Stuart Broad proves appetite for big stage

The Twenty20 Final is arguably the most important day in English cricket. Many will be scoffing at that thought…but after witnessing Trent Bridge yesterday on finals day, for the first time, I am utterly sold by the whole idea. It is a brilliant concept, its credentials further enhanced by Allan Stanford whose cash-injection has produced a superb tournament over in the Caribbean.

It was a big moment for Stuart Broad, then, Leicestershire’s 20-year-old giant. He has bowled quite superbly throughout the tournament, and is among the most economical. Again, yesterday, in the semi-final and final, he was very, very impressive: a smooth, uncomplicated run-up, reasonably high arm, and unerringly accurate. He is 6 foot 6 I believe, and although doctors are predicting he still has room to grow, I hope he stops now. If he grows any taller, he will find it very difficult to sustain himself in this modern world where cricket never stops. But sod the negatives, let’s just enjoy watching him bowl. He could well be on the plane to Australia.

I also enjoyed the Sugar Babes yesterday! Great fun – really brilliant to have mid-match entertainment. And Keedie was there too, belting out some choons. I took some photos, one of which is below

The Sugar Babes

But this has to be my favourite: look at the grumpy pair in the middle!

The Sugar Babes don't receive the acclaim they deserve from this pair of miserable gits

My thoughts on the day, and of Twenty20, are at Cricinfo.

Twenty20 finals day at Trent Bridge

Can’t wait for tomorrow. For various reasons I’ve yet to taste Twenty20 cricket; after the first season, I vowed it was utter tosh. But it’s since grown and, certainly from a bystander’s view, it now appears to be acknowledged as an important (the most important?) tournament in English domestic cricket. It just looks bloody fun, a riotous day out and I’ll be snapping pics on my trawl through the crowds.

It’ll be great to actually be there sampling the atmosphere and speaking to the fans. I’m really keen to see what the attraction is to, for example, someone with an indifference to cricket. My colleage went to one at Chelmsford a few weeks ago and spoke to people there, one of whom was adament that he didn’t watch, follow or particularly like cricket. He did, though, enjoy Twenty20.

Best of all, judging by Nottingham’s lack of hotel rooms, it’s going to be a sell-out too.

Stuck a preview up on Cricinfo. The teams involved are Essex, Nottinghamshire, Surrey and Leicestershire.

Twenty20 Finals Day

I’m definately a Twenty20 convert. Even at the start of this season I was a fringe-fan, but now I’m definately enjoying it. Today has seen some brilliant Cricket. Flintoff and Symonds, for Lancashire, were typically awesome (Lancashire won to go through to the finals), and a few minutes ago David Masters pulled off the catch of the day/cup/summer to dismiss Graeme Smith. Smith chipped it to a deep long-on, and Masters dived backwards, clinging on one-handed…brilliant!

So, who will Lancashire play? Somerset and Leicestershire are in progress/action and the weather is holding. Great fun.

My bulletin on the Surrey / Lancs. game here, and a Gallery is being added to as the day goes on.

Captaincy in the modern world

“We have got some really good quality time under our belts as far as the batting goes and two chances to bowl, so that has been perfect for us.”

Ricky Ponting, talking to the BBC after Leicestershire batted out the final day to draw their game with Australia. The game was “perfect” for Australia (apart from not winning). This seems to be the trend of captains these days: never, ever say anything that could possibly be interpreted as sounding negative. This wasn’t a great warm-up for Australia’s bowlers, I don’t think. The pitch might be flatter than a pancake, but Australia’s “support bowlers” of years gone by would have laughed in the face of a flat pitch on a hot summer’s day.

Brett Lee returned decent first-innings figures, when the pitch was at its most juicy no doubt. But his second innings effort failed to impress: 13 overs, 1 for 78 with seven no balls. Seven no balls, in 13 overs? How old is he, 12? More of the same for Thursday please Brett.

