Hampshire 310 and 3 for 1 lead Nottinghamshire 239 (Mullaney 102, Barker 3-46) by 74 runs
Steven Mullaney first learned about cricket in Golborne, a town which now lies in the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan. The place is no sort of Orwellian wasteland but neither is it Ambridge. And it certainly has next door to nowt in common with the pastoral glory of Newclose. Yet as we watched Nottinghamshire’s captain fight like fury to keep his team in this match it was possible to discern the toughness which still characterises the league cricket he once played. Mullaney’s century here was, among its other qualities, a monument to simple defiance and it should be recalled fondly by all those who saw it.
But let us be crystal on two points: firstly, the resolution Mullaney displayed is not some exclusively Northern characteristic; and secondly, Nottinghamshire’s skipper long ago transferred his absolute allegiance from Old Trafford to Trent Bridge. It is in the East Midlands that he has won all the honours the domestic game has to offer and his loyalty to the place is very deep. So much is clear every time he strides to the wicket and it was plain again when he walked out with Nottinghamshire on 61 for 3 in reply to Hampshire’s 310.
Things became much worse before they got even slightly better. Having beaten Ben Slater outside the off stump and induced a mistimed pull from Chris Nash, Kyle Abbott nipped one back to bowl Joe Clarke for 23. Then Jake Libby was leg before to Keith Barker to leave Nottinghamshire on 72 for 5. And all these ructions, we thought, on almost the first summer’s day of the season.
For there was a Blyton-blue sky and so there had to be hampers. The hospitality was corporate and it was familial. The white Burgundy was chilled this afternoon and the beer needed only gravity to get it from barrel to tankard. Most in the crowd cheered happily either side of lunch as Abbott and Barker put Nottinghamshire in the toils. But then they watched in grudging admiration and near-perfect joy as Mullaney and Tom Moores, scrappers both, set about rebuilding the innings. Men under panamas and women in print dresses agreed that fast bowling looked warm work.
Warm but also productive. Having battled away for 101 minutes to stifle his attacking instincts and accumulate 34 out of a 79-run stand with Mullaney, Moores almost waved his bat at a ball from Fidel Edwards and gossamered a catch to a diving Tom Alsop down the leg side. Luke Fletcher and Stuart Broad followed him back to the pavilion in short order and the visitors took tea on 159 for 8 with Mullaney 43 not out. People wondered how much batting Hampshire might have to do before stumps. As things turned out, by the time Mullaney had near single-handedly reduced the deficit to 71 runs Joe Weatherley and Oli Soames needed to survive six overs, something they failed to do, Weatherley falling leg before to Fletcher when only eight balls remained. We are set for two more fine days on the abudant Island.
During the afternoon, though, spectators who craved warmth had sat in the generous sun; many bared their legs and some were badly advised to do so. Those who sought the shade lounged under the scoreboard on the Medina side of the ground and ate their ice-creams in peace as Mullaney continued his innings. One well-spoken chap licking his cornet was even watched by his envious pooch. On the opposite side of the ground Jack Russell sold sketches and prints.
He, perhaps above all spectators at Newclose, would have admired Mullaney’s refusal to yield in the evening session. Nottinghamshire’s warrior-leader reached his fifty off 113 balls but the deficit was then still over a hundred. So he buckled down again and shepherded Matt Carter through a superb stand of 80 for the ninth wicket. Carter played a fine supporting role as Mullaney took just 52 balls over the second fifty runs of the hundred he reached with a pulled six off Mason Crane.
This was Mullaney’s fourth century against Hampshire and it was nothing like a perfect demonstration of batsmanship. He was dropped three times, most noticeably on 25 when Weatherley put down a two-handed slip chance off Abbott. But faultless 30s matter little when set beside the effort Nottinghamshire’s skipper summoned at Newclose. When he reached three figures he raised his arms to the pavilion as if to reinforce the message that he requires similar effort from everybody in any team he leads. When he top-edged a return catch to Ian Holland, spectators stood to him and many were wearing Hampshire badges. He had played an innings worthy of the day and worthy of the place in which it was played. But they will read about Mullaney’s hundred in places far beyond the Isle of Wight this evening; and they will smile at their warm memories.
Taunton expects as Tom Abell leads Somerset into title crunch fortnight
Last week was momentous for Somerset’s cricketers. Needing a victory to put the pressure on Essex in what is a two-team arm-wrestle race for the title, they hammered Yorkshire by 298 runs, helped in large measure by two outstanding fifties from their skipper, Tom Abell, who batted ten minutes short of seven hours on a surface which some Test players found too taxing.
But that victory over Yorkshire may be viewed as little more than a staging post on a flight to glory should Somerset win the Championship in ten days’ time. The prospect is the talk of Taunton – and also a subject which many of the county’s supporters are barely able to discuss. Somerset, you see, have been here before.
