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Posts Tagged ‘durham’

The county season’s over for another year, and so here are my picks for the best of 2009

  • Best Bowler: Alfonso Thomas was impressive in the limited-overs competitions, but Graham Onions managed to take 69 first-class wickets at an average of less than 20 whilst breaking into the England side and taking a five-for on Test debut.
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England may have embarrassed themselves last night, but we Poms can take some comfort in the news that Andrew Flintoff is playing cricket again. Freddie took a wicket with his second ball of Lancashire’s County Championship match at Durham, ending up with 2 for 30 from 12 overs.

It’s still far too early to be getting excited about this latest comeback, but it now seems likely that Flintoff will be available for selection come the First Test of the Ashes. Whether or not he will be fully fit is perhaps another question. Whatever Ricky Ponting says, England will be desperate to field both of their heavyweights (Pietersen, of course, being the other) in every Test.

My worry with Flintoff is that he seems to have trouble holding anything in reserve. Even when bowling a few overs at Lunch in the Lancashire match last weekend, he looked like he was giving it, if not quite his all, then at least his ‘most’. Come July 8th, he won’t be able to resist steaming in at full throttle, regardless of the condition his various leg joints are in.

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  • Durham surprised a lot of people with their Championship win last year, and with Steve Harmison out of favour with England once again, their bowling attack looks just as strong as it was in 2008. Ian Blackwell has come in to bolster the middle order and add a spin option, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul returns in June following the World Twenty20.
  • Hampshire arguably owe last year’s survival, let alone their eventual third place, to the spin bowling of Imran Tahir, who returns from June. In the meantime, Australian Marcus North comes in as an overseas player to add runs, and Dominic Cork also arrives following his release by Lancashire. Chris Tremlett will also be key for the attack, whilst Mascarenhas’ England and IPL commitments will drain the Rose Bowl’s resources for much of the season.
  • Lancashire have released Dominic Cork and Stuart Law, whilst Andrew Flintoff and James Anderson are likely to make very few appearances for their county, so the Red Rose lineup will be somewhat unfamiliar in places. Mark Chilton and Francois Du Plessis need to improve on last year’s performances with the bat, or relegation may threaten to make Peter Moores’ 2009 even worse.
  • Nottinghamshire may spend the majority of the season watching their three best bowlers ply their trade for England, so the likes of Shreck and Pattinson will be key. If Samit Patel gets fit enough to be called up as well, the side could look a little thin in the middle order, but if newlywed Adam Voges can translate his limited-overs form to the four-day game then the prospect of a title challenge isn’t too far-fetched to consider.
  • Somerset continue to have an incredibly strong top order (especially with and Marcus Trescothick as an opening pair), but with Ian Blackwell moving to Durham and Andy Caddick into his 40s, the bowling attack looks worryingly thin. Unless a young gun steps up to take wickets, a proliferation of draws may ensue.
  • Warwickshire face the step up from Division Two without Ian Salisbury, but Jeetan Patel should be a strong addition to their four-day side. If Ian Bell stays out of the England team long enough to feature regularly, then the Bears can reap the benefits. Similarly, Tim Ambrose will be a force in the County game even he doesn’t cut it at Test level.
  • Worcestershire enter the post-Hick era in 2009, which puts a lot of pressure on Vikram Solanki and the likes of Stephen Moore. Gareth Batty’s recent England call-up underlined his quality with the ball, but the pace attack is relatively weak, especially given Simon Jones’ continuing injury problems. If Solanki and Kabir Ali find form, then the side can look for more than just consolidation in their return to Division One.
  • Yorkshire came uncomfortably close to relegation last year, but players of the quality of Michael Vaughan, Anthony McGrath, Matthew Hoggard and Adil Rashid should see them improve in 2009 (assuming England call-ups don’t intervene). A championship challenge may be asking too much, and adjusting to life without Darren Gough will be difficult, but there is enough class (especially with Jacques Rudolph in the side) for a top-half finish.

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The start of the English County season is almost upon us, and the evidence arrived today with the naming of the MCC’s team to take on County Champions Durham in the traditional curtain-raiser. Most reports are highlighting the inclusion of former England captain Michael Vaughan in the side (alongside fellow England castaway Ian Bell), but it’s worth mentioning that the team will be captained by Rob Key, who hasn’t played Test cricket since January 2005.

