Gloucestershire 354 and 149 for 8 lead Worcestershire 293 (Whiteley 88, D’Oliveira 68, Higgins 3-52, Bamber 3-59, Payne 3-73) by 210 runs
Tell a friend that you have just watched a day’s cricket in which 211 runs were scored in 94 overs and he will probably sympathise with you. But if you tell him that you have done so at Cheltenham, he will suspect your day has had its compensations and he will be quite correct. There was no suggestion of tedium at the College Ground this afternoon as two sides tussled for advantage in a match which will be crucial to their promotion prospects.
When play was ended two overs early by a brief shower of rain Worcestershire’s cricketers could look back on three sessions in which they had restricted Gloucestershire’s first-innings lead to 61 and then taken eight wickets for 149 runs on a day when the home side’s batting had been rather profligate. But it is Gloucestershire who have the 210-run lead and it is their opponents who have found batting something of a trial recently. No one at the College Ground thought of clapping slowly. And yes, there were those other compensations, features which many think extraneous to the matter in hand but which cricket lovers recognise as inseparable from their summer.
Even before play started the blue hills were thickly gauzed in heat. The trees barely moved all day but the counties’ flags fluttered gently in a soft remnant of breeze. The temperature rose and a Range Rover’s alarm went off repeatedly, suggesting it might be thermostat-controlled. Spectators on the back rows of stands hoisted gaily coloured umbrellas to protect themselves. The marquees were crammed with corporate customers and two were made available to the public seeking shade during lunch.
For Worcestershire’s tailenders, though, there was no respite from the sun and nor did they desire one. The visitors had seemed likely to concede a deficit of around a hundred when they lost three wickets in the first eight overs of the day but Joe Leach and Adam Finch then batted in some comfort for the next 94 minutes, reducing Gloucestershire’s lead to 61 runs, which worried home supporters, and even delaying lunch, which alarmed them even nearly as much. Finch was hit on the helmet and body by David Payne but was unbeaten on a modest 8 when Leach played on to Ryan Higgins for 38. And it felt as though the Worcestershire skipper’s innings had put a marker down.
Such a feeling was well-founded. The early afternoon’s cricket brought Gloucestershire no relief. Leach nipped the third ball of the innings away from Chris Dent and had the home skipper caught behind for nought. Worse followed in the tenth over when Wayne Parnell knocked out Roderick’s off stump with a ball that kept so low that had it been bowled in T20, the disappointed batsman may have walked off the College Ground with “Subterranean Homesick Blues” playing over the loudspeakers.
Gloucestershire’s decline continued. Miles Hammond remained rooted to the crease when leg before to Ed Barnard and another near grubber from Parnell cleaned up James Bracey. At that point the home side had a lead of just 108.
It was mid-afternoon. The wicketkeeper, Ben Cox, and his slips, Riki Wessels and Daryl Mitchell, all sported wide-brimmed sunhats in a fashion which recalled the age of I Zingari and Free Foresters. Yet this was hard-fought professional cricket in the 21st century and one became aware, yet again, by how very precious festivals like Cheltenham are. Such reveries were interrupted or perhaps enhanced by a flurry of strokes from Higgins, who drove Finch to the boundary without mercy when the freshman bowler overpitched. Indeed, Higgins scored 27 in the space of nine balls before departing for 36 when he flashed flat-footedly at Dillon Pennington and nicked a catch to Wessels at first slip.
That dismissal ended what was by far Gloucestershire’s most abundant period of the day. The following 32.4 overs saw only 46 runs scored as Tom Smith and Jack Taylor sought to ground out a defendable total. Every run was cheered by anxious home supporters who could see their chance of victory slipping away. Paolo’s ice-cream vans did plenty of business as did Camper Vin. Ed won one raffle prize and Steven won some wine. The microphone in the Circles to Success tent was in such robust order that everyone in the ground knew about it. Nobody minded.
Taylor and Smith were probably apprehensive as to when their number would be up but their wickets did not fall until the last hour of play when both had made useful twenties. Smith fenced Parnell to slip and Taylor edged a cut off Barnard to Cox. Then Benny Howell rather summed up Gloucestershire’s fortunes when he slapped a full toss from Brett D’Oliveira to mid-on. A slow day? Not at all. Days at the College Ground pass with the speed of a swift in flight over the Cotswolds.
