Look beyond the Ashes and you’ll find gripping cricket on your doorstep

Outside Edge: The diary of a cricket obsessive

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The Independent Online

I admit, it’s pretty hard right now to see beyond the excitement of the Ashes to the rest of the cricketing universe beyond. And who can deny that, on the basis of what we have witnessed so far, the rest of this series is going to be unmissable?

Nevertheless, in the wider firmament of leather and willow, there is a great deal more besides which deserves our attention. This week the first group games in the 50-over a side Royal London Cup have been played, with the bulk of matches coming in a two-week window which ends next weekend. Since it is the only domestic tournament which culminates in a Lord’s final, it retains significant kudos among players.

It also has appeal for fans who want a day of exciting cricket, but something more substantial than a T20 thrash. Perfect summer holiday entertainment, in fact.

For those pushing for Test places, there may be a smidgen of frustration that they are consigned to the limited-overs format. But, as Gary Ballance noted this week after being dropped by England, “runs are runs” and a series of big scores in cup matches can be eye-catching to selectors. There was a time when a match-winning performance in a showpiece Lord’s final was enough to secure a spot on a winter tour.

Alex Hales, who might fancy his chances of replacing Adam Lyth (pictured) at Trent Bridge, started with a superb century but has had two less impressive scores since. Paul Collingwood, who may not be in line for a recall, has kept younger players on their toes with runs and wickets. The point is, this competition matters.

County cricket has it tough and is not without flaws. The schedules are too packed and it is hard to believe that we won’t see an English Premier League at some point, with half a dozen or so “franchise” teams. Yet the LV= Championship and the Royal London Cup are the building blocks of a successful national team; they are also great competitions in their own right.

So if you can’t get a ticket to the Ashes, take a trip to your local county ground this week. You are likely to be well rewarded with the quality and excitement you’ll find.

Anderson injury scare  trumped by Harris loss

The loss of Jimmy Anderson for the fourth Test is a massive blow for England, though the revitalised appearance of Steven Finn at least gives some hope that the attack will be able to cope without its leader.

Mid-series injuries are always liable to cause something of a flutter and there are vague echoes of Glenn McGrath’s more freakish injury in 2005. Time will tell whether the impact on the Ashes is as significant this time round.

Arguably, though, this series had already had its defining injury moment, when Ryan Harris’s latest setback led to his retirement before a ball had even been bowled. Would the Aussies have been quite so poor at Cardiff with a fit Harris in the ranks? It hardly seems possible.

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