In a week where England’s middle order went under the microscope, and teeth were gnashed long into the night, in county cricket, middle order batsmen of all nationalities enjoyed a period of almost unprecedented prosperity.
Those big scores are reflected in this edition of Team of the Week, which makes up for in runs what it lacks in balance…
Ben Duckett (Northants): In a line straight from the handbook of the Openers’ Union, whilst the middle order men made runs against tired bowlers and an old ball, the opening batsmen were hung out to dry in seaming conditions. The only century by an opener this week, Duckett made a career-best 154 out of a total of 308, and didn’t deserve to end up on the losing side.
Alviro Petersen (Lancashire): Few, really, could quibble with the place of Lancashire’s history boys in the Team of the Week. Petersen, the first half of only the thirteenth first-class partnership ever to pass 500, scratched his way to a measly 286 at Colwyn Bay.
Ashwell Prince (Lancashire): The second member of the Red Rose’s partnership of plenty, Prince’s 261 remarkably came at just over a run-a-ball. Owing to Glamorgan’s stubborn resistance, quite incredibly, it could end up not even being a winning one, but the feat will be remembered by statisticians and cricket-lovers for years to come.
Andrew Gale (Yorkshire): Another member of Team of the Week, another record partnership: this time, the highest by Yorkshire against Worcestershire, 254 with Jonny Bairstow. With such a brilliant side to marshal, Gale must be the envy of several county captains; after a lean run, it will be a relief to him to have weighed in with a sizeable ton – his fifth at Scarborough- as Yorkshire continue their march to the title.
Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire): Here’s Jonny. Not just a selection to Team of the Week, but a full stop to the selection woes of the summer, we hope. The score that finally clinched a spot at Edgbaston for the third Test was a measured 139, followed by an assured half-century when Yorkshire looked like faltering.
James Taylor (Nottinghamshire): After scoring 291 runs at Horsham against Sussex, whilst the carnage was simultaneously unfolding at Lord’s, some expressed a faint hope that Taylor might be drafted in to face Mitchell, Mitchell, and the rest of the gang. In the end, the England selectors ruled that one swallow didn’t make a summer, but if the diminutive batsman can continue this good form, he should add to his two Test appearances.
Gordon Muchall (Durham): From Mitchells to Muchall, and another middle-order man (we did warn you of the severe imbalance). A big score of 145 might have gone largely unheralded outside of county cricket’s inner circle, but despite it ending in a painful draw, Muchall’s team-mates owe much to his rebuilding job.
Harry Gurney (Nottinghamshire): After a torrid start to the season, Nottinghamshire are beginning to find their feet and climb away from danger. This week was down to their English pair, the aforementioned Taylor, and Harry Gurney, whose eight wickets, coming mostly against Sussex’s top order, helped secure an important away victory.
Mark Footitt (Derbyshire): The left-armer moved to fifty Championship wickets for the season with eight against Northants this week. Five for 41, as Northants were dismissed for 116, helped the Falcons secure victory inside three days.
Jeetan Patel (Warwickshire): A Warwickshire side without Jeetan Patel is both hard to remember and even harder to bear thinking about. Surely one of the most consistent overseas players ever to grace these shores, the off-spinner took nine wickets in the match, including a masterclass in mopping up the tail, removing the last three men for just two runs.
Chris Rushworth (Durham): We witnessed one of the most pleasingly quirky anomalies in cricket this week, as Division One’s leading wicket-taker took a hat-trick spread across two innings and three overs. Less surprising were his figures, as Rushworth took nine for 78 with Durham agonisingly thwarted at the last.