It’s hardly a controversial opinion these days to suggest that the BBC is basically being propped up by the success of its flagship Saturday night show Doctor Who, particularly money from the merchandise and international rights to the show. However, amongst the 51allout bunker it’s not even our favourite show that Steven Moffat (the current head writer) has done. That honour goes to 1989’s Press Gang, which starred Dexter Fletcher and Julia Sawalha in a ‘will they won’t they’ romance at a school newspaper. It ran for five rather successful series before its two leads moved on to further success: Dexter Fletcher took over from Dominic Diamond for one terrible series of Gamesmaster while Julia Sawalha starred in a large number of pictures that made up the shrine to her that so dominated our lounge.
And why are we talking about Press Gang? Various reasons (any excuse to talk about Julia Sawalha; any excuse to criticise Fletcher’s time on Gamesmaster) but the main one is that we’ve found ourselves in a situation that mirrors episode four of the first series, named ‘Deadline’. In this well-written episode, a printers’ strike hits the grownup Gazette and Lynda (played by the lovely Julia Sawalha) strikes a deal to have a limited run of the Junior Gazette printed. There is one problem – they must try and predict next week’s news before it happens. Hilarity ensues as they attempt to write match reports for the school football team, using some tiddlywinks to attempt to play out the game.
We find ourselves in a similar position. Because of Thursday’s first Test between England and South Africa, the only space for the latest roundup of the County Championship falls today (Monday). Unfortunately this means that we’re required to review the Northamptonshire vs. Glamorgan game that still has two days to run. Taking our cue from the typewriter of Steven Moffat, we simply headed into the lounge, fired up Test Match Cricket on the Spectrum and played through the final two days. And did we get it right? Only time will tell, dear reader…
New Road’s relegation shootout was intriguingly poised at the close of day three before the weather made an utterly unsurprising return, washing out the fourth day to leave both teams winless so far this season, still propping up the remainder of the top division.
In damp, difficult conditions both teams traded disappointing first innings totals; Durham making 243 (of which Mark Stoneman’s 38 was the highest score) while Worcestershire made just 205, despite 87 from Phil Hughes, a man now displaying all the confidence required to once again bestride the Australian top order like the colossus that he is. The bowlers tucked into the cheap wickets on offer, with Alan Richardson (4/52) and Scott Borthwick (4/37) the main beneficiaries. Richardson’s return from injury is a huge boost for Worcestershire, but it’s Borthwick’s progress that is most interesting, following a fairly successful T20 campaign with another good performance here.
Durham reached 67/0 in their second innings at the end of day three before the fourth day was completely washed out.
Uxbridge’s upper mid-table shootout was intriguingly poised at the close of day three before the weather made an utterly unsurprising return, washing out the fourth day to leave both teams behind Warwickshire in the race for the title. Still, it gave them a day to visit some of the locations where Press Gang had been filmed, so it’s not all bad.
Andre Adams appears to have been around forever and displayed his infinite amount of experience on a first day in which batting was something of a challenge, picking up six wickets as Middlesex were bundled out for just 98. Five players made ducks and only two made it into double figures: Garth Berg (32) and Andrew Strauss, who made 50. Nottinghamshire’s reply was rather more competent, Michael Lumb and Chris Read making half-centuries and Adam Voges 105 as they racked up 329. Middlesex paid a bit more attention to what they were doing in their second innings, reaching 239/2, with Strauss 127* by the close of day three before the final day was washed out.
The draw leaves Nottinghamshire in second place with Middlesex third.
Guildford’s lower mid-table shootout was intriguingly poised at the close of day three before the weather made an utterly unsurprising return, washing out the fourth day to leave both teams rather wet and annoyed.
Guildford is famous for many things, such as having a pub blown up by the IRA and being about 58 miles (around the M25) away from Enfield, birthplace of said Dexter Fletcher. To add to that list, it was also the site of one of the great Kevin Pietersen innings as he smashed his way to 234* before rain prevented him chasing any further records on the final day. This was certainly the most batsman-friendly of the round of fixtures, as Lancashire piled up 485/7 declared, albeit across more than two days. Steven Croft and Paul Horton both made hundreds while Stuart Meaker picked up three rather expensive wickets.
