Jonathan Trott – Legend in the making?

Today’s play at the First Test between England and Sri Lanka was dominated by 2 Warwickshire batsmen – Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell.  Trott completed the second double hundred of his test career and Bell is only 2 runs away from completing his 13th test century.  So firstly, I would like to congratulate them both for the fine form they have shown with England last winter and now into a new summer in England – well done lads!

Jonathan Trott celebrates his 200 against Sri Lanka at Cardiff

Ian Bell was pin-pointed by followers of the game from an early age as a potential England star – and he made his test debut at The Oval in 2004 aged just 22.  Jonathan Trott also made his test debut at The Oval  – in 2009 – but this was at the much less tender age of 28.

Since Trott’s magnificent debut against Australia I have followed his test career through its high and highs with particular interest.  Mostly this is because he is a Bear of course, but also because a few months before he made his debut I told my boss – who likes his cricket but is from Wigan and knows little of the affairs of the Bears – that Trott should be playing for England.  He was, of course, suitably impressed by my punditry when Trott was not only selected to play for England but scored a second innings century that helped England regain the Ashes!

So well done Trott, I thought, you have managed to make me look like I know what I am talking about and have earned yourself an extended run in the England side.

However, I will be the first to hold my hand up and say, that if someone had told me that 21 months after making his debut, Trott would have:

1) Scored 6 centuries

2) Turned 2 of them into double hundreds

3)  The second highest career test average of all time

Then im afraid I would have not believed them!

A test average of 66.77 – second only to Sir Donald Bradman FFS !

Incredible, Amazing, Marvellous – words fail me . . . . .

But the most shocking part of Trott’s rise to test success is that it very nearly never happened.  For let us make no bones about it, Trott was 28 years and 3 months old when he made his test debut,  and if the oppoturnity had not arose when it did – if he was injured or other players were fit and in form themselves – he may never have played test cricket at all.  He did not have many years left before he would surely have been over-looked for the next generation no matter how many runs he scored!

That is how close us Warwickshire supporters and Jonathan Trott fans came to only believing that Trott could have been a good test batsmen – and not actually finding out that he is a great test batsmen.

Great? Is that not too strong a word? No.  If Trott carries on accumulating test runs the way he has done for the past two years he will finish with an average that no one will be able to ignore or dismiss.  He may not end up in second place – but no English batsmen who has played test cricket since 1970 has ended his career with an average above 50.  And that goal is well within Trott’s sights!

So keep on grinding, keep on fighting and keep on digging in Trotty!

You are digging yourself a deep and secure place in the annals of test cricket history!

Mark

Rankin’s Role

Boyd Rankin, Warwickshire’s 6 foot 7 inch giant of a fast bowler, has had an eventful start to the season – of that there can be no doubt.  In the first LVCC game at Taunton he only bowled 8 overs and had no wickets to show for his efforts, but then at New Road, Worcester he took 6 for 100 across both innings.  At Chester-le-Street he manged a respectable 3 for 98 in the first innings.

The beginning of the Bear’s defence of the CB40 was to prove difficult for Rankin.  He opened the bowling with Woakes and his7 overs across the game cost 57 runs – with

14 first class wickets so far this season!

no wickets and a staggering 24 of the last over!  By his own admission on twitter he cost the Bears the game.  The next CB40 game against Leicestershire only saw him bowl 4 overs – at the cost of 39 runs and again no wickets.  Clearly something had to be done, and the morning after the Leicestershire match, when the team to face Scotland was announced, Rankin’s name was absent – replaced by that of Keith Barker.

After beating the Scots, the Bears had one day’s well deserved rest on Tuesday, before they were due to face Lancashire in their first home game in the County Championship yesterday morning.

Did Rankin wonder in his own mind if he would be dropped for this match too?  An injury to Andy Miller meant that there was no way he would be left out.  Barker came into the team again – this time as Miller’s replacement.

When 11am came yesterday morning Ian Bell took to the field with his Warwickshire team, after losing the toss to his Lancashire opposite number.  I, as i’m sure most observers and comentators did, expected Woakes and Rankin to share the new ball.  However, it was not to be.  Bell had decided to open the bowling with Woakes and Barker instead.  Did this come as a surprise to Rankin?  Perhaps we shall never know (might tweet him later and see if he answers!)

