Report: Sam Curran holds Middlesex to draw

Fifties from Sam Curran and Ben Foakes held off Middlesex on the final day of their County Championship meeting at Lord’s.

Many are the batsmen that have failed to add significantly to an overnight score; rather fewer are those that have failed to add significantly to overnight centuries; even fewer are those that have not done so twice in a match. On Saturday, Kumar Sangakkara added a mere single before edging Franklin to Rayner for 114; on Monday he added all of four runs before edging the same bowler to Simpson.

It nevertheless meant that Sangakkara had scored runs on each of the four days in the match, on what could yet be his final appearance at Lord’s. If it proves to be so, what better way to sign off?

Almost as if sensing the opening that his departure offered Middlesex in the game, even the angle-grinders in the Warner Stand ceased their ear-assaulting screeching. The Surrey lead stood at a mere 112, with the first non-specialist batsman at the crease.

Any Middlesex hopes that this would open the game up were quelled by Sam Curran and Ben Foakes’ partnership of 83 for the sixth wicket, only ended on the stroke of lunch when Curran nicked Rayner behind for his first scalp of the match. They were aided by the curious decision of Franklin to postpone taking of the new ball until the 95th over. With the old ball offering no appreciable movement, and Middlesex well up with the over rate, there seemed little obvious reason to persist with Rayner, who till that point had found little turn from the pitch. Sam Curran found Rayner to his liking, driving the off-spinner over long-off into the Pavilion for six.

That being said, the new ball also offered little to the bowlers. While Curran was the beneficiary of the decision to not include a third slip – Finn being the unfortunate bowler on two occasions – by and large there was limited movement either off the pitch or in the air, and consequently few alarms. Rayner briefly livened up proceedings by bowling Tom Curran through the gate for a spirited 22 – Curran being caught out by one that did, for once, turn, but the Surrey tail resisted in a way they had not done in the first innings, ensuring that within an hour or so after lunch the game was already heading towards handshakes.

Much of this was down to the resistance of Foakes, who was content to quietly survive. In the first forty-five minutes after lunch, he scored all of five runs, building pressure through time-consumption while his colleagues built it through run-contribution. He was left unbeaten on 67 after Malan’s part-time leg-spin cleaned up Meaker, whose off-stump was pegged back by a traditional leg-break, and Footitt, who chipped his second ball to cover.

Middlesex’s intentions as regards pursuing their target of 242 in 39 overs were called into question by the retention of Compton in his opening position. After Gubbins fell early, caught behind off Sam Curran – a decision he did not look entirely happy with – Middlesex were content to trundle along to 13-1 at tea, with 33 overs remaining. A trickle of runs followed after the interval, and although there was late excitement when Compton swiped Footitt to deep square-leg, both teams agreed to take the points for the draw soon after 5pm.

Hands tied: why governing bodies must not change match results

With the ECB currently unable, it appears, to make any move without being slammed from one quarter or another, it is pleasing to see one recent decision of theirs that can be applauded. The unnecessarily controversial end to the Kent vs. Sussex match in the Women’s One-Day Championship led to Kent appealing the tied result, on the basis that the ball was dead once the keeper had taken it, thus precluding any further running.

As those who knew the Laws were well aware, Kent were on a hiding to nothing, assuming that the Laws were consistently applied. Law 21.10 (Result not to be changed) is quite clear:

Once the umpires have agreed with the scorers the correctness of the scores at the conclusion of the match – see Laws 3.15 (Correctness of scores) and 4.2 (Correctness of scores) – the result cannot thereafter be changed.

Case closed. Yet even if the result could, hypothetically, have been changed, the Dead ball Laws also offered little support to Kent’s complaint.

Kent, it seems, felt the Sussex players were somehow underhanded in running whilst Kent imagined the ball was dead. As Laws 16.2 (Call of Time)23.1 (Ball is dead) and 23.2 (Ball finally settled) state, however:

The bowler’s end umpire shall call Time when the ball is dead on the cessation of play before any interval or interruption and at the conclusion of the match.

The ball becomes dead when […] it is finally settled in the hands of the wicket-keeper or of the bowler. […] The ball shall be considered to be dead when it is clear to the bowler’s end umpire that the fielding side and both batsmen at the wicket have ceased to regard it as in play. […] Whether the ball is finally settled or not is a matter for the umpire alone to decide.

Had the umpires called “time”? If not, the ball was potentially still in play. Was it finally settled? Not if the umpires had reason to suppose that either the batters or the fielders still viewed it as in play. Sussex clearly viewed it as in play, so the umpires rightly ruled it as not being dead.

It’s disappointing to see the Kent coach take to Twitter, claiming that the “Spirit of Cricket has taken a big U-Turn this weekend.” As I have written elsewhere, such inappropriate invocations of the Spirit of Cricket only serve to confuse the matter. Why should the Spirit of Cricket be thought to have anything to do with attempting a fair run?

Since the Laws are so clear, it cannot have been very difficult, for the ECB to come to their stated conclusion as reported by CRICKETHer:

It has been decided that there is no reason to overturn any decision made by the umpires on the day, nor the outcome of the game as had been determined on the day.  The match is therefore a tie.

One cannot help but feel, though, that the ECB nonetheless could, and ideally should, have gone further in their statement. As it stands, the statement leaves open the possibility that they could have changed the result, had there been sufficient reasons to do so. This should not be possible. In the case of a result which they did consider to be in error, governing bodies should never overturn the result itself. That is a breach of the authority of the umpires, who have the sole responsibility for determining the result of the game. The ICC famously did so in the Oval Test of 2006, only to reverse their reversal following condemnation by MCC.

