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Recent Match Report – Gloucestershire vs Hampshire, Twenty20 Cup (England), South Group

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Gloucestershire 144 for 3 (Bracey 64) beat Hampshire 139 for 6 by seven wickets

Gloucestershire overcame Hampshire on a slow, sluggish Bristol wicket to go fourth in the Vitality Blast South Group, thanks to a canny bowling performance and an impressive 64 from James Bracey.

With Rilee Rossouw (ill), Brad Taylor and Mason Crane (both side strains) missing, Hampshire looked light on batting at the toss, and so it proved. After Aneurin Donald‘s eyecatching innings had taken them to 54 for 1 after the powerplay, their innings fell away horribly as Tom Smith found purchase on a turgid pitch, and their seamers used their usual variety of slower balls and cutters.

A target of 140 was never likely to be easy to defend, and after a cautious first four overs of the chase, the fifth broke the back of the chase and meant Gloucestershire could stay in third gear for the remainder.

The beneficiary of those absentees was Ryan Stevenson, the redhead seamer who came in for his first game of the Blast season, but he must have wished he had spent the night in the dugout as usual.

His first ball would have seen Michael Klinger caught behind but for an umpiring error, and things quickly got worse. Klinger chipped a six over midwicket, then got off strike with a three; Stevenson threw in two wides, was smashed for four twice by Bracey, including once off a no-ball, and then had him out caught off the free hit. One last boundary followed, meaning 25 had come off it, and the asking rate shot down to below six.

From that point, Hampshire were toast, as Bracey and Klinger knocked the ball around easily with little pressure on them to score. This was Klinger’s highest T20 score in just under a year – the situation could hardly have suited him better.

This pitch had seen Gloucestershire only squeeze past Kent’s 125 for 8 last week, and from the moment David Payne started to bowl his cutters in the game’s third over, it seemed clear that this pitch would suit their attack.

The conditions could only have been more perfect if they had been able to call upon the services of Benny Howell, who will miss the rest of the season after injuring his hamstring diving in the field against Surrey last week.

As cover, Gloucestershire brought in Zak Chappell on loan from Nottinghamshire, the young fast bowler with a big future and an even bigger reported salary. He struck early to dismiss James Vince – who he gave a roaring send-off – but proved the most expensive bowler on show; perhaps he was overzealous in his efforts to impress after an underwhelming debut season at Trent Bridge.

Hampshire’s selection – while hampered by injury – looked particularly strange when Chris Morris strode out to bat at number five. It was just the 14th time that Morris had batted in the top five in a T20, despite his 180 matches, and he struggled badly to eke out an unbeaten 18 off 24 balls. That they left out Tom Alsop, while having seven bowling options, seemed curious.

This was the sort of surface on which Gloucestershire tend to thrive, and it was apparent that Andrew Tye‘s influence in his several stints as an overseas player has extended beyond just his wickets. Chris Liddle spoke at the interval about the work the club’s seamers do with one another to develop more slower balls and variations, and he, Tye, and Payne went for just 78 from their 12 overs; Ryan Higgins, so impressive in the win at Surrey, never even made it into the attack.

At the interval, it had looked clear that Liam Dawson would be the key man if Hampshire were to come close, but by the time he came on the asking rate had already fallen to 5.46. He was characteristically frugal, but the game was effectively up by the time he had the opportunity to influence it.

Bracey, who has quietly impressed for the best part of three seasons in the Championship, has only recently nailed down a spot in Gloucestershire’s T20 side, but shone with a mature innings in the chase. He was particularly impressive combating the fiery Morris, nailing an early cover drive and pulling him for four in his second spell. He was a recent call-up for the England Lions, and at 22 looks like an old-school batsman with serious promise.

“I’m really pleased with how we’ve come back from a defeat,” he told Sky. “We just wanted to take the initiative with the new ball, which slid onto the bat nicely. It came off for us and made it easier for us at the back end. I’ve started to find my feet in the last few games, so it’s good to play a match-winning knock.”

Gloucestershire’s campaign thus far has been a stop-start affair, with two no-results and a tie in their first four games keeping them in the bunch of teams competing for the quarter-finals. But with three wins in their last four – and a trip to fourth-placed Somerset on Friday night looming – they are now set to be part of the South Group’s qualification narrative.



