County cricket talking points: Hampshire outsmart Kent in cup final
Ball one: Kent can’t catch Hampshire at Lord’s
Even in the 50-overs format, cricket requires strategic choices of a complexity beyond what most other sports can offer – quite how this particular arrangement of wood, cork and leather does that is beyond my understanding, but it does. In the final, Hampshire were put in by Kent, but, having taken a few overs to have a look, went hard at the seamers in particular, the top four, led by centurion Rilee Rossouw, collectively scoring 295 runs at 108. In the chase, Kent’s top four scored 160 runs at 83. That said, with 21 overs to go, Kent required 179 runs at 8.5 with eight wickets (including some big hitters) in hand – and they were probably just about favourites. But is there a little confirmation bias in play here? We remember the great chases, the ice-cold blood of Michael Bevan, the helicopter shots of MS Dhoni, the Brathwaiting of Ben – but perhaps we don’t recall so readily the routine wins like this one, Kent falling 61 runs short. Scoreboard pressure is harder to see and, maybe, harder to value as a result.
Ball two: No time for R and R for Rilee Rossouw
Hampshire get a bad press for their recruitment policy, of which Rossouw is an example. At 28, with 51 international appearances for South Africa, he should probably be a squad player, if not quite a fixture, in the Saffers’ middle order, but he’s Kolpakking on the south coast – something for which I do not blame him, a young father, at all. This player doesn’t fit the stereotype of the mercenary picking up easy money to plump up the pension pot though – they tend not to spit out two front teeth (as Rossouw did in the field against in the semi-final a fortnight ago) and then score back-to-back centuries for the cause.
Ball three: Rory Burns and Surrey on a hot streak
opened up a 22-point gap at the top of Division One (with a game in hand) and are beginning to look like the team to beat. That may be a bit of a surprise given England call-ups and Rory Burns inexperience as captain, but not as much of a surprise as the feeling that the Brown Caps are a likeable side without the “Surrey Strut” or whatever label attached itself to Adam Hollioake’s men of a generation or so ago. Trailing by 75 runs on first innings at Scarborough, Morne Morkel made the Yorkies fret with a fivefer, and then the captain’s 97 made an awkward target of 228 look straightforward. At the mid-season break, things are looking good at The Oval.
Ball four: Joe Clarke writes his own script
lie second after failing to bowl out Worcestershire in 115 overs. Joe Clarke’s 177 not out caught the eye – a habit of this player, one of many young English batsmen who are building a case for international recognition, but he needed someone to stay with him and he found that partner in 20 year old Ben Twohig. The spinner was playing only his third first class match, but dug in for 80 minutes resistance. It’s what batting at No8 is all about.
Ball five: Sun setting on Somerset’s title hopes?
Since everyone got a little excited about whether this could be Somerset’s year, results have stalled a bit for Tom Abell’s men. Having watched Ravi Bopara and Ryan Ten Doeschate pile up 294 runs for the fifth Essex wicket, the win looked a long way off, but a fine effort to make 407 without any batsmen making more than James Hildreth’s 78, got them a foothold in the match and the draw was secured by the skipper and Lewis Gregory spending 30 overs in making 35 runs. These two clubs, along with Notts and leaders Surrey, look likely to fight it out for the pennant as high summer fades into Autumn.
Ball six: Stewart races through Middlesex’s batting and bowling
What is going on at ? Fifth in Division Two, but a long way off a promotion slot, the performance against a Kent side, who might have been forgiven for having one eye on the Lord’s final, was embarrassingly supine. All out for 56 in the first innings, captain Dawid Malan secured a pair en route to 80-9 second time round, with only some late biffing from Tim Murtagh getting them into triple figures. Australian Grant Stewart, who made 38 and 103 (from No10) and took 6-22 and 2-36, having previously hardly pulled up any trees in the Second XI, must think county cricket is a very easy game.
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