Saturday, 27 September 2008

Player Performance

With the season done it is time to assess how the individual members of the Warwickshire squad have performed in the championship and to hand out some purely nominal "Raggy Bear Player of the Season Awards".

Best Batting: Tony Frost
Statistically Jonathan Trott is the best batsman this season with 1240 runs @62.00, he has started to get back to his best after a torrid season last year. However my award goes to Tony Frost for his 1003 runs @83.58.

There are two reasons for this; one is due to expectations. Frost was recalled to the team from retirement and not many people expected him to make such a significant contribution. That he has outperformed batsmen such as Ambrose, Maddy, Westwood, Troughton and Powell among others, despite being out of the first class for a year and keeping wicket for a number of matches says it all.

The second reason is for when he made telling contributions. For me one of the most important knocks of the season was the 46 not out he made in the first match of the season against Worcestershire to save the game. This helped turn around the mood of gloom at Edgbaston and prove to the supporters, and likely the team themselves, that they had a spine. His career best 242* against Essex in the penultimate match of the season was a stunning innings and helped to set up the win that propelled Warwickshire to promotion and the title.

Best Bowling: Chris Woakes
At 19 years of age and with 42 wickets @20.57 there could not really be any other choise. He has made giant strides forward in every aspect of his game and is now a seriously exciting prospect. It is possible, had he not been called away for England U-19 duty that he could have topped the division averages. He ended the season on the perfect note by taking his first ten wicket haul (as well as a career best innings analysis of 6/68) in the win over Glamorgan.

Other notable performances:
Ian Salisbury - has been a revelation with his leg spin and solid lower order batting.
Neil Carter - has rediscovered some of his old zip and was only just pipped by Woakes as leading wicket taker


The sun sets

Warwickshire ended the season today with a win against Glamorgan to end on a high. It also ensured that they would not finish the season with the inglorious statistic of having won the league without once winning a match at home. It brought to an end an unhappy sequence of games stretching 12 matches and nearly 15 months (to 5th May 2007), the last time they won a home match.

So the primary aim of the season has been accomplished; promotion back to Division 1 of the championship at the first time of asking. So by this measure the season should be considered an unqualified success. Unfortunately this does not tell the whole story.

From a purely 'balance sheet' perspective Warwickshire have done well, however the cricket played at Edgbaston this season has largely not been of the entertaining variety. They have flickered brightly at times and have put in some great performances, but it has been very much a case of the ends justifying the means. The objective in virtually every championship match played this season has been to ensure against defeat. I imagine that for the armchair spectator this has been a more enjoyable season than for the Edgbaston regular.

I do not wish for a minute to come across as begrudging the team their success or seem unhappy that they have won the division and gained promotion. For their results they completely deserve to be champions.

No-one at Warwickshire can be held accountable for the damp summer, which has resulted in a lot of cricket being lost and has ruined a lot of matches across the country. However regarding entertainment and excitement it is telling that of matches this season at Edgbaston only 2 have entered the forth innings. The first of the season against Worcestershire, when a Warwickshire rearguard saved the match, and today's game when they bowled out Glamorgan to win. The other 6 matches were abandoned as draws at various points in the second and third innings of the match and none of them were remotely close to being results. As I said much of this is due to the weather, but it does not change the fact that this does not make for interesting cricket watching.

Ashley Giles, along with his coaching team, has done well so far in shaping the players at his disposal into a solid squad who are hard to beat. Their next challenge will be to ensure this group of players can compete in Division One.


Thursday, 25 September 2008


Warwickshire claimed the final 2 bonus points they needed in the morning session to take the Division Two title. Fittingly perhaps it was Chris Woakes who helped in no small part in claiming the last 2 bonus points needed.

After a solid partnership yesterday evening Tim Ambrose and Neil Carter could only add another 22 runs to their overnight score of 270/7 before they were both dismissed in quick succession. This left the last wicket pair of Woakes and Rankin 8 runs to make for a 3rd batting point, they in fact managed to take the score onto 315, before Woakes was dismissed.

Then taking the new ball along with Carter, with only 3 wickets needed for the title Woakes made it look easy. He first had Rees caught in the covers, bowled Maynard and finally got Powell caught in the slips. Glamorgan 26-3; Woakes 5-0-23-3, and the pennant heading to Edgbaston.

There was further drama before lunch as Rankin and Carter got in on the act, Carter ripping Watkin's offstump from the ground and sending it cartwheeling back, and Woakes picked up another to leave Glamorgan reeling at 43-6, 123 short of the follow-on target. However a determined partnership between Croft and Dalrymple steadied the ship and ensured Warwickshire would not have it all their own way. It was also cue for Maddy to start shuffling the pack like a croupier with attention defict disorder. It eventually worked and after a reprive for Croft on 11, he was eventually dimissed by Trott, to leave Glamorgan 16 short of the follow-on at 149-7.

