The second round of Championship matches is underway, and I’ve made it to first day at both The Oval and Lord’s so far. Brilliant sunshine last week, unashamed murk this – it turns out that the start of the British summer was a bigger myth than the good guy football star.
The cricket has been a mixture of brilliant and murk too. On the one hand there was the uninhibited strokeplay of Rory Hamilton-Brown and Tom Maynard on the first day at the Oval, and the raw promise of the Essex left-armer Reece Topley today. On the other there is trying to rationalise the value of watching a Northants attack led by 35-year-old South African Andrew Hall and 37-year-old Sri Lankan Chaminda Vaas, similarly Middlesex’s opening batsmen of Australian Chris Rogers (33) and Surrey cast-off Scott Newman (31).
If this is a familiar moan I’m sorry, but it’s true, there are too many teams in the Championship. Let’s move on anyway, for in Topley, England has a real prospect. At 17, with seven wickets in his Championship debut against Kent last week and five more today, the figures look good. I can confirm that they don’t flatter – there is plenty to be excited about for Essex and England fans. Don’s son is tall, extracts bounce, and swings the ball – at least in these early season conditions. Pace-wise he would be low to mid-eighties at the moment and his run-up needs work but crucially he is in a decent position at release, giving him notable consistency for one so young, despite a tired third spell.
Maurice Chambers was a fearsome sight up close in the nets when in Australia with the Academy, but the strung-up-by-your-neck view of the Lord’s media box reveals an inherent flaw – a low-arm action, meaning that, like Saj Mahmood, he will lack the bounce to trouble the good players despite his skiddy pace. After a miserable morning spell it was unusual to see Chambers tweeting in the lunch interval that the Lord’s slope had unbalanced him – as though he was replying to the twittercism. Essex fans have been waiting for him to lead their attack for a few years – he’s one of those perennially promising types, but on this evidence it’s hard to see him breaking through unless he can discover a way to extract more bounce.
As for Middlesex’s batting – bleurgh, as nine scores between 15 and 38 suggests.