Springwatch 2013

First off, we’re back! Get out the bunting and crack open the champers. We’ll be with you all the way through the rest of the year, trying to keep count, probably unsuccessfully, of how many consecutive Ashes Tests there have been.

Last year at about this time we brought you an early season update of how the various cuddly creatures known as county cricketers were getting on. Well, as spring has been warm and dry, they’ve been flourishing. So let’s get the binoculars, pad and paper out and see what we can find.

The gulf between England-standard players and everyone else is quite apparent to see. The last couple of weeks have seen a number of them returning to their natural habitats, and the results have been startling. Joe Root has made 49, 182 and 236 in his two outings for God’s own county so far and tops the first class run charts. Jonny Bairstow added a ton as well, as did Nick Compton. Cook, Trott, Prior and Bell have all made solid fifties. On the bowling side, Babyface Broad has taken 12 wickets in two matches, Jimmy Anderson 7, Tim Bresnan 9, while Chris Woakes has taken 11 wickets and scored 2 fifties. Graham Onions, as is usual at the start of the seasons, stands atop a huge pile of mangled batsmen’s carcasses, with 19 wickets already. Not a bad haul all round.

Moving from current England stars to washed-up ex-England stars, there’s been an Adil Rashid sighting at Yorkshire. Once touted as the next great English leg-spinner (the last, of course, being the inimitable Ian Salisbury with his Test bowling average of 76.95), Rashid had started the season off by getting narked at the way Yorkshire had been treating him and saying if things didn’t improve he would look to be loaned out elsewhere. Not really the way to get your employers on-side, this writer would suggest. Dilly got his chance back in the Yorkshire side after Azeem Rafiq sportingly decided to get injured and let him have a second chance. Two championship outings have yielded 7 wickets and some healthy runs, but he’s been going at almost 4 an over throughout, which suggests that he’s not back at his best. One to keep an eye on.

We’re not one to laugh at others’ misfortune here but, well… Samit Patel. If you haven’t seen this yet, we suggest you put on your most supportive corset to prevent side-splitting while watching the following video (joke copyright E. Blackadder 1986). For best results, you should also have a swanee whistle and cymbal handy for appropriate sound effects. The link is here.

Sticking with England’s best non-spinning left-armer since Michael Yardy, the early season ‘Taking Candy from a Baby Award’ goes to Samit. He ruthlessly put away Durham MCCU with 256 off 224 balls a few weeks back, probably, as my co-writer suggested, after one of the unfortunate students had the misguided idea of taking the last sausage roll at tea from under Samit’s nose (we’ve not yet been able to verify this incident). There’s no such thing as easy runs and 256 takes a bit of scoring, but one suspects this won’t go down as one of the all-time great innings.

It’s not all been bad for the students around the country. Former Yorkshire youngster and current Leeds/Bradford MCCU bowler James Lee won’t, we suspect, be without a county contract too long after he took 15 wickets in two FC matches against Yorkshire (featuring a virtual first-team lineup) and Leicestershire respectively, including 7/45 against the Tykes. A fairly good audition…

As you may have seen, Australia have abandoned the ‘let’s develop our good, young batsmen for the Test side’ owing to the unfortunate absence of one of those adjectives from accurate descriptions of the current crop (we’ll give you a clue: it’s not ‘young’). They’ve turned instead to a couple of gnarled old pros, in the form of Chris Rogers and Brad Haddin. This looks to be very sensible, as Philip Hughes and Usman Khwaja don’t exactly fill one with confidence. Rogers has shown selectors the utter ludicrousness of his solitary Test cap by biffing 380 runs @ 95.00 so far this season and only this weekend adding his 59th first class century (behind only Tendulkar, Ponting, Chanderpaul and Kallis on the active list). If I were England, having a chap who knows English conditions rather better than most would strike just a smidgen of fear into me.

And finally, Mike Hesson, the New Zealand coach, has been trying to big up his side’s Test series starting in a couple of weeks and denying England-NZ is playing second fiddle to the Ashes. He said, ‘We certainly wouldn’t like to be the entrée for the main course later on.’ Don’t worry, Mike, you’re not the entrée. You’re the last, stale piece of complimentary baguette (the end bit that no one ever wants to eat) left in the basket before the waiter’s even bothered to take your drinks order. Your series is even less important than the Champions Trophy, which is about as damning a comparison as the game of cricket can offer.

It’s good to be back…

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