Could we finally witness a win at Edgbaston this year?


Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Nearly over the line

Tim Ambrose and Neil Carter produced a fine rear guard partnership to gain Warwickshire the 2nd of the 4 bonus points needed to take the Division 2 title and at 270/7 are moving them on towards the 3rd, which will be gained for 300 runs. It is always dangerous to count your chickens before they are hatched, but with plenty of play left in the match (Friday and Saturday at least are set to be fair) it seems unlikely that even should they be dismissed cheaply tomorrow morning that Warwickshire cannot take 6 Glamorgan wickets.


4 Points

After an amazing final day victory at Essex clinched promotion back to Division 1 of the County Championship at the first attempt, Warwickshire go into their final match of the season today knowing that just four bonus points will give them the Division 2 title. That it will be at the expense of Worcestershire is an added spice.

I'm sure though that the team won't be thinking just about where they can get the 4 bonus points, instead they will hopefully be thinking about winning this final home match of the season and giving the Warwickshire faithful some much needed entertainment at home and win their first home match of the season. That this sentance can be written about the likely Division 2 champions speaks volumes for the scoring system in the county championship. The weather is currently overcast by not raining in Moseley, however the forecast is for heavy showers today and tomorrow. It is to be hoped that the rain doesn't totally ruin the entertainment in the last week of the season.


Monday, 8 September 2008

Even more unlikely

Warwickshire's outside hopes of promotion to Division 1 of the Pro40 competition could be over tonight after the game between Glamorgan and Derbyshire at Sofia Gardens. Should Glamorgan win the best the Bears can hope for is 4th place.

Already however it is looking pretty remote. Should Derby win (or the game end be abandoned) then Warwickshire will still need to win their remaining games against Yorkshire at Headingly (handomly) and Derbyshire. They must then hope that bottom team Northampton, (demonstrable the worst one-day outfit in the country), also beat Yorkshire. Then they MAY overhaul Yorkshire into 3rd place and the chance of a play-off against the 7th placed team in Division 1. However to do this they need to get around 100 runs more than their last two opponents to boost their NRR sufficiently.

However it may be the case that I haven't correctly applied the Hysenberg Uncertainty principle. I'm pretty sure that when calculating Net Run Rate you have to multiply the speed of light by the mass of Andy Moles BEFORE dividing by the Planck constant. Although it might be Avagadro constant, I never was great at astrophysics.

Certainly Giles looks as though he is accepting the inevitable with the squad for Yorkshire, with Clarke included along with Miller and MacLeod. Ant Botha also seems to be fit again following his hip injury.


Saturday, 6 September 2008

Highly Unlikely

I think it is highly unlikely that there will be any play in the Pro40 match between Warwickshire and Essex tomorrow. The general Moseley area was pretty saturated before today, but we have had some torrential rain today and I cannot see how the ground will be playable. I should however point out that you would be well advised to consult some more reliable sources before changing any travel plans.

The Environment Agency currently have a Flood Watch in place on the River Cole and River Rea (which runs past the back of the Hollies Stand). And as a flood modeller, who has recently worked on a model of Birmingham, I can reliably say that the ground itself is at a fairly high risk of fluvial flooding in an moderately extreme event (75 year flood). In which in the entire outfield and outer ground walk-way would be submerged. It is not immediately obvious at ground level, but the topography is such that the outfield is actually lower than the colt's ground as well as the Tally-Ho sports ground, most of Cannon Hill Park and Calthorpe Park, further downstream. Which increases the risk of flooding should the Rea burst its banks.

The indoor school however is several metres higher and would be OK. I would recommend the club invests in some portable temporary flood barriers to erect to keep any flood water off the outfield at the least. But then I am under qualified to offer this opinion as anything other than an educated layman.

Back to the cricket meanwhile and whilst I don't think there is any chance of the ground being flooded tomorrow, the Met Office are showing the forecast as light rain. I think it could well be that this puts pay to any lingering hopes the Bears had of getting promoted in the Pro40, as they needed to win all their remaining matches.


Back in Brum

My stint in Yorkshire has come to an end and now I am firmly ensconced in Moseley with round the clock internet access. This will not however result in any noticeable increase in output or quality, as I am essentially a feckless so and so. Although it does mean I get my post more regularly.