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Recent Match Report – Middlesex vs Hampshire, Twenty20 Cup (England), South Group

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Hampshire 131 for 3 (Vince 69) beat Middlesex 128 (Hafeez 34, Morris 3-22, Abbott 3-25) by seven wickets

Chris Morris and Kyle Abbott claimed three wickets apiece as Hampshire kept their Vitality Blast hopes alive with a seven-wicket win over Middlesex at Lord’s.

The men from the Ageas Bowl came through the Grace Gates knowing they needed four wins out of four to have a chance of making the knockout stages and their South African pace duo all but clinched the first of these as they bundled out the hosts for 128.

James Vince‘s 69 made short work of the chase, leaving Middlesex, who have been riding high in the South Group standings still looking for a couple of wins to book their own place in the quarter-finals.

Middlesex were put in after losing the toss and struggled from the outset.

Paul Stirling’s poor form in T20 this year continued when he became Abbott’s first victim, lbw to the first ball of the fourth over.

Dawid Malan and Stevie Eskinazi briefly threatened to post a score, but once the former had edged Morris through to keeper Lewis McManus the Seaxes lost their way.

Eoin Morgan continued the cameos trend, striking two sixes in his 20, before perishing attempting a third from the bowling of the excellent Liam Dawson, who bowled well in tandem with South African debutant Tabraiz Shamsi.

Middlesex debutant and Pakistan Test star Mohammed Hafeez tried to hold things together with 34, sharing a stand of 46 with wicketkeeper John Simpson. But he was bowled by Wood before Abbott dismissed Simpson and Toby Roland-Jones with successive balls.

Morris picked up two late scalps as Middlesex lost their last five wickets for seven runs in 16 balls.

Having top scored with the bat, Hafeez struck an early blow with the ball when Rilee Rossouw drove him straight to Nathan Sowter at cover.

Hampshire skipper Vince, though, looked in ominous form from the get-go, one sumptuous cover-drive underlining his class.

Sam Northeast tried to follow his example only to blast a Roland-Jones delivery straight up in the air and give Stirling a simple catch.

But Dawson, fresh from his unbeaten half-century against Surrey in the County Championship 24 hours earlier, proved a valuable ally to Vince, who went to 50 from 33 balls with his seventh boundary. The 50 partnership came in just 32 deliveries and although Vince holed out on the cover boundary, Hampshire sprinted home with 31 balls to spare.



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The moment Jofra Archer revealed his instinct for greatness

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There was a revealing moment as Jofra Archer walked off the pitch having just completed the first five-wicket haul of his Test career.

Thrown the ball by team-mates who recognised the significance of the occasion – there will, no doubt be more five-wicket hauls, but there will never be another first – Archer did not, initially, at least, raise it to soak up the applause of the crowd. Instead, he continued to rub it on his trousers; still looking for the shine that might help him gain some swing.

It was a moment reminiscent, perhaps, of the way in which Jonathan Trott, at his best, would sometimes mark his guard even after he had guided his side to a victory in a match. For these are men so locked in their craft, so consumed by their profession, that it becomes instinctive to work on it even when the immediate targets have been hit.

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That craft was evident in Archer here. After showing the fire and brimstone side to his game at Lord’s, where he achieved a pace of 96mph and displayed that wonderfully unpleasant bouncer, here Archer reasoned that conditions called for different skills. So instead of looking to make the batsmen jump and parry, he sought to draw them onto the front foot and exploit conditions which saw the ball move sharply through much of the day.

That is a remarkably mature approach for a young man playing just his second Test. Many of this crowd would have longed to see him unleash the sort of deliveries that had Lord’s on the edge of their seats last week and many of them roared him in at the start of the day. So despite claiming one wicket – Marcus Harris caught behind of an almost perfect delivery that demanded a stroke and moved fractionally to kiss the edge – in his opening spell, there was a slight sense of anti-climax as it finished. This had been a demonstration of subtlety, skill and control. And when you’re dressed as Elvis, a banana, or a monk – and that accounts for a fair few in the Headingley crowd on Thursday – subtlety can get a bit lost.

