Sunday, August 16, 2009

Low Key fun at Edgbaston

Driving home after the Twenty20 Finals day at Edgbaston yesterday it occurred to me that, paradoxically, this was the longest day I have ever spent at a cricket match. I write chronologically not metaphorically – the allegorical “longest day” will always be day five at the Adelaide Test in 2006 – an experience regrettably never to be forgotten (or forgiven). But back to Edgbaston. From 11:30am to around 10:00pm there was some entertaining cricket on display – mostly not of the highest class but enjoyable nevertheless. The crown seemed strangely subdued and the attempts to hype the day up with a “Wild West” theme, curious pyrotechnics and the rest fell rather flat. The IPL it was not! But no matter there was much to enjoy – and much food for thought as well.

The enjoyment first. How splendid to see Marcus Trescothick in such wonderful form. In his two innings he scored a total of 89 runs off only 47 balls and he hardly played a false shot. It was interesting to compare Tres with Luke Wright who superficially has some of Trescothick’s talent – he certainly shares Tres’s confidence at the crease. Wright scored 38 runs off 33 balls but his timing and placement was often awry whereas Trescothick’s was sublime. I like Wright – he has an engaging competitive spirit and plenty of talent. But he is no Trescothick – but then who is? There were also good and patient (by Twenty20 standards) innings from Sussex’s Goodwin and Kent’s Stevens in the semi finals the former in a winning and the latter in a losing cause. Kent lost because they crossed the line from thoughtful aggression in the Power Play overs (which would have been good) to reckless violence (which was not). Rob Key set the tone with his supercilious taking of three paces down the wicket to Willoughby - which on one occasion caused the bowler to pull out of a delivery. This was mindless and rather unpleasant stuff from Key who you may recall was being touted by some as a potential England limited overs Captain earlier this year. Not on this showing he isn’t. Also enjoyable was the terrific teamwork of the Sussex side who were worthy winners and the sight of two twenty-one year old English leg-break bowlers, Beer of Sussex and Waller of Somerset. I am glad they got their chances on the big stage of a Twenty20 finals day and they looked very promising indeed – let’s hope they continue to get the opportunities to develop their skills in the big league.

Now the food for thought. On a long day like yesterday there are plenty of gaps in the day in which to play cricket selection games – not least to try and spot players who might help England develop as a competitive international team. Wright we know about and his young Sussex colleague Rory Hamilton-Brown looks a very good cricketer. Kent’s Denly, about whom many speak positively, lasted only three balls but Tredwell bowled tidily – but the young leggies aside there wasn’t much else for the England selectors to get excited about. Not least because 19 of the 44 players (43%) weren’t even English! Here’s one team that I did pick from the four counties:

Van Jaarsveld
De Bruyn
Kieswetter (wk)
Van der Wath

Not a bad line-up you might think – rather stronger in its bowling than its batting but plenty of all-round talent there – and everyone a South African! Somerset and Northamptonshire led the way with no fewer than six non-England qualified players in their line-ups. Kent had four and Sussex three. It was especially pleasing that Sussex won because not only did they have the least number of mercenaries in their side they also had six young (under 30) England qualified players as well. Well done them.

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