Sunday, 27 April 2014

Premature Pitches?

Many a Middle Stump article has been accused of being immature in the last two years since we have been writing. Not only immature, but many a Middle Stump reader has no doubt been premature as well according to the legions of ladies who follow us on Twitter. However judging by the amount of wickets falling across the country at present, nothing has been as premature as playing a sixth of the LV County Championship by the end of April. Wickets are falling left, right and centre and low scores around the country are becoming the norm. Who said it was a batsmen's game?

The openers stride out to bat at Worcester
Being premature is never a laughing matter. Nigel Farage at present might be suffering from premature congratulation and electile dysfunction, but batsmen across the country checking their averages at present are not laughing. They are being blown away faster than Liverpool's title chances or Hugh Grant in a back alley in Hollywood, and this all stems from the fact that the ECB have crammed so much of the season into the early and latter part of the season. Some scribes on Twitter are starting to wonder if it is damaging our game? I have to agree with them.

By playing on spicy wickets in April, is this the way to encourage decent batting? Is this the way our batsmen at international level are going to cope with the two best sides in the world such as South Africa or Australia bombarding them with chin music on southern hemisphere tracks? Is by dramatically reducing the quantity and quality of decent spin that our boys face, the way we are going to beat India or Pakistan on sub-continental surfaces?

The answer to all the above has to be no.

A regular sight in April cricket

With the ball dancing about on green tops like an epileptic in a strobe, English batsmen are struggling. Regularly more than ten wickets are falling in a day, and this is not teaching our young talent how to grind out an innings and dig in. It is also not teaching our seam bowlers to bowl patiently on good wickets, seeing as they are running in and picking up wickets with their eyes shut at present. Ok, maybe not with their eyes shut but in the land of the blind, the one eyed seamer is king. At international level you need something a bit special, and as much as the 75mph guys have a place in our game, it will not worry the elite of world batting.

Where is our next spinner coming from? A look at the leading wicket takers in recent years at international level show Warne and Murali as the top dogs. England got to number one in the world rankings when we had a spinner at number two in the bowling charts. At present, some teams are not even fielding a spinner, and those that do are chucking him the odd scrap here and there after the seamers have toiled all day. Certain counties are only picking their twirlers so they don't get fined for slow over rates. Maybe these spinners need to get on to Mr Farage and ask him why all these seamers are coming in and taking their overs?

Nigel Farage...showing us a bit of left arm orthodox spin

I can see why the ECB have done it. They have to cram as much of the season into the beginning and latter end of the season so they can fit in the cash cow that is T20. Not only does the domestic competition take precedence, meaning that county fans rarely see four day cricket on a Saturday in 2014 but now the Champions T20 has to be crammed in too. T20 walks all over the longer format by the looks of it. It is time to question whether we take our longer format more seriously than the crash, bang wallop of the T20? Maybe the ECB like a premature finish?

We are committing an international hari kari for the longer format. No spinners, no confidence from the batsmen and our bowlers will be as lost as Mark Thatcher in a rally when they get on a good one.

Is this the best for our national team? I don't think so.


  1. Good players have made good runs - it's no surprise to see the most comfortable batsmen in the Warwickshire/Notts game were Bell and Patel. Adams at Hampshire bedded himself in for an excellent 50*. I'm not saying it's easy, but for me the lack of application from some of the County batsmen has been startling - this is the first season where there are several England places up for grabs, and of the top 3 batsmen in the averages - two of them play for England, whilst the other has (I think) re-declared himself Irish!

  2. So the batsmen can't develop because it's too difficult and the bowlers can't develop because it's too easy?

    It rather sounds like you'd like to have your cake and eat it. Although there is some truth in what you say, I can't help feeling that later in the season, when the tracks begin to favour the batsmen more and the bowlers less, the companion piece will be rolled out.