Ouch. That hurt...
Even optimistic old Peakfan can see no way back from the position we find ourselves in at the end of day two, 348 behind, eight wickets in hand for our opponents, a favourable weather forecast and one of the country's top seamers due back tomorrow to help the Durham cause. To be brutally honest, he is unlikely to be needed on the basis of today's play. We will be chasing over 500 and there's more chance of my winning Miss World than our getting those runs...
It was swinging a bit today, but not enough for our batting to capitulate as it did. When your highest score is 18 and the opposition then rack up 208-2, you have problems. As an Essex fan points out below last night's post, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we over-achieved last season, that we went up too soon and that we should try and remember these positives in adversity. I always try to do that - hey, most of what we do are positives to Essex fans - but I also try to point out where I feel things could be improved from a fan's perspective. It is patently obvious that Karl Krikken has been hamstrung this summer with more injuries than we had last year, by players who look to be short of the very top standard and by chronic (in some cases) loss of form.
As sure as God made little apples we will be back in division two next year and for me the work to make our next campaign an improvement should be starting now. While I fully accept that there may be things that I and other fans are unaware of, most fans have a grasp of the game to some extent and there are two major questions on everyone's lips at the moment.
Why is it that we have three specialist opening batsmen in the club, yet none are in the first team? I fully accept that Billy Godleman had a lengthy run and was found wanting, but Ben Slater should have opened here, if only so we could see how good he is, or isn't. We've read in the last couple of seasons that players should score runs in the seconds and force their way into the side as a consequence. Slater has done that in spades, yet cannot get a game in his preferred position as opener at a time when there's little or no competition. It's odd, to say the least. Is he worth a full-time contract next summer? How do you know, if you don't give him at least the opportunity at a higher level than he will face next year?
Then we pick two wicket-keepers, telling Richard Johnson, who has done a competent job in the middle order, that he is now an opening bat. That's akin to telling Dan Redfern he's the new Curtley Ambrose. I'm sorry, but the move makes no sense, to me or most other supporters. We've not only lost his middle order contribution, but have gained nothing at the top. Johnson has a good technique, but he's not Sunil Gavaskar, nor does his career average suggest that to be the case.
I'm not and never have been a county cricketer, but I have played at a decent level and coached young players. I know I've said this before, but the occasion demands I do so again - opening the batting is a specialist role that only a handful of players are equipped technically and psychologically to do. Maybe Johnson will score 150 in the second innings, but I don't expect it. He is a good cricketer, but I will be surprised if he makes it as an opening batsman. It's a tough gig and while some don't want to do it, others simply can't, for various reasons.
What happens if he fails? Does he regain the gloves, as he was deemed first choice before this match, or does Tom Poynton get them, if not by default then perhaps not in the way that he would prefer? Poynton is a very good wicket-keeper, but like a few of his team mates has struggled for runs this summer. He is young enough and good enough to come again, but I don't think the move we made in this match has helped either lad especially.
Tony Palladino's injury didn't help the team selection, nor did Ally Evans Scotland duties. I can only assume that Mark Turner is injured, as Jon Clare didn't look fit in the T20s and doesn't seem to be at his peak here. Like a few others, I can't help but think that Burgoyne or Alex Hughes might have offered more in the middle order, even if it meant the skipper moving up to open or Durston doing so, as he's done in the one-dayers.
It's been a mess. I'm sorry to write that, as I have a lot of time for Karl Krikken as a coach and as a man. He is well-qualified, extremely affable, has been a magnificent servant to the club and will hopefully be with us for some considerable time to come. He has had issues with too many players regarding form and fitness this summer and his selectorial role has been like that of a juggler, trying to do so with one hand often tied behind his back.
In this game, however, the juggler's ball has been replaced, presumably through his choice, by a lit candle and we've made mistakes that, as a side, we can ill-afford in our current situation. We all make mistakes in life and the secret is in learning from them. I hope we learn from this one - and quickly.
At least that's my opinion. Over to you....