Friday, September 17, 2010
Well done Nottinghamshire
In this competitive world, any sport requires a sporting contest ending with a great climax. Sports fans come to see a contest, where players stretch their every sinew and flex every muscle to achieve glory for themselves and for the team. Now, edge of the seat nail biting finishes can't be manufactured, but when we come across close finishes with the result not being known till the very end, it makes any fan to love their sport. In the past, fans have thronged the stadiums to even catch a glimpse of great contests like Frazer v Ali, Ashes series 05, India v Australia series in 01, numerous battles between Prost and Senna, Agassi and Sampras, Bird and Magic Johnson or Nadal and Fedex. Yesterday, if we think about County cricket, something similar happened as till the very end, no one knew who would win the championship. Now, the skill level on display in county cricket can never be compared to the above mentioned great contests, but it kept the fans on tenterhooks. It was no doubt a fitting finale to another good season of county cricket. It can't get better than the fact that three teams were in the hunt to win the championship and it went down to the wire before we came to know the winner.
Anyway, let us now look at the final day of the county championship.
Nottinghamshire- Notts were the dominant side of the season, but couple of untimely losses to Durham and the White Rose team Yorkshire meant that it completely changed the scenario as suddenly Yorkshire and Somerset had a very good chance of coming from behind and stealing the championship from Notts's grasp. It looked worse when the fickle weather of Manchester came into play and the first three days of the match was more or less ruined by bad weather. It can be seen by the fact that only 24 overs were bowled for the first three days of the match! Somerset too were in a strong position in their match against Durham which didn't help Notts either.
Going into the last day, Notts required 400 runs and 3 wickets which would give them enough bonus points to lift the title provided Somerset don't get an outright victory against Durham. Notts started the day steadily, but it was the partnership between Voges and Patel that lifted the spirits of Notts. Now, Voges may not bring too many fans onto the ground, but has always come across as a effective batsman. Patel too chipped in with a useful score. Many jokes may have been cut regarding his weight, but those 96 runs were worth in gold for Notts. At 353 for 5, Notts looked set to reach their first target of 400 to get maximum batting points, but there was another twist in the tail as Notts lost quick wickets including Voges and suddenly they were staring down the barrel with nine wickets down and 10 runs still needed to reach the target of 400. Siders and Pattinson though, were able to somehow get those 10 runs needed to reach 400. Pattinson isn't anything more than a rabbit with a bat in hand, but one-day he may talk about those four vital runs he scored to his grandchildren!
Notts still needed three wickets to achieve their vision of winning the championship for the first time since 2005, but it looked possible as they were up against a side whose batting line-up can be considered as brittle. Horton has been nothing more than a walking wicket this season, Karl Brown hasn't achieved any success at top of the order and Chilton can stay around for a longer time at the crease, but is never known for getting big scores. The fact that Lancs have had to depend on Saj Mahmood for runs shows that batting line-up is brittle. It worked for Notts as both Siders and Adams came out firing and took three quick wickets and with Somerset not being able to achieve an outright victory, Notts deservedly got their hands on the trophy.
If I look at the Notts team, it is crystal clear that their ability to consistently take 20 wickets was the main reason behind their success. Andre Adams was the star performer with the ball as he took 68 wickets. Since I saw him play for the Kiwis, I have always liked Adams as he is a man of boundless energy. He was never given a decent run by the Kiwi selectors, but that is something which would never surprise me as they have some of the worst selectors on the planet. Adams no doubt has been a valuable member of the Notts team and even on the last day he got couple of vital wickets. Franks, Patel, Pattinson and when available Siders, all chipped in with wickets. Yes, for most part of the season they missed both their international stars Broad and Swann, but in the couple of matches he played, Broad was able to make an impact by taking 15 wickets.
The batsmen weren't so consistent as they depended on their overseas players like Voges, Hussey and especially the bearded wonder Amla. Youngsters like Hales, Mullaney and veteran players like Brown, Wagh, Franks and especially their captain Read chipped in with useful scores from time to time, but their batting always looked vulnerable. I surely have to say a few good things about their captain Read. I have no doubt that he has been shabbily treated by England's selectors, but nowadays he seems to be happy captaining the Notts side as he is getting lots of runs and as usual is taking catches behind the stumps. I just feel great that unlike 2008, Read has something to cheer about. The young Hales showed some promise and seems to have now fully recovered from the heart problem he is said to have suffered in his younger days. I do hope he would one-day play for England.
Somerset- If it was joy for one side, it was despair for another. I am gutted for Tres as he is one of my all time favourite cricketers. It has been an frustrating season for them as they lost out on winning the t/20 trophy due to them losing more wickets and now the heart-wrenching result on the final day of the county championship. Can it get worse for them? who knows?as something similar may happen in the 40 over competition!
Somerset played very well against Durham and looked to be in the pole position going into the last day, but their inability to bowl out the opposition quickly second time around cost them in the end. If I have to think about their players, I have to give special mention to Hildreth. He finally seems to be doing justice to his potential and this season has shown that he is more than just a good batsman on that bowlers graveyard Taunton by getting lots of runs in other places too. Hildreth has always come across as a talented batsman, who may have a suspect technique as he used to leave a gap between bat and pad, but this season, he has been in tremendous form and we do hope that he gets selected to play for England in the World cup. I for one, have always rated Hildreth. Banger may not have been as prolific as he was in 2009 yet did well. Among the bowlers, Karthik was yet again a revelation and I would never understand how can Indian selectors ignore him, though he keeps taking wickets on flat wickets like at Taunton. Among others, Thomas again picked up crucial wickets as did another seamer from South Africa Willoughby. I have always liked Thomas as he is a honest trier and any county team would like to have a bowler like him. The all-rounders, Tree Trego and Bruyn as well as Phillips made important contributions throughout the season. I hope that Somerset would win the Clydesdale 40 over trophy as they have been unlucky this season and a cricketer like Banger deserves better.
Yorkshire too were in the race to win the championship, but they lost their match against Kent. Kent's overrated batting line-up though, made a meal of a low target of 90 before winning the match by four wickets.
The quality of cricket may not have been outstanding as I see that Darren Stevens opened the bowling for Kent this season and even got wickets and batsmen like Chilton, Denly and co. continue to play for their respective counties inspite of being ordinary for sometime now, but the last day of the season kept the county fans on their toes and it was a great end to the county season. If not for anything else, I would remember this season as for once, I got my prediction that Notts have a good chance of winning the championship right lol. Finally, first class matches are the life blood of cricket as it produces future cricketers and I just wish that more fans would support first class cricket.