Chris Jordan: one to watch

Talent spotting is an inherently unreliable business. Mark Lathwell, Mark Ramprakash. Matthew Maynard and Graeme Hick are just four gifted batsman who, in their own way, were earmarked for world domination when I was a nipper. They all failed.

My cynicism grew further when Angus Fraser, my biggest hero growing up, penned in Wisden Cricket Monthly one issue that Paul Franks was destined for great things. How could Fraser be wrong about anything, I thought? But he was.

So it’s with decided trepidation that I read David Fulton’s crystal-ball gazing in The Times, though I can’t help but find the prospect of Chris Jordan anything other than fascinating. 18, born and brought up in Barbados, he has played just five first-class games for Surrey. Fulton says:

Jordan has the kind of natural fast bowling gifts that so characterised the West Indies attack of a previous era. Generating genuine pace with the smoothest of actions, this young man was born to bowl.

What sets Jordan apart from a lot of young speedsters is that he already looks like the finished article. He has command of line and length, an ability to work batsmen over – and out – and the capacity to dig deep on flat wickets. In the last round of county championship matches against Lancashire on a typically true Oval pitch, Jordan knocked over Lancashire’s tail in the first innings with the type of short-pitch bowling that gives lower order batsmen nightmares. More impressively he put in a mid afternoon burst in the second innings when Lancashire were cruising that touched 90mph and wouldn’t have looked out of place in Test cricket.

Jordon hasn’t decided which country to pledge his allegiance. And given the the calimitous state of West Indies cricket, I hope for his sake he chooses England. But wouldn’t it be great if we produced a quartet of terrifyingly quick bowlers in the next 12 months, all ready for Australia in 2009? (yes, it’s not that far away)

Butcher on lead; Ramprakash on vocals

If you haven’t seen it, you’ve not missed out a great deal. But it’s a bit of a laugh anyway. Here are Mark Butcher and Mark Ramprakash in Surrey’s Twenty20 promo video.

Via Nathan Ross on Youtube

Four more runs to go

For those who haven’t heard, Surrey made a world record 496 in 50 overs at the Oval the other day. Of the six Browncap batsmen who took to the crease, none of them managed a strike rate lower than 100, with James Benning smashing 152 off a gluttonous 134 balls at 113.43, while Rikki Clarke thumped a palindromic 82 from 28. Ali Brown, the real star of the show, made 174 from 97. Whilst I am normally loathe to put so many figures in such little space, words don’t quite adequately describe such feats.

The world record has now been broken twice in twelve months, after Sri Lanka punished the Netherlands to the tune of 443 last July. All of the top eight one-day scores have been recorded since 2002. In joint tenth, Somerset’s 413 in 1990 took 10 overs longer than India’s equal score against Bermuda just over a month ago. In fact, the closer you look at the list, the more obvious the increase in scores over time seems. This latest World Cup, furnished as it was with slow, unpredictabe wickets, has not really demonstrated the trend. However, it is inescapable that the five hundred barrier, unthinkable as little as ten years ago, is now a mere boundary beyond our reach.

Is this the result of Twenty20? Maybe the annual encouragement to hit over the top has led to the translation of flamboyance to the other formats. Or maybe it has more to do with television and ECB officials pushing in the ropes to push up the interest in a format of the game that has suddenly started to feel a bit long? Of one thing we can be sure – there aren’t going to be many bowlers in favour of cutting them any shorter.

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?

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.

Ramprakash reaches 2000 runs

Good grief. 2000 runs is a lot of runs. He last did it in 1995, a season I remember well and I watched much of his batting then too. Somehow, his form this year seems even more fluid than back in '95.

He reached the landmark against Worcestershire, the second time this season he has scored one against them. It was his 8th in Championship cricket and he is now just 13 away from a century of centuries.

Benning for England

Despite twisting his knee while fielding against Kent yesterday, James Benning again proved what a maverick opener he is – the new Ally Brown? – in smashing 71 from 51 balls. Kent were admittedly woefully wide with the new ball, but Benning times the ball so well and has the ability to play unorthodox shots from the off. The chant, after Surrey had completed their win, of “Benning for England” from the Surrey faithful doesn’t seem too fanciful. This guy can play; he and Trescothick opening, Strauss at No.3 and Kevin Pietersen at No.4 would make for an explosive first half of the innings, with Andrew Flintoff and Chris Read in the lower-order.

Just my thoughts.

Justin Langer’s 342

In case you hadn’t noticed

He had already broken the record for the highest innings at Guildford, and this morning he passed Viv Richards’ record for the highest score for Somerset (322). He was within one shot of Charlie McCartney’s 345 – the highest by an Australian in England – when he fell. It is the seventh biggest innings in the County Championship.

London derby last year

Almost 12 months to the day, Middlesex hosted Surrey at Lord’s for the traditional London derby. Coincidentally, it was at that game that my now editor asked me to provide him a short verdict (or rather, what I now realise is a verdict) which was to form part of my interview with Cricinfo.

12 months on and the blog is featured in Wisden, and at Cricinfo. Funny ol’ world.

Rampaging Mark Ramprakash

Mark Ramprakash is 276 not out, and with two full days to go, I don’t see why Surrey shouldn’t allow him to go on and get himself a triple century. So if you live in the London area, and you haven’t anything else to do tomorrow, go down to the Oval and cheer him on.

Also while you are there you can bag Ian Harvey, who plays for Gloucestershire, for having possibly the worst haircut ever.