Photos from MCC v Sussex, Lord’s

Some cracking photos from Peter Meade of MCC v Sussex.

Matthew Hoggard in typical unrestrained, relaxed, un-mediary pose:

Matthew Hoggard

Steve Harmison. Pensive as ever.

Steve Harmison

And finally…

Friends Provident

Wanted: County Captain

Rumours of Chris Adams’ move have been greatly exaggerated. At the beginning of the month, the man who captained Sussex to victory in both the Championship and the C&G Trophy this season was ‘unveiled’ at Headingley, both as Captain and and Director of Pro-Cricket. Whilst this was mildly surprising, it wasn’t earth-movingly so. Test ground clubs, after all, have that bit of extra cash to squander.

Not long ago, it was Younis Khan who faced public embarrassment when he claimed he was to take the role after quitting (somewhat temporarily) the same position for Pakistan. This time, it is Yorkshire who have made the mistake by parading a man who hadn’t yet signed on the dotted line. Considering how closed-lipped counties normally remain over their offers and potential signings, Adams can only have pulled out at an advanced stage of negotiation.

Whilst Sussex are over the moon by all reports, potentially less chuffed might be Murray Goodwin. The Zimbabwean was reported by local paper The Argus to have been interested in the position.

Dampened Competition

While there are potentially two more days of contest left in the Championship race, Nottinghamshire’s first innings collapse to Sussex has left Lancashire’s claims very weak indeed. Of course, any team with Mushtaq Ahmed in form – not to mention a superb cameo from Rana Naved – is bound to find themselves in good stead, but I can’t help but feel for Lancashire. Many suggested that this would be their season, and for good reason; despite injuries, their attack has fired consistently and their batsmen have been impressive.

Where they may consider themselves unfortunate is the sheer amount of rain-affected matches they have played. Six of Lancashire’s draws were washouts where they had looked strong, with eight games drawn in total. Sussex, in comparison, have had five. Most recently, having been on a level peg until very recently, Lancashire have had two games they dominated lost to the weather. Sussex, meanwhile, managed to scrape together a win and a draw against Kent and Hampshire respectively.

Such are the quirks of the domestic game in this country, especially considering many Championship games are pushed to the extremes of the season to leave the prime weather to the money-earners of Twenty20 and Pro40. As it is, the red rose looks set to finish in second place for the 5th time since the ’98 season. The last time they finished there, of course, was in 2003 – Sussex’s first, and for the moment only, Championship title. Not a piece of history Mark Chilton will be very happy to repeat.

A day for umbrellas

Someone needs to find Chris Adams and ensure that he is in no way performing any kind of rain dance. After a morning deluge washed out Thursday’s play at Old Trafford as well as Edgbaston, Lancashire’s chances of staying level in the title race are becoming faint. With Sussex sitting out this week’s round, they have been unhampered by the bad weather. Mark Chilton’s men, on the other hand, have now suffered two games running, with good performances against Warwickshire going to waste for the same reason. Requiring maximum bonus points and victory to grab top spot, they have only taken four Durham wickets, and are running out of time.

At the other end of the table, Yorkshire will also be rueing the lack of play in today’s Division One matches. With their two remaining bats skittled in what little action they saw at Headingley, the win Craig White’s side desperately need will be a hard task. The last thing they will want to see is third from bottom Durham holding on for a draw, especially as they will be playing each other next week. Maybe they will take some heart from the fact the only Harmison they will face will be batsman Ben – his older brother has been ruled out as a precaution.

Going domestic…

I didn’t get to see much of the one-day international yesterday because of work, and it doesn’t seem to have been much of a loss. So, with a brief congratulatory note to Pakistan for yet another fine bowling performance, I’m moving onto county cricket.

As much as the Championship can ever be viewed as hotting up, the Division One title race is providing as close a race as last year. A quick bit of maths suggests that unless Sussex avoid the likely draw against Hampshire today, they will remain level with Lancashire. Comparing the teams’ fixture lists for September, this weekend’s rain could prove to be decisive. Down in Division Two, Surrey have cruised their way through to automatic promotion. However, the fight between Essex and Worcestershire for the final place up will provide some tail-end tension for the season. The match between the two was rained off yesterday, leaving Essex ahead by the barest of margins with two games left to play.

In the meantime, I’m going to my last home Pro40 of the season. Who needs international cricket?

A return to cricket…at last

After the last week, a domestic final is like a breath of fresh air. Finally, a chance to talk about real cricket! The C&G Trophy sparked a real duel between the two teams most likely to take home the County Championship this season. Whilst lacking such touching scenes as Kevin Pietersen poking a prone Ian Bell, felled by a cramp that helped Hampshire to defeat Warwickshire last year, this year certainly provided more exciting cricket. Impossibly close until the last, Sussex finally pipped Lancashire after James Kirtley collected his fifth wicket, Dominic Cork stranded at the other end.

The competition’s new format has come under much scrutiny. In the two months since the last C&G games, both sides have sustained injuries and suffered various dips in form. There seems to be little logic in playing a final so long after the event, where interest can dip and teams can be playing very different cricket to their early season form.

Next year will bring the introduction of semi finals. Even if they had been in place this year, Nottinghamshire, with three matches lost to rain, would have had no hope of making them. There are finite days in an English summer – maybe a return to a direct knockout would help ease the pressure on the schedule?

Photos from Southgate

Some photos I took at Southgate the other day, Middlesex v Sussex.

Middlesex v Sussex, Southgate

Went to Southgate today – picturesque ground in North London – to see Middlesex against Sussex. Terrific day it was too, written up here.

Outgrounds are a great way to watch cricket. There is an intimacy Test and county grounds can’t aspire to; a greater sense of the occasion rather than just the game. Sid was there too. It was his first trip to an outground having been to Lord’s, The Oval and so on and he was fascinated by the quaintness of Southgate. Most amazing of all though is that it is situated in N14, one of those postcodes which simply says “suberbia.” Yet, despite it being a stone’s throw from the Piccadilly line, you could almost be in the country.

Well worth a trip. It’s £15 to get for adults, and comparatively cheaper for kids – which I find pretty extortionate quite frankly – but it’s a super little ground and worth keeping an eye on Middlesex’s fixture list for forthcoming games. Also had a brief chat with John Emburey, who I rudely interrupted, who was a top bloke and very accommodating. Cheers Embers.

Sussex v Gloucestershire: victim of Football World Cup?

Gloucestershire all out for 98 in 36 overs. In reply, Sussex were 72 for 8 before falling three runs short of the required 99, inside 18 overs! Oh dear. A victim of the Football World Cup, and England’s knock-out match against Ecuador (which is on now)?