Don Topley: Great news for Ollie Stone, while an Essex legend hangs up his gloves!

James Foster, a good wicket keeper and a fine batsman, as can be seen here. He retires from Essex th

James Foster, a good wicket keeper and a fine batsman, as can be seen here. He retires from Essex this season Photo: PA - Credit: Archant

In this week’s column, Don Topley takes a look at new England man Ollie Stone, as well as paying tribute to the retiring James Foster

Olly Stone, England call up Photo: Northants CCC

Olly Stone, England call up Photo: Northants CCC - Credit: Northamptonshire CCC

The recent changeable weather has affected the final two rounds of County Championship matches before the professional season formally comes to a close tomorrow – well, we are in late September.

For the past two days, I have been commentating on Surrey – this season’s champions – hosting last season’s champions, Essex.

Essex would love to inflict a first championship defeat on an impressive Surrey team, who possess four England players included in the foray to Sri Lanka in the coming months.

Alastair Cook’s recent retirement means no Essex player has been selected in any of the full England squads and that must be a first for many a year. England have a tricky set of fixtures out in Sri Lanka, with five ODIs, one t20 and three Test Matches on slow, low, turning pitches: the hosts are pretty effective at home.

Action during the recent 100 Ball Trial match at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.

Action during the recent 100 Ball Trial match at Trent Bridge, Nottingham. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

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Jamie Porter has been in the Test Match squad for most of the summer but simply carried the drinks. Porter, probably was enthused by watching Jimmy Anderson, secure the highest aggregate fast bowler in English history

Porter is absent from all of the Sri Lanka-bound squads, as the National selectors have turned to Ollie Stone of Norfolk, Northamptonshire and now, Warwickshire, and I can understand why.

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He has decent pace, is genuinely aggressive which will be needed in the sub continent – horses for courses!

For Stone it is a sensational dream come true. I know this young man well.

Stone played for three years at our Minor Counties Cricket Festivals in Suffolk and I have watched him since the age of nine years old. He, like many young bowlers, has had major fitness issues: back, knees and side strains.

But he kept believing, even turning down an ‘England Lions’ gig last winter and spending a winter near Perth, Australia.

Many East Anglian amateur cricketers will know Stone , having played for Vauxhall Mallards Cricket Club for many years including playing this summer as a batsman.

Stone is the third East Anglian fast bowler to be selected for England following Suffolk boys Reece Topley and Tymal Mills – something the club cricket scene of East Anglia, should be proud of.

Director of Cricket at Stone’s Warwickshire, Ashley Giles, has been hugely influential, not overly playing or bowling Stone – really looking after him and his welfare.

The next couple of months for Stone should be highly emotional as he embarks on an international career – fingers crossed he plays.

At the other end of the spectrum and equally highly emotional is when one bows out of the game.

One legend of a wicketkeeper-allrounder, James Foster, retires after 18 wonderful seasons in the game.

He will be remembered as Essex’s finest ever keeper and someone who should have played more international cricket with England; he was the very best gloveman of his era.

Foster will join other retiring veterans James Tredwell, Jonathon Trott, Jimmy Adams, Sean Ervine and Paul Collingwood as loyal and splendid servants of their counties.

Foster, who also captained Essex before Ryan Ten Doeschate, suggests his greatest accolade was undoubtedly to win the County Championship last season.

It was a busy last week with the Division One County Championship being decided, Worcestershire confirmed at t20 Champions but also relegated, probably with Lancashire. Warwickshire - and Olly Stone - were promoted with an impressive Kent who have a better percentage win record than any other team throughout the Country.

The new ‘100Ball’ was also trialled at both Trent Bridge and Loughborough, with interesting reviews. Different rules were played on different days and naturally, those involved found many positives, but the scaremongers remain among the County Members and the traditionalists who just want four-day cricket and more often.

I am hearing that the RL 50 Over One Day Cup will commence the 2019 season in preparation for the ICC World Cup here in the UK, with more Championship cricket played in May, which will please those traditionalists and lovers of the longer format.

Remember our domestic game is not sustainable in its present guise, so while I was surprised by the format of the new competition I remain in total favour of a new eight team event which will assist in the longevity of all 18 counties, the various formats of the game and importantly, the four day game.

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