But this was exactly the approach taken by the likes of Malcolm Marshall or Richard Hadlee in such conditions. And Archer’s ability to nip the ball both ways, using both seam and swing, while maintaining that full length that allowed the ball the chance to swing and demanded a stroke from the batsmen. After producing a hostile performance at Lord’s that would have made Mitchell Johnson proud, he produced a skilful performance here that would have done the same for James Anderson. To be capable of both approaches is immensely encouraging for England.

“I don’t need to run in and bowl 90mph every spell to get wickets,” Archer said afterwards. “I’ve shown that today. There will be times in Test matches you have to focus on hitting your length. There will be times to ramp it up as well but you don’t have to go into it every innings.

“This wasn’t a wicket where you had to run in and bowl 90mph. It was a bit softer on top; there was a bit of swing and nip. If you put it in the right areas you should get wickets.”

That’s not to say Archer did not display sharp pace here. By the time he was recalled to the attack for his second spell, Australia were 124-2 and England were in real danger. In these conditions, that was a fine score. The support bowlers had failed to maintain the control of the openers and, at one stage, 88 runs had been leaked from 14 overs. The thought remains that, had they all bowled tighter, Australia may have struggled to score many more than 100 in such conditions. England may yet struggle in reply.

As a result, Archer appeared to go up a gear. Having beaten David Warner with an 88mph delivery that nipped past his outside edge, the next ball – timed at a fraction under 90 mph – demanded a stroke and again took the edge on its way to the keeper. The word ‘unplayable’ is overused, but the best most batsmen could hope to do with such a delivery was miss it. The wicket precipitated a sharp decline which saw Australia lose eight wickets for 43. Coincidentally, 8 for 43 were the figures Bob Willis took here in that famous game in 1981. Archer’s haul of 6-45 was the best by an England bowler in the Ashes at Headingley since.

Later, Warner compared him to Dale Steyn – in terms of his skills and his ability to up his pace as required – and Jasprit Bumrah – in terms of the difficulty in picking up his lengths from his action. Look at the names mentioned in this article so far: Marshall; Hadlee; Steyn; Bumrah. These are some of the best there have ever been. England have something very special here.

“It was incredible Test bowling,” Warner said of Archer and Broad’s opening spells. “It was world-class bowling at its best. They bowled unbelievably well and a play and miss became a good shot.”

Is this praise premature? Well, we’ll see. But Archer really does appear to have the armoury – the control, the pace, the skills and the robust body – to suggest he can sustain the bright start to his career. Indeed, when his captain eventually realises that he is the man who should be running in down the hill, and he is the man who should bowl in shorter spells, it’s possible his figures could even improve. He bowled at the wrong end for much of this innings and conceded runs as a result of the unusually attacking fields.

The one cloud on his horizon is his workload. Already, he has delivered 61.1 overs in this series and this was just the third innings in which he has bowled. By contrast, Broad has delivered fewer than 50 overs in the same timeframe. Overall, England have delivered 194.1 overs since Archer came into the Test side, meaning he has bowled almost a third of them. That is not sustainable.

So while it is understandable that Joe Root turns to him in every situation – the Ashes are on the line here, after all – it has to change. While he’s shown he is far more than a tearaway with a magnificent bouncer, that top register of pace remains a significant weapon. Even in this innings, he produced the odd sharp bouncer which would have had batsmen just a little reluctant to prop onto the front foot. England need to help him retain that pace. Johnson, at his best, rarely bowled spells of longer than three or four overs.

It was that weariness that was most apparent straight after the game. Asked by the BBC how he felt about that first five-for, his instinctive response was to reply: “It means I get to rest now. I’m over the moon to have got six wickets today, but I’m equally happy just to get off.”

That sustains a familiar theme. Following the Lord’s Test, Archer tweeted a picture of an old man struggling to raise himself from a chair with a stick for help and wrote: “Me getting out of bed tomorrow morning.”

It was a joke, of course, but it was also a warning. Bowlers like Archer come along, for England at least, very rarely. He’s already helped England to a World Cup and he might just have got them back in an Ashes series. He needs looking after. He needs protecting. We’re only at the start of Archer’s international journey, but already he has shown an array of skills that whisper the potential of greatness.