As it was Barker bowled very tightly, Woakes and Clarke took wickets from the other end and Lancs were 104/4 shortly after lunch.  Rankin then took the vital wicket of Moore who was on 67.  129/5 – and Lancs looked in all sorts of trouble.  A parternership of 90 followed between Proctor and Cross – before Rankin had proctor caught by Clarke.  219/6.  Clarke then bowled Cross – 219/7.

Lancashire had 3 wickets left and stood on the cusp of a poor score or the possibility of Glen Chapple sheparding the tail to get the score to as close to 300 as possible.

Eight runs later Lancashire were all out for 227 – Rankin took 3 wickets in one over!

Rankin finished the day with 5 for 57 – the same as his first innings return at Worcester.  But what stood out about yesterday’s performance was the efficent and ruthless dismissal of the Lancashire tailenders.

‘Mopping up the tail’ seems to be a harder and harder job these days as few teams are prepared to select more than one bowler who has to be reminded which way round to hold the bat – no matter how good they are with the ball in their hand!

Indeed, Warwickshire have long been exponents of playing bowlers who can bat, and batsmen who can bowl a bit, rather than out and out specialists.

Last season Imran Tahir often filled the role of bambooziling the tail.  In the absence of such a skilled and experienced spinner this season perhaps Rankin will now take on this role?

Also, please note that of the 14 wickets Rankin has taken in the CC up to now 13 have been in the first innings – and what happens in the first innings usually dictates the course of the rest of the match!

Make no mistake, although the wicket of Marcus Trescothick may be more highly prized than that of Peter Trego who bats 6 places lower down the order, each run they score is worth the same.  A team can happilly let the opposition top 6 score 200 if they know they can blast the last 4 out for 20!  Our beloved Bears would not still be in Division 1 if it was not for the tail-end runs of Carter, Woakes and Botha!

Often a team has rejoiced when they see their opponents 110/5 and think – job done!  A very dangerous form of complacency indeed!

So let us hope that Rankin will continue with the role of tailend destroyer that he assumed so admirabily yesterday!  So much easier to take 20 wickets in a match when you know you have a bowler who can get his fellow bowlers out cheaply.  Was this part of FEC Bell’s plan? Perhaps, perhaps not.  More likely was that he thought bowl Barker at one end to keep things tight and let Woakes and Clarke do the damage at the other end.  But take note Captains of Warwickshire – past, present and future (Westwood, Troughton and Bell) – if Rankin can mop up tails on a regular basis then his is a vital role in a Championship challenge!

3 days left to go against Lancs but i think we will have it wrapped up in 2 – weather permitting!

Thanks in no small part to Boyd rankin!

Good Luck Bears

Mark

Next! Spinner Maurice Holmes auditions to be Bears’ new spin king.

Last week against Durham in the Championship it was Paul Best.  On Wednesday against Lancashire it could well be Chris Metters.  But today against Leicestershire it was the turn of Maurice Holmes to make his first team debut as replacement for the injured Ant Botha.

All in all the lad done good today.  Eight overs, bowled during a run fest, for 47 runs (the second most economical of the Bears bowlers after Clarke)  and the wickets of Nixon and

The new Murali ?

Boyce to boot!  Throw in two catches – one of which was a caught and bowled – and you have a very decent debut performance in a form of the game that can be ruthless to bowlers.

However, Maurice Holmes has not always had things go his way as easily as they did today!  He has very flexible joints and his bowling has been compared to that of Muttiah Muralitharan.  Great praise indeed – but it also means his bowling action has been put under the microscope in the past.  There is nothing worse in cricket than to be labelled as a ‘thrower’ or a ‘chucker’, and Holmes has had to adjust his action to please the ECB.  The fact that he has come through such scrutiny, and is still a promising young player, clearly indicates that Holmes is a confident and determined young man.

Now clearly, comparing any young player to a unique bowler like Murali is perhaps rash at best.  But it was not merely a casual observer, or local sports writer with column inches to fill, who was of this opinion.

