County Championship 2014: 5 Talking Points from Round 2 of Fixtures
The second round of matches in the County Championship are at an end, with plenty to ponder after some intriguing results and individual performances.
As the season begins to gather pace, and with England’s international matches just over a month away, let’s take a look at some interesting developments from this round of domestic games.
Read on for five talking points from the second round of County Championship matches.
1. Sam Robson Makes His Case to Open for England
Middlesex opener Sam Robson is being talked about as a possible opening batsman for England and did himself no harm with more than 200 runs in two innings against Nottinghamshire.
His 163 in the first innings helped set his side up with a big lead and showed that he is infinitely capable of building a big score, even in helpful bowling conditions.
Then his unbeaten 41 in the second innings helped take Middlesex to a win by 10 wickets, demonstrating that he also has coolness under pressure and does not panic with victory in sight.
He has started this season on fire and may well be forcing his way into England’s team for their summer internationals.
2. Alastair Cook Scores His First Century Since November
Perhaps one of the only England players who is virtually guaranteed a place in the team is captain Alastair Cook, who made a welcome return to form for Essex against Derbyshire.
In his first knock, his 35 was by far his side’s top score as they were skittled for 94, a deeply disappointing effort having won the toss and chosen to bat.
It was encouraging for Cook, however, and in the second innings he filled his boots with 181 from 335 balls as Essex looked to set their opponents a big target.
It was his first ton since November, when he scored 153 against Australia A in Hobart, and Cook will surely be confident this can spur a similar run of success that he had in previous years.
3. Steven Finn Continues Strong Start
Could Steven Finn be working his way back to something approaching his best bowling, just in time for the international season?
It certainly seems that way as the Middlesex man took a total of nine wickets against Nottinghamshire at a decent economy rate.
His 5-91 in the first innings helped restrict Notts as they batted first, while his 4-82 second time around helped keep Middlesex’s target manageable.
Even more encouragingly, the majority of Finn’s wickets came from Nottinghamshire’s top order.
4. Differing Fortunes for England’s Middle-Order Batsmen
Other contenders for spots in England’s batting line-up had a mixed time of it in the last round of matches, with some scoring heavily but others not doing so well.
Ian Bell started poorly for Warwickshire against Sussex with a four-ball duck, then redeemed himself tremendously with an unbeaten 189 second time around.
County and England colleague Jonathan Trott made starts in both innings but will be disappointed not to capitalise further.
Gary Ballance has also been mentioned as a possible England regular, and he looked decent as he made 77 against Somerset in the first innings. However, he failed to reach double figures in his second knock and needs a big innings or two to be sure of a place.
James Taylor enjoyed a solid outing for Nottinghamshire, scoring 62 in the first innings and then 33 in the second, and he may well find himself in line for a recall to the international side.
Finally, despite his place seeming under some threat from others, opener Michael Carberry recovered from scoring just 27 first time out for Hampshire against Gloucestershire to score exactly 100 in his second innings.
In all, there are some encouraging signs for many of England’s potential batsmen, and they will be keen to continue improving and maintain form.
5. Tymal Mills Catches the Eye with Searing Pace
One bowler to have been spoken about as a possible England seamer is 21-year-old Tymal Mills of Essex, who has impressed in the past with his searing left-arm pace.
He managed to shake off some previous inconsistency to look extremely quick in Chelmsford against Derbyshire in a display that may well catch the attention of the England selectors.
His 3-49 in the second innings helped the hosts take a good win and included a number of deliveries that set pulses racing around Chelmsford with their sheer speed.
Could he be England’s answer to Mitchell Johnson? Only time will tell.