A gradual but inevitable descent into cricket-based loathing and bile.

Part Two: Three of the worst teams at any level of cricket

Posted on September 21, 2011 by in First Class, Opinion

Yesterday we regaled you with tales of what it feels like to achieve absolutely nothing of note for an entire summer. Today we’re going to go one better, and review three teams who did even worse than that (T20 excepted).


County Championship: 7th
CB40: 3rd (Group C)
Twenty20: 6th (South Group)

Mediocrity was the order of the day at Chelmsford in 2011 as Essex failed to make a convincing challenge in any competition. Big name signing Owais Shah made minimal impact in Division Two despite his stated aim to break back into the England reckoning, his 1,086 Championship runs coming at an average of just over 33. Ravi Bopara’s middling early season form caused him to fall behind Eoin Morgan in the international pecking order and captain James Foster was dogged by disciplinary issues. South Africa Test bowler Lonwabo Tsotsobe made a good case for being worst overseas signing of the summer, taking a mere five wickets in three games at over 77, Maurice Chambers failed to build on the potential which had seen him make a Lions Tour over the winter, and it seemed perverse that Chris Wright was sent out on loan to Warwickshire towards the end of the season, where he took almost as many wickets as the likes of Graham Napier managed all campaign. The presence of Danish Kaneria was much missed this year as the Eagles failed to consistently take 20 wickets in a game.

The two best performers were, however, seamers; the evergreen David Masters ambled in to take 93 victims and earn himself a contract until 2014, and 17 year old Reece Topley managed to fit in 34 wickets between his History and Media Studies A-Levels. He will require nurturing but there is clear talent there, and left-arm seamers are always on the England radar, even those whose names rhyme with Bryan Hidebottom. Napier did hit an eye catching 196 against Surrey at Whitgift School which will doubtless preserve his continued status as a professional cricketer for the next few years.

The limited overs competitions provided little solace although they did at least run Nottinghamshire close for qualification in the CB40, missing out on net run rate. With the proposed reduction in Twenty20 fixtures, the bigwigs at Chelmsford will look for a return to the capacity (and oft raucous) crowds for home games, after last year’s overkill led to a substantial drop off.

As for next year, Greg Smith has already signed a two year deal after leaving Derbyshire, and Joe Denly continues to be strongly linked with a move from Kent. Shah must surely provide a greater return to live up to his lofty reputation as a mauler of county attacks and Ryan ten Doeschate should improve on an uncharacteristically quiet year. How much the club sees of Ravi Bopara will depend much on events on the sub-continent and in the Middle East over the next four months. However, with Hampshire and Yorkshire strong favourites to make a swift return to the top flight, concentration will surely be on the shorter forms of the game in 2012 for Paul Grayson and his men.

If Carlsberg did overseas players...


County Championship – 8th
Pro40 – 4th (Group A)
T20 – 3rd (South Group), QF

This was a mixed season for Kent, insofar as it was half doom and half gloom. Only Leicestershire saved them from the ignominy of finishing bottom of the county championship a season after they were relegated from division one. An inspection of the first-class averages shows Joe Denly – once the future of the England batting line-up – scraped to 1,000 runs, but at only 37.92. Rob Key averaged a shade over 40.00 and Azher Mahmood 52.10, but from only seven matches. Frankly a team scoring only six championship centuries all summer (Leicestershire scored nine) are likely to fail more often than not: Martin van Jaarsveld was perhaps the biggest culprit with only 755 runs at 30.20. Only twice did they pass 400 and only in five more innings did they even reach 300.

Admittedly, the bowling was not too shabby, with James Tredwell (42 wickets at 27.97) and Darren Stevens (41 at 21.02) leading the way. David Balcombe arrived on loan and took 33 wickets at fewer than 18 apiece in his five matches.

The team certainly performed better in the limited over tournaments, particularly the T20, where they reached the quarter finals. In both the T20 and the Pro40 Mahmood contributed significantly and he was voted player of the year. Stevens can also be pleased with his record in all formats, particularly his fruitful August when he took 19 championship wickets including 11-70 against Surrey. Furthermore, he surprisingly became the leading all-time run-scorer in domestic T20 matches.

Overall though, there is little to be positive about; but at least Kent are unlikely to lose players due to England commitments next summer. Charlie Shreck has arrived from Nottinghamshire, but it sounds as if Balcombe is unlikely to be signed permanently. Whether the county have the funds to pull in other new signings remains to be seen, and their most promising youngsters Adam Ball and Daniel Bull-Drummond are both fresh enough to still be in the England U-19 set-up.

Big Rob Key had to break out his badass face on numerous occasions this summer


County Championship – 9th
CB40 – 6th (Group B)
T20 – 2nd (North Group), WINNERS

Editors note: There’s a chance the Leicestershire review may have been written prior to their Indian excersion this week. As you may, or more realistically, may not, have noticed, their campaign was a total shambles. At one stage in their first game they collapsed to 20/5. One can only assume they thought it was a Championship game.

Leicestershire’s season isn’t actually over yet, but as we are steadfastly refusing to recognise the Champions League, we make no excuses for including their post-season review here. 2011 can be split into two easily defined parts as far as Leicester are concerned, perhaps more so than any other side. Those parts are ‘T20’ and ‘not T20’. The former has been a resounding success, the latter a failure across the board.

They began their Championship season brightly by beating Glamorgan, but unfortunately that was the high point in the longest form of the game, as that would prove to be their only victory of the summer. The wooden spoon was pretty much sewn up by June and ultimately they finished a full 60 points behind second from bottom Kent. The nadir came at the back end of July, when David Masters took 8/10 and Essex rolled them over for 34. Pro40 cricket brought absolutely no respite – they managed just two wins from 12 in group B and scraped 6th place ahead of Scotland. A county with such limited resources is not expected to be able to consistently challenge for honours, but such a poor performance is very disappointing and it’s not surprising that young players like Harry Gurney are looking for moves elsewhere. The big worry is that James Taylor follows suit this winter.

Thankfully, for the sanity of Foxes fans everywhere, the T20 campaign mid-summer was a glorious oasis amidst a desert of despair. Leicestershire have generally done well in the competition since its introduction eight years ago, and this season was no exception. Andrew McDonald was an absolute revelation throughout, and the team in general seemed much more comfortable only having to perform for a very short period every few days. The climax to the semi-final against Lancashire will live long in the memory, as having tried to clutch defeat from the jaws of victory Will Jefferson came to the rescue with a brilliant performance in the Super Over. Perhaps the most entertaining aspect to the T20 run has been how Paul Nixon’s retirement has become embarrassingly drawn out. Rather than ending his career by beating Somerset in a final (almost a given nowadays) he will end it in India in a meaningless game at some point over the next week.

The winter will be a long one at Grace Road – Gurney has already jumped ship to Notts, and they will do well to hold on to Taylor in particular. There will be no money to look for reinforcements so the youngsters will once again have to hold the team together next season. This year’s Championship performance may be a shining beacon of success when held up against next summer.

Please don't leave Jimmy. Pretty, pretty please.

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