The most that a governing body should be able to do is to apply some competition penalty to nullify the result, rather than alter it. This could be done, for instance, by deducting points, or by disqualifying the team. Indeed, this happened in the infamous Worcestershire vs Somerset match when Somerset declared after one over. Somerset would have proceeded to the knockout stages, had the TCCB not voted, somewhat controversially in itself, to disqualify them.

Returning to the present day, it would have been preferable for the ECB to emphasise three points:

  1. that the ECB in principle has no right to alter the result determined by the umpires;
  2. that the ECB, incidentally, saw no error in the umpires’ judgement on this occasion;
  3. that the ECB therefore saw no reason to add or deduct points from any team, or take any further action.

Asking a governing body to recognise, highlight and advertise the limits of its own authority may, however, be expecting a little too much.

The 2015 County Cricket Membership Comparison

The costs of the international game may be spiralling upwards, yet as any fule kno, the domestic game continues to provide the best value for money for the honest cricket lover. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the various membership packages offered by the Eighteen. For a couple of hundred quid, the price of a couple of days’ Test cricket, you can soak up unlimited first-class cricket at your local (or not so local) county ground.

That being said, not all membership packages are created equal. Some provide better value than others. Many followers will not, of course, have the luxury of being able to choose their club: loyalties run deep. For the unaffiliated aficionado, however, where is his or her money best spent?

The data has been collected, crunched, and compiled into the following table, ordered by position in the County Championship (after relegation/promotion at the end of the 2014 season).

Points of note:

  • The price listed is the regular price available to a new member, with no early-bird/junior/senior/student discounts factored in. However, if a direct-debit discount is available, that has been reflected in the price.
  • The package for comparison is the cheapest available that covers entry to all home matches in all competitions (excluding knockout stages). Essex are the only county that do not offer a package that includes T20 matches; therefore, the price has been calculated by adding the cost of entry to each individual home T20 to the membership package that covers the other games.
  • Many counties offer sizeable early-bird discounts and/or “country” discounts to members that live a specified distance away from the county’s home ground.
County 2014 LVCC position Cost Difference to average
Yorkshire 1 £220 3.48%
Warwickshire 2 £200 -5.93%
Sussex 3 £250 17.59%
Nottinghamshire 4 £160 -24.75%
Durham 5 £195 -8.28%
Somerset 6 £212 -0.29%
Middlesex 7 £240 12.88%
Hampshire 8 £225 5.83%
Worcestershire 9 £204 -4.05%
Lancashire 10 £223 4.89%
Northamptonshire 11 £239 12.41%
Essex 12 £236 11.00%
Derbyshire 13 £195 -8.28%
Surrey 14 £194 -8.75%
Kent 15 £255 19.94%
Gloucestershire 16 £225 5.83%
Glamorgan 17 £179 -15.81%
Leicestershire 18 £175 -17.69%

We see that prices differ in a range of £95, with the average package costing £213. Kent, at £255, have the unenviable position as most expensive county, closely followed by GOSBTS at £250. The former has, however, one of the more generous country-member discounts, with full access available for just £130, providing you’re not within 75 miles of Canterbury. This makes it available to most of the country, London excepted.

Talking of London, there is a surprisingly large discrepancy in the amounts Middlesex and Surrey charge. Middlesex charge a pricy £240 (£50 less for renewing members), and sadly not all matches will be at Lord’s. Surrey, by contrast, tuck in below the two-hundred-pound threshold at £194. Despite being a Middlesex man, I therefore, with gritted teeth, have to recommend joining Surrey as best value in the South East.

It certainly seems better than the Essex offering. At Chelmsford it isn’t possible to buy a package encompassing all games: one has to buy the standard package at £152 and then £12 a pop for each T20 game. On the plus side, if you know you won’t make more than 3 or 4 of the T20s, this allows you to regulate your spending, bringing the cost in line with other counties. On the down side, even as a member you have to book in advance and can’t just roll up on the day, as you could at Lord’s, for example.

Note in passing, however, that a non-member T20 ticket with reserved seating is an astonishing £29. This seems ludicrously high, especially when you consider that over in Cardiff, for £30, just £1 extra, you could see England play Australia – and as a double-header too, with both the men’s and women’s teams’ T20Is included in the price.

Talking of Cardiff, £179 seems reasonable, compared to regional rivals Gloucestershire (£225) and Somerset (£212). Glamorgan: best in the West, especially when you consider their £40 Early Bird discount.

If all you want to watch at Chelmsford is T20, just buy individual tickets at £22: pricey, but 7 x £22 = £154.

The White and Red head-to-head is close, with Yorkshire edging the Roses battle, although at just £3 more, it would only be the most fickle of Lancashire supporters who would be tempted to defect. It’s Durham, though, that yield best value in the North: their charge of £195 is bettered by only one county in Division One.

Yet it is that county that stands out overall. Nottinghamshire not only offer the lowest price of any county, first or second division, but they also remain one of the most competitive counties, with solid credentials in the Championship and knockout-stage progress in the 2014 limited-overs competitions. Included in the price is access to all Northamptonshire and Leicestershire home Championship matches. Throw into the mix the prospect of seeing several young England stars in action, and priority access to booking international tickets, and it’s easy to see why Nottinghamshire receive the prestigious Raging Turner County Membership of The Year 2015.