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No sympathy now that batsmen face a struggle

PUBLISHED: 10:46 11 July 2012

There is no doubt 2012 has been a more difficult season for batsmen than for many years - but they won't be getting any sympathy from me.

This year, totals in Norfolk club cricket are quite clearly significantly lower than in the last couple of seasons, but it just means batsmen have to roll their sleeves up and work harder for their runs. Some are capable of doing that, some are not.

We’ve had to bowl on “roads” often enough in recent years so now it’s the batsmen’s turn to toil a bit.

So it was no surprise when Burwell hit a new low in the East Anglian Premier League when they were bowled out for 34 by Horsford at Manor Park on Saturday, Luke Caswell taking six wickets and Michael Warnes four with the spinners, for once, getting barely a look-in.

It is true that the moist, warm weather has been perfect for swing bowlers like Caswell, but just because conditions favour the bowlers, it doesn’t mean you can’t make runs – you just have to knuckle down.

There was a time some years ago when if it wasn’t raining, we played, no matter how wet the playing area. But with properly appointed umpires we don’t seem to play in the sort of conditions these days that make batting tough – it certainly didn’t do enough at Acle on Saturday to explain why six of our side were clean bowled against Ashmanhaugh & Barton Wanderers in our Norfolk Alliance game.

Burwell’s struggles take me back to some of the most dramatic collapses I’ve been involved in. In the first-class game, I can recall playing in a County Championship match at Derby on Royal Wedding day in 1981, when Gloucestershire were ticking over quite nicely at 64 for no wicket with Andy Stovold and Chris Broad opening the innings, then crashed to 91 all out – 10 wickets falling for 27 runs, of which Colin Tunnicliffe took five and I took four.

Some of you will also recall Suffolk being 14 for seven on the first morning of the Minor Counties game against Norfolk at Lakenham in 1999, but somehow getting a draw against us.

For the batsmen, this kind of procession can be a nerve-shredding time and I’m sure lots of cricketers have that recurring dream – you’re sitting there, rushing to get your pads on but unable to find them and discovering you’ve taken 10 minutes to get out there instead of the stipulated two.

I don’t like to be rushed and with the way things have been at Acle this season I’ve taken no chances, getting my pads on one wicket earlier than I normally do, because we have regularly lost too many wickets in the first 20 overs.

• LOCALISED RAIN CAN INFLUENCE LEAGUE BATTLE

The club cricket season in Norfolk is building into one of the most intriguing for years, despite the wet weather that refuses to go away.

None of the Norfolk sides in the East Anglian Premier League have raced away from the rest. All of them are prone to putting in the odd below-par performance, with leaders Swardeston beaten on Saturday, and with Horsford’s 30-point haul against Burwell putting them within 14 points of the top, it’s all to play for.

Rain was very localised at the weekend but where it didn’t wash out games completely, it still had an impact on results, as in the case of Vauxhall Mallards, held to a draw by Cambridge Granta at Brundall after a delayed start to the game.

Great Witchingham secured their first league win and about the only sure thing is that bottom club Halstead, who they beat, are going to be involved in a long battle against relegation.

Rain had an effect on the top of the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division, too, and Fakenham will be frustrated to have been idle while Norwich stole a march on them at the top by beating Stow. But we’ve all been there – rain can be indiscriminate – and Norwich took advantage and top spot with 25 points.

At Acle, we lost by eight wickets at home to Ashmanhaugh & Barton Wanderers. We don’t feel we are one of the two worst teams in the division but the table does not lie and while the bowlers have been running in and delivering quite well, our batting has not been of Premier Division standard. We have to be tougher than this to climb out of trouble.

• PHENOMENAL CAREER RECORD MAKES MARK A TEST ENIGMA

It seems bizarre to think that a player who retires with well over 100 hundreds to his name should be described as an unfulfilled talent.

But former England batsman Mark Ramprakash’s decision to bring down the curtain on his career at the age of 42 prompted that kind of assessment from some writers and commentators.

His first-class average of 53 is excellent and 114 first-class centuries is a phenomenal achievement, but with a Test average of 27, and only two centuries in 52 matches, I’m sure deep down he would like to have had greater success at Test level.

There are similarities to Graeme Hick, with whom he made his Test debut in 1991, in that Ramprakash gave glimpses of his talent at the highest level – an average of 42 against Australia showed his true capabilities – but failed to do it consistently.

From his early days with Middlesex, he clearly had all the skills and technique to succeed. Technically he was such a strong player, and a brilliant fielder, and fitness was never an issue.

He was not universally popular as a youngster when he appeared to have a touch of arrogance, and he wasn’t a favourite of the cricket media, which didn’t do him any favours, but he matured as he got older.

There may be people who will try to change his mind over retirement and offer him a contract but I can’t see him relenting. When you’ve played for Middlesex and Surrey, where do you go?

Ramprakash comes across well in his media work and I believe he is a Level 4 coach so there should be no shortage of offers. I am sure he will put his experience and knowledge to good use.

• WORLD-BEATERS GET LITTLE CREDIT

The England team’s continuing success story is not getting much of a splash in the national newspapers – certainly not the tabloids – with so much else going on in the sporting world this summer.

Go back a few years and we would have been ecstatic to have an England side holding the Ashes, ranked number one Test team in the world, reigning World Twenty20 champions and on a long run of consecutive one-day international victories.

But Andy Flower and his players are a bit unfortunate that their current supremacy in all forms of the game has been overshadowed this year by the competing attractions of Euro 2012, Andy Murray reaching the Wimbledon men’s singles final and the forthcoming Olympic Games.

In the past, a series thrashing of Australia, even in the limited-overs game, might have been given a higher profile but it depends which newspapers you read – some give cricket more appropriate coverage and informed discussion than others.

Murray, of course, made history at Wimbledon and the Olympics quite rightly will get massive coverage because having the Games in London is a huge event for this country. No one can dispute that.

The second Test against South Africa at Headingley, which falls during the Olympic fortnight, is likely to be rather lost in it all, except to the cricket lovers.

But the series, starting a week tomorrow at The Oval, should be a great contest.

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