Lord’s surface like a result pitch directive: Adams

Surrey team director Chris Adams has explained the reasoning behind his criticism of a Lord’s pitch that helped Middlesex to clinch their slender three-run LV= County Championship win in the London derby.

After the narrow defeat the former Sussex and England batsman blasted the surface as “the worst pitch I’ve ever seen at Lord’s”.

Adams said: “We got stuck in, showed a lot of fight and character and played the type of determined cricket we feel we will have to play in order to succeed in Division One. And yes, I feel we should have won.

“But there’s no getting away from the fact that it was a bowler-friendly pitch right from the first day and I don’t think groundsmen have any excuse for us to be playing on soft, green wickets unless, of course, that’s been the instruction from the director of cricket.

“We’ve had such a good March weather-wise you’d expect wickets to be hard and firm in order to produce quality cricket, but what we got made batting incredibly difficult throughout.”

No batsman in the four-day match reached three figures, indeed only three posted half-centuries, leading to a lopsided war of attrition for the batters of both counties and an uneven contest between ball and bat.

“Both sides scored markedly less runs in their second innings than they did first time around, which is further proof to me that this pitch was too soft right from the start,” explained Adams.

“Right from the first delivery, every time the ball hit this pitch it left dents and imprints. We no longer have the heavy roller to iron those ball marks out in between the innings, so you’re left with significant indentations on the pitch surface every day the game goes on which, in turn, leads to inconsistency in bounce as well as lateral movement off the seam.

“Even Dawid Malan, the top-scorer in this match, said driving was almost impossible. Those are his words, not mine, and he scored 88 out there! I will mention it (the condition of the pitch) in my report to the ECB, but that’s about as much as you can do nowadays.

“Having changed the bonus points system the draw is effectively like a loss as the points you gain make little or no difference on gaining ground on the teams around you. If ever there were a directive for clubs to start producing result pitches, be it inadvertently or not, there it is.”

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Monty Panesar

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He came back with a bang in the UAE, but will he ever secure a permanent place in the team?

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The best Test grounds in the world

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We ask 41 of the most seasoned travellers in the game

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How Twitter changed the game

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The Analyst

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Magoffin’s rise, Lancashire’s flop: Richard Gibson

Steve Magoffin’s excellent debut for Sussex continued his extraordinary change of fortune since being dumped by Western Australia 12 months ago.

The Queenslander took nine wickets in his first outing as the club’s overseas player but the prospect of such an illustrious gig looked remote when the 32-year-old began the 2011-12 Sheffield Shield season without an employer.

His heartening comeback story began in October when he was plucked from grade cricket in his home state. A steady stream of wickets followed in half-a-dozen first-class outings, culminating in a beyond-the-call-of-duty display in the Bulls’ Shield final win over Tasmania at the Gabba.

Rangy seamer Magoffin was prised out of bed on the second morning of the match by former Australia batsman Martin Love – now Queensland’s physio – following back spasms that rendered him unable to dress himself.

A handful of painkillers later and he was on the field. “I had various tablets to get myself out there – I probably sounded like a Tictac pack running in,” he joked.

Magoffin returned match figures of 34-14-44-3 but it was with the bat that he made his biggest impression in a low-scoring affair. He struck 31 in the first innings, and then rescued the chase of 133 for victory with an unbeaten 26 after the hosts had slumped to 88 for seven.

*****

Lancashire spent 77 years of toil to become outright winners of the County Championship and their title defence turned out to be a flop in more ways than one.

A problem with the temporary flagpoles at Liverpool Cricket Club meant they failed to raise the Championship pennant on the opening day, as is tradition, while on the field they were bundled out for 124 by Sussex before tea.

The issue addressed, the pennant – decorated with the badges of each of the 18 counties – was flown on the second morning but Magoffin’s seven-wicket display in the second innings limited its use.

*****

Former Gloucestershire batsman Chris Taylor, already recruited by Somerset in a part-time capacity as fielding coach following an acrimonious split from Nevil Road, has added a batting scouting role to his post-playing portfolio.

