that there weren’t potential benefits for the domestic game, with many particularly interested to see whether games starting at 2pm would encourage crowds to grow for the evening session when many could come in after work – often free of charge.

Did the crowds grow?

Deep Extra Cover’s Bradley Adams watched Hampshire v Somerset at the Ageas Bowl: “On Day One, Hampshire reported around 1,300 through the gate before 7pm, at which point entry became free of charge.

“Around 100-200 people entered after that time, but there wasn’t a visible increase and it was clear that a number of spectators left, meaning that it evened itself out as the evening progressed.

“There were a couple of hundred in on the second day but that didn’t have a chance to improve given we went off for rain at 2.52pm and never came back.”

And DEC’s Ciaran Thomas also reported on a similar story at Wantage Road where Northamptonshire took on Leicestershire:

“On Day One we had a larger-than-normal crowd for a Northants game but numbers didn’t seem to massively swell after 5pm, probably peaking around that time and then thinning out as the evening went on, to the point that a large majority had left by the time we finished – shortly after 9pm.

“Certainly there was no sign of a big after work turn out, even with a mild evening, and perhaps the earlier larger crowd was due to the novelty and curiosity about the pink ball.

“The crowd since has been awful, but then the weather probably has quite a large say in that. Plus finishing 9.30 – 10pm four days in a row does make for rather a long week.”

What is it like to watch?

Much of the speculation around these matches has focused on the visibility of the pink ball, primarily for the players but also for the crowds. Cricket is, we shouldn’t forget, a spectator sport.

In particular it was interesting to see whether the pink ball was easily detectable in the period between daylight fading and the floodlights taking over.

Ciaran Thomas: “I’ve found the new ball, both during daylight and under lights, has been fine to see. It glows and stands out pretty well, however the issue is when it’s getting older and it has proved harder to pick out in daylight/early evening.”

Bradley Adams: “Seeing the ball on the opening day, even when the lights came on and the evening was getting later, was generally pretty fine.

“On the third day, however, under very dark skies and without the floodlights on, the 30-odd over old ball was very difficult to see from behind the bowler’s arm, both out of the hand and across the outfield.

“That was around 6pm. Harder to see when it’s had the shine taken off, which doesn’t seem to take a huge amount of time.”

What do those involved think?

The ECB has said that it won’t decide on whether to play another round of these day/night fixtures in 2018 until they have received feedback from player and coaches on what they thought of the innovation this week.

Hampshire’s Liam Dawson believes that there needs to be more focus placed on the ball being used.

“If you are going to keep on using those balls then you are going to get some pretty boring cricket – it just goes very soft, very quickly,” Dawson said.

His opponent Craig Overton was also less than enthusiastic about the pink ball, saying: “The ball was strange. It swings and then goes really soft. It didn’t really do much.”

It seemed that the ball was the main consideration of the views expressed, particularly at the Ageas Bowl but also across other grounds.

“I can just go with what the boys say and they say the ball does go soft. It doesn’t sound like a cricket ball, it sounds like an indoor ball when it hits the bat,” Hampshire Coach Craig White said.

“It’s hard to time and it just feels very soft on the bat when you hit it.”

But White also picked up on the visibility issue from his position observing his team.

“I’m not sure what it’s like for the spectators but I find it hard to follow along the ground. I guess the spectators feel the same about that, you don’t know where the ball’s going so that’s another thing to take into consideration.”

What’s happened to the scores?

In truth, glancing around the scoreboards you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that this was any different to a regular Championship round.

There was a run-fest at Chelmsford, featuring a record-breaking opening stand of 373 between Alastair Cook and Nick Browne, while there were fairly low-scoring matches between Glamorgan and Derbyshire and Hampshire and Somerset.

Weather hasn’t helped by any means, disrupting most matches and wiping some out, including the clash between Yorkshire and Surrey.

Are there any other talking points?

Aside from the obvious changes of a ball and the light conditions, the changes to playing time and conditions throws up some more obscure issues.

For instance, with intervals coming at 4pm and 6.40pm, there has been much discussion around what to call them as well as more logistical issues.

Bradley Adams: “I’m a little unsure as to why we have the long interval first and the shorter one second. Surely, it would make more sense to have 20 minutes at 4pm and then 40 minutes at the second interval where the players and spectators could have a decent amount of time to eat.

“Also, we heard there were no restaurants open past 4.40pm (aka end of interval 1) at the Ageas on the opening day. Obviously not necessarily to do with the cricket itself but something that grounds would need to keep in mind.”

