The County Week - September 6-12 September 12, 2006

Unstoppable Mushtaq and Croft's call

Cricinfo takes a look back at the week of county action and some of the performances that caught the eye

Cricinfo takes a look back at the week of county action and some of the performances that caught the eye



Charlie Shreck is congratulated by David Alleyne after his hat-trick at Lord's © Getty Images
Innings of the week - Samit Patel, 156 not out v Middlesex
It takes a rare innings to upstage Stephen Fleming when he makes 192, but while the New Zealand captain graced Lord's with an elegant ton it was Samit Patel who stole the focus with a destructive innings in the relegation battle. Patel has been far from a fixture in the side this season - this was just his sixth match (and fourth Championship outing) - but he now has 531 runs at 88.50 after tearing into the forlorn Middlesex attack. Fleming and Will Smith laid the groundwork and Patel rubbed huge amounts of salt into their wounds. His century - a first in the Championship - came off 117 balls; then the fun really started. He raced to 150 from his next 17 balls, taking three of his eight sixes off one Owais Shah over which cost 26. The bowlers were already broken men, but Patel ensured there was no chance of picking up the pieces.

Bowling of the week - Mushtaq Ahmed, 13 for 132 v Kent
Yes, it's him again. He has dominated this column throughout the season and he could yet appear here once more before the summer draws to a close in two weeks time. Whenever Sussex have needed a performance Mushtaq has been the man, even though his body is screaming out for a break. The race for the pennant is so tight with Lancashire that Sussex couldn't afford to slip up against Kent. However, it wasn't looking too good when Kent eased to 176 for 2 on the opening day. No fear, though, as Mushtaq turned on the style and claimed six wickets while Kent's last six went for 26 runs. He even managed to outdo himself second time around as his seven ensured Sussex needed to chase only 161. It was a good job, too, as they scraped home by two wickets. And guess who was at the crease to see them home - you couldn't keep Mushtaq out of the action.

Team of the week - Nottinghamshire
Last season's Championship success has felt a long way away for Nottinghamshire throughout the season and for much of the summer they have been flirting with relegation. However, their comprehensive victory over Middlesex has almost secured their top-flight status and, in turn, virtually condemned Middlesex to the drop. But while 2006 has been more of a struggle, the pleasing aspect of Nottinghamshire's fightback - and especially the Lord's performance - was the significant contributions from their young players. Charlie Shreck, one of the stand-out pacemen of the season, took a hat-trick while Patel and Will Smith slammed centuries. The indication of a strong team is how they bounce back from adversity; the signs for Nottinghamshire are promising.



Mushtaq Ahmed was, once again, Sussex's match-winner © Getty Images
When the going gets too tough
With the season drawing to a close it is the time of year when captains start to assess how their teams have gone over the past five months. Sadly for some the realisation dawns that the summer has not been an unqualified success and maybe it's time for someone new to have a go. Letting captaincy go is a tough decision but Robert Croft is the first late-season casualty, not even waiting until the last ball to call it a day. Glamorgan have had a tough summer but Croft has performed manfully with 63 wickets in the Championship. He still has two years left on his contract and remains the best home-grown offspinner in England and Wales.

A fight to the finish
Whatever the Pro40 was meant to be - Twenty20's big brother or the C&G's little sister - it's hard to say it has really captured the imagination. During the second half of a long summer it has often been the last thing a county needs after a hard-fought Championship match. A handful of counties - notably Essex - have slotted straight into the format, but for most it has been more hit and miss. However, the tournament is bubbling up into a tight finish. Essex are in control of the title race, but relegation and promotion is much closer. Lancashire are among four teams that could go down, while there are just two points separating the top five in division two. The top two go up automatically, for the third placed team there is a play-off with the seventh from division one.

England watch
Monty Panesar takes nine in the match against Glamorgan... The ECB indicate James Anderson and Liam Plunkett may be loaned out to other counties to get some cricket...Geraint Jones fails twice against Mushtaq with 1 and 4...Chris Tremlett takes 3 for 51 against Durham...Mal Loye hits 71 and 46 in the Pro40 days before the Champions Trophy squad is named

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo.