Hampshire Cricket History

So We Won
January 18, 2021, 9:29 am
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Again. England on a bit of a roll.

I guess there will be changes on Friday (Anderson for Broad, Stone for Wood, Crane for …?)

It’s interesting that Sri Lanka dispensed with convention, opened the bowling with their spinners and our openers couldn’t cope (it was a good match for Rory Burns). Maybe if they are doing that, we should open the batting with Root and Lawrence?

(I’m not expecting Crane)

Work Backwards?
January 17, 2021, 9:33 am
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I’m broadly a fan of DRS, not least for lbw decisions – partly because it has encouraged umpires to give people out, but I have one thought about the length of time needed to make a decision.

If you were watching this morning then in the last over before tea Bess had a shout which was sent ‘upstairs’. The umpire took some time to check whether the ball had hit only the pad and until that was confirmed did not go to ball tracking. That showed immediately that the ball was missing leg stump by some distance.

My thought is that for lbws they should go to ball tracking first and if it’s missing that’s it – no point in fussing with whether the ball touched the bat (different of course if there’s a catch in doubt).

Incidentally the commentators keep saying how much better Leach and Bess have bowled since lunch which I think somewhat proves the point I made yesterday. Leach has now bowled 50 overs in four days, and Bess 40. Nothing like bowling lots to bowl well!

Spin Doctor Needed
January 16, 2021, 11:49 am
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England have a spin coach – as usual an overseas county player – and from what we are seeing today he has some work to do, perhaps particularly with Dom Bess who confessed he was lucky to get five wickets in the first innings and is struggling to control things today.

I’m not sure I blame him, although it’s interesting that he is now one of the first choice England spinners. He’s played in 10 Test Matches so far yet in his first-class career he has never bowled 300 overs in a season and in total has bowled around just 1,300 overs in a career that began in 2016. When you add to that, the help he got from bowling at Taunton it’s perhaps unsurprising that he’s not finding it easy here.

Compare that with the first season I saw, 1959, which was not at all easy for spinners because (a) the sun shone all year and (b) it was the first year of an experiment with covering. Despite that, in the Championship, Jim Laker at the end of his Surrey career bowled 800 overs; Fred Titmus 1000+; John Savage (Leics) 995; Brian Langford 987; Jim McConnon almost 800; at Gloucs David Allen & John Mortimore, and at Yorks, Ray Illingworth & Brian Close shared 1,500+; Michael Morgan (Notts) 874; Basil Bridge 785; Robin Marlar 772. And other spinners included slow-left-armer George Tribe 1046, while Hampshire’s main spinner, slow-left-armer Peter Sainsbury bowled 667 and ‘offie’ Mervyn Burden 566; Worcs’ Martin Horton 674 (plus 40 in Tests), and at Essex ‘leggie’ Bill Greensmith bowled ‘only’ 671 overs but three other spinners shared over 600.

In every county one or more spinners were bowling two or three times as many overs as Dom Bess ever bowls. That will never change now of course but being a good cricketer is at least partly a matter of repeating things well. Dom Bess rarely gets the chance to do that.

Not Quite
January 15, 2021, 9:39 am
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One of my earliest memories of cricket is watching (on TV) Arthur Milton score a century on Test debut for England v New Zealand in 1958. Watching Dan Lawrence bat today I was ambivalent about whether I wanted him to make a century on debut, recalling that the next two after Milton who achieved that for England, John Hampshire and Frank Hayes, like Arthur, did not enjoy long and successful Test careers. To date too, we might say the same about the two most recent cases, Keaton Jennings and Ben Foakes.

It’s not necessarily a problem though, since in between, Graham Thorpe, Alastair Cooke, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior all began with three figures (whereas Len Hutton and Graham Gooch started with ‘ducks’). The one certainty is surely that Lawrence won’t get a second chance in this match!

FC: 2020
January 13, 2021, 6:29 pm
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“This is the End …” (Jim Morrison). I thought I would post this (brief) last one this evening as we might have some Test Match cricket to chat about over the next couple of weeks.

England beat West Indies 2-1 (3) and Pakistan 1-0 (3).

Bob Willis Trophy Champions: Essex; T20 Nottinghamshire

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic caused havoc with the season’s fixtures, with all international matches played at Old Trafford or the Ageas Bowl, and no internationals and hardly any county matches admitting spectators, although live streaming of county matches proved very popular. West Indies and Pakistan toured and played Test Matches, while Australia played two ‘white ball’ series late in the season.

The Championship failed to take place for the first time since 1945 – the county’s first-class competition was limited to five matches for each county in a new Bob Willis Trophy – named as a tribute to the former England captain who had died recently. It was played in three regional leagues, plus a five-day Lord’s Final which Essex ‘won’ by leading Somerset on first innings. The Vitality Blast T20 was played in three groups over ten matches with Finals Day held in October, but for the first time, there was no play on the scheduled Saturday, Nottinghamshire winning on the ‘reserve’ Sunday. The 50-over cup was cancelled and there was no 2nd XI competitive county cricket.

FC: 2019
January 13, 2021, 8:17 am
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England beat Ireland 1-0 (1 Test) and drew 2-2 with Australia (5). In 2019/20 they lost 1-0 to New Zealand (2), beat South Africa 3-1 (4) but their series in Sri Lanka was abandoned due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Champions: Essex; RL Cup: Somerset; T20: Essex

In the Championship, Nottinghamshire were relegated, while three sides, Lancashire, Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire were promoted, so that the 8/10 split became 10/8, with not every side in Division One due to play each other twice in the following year. In the event, the 2020 Championship was abandoned due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Essex finished just ahead of Somerset after a remarkable end to the season. Somerset’s penultimate match was at the Ageas Bowl where Kyle Abbott’s match figures of 17-86 consigned them to the defeat which allowed Essex to overtake them. Abbott’s figures were the seventh best-ever in first-class cricket, the best-ever for Hampshire and the best in England since Jim Laker’s 19 at Old Trafford in 1956. Over the same four (three) days Essex beat Surrey by an innings and led the table by 12 points. By chance, the final fixture was Somerset v Essex at Taunton but the home side were frustrated by the weather, with fewer than 150 overs possible over the four days so the draw gave the title to Essex. Somerset were also fined 12 points for a poor pitch (2020) with a further 12 points suspended over the next two years. Two second division sides, Glamorgan (35.14) and Lancashire ((35.47) were top scorers in runs per wicket with Yorkshire (31.82) leading in Division One. Somerset took their wickets most cheaply at 21.25.

At the start of the season Alex Hales was dropped from the England squad ahead of the World Cup, following a 21-day ban for using recreational drugs. England won the World Cup Final against New Zealand at Lord’s on the number of boundaries scored, after the scores were level in the 50-over match and after the Super Over. In the 2020 Playfair Cricket Annual the editor described the 2019 season as “undoubtedly one of the greatest for any cricket fan” – notably the World Cup triumph and Stokes’ heroics in England’s Ashes victory by one wicket at Headingley. Ben Stokes won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Wisden’s editor Lawrence Booth suggested the World Cup conclusion was “the most tumultuous few seconds in the history of English cricket … Briefly St John’s Wood was the centre of the universe”. Suddenly “there was lightness in the air” although as those words were published in the spring of 2020, an unexpected darkness relegated them to an irrelevance.

The T20 became the Vitality Blast T20 – still 14 matches plus knock out stages, while the eight city-based teams for the Hundred were named as Southern Brave (based at the Ageas Bowl); Trent Rockets (Trent Bridge), Northern Superchargers (Headingley), Welsh Fire (Cardiff), London Spirit (Lord’s); Oval Invincibles (Oval), Birmingham Phoenix (Edgbaston) and Manchester Originals (Old Trafford). There would be a women’s version, some played at other grounds in their region. The first draft of players took place on 20 October 2019 at the Sky Studios and was shown on Sky and BBC. In the event, the launch in 2020 would be cancelled because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Wisden published a table of the most successful county sides in the period from 1963 – the start of the knock-out cup – to 2019, taking account of success in the Championship the two limited-overs cups, the (Sunday) league and the T20. Lancashire emerged as the ‘best’ side, despite winning only one Championship title (2011), followed by Warwickshire, Essex, Kent and Surrey. Yorkshire despite seven Championship titles were ninth, while Derbyshire were last.

FC: 2018
January 12, 2021, 8:03 am
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England drew 1-1 with Pakistan (2 Tests) and beat India 4-1 (5). In 2018/19 they beat Sri Lanka 3-0 (3) and lost 2-1 to West Indies (3)

Champions: Surrey; RL Cup Hampshire; T20: Worcestershire

In the Championship Surrey beat leaders Somerset at Guildford, overtook them and consigned them again to second place. Scores were lower than in recent years with only two sides averaging more than 30 runs per wicket, Surrey (36.53) and Division Two Champions Warwickshire (34.92). Meanwhile only three sides took wickets at (slightly) more than 30 runs each, with promoted Kent best at 20.97 and Surrey next on 24.18. Wisden observed that with overseas imports increasing, county cricket’s “social base narrows even further”, singling out Hampshire who, “backed by the Chairman’s millions, fielded an entire pace attack raised abroad” and “cheated relegation again”. The bowlers were Steyn, Abbott, Berg & Wheal from South Africa; West Indian Edwards, and Holland from USA via Australia – they finished fifth, eleven points clear of Lancashire and won the Lord’s Final where their man-of-the match Rilee Rossouw was another South African.  

The Editor of the Playfair Cricket Annual Ian Marshall observed that “T20 is taking over the world” although the ECB came up with another ‘version’ to be called ‘The Hundred’. In April The Guardian announced that “the England and Wales Cricket Board sprung a surprise on Thursday by announcing it has dispensed with Twenty20 for the new eight-team city tournament and will instead adopt a format of 100 balls per innings. This new competition, which begins in 2020 and is understood to have a working title of “The Hundred”, will offer faster matches, with 15 traditional six-ball overs and a single 10-ball over to complete each innings.” The plan was to launch it in 2020 on eight International grounds and it would be the first major competition in England not competed for by counties.

Looking back at this announcement in the 2019 Wisden, editor Lawrence Booth suggested that the rationale for this initiative had shrunk as the county T20 audiences “grew”. He added “In private some county executives are ambivalent at best. In public their support was lukewarm … a disaster suits no one, yet few envisage a triumph”. England’s ‘white-ball’ captain Eoin Morgan, one of three current cricketers involved in the ECB’s consultation process observed that the proposal was “upsetting people who already come to a game and that is the point of the product”. The ECB Chairman Colin Graves meanwhile regretted that “the younger generation are just not attracted to cricket”, while Booth also reported the ICC’s Chairman Shashank Manohar warning that Test cricket was “dying”. Booth also suggested that “climate change is the biggest long-term issue facing cricket but, to judge by its collective response, you wouldn’t know”.

By January 2018, Jimmy Anderson had passed 500 Test Match wickets while a few months earlier, Alastair Cook retired from Tests with Wisden praising his mental strength, and suggesting “England has never seen anyone like him”. In his final match against India at the Oval he scored 147, before returning to Essex where he continued to play in 2020.

In March, Australian Cameron Bancroft was shown on TV using sandpaper to alter the condition of the ball in a Test against South Africa. The Australian captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were implicated and the two senior players were suspended from international cricket for 12 months, Bancroft for nine. In August, England’s Ben Stokes was cleared of affray in a Cardiff court after an incident outside a Bristol nightclub the previous year.

FC: 2017
January 11, 2021, 8:25 am
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England beat South Africa 3-1 (4 Tests) and West Indies 2-1 (3). In 2017-2018 they lost 4-0 to Australia (5) and lost 1-0 to New Zealand (2)

Champions: Essex; RL Cup: Nottinghamshire; T20: Nottinghamshire

The Championship was now split into eight teams in Division One and ten in Division Two with two sides promoted/relegated. Durham’s extra punishment was to start the season with a 48-point penalty, condemning them to at least one more season in Division Two; they were still there when Covid-19 interrupted the two division Championship in 2020. Wisden’s editor described “the continued marginalisation of the County Championship, shoved mainly into April, May and September to accommodate the new Twenty20 tournament”. He concluded that this would mean “more seaming pitches, less incentive for counties to produce fast bowlers and spinners and even less hope of England competing overseas”. When Taunton became (in)famous for its turning pitches however, there were complaints and it earned the nickname ‘Ciderabad’, although as a result, England found two new spinners, Leach and Bess.

There were now just 14 Championship matches for every side – two fewer than in 2016 – so teams in Division Two did not play every other side. Promoted Essex replaced Middlesex as Champions, while the latter were relegated along with Warwickshire – Middlesex were the fourth reigning Champions to be immediately relegated since two divisions were introduced in 2000, although had they not been deducted two points for a slow over rate they would have overtaken Somerset. Essex finished 72 points ahead of runners-up Lancashire and won twice as many games as any other side, while Wisden praised the fact that no fewer than 10 of their players were born locally – five in Leytonstone alone. Third-place Surrey were top scorers at 39.28 runs per wicket, while Essex took wickets most cheaply at 23.34. Some matches were played under floodlights as day/night games, an experiment that did not survive long. Nottinghamshire did the ‘white ball’ double as discussions began on the format of a new city-based competition which would be called ‘The Hundred’.

England also played a day/night Test against the West Indies at Edgbaston. Joe Root replaced Alastair Cook as England’s Test Match captain and James Anderson became the first England bowler to take 500 wickets. Alistair Hales’ 187* won the RL Cup Final for Nottinghamshire, and was the highest score in a Lord’s Final, beating Geoff Boycott in 1965. England’s women won the World Cup, beating India at Lord’s, watched by a full house.

October 2017 saw a new Code to the Laws of Cricket; to mark it Wisden identified “the ten most significant changes starting with the size of the bat almost 250 years earlier. The other nine were the third stump; over-arm bowling, introduction of boundaries; ending bodyline; the changing lbw law (especially in the 1930s and 1972 but noting “wait until we get to DRS”); the front-foot no-ball; declarations; covered pitches, and DRS.

FC: 2016
January 10, 2021, 12:32 pm
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England beat Sri Lanka 2-0 (3 Tests) and drew 2-2 with Pakistan (4). In 2016-2017 they drew 1-1 with Bangladesh and lost 4-0 to India (5)

Champions: Middlesex; RL Cup: Warwickshire; T20: Northants

In the County Championship, for the first time, the visiting side was allowed to choose to bowl first, and only if they declined did the traditional toss take place. Middlesex were Champions, pipping perennial runners-up Somerset on the last afternoon with victory at Lord’s over the other contenders Yorkshire. To date, Somerset have finished runners-up in the Championship six times, all in the 21st century. Middlesex were the season’s top-scorers at 42.89 runs per wicket, while Warwickshire took their wickets at 27.38. Surrey and Lancashire had been promoted, replacing Worcestershire and Sussex, leaving Somerset alone as a non-Test ground in 2016’s Division One, although following recent ground developments they too were talking of Taunton becoming an international venue. By contrast, only Glamorgan in Division Two had a Test ground.

The Playfair Cricket Annual described the season as “superb”, but the structure was changed again, with only one side, Essex, promoted, while Nottinghamshire and Hampshire, the bottom two sides, were to be relegated, until, ten days after the season ended, the ECB found Durham guilty of financial irregularities – they were relegated and Hampshire reprieved. In Wisden, Neville Scott praised the quality of the cricket on Edgbaston’s T20 Finals Day but suggested that too often in the domestic T20 games are “mundane and predictable, damp squibs that sullenly puncture the hype”. In July, Ben Duckett set a record for List A runs in a calendar month scoring 650, mainly for Northamptonshire in the RL Cup, but including an innings of 220* against Sri Lanka ‘A’.

Another promising young batsman Haseeb Hameed played an innings on England’s winter tour at Rajkot that reminded Wisden’s editor of “the debuts made by England’s three batting giants of the last ten years”, Pietersen, Cook and Root – Lawrence Booth added, “he could end up with more Test runs than any of them”. Most worryingly perhaps, Booth noted that “broadcasting rights for Tests around the world have plummeted in value”, adding “the Ashes are always well protected, though that is of little consolation to anyone else”. Meanwhile Channel 5 brought live cricket free-to-air, broadcasting the Australian Big Bash on Saturday mornings.

Alastair Cook passed 11,000 Test runs – significantly more than any other batsman in the world since he had made his debut in March 2006. England’s new ‘white-ball’ captain Eoin Morgan, and batsman Alex Hales withdrew from the tour of Bangladesh for security reasons.In Wisden an article by former editor Matthew Engel celebrated 60 years of BBC radio’s Test Match Special.

FC: 2015
January 9, 2021, 8:21 am
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Nearing the end of this survey – and a rather long one today

England drew 1-1 with New Zealand (2 Tests) and beat Australia 3-2 (5). In 2015-2016 they lost 2-0 to Pakistan (3) and beat South Africa 2-1 (4).

Champions: Yorkshire; RLC: Gloucestershire; T20: Lancashire

The County Championship was being honoured in 2015 – at least by those who agreed with this version of the dates – in its 125th anniversary, not least by a splendid book by Stephen Chalke, supported by the ECB. The current version of that tradition, setting aside any tinkering with bonus/draw/win points, the fixture list or numbers of teams promoted and relegated, had been in place for just 15 of those years. Yorkshire were Champions again, winning 11 of their 16 matches and finishing 68 points ahead of runners-up Middlesex. Second Division Champions Surrey were top-scorers with 41.91 runs per wicket; Yorkshire at 37.93 led the First Division and were best overall wicket-takers at 27.62, while their pitches also topped the Table of Merit.

In the Royal London Cup, Glamorgan’s match with Hampshire at Cardiff was abandoned because of a dangerous pitch; the groundsman resigned and Glamorgan were fined £9,000 and two points, while the match statistics were deleted from all records – unlike the two recently abandoned Test Matches in the Caribbean. Benefits for county cricketers continued, but in the autumn of 2015 the Chancellor, George Osborne, announced plans to hit them hard with the ending of the tax-free bonus.

Eoin Morgan replaced Alastair Cook as captain of England’s ‘white ball’ sides. Australia and New Zealand hosted the latest World Cup, which began on St Valentine’s Day 2015. There were 14 teams, 14 venues and 49 matches over a period of six weeks before the host nations met in the Final, which Australia won by seven wickets. It was a complicated year for the management of English cricket; ECB’s new chairman, Colin Graves, previously chairman of Yorkshire and also of Costcutter stores, took over from Giles Clarke who was promoted to the role of President. In the Daily Telegraph, Simon Briggs wrote of Clarke’s “eight turbulent years”, ranging from the farcical ‘deals’ with criminal fraudster Allan Stanford in 2008, to his embarrassing outburst at editor Lawrence Booth during the Wisden dinner at Lord’s to launch the 2015. Booth, for his part, listed any number of problems including the mishandling of the Pietersen issue, poor Test Match attendances outside London, “a head-in-the-sand” attitude to England’s limited- overs team and a fall in the number of recreational cricketers: the ECB recorded just fewer than 850,000 players but almost 600,000 of those played very occasionally or perhaps between three and 11 weeks, while just 250,000 could be considered regular club/school cricketers and despite huge investments in Chance to Shine, County Boards and the like, the number was falling. In Wisden, editor Lawrence Booth noted that despite winning the Ashes not one of England’s players had made the 12-strong shortlist for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. The competition had been won four times by cricketers, starting with Jim Laker in 1956 but only Andrew Flintoff (2005) in the past 30 years. Ben Stokes would be the fifth in 2019.

Back at the highest level, Booth cited the removal of live Test cricket from free-to-air television after the thrills of 2005 as a key factor in the decline of participation in the sport. By the start of his period of office in May 2015, Graves was clearly dissatisfied with England’s winter performances and the Ashes defeat of 12 months previously. In April, even before he took office officially, Paul Downton was sacked after just 14 months and Andrew Strauss replaced him. In May, Strauss then sacked Peter Moores who learned of this through media leaks during an abandoned ODI against Ireland. Graves suggested that Kevin Pietersen should play in the Championship for Surrey because “if he scores a lot of runs, they can’t ignore him”. He did, but they did. On 10 May he finished the day 35* for Surrey v Leicestershire. He batted throughout the next day, reaching 326* at which point Andrew Strauss visited him at the ground to tell him he would not be selected for England. His innings finished on 355*. In his Daily Telegraph column Pietersen reported that he was “absolutely devastated”.

Strauss appointed Trevor Bayliss and Paul Farbrace to replace Moores, and England regained the Ashes in a home series, under Alastair Cook. Since England had won them back in 2005 on terrestrial TV the Ashes had changed hands – exclusively on Sky Sports – in 2007 (Australia), 2009 (England), 2014 (Australia) and 2015 (England). At Trent Bridge, Stuart Broad’s 8–15 were the third best figures ever for England against Australia, bettered only by Jim Laker’s two performances at Old Trafford in 1956. For the Final Test at the Oval a group of protesters assembled, representing the organization ‘Change Cricket’. Among their numbers, expressing concerns with the management of world cricket were the conservative MP Damian Collins and journalists Jarrod Kimber and Sam Collins who had been responsible for the challenging documentary film Death of a Gentleman.

In July, the ECB appointed Lord Patel of Bradford to its board hoping that the Labour Party peer would help the ECB to establish better working relationships with British-Asian cricketers and communities. Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid were two ‘representatives’ of these communities in England sides in this period. Also in July, following a full ECB board meeting, the Times suggested the likelihood of a proposal for two T20 domestic competitions to alleviate the anxieties of the ‘smaller’ counties that they would otherwise be disenfranchised by a new idea about a city-based, eight team contest. This of course would become ‘The Hundred’. While many members and supporters feared further reductions in ‘traditional’ county cricket, the PCA reported a survey of 240 of its members, with almost 88% wishing to see a reduction in the amount of cricket played, although 83% believed the County Championship to be the “premier” competition. Former Test cricketer, Tim May, who had also led the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA), told the Times, “There is a general dissatisfaction with the game’s governance. Other bodies believe they can globalise the game in a more equitable fashion.” In November, Australia met New Zealand in the first ever day/night Test Match with the Times asking in a headline, “Can pink balls save Test cricket?”

In the summer of 2015, journalist Scyld Berry published Cricket: the Game of Life, covering a range of topics from a long career reporting on England and English cricket. One of the key issues was summarised in an article in the Daily Telegraph in August under the title: “A game now in danger of shrinking into a middle-class niche.” The subtitle suggested, “cricket has failed to exploit the inner cities”. Berry offered some statistics about English cricketers who had gone on to play for England with the highest proportion coming from Yorkshire, then London, then Lancashire. In addition, no fewer than 40% of England’s Test Match players have had a close family member who had also played first-class cricket. Even more obvious is the statistic that one third of England’s 667 Test Match cricketers (Berry concluded with Adil Rashid) were privately educated, whereas fewer than 10% of young people attend such establishments. Much the same statistic was rolled out during the 2012 London Olympics and it was repeated again with the New Year’s Honours List of January 2016. If you attend a state school your chances of significant achievement are reduced proportionally.

In the autumn came the news that Northamptonshire were in financial trouble. The BBC reported a loan of up to £250,000 from their local council; one of a number of sources to enable the club to “restructure” after their accounts showed a loss of £305,636 on a turnover of just over £3.7m.