The County Championship returned this week after the group stages of the Royal London One-Day cup came to a close. Here are the main talking points during round four:
Specsavers County Championship Round Four: Main Talking Points
Anderson limps out of Roses clash
James Anderson suffered a groin injury just ten overs into the opening morning of the Roses clash. The 34-year-old had come through the opening weeks of the season unscathed after the ECB monitored his workload very carefully. Anderson played in two out of the opening three Championship fixtures, along with all eight of Lancashire’s one-day cup fixtures. England’s all-time Test wicket-taker was recently cleared by the ECB to continue to play for Lancashire until England’s Test match summer gets underway on 6th July. Now, his availability is uncertain as physios aim to put a timescale on Anderson’s return.
Essex and Worcester flying high
Essex currently sit top of division one after they dismantled Hampshire at Chelmsford this week. The south-east county have only lost one game in all competitions so far this season, which was by one run in the one-day cup. Alastair’s Cook magnificent form has contributed greatly to Essex’s fast start as the former England captain has scored 840 runs at an average of 70. The division one leaders topped the south group in the one-day cup by three points – a massive margin considering the same number of points separated places two to five.
Likewise, Worcestershire have only lost one game so far this season. Both Nottinghamshire and Kent are hot favourites for promotion as they both won their opening three fixtures respectively. However, both counties replicated each other’s result in round four as they were both held to a draw. Worcester took full advantage as they bowled Derbyshire out for 98 on the final day to keep them well in the hunt for automatic promotion. Tensions were high at New Road during the winter as Daryl Mitchell was relieved of the captaincy in favour of Joe Leach. Mitchell felt he had more to give in the role but head coach Steve Rhodes saw otherwise. No doubt tensions will have been eased given that a Lord’s final is a real possibility so early in the season.
Sanga to call it a day
Kumar Sangakkara has announced that he will be retiring from first-class cricket following the conclusion of the current season. The Sri-Lankan is currently the leading run-scorer in division one (592 runs) and he will leave the game with the same elegance he has played with for the past twenty years. Speaking of his decision, Sangakkara said, “the biggest mistake that you can make is that you think you’re better than you really are. Cricketers, or any sort of sportsperson, have an expiry date and you need to walk away.”
Indeed, the 39-year-old was speaking generally but it will be fascinating to hear what his views are on being ‘better than you really are’ given that he has scored four Championship centuries already this season. Nevertheless, Surrey may find a rise in their ticket sales as cricket fans across the country look to drink in one of the modern greats for the last time.
Ever-green Trescothick breaks all-time record
It is sometimes hard to fathom that Marcus Trescothick is still playing professional cricket. Meaning no disrespect, of course, and not to question his ability in any way – especially as he broke Somerset’s all-time century record this week.
‘Records are there to be broken’, we all say. But it is genuinely rare nowadays for an all-time county record like this one to be broken. Players like Trescothick who score such a magnitude of runs often only spend a couple of years playing full-time for their counties until they are picked up by England. From there on their availability is managed by the ECB – the main factor as to why it is unlikely no English player will reach one hundred first-class centuries again. However, due to Trescothick’s difficulty in touring with England, he has enjoyed a long and illustrious career with his home county instead. One of Somerset’s greatest sons has been rewarded with a truly unique record.
Ballance heaps pressure on struggling Hameed:
Gary Ballance is hot on the heels of Haseeb Hameed for a place in England’s Test XI when they face South Africa on 6th July. After Ballance’s disappointing stint with England last year, it has taken an unimaginable amount of runs to regain the selector’s attention. The Yorkshire captain has already passed 1,000 runs for the season in all competitions, clearly taking his game to the next level.
Haseeb Hameed would take a tenth of the runs Ballance has to his name in the next six weeks to reassure the selectors that his form is to a high enough standard to face South Africa. The 20-year-old has scored only 99 runs in six Championship innings this year and although he has scores of 88 and 75* in the one-day cup, Hameed is in need of runs against the red ball.
A possible scenario could see Ballance come back into the side at number three, with Keaton Jennings retaining his spot as Alastair Cook’s opening partner.