This Isn't Getting Any Easier

10th September 2018

I hope that somewhere in ECB Towers someone has an ounce of brain and, when they look at today’s scores across both divisions, realise that there is something wrong with the structure of the season that is badly devaluing the competition. And do something about it. 

Let me say, before anyone else does, this is not me trying to deflect from the events of last week and the looming possibility of a points deduction for Somerset. Far from it this is a piece aimed at drawing attention to the issue and trying to establish the cause. Nor is this aimed at saying the season should finish earlier, if it was up to me the season would go on even longer if a way could be found to make the balance between bat and ball a little fairer.

The facts about today’s play are inescapable. 116 wickets fell across 9 games for a total of 2,477 runs (at an average of 21.35 runs per wicket) and 5 batting bonus points. If you exclude Worcester where, paradoxically a normal day’s play broke out, the average falls to 19.9.

Listening to the commentary from Southampton it seemed to me that the Hampshire commentators were falling over themselves to assure us that the ”pitch was blameless”, ”it was fine bowling by both sides” etc. That isn’t a healthy state of affairs.

I don’t recall this being an issue in the last couple of seasons and I don’t recall the conditions being markedly different this September than its two or three predecessors. So maybe there is another factor?

Ed Smith, National Selector, speaking on TMS yesterday and specifically talking about the England openers referred on a couple of occasions to the issues faced by openers this year and said that in his opinion the batting stats from the year reflect an abnormal year with a deviation below the mean, making judging performances doubly difficult. Smith seemed, to me, to be pointing a finger at the Duke balls as being at least partly responsible. 

I think there may be something in that as it’s not possible that the majority of the pitches across the country are substandard or that batsmen’s techniques have suddenly gone awry. The common denominator of this year’s batch of balls may just be the explanation for the anomolous behaviours.  

Whatever the reason(s) something needs to be done to ensure a fairer competition, as trying to keep track of the fall of wickets across the country and the plot twists in every game is exhausting. And all the acquired knowledge of years of watching cricket, the ability to predict what is going to happen or even figure out from a scorecard what has happened has gone out of the window.

One final point though. I am mystified at the complete lack of any information about the process, no information has been forthcoming about whether the pitch has been referred, what the possible sanctions are, when a decision will be forthcoming. Nothing. Is it the conspiracy theorist in me that wonders whether the announcement will be made immediately prior to the Surrey game. Just to ensure it does maximum damage?

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