Home advantage does not carry quite the same weight as it used to do
The final act of the Australian season starts on Thursday with the Sheffield Shield final between Queensland and New South Wales at Allan Border Field in Brisbane.
New South Wales are aiming to defend the title awarded to them last season when the tournament was curtailed by the onset of the pandemic while Queensland last won the Shield in 2017-18.
Queensland finished top of the table after the final-round draw against New South Wales in Wollongong, but that does not carry the significant advantage it used to do when, in the event of a drawn final, the leaders would be awarded the title.
Now if there is a draw the title would be decided by the same bonus points system that is in place during the regular season. It was brought in as a trial in the 2018-19 season (although wasn’t needed as Victoria won the final outright) and after last season’s final was cancelled it will be used again should the situation arise.
This is how the bonus points system works: the batting side earns 0.01 points for every run scored above 200 in the first 100 overs of the first innings and the bowling side earns 0.1 points for every wicket taken in the same period.
So, if we use the previous match between these two sides last week as an example it would work out like this: New South Wales were 4 for 310 after 100 overs so that earns them 1.1 batting points and Queensland get 0.4 bowling points. Queensland were then 4 for 293 after 100 overs earning them 0.93 batting points and New South Wales 0.4 bowling points.
In total that would be 1.5 bonus points for New South Wales and 1.33 for Queensland.
“It means the game is in play the whole time,” Mitchell Starc said. “We’ve seen in years gone by the home team don’t have to win so they can play the way they want and not have to worry about pushing for victory. To have the bonus points system there is a big carrot for us, we’ll be in the game for the five days.”
The one caveat with the bonus points is that they only become the decider if a minimum 270 overs have been bowled in the match. If weather means that mark hasn’t been reached then the tiebreaker reverts to who led the table. Also, if the bonus points are tied in a drawn game the top team is declared the winner.
The final is played over five days so there is extra time to get an outright result. The forecast also looks good for the duration of the game with just a few showers predicted for Saturday at the moment. The last Shield match in Brisbane, which was set to take place at Ian Healy Oval, was abandoned without a ball bowled largely due to a saturated outfield following heavy rain. The match before, at Allan Border Field, had just 76 overs across the first two days.
The other factor with the final taking place much later than usual is the length of daylight hours (Allan Border field doesn’t have floodlights). Play will begin at 9.30am to try and ensure the 96 overs per day can be completed.
Recent Match Report – Durham vs Worcs Group 1 2021
Seamer overtakes Onions as Worcestershire are overwhelmed on final day
Durham 246 (Lees 99, Tongue 5-39) and 389 for 5 dec (Young 103, Burnham 102*) beat Worcestershire 213 (Fell 44, Leach 42*, Rushworth 5-56) and 164 (Mitchell 62, Rushworth 4-52) by 258 runs
Chris Rushworth orchestrated a brilliant 258-run win for Durham in their LV= Insurance County Championship clash against Worcestershire, on the day he became the county’s all-time leading first-class wicket taker.
Rushworth claimed his 528th first-class wicket for the club by removing Jack Haynes, breaking his tie with Graham Onions that he matched in the first innings. The 34-year-old notched figures of 4 for 52, while Mark Wood and Brydon Carse were equally impressive with three and two wickets apiece, to dismiss the visitors for 164.
The emphatic victory moves Durham into second place in Group One in the County Championship, three points behind Essex. Worcestershire lost their first game of the season, but they remain in fourth place despite their crushing defeat.
Rain prevented play in the first hour of the day, but Daryl Mitchell quickly found his rhythm to pass fifty for the third time this season. Rushworth almost secured his record-breaking scalp when Jake Libby clipped a stroke towards mid-wicket. Jack Burnham attempted to corral the ball, but he could not hang on with a diving effort.
Wood turned to short-pitch bowling to make the breakthrough, hitting the glove of Mitchell, which forced the opener to require treatment. The following delivery Wood went short again, and this time Mitchell fended straight to short leg.
Carse made an immediate impact with his first delivery of the day, pinning Tom Fell lbw for 1. It could have been better for Durham in the first hour, but David Bedingham dropped a routine catch at first slip after Ben Raine found Libby’s outside edge.
However, Bedingham atoned for his error to hand Rushworth his record-breaking scalp, collecting a low edge from Haynes to take the seamer clear of Onions. The wicket prompted emotional scenes among his team-mates and a salute to his dad in the Emirates Riverside car park.
