Spinner emerges from long winter on England fringes with three fine wickets against Northants
Lancashire 305 (Bohannon 68, Davies 57, Kerrigan 4-60, Taylor 4-91) and 60 for 0 lead Northamptonshire 177 (Rossington 49, Kerrigan 45*, Bailey 3-32, Parkinson 3-49) by 188 runs
April advances and so does the cricket season. Though there is still morning frost in the hollows on the Moss between Southport and Burscough Bridge, the trees’ delicate greening heralds the year’s rapid transformation from dearth to plenty. Last Sunday Emirates Old Trafford was briefly covered in snow, yet on Wednesday morning Lancashire and Northants picked five spinners for this game, three of them specialists. Cricketers sometimes complain about the weather but what would our game be without three seasons’ climatic variations, the lore behind the laws, the entrancements of difference? “Over the apparatus of the Spring is drawn / A constructed festival of pulleys from sky,” wrote W S Graham.
The season is barely a week old and already it has produced a quota of surprises, often involving teams who would have been in Division Two had the 2020 season been played without the interruption of the pandemic. But this game, for all Simon Kerrigan‘s all-round excellence, (about which, more later) appears unlikely to produce further shocks. Northamptonshire, who were promoted on the final morning of the 2019 season, were ultimately outplayed on the second day of this game and Lancashire’s openers had extended their team’s 128-run first-innings lead to a flagrantly healthy 188 by the close.
That Dane Vilas’s team should hold such an advantage is explained in part by the efforts of a tousle-haired, irrepressibly enthusiastic Boltonian, who this afternoon followed what may have been the most frustrating winter of his career by taking three fine wickets. The last of these, that of the Northants skipper, Adam Rossington, for 49, fell to a leg-spinner of such quality that it had folk harking back to the 1993 Ashes Test and another blond twirler. And just for those brief moments Matthew Parkinson was not flattered. The ball pitched outside leg and hit the top of off. It sent social media bonkers and one saw why.
Certainly the Lancashire leg-spinner deserves life to treat him kindly for a while. Selected either as a reserve for England’s Test side or as a member of the one-day squads, Parkinson spent almost the entire winter overseas. He played just one game, taking nought for 16 off five overs when representing J E Root’s XI v J C Buttler’s XI in a 50-over practice match at Hambantota, a contest in which Ben Foakes played for both sides and Dom Sibley batted twice. It may not therefore come as much of a consolation to him that he has joined Jonny Bairstow (elected after the 2015 West Indies tour) as a member of the Gracie Fields Society for Neglected Cricketers. Parkinson’s election is based on the fact that his treatment recalls the great Rochdalian’s famous lament: he took his harp to the party but nobody asked him to play.
Joe Root and Eoin Morgan’s reluctance was not shared by Vilas this afternoon. Lancashire’s skipper called Parkinson into the attack when the visitors were already in the toils at 45 for 3 in reply to Lancashire’s 305. No doubt delighted to be bowling in a four-day match for the first time since September 2019, Parkinson had Luke Procter caught by Josh Bohannon at mid-on for six and Saif Zaib pouched at backward short leg by Steven Croft for four. In the next over Tom Bailey took the first of his three wickets in ten balls and when Northants were 87 for 8 one wondered whether Lancashire would turn down the chance of batting practice in favour of enforcing the follow-on and maybe gaining another day’s rest.
But such thoughts gravely insulted Northants’ capacity to resist, even in the bleakest circumstances. More specifically they failed to take account of Kerrigan’s ability to block an end up and play a few shots of his own while in the company of a more established batsman. Nearly thirty overs later, after Kerrigan and Rossington had added 82 for the ninth wicket thereby removing any possibility of the follow-on, we had learned the tough lessons that often follow casual presumption. Parkinson’s ball of the season and the run out of Ben Sanderson for nought ensured that Lancashire’s frustration would not be prolonged.
It also allowed Lancashire’s spinner to reflect happily on a day that had also seen him make a career-best 21 not out in the morning session. Those runs were accumulated rather stylishly during a last-wicket stand of 36 with Tom Hartley, whose own 25 also set a new personal mark. The stand was ended when Hartley swung Kerrigan to deep square leg and that wicket prompted some of us to ponder when, if ever, one club has helped in the development of two county cricketers, each of them skilled in the same precise discipline, who have then represented opposite sides in a first-class fixture.
