Monday, 25 June 2007

Mystic Richard’s Half Term review – part 1

We’re at the mid term break as 20:20 cricket takes over. So the question is, where do my predictions from the beginning of the season stack up and how are the teams doing. The teams seem to be split into three groups, with the top seven in Division 1 being well ahead of the bottom two and the top four in Division 2 challenging for promotion. I’ll start with the teams at the bottom of Division 2 and work my way up.

I predicted 9th and they are currently well above my expectations in 5th, despite a horrendous injury list and problems with Ian Harvey’s work permit. The batting has relied on Simon Katich while Steve Stubbings and James Pipe are also having an excellent seasons. Their highlight was at Somerset, where they reached 801 for 8 declared, which is good even for Taunton. Tom Lungley and Graham Wagg are starring with the ball, although Wayne White and Boyd Rankin (my early season tips) have done well when fit, and top the averages. They won’t challenge for promotion this year, but are putting together a strong squad for future years.

I predicted 5th and they are currently 6th and may have been higher if they’d been able to pull off an unlikely victory against Gloucester, losing by 4 runs in the last over of play. Lance Klusener and particularly David Sales have starred with the bat, as Northants also enjoyed their trip to Taunton. With the ball only Steve Crook has taken 20 wickets, and the bowling has continued to struggle. A win against Essex at the start of the season showed what could be possible. Losing by an innings in the return fixture is probably a more accurate reflection of the relative strengths.

I predicted 6th and they are currently 7th, with just the tight win against Northants to their credit. Runs haven’t been a problem with Marcus North, Grant Hodnett and Alex Gidman all passing 500 runs. Gidman’s fine form won him a call up to the England Lions team and will look to continue in the same vein to be involved in a winter tour. Bowling wise, things have been more difficult, with Alex Noffke leading the list with just 15 wickets to date. The loss of Jon Lewis to injury has been a big blow and with Craig Spearman only managing two games to date, they must be hoping for a better second half of the season.

I predicted 8th and they are indeed 8th and the only winless team in the Division. Their batting problems are shown by the fact that Paul Nixon tops the averages and no-one has reached 500 runs yet. HD Ackerman, who Leicester need to score heavily is averaging only 25 and no other team has scored fewer centuries. On the bowling front Stuart Broad has been injured for much of the season, and only Nick Walker and Dave Masters have taken more than 10 wickets. Surprisingly, given their struggles, Jeremy Snape hasn’t been seen in the Championship. The county probably take 20:20 more seriously than any other and must be hoping for a boost for the second half of the season.

I predicted 7th and they are 9th. However, despite being bottom, they have a great deal to be encouraged about, with the emergence of young talent such as James Harris and Gareth Rees. They have played one game less than anyone else, but must be disappointed that no-one has topped 300 runs yet, despite four players getting centuries. Having said that, only three players have played in each of their games (top of the table Somerset have had 8 ever presents). Harris leads the bowling averages and has taken 19 wickets in his 4 matches. Dean Cosker, Alex Wharf and Robert Croft are also well into double figures, while Simon Jones has only managed one game so far. It would be a surprise if they were still bottom at the end of the season.

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