The 34-year-old has been asked to keep an eye on potential England Lions batsmen, reporting back to the England and Wales Cricket Board’s lead batting coach Graham Thorpe.

However, the seamer-friendly start to the season has left him with little positive to pass on. He was at Aigburth to watch Luke Wells, Chris Nash and Joe Gatting but they all struggled in their limited opportunity to impress.

*****

Yorkshire are expected to make Adam Lyth available for a loan move in the near future, with Australian Phil Jaques’ arrival further swelling the competition for batting places at Headingley.

Lyth, 24, the fastest man to 1,000 first-class runs two seasons ago – and first Yorkshire player to achieve the honour – suffered a drastic dip in productivity in 2011, and is now behind England Lions batsman Joe Root and club vice-captain Joe Sayers for an opening slot.

Meanwhile, Australian left-armer Mitchell Starc is understood to be on the club’s radar as they reconsider an overseas signing. Yorkshire’s original plan was to sign Jaques as their overseas player and recruit Friedel de Wet as a Kolpak signing but the South African got cold feet.

Jaques has subsequently changed status courtesy of his British passport, leaving the question of availability as the only stumbling block to another Aussie arriving – Australia play a five-match NatWest Series here in midsummer and their A team follow for two ‘Tests’ in August.

*****

Two modern greats are expected in the Sky Sports commentary box later this summer with South African Shaun Pollock expected to join Australia’s Shane Warne for the three-Test series between England and the Proteas.

*Follow me on Twitter @richardgibson74

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Number thirteen just fine for unsuperstitious Phillips

When Mick Newell admitted that he’d “possibly under-used” Ben Phillips last season it was clear the former Somerset all-rounder was likely to figure in the Nottinghamshire director of cricket’s plans for the new campaign.

A successful pre-season tour of Barbados confirmed that a fully-fit Phillips was desperate to make an impact this time around.

“I’m enjoying it,” he says. “It’s nice to be fit at the start of the season, unlike last year. I’m pleased to be getting a game and am just trying my best to take the opportunity.”

Phillips’s shirt number, meanwhile, has aroused comment since he arrived at Trent Bridge a year ago. While some would think that he is tempting fate, the 37-year-old laughs at his reasons for wanting to wear number 13.

“I arrived at Somerset in 2007 and was given shirt number nine there but suffered a chest muscle injury, which eventually required surgery, and I ended up missing the whole season.

“So when I came back I chose to have number 13 instead. It’s all supposed to be a bit ironic – a bit tongue-in-cheek.”

Phillips moved to Nottinghamshire after four years at Taunton, hoping to shake off the perception that he was becoming solely a limited-overs player.

An ankle injury prevented him from travelling out to Abu Dhabi for the champion county game at the start of last season and he struggled to break into the four-day side after then, playing just once against Yorkshire.

Although he failed to pick up a wicket in that fixture, he proved his worth with the bat by blasting an unbeaten 71.

Wickets have come steadily this season, though, a couple against Loughborough MCCU in the first-class warm-up fixture and five in each of the opening two County Championship matches, at a cost of just 15 runs apiece.

His best figures of 4 for 33 came on the second day of the recent win over Durham. Appropriately enough, for the un-superstitious Phillips, the date was Friday 13th.

In three successive overs, within the space of thirteen (yes, thirteen) deliveries, he removed Ben Stokes, Ian Blackwell and Phil Mustard to completely turn the momentum towards his side. “One day I’ll get wickets and on another it will be somebody else’s turn – we’re just enjoying each other’s success at the moment,” he added.

“Obviously I’m very pleased with how it’s going so far. We’ve started really well as a unit and bowling at the other end to Andre Adams has been really helpful to me. As a four or five-man attack we’ve got pretty simple plans really – putting balls in good areas time and time again – and it is paying dividends.”

With two straight victories, Notts are already the pace-setters at the top of the Division One table, a lead that will next be challenged by the visit of Phillips’s previous county Somerset on April 19-22.

“It’s always nice to play against your old team and I’m very much looking forward to doing well against them. We’ve won two from two now so we go into the game full of confidence,” said Phillips.