Kerrigan last bowled left-arm spin for Ormskirk in 2017 and Hartley did so as recently as 2019, so this match is already a proud occasion for the Brook Lane club and also for the Liverpool Competition, the league in which it plays. For the umpteenth time, one wondered where first-class cricket in England would be without clubs like Ormskirk or the many others who understand their broader responsibilities to the game. Deep down the gurgler, probably.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
ICC consider expanding T20 World Cup to 20 teams
Change of attitude from governing body with shorter form seen as vehicle for growth
The T20 World Cup could be increased to include 20 teams as part of the ICC’s attempts to develop the game globally.
While the 2021 tournament, currently scheduled to be played in India, will still feature 16 teams, ESPNcricinfo understands there are plans to increase that number from the 2024 edition. Current thinking suggests that version of the event will feature four groups of five teams in its opening phase.
The ICC has long seen the T20 format as a vehicle for the game’s expansion and there has been previous talk of such an expansion. The ICC have already confirmed their plans to increase the number of teams in their women’s competitions.
But the move sustains a notably more inclusive recent approach from the ICC across formats. This is also likely to involve an increased number of teams (from 10 to 14) in the 50-over World Cup, a more positive attitude towards participation in the Olympics and talk of a return of the Intercontinental Cup (albeit with a different name).
It is, perhaps, the move to increasing the number of teams in the 50-over World Cup which provides the most revealing insight into the changing mood of the ICC. In recent years, the ICC cut the number of teams in the 50-over World Cup (from 16 in 2007, to 14 in 2011 and 2015 and 10 in 2019) arguing that broadcasters preferred the streamlined format with the probability of fewer one-sided games.
There is, however, understood to be a growing appreciation of the need to balance long-term global development with the monetary value of short-term broadcast deals. It may be relevant, too, that since the powers of the ‘Big Three’ were rolled back in 2017, the influence of other nations has grown.
All these subjects have been discussed in recent Chief Executives’ Committee (CEC) meetings and, though no firm decisions have been taken, there has been a notably more positive appreciation of the benefits of this expansion from the more powerful Full Member countries. Indeed, it is understood that the subject of the Olympics was raised at a recent CEC meeting by the ECB’s Tom Harrison. The BCCI have also recently signalled their desire for involvement, albeit with the caveat that they will not tolerate interference from the Indian Olympic Association.
The Intercontinental Cup has, in the past, provided an opportunity for Associate ICC nations to play a good standard of first-class cricket. It is likely, however, that the revamped tournament, which will almost certainly carry a different name, might provide opportunities for at least some of those nations to play more Test cricket. That could well mean more nations being permitted to play the format and might effectively introduce a second division in Test cricket.
A return of cricket to the Olympics would provide a financial and publicity boost to areas of the global game which have traditionally struggled for both. While the most influential ICC Full Members have, in the past, resisted such a move as it would reduce their window for bilateral series, there is a growing appreciation of the benefits of inclusion in the event. An ICC sub-committee has been set up and will report back to the CEC. Ian Watmore, the ECB chair, is on the sub-committee and is known to be a supporter of cricket’s inclusion in principle, believing it will help develop both the men’s and women’s game globally.
As a result, there is a growing likelihood of inclusion in the 2032 event (which is likely to be held in Brisbane) and a possibility of a bid for the 2028 version (which is scheduled to be held in LA). The number of teams involved and the version of the game to be used remain undecided, though there is growing support for exploring the T10 version, which would probably allow more nations to be involved and enable the event to be included within the small window available.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
Recent Match Report – Middlesex vs Hampshire Group 2 2021
Handscomb’s woeful form continues with first-ball duck after late-afternoon start
Middlesex 90 for 4 (Abbott 3-21) vs Hampshire
When the Lord’s media centre was still in its infancy, those working within were served tea and coffee in the most magnificent mugs – unbelievably tall, well insulated with a perfectly balanced handle and, best of all, decorated with a sketch of the building in celebration of its love-it-or-hate-it design.
Those mugs were solid too, with evidence suggesting they could survive numerous moves across the world (you were allowed to take just one as a souvenir, right?) until the inevitable happened.
After a long wait to begin their match, Middlesex started solidly enough against Hampshire, too. Play didn’t begin until 4.15pm after two false starts when the covers were removed and players began to warm up, only to be forced back inside the Pavilion when the rain returned.
Jack Davies, playing just his second first-class match and his first of the season after replacing fellow left-hander Max Holden in the hosts’ line-up, and Sam Robson saw their side into the 18th over as they worked their way to 33 without loss.
