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Recent Match Report – Hampshire vs Nottinghamshire, County Championship Division One, 2nd Innings

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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.



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I needed to prove Ravi Bopara wrong to make him believe, says Simon Harmer

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Essex captain Simon Harmer argued that his decision to drop Ravi Bopara for two group games after an argument regarding his batting position was vindicated by his performances from No. 6 during his side’s improbable surge to the Vitality Blast T20 trophy.

Bopara was left out of games against Hampshire and Gloucestershire after what he called some “very tough conversations” with his captain, and admitted before the quarter-final against Lancashire that he was “still not happy down there”, but produced three consecutive man-of-the-match efforts to take Essex to Finals Day, and made 36 not out off 22 balls to help seal victory in the final.

“That was one of the decisions that needed to be made,” said Harmer after Essex’s triumph.

“In my opinion, Ravi is one of, if not the best, finisher of T20 innings, I felt that in order to for us to win games, we needed him to come in and win [them] for us. [It’s] pointless him walking in at three and getting a good ball and he’s sitting back in the hut.

“Sometimes you need to prove people wrong in order to make them believe and I think that was the case with him. He came back after time away from the team.

“He bought in 100 percent and reaped the rewards. He’s an incredibly talented cricketer, the way he thinks about cricket and the way he bats, the way he bowls, the execution of his skill.”

Bopara signaled in the build-up to Finals Day that he may look to give up red-ball cricket next year and aim to prolong his career on the global T20 circuit, and Harmer suggested that he is most valuable coming in with five or six overs to spare.

“He’s an unbelievable player,” he said, “so I can understand his frustration. But hopefully even if it’s not now, five years down the line he can sit back and realise that he is actually best suited to five or six.”

Worcestershire captain Moeen Ali agreed that Bopara had been “outstanding”.

“In my opinion, he won them the game,” Moeen said. “His experience showed. I’m just disappointed with the result.”

Harmer took over the T20 captaincy from Ryan ten Doeschate this season, and had never previously captained a side for a full season in the format, but said that he had come in with a clear plan of what needed to change and how he wanted Essex to approach the Blast.

“There were some difficult decisions that needed to be made,” he said. “A couple of players got dropped, senior players – not popular opinion in order to drop them – but [it was] what I felt was best for the team in order to get 11 guys on the park who were all pulling in the same direction.

“There were changes, in my opinion, that needed to happen in order for us to move forward as a T20 team. But the South African mindset and the competitive environment that I grew up in – to come over here, you need to understand how things work.

“If you look at some of the South African coaches, or sometimes the players that have come over have clashed heads with English players – I think there’s a certain narrative in terms of how things work and how to get people to buy in.

“For me to come in and just throw out demands and orders and this is how we’re going to play – I was very conscious of that at the beginning – of how I wanted to go about it, of how I needed to get the guys to buy in… that was probably my toughest challenge, but after that things kind of went our way.”

Harmer made his own match-winning contributions in the knockout stages, returning the best-ever combined figures on Finals Day of 7 for 35 across the two fixtures before a game-changing cameo of 18 off 7 balls, and argued that his side’s belief was what got them over the line.

“We have all the tools,” he said. “We have all the players. We have what you cannot buy, which is the camaraderie in the dressing room. There’s a lot of love in our dressing room for the guy next to you.

“In my opinion, you cannot buy that. You can bring in players, you can do what you want, but you can’t buy a bond between people. So that’s why I was quite vocal tonight in terms of how I want people – especially at Essex County Cricket Club – to change the mentality of a small cricket club because we don’t have the money.

“It’s always excuses. In my opinion, those need to go. We have the tools to be very competitive over the next five years in all three formats, but we need to start believing.

“As it works in cricket, when you need to chase down 300 in a 50-over game, people only start to believe when somebody scores a hundred or somebody takes a five-for.”

Essex have the chance to secure an unprecedented T20/Championship double this week, as they travel to Taunton on Monday for a winner-takes-all four-day game, and Harmer said they could take the Blast win into that match.

“Now, with us winning this T20 trophy, I think the belief is there and the players now understand that actually we are good enough,” he said. “All the noise in the background is just noise. Hopefully moving forward, we can be competitive and win more trophies.”



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Jack Leach could prove key as Somerset seek elusive title

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Jack Leach returns for one of the most important matches in Somerset’s history when leaders Essex visit Taunton for the Specsavers County Championship title decider, starting on Monday.