Jason Gillespie is slowly improving, about as fast as a tranquilised tortoise. His match figures of 31 overs 2-100 are deeply concerning for me, let alone an Australian fan. I have always admired his bowling, if only because he’s been in McGrath and Warne’s monstrous shadows over the years, yet has consistently performed brilliantly.

I presume Brett Lee will open with McGrath. But what of Australia’s support bowlers? Can McGrath and Warne provide Australia with 75% of 60 wickets to retain The Ashes?

Leicestershire v Australians, Grace Road

After the Australian’s giant first-innings reply of 582 for 7 declared, Leicestershire are fighting harder in the second innings: 149 without loss in the 32nd over. Sky Sports are making far too much of this – the only point worth making is the pitch must be flatter than an ironing board. It does at least making Brett Lee look even more very ordinary, with figures of 0-40 from 6 overs and, worryingly for Australia, with three no balls.

UPDATE: Rogers went on to make a double hundred, Leicestershire now 20 runs behind Australia, on 345 for 3. Brett Lee – 13 overs, 1 for 78 with 7 no balls

Graeme Smith hits 311. In a day.

Graeme Smith is no fool. Apart from it being a picturesque county, Somerset, its county ground also happens to have the best batting track in England: Taunton. He could have gone to any other county in England – he’s “box office” – but chose Somerset. Nevertheless, it is rare that one player scores three hundreds in a day, however good a pitch it is – and today Smith did just that, smacking 311 from just 255 balls.

I don’t know how many people have done this – shall trawl Cricinfo to see, unless some of you know already…?

Harmison warms up with a hat-trick

Despite being overshadowed initially by 2 other bowlers – Davies in the first innings and Plunkett taking 3 top-order wickets – Harmison today took his first 5-for for Durham against Worcestershire in 2 years, including a hat-trick (his second in his career – first being last year in an ODI). As excellent news this is, it should be noted that four of his wickets (including the hat-trick) were numbers 7, 9, 10 and jack.

It’s still very encouraging news – especially since he’s hitting the stumps. Four out of his five second innings wickets were bowled, and he took eight in the match. It’s early days, and means virtually nothing in terms of his form – but will give his confidence a massive boost, as it will David Graveney, chairman of selectors, who apparently was watching.

Perhaps more importantly, this was a crushing victory for Durham to go along with their other one against Leicestershire. If only Cricinfo was up, I could check Durham’s stats…

Harmison’s homesickness. Again.

Yesterday saw yet further revelations and startling honesty from Harmison about his homesickness. I’ve written about it before, and Harmison’s spoken about it before – but that only makes the revelations even more bizarre. Not 12 months ago, people – me included – were calling him the best English fast bowler of his generation. Someone who could end up with over 300 Test wickets at a better strike rate than most. Someone who Stephen Fleming and Chris Cairns regarded as potentially greater than Glenn McGrath due to the bounce he offered.

All this, reduced to admissions of homesickness. Still – he did at least help destroy Leicestershire by blasting out 3 batsmen, so all is not lost just yet.

Plunkett takes 5 as Durham start strongly

Frizzell County Championship Division Two, 2005
Leicestershire v Durham
Grace Road, Leicester
13,14,15,16 April 2005 (4-day match)

Mike Hussey, one of a fair number of Aussies playing county cricket again this season (a good thing), made a magnificent 250, taking Durham up to 523-8D. The next highest score was 82, which puts his innings into context.

Leicester were finally able to bat, only to be skittled out for a paltry and pathetic 123 – the number 11 top scoring with 22. The point of this is a Liam Plunkett, who many regard very highly. I’d been under the impression he was an out’n’out quick, but Cricinfo have him labelled as RMF. Opening the bowling with him was one Stephen Harmison who remained wicketless.

Durham is England’s newest county, and have struggled since their conception – it’s great to see them start so strongly in their first game of 2005, and pressing for a not unlikely win.