So, is this a good thing?

There were always going to be teething problems with a change such as this, one which is almost entirely new to four-day cricket in this country.

It seems in particular there are things to iron out with regards to the ball itself, both its visibility and the way it lasts throughout an 80-over stint.

Bradley Adams: “I think the format is a good idea but there are kinks that need working out. Most importantly, the ball, which goes soft after not much use and then isn’t great coming off the bat.”

Ciaran Thomas: “From what I’ve seen this week, and it seems a fairly similar story across the country, the expected influx of crowds after work hasn’t happened. But the weather hasn’t helped. I certainly don’t think it’s worth ditching straight away and if it’s going to work at Test level, perhaps one round a year isn’t the worst idea going forward.”

With the first Day/Night Test involving England coming up in August and a general push at international level to give day/night Tests a go, it seems likely that this isn’t the last we will see of day/night Championship matches.

Victory under lights for hosts in Wantage Road thriller

Northamptonshire snatched victory by the narrowest of margins, just two runs, in a pink ball thriller against Leicestershire under the lights at Wantage Road.

Hunting down a County Championship record chase of 394, Matt Pillans’ maiden first class fifty looked to be taking the Foxes over the line when Dieter Klein was dropped by keeper Ben Duckett with 7 required, the latest it a catalogue of Northants drops.

But four runs later Rory Kleinveldt found Pillans’ leading edge and the ball somehow looped to point, where ex-Leicestershire man Josh Cobb took a diving catch to spark scenes of jubilation. It was Northants latest thrilling victory this season.

It was harsh on Pillans, though, and Colin Ackermann’s 105 put his side in prime position for a Pillans cameo, the on-loan Surrey man marking his Leicestershire debut with an enterprising innings after a day that had swung backwards and forwards throughout.

Ninety-five runs were still required when Pillans strolled in at number nine, but eight fours and a six later he had a 41-ball half century, and although Ackerman and Clint McKay fell with 37 and 26 required respectively, he guided his side to the brink of a famous victory, only to be denied in dramatic fashion.

It was the latest in a line of thrilling Championship matches for Northants this season. Alex Wakely’s men are the only side in the country yet to draw a fixture, and this two run win came after a pair of penultimate ball successful run chases at Derby and Durham.

“I thought it was slipping away at the end there,” head coach David Ripley admitted. “They were playing sensibly and that lad [Pillans] had hit the ball well and was edging his way to victory.

“At that moment you think “we’ll look back at the drop catch”; should we have batted an extra five or six overs [before declaring on the third evening]?

“But it’s the year of the thriller for Northants; it’s the fourth particularly tight game we’ve had out of seven and it just feels really good.

“I feel our cricket over four days edged it, even though that was a great chase. It made for a real entertaining four day cricket match, which we don’t see much off these days but that was certainly one of them.”

Resuming 44-0, having survived a testing 16 overs with the new ball under the lights on day three, it appeared that Northants were on course for a comfortable victory when openers Paul Horton and Arun Harinath were removed inside the first half hour, Sanderson and Gleeson with the early strikes.

However, Northants’ catching looked set to cost them as a series of chances went down. Mark Cosgrove was the main beneficiary, dropped at slip by Alex Wakely and a caught and bowled that Kleinveldt should have hung onto.

It allowed the Leicestershire skipper to share a partnership of 127 with Ackermann, who was also dropped at slip by Kleinveldt on 42, the stand the backbone of Leicestershire’s chase, going well into the second session before Cosgrove rather gifted his wicket, caught at mid-on.

Ned Eckersley added a further 58 but when he slapped Azharullah to cover and Neil Dexter hit a return catch to Kleinveldt, the task appeared beyond the Foxes, going into the final session still needing 117 with five wickets remaining.

Gleeson’s two in two balls, Lewis Hill caught behind before Rob Sayer completed a pair LBW first up, appeared to have sealed it, but Pillans had other ideas – only to be cruelly stopped in his tracks.

The win sees Northants remain in fourth but only 20 points behind second placed Worcestershire, with a game in hand. They have a crunch clash with Kent next week, the final match before the start of their T20 title defence.

“I believed it from the start,” Ripley continued, “The first meeting we had we were very positive.

“The schedule helps us with a small squad and there was belief we could win cricket matches.

“We finished the season like a train last year, so we didn’t have to build belief.

“There’s some good teams in the division. We wanted to be up there going into the last five games and, all being well, we probably will be.”

Despite the dramatic conclusion under the lights, Ripley’s views were mixed on the pink ball experiment, with no upturn in crowds at Wantage Road, though admittedly the weather didn’t help.

