County Champions Surrey begin their defence of their title with a home game against the side who denied them unbeaten season last year, Essex.
Essex will have fond memories of playing at the Oval after ending their county campaign last season with a dramatic win over Surrey. With bragging right on the line, a battling last wicket stand between Ryan ten Doeschate and Matt Quinn saw the Eagles over the line to seal a one-wicket success, and in doing so stopping the ‘Rey from ending the season unbeaten, a feat ten Doeschate’s men managed in 2017.
Surrey will surely begin the campaign as bookies favourites again with the ‘Rey’s star-studded line-up is sure to cause plenty of problems this season. Rory Burns, Scott Borthwick, Mark Stoneman, Ollie Pope and Ben Foakes have all enjoyed a stint in the England set up recently and provide a daunting top six. Whilst, Morne Morkel returns to lead the line for Rory Burns’ men, and he will be backed up by Tom Curran, new signing Liam Plunkett and Rikki Clarke in a formidable bowling attack.
Surrey enjoyed a productive pre-season and will be looking to get their defence off to a positive start. Michael Di Venuto’s men drew with the MCC – after dominating for large spells in the Middle East, and poor light saw them also draw with Durham MCCU, but their batsmen look in fine touch with Ollie Pope smashing 251 vs the MCC and Stoneman, Borthwick and Ryan Patel all hitting centuries in the final warm-up game.
Liam Plunkett could make his first-class debut for Surrey following his winter move from Yorkshire, whilst England hopefuls Burns, Foakes, and Pope are all likely to be in the starting XI for the hosts.
Essex, meanwhile, will be looking to bounce-back following a disappointing start at the Ageas Bowl. Anthony McGrath’s men were simply blown away by their South Coast Counterparts eventually succumbing to an innings defeat. There were few positive to take from the match in Southampton but the early season form of Ravi Bopara – who struck a second innings century will give the Eagles hope that it was a mere blip.
In Alastair Cook, they have a man who enjoys batting at the Oval, and he too will have fond memories of the batting in South London. The former England skipper struck one final international century in his final appearance in a Test uniform last Summer. Essex will need him to impress again if they are to right the wrongs of their opening fixture.
Injury to Adam Wheater (out for six weeks with a finger injury) and Michael Pepper (missing following an appendix operation) has seen the Eagles utilise the loan market, bringing young Rob White from Middlesex on a two-month long contract, he will deputise behind the stumps while Wheater and Pepper recover from their respected fitness problems.
Peter Siddle, who jetted into England after winning the Sheffield Shield in his native Australia with Victoria will be a welcome return for ten Doeschate’s men, who struggled for breakthroughs in Hampshire with the big Australian set to return to the side against Surrey.
Joe Root will look to continue his early season form as Yorkshire travel south to the Ageas Bowl to face Hampshire.
The England captain struck an unbeaten 130 to save the game for the Tykes at Trent Bridge in game week one of the 2019 campaign. Root, shared a mammoth unbroken stand with Gary Ballance as Yorkshire batted the entirety of the final day to secure a draw. The 28-year-old will get the opportunity to bat at another test venue as he continues his preparation ahead of a busy summer of cricket for England with the World Cup and then the Ashes.
Duanne Olivier will look to continue his decent start to his new career as a county pro, after giving up his South African test hopes to become a full-time Yorkshire player. He began life with a five-wicket bag to be the pick of the bowlers as Nottinghamshire racked up the runs in the first innings in Nottingham.
Of course, there is still a chance albeit unlikely for Adam Lyth and Gary Ballance to receive a call-up to the Ashes such is the wide-open vacancy in the top order for England, they will both hope that time in and around Root will help keep the duo firmly in the mind of the England selectors and captain.
Hampshire meanwhile are looking to make it four championship wins on the spin following their opening game week smashing of Essex.
Against Essex everything seemed to click in Adrian Birrell’s opening game as coach, after being inserted by the Eagles following an uncontested toss they racked up the runs and then simply blew their counterparts away with the ball with Kyle Abbott and Fidel Edwards’ particularly impressive taking a five-wicket haul each.
Sam Northeast struck an important and simply magnificent 169 to lead Hampshire to a massive 525-8 to take the game away from Anthony McGrath’s Essex. His early season form will be pleasing for Birrell with the former Kent man already well on his way to the 451 runs he amassed last summer.