Surrey’s reply got off to a comedy start, Rory Burns leaving the first ball of the innings all the way into his off-stump. That was about as good as it got for Lancashire though as Zander de Bruyn (94) and then Pietersen piled on the runs. The latter’s innings consisted of just 190 deliveries, with eight sixes, all bar one of them coming from the bowling of poor Simon Kerrigan (1/152).
Both teams sit just above the relegation places, with Surrey in seventh and Lancashire in sixth.
Edgbaston’s top vs. somewhere in the middle shootout was intriguingly poised at the close of day one before the weather made an utterly unsurprising return, washing out the next two days to leave just the formalities on the final day before a draw was agreed.
Warwickshire claimed all five batting points by reaching 400/8 before declaring. Ian Bell made a delightful 57, Jim Troughton a much-needed 81 and Rikki Clarke a superb 110*, his third County Championship century of a prolific season, in which he’s averaging 88 with the bat and 26 with the ball. Monty Panesar bagged four wickets, continuing a decent personal season. Sussex’s reply with the bat was as rubbish as Dexter Fletcher’s American accent, being bowled out for 191 in just 47 overs. They may well have been concentrating on their upcoming T20 quarter final, plus not had much to lose due to the lack of time left in the game, but it was a rubbish effort nonetheless. Jeetan Patel helped himself to five wickets and Rikki Clarke three and the draw kept Warwickshire top of the table, very much in charge (similar to the character of Lynda, played by Julia Sawalha, in Press Gang).
Down into the second division, where Cheltenham’s lower mid-table shootout wasn’t intriguingly poised at the close of day two before the weather made an utterly unsurprising return and wiped out the last two days, making this arguably the most pointless game of a pretty pointless round of fixtures.
Exactly 100 overs were possible in the first two days, with Gloucestershire reaching 284/4, thanks to a hundred from Ed Cowan, the Eric Morecambe to David Warner’s Ernie Wise at the top of the Australian batting order. Reece Topley picked up three wickets, reminding everyone of his ‘one to watch’ status. It’s still very early days but we have very high hopes for him.
This result left Gloucestershire in sixth and Essex in seventh, although the possibility of a late season charge towards promotion can’t be written off just yet in either case. We doubt it’ll happen though – these aren’t two great sides.
The Ageas Bowl’s upper mid-table shootout wasn’t ever intriguingly poised after the weather wiped out the first day before returning on the last to finish off the job. Inbetween Yorkshire’s first innings score of 350/9 was notable for a superb double hundred from opener Joe Root, another one to keep a firm eye on, who finished unbeaten on 222.
Aside from that one great innings, there really wasn’t much else of note. Hampshire made 39/0 in reply, with Steve Harmison contributing five wayward overs. Harmison’s decline is genuinely sad to watch. The bowler that terrorised Test sides in 2004 couldn’t be more different from the indifferent shambling mess running in for Yorkshire. We wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that Noel Edmonds had kidnapped Harmison and taken over his life at some point over the last couple of years, such is his apparent cluelessness at the crease. Plus it would explain why Deal Or No Deal has gone so shit.
Finally, we reach the big one. After the first day was lost to the weather, Northamptonshire made their way to 336/5 by the end of day two. Rob Newton made 117, while Rob Sales was unbeaten on 129. And then came day three, and what a day it was!
After some difficulties with finding the appropriate cassette, which ended with us digging through a bunch of albums from the late 80s, we eventually found the right one. And then would it load? No it bloody wouldn’t. It turned out that someone had taped over it with some classic 80s tunes, tunes that sounded a bit like this:
So we’ll take that to mean that days three and four were both rained off. The draw saw Northants in fourth place, while Glamorgan remained adrift at the foot of the table, winless and rather sorry, like us when we realised that the final Press Gang conventions happened nearly twenty years ago and that, despite what Moffat and Sawalha might say, they’ll probably never get around to making that movie.