The Dummy's Guide to Cricket

Over the past week there have been worrying reports of hospitals throughout the land jammed full with patients, who all appear to have the same injury. A rip down the side of their chest. Doctors worried over fear of a new epidemic. Waiting times increased to over three hours. Oh hang on, sorry… waiting times stayed at the norm of three hours! Only when it emerged all patients shared a common interest, was the cause revealed. They had all split their sides laughing to our Div One review!

Full disclosure. If you laughed at how badly our predictions turned out for Division One, you may want to check yourself into a hospital right away. For Whitto had an absolute mare of a season with his predictions on April 24th for the County Championship Division Two…

1) Warwickshire

We begin with a grimace – ‘my guess is they’ll find it a struggle against stronger opposition and may find themselves stuck in Div Two. Just like Pooh bear found himself trapped in Rabbit’s front door.’ Uh oh. Not a strong start. In fact, if Pooh is the bear with little brain, then it’s safe to say you’re reading the words of a cricket blogger who is empty upstairs. All that flits through my brain are honey pots and heffalumps. Accompanied by the incessant grumbling from the bulging tummy. For Warwickshire proved me wrong in so many ways.

Instead of ending his career in miserable fashion, Jonathan Trott shrugged off the burden of Eeyore and scored nigh on 1000 runs. With Ian Bell, the two wise Owls’ channelled their vast experience to help their county to nine victories. Bell’s 204 against Glamorgan a particular highlight. His 1027 runs at an average of 54.05 bounced Warwickshire straight back up. The Edgbaston crowd sighed in satisfaction, at the beautiful sight of Ian’s cover drive. Climaxing in perfection as they triumphed over second placed Kent in the final match of the season. Many tissues were required in the pavilion afterwards.

Boing-ing with Tigger like enthusiasm alongside Bell and Trott were youngsters Will Rhodes and Dom Sibley. The two openers amassed over 1600 runs between them. On the bowling front Jeetan Patel was ferocious like Rabbit as he whined out 59 carrots. Averaging 12.21, lethally quick Olly Stone, no older than Roo, ripped through sides; rewarded with an England call up to Sri Lanka.

Ultimately Warwickshire symbolised the attributes of Christopher Robin’s toys in their promotion to Division One. Teamwork. Loyalty. Tenacity. Enthusiasm. And above all, lunchtimes spent with their faces stuck in honey pots. Mmm!

Whitto Predicted: 4th                      Actual Finish: 1st

2) Kent

Nobody, not even the most zealous of Kent supporters, could have envisaged the Spitfires promotion into the echelons of cricketing society. Yet come 2019 that’s exactly where they will fly. Conscious we at HFAL spend quite a bit of time chatting all things Kent, I shan’t spend long here.

Unlike Darren Stevens who has signed another year long extension to his contract. That will take him to the ripe old age of 45. A simply staggering testament, to the grizzle grey haired champion of the Garden of England. Weeding out 42 victims, Stevens was beaten to head gardener in 2018 by New Zealander Matt Henry. His 75 wickets, at a price of just 15.48, made him the only Div Two player selected in the BBC team of the season.

Somebody who misses out there is Joe Denly. Not that he will give a fuck mind you! Denly’s 828 county runs propel him onto England’s jumbo jet to Sri Lanka next month. Stalwart in defence and offering a bit of spin, Denly may find himself opening the batting come the second test. A far cry from smashing Leicestershire in an English summer. Somehow Kent have rebuilt their broken down Spitfire from 2017, for this year it has gleamed in the heatwave sun. The Garden of England has never looked prettier.

Whitto Predicted: 8th                      Actual Finish: 2nd

3) Sussex

This dear reader, is the closest I come to earning my corn. For in predicting a second place finish, the Brighton Rock county miss out by a whisker on promotion. Alright more like 35 points but you get the picture. Supporter’s appetites were indeed whetted by the arrival of Jason Gillespie, a double Championship winner with Yorkshire back in 2014 and ’15. However whilst the Sharks were spearheaded by the ex-pirate in the Vitality Blast, county form was a different kettle of fish.