In 2010 they needed Lancashire to avoid losing three first-innings wickets to Nottinghamshire at Old Trafford. Karl Brown, Mark Chilton and Shivnarine Chanderpaul were duly knocked over in 4.4 overs and the title went to Trent Bridge. “The eternal second” was the headline above Richard Latham’s Somerset copy in the 2011 Wisden. Then in 2016 around a thousand supporters gathered at the County Ground, hoping against all cricketing logic that the game between Yorkshire and Middlesex at Lord’s might end in a draw or a tie. Middlesex won the match – and the title. Perhaps we can now understand why some folk in Glastonbury or Frome will be torn between wanting to find out what is going on in this week’s match at the Rose Bowl and wondering whether a week’s retreat with Trappist monks might be a saner option. No one doubts Essex would be worthy champions; they are not the bad guys in this drama. All the same…
One of the most memorable photographs from that Friday afternoon at the County Ground three years ago shows Somerset’s skipper, Chris Rogers, “Buck” to almost everybody in the game, looking up at the television as the drama unfolds at Lord’s. Rogers had retired from the game the previous evening after making two centuries in the annihilation of Nottinghamshire. Now all he could do was wait. Hardly anyone knew it at the time but Somerset’s then-director of cricket, Matthew Maynard, had chosen Rogers’ successor. He had settled on Abell, a 23-year-old Taunton boy.
It has proved a wise choice. Abell has the respect of his players and the unconditional love of the county’s supporters. His captaincy against Yorkshire last week was assured and suddenly one realised he is now a senior cricketer with perhaps a decade in the professional game ahead of him. But as Abell prepares himself and his team for their vital matches against Hampshire and Essex, it is probably important to recall that two years ago, in his first season at the helm, he was in such poor batting form that he dropped himself from Somerset’s team for another match against Yorkshire, at Scarborough. And even more intriguing to discover that Jason Kerr, Somerset’s current head coach, told Abell he “enjoyed” the skipper’s slump even as he sympathised with his gloom.
“We’re very keen at Somerset to develop people as human beings and I’m a fan of people going through adversity,” said Kerr. “That year was awful to watch for Somerset supporters and for friends and family of Tom but if you go through something like that you are definitely stronger. It’s a determining factor in how you are going to be moving forward.
“I can remember having conversations with Tom at the time when I said: ‘Look, you won’t appreciate this but I’m actually quite enjoying this happening to you.’ You can imagine how he looked at me but I told him he would be a better person and we are all reaping the rewards now. I think we’ll see a consistency of performance which will get him higher recognition.”
“That year was awful to watch for Somerset supporters and for friends and family of Tom but if you go through something like that you are definitely stronger.”
Jason Kerr on Tom Abell’s batting slump
During 2017 Abell viewed any type of higher recognition as a distant second to justifying his place in Somerset’s team and he is now capable of viewing things a little more dispassionately than perhaps he could at the time.
“I guess luck does come into it,” he said. “I dropped myself and that’s something that had to happen. But circumstances dictated I got back in the side because Adam Hose left and vacated a spot at five. But things could have been very different and I look back with a bit of relief that I managed to come back. It was a pretty tough time and as a captain it was difficult to lead from the front when you weren’t worth your place in the side. But I have a great team around me and great team-mates who will always have my back.
“We know there are going to be times when things don’t go as smoothly as you would like. I spoke to Andy Hurry during that period and he said it was possibly the best thing that will ever happen to you in your career. It wasn’t nice but I’ve come out the other side.”
Abell’s emergence from what is becoming a distant gloom has been confirmed in several ways this summer. He has led Somerset to the Royal London One-Day Cup triumph and made a century in the Vitality Blast which revealed a far greater range of shot than he previously possessed. Above all, though, he is a shrewd captain and front-line batsman, who may, just may, lead them to the title So these are heady times as well as momentous ones and you might think it would be useful if Abell had the advice of someone like Rogers to call on. Funny you should ask…
“Buck was fantastic for us,” said Abell. “I had a really good relationship with him and certainly learned a lot from him in the year he was here. He helped me as a batter and I still have the few pages that he wrote and gave to me to help me out as a captain. And that was great because I don’t think you can fully prepare yourself for what to expect and you can’t ask for anything more than to have people like that in your corner. The notes are all about tactics, playing on spinning wickets, making sure you take care of your own game and getting the best out of the team. There were other things – in cricket and outside of cricket.”
