… I love it!

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been getting into cricket recently.

In particular, I’ve started following county cricket and, in particular supporting (or at least having some interest in the progress of) a couple of teams. The first is Kent, since that’s the county I originally hail from (and I don’t have the option of supporting the county I currently live in as they don’t play cricket at this level). The second is Nottinghamshire, as I went to university in Nottingham (and first became at all interested in cricket while I was there). Conveniently, they currently play in different divisions of the County Championship – Kent are currently near the top of division 2 and Notts are fairly low down in division 1, so I don’t for the moment have to agonise over which to support if they play against each other (actually I don’t have to agonise anyway, as I’m sure the answer will be Kent when the time comes; cricket now joins a fondness for Shepherd Neame beers on my very short list of links with my home county).

This week both my teams have been playing County Championship matches. As usual for such games, these were 4 day tests; both started on Sunday and finished yesterday afternoon (and I first started paying attention to them sometime on Monday).

Kent were playing away against Essex (our arch-rivals and coincidentally the other team currently at the top end of the division 2 league table and probably the main contenders for promotion to division 1 at the end of the season). Kent went into bat first and had a disappointing first innings, followed by a very good one from Essex. On Tuesday morning (the penultimate day of the test) it looked like Kent were certain to lose by an innings as we were trailing by well over 300 runs and seemed unlikely to catch up with the Essex first innings total by the time we finished our second. The first part of the second innings went pretty much the same way as the first but when Sam Northeast (the fourth man in the batting order, also the team’s captain) took to the crease, he stayed there, gradually accumulating runs while his batting partners all fell by the wayside. The ninth man in, James Tredwell, proved to be a good match for Northeast, and between them they managed to bring Kent to within spitting distance of Essex’ first innings total before Tredwell was finally dismissed about 5 hours after he started. The remaining two batsmen only contributed 6 more runs between them but managed to keep the innings going just long enough for Northeast to take Kent into the lead (if only by 8 runs) before we were all out (Northeast, incidentally, was the last man standing – having batted for nearly 8 hours and chalked up 166 runs in the innings; Tredwell managed 124 runs – apparently a personal best; the rest of the team got about 61 runs between the lot of them!). This meant that, while victory for Essex was still inevitable, they did have to go in for a second innings and they won by 10 wickets instead of the innings and 200 or so runs that at one stage it looked like they would win by. While Essex undoubtedly played significantly better overall, the determination with which Northeast and Tredwell fought on in the face of near-certain defeat was admirable. While I don’t think it was ever very likely after the first innings that Kent could actually win the game, towards the end of their second innings it did look like we stood a reasonable chance of forcing a draw.

Nottinghamshire were playing at home against Lancashire and were second to bat. Lancashire cranked up a respectable 276 runs in their first innings and then Nottingham got 474 for theirs, so they appeared to be in a strong position to win. Unfortunately for them, Lancashire managed to plug away quite solidly in their second innings and still had 3 wickets standing by close of play, having retaken the lead (by around 100 runs). Because the team with the lower number of runs (Notts) had not completed their final innings, the result was a draw. This wasn’t quite as exciting as Kent’s (or at least Northeast and Tredwell’s) valiant rescue attempt in the other game, but it was quite interesting, as Nottinghamshire managed to take a couple of wickets early in the final day, to wonder if they would be able to take the rest of them and then claw back the lead.

As well as these games, I’ve been keeping a bit of an eye, for pretty much the first time, on women’s cricket and coincidentally also limited overs matches. My attention was first grabbed when I was browsing a cricket news website (probably the BBC one but it may have been the ESPN one) and glanced at an article (with a short embedded video, as I recall, though I’ve been unable to track it down since) about how the England Women’s team had soundly defeated their visitors from Pakistan in a one-day international and a batsman called Tammy Beaumont had achieved a particularly good innings (and, I gather her own personal best) with 168 runs. A little bit of further investigation revealed that Ms. Beaumont is, like me, a native of Kent (albeit the far end of the county from where I grew up) and, unlike me, plays for her home county (as well as for England). A couple of days ago, I discovered that England Women were playing Pakistan Women in a T20 match (a particularly fast-moving form of cricket that didn’t exist when I was being introduced to the game by my friend Tim 20 years ago and which is in many respects the polar opposite of the traditional multi-day test format) that afternoon. Out of interest, I tuned in and listened to more or less the whole match (2 and a half hours or so – rather more manageable than 4 days!) on the radio (or at least a streamed audio feed from the BBC website). It was very gripping stuff, not least because Pakistan apparently played the best they have so far in their tour and managed to give England a serious run for their money, so that the game was up for grabs until the last few overs. The one slight disappointment for me was that Tammy Beaumont (my current favourite cricketer, along with Sam Northeast) went out lbw for 5 runs. It was particularly distressing because it appears that the ball would probably have missed the stump anyway – still, even umpires must be permitted to make mistakes from time to time and at least this one was a fairly close call.

Both Kent and Nottinghamshire will be playing some T20 matches later this week, so I look forward to seeing how those go (though I’ll probably have to catch up on them later as I’m likely to be busy while they are being played). I don’t know when England or Kent Women are due to be playing again (in any format) but I’ll be keeping an eye out for them too, at least while my current burst of cricket enthusiasm lasts. If previous experience is anything to go by, that could just be a matter of a few days. However, for the moment at least, I think it’s fair to say (quoting 10cc again) “I don’t like cricket – I love it”.

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