“I think it looked a little bit flat on occasions, on other times it did too much. It reminded me a bit of uncovered pitches.

“I felt a little bit for Leicester on the first day. We batted in quite pleasant conditions, then they had to go out [under the lights] and it hooped all over the place.

“So that doesn’t seem fair to me, but I found it hard to see sometimes and we didn’t really cram them in.

“I’m not sure but I’m sure we’ll give it another go as one round isn’t enough to make a proper judgement, but those that followed this game over four days will think it was brilliant.”

 

Debutante Qadri spins the win

I called my Dad this evening, after Derbyshire sealed the win that I fully expected last night.”We’ve won Pop. 39 runs. Fantastic result. That young lad Hamidullah Qadri took five for 60 in 26 overs.”

It was a bit staccato, but hey, I was excited.

Bear in mind my Dad is 90 and his hearing isn’t so good these days, but his interest in cricket is as strong as ever. The reply, after his enthused reaction, took me by surprise.

‘I’ve been thinking, son. Is he Colin’s grandson?’

I was baffled for a minute, then realised that ‘Qadri’ had been misheard as ‘Cowdrey’. An easy mistake to make, I guess, especially how I speak and how Dad hears these days…

On the basis of his performance in today’s game, I don’t think Hamidullah Qadri will be confused with many people in a few years time. I doubt whether he has bowled more overs than that in an innings many times, and he will doubtless sleep well when he gets home tonight. He will do so safe in the knowledge that, in his first game of county cricket, he has played a blinder and won the game for his side.

It wasn’t just the way that he bowled, but how he kept line and length over a long spell.

It would have been understood had he erred as he tired, but I don’t recall many bad balls at all. It was touching how the team surrounded and applauded him, then let him lead them off at the end, captured in a great photo by David Griffin (pictured above).

Indeed he outbowled Jeevan Mendis, who I expected to be the match-winner today. Mendis bowled some good balls, but at times too short and was cut and pulled accordingly. Nonetheless, he played his part, held the match-winning catch and can look back on that crucial late wicket last night, when he removed Jacques Rudolph.

I thought Wayne Madsen might fancy a bowl and his introduction by the skipper brought quick dividends, just when the impressive Selman and Donald were putting together a dangerous stand.

Aneurin Donald was smartly caught by Alex Hughes at short leg, while Nick Selman, who had looked more composed than most in the match, was quite brilliantly stumped down the leg side by Daryn Smit.

The keeper later held a fine leg side catch to dismiss Graeme Wagg, and again was impeccable behind the stumps.

The scenes as Jeevan Mendis held the match-winning catch, and the team swamped the young bowler, were touching. Whatever happens to the young man in his future career – and I suspect that to be a great deal – he will never forget his county debut and bowling his side to a win that they deserved.

Billy Godleman and his senior players got it spot on in this game. Fields were intelligently and innovatively set, bowlers were switched from end to end and changes were made at the right time.

It was not a wicket for Tom Taylor or Tom Milnes, and the bowling went pretty much as expected. The batting approach was fully vindicated, as was the inclusion of a young man who will probably float through the rest of the week.

It is a good night to be a Derbyshire supporter. OK, Glamorgan aren’t a great side, but you can only beat what is in front of you and play the conditions.

We did that, we did it well and we have a win. I’ve waited 710 days to write that about our four-day cricket.

This piece first appeared on Steve Dolman’s personal site. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

The Road to Lord’s: Nottinghamshire

“A damn close run thing,” said Samit Patel about the Battle of Waterloo. Or was it the Duke of Wellington about Nottinghamshire reaching the Royal London One Day Cup final? Or maybe I’m confused.

Whilst few would argue that Nottinghamshire have put in enough outstanding team and individual performances to justify their appearance at Lord’s this Saturday in the Royal London One Day Cup final, it is also true that they have needed a few helpings of good fortune along the way.

The East Midlands club got off to a dodgy start when they lost their first two games in the North Group, including defeat by Worcestershire under the Duckworth/Lewis rules despite a hundred by Michael Lumb.

They then won three in a row to get their campaign off the ground. At home against Durham, an Alex Hales hundred looked to have ensured another win. But Paul Collingwood and wicket keeper Stuart Poynter added 53 in just 4.4 overs to snatch a four wicket win and stifle Nottinghamshire’s momentum.

It looked likely that Notts would need to win their last two Group games to qualify. Against Lancashire, Samit Patel and Steven Mullaney delivered with a blistering stand of 181 in 28.3 overs to achieve a win with four overs to spare.

