The end is nigh class. Prepare yourself for a depressed, sulky and frustrated teacher for the next few weeks. Even more so than normal. For tomorrow marks the final day of the Specsavers County Championship. Twenty weeks of sublime forward defence, cartwheeling stumps and breakthrough local stars. I’ll try to carry on, for your educational sakes. But the going will be tough. 5 lessons learned this week may carry on but the tone will become increasingly darker. Winter is coming.
Before we delve into the finale of county cricket, let’s touch upon the release of England’s squad, for the tour to Sri Lanka. Worries abounded when rumours of yet another call up for James Vince circulated. Had that occurred class, I doubt you’d have had any lessons today. In fact I would have boarded a flight to Timbuktu, quicker than you can say… well Timbuktu!
Thankfully Vince stays grounded in Hampshire. Instead Ed Smith has selected three wet behind the ears players. Or one wet and two who have tufts of ear hair. For 28 year old Rory Burns and 40 year old Joe Denly, hobble onto the plane. Alright a slight exaggeration with Denly’s age. He’s 32 and after helping Kent secure promotion with 858 runs at 36, has been noticed by Smithy. Combining a solid base with the option of spin, Denly could be the crystal in England’s side. Forged upon years of second division cricket, he is finally sparkling in the prime of his career. Whilst Moeen may begin at 3, don’t be surprised if Joe Denly is chiselled into the side.
Fellow debutant Burns is guaranteed opening. Finally. It appears his relentless run scoring, hitting 1000 runs for fifth consecutive season, has accumulated into a hardened layer. A bit like sand building up to form the sedimentary rock of limestone. Unlike Starship he builds his city on rock and resolute technique. Which, despite being unorthodox is clearly incredibly successful.
Joining the rock formation is Warwickshire’s Olly Stone. With 41 wickets at a mere 12.12, this tour comes at the perfect time. As a genuine fast bowler, Stone offers something. After all, if you rub two stones together, what happens? A spark is lit. Hang on, no that’s flint. Bollocks. And I thought I’d sparked your interest.
Growling their way straight back into Division One are Warwickshire. Where last year they pricked their claws on the big paw paw, this year they have relaxed and done what is bearely necessary. As it stands, with Kent 116 behind and only 6 wickets in hand, the Bears will climb to the top of the Div Two tree.
Standout bear has been Ian Bell. The more runs he makes, the louder the shouts for him to be selected for England. He’s even got a memorable chant,
‘I know a bear that you forgot, IAN, IAN. I know a bear who still scores runs, IAN, IAN BELL.’
Bringing up his 20,000th First Class run in classic Belly style, Ian has 1043 runs at a glorious average of 54.04. Leading division run scorer, second behind Rory Burns overall. Wondrous comeback from the 36 year old, 118 capped, international average of 42.69 batsman. His last test was four years ago, yet it’s no wonder, with England’s dismal showing at number 3, his name is frequently mentioned. Plus it could be argued mid 30’s are the prime of a batsman’s career. Exactly the same can be said of Jonathan Trott, who a year older has likewise had an impressive 2018. Shy of breaking 1000 barrier, the experience of these two stalwarts has been key to the Bears success.
But accompanying the grizzly leaders, has been a pack of young cubs. Openers Will Rhodes and Dom Sibley have 1600 runs combined. Whilst bowlers Olly Stone and Ryan Sidebottom (not that one!) have culminated a total of 66 scalps. Keith Barker (38 wickets), Chris Wright (39) and Jeetan Patel (55) have ripped the hearts out of opponents.
Warwickshire are the polar opposite to last year. Bearing a Kent recovery they are Division Two Champions!
3) Spitfire Studies
Gunning their way to promotion, alongside Warwickshire, are Kent Spitfires. We’ve already discussed how Squadron Leader Denly has sent many a bowler exploding in anger, with over 800 county runs, however his side have been simmering their potential for a few years. Whilst in 2017 they managed a brief flight up the table, with Darren Stevens leading the charge, it was a crashing mid table mediocrity that ended the campaign.
