If Tests don't excite, pop in to a county game

It is time to get excited about the Test series. Well, I’ve tried …. and failed. It seems so unlikely that Bangladesh, with doubts over the fitness of their two best players, Tamim Iqbal and captain Shakib Al Hasan, will be able to give a buoyant England side a good game.

There will be the diversion of an England debutant. Either Eoin Morgan or Ajmal Shahzad will play (probably Morgan). Either way my guess is that we will be witnessing the first Eoin or the first Ajmal to represent England.

Both are exciting players; both must be a little surprised to find themselves at Lord’s. Morgan’s elevation is the most interesting given his ordinary record in first-class cricket.

Last season he averaged 24 for Middlesex in the long form of the game; throughout his entire career his average is 36, still modest by modern standards. He has gazumped Ravi Bopara and a list of worthies, who were at Derby last week with the England Lions.

His selection gives us an insight into how the selectors think. They value an ice-cool temperament and an appetite for the grand occasion over runs in County Championship cricket and the obvious possession of a five-day technique. They may well be right.

One dilemma for Morgan is this: how to adapt his idiosyncratic method, with which we are now so familiar, to Test match cricket? Morgan has often been compared to Neil Fairbrother and this was a dilemma that Fairbrother himself never resolved.

He averaged just 15 in ten Tests but was a stalwart for England in 75 ODIs. Maybe Fairbrother tried to play “too properly” when selected for Test cricket. It will be fascinating to see which route Morgan takes.

But this is just about the sum total of my excitement, though after Lord’s centuries from Tamim, Shakib and Morgan I might change my tune. For the moment I shall swerve back to the Championship.

If ever there was a season when the county game could impose itself upon the consciousness of the cricketing public without being swamped by international cricket, it is this one (notwithstanding a football World Cup).

Few of us believe that the current arrangement of Championship cricket, in which half the season is almost complete by the end of May, is the best available. But there have been compensations.

The sun has usually shone and this quirk of the fixture list has certainly enabled me to watch more Championship cricket than usual. Most of it has been a fine spectacle, played out in front of a respectable number of people, and I’ve seen a number of exciting, young players while hearing about a few more.

So let me pluck out a notional squad, based mostly on personal observation. It is a random rather than a comprehensive selection, comprised of young(ish) Englishmen, who have not made it into the Test or Lions squad so far selected in 2010.

Yorkshire’s Adam Lyth is a dasher. And I don’t say that because he has an old-fashioned blocker in Joe Sayers at the other end. There was a danger that Lyth might become a bit of a Pratt (Gary, that is), known only as an England sub (he’s a brilliant fielder and last season was often summoned by England for fielding duties). Not any more. He’s grabbed the chance to open this summer with both hands.

More sedate candidates to partner him might be Jimmy Adams (Hampshire) or Gareth Rees (yes, Glamorgan). Even when Middlesex were playing badly Dawid Malan was scoring runs stylishly, prompting the renaissance of the adjective “Goweresque”. James Hildreth, who hit a sparkling 68-ball hundred against Yorkshire last week, sweeping their spinners to distraction in the process, is in a rich vein of form.

Now two cricketers I have not seen this summer, but who must be doing something right: Ben Stokes of Durham and Steve Croft (Lancashire).

There is quite a brigade of batsmen/wicketkeepers (very much in that order as is the modern way) to challenge those already recognised. Keep an eye on Bairstow (Yorkshire, of course) and Buttler (Somerset).

A senior man among the bowlers is Sajid Mahmood, who has been firing for Lancashire. There’s the country’s leading wicket-taker, Gemaal Hussain of Gloucestershire (as I write he has 30 this season, 32 in his career). Richard Jones of Worcestershire has all the right ingredients. Oliver Hannon-Dalby of Yorkshire hasn’t. He can’t field, he can barely bat. But he can bowl and has a good name. So does Nathan Buck of Leicestershire.

I’m struggling for a spinner. I know little of Danny Briggs (Hampshire) or Simon Kerrigan (Lancashire); Adil Rashid is still recuperating. But the general point is this: there are some talented, exciting cricketers out there.

If you can’t make it to one of the Test venues this summer, you may well be rewarded – at a fraction of the cost – by popping into one of our county grounds.

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