And so to the final round with all to play for.

If Lancashire beat Durham (as they did) and Notts lost to Northants, Notts would be most likely be out. When Northants were 79-0 off the first 14.4 overs, Notts were up against it. Then, luckily, it rained and Notts gained a point for a non-result, scraping through with nine points from their eight games.

And so to the record breaking quarter final against Somerset at Taunton. Brendan Taylor scored a magnificent 154 off just 97 balls as Notts ran up 429 off their 50 overs.

When Somerset reached 364-9 with less than seven overs to go, it looked all over. But Jamie Overton and Tim Groenewald added 41 and reduced the target to 25 off two overs. Then Stuart Broad ran out Overton and Notts had sneaked home by just 24 runs.

In the semi-final at Chelmsford, the Nottinghamshire bowlers suffered more punishment, conceding 370 off their 50 overs.

The response of the batsmen was magnificent. Steven Mullaney hit 111 off 75 balls, Samit Patel finished not out on 122 and Notts were home with just three balls to spare.

It is pretty clear where the strengths of the Nottinghamshire team lies. Four players (Patel, Mullaney, Root and Taylor) are averaging over 60.

Whilst Stuart Broad and James Pattinson have been reasonably economical, and have taken 10 and 12 wickets respectively, others have been less successful. Luke Fletcher, Jake Ball, Samit Patel, Harry Gurney and Mullaney have all conceded more than six an over.

Top of the batting statistics is Samit Patel will 532 runs at an average of 76. He could well say, as the Duke of Wellington said of Waterloo, “I don’t think it would have been done if I had not been there. “

The Road to Lord’s: Surrey

Such is the format of the Royal London One-Day Cup that, remarkably, Surrey were able to win just four of their eight group games and still find themselves in a third final in as many years.

Their, thus far successful, campaign began poorly with Surrey on the receiving end of Roelof van der Merwe’s second highest score in a Somerset shirt (165*) as they recovered from 22-5 to win by four wickets. That was despite Ben Foakes hitting 92. Foakes is yet to record a three-figure score in the competition but has six half-centuries from seven innings, and boasts the tournament’s highest average of 120.25.

Victory at Cardiff in their second game came largely thanks to Mark Stoneman, whose 48-ball 74 helped his new side to a comfortable chase of a reduced target of 182. But that failed to ignite a winning streak and, two days later, they were defeated by one wicket against Essex.

Defending just 210 after winning the toss, Jade Dernbach took four wickets – taking him to ten in white-ball cricket from just three games – but Essex’s number nine Simon Harmer helped his team over the line with an unbeaten 44.

Next up came the London derby, with Middlesex travelling south of the Thames only to return empty-handed. Nick Gubbins and John Simpsons struck fifties, but only two other batsmen made double figures. Ravi Rampaul picked up four wickets and Surrey’s top order made light work of their 244 chase, with three half-centuries.

But Surrey were to falter once again just two days later against Sussex. Mark Stoneman and Ollie Pope both made fifties but it wasn’t enough to counter the Sharks’ 300, the visitors all out for 205.

Defeat at Hove made it just two wins from five although they sat fifth, level on points with both Hampshire and Glamorgan.

Stuart Meaker had just one wicket from three One-Day Cup matches but found rejuvenated success against Kent in his fourth, taking 4-37 to bowl out the visitors for 204 in a reduced match. Foakes had earlier hit 82 to give Surrey victory and keep realistic qualification hopes alive.

George Bailey’s second highest List A score of 145* had given Hampshire a defendable total of 271 but, with rain forecast at The Oval, the almost immovable Kumar Sangakkara decided to take no risks, striking 124 from 121 balls to give his side a 66 run win on Duckworth/Lewis.

A washout at Bristol, as well as between Hampshire and Sussex at Southampton, meant Surrey finished third in the South Group and earned a playoff spot against Yorkshire.

The Vikings were Surrey’s semi-final opponents last year and once again succumbed to the Southerners. Sangakkara scored his 100th century in all forms while Foakes, whose 90 was crucial in their encounter last August, hit 86 as Surrey claimed a 24 run victory.

Jason Roy returned for the semi-final at Worcester after England’s Champions Trophy exit and scored 92, with Sangakkara and Foakes once again contributing fifties as Surrey posted a mammoth 363. Captain Gareth Batty played at New Road for eight years and picked up his first five-wicket-haul against his former club to demolish them by 153 runs, setting up Saturday’s final against Nottinghamshire.