The weekly writer’s meeting at the 51allout office can be a tense affair. While there’s often a lot of backslapping – only this week one of our number came up with a funny jingle based around a poor pun on Mark Ealham’s name, leading to a good thirty minutes of us telling ourselves how funny we all are – things aren’t always sunshine and lollipops.
A few days ago Editor Steve let fly with one of his famous tirades. “This international cricket stuff is all well and good,” he bellowed, “but what about the English season’s premier one-day trophy, the Clydesdale Bank Pro40? Who’s writing about that?” The silence was deafening. Eyes met across the table and immediately parted. No-one wanted to say anything, but the tension couldn’t go on. We finally knew how Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood felt back in 1989, waiting forever for The Four Tops to get their act together and get on stage to present the award for Best British Group. Eventually a hand went up, more to break the spell than anything else.
And so here, for Editor Steve more than any of our readers (who have better things to be thinking about, such as threesomes with the fit two from the Sugababes), are our thoughts on the Clydesdale Bank Pro40.
It’s hardly surprising that England have been awful at ODI cricket for as long as we can remember, given that the national one-day tournament is treated like the Carling Cup of cricket. For many teams it’s an opportunity to give fringe players a go, while resting some of their more established (i.e. decent) names. It’s only at the business end of the competition that they might actually start to show a real interest. This is born out in the name currently at the top of the runscoring chart – one South African-born Dutchman, Stephen Myburgh, with 255 runs from five innings so far.
Indeed it’s the Netherlands, along with Scotland and the Unicorns team of has-beens and never-weres, that have provided the most interest in the competition so far. Presumably because they actually care, the Dutch have won four of their first five games. They began with a fairly epic one-run win over Gloucestershire in Bristol, in which the home side narrowly failed to chase down a target of 240 to win, and followed up with a nine-wicket Duckworth/Lewis mauling of Worcestershire. Then came the blip, a bit of a beating from Middlesex, before a nervy one-wicket win over Lancashire and an almighty thrashing of Essex.
For Scotland it’s not been quite such a bright start with three defeats and just a single win from their five games. It’s still been enough to get them to fourth place in Group B, although that has a fair bit to do with the sides below them. Last season’s finalists Somerset have managed to lose all three games so far while Glamorgan are also winless after two. Oddly enough Nottinghamshire have only played one game so far – a D/L spanking at the hands of the aforementioned Scotland. Nothing damages the integrity of a competition more than ridiculously uneven fixture lists. Apart from maybe having Sourav Ganguly in one of the sides.
That win for Scotland was one of several decent performances from Majid Haq, an otherwise unheralded off-spinner who leads the wickets table with eight scalps, at a decent enough average of 20.25.
As for the Unicorns, it’s a fascinating setup. The players don’t get paid, but do get expenses, which makes them slightly better off than most of the Sri Lankan Test side. The raggedy bunch consist of ageing hipsters raging against the dying of the light (such as Keith Parsons) as well as youngsters looking to get signed by the proper counties or Leicestershire. Over the last few years the likes of Wes Durston, Tom Craddock and Neil Saker have made the step up to full county sides, with varied results.
Like Scotland, the Unicorns find themselves in midtable, fourth in Group C despite a single win. That came at Canterbury as Kent were restricted to just 165, thanks to 4/41 from standout bowler Glen Querl, before Parsons made 46* to see his side home.
In terms of the other sides, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Warwickshire all have 100% records after three games. It’s still early days though, with plenty of chance to lose a couple of games and quickly forgo all interest to concentrate on the main two competitions. Of course, we won’t be forgoing interest at any point, partly because we love cricket in all its forms but mainly because one of Editor Steve’s perks is the keys to the gin cabinet. Have we said how wonderful he is yet?