County Championship 2014: 5 Talking Points from Round 1 of Fixtures
After what has been an intriguing opening round of fixtures in this season’s County Championship, a plethora of talking points from the four contests across both divisions have arisen for us to mull over and digest.
And so these are the five major topics of discussion from round one of the 2014 County Championship...
England’s Forgotten Man Delivers Timely Reminder of His Six Appeal
Beanpole Middlesex paceman Steven Finn has not represented his county since the first Test against Australia at Trent Bridge last July, despite having been part of the England setup for all of the subsequent nine Ashes contests with Australia that followed in 2013 and at the start of this year.
However, with an air of change currently sweeping through the national side following the departure of team director Andy Flower, Finn is only too aware of the importance of hitting the ground running for his county this season.
And so the 25-year-old will surely have been delighted with how the ball came out in his very first run-out of the new County Championship campaign against Sussex, where Finn picked up impressive first-innings figures of six for 80 from his 21.3 overs.
That included capturing the key scalp of former England team-mate Matt Prior for 125 as the fast bowler snared six of the seven wickets to fall on day three at Hove.
Prior’s Convictions There for All to See
Sussex wicketkeeper Matt Prior staked his claim for an immediate recall to the England Test side by scoring the first century of the new County Championship season against Middlesex at Hove on Tuesday.
The 32-year-old endured miserable back-to-back Ashes series last year, culminating in Prior being dropped for England’s final two Test matches in Australia over Christmas and the New Year after averaging just 17 with the bat in the three previous encounters Down Under.
However, after falling so spectacularly off the horse, Prior has now managed to get straight back on it with a timely ton to nudge the national selectors ahead of the visit of Sri Lanka and India later this summer. It the stumper’s first century in the Championship for four years.
And it was a typically aggressive knock from Prior, who rode his luck while being dropped three times in his 138-ball innings that was sprinkled with 19 fours and a six on day three against Middlesex before fast bowler Steven Finn dismissed his one-time England colleague for 125.
Buck Rodgers Comes Crashing Back Down to Earth with a Bump at Hove
Veteran Australia opener Chris Rogers celebrated being named as one of Wisden’s five Cricketers of the Year on Wednesday by being part of the Middlesex side that were thrashed by Sussex in their opening match of this season’s County Championship.
The 36-year-old joined the likes of compatriot Ryan Harris, India’s Shikhar Dhawan and England stars Joe Root and Charlotte Edwards in being honoured by Wisden after scoring the highest number of runs of any player on both teams across the two back-to-back Ashes series last year.
However, despite managing to record high-class international centuries against the old enemy in Durham, Melbourne and Sydney, the left-hander was immediately brought crashing back down to earth with a serious bump at Hove by Sussex’s bowlers, as Rodgers was dismissed for scores of just four and 41 in his side’s crushing innings and 127-run defeat.
1,536 - Chris Rogers was the leading first-class run-scorer in the English summer of 2013, with 1,536 runs at an average of 51.2. Chosen.— OptaJim (@OptaJim) April 9, 2014
Form Is Temporary, but Class Is Permanent for England’s King of Swing
James Anderson told the BBC at the start of this week that he wants to use Lancashire’s early-season County Championship fixtures to prove to the England selectors that he is still worth his place in the side for this summer’s Tests against Sri Lanka and India.
Well, after just one day’s bowling against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, the 31-year-old has already done enough to have his name inked firmly in for the opening Test of the season against Sri Lanka at Lord’s on 12 June by returning eye-catching figures of five for 54 on Sunday to help dismiss the home team for 272.
Anderson’s victims included batsmen of the calibre of Phil Jaques, Michael Lumb, Riki Wessels—who saw his stumps dramatically rearranged—and Alex Hales as the seamer not only picked up his third consecutive five-wicket haul on his favourite ground in the world, following last year’s 10-wicket man-of-the-match haul against Australia, but also his seventh in just eight matches in Nottingham.
And with two more scalps to his name in Notts’ second innings, including the key wicket for 90 of Wessels, again clean bowled, Anderson made the perfect start to the campaign in what was his first bowl since the fifth Test in Sydney at the turn of the year.
James Anderson started the English summer with a bang with five wickets as Lancashire reduced Nottinghamshire to 270-9 on day one.— ECB News (@ECB_news12) April 6, 2014
Meaker Leaves Whitaker with Much to Ponder at the Oval
James Whitaker opted for the Oval as his first port of call of the new County Championship season, and the word on the street is that it was Surrey fast bowler Stuart Meaker on whom the new England chairman of selectors was keeping a close eye.
However, Whitaker did not make a wasted trip to South London, with the Pietermaritzburg-born paceman the pick of the home team’s bowlers after registering outstanding figures of four for 57 from his 16 overs to help bundle Glamorgan out for only 209 in their first innings.
In other news, Stuart Meaker bowled two really very good spells today. He's definitely got something.— Elizabeth (@legsidelizzy) April 8, 2014
And by capturing the key scalps of the visitors' star batsman Murray Goodwin and captain Mark Wallace for a first-ball duck, Meaker also proved to Whitaker that he has now fully recovered from the injury problems that wrecked his campaign last year, and which necessitated the 25-year-old undergoing operations on both his right knee and right shoulder in the winter as well.
Meanwhile, take into account Meaker’s devastating spell of six for six against Cambridge MCCU in preseason, and if the pacy seamer maintains this kind of form for his county over the coming weeks, then he must be in with a great chance of featuring in some of England’s limited-overs fixtures against Sri Lanka next month.