Key’s continued absence from the main England side whilst simultaneously being viewed by the ECB as ‘reserve captain‘ (the ECB was involved in the selection of the MCC team, and Key has led the England Lions for some time) suggests that Vaughan is the most likely player in the team to play in this summer’s Ashes defeat series against Australia.

The MCC team in full is: Rob Key (c), Kabir Ali, Ian Bell, Steven Finn, James Foster, Sajid Mahmood, Stephen Moore, Adil Rashid, Michael Vaughan, Chris Woakes, Tom Westley

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The county season’s over, the dust has settled, here are my picks for the best of 2008

  • Best Batsman: Not so straightforward this season, especially given Ramprakash’s relative slump. It’s between Marcus Trescothick and Martin van Jaarsveld, and whilst van Jaarsveld was relegated despite his team winning more matches than Trescothick’s, it’s the sympathy vote that swings it for Marcus.
  • Best All-Rounder: Adil Rashid took more County Championship wickets than Harmison, scored more County Championship runs than Phil Mustard, and was still overlooked for England. What more could he have done? Well, I suppose he could have scored the 8 extra runs that would have put him ahead of Graeme Swann.

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Tomorrow’s Twenty20 Cup finals day at the Rose Bowl will take place under the shadow of two other events to which the participating teams may or may not be invited.

Firstly, the two finalists would in theory have qualified for the now postponed Twenty20 Champions League, although Kent and Durham wouldn’t have been eligible due to their scandalous fielding of players who took part in an Indian 20/20 League which had the wrong initial in the middle. Now, however, they will qualify for the not-entirely-different ECB-backed Twenty20 Champions League. This new competition will presumably allow Kent and Durham to take part should those teams make it to the final, thus ensuring that the world’s cricket fans will not be unnecessarily denied the opportunity to watch Rob Key play.

In addition to this, the winners will qualify for the potential cash bonanza that is the Stanford Super Series, where they will play against Stanford 20/20 winners Trinidad & Tobago, the Stanford Superstars, and England, all for big money.

Without even taking into account the EPL, English cricket has gone Twenty20-mad. Or should that be money-mad?

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With the Twenty20 Cup having reached the Quarter-Final stage, the remaining eight sides are only three matches away from the riches of the inaugural Twenty20 Champions’ League (providing, of course, they don’t field any players from the ICL, and aren’t replaced by teams from Pakistan).

  • Durham, before this year’s tournament began, had won fewer games of Twenty20 than any other county (a mere 8), but Shaun Pollock’s economy rate has been consistently low, and even a certain, currently banned player has turned out for the now-quite-well-named Dynamos, taking 5-14 against Derbyshire. Add to that the fact that runs are being contributed from a variety of sources, and Durham look like genuine contenders.
  • Lancashire have always been quite good at twenty20, so it’s no surprise that the Lemurs have made it to this stage. Lou Vincent and Mal Loye have been scoring plenty of runs, whilst Mahmood and Marshall have been taking wickets. I’d like to think they can win the whole thing (preferably with Freddie bowling some overs and scoring some runs in the final).
  • Middlesex’s record in the Twenty20 Cup was, like Durham’s, pretty poor before the start of this year’s competition, but they’ve been making up for it this year, mainly due to an improvement in their bowling. They have no ICL players, so they could actually compete in the Champions’ League with their current team, which is a plus. Also, they have Dirty Dirk Nannes.
  • Northamptonshire, unlike Middlesex, have loads of ICL players, so will probably not be Lalit Modi‘s favourites. I wouldn’t have picked them to make it this far, to be truthful, but Rob White has made plenty of runs and numerous others have put in good performances at crucial times to put the Steelbacks into the last eight. Given that they’ve surprised me so far, I’m not going to write them off at this stage.
  • Warwickshire haven’t made too many runs – they have only once scored above 160. Despite this, they’ve lost none, had a tie (ooh, a tie) and two matches which ended in no result, which means that their bowlers must be doing something right. Of those bowlers, Salisbury and Botha have been the pick, taking wickets and going for not many runs at all. All in all, the King of Spain‘s men definitely have the pedigree to make the finals day.
  • Yorkshire are strong contenders for the overall win. Adil Rashid has got a lot of people excited, and his 4-24 last night was proof that he can perform on the big occasion. Anthony McGrath, meanwhile, has scored more runs than anyone else in the competition. In addition, there’s always Dazzler to spice things up a bit.

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