With the Bob Willis Trophy wrapped up, here’s Wisden’s selection of the best innings of the tournament.
6) Marchant de Lange 113 (78) v Northamptonshire
A frankly ridiculous knock. Glamorgan were 60-8, still trailing by 13, when their No.10 walked in, with three half-centuries to his name from 10 years in first-class cricket. A mere 78 balls later, ably assisted by the impressive Dan Douthwaite, the former Protea walked off with 113 runs to his name, including nine sixes, and Glamorgan had something to bowl at. Statistician Andrew Samson noted that no century had been scored by a player coming in with the eighth wicket in a first-class game having fallen for as few runs. Northants chased it down comfortably, but de Lange’s was the headline performance.
5) Jordan Cox 238* (345) v Sussex
A talent announcing itself. Unlike the other innings on this list, there was no great jeopardy, no match situation to elevate the performance. Sussex made a middling first-innings total, and the Kent teenager set to work, ending up with the highest score by any batsman in the Bob Willis Trophy this season. His surname is apposite, since he’s clearly not short of confidence.
Having gone to stumps 167 not out, he spent the third morning targeting the career-best scores of his more established Kent colleagues, and told Wisden.com he was barely sated with 238 not out: “Lucky for Sussex, if there wasn’t a restriction of 120 overs, I would have felt pretty sad for them because it would have been a very, very long day.” But then, on this evidence, why shouldn’t he have full faith in his own ability?
4) Fynn Hudson-Prentice 91* (169) v Nottinghamshire
There were a few contenders from Derbyshire’s win over Nottinghamshire. Billy Godelman hit 86 to set up the chase, while Leus du Plooy’s first-innings 130, out of 239 and with only two other double-figure contributions, was itself a minor classic. But the hero of the hour was a 24-year-old all-rounder with just 11 first-class games to his name. Derbyshire were 192-5 when he came in, their target still a distant 173 runs away, and he dug in. His first 50 runs occupied 120 balls.
Then, as the target came into view and the overs left receded, he had a dart, holding his nerve even as Mattie McKiernan fell for 20. 41 runs came off Hudson-Prentice’s last 49 balls, and a so-near-yet-so-far campaign had been set in motion.
3) Zak Crawley 105 (100) v Hampshire
So easy did Zak Crawley’s innings look, it might be easy to assume the conditions weren’t too tough. But with no team having passed 200 in the game, and Kent needing the second-highest total of the match to win in the fourth innings, victory seemed a distant prospect.
England’s No.3, coming off his coming of age in the third Pakistan Test and a duck in the first innings, simply strummed his way to a century at better than a run a ball. It was the knock of a player too good for county cricket.
2) Alastair Cook 172 (289) v Somerset
He’s still very much got it. Sir Alastair came to the fore when Essex needed it most, in the showpiece Lord’s final. With Somerset having put up a strong total of 301, England’s most prolific Test run-scorer went to work with one of his most graceful innings, the cover drives usually kept in the cupboard dusted off and shown off to the ire of Somerset.
His century proved key in Essex overtaking Somerset’s first-innings score, ultimately deciding the direction of where the trophy would be headed.
1) Tom Lammonby 107* (222) v Worcestershire
In time, people might look back at the Bob Willis Trophy finalists and think, ‘Well, of course it would be those two’. Somerset and Essex have been the country’s stand-out domestic sides across all formats, but especially in first-class cricket, in recent years, and while Essex were at least involved in a couple of thrillers, Somerset steamrolled all before them. No one made more than 200 against the Cidermen in the group stages, and their only draw came when just 200 overs were possible in the game, and they still had Warwickshire eight down at the close.
But they were dangerously close to coming unstuck in their winner-takes-all clash against Worcestershire. They were 134-6 before scrambling up to 251 and a couple of potentially crucial bonus points, but it still looked like they might concede a lead when Worcestershire surged to 123-1 in reply.
The seamers dovetailed as they have done all season to keep the Pears to 200, but Joe Leach’s side still had a chance. Were it not for Lammonby, they would have qualified for a Lord’s final. The next highest score for Somerset came from No.9, a mere 21 from Josh Davey, and the rest of the top seven managed just 37 runs between them.
It was an innings paced with the experience of a seasoned pro. He was 21 off 103 not long after Somerset’s fourth wicket fell, and decided a bit of pressure needed transferring. A pair of boundaries off the brisk Dillon Pennington, and a four and six off consecutive Brett D’Oliveira balls, and he was nearing 50. Then two quick wickets fell and he bedded in again, before opening his shoulders once Davey came in. His century came up off 205 balls, and he finished having become the youngest Somerset batsman to carry his bat through a first-class innings.
Victory, and a place in the final, was secured by 60 runs. Lammonby then confirmed his talent with a century against Essex, a knock that just missed the cut here. But it was against Worcestershire that it became clear that a gem had been uncovered.