Aiden Markram completes the South African trio, and he made a promising debut and will look to continue to impress ahead of the World Cup in England this summer. Edwards and Abbott will be given the task of removing Root and if their excellent bowling display against Essex is anything to go by it will be a great test for the England skipper.
Hampshire make one change from the victory over Essex with Lewis McManus replacing the injured Tom Alsop to deputise behind the stumps.
Somerset will hope to make it back-to-back Championship wins to kick off their season with a victory at Trent Bridge in the second round of action in the County Championship.
The Cidermen secured victory inside three-days after seeing the opening day wiped out due to rain against Kent at Taunton. The impressive Lewis Gregory starred in the opening round of fixtures securing a Michelle fivefer to help Somerset dismiss Kent to on the final day to secure a 74-run win in a low-scoring encounter.
James Hildreth will look to improve upon the 29 cumulative runs he scored at Taunton last week as he hopes to finally break into the England set-up after years of pundits clambering for the 34-year-old to receive a call-up. A steady run scorer in the County Championship, Hildreth has yet to break down the door and will hope that early season runs will be enough for an Ashes call-up at the twilight of his career. He will likely have a watching England Selectors eye on him at Trent Bridge particularly with Stuart Broad on display.
In the reverse fixture last season, Hildreth struck a century, so will have fond memories of playing at Trent Bridge as Somerset thrashed the Outlaws by an innings in the final game of the season. Craig Overton starred with the ball in that fixture, and he will be another name on the scouting sheet of the on watching England selectors.
It is Joe Clarke though who is the most likely to receive a big chance this summer in the England Test side as the newly signed number three has continued his fine form from last summer into this year. The 22-year struck a debut century in-front of the watching Joe Root last week and followed that up with an unbeaten 97 in the second innings only to be denied a second century in as many innings by a declaration.
Clarke has been around the England Lions set-up for some time and has age on his side with selectors more favourably selecting future talent over ageing talent. I am sure that Stuart Broad will be in the ears of Root even more in the dressing room should the youngster continue to pile on the runs this summer.
Speaking of Broad, this is another opportunity to find some bowling rhythm ahead of a busy summer. He bowled with hostility against Yorkshire but could only manage three first-innings wickets, and was largely frustrated by Root and Ballance in the second innings as batting became easier on the final day.
Nottinghamshire will want to go one further and secure victory after dominating for large spells of the Yorkshire game; it should be a good game this between two good sides.
The two promoted teams meet at Edgbaston as Kent and Warwickshire look to get their first wins of the new 2019 County Championship season.
Kent, of course, suffered defeat against Somerset on the opening week of the season at Taunton; meanwhile, Warwickshire kick start their season with what they will see as one of their ‘must win’ fixtures.
The Spitfires were let down by their batting after they dismissed Somerset for 171 in the first innings with Mitch Claydon particularly impressive on his first foray in Division One, he bagged 5-46. Young Harry Podmore also enjoyed a promising start taking 2-36. Matt Walker’s men even managed to secure a first-innings lead reaching 209 with Sean Dickson and Zak Crawley and Daniel Bell-Drummond all getting starts but failing to kick on.
That is something they will be hoping to rectify in this fixture; they must turn starts into big scores if they are going to compete in Division One. It is a big step up from Division Two attacks to Division One, and they must settle quickly; otherwise, they face a fight to survive this season. Much will rely on Heino Kuhn and Matthew Renshaw who both largely disappointed against Somerset.
They travel to Birmingham with the same squad hoping to collect their first Championship top-flight win since 2010. Warwickshire won the last fixture last time these two met on what was described as the Division Two title decider in 2018.
Ahead of their season opener, Warwickshire will have been buoyed by the news of a new contract for Jeetan Patel – who has become an ever-present overseas professional for the Bears. The Kiwi spinner has become a huge fan favourite at Edgbaston and will as ever play an important role as he will hope to lead his side to comfortable survival this summer.
Sam Hain, Liam Banks and Henry Brookes represent the Brummie community for hosts as they look to build a young side good enough to compete in the top flight. The Bears are very excited by Brookes who has been tipped for a future England call-up by our very own Charlie Jennings.
Warwickshire were the dominant side in Division Two last year and will be looking to carry on the momentum from last season. You do worry that they lack Division One experience though, with only Tim Ambrose, Jeetan Patel and Dom Sibley with any real experience in the top flight.