An embarrassing two day defeat in their final game to Northants, summed up Sussex in 2018. Whilst Ollie Robinson snapped at the heels of batsmen, swallowing 74 victims, his batting team mates drowned. Only eight centuries were reached all season. Two by Philip Salt, who had the highest score with 142. Skipper Ben Brown often steadied the ship, averaging 43.43, but all too often capsizes occurred. Last season’s marauder Luke Wells, only averaged 26. Veteran sailor Luke Wright even less with 21. Midshipman Harry Finch slid down the sails, whilst richly sought after Jofra Archer had a top score of only 33. With success in the shorter format, Sussex bit off more than they could chew.

Whitto Predicted: 2nd                     Actual Finish: 3rd

4) Middlesex

2016 was the year of fame, 2017 the year of disaster and 2018 the year of… meh. Just because you reside at the Home of Cricket does not automatically mean an entertaining season. Middlesex may have won half their matches, yet they did so in rather boring fashion. England hopeful Dawid Malan sunk back into Div Two obscurity. Heralded as the ‘Welsh Bradman,’ Dawid was dropped by Ed Smith at the start of the summer. A decision which proved apt, considering most of his innings went the same way as the Don’s last.

Middlesex are not represented in the England test side, which is ironic considering their two openers bat exactly like England do; with manure for brains. Sam Robson and Nick Gubbins barely made it past 500 runs. Overseas ‘star’ Hilton Cartwright batted as flimsily as the mattress in his namesake chain of hotels. Having flopped onto them after the all you can eat breakfast buffet, I can vouch for their similarity to a pensioners knees.

James Harris and Tim Murtagh breathed some life into the Middlesex carcass. Which was absolutely rancid; dripping blood as it lay on the sun baked Lord’s turf. A bit like Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones, bowlers predicted to ‘offer a spirited revival.’ England selection is now a mirage in the distance.

Diving into the oasis of retirement is Nick Compton, who soaked his toes this summer. Not featuring in any matches, the 16 test right hander waves goodbye to a career which saw him make 12,168 runs at an average of 40.42. Another retiree who passes into the sands of time. Just like this very average Middlesex season. No, YOU predicted them to win right?

Whitto Predicted: 1st                      Actual Finish 4th

5) Gloucestershire

Smack bang in the middle were Gloucestershire. Known for containing the Cotswolds, 2018 proved about as entertaining as a ramble through those green and fertile fields. Albeit more brown than green. And more sexually frustrated than fertile. Alright Gloucestershire were nothing like that honeypot of a tourist trap. The Cotswolds are pleasing on the eye, James Bracey played with all the attractiveness of that troll in the Hogwarts dungeons. Yank the wand out of his nose and he may swing more accurately. Miles Hammond initially set off down the right path, before losing his way in the Forest of Dean. Whilst Chris Dent is about as old as some of those stone walled cottages.

With the injury of Liam Norwell, young paceman Ryan Higgins spurred into action. Claiming 48 wickets, he was behind only impressive Craig Miles at the photo finish. 37 bowling points placed Gloucestershire a nose ahead of Leicestershire and Derbyshire. Yes horse racing terminology has crept in here, for the county plays home to the fine course at Cheltenham.

Which is ironic considering that my editor is standing behind me, flailing my shoulders with his whip, so that I hurry up and get through this article. Thus saddle up my fellow steeds, for we’ve a race to be won! (Ed – Totally false I never whip. Merely offer suitable words of encouragement…)

Whitto Predicted: 6th                      Actual Finish: 5th

6) Leicestershire

Leicestershire had a plan craftier than Baldrick this season. Signing an international bowler. Thus with Mohammad Abbas, the Foxes managed to avoid their bin spilling, bottom finishing position of 2017. Instead his 50 wickets at just 17 apiece and with a best of 6-48, meant supporters were cackling with all the ferocity of two furry friends making love in your neighbours dustbin. Cub Ben Raine also hit the 50 mark, whilst batsman Colin Ackermann’s 876 runs were fantastic. Less fantastic Mr Fox and more Boggis, Bunce and Bean was new skipper Michael Carberry.