Wednesday, 3 September 2008

How to better appriciate the blog

I appreciate that sometimes it might appear that I almost vomit content onto this blog with no thought to presentation or common sense. However I can assure you that the truth is quite the opposite, although I don't have a home computer for most of the week and have a full time job I still reckon I do a fair job of keeping this thing going (well at least in the past few weeks - the periods of June and July we don't talk about, they have been scrubbed from the annual of the Raggybear). So it is with great annoyance that having spent a long time messing with the HTML/XML code that underpins the blog in order to make it look all nice and have three columns that I have found out that Internet Explorer users are actually seeing the middle column half-way down the page, under the posts.

I have tried several things and cannot seem to fix it. It defies logic and rational argument. Therefore I think it is just easier if you all upgrade to firefox. Its a lot better anyway and you can think of it in terms of your enjoyment of the Raggybear, as like gazing up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in person, as opposed to looking at it on a mobile phone camera.

Get Firefox. Enjoy the Raggybear in all its renaissance glory. Its that simple people.


Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Sometimes I don’t know my own strength

Graeme Hick has announced his retirement from cricket with effect from the end of the season. I can’t help but feel partially responsible after my tongue-in-cheek article last week about the aging county championship. Could it have been that Hick read it and thought now was the time to hang up his bat? Probably not on reflection.

The good doctor carried on playing into his 50’s, as I recall did Wilfred Rhodes and George Hirst, two great heroes of mine. James Southerton
didn’t make his test debut until the age of 49. So there are surely plenty of good years left in Hick’s 87 year old bones.

Knowing my luck he’ll start playing in the Warwickshire league and end up dispatching my speculative leg spin over cow corner next year as I hope to make my own debut at the ripe old age of 29.

Whatever he does now though, I wish him good luck I haven’t had much cause to cheer him over the years as a Warwickshire supporter, but I’ve certainly had many occasions to appreciate him.


Embarrassment of Riches?

Never let it be said that Warwickshire are not active behind the scenes. The latest in a long line of what can generously be described as ambitious transfer linkages is former England captain Michael Vaughan.

It is always difficult in these situations to be sure how much of this is pure rumour and how much of it has some modicum of fact in it. However what is inescapable is that Warwickshire have increasingly over the past year and a bit been linked with an increasing cast of stellar names, none of which currently play for them.

Unfortunately, whilst every fan likes to see their club linked with the best in the business there is a very real trap to fall into when those big names don’t materialise. Football clubs such as Newcastle, Villa and to a lesser extent Tottenham and Man City have historically self-promoted themselves as “massive clubs” and enjoy being linked with every Ronaldinio that comes along. However a regular failure to tempt these players has led to these clubs being viewed as a joke and the tag “big club” is used as a taunt by rival fans.

Warwickshire are inextricably moving in this direction. Just off the top of my head recent supposed international signings have included: Vaughan, Darren Gough, Stuart Broad, Mushtaq Ahmed, Rana Naved, Shuan Pollock, Shane Bond, Stephen Flemming, Niall O’Brien and Brian Lara. The fact that the last of them is retired seemed no barrier. This is not to mention the endless conveyor belt of county pros that pass us by like prizes on the Generation Game.

There is a growing frustration among fans that Warwickshire are linked with an array of supposed signings, very few of whom actually materialise. Of course they should pursue top quality signings wherever they can, but as with the aforementioned football clubs, the suspicion begins to take root that the club itself is perpetuating these rumours in order to attempt to please fans.

I can unfortunately only imagine the derision my Yorkshire wife will afford this latest link. I may have to lock myself away with a copy of “100 Greatest Warwickshire Players” to escape her scorn for The Bears machinations.


Luck of the Draw

Warwickshire begin their last derby match of the summer today against Worcestershire at New Road looking for the victory they need to push claims for a promotion spot.

Since the Twenty20 cup ended Warwickshire have largely been serving up uninspiring cricket, with a host of draws at home. It is one of the quirks of the county championship scoring that a high scoring draw is worth almost as much as a low scoring win. Indeed a team are much better placed to play the cautious game and get a high scoring draw every match, than they are playing fast and loose and winning 50% of their games.

However much the lack of entertainment value is bemoaned however, we must remember the events of last season and Warwickshire’s lack of spine and fight, particularly at Scarborough. The first thing to achieve in a rebuilding job is to lay solid foundations and make the team hard to beat. From there the team can then push on and start turning those draws into wins. There has been some grumblings about the pitches prepared this season at Edgbaston, which have led to not a single win for Warwickshire, however George Dobell in The Post rightly points out that this is on the instructions of Ashley Giles to help ensure the batsmen get time in the middle, and no doubt to play the county points scoring system to their advantage.

Given the relatively even playing field in Division 2 it is difficult to accurately say how many more points Warwickshire will need to get promoted. It could well be that 3 draws will be enough, however a win against Worcestershire this week would certainly go a long way towards improving both their chances and the good mood of the supporters.