“I could not be any prouder, especially with my dad in the car park as well,” Rushworth said afterwards. “I was very emotional, I don’t think I’ve ever been as emotional as that on a cricket pitch. I’ve played in Lord’s finals and a Championship win, but that tops the lot.
“It has been on my mind and you could probably tell with the spells on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Other milestones have not entered my mind before, but because this one was so big and it has been close for a while, it was getting to me. To get it done, I can get back to bowling without worrying and winning more games for Durham.”
Despite the catch to break the record, Durham’s problems in the slips continued as Scott Borthwick put down Brett D’Oliveira off Wood, but the England man returned to prise out the batsman in his next over.
Durham smelled blood in the water, and Rushworth jagged a delivery back into Riki Wessels to pin him lbw. Wood performed the same feat to end Libby’s stubborn resistance for 36. Ed Barnard continued the procession and was powerless as he feathered an edge behind from a fine Carse delivery, leaving the visitors seven down.
After the tea break, Rushworth allowed the home side to close in on their second win of the campaign. He was on the mark to dismiss Joe Leach and Ben Cox lbw, displaying pinpoint accuracy. Borthwick claimed the final wicket to wrap a hugely impressive win for his side to put forward their credentials for the County Championship.
“We were outplayed by a better team this week,” Worcestershire coach Alex Gidman said. “They played a lot better than us in their home conditions and we have to take it on the chin.
“We were going to lose a game at some stage and this week Durham were a better team than us. We didn’t play good enough cricket over the four days. Their bowling attack is as good as we’ve seen this season. The lads are disappointed that we didn’t perform well enough in this game, but we’ll support them to the hilt.”
England vs New Zealand 2021
England fast bowler may face surgery as ECB plan next steps of recovery
Jofra Archer has been ruled out of England’s two-Test series against New Zealand, starting at Lord’s on June 2, and may face surgery on his troublesome right elbow after failing to come through this week’s return to first-class action.
Archer, who was withdrawn from this year’s IPL prior to its postponement earlier this month, had undergone a series of cortisone injections to enable him to get through the T20I leg of England’s white-ball tour of India in March.
He also underwent an operation on the middle finger of his right hand while receiving further treatment on his elbow, to remove a splinter of glass following a bizarre incident involving a fish-tank. He showed no ill effects following that treatment and has been playing without protection on the affected digit.
After a low-key return to action for Sussex’s second XI against Surrey two weeks ago, Archer appeared to be returning to his best when he picked up two wickets, including his England Test team-mate Zak Crawley, in a hostile new-ball burst on his return to the County Championship against Kent at Hove this week.
However, he bowled just five overs in Kent’s second innings, and none on the final two days of the match, a situation that appeared to have caused confusion for his Sussex captain Ben Brown on the third morning, when he gestured for Archer to open the bowling but had to turn instead to his team-mate George Garton.
“I think there was some confusion over the state of his elbow,” Ian Salisbury, Sussex’s head coach, said at the time. “Ben thought he was going to bowl but his elbow’s sore and so he couldn’t bowl. Regarding any other information about his elbow, it’s the ECB’s job to answer that.”
An ECB statement subsequently confirmed that Archer “was suffering from pain in his right elbow when bowling and was unable to bowl in the final two days of the match.
“The England and Sussex medical teams will now seek guidance,” the statement continued, “and Archer will see a medical consultant later this week to determine the next course of action on the management of his elbow.”
The option of surgery may be the preferred course of action for Archer and for England – not to mention his IPL franchise, Rajasthan Royals – given his importance to the team’s plans across formats in the back-end of the year.
As the MVP in the last IPL in November 2020, and following a series of hostile displays in the 3-2 series loss in India, Archer’s value to England’s T20I attack is paramount, especially given that the team will go into the T20 World Cup in October and November as one of the favourites, and seeking to become the first team to hold the 50-over and 20-over titles concurrently.
Then there is the Ashes campaign in Australia hot on that tournament’s heels – a tour that England’s Test captain, Joe Root, admitted this week was the “pinnacle” of their plans for 2021, notwithstanding a five-match home series against India before that.
In the meantime, England have already indicated that they will be giving opportunities to fringe members of their Test squad during the New Zealand series – not least among them, Archer’s fellow Sussex seamer Ollie Robinson, who has been a fixture in the bio-secure environment without yet being given a Test debut.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
Recent Match Report – Kent vs Sussex Group 3 2021
A whole lot of not a lot at Hove, but it’s an improvement on this time last year
Sussex 256 (van Zyl 52; Quinn 4-54, Gilchrist 3-51, Stevens 3-64) drew with Kent 145 (Leaning 63, Robinson 3-29, Garton 3-65) and 387 for 4 dec (Leaning 127*, Robinson 85, Crawley 85)
A match that had once seemed likely to end in a Sussex victory with Jofra Archer displaying his fitness for Test cricket ended in the most sclerotic of draws with Archer not even on the field. The first of these outcomes had always seemed likely once Kent had survived a short session on Saturday, and the second was probable once the England bowler’s sore elbow had prevented him bowling that same evening.