The hosts must win to secure the pennant for the first time. They go into the match 12 points adrift in second place, but optimistic of making home advantage tell, having won five and drawn one of their six Championship games at the Cooper Associates County Ground this season.

Leach’s availability after his Ashes heroics is a major boost. The left-arm spinner, who has just been awarded an England incremental contract, trained with the squad on Friday and could prove a key figure on a pitch sure to turn as the match progresses.

With rain forecast, Somerset will be keen to play on a result wicket in the hope of forcing a victory well inside four days. A gamble on a bowler-friendly surface appears to offer their best chance, even though Essex have two of the most prolific wicket-takers in the Championship.

Off-spinner Simon Harmer is top of the list with 78 wickets, while seamer Jamie Porter is also in the top 10, with 48.

Somerset head coach Jason Kerr is in confident mood, despite last week’s 136-run defeat by Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl.

“It’s an incredibly exciting week ahead, not just for the players, but for the many supporters, who have taken the emotional journey with us in recent weeks,” he said. “What could be better than the two best teams in the Championship going head-to-head with the title as the prize.

“We cannot control the weather, but I believe there will be enough play to achieve a decisive result and we back ourselves against anyone on our home pitch.”

“Essex have had the distraction of Vitality Blast Finals Day this weekend and hopefully we can capitalise on that”

Somerset head coach Jason Kerr

A packed crowd and large media circus will descend on the County Ground, most of the latter expecting Essex to be crowned champions.

Kerr acknowledges that Somerset’s batsmen will need to raise their game. None of them is averaging more than 33 in the competition this season, whereas Essex have three with an average of more than 40 in Sir Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara and Dan Lawrence.

“Statistically, our batting looks poor, but we have played on some tough pitches and there have been some fine innings in difficult circumstances that have helped us win through,” said Kerr.

“I am expecting the players concerned to step up on last week when we came across a bowler in exceptional form. Kyle Abbott’s performance was just incredible.”

After discussions with director of cricket Andy Hurry and skipper Tom Abell, Kerr looks set to stick with the same batting line-up against Essex, with Leach’s inclusion likely to be the only team change.

Jamie Overton missed the Hampshire match with a back injury and was sent for a scan on Friday. He was already facing surgery on an ankle spur at the end of the season.

Kerr’s final message to the Somerset players will be to “go out and enjoy the occasion”. While he accepts there is pressure to deliver that elusive first title, he wants his team to ignore the hype as much as possible.

“So much work has gone into getting us this far,” he said. “Now it is important we stick to the processes which have put us in the top two.

“Essex have had the distraction of Vitality Blast Finals Day this weekend and hopefully we can capitalise on that. Given a reasonable amount of luck with the weather, I’m sure we can do it.”

Kerr ruled out a sentimental recall for Marcus Trescothick, who announced some time ago that this would be his final season as a player. Somerset will make a presentation to the 43-year-old at the lunch interval on Monday to mark his 27 seasons of service.

Trescothick will be in and around the dressing room during the game and Kerr said: “I hope he gets around the ground and soaks up the atmosphere. It would be fitting if we could win the title he has dreamt about for so long.”



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BCB confirms Under-19s tour of New Zealand

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Ahead of the Under-19 World Cup next year, Bangladesh will have an opportunity to gain match time when they play New Zealand in five Youth ODIs. The tour is significant given this will be the first time a Bangladesh team will travel to New Zealand following the terror attacks in Christchurch in March.

Back then, members of Bangladesh’s senior side were “about 50 yards from the mosque” – one of two in Christchurch – where a gunman opened fire. They managed to escape through Hagley Park and the tour was called off shortly after.

ALSO READ: ‘There’s shooting here, please save us’

All the matches on the U-19 tour will be hosted at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval in Lincoln. The matches are scheduled for September 29, October 2, 6, 9 and 13. This series was slated for April, but New Zealand Cricket cancelled the tour at the time. They had felt sending an age-group side to the country affected by the tragedy at that point would be “insensitive and inappropriate”.

Bangladesh U-19s, led by Akbar Ali, have had a busy year so far. This tour comes hot on the heels of the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka, where they lost to India by five runs in a low-scoring final.

Bangladesh Under-19 squad: Akbar Ali (capt), Tawhid Hridoy, Tanzid Hasan, Parvez Hossain, Shahadat Hossain, Rakibul Hasan, Asadullah Hill Galib, Shoriful Islam, Mrittunjoy Chowdhury, Mahmudul Hasan, Tanzim Hasan, Avishek Das, Shamim Hossain, Anik Sarker, Hasan Morad



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