That was in the face of some class bowling from Keith Barker and Mohammad Abbas, who conceded just 16 from the first 10 overs without getting the rewards they were really after when Hampshire won the toss.
It was Kyle Abbott who cashed in instead with three quick wickets to shatter Middlesex, leaving them 90 for 4 at the close and the not-out Nick Gubbins and John Simpson with a serious mending task.
Abbott replaced Abbas from the Nursery End in the 14th over and, while Robson helped himself to a couple of boundaries in Abbott’s second, one of those was in fact very nearly a breakthrough for Hampshire when Robson sent the ball airborne towards point and rocketing through the hands of a leaping Tom Alsop.
It would have been spectacular had Alsop managed to pull it down, and perhaps it was a breakthrough of sorts because, a short time later, Abbott made good on the threat he had posed, drawing Robson forward on an off-stump line and finding an edge which went straight to Liam Dawson at second slip.
Brad Wheal also bowled well – he beat Gubbins’ outside edge three times in one over – and removed Davies after a composed 24, edging towards the slips, where Dawson took another catch.
In the next over, Abbott had Peter Handscomb out first ball with a gem that angled in slightly and clipped the top of off-stump. That continued a wretched season so far for Handscomb, the Middlesex captain who now has just 31 runs from six innings, including three ducks.
But Abbott’s next wicket was even more of a beauty with the perfect line, length and speed beating everything as Robbie White pressed forward only to hear the sound of his off-stump being knocked out of the ground.
Abbott, now an overseas player for Hampshire after the end of the Kolpak era, missed all of last season’s Bob Willis trophy due to travel restrictions between the UK and his native South Africa.
“I’ve been fighting myself a bit – the body’s just getting used to these long spells again and long days in the field, which we’ve had over the last few weeks,” Abbott said.
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo
Jofra Archer ‘happy to go back in the bubble’ after confirming Test fitness bid is on track
Fiery outing for Sussex shows progress in recovery from elbow and finger injuries
Jofra Archer demonstrated that his return to fitness is firmly on track following a fiery performance for Sussex on the opening day of their LV= County Championship clash with Kent at Hove, and confirmed he would be ready to step back into the England bubble if selected for the two-Test series against New Zealand, at Lord’s and Edgbaston next month.
Archer claimed 2 for 29 in 13 well-grooved overs, with both of his scalps coming in his opening four-over spell, including his England team-mate Zak Crawley, who was caught behind for 7. Kent were rolled aside for 145 inside 55 overs, with Archer’s fellow England prospect, Ollie Robinson, also starring with 3 for 29 in 18 overs.
It was Archer’s first Championship appearance for Sussex since September 2018, and potentially his last of the season too, given that the county has no fixture in next week’s round of games – the last that England’s Test players will be able to play ahead of the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s, beginning on June 2.
But, after a low-key outing for Sussex’s second XI against Surrey last week, he assuaged many concerns about his recovery from both a long-term elbow injury, and an operation to remove a shard of glass from the middle finger of his right hand.
“It’s great to play again with the [Sussex] lads who I’ve played with nearly all of my career,” Archer told the ECB Reporters’ Network afterwards.
“My fitness is fine, I thought I bowled okay. I played in the second team last week and it’s good to get some confidence and I felt fine. I bowled in short spells for protection in case we had a long day but it was overcast, which helped a bit. There was a bit of management, but it all worked out.
“With the [elbow] injury I have tried not to get too frustrated,” he added. “If I’m fit, I guess I will play in the Test series and I feel alright. Ideally, I would ideally have another game next week but we’re off and then we play Northamptonshire. I don’t know what the plan is but I’d be happy to play again before the Test series. I’d be happy to go into the bubble again.”
Archer is sure to be joined in the bubble by Crawley, who made a career-best 267 against Pakistan in last season’s England campaign, but he’s looking forward to heading to Lord’s with the bragging rights after getting the better of their short-lived duel.
“I bowl to Zak Crawley in the [England] nets and I have done that quite a bit,” Archer said. “Obviously, you’re never out in the nets so it was good to get him out here, with umpires.”
It remains to be seen whether Robinson, too, has done enough to earn a Test debut, but after claiming 28 wickets at 13.35 – and with England indicating that they will offer chances to some new faces – the signs are so far promising.
“Hopefully Ollie Robinson will get his [England] chance this summer,” Archer said. “We all know what he can do, he’s a talented bowler and his stats prove that.”
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Recent Match Report – Middlesex vs Hampshire Group 2 2021
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