They will bring plenty of energy to proceedings though and will hope that they can get off to a positive start in a fixture they will see as winnable. Their form has been solid in pre-season with a 530-run win over Leeds Bradford Uni with runs for Adam Hose (200) and Will Rhodes (92) and wickets for Aaron Thomason (5-6) and Patel (3-12).
Thomason will perhaps feel a little aggrieved to miss out the squad after bagging those fixtures, but Oliver Hannon-Dalby is preferred to the youngster.
4/8/2019 0 Comments
By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
The County Championship Season is underway, and with the stars on display as players look to get some much needed practise in before the Ashes - there were plenty of talking points from the opening game week of 2019.
In Division One, Joe Root faced up against England team-mate Stuart Broad in arguably the biggest game of the opening set of fixtures. The England Test Captain struck an unbeaten 130 to help salvage a draw for the White Rose at Trent Bridge after making 73 in the first innings to find some welcome form ahead of a big summer for English Cricket.
Root would no doubt be impressed by Joe Clarke as he watched on from slip as the former Worcestershire man struck a century in the first innings and ended 97 not out in the second as the Outlaws looked to force a win by declaring overnight. Clarke, who has toured with the Lions has been a name on the radar for the selectors and making runs in front of the on watching England skipper will have done his chances of an Ashes call-up the world of good.
Broad, meanwhile struck three times in the first innings as Yorkshire found themselves 117-runs behind on first innings. Half-centuries from Ben Duckett (61), Chris Nash (75), Steven Mullaney (57) and Clarkes brilliant unbeaten 97 meant the visitors were set an unlikely 446 runs to win on the final day.
Jake Ball (2-73) struck twice early to leave the Tykes wobbling a little on 24-2 but Root and Gary Ballance steadied the ship despite some hostile bowling from Broad to share an unbroken 253-run third wicket partnership to guide the visitors to a hard-fought draw.
Root finished with an unbeaten 130, striking 18-fours in his 189-ball stay at the crease whilst Ballance struck 17-fours and a six during his 224-ball innings.
Elsewhere, Hampshire thumped Essex at the Ageas Bowl by an innings and 87-runs to get Adrian Birrell's coaching regime off to a dream start.
After an uncontested toss, Hampshire racked up the runs on a pitch that offered surprisingly little on the opening day with Jamie Porter and Sam Cook particularly struggling to offer a threat. James Vince, looking to get his season off to a bright start opened the innings for the Hawks hoping to make an impression at the top of the order to force his way back into the England reckoning.
He made a typically stylish 40 before falling to the final ball before lunch on the opening day trapped leg before falling across his stumps off the bowling of Ravi Bopara. Aiden Markram, a late overseas arrival struck a half-century on debut sharing a 75-run stand with the impressive Sam Northeast - who finally started to show the Hampshire faithful his true potential with a magnificent 169.
The former Kent man shared solid partnerships with Markram and Rilee Rossouw before becoming the fifth man to fall in the innings, smashing 23-fours and a six during 255-ball inning. The Eagles continued to toil away in the Southampton sun as Liam Dawson (64), Gareth Berg (33) and Keith Barker (31 not out) took the Hampshire total up to a mammoth 525-8.
Essex lost wicketkeeper Adam Wheater, who damaged his thumb standing up to Sam Cook's medium fast to injury for the match leaving the visitors with just nine wickets to play with in both innings. The former Hampshire gloveman is expected to be missing for six weeks after undergoing surgery during the match.
Buoyed by having runs on the board, Hampshire ripped through the depleted Essex batting line-up to dismiss the Eagles for a disappointing 164 with Alastair Cook (50) top scoring for the visitors. Fidel Edwards, 5-51, was the pick of the bowlers for the hosts.
Predictably with a lead of 361 on first innings Hampshire asked Essex to have another go at reaching their first innings total. Browne (7), Cook (8) and Lawrence (6) all fell cheaply to give Hampshire a dream start in their pursuit of victory. Tom Westley and Bopara briefly offer respite for Anthony McGrath's men sharing a 67-run stand for the fourth wicket before Edwards enticed Westley to feather an edge through to substitute keeper Lewis McManus to leave the Eagles in trouble on 94-4.