Getting outside cricket may well be important in the next fortnight even if Somerset and Essex’s players have little opportunity to take in a film or play a little golf. It scarcely needs too much imagination to visualise what the County Ground will be like if the title comes to Somerset. Already officials are thinking of hiring Portakabins to accommodate the influx of written media keen to report on the shootout beloved of the tabloids. The usual press box is being used by Sky and the Thatcher’s Terrace will be the preserve of TMS. And all this for a game nobody watches…
“We’re trying to avoid thinking too far ahead,” Abell counselled, “We love it and we’re desperate to do something special. You do get a sense of the pride the people of Somerset take in their cricket and we felt that when we won the one-day cup earlier in the year. Taunton is a very special place and we have a special group of supporters. We’re also a tight group and we are desperate to win it for each other.”
It will also be fair to say that Somerset’s players are keen to win the title for Marcus Trescothick, who retires at the end of this season, and for Kerr, a quietly-spoken Boltonian who has made his life in the West Country and has spent most of his career at the County Ground. The coach, himself, of course, having enjoyed Abell’s agony, will share in his ecstasy if the title comes to the West Country for the first time.
“I’m a huge fan of Tom and he has my unconditional support,” he said. “I think he’s an outstanding cricketer and an outstanding leader. I think what we’ve seen emerge more this year is his deep-rooted belief in himself. The guys follow him and I think we’re going to see him go from strength to strength. He took responsibility on a really challenging surface in this game against Yorkshire and batted as if he’d been playing a lot longer than his years suggested. The signs are really good for him.”
BCCI ACU launches inquiry into alleged approaches in TNPL 2019
The BCCI’s anti-corruption unit (ACU) is conducting an inquiry into alleged approaches made to several players by suspicious people in the latest edition of the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL), a T20 competition conducted by the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA). The ACU launched an inquiry after the players reported the alleged approaches during the tournament.
According to Ajit Singh, head of the ACU, the approaches were reported by the players promptly during the fourth season of the league, played between July 19 and August 15 between eight teams. “It is an inquiry into who has made an approach,” Singh told ESPNcricinfo. “The players have told us we have received these messages, so it is not an inquiry against the player.”
It is understood that seven to eight players had reported approaches to the ACU.
When asked, Singh said he could not confirm or deny whether any of the players are, or have been, Indian internationals. Saying he did not have an exact number of players who had reported approaches, Singh did confirm that there were at least a handful. “There were messages who is going to bat first in the match, basically seeking (match related) information. We presume it’s coming from those who are interested in betting,” he elaborated.
Singh, a former Director General of Police in Rajasthan, also said that the ACU had received no information against any of the eight team owners, and the teams are not part of the inquiry as of now. As things stand, the ACU is trying to establish the source of the messages the players had received, which involves tracking telephone numbers.
That information can only be accessed by the police, but under the Indian Penal Code, match fixing is not yet a legal offence. Hence, Singh said, there was no deadline as such, but the ACU will look at all possible angles before wrapping up the inquiry.
Incidentally, this was the first time that the ACU provided cover for TNPL, having supervised the anti-corruption measures last year. In the first three seasons, the TNPL had on board Ravi Sawani, former ICC ACU general manager and BCCI ACU head, to look after the anti-corruption cell. This season, the TNPL had four ACU officers available throughout the tournament, with a few more investigators providing them support.
Singh explained that the ACU conducts a mandatory education programme before any tournament and this was followed at the TNPL this time. Players are expected to report any approach made within 24 hours to the ACU, and Singh said that the education programme had helped make players aware of the way corrupt elements seek match-related information, and how they use it. Also, the programmes have helped develop a rapport between players and ACU officers, who they can contact directly if required.
The TNPL was launched in 2016 by TNCA, the home base of former BCCI president and ICC chairman N Srinivasan. The tournament has been promoted by various high-profile present and former cricketers acting as brand ambassadors: MS Dhoni, Shane Watson, Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Brett Lee, and Ambati Rayudu. The best cricketers from the region have also always been a part of the mix. This year, for example, Dinesh Karthik, R Ashwin, Vijay Shankar, M Vijay, Washington Sundar and Abhinav Mukund were all part of the action. Also, the TNPL has been telecast by Star India, the biggest broadcaster in cricket, which owns rights for ICC global tournaments as well Indian cricket rights and the IPL.
A good team, not a great one yet – Langer
Australia’s coach Justin Langer wore a rueful look on his face as his players lifted the urn at The Oval, having lost to England by some distance in the final Test and so failed to win the series. Having set out upon a gruelling twin tour of the UK for the World Cup and the Ashes, he witnessed a pair of strong and successful campaigns without either fully satisfying.
With the benefit of a few moments’ reflection, Langer reckoned that while there had been great improvement in the Australian team over his 16 months in charge so far, there would need to be a greater level of ruthlessness if they are to graduate from World Cup semi-finalists and Ashes retainers to consistent series and tournament winners.