How Jharkhand pulled off ‘a repeat of Eden Gardens’ in Agartala
Ishank Jaggi, the Jharkhand batsman, was resting his sore back in the dressing room when PN Singh, the team manager, sat beside him and quipped, “Eden Gardens ka repeat ho jaaye (Should we have a repeat of Eden Gardens)?” Jaggi, as he later told ESPNcricinfo, replied: “Kabhi Kabhi ho sakta hai, baar baar nahi (It might happen once in a way, not always).”
The comparison was apt. Tripura had scored 289 at home in Agartala and then bowled Jharkhand out for 136, enforcing the follow on with more than two days left to play in Agartala. Singh’s reference was obviously to that Kolkata Test of 2001. It seemed hopeless then, and it did now, and little did Jaggi know that he would be at the centre of this “kabhi kabhi ho sakta hai” turnaround.
Jharkhand went on to win in dramatic circumstances, with the final wicket claimed in possibly the last over of the contest, Tripura bowled out for 211 after Jharkhand had declared on 418 for 8.
“We were just beginning to get a little nervy, but eventually managed to hold on because we were determined to not be denied after having come that close. It would’ve been cruel to not win after that kind of a comeback”
“It was around 4pm, and just an over earlier the umpires got together to take a light reading,” Jaggi, who had hit 107 (retired) – with Saurabh Tiwary scoring 122 not out – in the second innings, said. “We knew it was a race against time. We possibly had six balls to take the last wicket, or else it would have most likely been a draw, because once we went out, there was no way we were coming back on.”
When Ashish Kumar, the senior-most bowler in the Jharkhand XI, trapped Rana Dutta lbw, the camp went crazy. They had become the first team since Sourav Ganguly’s Indians to win a first-class game in India after following on. Astonishingly, Jharkhand also became the first side in Ranji Trophy history to come back from a follow-on and win. “It’s unbelievable,” Jaggi added.
Victory was even more special as it had come without a number of their first-XI players. Ishan Kishan, Varun Aaron, Shahbaz Nadeem and Rahul Shukla were all out due to niggles. Ashish, with 30 first-class games under his belt, and Ajay Yadav, slightly less experienced, had 19-year-old debutant Vivekanand Tiwari as the third fast bowler. The trio picked up all ten second-innings wickets between them.
Before that, Jaggi and Tiwary got together in the first session on day three, with Tripura having reduced Jharkhand to 138 for 5 in the second innings, still 15 runs behind. Jaggi, a veteran of 84 first-class games, hit his 19th first-class century, before retiring because of that flared back. Tiwary was still there when Jharkhand declared.
“We batted for a bit on the final day, just to tire them out even more,” Jaggi said of the plan. “I don’t think anyone in Tripura’s position would have expected the turnaround after picking up five wickets in the second innings. In going all out for a win, they kept attacking with their main bowlers, we kept playing them out and eventually they were tired.
“Later when their second set of bowlers came on, we started picking the runs. Once the partnership between Saurabh and me crossed 100, we decided to slowly try and push the runs, so that even if we get bowled out, there is some sort of a total to defend.”
There was a small issue, though. Jaggi’s back was beginning to hurt. He has a left-side disk compression in his spine, a problem he has had to manage for seven years now. His left leg is also a tad longer than his right, leading to issues. This even forced him to pull out midway through the white-ball season.
“As I got tired, I decided to attack the new ball in search of quick runs,” Jaggi said. “But once it got to a stage where I had to go off, we decided having a new batsman with fresh legs in Anukul Roy was the best way forward, since they at one stage had nine fielders at the rope, and I wasn’t able to run.”
Roy contributed a quickfire 25 to set up the declaration.
This gave their bowlers a little over two-and-half sessions to defend 265, and victory was very much in sight when Jharkhand reduced Tripura to 41 for 5 at lunch.
“We briefly switched off after picking five wickets, but Manisankar Murasingh played a fabulous knock to make a century. We were just beginning to get a little nervy, but eventually managed to hold on because we were determined to not be denied after having come that close. It would’ve been cruel to not win after that kind of a comeback,” Jaggi said.
Were there any celebrations afterwards? “No restaurants, no entertainment, no food outside,” Jaggi laughed. “We stayed put at the hotel, enjoyed a quiet dinner, and all of us went to bed early.”
Now, they have to wait. The Assam v Services game in Guwahati had to be abandoned because of political turmoil in Assam, and that’s where Jharkhand are scheduled to travel next. The situation hasn’t improved, and the match might well be rescheduled.
Somerset accept 2020 points deduction over ‘poor’ pitch
Somerset have confirmed that they will not be appealing against the decision to dock them 12 points for preparing a substandard pitch for the 2019 Championship title decider against Essex.