Despite their lowly positions in Group C these sides never appeared to contemplate the possibility of setting up a game and the 43 overs we saw this afternoon might not be numbered among the most gripping of the season. Other correspondents could even judge them balls-achingly tedious.
But Jack Leaning will take a different view. The former Yorkshire batsman notched only his second first-class century since 2017 and will approach Thursday’s game against Glamorgan in a more confident mood. Likewise, from their different perspectives, Tom Clark, who took his maiden first-class wicket, and Tawanda Muyeye, who batted half an hour for 12 not out on his debut. A drop of red ink is as comforting as a duvet to a young professional making his way. Every solid defensive shot is a moment.
And if these slightly aimless sessions were still a disappointment we could scourge no one but ourselves. On Friday, when a 104-over day had heaved itself beyond seven o’clock, we little thought how fortunate we were to see any cricket at all, let alone to be doing so when millions could not.
Zak Crawley was batting on that second evening, so such ingratitude required public abasement. But our penance, such as it might have been, was useless. The following evening, when only 24 overs were possible, Crawley was dismissed by the excellent Jack Carson and even that moment was given the elbow by Archer’s inaction, forced or otherwise.
Thus to Sunday with the Channel turquoise in its shallows but gravely blue farther out to sea. A pleasant dawn was replaced by an unlucky bag of showers, some of them slight, others heavy with Anabaptist doom. While David Millns and Graham Lloyd made one of their inspections the clouds to the west were grey as an undertaker’s work-suit; to the east they were blue as one of Bryan Ferry’s more exotic two-piece numbers. Birds gathered ravenously on the white pyramidal roofs of the hospitality suites. By the way, the gulls in Hove have clearly been watching Alfred Hitchcock movies; I’ve seen smaller turkeys. The white thugs waited for scraps; we waited for cricket.
At ten past one our patience received its reward when the Sussex team, minus Archer, took the field and Carson bowled the first over from the Cromwell Road End. The cricket soon became good-humoured, gentler in its rhythms and enriched by jokes and encouragement. Neither side could win the game but the practice had value for Leaning, whose back foot drive off George Garton was the stroke of the day. A little while later he swept Delray Rawlins for a single to reach his century and Ollie Robinson was attempting to emulate that feat before he was lbw to Clark for 85 late in the piece.
And so concluded a match in which we had been at the mercy of not only the elements but also the endless work of the Sussex groundstaff and the good judgement of Messrs Millns and Lloyd. But umpires are rather fortunate at the County Ground in that they are two of the few officials in this area to whom folk actually pay attention. There are large parts of Brighton and Hove where people pat legislation on its head and send it over to Eastbourne. Visit North Laine and you will find businesses that seem to regard official forms as entertainments to which only other people need pay any attention. One would not be surprised to find a Private Walker or two sidling in the alleyways: “Need any vaccines, guvnor? I can help you there.”
(And should Millns and Lloyd ever jack in umpiring they could go into business together selling perfumed unguents and other bathroom aromas. They already have the names for it. “Oh darling, could you be terribly sweet and pop into Millns and Lloyd for a rosewood and peony diffuser?” This would be a tremendous achievement for two lads from Clipstone and Accrington, where, one imagines, no-frills aerosols are produced by firms called something like Broadbottom and Snout.)
Such reveries occur to one on these afternoons at Hove, for this place retains its tender hold on the heart, even on days when there is nothing much going on. A year ago at least one of us would have paid twenty quid simply to sit here for half an hour during the perfect weather that taunted us during lockdown. And it is easy to be seduced by the County Ground, to be beguiled by its cricketing families, by the scent of the sea, by the view down Selborne Road and by the writers who have honoured this sacred space. Surely, one thinks, at odd moments, the romance is all too much, too heady…
And then one understands that resistance is utterly useless. In dusk’s first fading light a fox and vixen stroll over the outfield as though asserting some ancient right; perhaps they have their den in George Cox’s garden. And so, like the foxes, we go in search of supper and leave a great ground to its kindly ghosts on a spring evening.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
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