At least Paul Nixon can predict the future when he described Abbas as,‘being able to tick all the boxes.’ Having secured his services for 2019 the Foxes slyly make plans once more…

Whitto Predicted: 9th                      Actual Finish: 6th

7) Derbyshire

Hands up if you predicted the county of the Peak District to finish at the foot of the mountain? Excellent, I’m not alone then. They were pretty close to be fair, winning just four matches. One of which will go down in history. For on April 23rd Derbyshire were victorious at home for the first time in… (drumroll please) 1307 days! In beating Middlesex by 101 runs, the curse of the 3aaa Ground was finally lifted, amidst joyous celebrations. The scenes were akin to the England footy team reaching the World Cup Semi-Finals. And at least Derbyshire won!

Finally the citizens of Derby have something to cheer about, for in the year of our Lord 2018 they won at home. Never mind they only won thrice more, Ravi Rampul’s wickets went at 50.38 and captain Godleman averaged 27. A legacy is ensured. Add to that Wayne Madsen bringing up his 10000th Derbyshire run, with 1016 in the season and Tony Palladino snatching 51 wickets. Thus Derbyshire in 2018 will go down in history.

Babies born shall bear the names of Duanne, Hardus and Wayne. The sun’s rays will never be vanquished, as brightness illuminates the Peak once more. And Derby will be named European Centre of Culture for 2019. All this will occur…

Failing that I’ve stolen a rhyme so we’ll never forget; ‘Remember remember the 2018 season, when Middlesex totally lost the plot. I know of no reason, why the Derbyshire victory, should ever be forgot!’

Whitto Predicted: 10th                    Actual Finish: 7th 

8) Durham

From cheap chip shops to windy beaches, there’s so much to do in Durham. A haven of beefy topless men, swaggering in their northern pride. Land of Stan Laurel, Tony Blair and Denise Welch. (Yep they do claim her as a ‘famous face’). Castles which still stand, as bastions of power, even in the 21st century. This mighty county of England surely deserve a fine cricket team don’t they? One which resembles their never say die attitude and gritty approach to life. Sadly that team seems to have been eroded away.

Weathered too is Paul Collingwood who raises a hand in farewell. With nigh on 17000 first class runs, Colly’s season ended on a dour note. In fact it never really sparked into action. Mind you, neither did anyone. Our prediction, ‘it would be crackers to suggest Durham can claw their way to the top,’ was spot on. Promising batsmen Cameron Steel and Graham Clark struck one century between them. Whilst South African Aiden Markram had a stinker; achieving a hat trick of ducks.

High point of the season? James Weighell’s 7-32 as he destroyed Leicestershire and set history as Durham won for the first time ever after following on. Low point? Absolutely everything else.

Whitto Predicted: 5th                      Actual Finish: 8th

9) Northamptonshire

A brutal summer for Northants. Eight losses. Three centurions. Ben Duckett gave them the middle finger. And to cap it all off, we predicted they’d finish third. Can’t even bring myself to say anything further. They performed like a bunch of idiots. Worse still they made me look like one…

Whitto Predicted: 3rd                      Actual Finish: 9th

10) Glamorgan

Back in April a welcoming party was sent to Cardiff airport to meet their overseas acquisition. Festooned with toy sheep, ‘I Love Wales’ t-shirts and the box set of ‘Gavin and Stacey’ they couldn’t wait to say a hearty ‘Croeso’ to Shaun Marsh. As the passengers disembarked, Bryn, Cristyn, Gwyneth and Llewelyn, craned their necks to see the combatant Aussie. Here was a proven international batsman. Somebody who would transform Glamorgan into a serious cricketing side. They waited with bated breath. Suddenly an Aussie voice broke their silence, ‘whatcha fellows, bit chilly here ain’t it?’ They turned, smiles broadening, hands outstretched to meet…

USMAN KHAWAJA?!

And that pretty much sums up Glamorgan’s 2018.

‘Fuck i mi pa flwyddyn cach.’ Which roughly translates as, ‘fuck me, what a shit year.’

Whitto Predicted: 7th                      Actual Finish: 10th

How are those sides feeling? If you’re in screaming agony, perched on a hospital bed, then we do apologise. However you were warned! In failing to predict a single Division Two team correctly though I’ll take longer to heal than you. For my pride has been obliterated.

Pride… and cricket knowledge.

I declare county cricket 2018 completely and utterly over!