Hampshire Cricket History

The County Championship
September 30, 2016, 7:02 am
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I posted Rod Bransgrove’s statement yesterday without comment, wishing to allow you guys the chance to respond first – and thank you for all the comments. I’m going to make one or two over the next few days and I’m doing so in the capacity of the bloke who runs this Blog and nothing more. I am no longer the club’s Hon Archivist, I am therefore no longer a co-opted member of the Members’ Committee, and coincidentally, I shall be at Winchester College, speaking to young people about the future cricket on 12 October when the Forum is being held,

In this post I shall limit myself to the opening paragraphs in which Rod refers to the excitement at Lord’s last week and says: “I am … in no doubt that such a headline-grabbing climax would not have been possible without the existence of the two-divisional system that was introduced in 2000.  I applaud the forward-thinking decision makers of that time who, in the face of stiff opposition from the ‘traditionalists’, stuck to their aim of improving the competitiveness and therefore the quality of the 4 day game.”

That change was being mooted and discussed around the counties during the 1990s before Rod Bransgrove first joined the Hampshire Committee. It may be that there was “stiff opposition” but as a Committee member in those days, I don’t recall it that way. There was a desperation about the state of the England cricket team which culminated in the appalling World Cup of 1999 – there was a strong sense that something had to be done. It seems to me that here Rod is constructing his main rhetorical device – either you are one of the enlightened progressive group that will lead us to the promised land or you are a “traditionalist” who obstructs progress. From the outset I reject that simple dichotomy and as someone who actively (as a Committee member) supported the introduction of T20 and two divisions but now has serious reservations about where we are heading, I decline to be stereotyped in that way.

But what about his specific point that such a finish was only possible because of two divisions. That’s nonsense. In 1984, in a single competition of 17 counties Nottinghamshire were 293-9, needing four runs to clinch the title with two balls of the season remaining. Mike Bore hit the penultimate ball out to the boundary but Richard Ollis held the catch, Notts lost and Essex took the title. A ‘one-off’? Maybe, maybe not, but so too in 2016. If the two divisions were responsible for such thrills how come it doesn’t happen every year? In fact there was a far stronger argument to be made, but he missed it. Over the final four days of the season, six of the nine sides still had something significant to play for but in truth the match at Lord’s was pretty dull on a typical batsman-friendly Lord’s pitch until the last afternoon.

Then he speaks of “improving the competitiveness and therefore the quality” of the Championship. I’ve made this point before but it’s worth repeating I think. There is no doubt in my mind that the First Division is as competitive as any Championship cricket I have seen throughout the whole season. But if the quality is so good, why is it that England keep picking the most successful Championship cricketers – especially the batsmen – only to see them fail? There is no necessary correlation between competitiveness and quality as anyone who like me has ever played Sunday morning pubs league football can confirm!

Ultimately there is a big hole in the case that Rod makes. I have watched a lot of T20 cricket from the start and I don’t much care what he and his mates do with that form of the game. I wish to know why it is necessary to continue dismantling the County Championship while those other changes are made. I have shown for a number of seasons now that the majority of cricketers play no more – often less – than three days per week at present, yet we are told that it is ‘too much’. Now it seems that this new competition might run alongside a Championship that is further diluted – no England players, no top overseas players, no English T20 ‘stars’ and played for the most part on days and at times when few people can watch. The decline of the finest form of the county game has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Your Future
September 29, 2016, 11:18 am
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Contracted Out
September 29, 2016, 10:40 am
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The ECB are giving out more contracts, presumably enabling them to extract players from county cricket. At present this won’t affect Hampshire as none of their players have been given a contract – not even our two ‘white ball’ guys

Test contracts: Moeen Ali (Worcestershire); James Anderson (Lancashire); Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire); Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire); Alastair Cook (Essex); Steven Finn (Middlesex); Joe Root (Yorkshire); Ben Stokes (Durham); Chris Woakes (Warwickshire); Mark Wood (Durham)

White-ball contracts: Moeen Ali (Worcestershire); Jos Buttler (Lancashire); Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire); Eoin Morgan (Middlesex); Liam Plunkett (Yorkshire); Joe Root(Yorkshire); Jason Roy (Surrey); Adil Rashid (Yorkshire); Ben Stokes (Durham); Chris Woakes (Warwickshire); David Willey (Yorkshire).

Increment contracts: Gary Ballance (Yorkshire)

Hampshire Survive?
September 27, 2016, 1:40 pm
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The Times today is reporting that Durham face a points deduction after requiring ECB financial support to survive the season and they could be relegated. It’s common these days in football of course but less so in cricket and Durham finished 45 points ahead of Hampshire. Durham are about to change financial/governing status and the ECB considers the change to be an “insolvency event”.

Any penalty might be imposed in 2017, in which case life gets easier for the other seven counties next year, and even if they were to be relegated this year, it might mean promotion for Kent – reverting to two-up?

There again it might be that nothing will happen.

PS: Rod Bransgrove is quoted on BBC site, suggesting that perhaps they should be relegated: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/37487298


David Griffiths
September 26, 2016, 1:02 pm
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He was Kent’s leading T20 wicket-taker this season but now he’s left them. I don’t think he played any first-class games.

September 26, 2016, 10:42 am
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For 2016

It was the least successful season since 2003 in terms of final Championship place and/or achievements in the two limited overs competitions.

There were significant extenuating circumstances (Carberry, Edwards, Topley, Stevenson, Wood, Berg who missed the first six Championship matches and – while it probably didn’t affect the first team’s results – the emotional impact of the death of Hamza Ali). It was almost certainly the ‘unluckiest’ season in Hampshire’s history.

28 players appeared in competitive matches (twice as many as 1973 when we last won the Championship). Some of those felt like desperation signings – Best, Andrew, Carter each had a day or two of success but little more. Wainwright …???

The positives then are entirely for the future: Alsop, Crane, Goodwin, McManus, Weatherley, and Wheal are those who appeared in the first team and there are others. But since it was for me a very sad season I’m inclined to end with a cautionary tale – five/six years ago I was writing enthusiastically about the previous generation of whom only Vince and Dawson remain.

Batting 2016
September 26, 2016, 10:33 am
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Less to say probably – on the whole it was OK but the fact that the top six in the averages are (in order) Ervine, McLaren, Wheater, Adams, McManus and Dawson suggests that the top order didn’t fire properly. No doubt batting against the new ball was harder on this year’s pitches and the loss of Carberry was significant, but below those six came Vince, averaging 34, Alsop 33 and Smith (just) 30. Only Ervine (4) and Wheater (2) scored more than one century and despite Jimmy Adams’ reasonable return of 897 runs (after missing the first two matches) at 36, he didn’t get to three figures.

Equally worrying, the ages and futures of Adams, Smith, McLaren, Ervine and Carberry – plus Berg who was next in the list with an average of 29. Alsop looks very promising if less so against spin, and if you remove his first three and last two innings his average improves considerably. He made some big scores in the 50 overs games too.