No further wickets fell on the third day, but Essex knew the writing was probably already on the wall, particularly knowing they were a batter light, they were praying for a miracle, that or a deluge of rain overnight and throughout the morning.
The rain didn't come, and it was down to Bopara and skipper Ryan ten Doeschate to attempt to get the visitors out of the woods. The pair added 26-runs to the overnight total of 132-4 before ten Doeschate became Edward's second victim of the innings, edging to McManus behind the wicket.
Bopara was turning into the key man, having survived the carnage of the first innings finishing on an unbeaten 37. He was seemingly playing on a different pitch to the rest of his teammates, seldom looking in any trouble as he began to build a partnership with the last recognised batsmen, and even Simon Harmer himself would admit to being a bowling all-rounder at best.
But alongside Bopara, the South African showed great resolve and battle to frustrate the hosts as the pair shared 111 for the sixth wicket, with Bopara reaching his well-deserved century during that century stand.
When Bopara fell though to Kyle Abbott for 107, the Essex hopes of stealing a draw dissipated. Harmer, who reached 62 fell two runs later to Edwards, and the Essex tail soon folded like a pack of cards struggling to resist Edwards and Abbott's new ball prowess.
Abbott bowled Sam Cook for 3 to collect his five-wicket haul and finish Essex off once and for all to seal an emphatic opening game victory with plenty of time to spare.
The final game in the top flight saw Somerset defeat newly promoted Kent by 74-runs.
After the first day's play was washed out, Somerset batted on the second day following the uncontested toss. The hosts could only manage 171 with Tom Abell (49) top scoring for the West Countrymen; Mitch Claydon bagged figures of 5-46 to impress on his first venture into Division One cricket.
Sean Dickson (43), Zak Crawley (37) and Daniel Bell-Drummond (33) helped Kent to a first innings lead and a batting point reaching 209 all out. Lewis Gregory finishing with figures of 3-26 to be the pick of the bowling for the hosts.
In this low-scoring affair, Somerset were hoping to set the Spitfires a challenging final day score to chase, and thanks to young George Bartlett's 63, they set Kent a tricky looking 205 for victory.
Unfortunately for Kent, their chase got off to the worst possible start losing Dickson to the first ball of the innings, caught by Craig Overton off the bowling of the ever-impressive Lewis Gregory. Worry not, thought the Kent faithful overseas star Matthew Renshaw, formerly of the Taunton Parish, will come to the rescue.
Renshaw, fell for a 6-ball duck to shoot fear through the Kent dressing room as Somerset new boy Jack Brooks removed the Aussie. Bell-Drummond, Kuhn and Crawley all soon followed to leave the visitors staring down the barrel on 41-5. Alex Blake and Darren Stevens threaten to take the game deep, with the veteran Stevens hitting an unbeaten 43.
Once Blake fell though for 20, with the score on 82-7, Somerset hurried to victory with Gregory bagging his fifth wicket when removing Matthew Milnes. Josh Davey finished things off for the hosts when he had Claydon removed caught by Hildreth to get Somerset off to a winning start.
4/7/2019 0 Comments
By Jamie Ramage (@famousstrauss)
Joe Root struck an unbeaten half-century as Yorkshire battled their way back into an unusually high scoring early season game at Trent Bridge. In front of a decent crowd in Nottingham, with the main attraction undoubtedly the highly anticipated battle between Root and Stuart Broad.
Eye were also on Duane Olivier who has given us his South African Test status in the hope of qualifying for England in the future after signing a Kolpak deal with the White Rose. Olivier impressed on his first start with the Tykes collecting figures of 5-96 as Nottinghamshire finished were dismissed for 408.
Nottinghamshire went into day two in a healthy position on 324 for 5. This was thanks in part to a first day hundred from Joe Clarke who started the day on 109 not out for his new county.
He would only add three more runs to that total as James Taylor one of the England selectors watched on. Clarke prodded at a ball from Olivier that not only kept low but also swung back in to bowl the former Worcestershire man who was caught in no man's land.
It was Olivier and Steve Pattinson who between them took the final five Notts wickets just before lunch. It was a decent fight back from Yorkshire as Nottinghamshire should have scored more than their 408 all out.
Yorkshire’s openers started well, and the top order looked on course to gain parity with their hosts. Harry Brook who has potential by the bag-full was well set before Stuart Broad got one to keep a little low and the young gun had to depart for 30 off 29 balls.
