Stokes (nearly) stops play, Robinson runs riot, and hybrid hijinx

Henry Brookes bowls in front of a nearly-deserted Edgbaston as fans flocked to the concourse to watch Ben Stokes' heroics Getty Images

The loudest roar in Nottinghamshire's game at Trent Bridge on Sunday came as Joe Clarke knocked two off Jordan Thompson - there was nothing remarkable in the shot, but 70 miles up the M1, Ben Stokes was completing an outrageous heist at Headingley.

While reports of Stokes' antics causing Sunday's Blast games to stop are largely exaggerated, the stands emptied at the Ageas Bowl and Edgbaston as fans crowed around the big screens in the concourse, and in the Kia Super League game at Guildford, a cheer went up between balls, and Sarah Taylor and Nat Sciver punched the air to celebrate England's success.

It is remarkable that if Stokes had managed to hit Trent Boult's last-ball full toss in the World Cup final for two rather than one, a number of county cricketers would have missed both of the dramatic moments of the summer.

In addition to the Blast games yesterday, there was a full round of Championship matches starting on the same day as the World Cup final, and play was still going on as Stokes tied the game. There were exuberant scenes in dressing rooms across the country following the Super Over victory, but in an alternative timeline, the next best hundred or so players in England would have missed England's moment of triumph.


As the ECB gathers evidence on the hybrid pitches being tried out in the Blast this season, the most disturbing findings will be coming from Chester-le-Street where Durham have used the same pitch three times and suffered a couple of embarrassing collapses.

On both occasions, their openers D'Arcy Short and Scott Steel gave them a vigorous start against the new ball only for their innings to grind to a halt as the innings wore on.

Against Worcestershire, Durham were 79 for 1 off 11.4 overs, but failed to chase down Worcestershire's 117 for 7 by three runs. Little more than a week later, their target against Yorkshire was 147 and again the openers excelled, this time with 70 off 7, only for Durham's last seven wickets to fall for 16 in five overs against the unlikely Yorkshire spin duo of Jack Shutt and Adam Lyth.

All of which is a reminder that a five percent plastic weave in a surface might help hold it together for an extra match or so, but it is not about to work miracles. Hybrid pitches can't be blamed for bad shots or a lack of tactical acumen. And if the square is slow and low to start with then slow and low is doubtlessly what you'll get.

County traditionalists would be better hoping that conclusions about hybrid pitches are favourable. If not, it won't be too long before a marketing bod with an unhealthy regard for artificial pitches proposes that it is time for the ultimate solution.


Sussex retain strong hopes of a home quarter-final in the Blast even if their bowling attack is under a little strain with Tymal Mills out for the season and Jofra Archer only playing two matches thus far as his England career takes over.

One player Sussex will hope will makes an impact in their remaining games is Ollie Robinson who made good use of the random round of Championship matches in mid-August by taking 14 wickets against Middlesex - the best Sussex match aggregate for 55 years.

Jason Gillespie, Sussex's coach, says he cannot speak too highly of Robinson. "I think being away with the England Lions has made him realise that he's a little bit closer to international recognition than he thought he was - and seeing how that professional environment works helps," he said.

"He's as competitive a cricketer as I've seen. He researches the opposition. He spends hours poring over the footage, looking for ways to impact. He has also improved his general professionalism, the work-rate, in the gym, the recovery protocols. He's stepped up and now he's getting the rewards.

"I see a big tall bloke of 6' 5" who runs in and hits the ball hard, nibbles it both ways, can swing it both ways at a brisk pace. His height is a real weapon. He wouldn't be out of place at the next level."


Having put himself in the history books by becoming the first bowler in world cricket to take seven wickets in a T20 innings with his astonishing 7 for 18 against Birmingham Bears on August 7, Leicestershire's Colin Ackermann might have anticipated he'd be basking in the glory of it for some time. He had, after all, claimed a best-figures-in-an-innings record that had stood for eight years.

Imagine how he must have felt, then, last Friday night, when news came through that the India A offspinner Krishnappa Gowtham, who for the last two seasons has been part of the Rajasthan Royals team in the IPL, had taken an unbelievable 8 for 15.

South African offspinner Ackermann had, in his own words, "struggled to get my head round" being a being a world-record holder and now it seemed he wasn't one even before it had properly sunk in.

But if the Foxes captain was feeling a little bit miffed at being knocked off his perch after just 16 days, it turned out he need not have.

Gowtham's eight-for, playing for Bellary Tuskers against Shivamogga Lions, came in the Karnataka Premier League, which has eight franchises and big-money sponsorship deals and creates a substantial income stream for the Karnataka Cricket Association - yet is classed as a state competition.

Only national tournaments and international cricket count towards the official records, even though Karnataka, a region in the south-west of India, has a population of 61 million - more than Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka combined.

So Ackermann can continue to bask and Gowtham must content himself with a tournament record only.

Amazingly, it was not the only tournament record Gowtham set in that one match, having earlier smashed the fastest KPL hundred (39 balls), achieved the highest individual score (134 not out) and blasted the most sixes in a single innings (13). A decent night at the office.


Plenty of counties are sick of the sight of Tom Banton after seeing him pile on the runs against them this year, but it might just be that the worst is yet to come.

While domestic players will soon be spared playing against Banton as his inevitable rise to international honours continues, Tom's younger brother Jacques might well be on his own route to stardom by then: after piling on the runs for Worcestershire's academy sides this summer, he has broken into the second team, and hit 107 off 99 balls for Barnt Green in the Birmingham Premier League on Saturday, all at the ripe old age of 18.

It was a good day for Tom all things considered - his own club side, Taunton St Andrews, got a win, and his cameo against Glamorgan took Somerset to a much-needed victory.


Adam Zampa's last-ball run-out of Sam Northeast in Essex's game against Hampshire confirmed that this season's Blast will be a record-breaking one.

The competition has had more ties than your local Marks and Spencer's, currently sharing the honours with the 2011 FLt20 as the season with the most such results (4).

Those results, along with a vast number of no-results and abandonments, have combined to make both groups very bunched: going into the final week of games, Gloucestershire were second in the South Group having won five games, while Surrey were down in eighth with only one victory fewer.

Additional inputs: Jon Culley