“It’s something we’re getting better at, how we back up after a win,” Langer said in reference to how the Edgbaston and Old Trafford victories had been followed by a draw at Lord’s and defeat at The Oval. “That probably comes with the maturity of the group as well. It’s ok to fight back when you are underdogs and it’s one of those Australian things – we love the underdog tag. To fight back from a tough loss is admirable and I said how proud I was with everyone for that.
“But also over the last couple of years we haven’t necessarily performed at our best after a win. Really good teams do that. We didn’t do that too well after the first Test at Lord’s. We didn’t do it after this Test. There have been some Test series over the last couple of years where the team hasn’t been able to. I think that’ll be part of the maturity of our side. If you probably think about it, the way we were in this series, we aren’t a great team yet.
“We are a good team, we are a maturing team. We have got some great players in it. But we’re aspiring to be a great cricket team. You got to work hard and get consistent results to achieve that. That comes from experience and learning how to win. That comes with players individually getting more experienced and the team working together. Those sort of things evolve I think. I think back to the start of my career, in 1993, we had some senior players but we didn’t necessarily win all the time. And that we learnt to do through Steve Waugh’s era. We learnt to be ruthless but we also had seven or eight great players and a number of very good players and a couple of good ones like me. But that takes time to develop and evolve.”
Something that Langer will have to balance coming home from England will be how the Test team will have perhaps three spots settled in the batting line-up for the home summer, but also how to pick David Warner back up after he was thoroughly beaten by Stuart Broad across this series. Warner was not alone as a struggling left-hand batsman at the top of the order, but he is the one player in that group who possesses a career record suggesting that it was a temporary problem rather than a defining one.
“I think, talking frankly, he let Stuart Broad get into his head and he thought way too much about it,” Langer said. “I’ve seen it before, even with the great players, every now and then they have a series – and I’m talking about the all-time great players – they have a series where…I remember Gilly (Adam Gilchrist) with Andrew Flintoff, I remember seeing Steve Waugh sit on the team bus in South Africa and the guy had been a run machine for so long, he got out just before stumps and I, in a sick sort of way, thought it was the best thing I’d ever seen.
“I didn’t think great players had lean runs. I used to have lean runs all the time but even great players have lean runs and I’m sure David – we know he’s a very good player, there’s no question about that – but he had it tough, particularly against Stuart Broad. I used to have it against Murali (Muttiah Muralitharan) and I couldn’t solve the issue and it’s so hard when you try to problem solve and then you’re in the middle of a big series trying to solve the puzzle.
“In this instance I don’t think David solved the puzzle, and he’ll be first to admit that, he’ll probably be very relieved he gets on the Qantas flight in a day’s time and doesn’t have to face Stuart Broad for a while I reckon. But he is certainly, there’s plenty of upside still to his batting. I’ve learned over a long period you never write off champion players, it doesn’t matter what sport, you never write off champion players. They tend to come good, don’t they? So he’s had a tough series, no doubt about that, but he’s also a champion player so usually with champion players they get a bit more time to come good.”
Langer was gratified by the displays of Steven Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon, while also appreciating how Matthew Wade had battled his way through the trials of the series to notch a pair of book-ending centuries. “We cut to the chase, I thought our bowling throughout this series was absolutely world-class. I think we talked throughout about the maturity and healthy group of fast bowlers that we were able to have on the park,” he said. “The bowlers were brilliant. Nathan Lyon as well and the way they all stepped up at different times.
“But we didn’t bat well enough. I said this at the start of the series that the team that bats well will win the series. I said it consistently enough and we didn’t bat well enough. That’s the truth. I mean Steve Smith was obviously outstanding. What a pleasure to watch. He’s a brilliant young man but what a pleasure to watch him bat. I thought the development of Marnus was exciting. He worked so hard. He’s a bit in the Steve Smith mould of the players that you love to see do well. He worked so hard.
“The way Matthew Wade scored two centuries in this series, obviously including today. We talked about him knocking so hard to get an opportunity. He did that and then to back up with two Test centuries in an Ashes series showed great fight and great skill. I loved Matthew Wade’s footwork. But we certainly fell short in other areas and we need to work on that.”
In addition to ruthlessness, Langer had a simple goal based on what he had seen in England in 2019 – find a batting line-up that will better capitalise on the current riches in Australia’s bowling stocks. “With this exciting fast bowling group we’ve got, if we start batting well we’ll win a lot of games of cricket,” he said. “We go to Australia to play two pink ball Test matches, against two good sides in Pakistan and New Zealand, two day-night Test matches will be exciting.
“There’s a real challenge for young Australian batters, the ones who want to step up and score lots of runs and work hard on their footwork patterns and techniques and ability to score runs it’s a pretty exciting time. That’s a big challenge.”
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