Gary Ballance (7) went cheaply, well bowled by Luke Fletcher. Joe Root joined Adam Lyth and the two started to pick up the pace for Yorkshire.
Lyth’s 50 may have come from 87 balls, but it included ten fours as he waited for the inevitable half volley. Root was his usual bundle of energy at the other end and was on 26 from 26 balls when he was dropped by second slip.
It was one of two chances that Root gave, but the hosts failed to take either of them. Root started to become more becalmed as Broad and co bowled a challenging line and length, and it took the England Captain 99 balls to reach his fifty in the end.
Yorkshire lost wickets towards the end and none more frustratingly than that of Jack Leaning who was bowled by Fletcher without offering a shot.
Yorkshire finished day two on 206 for 5 when at one stage it looked as if they were going to keep pace with Notts. It will take a good morning session and Root to bat for most of the day for Yorkshire to feel they are back in this game.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Round 10 of the County Championship started with a bit of a dull squelch, but continued with a bang, as three of the four games had delayed starts due to the rain, but then made up for lost time. Meanwhile, the Essex v Hampshire game at Chelmsford the only non-starter as heavy rain left the bowlers’ run-ups soaked meaning the umpires abandoned play in mid-afternoon. Once again, all eight Division 1 sides had fixtures, with perhaps the stand-out games the one between the bottom two.
Lancashire v Worcestershire
The equation here is simple for both sides: lose and plan for a season in Division 2 next year. With Worcestershire definitely on a rising curve, their situation is less desperate, but having got off the bottom of the table, they can ill-afford to lose to the only side below them in the table. Lancashire, with just three games after this one, all of them away from home, know that a defeat will, quite possibly, be definitive. Both sides made positive noises before the game, but you knew that a draw would not be suitable for either and defeat would be very bad news. While Lancashire played what they hope will be their trump card in the run-in – new signing, Keshav Maharaj – the news that Moeen Ali returns to the England side has robbed the visitors of their talisman. A crowd of 1800 were at Southport to witness the last home game of the season.
This was a day when holding the advantage was rather like an angler struggling to get a slippery fish into his net: every time that you thought that you had the fish under control to biff it on the head, somehow it wriggled away. Worcestershire lost wickets regularly, with Tom Bailey’s 4-41 the star turn for the Red Rose, but 61 from Brett D’Oliviera, supported by thirties from Fell and Clarke, allowed the hosts to reach 222, with 24* from Ed Barnard to marshal the tail, ensuring that his captain’s efforts were rewarded with a batting point. In reply, Lancashire were scarred by Josh Tongue, who reduced them to 4-2 with two wickets in his first over and then 27-3 as Wayne Parnell added Steven Croft. Alex Davies and Dane Vilas initiated a solid-looking recovery, before Davies crashed a drive into Tongue’s boot and on to the stumps, leaving Vilas stranded. Then, just two balls later, Tongue added his third (or fourth) wicket of the day as Davies was adjudged LBW, although the batsman retreated making a meaningful examination of his bat.
Lancashire 96-5 at the Close, 126 behind and this match looks unlikely to go into the last day.
Yorkshire v Somerset
Again, a simple equation for both sides: Somerset need to keep winning and hope that Surrey slip-up; Yorkshire need points increasingly urgently to stave-off the threat of relegation – whisper it softly up North, but there is a real possibility of both Yorkshire and Lancashire going down together at the end of the season.
Somerset have most definitely had the better of the day, which has featured three batsmen reaching 80, with none of them going on to 90. After Somerset crashed to 5-2, thanks to early wickets for Willey and Brooks, Azhar Ali and James Hildreth then put on a merry 137 together and were hammering the attack into submission before Hildreth fell for 81. As Somerset slipped to 229-5, it seemed that the White Rose was hauling itself back into the game. Azhar fell for 89, the top score of the day, but that only brought in Lewis Gregory, who gave the selectors another reminder of his talent with a brutal, 46-ball 65, with 9x4 and 3x6, while Steve Davies accumulated at the other end to the tune of 80. The Yorkshire attack was begging for mercy, seeing the new ball going at around 8-an-over, before Gregory and Davies both fell to Jack Brooks in the same over Brooks has promised the Headingley faithful that his priority in his last five games is helping Yorkshire to stay in Division 1 and seems determined to deliver on that promise. Josh Shaw added Craig Overton just before Stumps, but 374-8 was a pretty good day’s work for the visitors, who will be hoping to squeeze out a fifth batting point in the morning, while Yorkshire will be hoping that Jack Brook’s limp near the end of the day is just a little cramp and not an inhibiting injury.