2018 however has been far different. A Heino Kuhn inspired surge to Lords and the Royal London One Day Cup Final, proved the catalyst for county success. Although they lost to Vince’s Luftwaffe, Wing Commander Sam Billings’ side had their propellers sharpened. Openers Seann Dickson and Zak Crawley have had blistering success, making over 700 runs each. However it is the bowling unit of Kent which has made those Spitfires gleam.
Led of course by New Zealander Matt Henry. With 76 victims, at an average of 15.48, Henry has been a true attack leader. Five, 5 wicket hauls and a best of 7-42 are some of the best figures recorded by a Kent paceman. Undoubtedly he is a significant reason why the Spitfires have been so deadly, yet in missing a few matches, support had to come from elsewhere. Fly forward Darren Stevens and Harry Podmore who have each gunned down over 40 of the enemy. Yes, pathetic numbers when compared to Henry, but important nonetheless.
As Kent soar into the promised skies, the Spitfire ground will be home to Div One cricket for the first time in eight years. And for fellow teacher Mr Glanville, that is a dream come true.
At least he’ll be in a good mood when marking your essays!
Epi – what? Nobody in this lesson has any idea what the heck I’m rambling about do they? Tell me something new! Well I’d write this one down class. Epidemiology is the study of… disease. Eurgh, disgusting right? Yep, it truly is. Sadly though it’s something those in Lancashire have had to watch all season. For one disease above all other has infected the Lancashire batting unit. That of ‘Collapsitis.’
Flushes of petulance, loss of control, brainless feeling. The symptoms are clear. And all too obvious in the appearance of Lancashire’s batting in 2018. For they are relegated. This has been a horrific year for Liam Livingstone’s side, after the triumphant runner up finish last season. Yes they made it to T20 finals day, yet still rolled over to Worcestershire. Bringing home the trophy, could have alleviated the disease, however in not doing so, it appeared there was zero chance of a cure.
Unlike normal diseases, ‘Collapsitis’ is endemic to a certain type of individual. Those with a bat in hand. Thus unaffected have been those who handle the red cherry. Were no batsmen involved, the Red Rose would have survived, for they have two of the best bowlers. With 62 cures, Tom Bailey had a miracle year. Whilst veteran Graham Onions managed 56. As for the disease ridden batsman…
Keaton Jennings somehow managed an average of 44.36, but everyone else succumbed to the illness. Dane Vilas’ 235* the top score by a long way managed only 765 altogether. Promising Alex Davies hit one hundred, whilst captain Livingstone had a top score of 48. Lying dead as a doornail is Haseeb Hameed who averaged 9.71 in 17 innings.
Lancashire have been rocked by ‘Collapsitis.’ A cure next season is desperately required, otherwise they may never be free of this accursed affliction.
Final lesson this week class is one the other end of your spectrum. As you sit, baby faced, with barely a hair on your body (Ed – that sounds pervy!) pity the poor unfortunate souls who are old. For as the 2018 season ends, so too do the careers of several county stalwarts. All of a sudden the nursing home for retired cricketers is rammed. In fact there can almost be an entire eleven made up of these geriatrics:
Jimmy Adams (Hampshire)
Johann Myburgh (Somerset)
Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire)
Paul Collingwood (Durham)
Sean Ervine (Hampshire)
James Foster (Essex)
Stephen Crook (Northants)
Steve Magoffin (Worcestershire)
James Tredwell (Kent)
Matt Hunn (Kent)
Special mention must go to Trotty and Colly, the latter of whom we have a piece dedicated to, whilst Adams, Crook and Magoffin have been on the circuit for longer than your teacher has been on the planet! Finally an honorary word for Fozzie, who is possibly the greatest wicket keeper to never have a proper England run. Shameful! Despite constant rejection, he has been a loyal and trusty servant for the Eagles.
On that weary note, it’s time to end the lessons today. With all this chat about retirement I feel thoroughly depressed, knowing I still have another 50 years left of work. Therefore your homework is to read every page of this seasons Wisden. Tough luck. I’m off to stay young on the dance floors of Manchester. Class dismissed!