Posts Tagged ‘lancashire’

Next season’s Twenty20 cup looks set to be an altogether more glamourous affair, with Middlesex having already signed Adam Gilchrist and hopeful of adding Sachin Tendulkar as well. Add to this the arrival of Ajantha Mendis at Hampshire, and county cricket in general is looking like it might be a little easier on the eye next season.

Lancashire, not to be outdone, have made Lily Allen an honorary member.

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Yorkshire’s decision to release Matthew Hoggard (if it was indeed their decision rather than his – reports so far tend to take one side or the other) is surprising, to say the least. He took more First-Class wickets than any other Yorkshire bowler (although admittedly he didn’t do too well in the shorter formats), and for such a long and distinguished spell with the county to come to such a rancorous end is sad and unexpected.

Leicestershire are already interested in signing up the most sheepdogesque of England’s 2005 Ashes winners, and no doubt there will be other counties who will be keeping an eye on developments as well, but for Hoggard to be playing for anyone other than Yorkshire just seems wrong, even through my own Red Rose-tinted spectacles.

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Following Andrew Flintoff’s announcement that he will retire from international cricket after the Ashes, a number of overseas sides (notably the Queensland Bulls) have expressed a renewed interest in signing him for their respective domestic Twenty20 competitions.

The obvious parallel to draw is with another big-hitting all-rounder with a ‘history’ and a well-publicised taste for beer, Andrew Symonds, who also plays for Queensland (alongside Flintoff’s former captain at Lancashire, Stuart Law, although Symonds’ Queensland future is uncertain at the moment) and has recently been rumoured to be planning a new career as a globe-trotting Twenty20 specialist, a path that may appeal to Flintoff. In any case, it seems likely that – unlike in Symonds’ case –  England will still benefit from Flintoff’s limited-overs skills for some time to come, although his county may not – Lancashire were apparently as surprised as anyone else to hear the news.

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For any of you on pre-Ashes Flintoff-watch, he’s just made 93 from 41 balls in Lancashire’s Twenty20 Cup match with Derbyshire. If any England fans are looking for an excuse to get carried away, then this is as good as you’re going to get. Indulge in some 2005 nostalgia below:

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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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Following Lancashire‘s decision to ditch Stuart Law, their ICL-tainted captain, Surrey have announced that they will be releasing Saqlain Mushtaq due to the spinner’s Indian Cricket League links.

Far from a thawing in BCCI-ICL relations, the Indian Board seems as intent as ever on eliminating ICL-connected players from county cricket. The counties, keen to curry favour in the hope of opening up the EPL to Indian players (which will mean more money for the counties themselves), are happy to go along with this, especially if they otherwise face the threat of exclusion from lucrative events like the Twenty20 Champions League.

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Is it wrong for me to get excited about Mendis coming to county cricket based on flimsy rumour?

Is it wrong for me to imagine that Lancashire‘s connections with Murali will lead the young Sri Lankan spinner to follow his teammate to Old Trafford?

Is it wrong for me to use such diaphanous rumour and speculation as the basis for a post?

Maybe, but I don’t care.

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Two Kents?

Fans of Kent must be a bit miffed at the moment. Finalists (albiet beaten ones) in the two knockout competitions, promotion contenders in the Pro40 league, but relegated in the County Championship.

Are there two Kents – a good Limited Overs side and a bunch of Four-Day losers? What of Rob Key’s supposed captaincy prowess?

Similar head-scratching, but for different reasons, surrounds the season in general. With big changes on the way, how relevant is County Championship cricket these days? Crowds are pitiful, games often end in near-farce, and Lancashire never win it.

There will probably be some sort of end-of-season round-up of the best (that is, my favourite) bowler, batsman and all-rounder in the Championship this season coming relatively soon.

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End of the Kolpak era

It seems time is up for the Kolpaks. 2009 could be the last year that Kolpaks are prevalent, with numbers tailing off from then onwards due to recent changes in the interpretation of EU law.

This should be good news for young English players as regards four-day cricket, but the opposite trend will be observed in the newest form of the game, with counties adding extra overseas players for the ‘EPL’ from 2010 onwards. The net effect is likely to be an increase in the quality, or at least in the ‘marquee-value’ of overseas players in English (and Welsh) cricket. What price Afridi batting alongside Flintoff for Lancashire?

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What a turnaround. Take a bow, Glen Chapple.

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Look here if you don’t believe me.

It’s all those contraceptive-based sandwich shenanigans, if you ask me.

UPDATE: The rubbishness relented – see here.

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