It’s a bit crazy that I can write a whole piece about cricket in September in England even if I’m cheating slightly by including the test match played in Southampton which actually started in August.  To say we were lucky with the weather is something of an understatement.

Sam Curran, Moeen Ali, Cheteshwar Pujara, England v India -30 August – 2 September 2018 – Ageas Bowl, Southampton

In standard collapse mode England were 86 for 6 when Sam Curran joined Moeen Ali at the crease. That was a familiar tale over this summer, looking back at the first three tests England had been at least 4 down before they’d reached 100 in all 7 innings – 

1st Test – 78 for 5, 87 for 7

2nd Test – 89 for 4,

3rd Test – 86 for 4, 62 for 4

Those facts give some context to Sam Curran’s innings and Moeen’s contribution with the bat too.  The pair put on a valuable 81 runs, Moeen was out for 40 from 85 balls.  Curran saw off Rashid and Broad, but he shepherded them in a similar way to the way Virat Kohli had with his tail enders at Edgbaston.  This was a really important innings in the scheme of this series.  Curran scored 78 from 136 balls and batted for just over 3 hours.  He played a part in putting on 160 runs, England won this match by 60, which again gives some context.

England were all out for 246.  India lost their 2 openers early, this wasn’t a series of those facing the new ball.  Cheteshwar Pujara came in at 3 and played a lovely innings, he’d had a torrid time in England over this summer, but he showed his patience and skill in this innings.  Batting for nearly 6 hours he made 132 and was key in helping his team take a small lead.

Moeen features for his bowling in this match as well as his batting, taking 5for 63 in the first innings and 4 for 71 in the second, not too bad for a man dropped earlier in the summer.

Rikki Clarke – Essex v Surrey – 4 September 2018 – CloudFM County Ground, Chelmsford 

Surrey were on their way to taking over the mantle of Division 1 Champions from Essex and were keen to win the Championship unbeaten.  There were several great innings in this match, Rory Burns scored 90 after batting for over 4 hours, Dean Elgar made 75 from the same 253 minutes.   Ravi Bopara made 81 in Essex’s second innings, But it’s Rikki Clarke’s 56 from 69 balls that stands out for me, Essex had toiled in the field and he came in and added insult to injury.  His innings included 8 Fours and 2 Sixes.  Clarke also took 4 Essex wickets in each innings, a great overall performance!   His celebration of one wicket is one of my favourite photos of the summer.  Surrey won by 10 wickets, needing only 2 runs to seal the victory in their second innings.

Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Ravi Jadeja, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Jimmy Anderson – Engaland v India – 7 September – The Oval, London

Alastair Cook had announced his retirement from international cricket after the Ageas Bowl test, fortunately everyone had read the script and his name features here by dint of his batting performances.  I’ve written at length about the match so back to stating facts rather than expanding.

Alastair Cook scored  71 in his first innings, the dream wasn’t be, Jos Buttler made 89  which would ordinarily see him listed, but this was a game that saw 4 centuries and a great all round performance from super fielder, Jadeja, included in the starting XI at last!

Cook got the dream of starting and finishing his international career with a century, batting for nearly 6.5 hours, giving opportunity for standing ovations galore, the biggest and longest of which came when he reached that century,  He finished with 147 having hit 14 Fours in his innings.  It was a delight to be there!  He broke records galore with his career tally of 12472 runs.

Joe Root was part of a partnership of 259 making 125 himself, to his delight debutant Hanuma Vihari took the wickets of Root and Cook in two balls, an over to remember, he also made 56 in India’s first innings.

England made 332 in their first innings, reaching the heady heights of 134 before their 4th wicket fell, India made 292, with Virat Kohli left needing only 7 runs to reach 600 in the series.  England then amassed 423 for 8 leaving India needing 463 to win.  Jadeja had taken 7 wickets across England’s 2 innings.

India found themselves on 2 for 3, that included a Golden Duck for Kohli, I for one was very disappointed, that 7 runs would’ve made him only the second player with Don Bradman to score 600 in 4 series.

Enter KL Rahul, another India player who hadn’t had a good test series, he batted for nearly 6 hours making 149 including 20 Fours and a Six, he was kept company once the 5th wicket had fallen by Pant, they put on 204 runs with Pant making 11, hitting 15 Fours and 4 Sixes, both were superb innings and had all in the crowd thinking India could get there, but they fell short by 118 runs.