The ECB’s Cricket Disciplinary Committee (CDC) imposed the deduction last month after rating the Taunton surface as ‘poor’, noting its “excessive unevenness of bounce”. While Somerset accepted the charge, they disputed the suggestion that the pitch was not the best they could have produced.
However, after reviewing the CDC’s full report and relevant procedures, the club has decided not to appeal because of the “heavy burden of proof” required to overturn the original verdict.
“This conclusion has been reached because it is clear that, in order to overturn the decision, the club would have to demonstrate conclusively to the Panel who originally implemented the sanctions that they had come to the wrong decision,” a Somerset statement said. “Such a heavy burden of proof is extremely difficult for any appellant to discharge.
“The club are very disappointed with the panel’s decision but has concluded that it is in the best interest of all parties to move forward.
“We can now focus on preparing the team and the venue for the demands of the season ahead, with a specific focus on performing successfully, with a highly talented and competitive group of players and a clear focus on developing broader strategies to support this objective through our teams off the field. The club notes the strong message the panel ruling sends to all first-class counties.”
Somerset finished the 2019 season second in Division One, 11 points behind Essex, after drawing a rain-affected final game – extending the club’s wait for a maiden Championship title. They will begin 2020 on minus-12 points, with a further, suspended 12-point deduction hanging over them.
Somerset’s captain, Tom Abell, denied that the club had set out to produce an up-and-down pitch, but said they would have to deal with the points penalty “as best we can”.
“It’s a big blow, nobody wants to start the season 12 points adrift, but we know what we’ve got to do,” he told ESPNcricinfo. “The particularly disappointing thing was that we accepted the charge of it being a poor pitch, however, we were also found guilty of not producing the best wicket possible. That was disappointing because we wanted a pitch to spin, we wanted to win the game, but we felt like we were playing on the best pitch available to us.
“It’s still obviously pretty raw… but the issue wasn’t the spin, apparently. The reason we got deducted points was because of the surface and the inconsistent bounce… But I can assure you there was no intent to produce a wicket that was going to go up and down. But obviously the punishment’s been handed out, and we’ve got to deal with that as best we can.”
Buttler, Stokes and Archer back for South Africa T20Is, no room for Root
England have named four uncapped players in their ODI squad to face South Africa, while recalling the likes of Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer for the T20I series to follow. Moeen Ali and Jason Roy return in both white-ball formats after being rested for the New Zealand tour, but there was no room in the T20I squad for Joe Root.
Tom Banton, Pat Brown, Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson have all been picked in 50-over cricket for the first time – though only Brown and Parkinson retained their T20I spots. Of the group that beat New Zealand 3-2 last month, Sam Billings, James Vince and Lewis Gregory also miss out.
The three-match ODI series, starting on February 4 at Cape Town, will be England’s first involvement in the format since lifting the World Cup in July. Eoin Morgan remains as captain, with Dawid Malan winning a recall after his excellent T20I form and Chris Jordan and Sam Curran also included, having last won ODI caps in 2016 and 2018 respectively.
The squad contains eight members of the World Cup-winning group. Mark Wood is also rested, alongside Buttler, Stokes and Archer; Liam Dawson has once again been overtaken by Joe Denly as the spinning allrounder; and England appear to have moved on from Vince and Liam Plunkett.
The four new faces were all involved, to varying degrees of success, in New Zealand. Banton scored 56 runs in three innings, at a strike rate of 164.70, Parkinson claimed a four-wicket haul in his second game, while Brown and Mahmood picked up three wickets each. In List A cricket, Banton scored two hundreds as Somerset won the 2019 Royal London Cup; Lancashire’s Mahmood was the competition’s leading wicket-taker with 28 at 18.50.
England will also play three T20Is in South Africa and they have prioritised the shortest format ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup. The absence of Root suggests his chances of involvement are receding, with England well-stocked for top-order batting options.
“These two squads were selected with an eye on the T20 World Cup in Australia in 2020,” England’s national selector, Ed Smith, said. “In the T20s, a number of players who were rested for the successful 3-2 victory in New Zealand return to the squad: Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Jason Roy.
“We want to expand the pool of players who can perform successfully for England, while also helping the team to peak for major tournaments.”
England ODI squad: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton, Pat Brown, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Chris Jordan, Saqib Mahmood, Dawid Malan, Matthew Parkinson, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Chris Woakes
England T20I squad: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonathan Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Pat Brown, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Matt Parkinson, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood
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