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Recent Match Report – Sussex vs Essex, Twenty20 Cup (England), South Group

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Essex 168 for 5 (Lawrence 59*, Bopara 45) beat Sussex 159 for 9 (Wiese 66, Amir 4-29) by nine runs

Sussex supporters packed into the tight confines of Hove on another sell-out T20 night had relished news of the Ashes exploits of Jofra Archer, but for once they had to make do with vicarious pleasures as they watched their side’s hold at the top of South Group weakened by a nine-run defeat against Essex.

The South Group is now as congested as, well, most of the south, with Essex, who began the night in eighth place, still retaining hopes of a late rush into the top four. Only Glamorgan and Surrey can be discounted.

Essex’s 168 for 5 represented a challenging target for a side that bases its success around a powerful bowling attack, but David Wiese‘s 66 from 36 balls – with Laurie Evans his most productive sidekick – took them within 39 with 28 balls remaining when he was sixth out, sweeping at Simon Harmer.

Wiese, one of T20s most experienced campaigners, has entered his Tarantino villain phase with vigorous beard, long hair and determined chew. His free-flowing straight six off Aaron Beard, backed up by two boundaries from misfields, had just taken 17 off Beard’s last over, but he was unable to rescue the game.

Essex have the worst T20 record in the country in recent seasons (Sussex have the best), but they dug in well here, despite some shoddy fielding. All their bowlers played a part from Cameron Delport, who had bowled only three overs of medium-paced mix-ups all season but who slipped in two overs without much damage, and the diminutive Australian leggie Adam Zampa, complete with perfectly matching yellow headband, who had Will Beer caught at extra cover at the start of his last over with 23 needed off 18.

But it was Mohammad Amir, whose return of 4 for 29 stood out for Essex: another fine over, the 19th, included the dismissal of Chris Jordan, a flat-bat to Ravi Bopara at deep midwicket when the game was still there for the winning.

Sussex’s openers, Phil Salt and Luke Wright, were also picked off during Amir’s first two overs. Salt is a batting roulette wheel, capable of extravagant success and failure, and he toe-ended to mid-on. Wright could not control a pull at a ball he might have cut and spliced to mid-off.

Alex Carey has claims to be Australia’s best batsman-keeper, but can’t get in the side even though they are picking two of them: he fell to Beard as Bopara fell backwards at cover to take a catch that he claimed more confidently than he caught.

Poor old Harry Finch is having a season to forget. He has made a pair in his last two Championship matches, divided by a prolonged spell in the 2nd XI. His first T20 outing of the summer with Delray Rawlins absent with Bermuda brought another duck, first ball, as he was lbw trying to reverse-sweep Harmer.

Essex’s general lack of success is hard to understand, especially now that Delport adds a rough-hewn power to the top of their order. They were looking sacrificial at 84 for 4 in the 12th over, but a stand of 82 in eight overs between Dan Lawrence and Bopara ensured a score to be reckoned with.

Sussex are not just managing without Archer. Tymal Mills is expected to miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture and legspinner Rashid Khan has moved on, but their ambition has been seen in the short-term acquisition of the Australian Jason Behrendorff, who took five wickets against England in a World Cup group game in June, for their last four group matches.

Behrendorff did not take a wicket but made his mark instead with the run out of Adam Wheater and a straightforward catch at long-off when Tom Westley, after making 34 from 25 balls, tried to get after the legspin of Beer. Beer is not quite the regular he was but his record in 107 T20s is a strong one and he followed up an impressive return of 3 for 22 against Surrey with 2 for 19.

Lawrence and Bopara broke Sussex’s grip, however, with a stand of 82 in eight overs. Lawrence does not possess prodigious strength and his attempts at innovation did not always come off – especially against the wiles of Reece Topley – but his unbeaten 59 from 43 dominated Essex’s innings, helped for four sixes, more or less straight, against Wiese and Danny Briggs.

Even more energising was Bopara’s 45 from 24 balls. One six over the off side against Topley had him grinning with the umpire Alex Wharf about the audacity of a shot that he would have found wondrous enough at his peak. It took a magnificent tumbling catch at long-off by Jordan to silence him with two balls remaining.



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