Jimmy Anderson has to feature in this one as he took his 563’rd wicket making his own record and passing Glenn McGrath, he took that wicket in style knocking Shami’s stumps flying.   The joy of Anderson’s team mates was clear to see.

That was the end of the international summer but there were still 2 county games to watch.

Jamie Porter,  Murali Vijay,  Ravi Bopara – Essex v Worcestershire – 18 September 2018 – CloudFM County Ground, Chelmsford 

Worcestershire had given Essex a good game earlier in the season, but this was to be game for them to forget, a game that would confirm their return to Division 2.  Jamie Porter was irresistible, he took 7 for 41 in 10 overs in Worcestershire’s first innings , then 4 for 57 in 18 overs in their second, an outstanding bowling performance.  The visitors were out for 94 first up.

In response India’s dropped opener Murali Vijay scored 85 runs including 14 Fours and 1 Six, he was a delight to watch, pure elegance with a bat.  Ravi Bopara was not out 133, including 13 Fours and a Six, amongst the 474 Essex scored before declaring.  Joe Clarke scored 74 in Worcestershire’s 2nd innings, showing his style, but Essex won this one by an innings and 129 runs.

Jamie Porter, Sam Cook,  Murali Vijay, Tom Westley, Simon Harmer, Jason Roy, Ollie Pope, Matt Coles, Ryan ten Doeschate – Surrey v Essex – 24 September 2018 – The Oval, London

The final round of the County Championship started on 24th September, and again the sun shone, in fact suntan lotion was needed.  The number of names listed here show the nature of this fame, it was one of the best I attended in a long summer of cricket.  Surrey were already champions by this point, but wow they were blown away by the young Essex bowlers in their first innings.  4 for 26 for Jamie Porter, 4 for 27 for Sam Cook with Matt Quinn weighing in with 2.  Surrey were all out for 67!  Frustratingly I missed this debacle, but managed to see it on the TV, what a game to be televised finally! 

When wickets have fallen for cheap the wicket is always in doubt, but of course it can never be judged until both teams have batted.  It’s fair to say those lucky enough to be at The Oval were treated to a runs fest over both Essex’s first and Surrey’s second innings.  Hence the long list of names.  To start with Essex,  Murali Vijay scored 80, in his 5 innings for Essex he scored 323 runs at an average of 64.60, some signing at the end of the summer for Essex!  

Tom Westley batted for just under 6.5 hours scoring 134 including 21 Fours, he and Vijay put on 146 for the second wicket.  Adam Wheater was going well on 68 when he had to retire injured, that became something of a theme for Essex during the game.  Enter Simon Harmer who had at times had key innings for Essex, on this occasion he made 102 runs finishing not out. Essex declared on 477 for 8.

Surrey weren’t Champions for no reason and their second innings was a reflection of their status at the end of this summer.  The big runs came from an unlikely yet very interesting source, Mark Stoneman made 86 but he doesn’t get a mention as the next 2 in line scored centuries.  Jason Roy batting at 3 scored 128, he was at the crease for just over 3 hours and hit 19 Fours and 2 Sixes, in spite of the fact he was scoring against my team he was a joy to watch.  As was young Ollie Pope, he really is a talent with bat in hand, he scored 114 from 120 balls and also hit 19 Fours and a single Six.  7 of the top 8 scored at least 30 and Surrey finished on 541.  During that debacle Matt Coles, on as a full sub for Sam Cook who was concussed, took 5 for 123 in his 32 overs. 

Essex needed 132 to win this match and spoil Surrey’s unbeaten record.  It was a nail biting day of cricket as Morne Morkel made short work of 4 Essex wickets.  Matt Quinn must get an honorouble mention here as he joined his captain Ryan ten Doeschate when Essex were on 124 for 9.  He faced only 6 balls but heplayed a gutsy 21 minutes allowing ten Doeschate to score the runs needed to win the game, he made 53 from 62 balls leading his team home.  It was thrilling cricket! 

That rounds up an amazing summer of cricket, the final act was to see Surrey presented with their trophy, Essex are my team but I’ve been a member at The Oval for a few years, it was well deserved and a pleasure to witness the joy.

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