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Hoggard to see specialist about hand injury

Leicestershire captain Matthew Hoggard is to see a specialist to establish the seriousness of a hand injury he sustained in training last week.

The former England swing bowler damaged his left hand attempting to catch a rugby ball but Leicestershire are uncertain whether it will rule him out of this week’s second division County Championship match at Derby.

“Matthew is to see a specialist,” said head coach Phil Whitticase. “He will assess the damage and we will take things from there.”

Last year Hoggard spent almost two months out of action with a broken wrist sustained hitting a punch ball though he returned to action in time to captain Leicestershire to the Friends Life t20 title.

Leicestershire are already missing England Lions seamer Nathan Buck and opening batsman Will Jefferson because of back injuries.

Jefferson has had injections in an attempt to cure a disc problem but he will not be fit to face Derbyshire this week. Jefferson and Buck were both forced to return home early from Leicestershire’s pre-season tour to Barbados.

Meanwhile Buck has ended speculation about his immediate future by signing a 12-month contract extension along with batsman Greg Smith, another product of the county’s successful youth system.

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Bell eager to put winter behind him with county return

England batsman Ian Bell can’t wait to make his first appearance of the season for Warwickshire in their LV= County Championship match against Lancashire at Liverpool this week.

Bell returned from England’s tour of Sri Lanka only last week but he has spent the weekend at Edgbaston netting ahead of the first of five games for Warwickshire – two in the Clydesdale Bank 40 – ahead of the first Test of the summer against the West Indies at Lord’s next month.

“We had a long time off after last summer. My tour against Pakistan wasn’t particularly long because I wasn’t in the one day squad,” Bell said.

“Then it was quite a short trip to Sri Lanka. I don’t feel tired so I want to get out there and play. I wanted to play the game at Liverpool. I knew I was going to start netting anyway. I would rather get an opportunity to play rather than net. There is only so much that you can do in a net.

“I didn’t have to play the two one-day games but I want to play one-day cricket as well so three Championship and two one-dayers is perfect going into the first Test.”

Bell’s return to county action will leave Warwickshire with a difficult selection decision to make, however, as all their senior batsmen are fit and available for the trip to Aigburth.

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Patel’s popularity continues to grow at Edgbaston

Jeetan Patel’s popularity at Warwickshire continues to grow. The New Zealand off-spinner was re-signed for his third stint as overseas player after a successful spell in the middle of last season and re-introduced himself by clubbing an unbeaten 43 to set up a thrilling two-wicket win over Somerset at Edgbaston.

Patel may not have contributed with the ball as he would have liked but his batting ability, which first became evident when he made a maiden first-class century against Yorkshire on county debut three years ago, ensured he played a big part in Warwickshire’s win.

“You have got to contribute in all three facets of the game now, as the game has changed so much. You have got to be able to bat, bowl and field,” Patel said.

“I didn’t get many wickets, I didn’t take any catches but I always want to contribute to any game I am playing in and I’m glad to be doing it for the Bears. I love being with Warwickshire. It’s a great fun club, the guys are great and the set-up is fantastic.

“That’s not taking anything away from being at home, I love being at home. But being here is another lease of life and I really enjoy trying to spin people out and chipping in with the bat as well.”

Patel hopes to contribute more with the ball against defending champions Lancashire at Liverpool this week having struggled to adjust to bowling with a Dukes ball again.

“I probably struggled a little bit and got caught up in a lot of the rough. It was a bit short as I tried to land it in there,” Patel said.

“I’ve just come from bowling with a Kookaburra and I’m getting used to the Dukes ball. That’s something that I’m going to have to get through.

“We have a couple more nets before we go to Liverpool so hopefully it comes out well again. It’s just a matter of time. I think I’m bowling well but I’ve just got to land the ball in the right areas for longer periods.

“People say spinners shouldn’t be dominating in April but you can see Monty Panesar is spinning it and spinners all around the country are so I have to contribute. If it’s two wickets in the first innings and four in the second I have got to find a way to win games with the ball.”

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