In the early summer of 2009 England hosted the World T20.  Holmes, then with Kent Second XI, was bowling in the nets and left a lasting impression with some of the New Zealand players including Daniel Vettori.  They were amazed by how similar his bowling was to that of the Sri Lankan legend.  So much so that when NZ were touring Sri Lanka they organised for Holmes to join them on the tour to bowl at them in the nets.

Therefore Holmes, at age 19, was effectively on international duty, bowling at spinner Daniel Vettori and under the instruction of Saqlain Mustaq – who was part of the NZ staff at the time.  So facing Leicestershire on first team debut? No problem!

So lets hope Warwickshire keep faith with Holmes for tomorrow’s game against the Scots so we can see more of this promising young talent in action!

Mark

 

Former Bear Groenewald dents Leicestershire’s morale ahead of their CB40 clash with Warks!

Many people say that winning is a habit and after the final session of the LV County Championship game between Leicestershire and Derbyshire at Grace Road I think it is fair to say that Leicestershire are a long way from developing that habit!

After establishing a first innings lead of over 200 they were heading towards certain victory until former bear Tim Groenewald came to the crease.  Groenewald was famous for

Timothy Groenewald

Tim Groenewald

his tailend six hitting during his time at edgbaston.  However, yesterday he showed that he was not just a one trick pony with the bat and helped Derbyshire save the game with a mind numbingly patient innings of 9 from 87 balls!  He shared a ninth wicket stand with Azeem Rafiq of only 15 runs in 22 overs!

So well done Tim! Hopefully Leicestershire have suffered a blow to their confidence and will be below par today!

The only thing you need to know about Paul Best

Now that we know that Ant Botha is going to need an operation on his knee, and will be out of action on the pitch for 4 – 6 weeks, a lot of people will be scrutinising every action, on and off the pitch, of his inexperienced replacement Paul Best.

Well I wont be. I have already seen enough.

Yesterday morning, with the Bears match against Durham entering its second day, and the Bears first innings total poised between being slightly below or slightly above par, Best took guard ready to receive the first ball.

It was a long hop which he pulled straight to square leg and was out!

So, has this led me to conclude that Paul Merwood Best has not got the bottle or spirit to deal with the pressure of being in such a tight situation on his Championship debut? Or that he has not got the right attitude to change his style of play to match the requirements of the situation of the game?

Certainly not!

All I need to know about Besty – apart from an explanation from his parents about the daft middle name – was revealed to me as I watched the final U19 ODI between England and Sri Lanka at Canterbury last summer.

England needed to win the match to square the series and they had not batted well and had set Sri Lanka a below par target.

England bowled well and Sri Lanka got off to a slow start. However, the weather was taking a turn for the worse and it was clear that rain would stop play at some point. Perhaps permantley. As the rain began to fall, during the last over that needed to be bowled for a result to be declared, Sri Lanka were behind the D/L par score.

So the equation was simple. Complete the over and go off for rain then England win. Go off for rain before the over is completed then the match is declared a no result and Sri Lanka win the series.

During that crucial over a Sri Lankan batsmen played a false stroke and offered an easy catch to Paul Best.  He dropped the catch.  Or more precisely he had the ball in his hands but allowed it to fall to the ground.  As a peice of acting it made the average Home And Away actor look like Sir John Gieguld – but for a young cricketer it demonstrated an intricate grasp of the game situation, and how to use the rules of the game to your advantage.  If the catch had been taken and the batsmen dismissed then by the time a new batsmen had come to the wicket and took his guard the players could have easily been heading back into the pavillion beacause of the rain.  This ‘dropped catch’ prevented the game being a no result and allowed Englan U19 to square the series!

Paul Best Warwickshire CCC

Paul Best in action for England U19

That Best demonstrated such cunning and nerve (after all the game was live on Sky Sports and his actions would easily be seen by some as against the spirit of the game) shows that he has the drive and ambition to want to win at all costs.  A necessary requirement in any professional  sportsmen.

So although he may have some nerves and maybe an extra visit or two to the loo during the rest of his debut game at Durham, I have no doubt he will become a very sucessful player for Warwickshire in the years ahead – whatever his batting and bowling stats in this match may be!

Best Wishes Besty!