Leicestershire v Glamorgan, County Championship, Grace Road, 21-24 May & Leicestershire v Somerset, YB40, Grace Road, 2 May 2013
It isn’t often we get the chance to indulge in wild communal euphoria at Grace Road, so perhaps the best reaction to yesterday’s result would be simply to savour it rather than attempt any sort of analysis.
The facts speak for themselves. Somerset scored 323-3 (Trego 118, Petersen 63*, Trescothick 57, Buttler 54*). Leicestershire overhauled that total for the loss of 4 wickets (Greg Smith 135*, Cobb 130). Cobb and Smith’s opening stand of 235 set a new one-day record for Leicestershire and their individual centuries (off 62 and 68 balls respectively) are the two fastest scored this season. No doubt there were other records set. The sun shone and a large crowd (mostly Leicestershire supporters, leavened with a stag party from Somerset traditionally dressed as Wurzels) were in Bank Holiday mood.
All of this in marked contrast to the 4 day match against Glamorgan during the week, when the sun did not shine, the crowd were composed mostly of several charabanc parties of Welsh pensioners and Leicestershire escaped with a draw thanks only to the rain, with all the dignity of a man climbing down a drainpipe dressed in his lover’s nightie. And no contrast was more marked than the two performances of Josh Cobb.
In an interview with Pukaar magazine at the beginning of the season, Cobb was quoted as saying
“I started off as a four-day player; quite boring and defensive and it worked for me, but I wasn’t playing one-day cricket. So I went away to Australia and worked on my game and the one-day side of things, and I came back a slogger. For me, last year was probably the first time I started to get the balance right between the two and hopefully this year I can kick on and do the same.”
So far this season Cobb has scored 105 runs in 9 Championship innings (av. 13.12). After Sunday’s match he had scored 237 runs in 2 YB40 innings (av. 118.50).* He is the full-time Captain in one-day cricket and has taken over the Captaincy of the four-day side while Sarwan is away (the thinking being, I think, that this will give him a greater sense of responsibility and, perhaps, lessen the likelihood of his being lured away to Nottinghamshire). His first act as Captain was to drop himself down the order to no. 7, which indicates his current level of self-confidence in that form of the game.
Quite why Cobb struggles to translate his one-day form into four-day runs is not obvious. He is unfair to describe himself as a slogger. He has few of the innovative strokes of a player like Morgan (he rarely even sweeps conventionally). His method is unsubtle, but perfectly suited to his role as a one-day opener, in that he scores most of his runs by straight drives on either side of the wicket, using the bowler’s pace against him to loft the ball over the ring of fieldsmen. His problem in the past in four-day cricket is that he has sometimes seemed unaware that fieldsmen are allowed in the outfield in that form of the game, and seems unwilling or unable to play his drives along the ground. He is still only 22 and has plenty of time to try to re-integrate the two sides of his game, a little like a child learning to ride a bike without the stabilisers of fielding restrictions.
In fact, none of the major run-scorers in this match were in any way unconventional (Smith is a very orthodox player, Trescothick and Trego scored most of their runs in the first ten overs in a manner similar to Cobb). The exception was Jos Buttler, who played an extraordinary innings, scoring 54 from 25 balls, with 7 fours and 2 sixes (you, as they say, do the math). I’d struggle to put a name to most of the strokes he played (though I’d welcome any suggestions). All of these, I should point out, resulted in boundaries.
I don’t doubt that Buttler will find some way of adapting his game to the longer forms and that Cobb will eventually transmute his ‘slogging‘ into productive fearlessness and aggression in Championship cricket. But as for the bowlers? In spite of the huge numbers of runs scored in this match, none of them bowled badly. One was Jamie Overton, one of the few promising fast bowlers among the coming generation, as opposed to the embarrassment of riches among young English batsmen (of all descriptions).
One-day cricket (and even more so T20) may provide young batsmen with ‘transferable skills‘ (even if only on a psychological level) but the various ways that bowlers have evolved of avoiding turning into human golf tees in the shorter forms (‘taking the pace off the ball‘, ‘the slow bouncer’) won’t wash in the longer forms and one does have to worry about the damage to their psyches from having perfectly decent deliveries carted all over the shop on a regular basis throughout their formative years.
Not to mention the unlikelihood of any of the watching children saying to their parents ‘Daddy, I want to a be a bowler when I grow up.’
*By the time I’d finished writing this, he’d scored another YB40 century against the Unicorns at Wormsley. Shades of C.B. Fry.