Surrey v Nottinghamshire
A late start due to the rain means that this game is less advanced than the first two. When Surrey were reduced to 36-3 by Fletcher, Gurney and Wood, the locals must have feared the worst. However, salvation came from an unlikely source, as Mark Stoneman showed that his form is returning slowly. First with Ben Foakes and then with Will Jacks, the innings was stabilised and then made much healthier. Will Jacks must have taken the news that Ollie Pope was on his way from the Ageas Bowl with mixed feelings as Pope will replace him in the XI overnight: had he been on 99* at Stumps, this might have been an awkward situation; fortunately for Pope’s conscience, Milnes bowled Jacks for 48 and so Pope will, presumably, take the field tomorrow, but will not bat until the second innings. At 204-4, it may have looked as if Nottinghamshire were losing the initiative, but two wickets in the last hour have evened the day somewhat, with Surrey indebted to Mark Stoneman, who has fought his way through the day and was 99* at Stumps. At 256-6, Surrey’s priority will be to get to at least the third batting point and to avoid losing the early wickets that might just stop them reaching it. Surrey though are looking at the likelihood of bleeding-off another point or two to Somerset. Whilst, Nottinghamshire will be looking over their shoulder a little nervously wondering if the prospect of a healthy end of season prize-money return could turn into a late relegation scrape with a defeat or two at the back-end of the season.
Essex v Hampshire
With any of the bottom six in the division potentially threatened by relegation, both sides will be looking for points. This game though will be reduced to three days after the first day has been lost. The rain that swept across the country overnight did not clear Chelmsford until after the scheduled start and left the outfield so soaked that, despite multiple inspections, the run-ups were deemed to be unsafe. With better weather promised, this one should get underway tomorrow but will need to play catch-up.
Another full round of matches with all the top five looking at the enticing prospect of Division 1 cricket next season. With Middlesex and Sussex on a roll and Warwickshire winning in the last round, to get their season back on track, Kent and Leicestershire know that they need a win in this round. Here, the stand-out game was undoubtedly the Middlesex v Sussex clash that could help define the season for both teams.
Middlesex v Sussex
The clash between the Middle Saxons and the South Saxons is deliciously set-up by the table. Sussex have come from some way back to gate-crash what looked like a Warwickshire and Kent promotion party, while Middlesex have just produced two extraordinary wins against the odds and are trying desperately to reach the top two. Were Middlesex to win this one and other results to go their way, they would be right in promotion contention. While the day started depressingly badly for the hosts, it took an unexpected late turn and Middlesex will feel that they are, if not favourites, looking at a very surprising, potential, small first innings lead tomorrow.
With heavy cloud overhead, both sides wanted to bowl, so there was no question of a Toss and Sussex took full advantage of the conditions. To the surprise – probably more like, amazement – of patrons, Middlesex have dropped their specialist ‘keeper and given the gloves to Steve Eskinazi, as well as re-calling Ollie Rayner, with the aim of lengthening the batting without reducing the potency of the seam attack. It was easy to reach snap judgements as four of the top five fell in single figures, as the batsmen struggled in the morning session. Nowhere was this more epitomised than by Eoin Morgan’s crawl to 1* from 57 balls. From the relative riches of 99-4, Middlesex subsided to 169 all out, with Max Holden’s 50* holding the innings together: apart from Holden, only Nick Gubbins with 29 and James Fuller with 17 reached double figures. While Archer with 3-34 and Jordan, with 3-26, had the stand-out figures, all the four seamers took at least two wickets.
Middlesex needed a devastating response but, at 87-2, scoring at 5-an-over, Sussex seemed to be setting the basis for a really solid reply. Middlesex though are rarely dull and, in the last forty minutes of play, suddenly roared back into the match. Two wickets for James Fuller and two for James Harris have turned the scoreboard around. Ben Brown and Chris Jordan held on until Stumps but, from 120-6 overnight, will have a big rebuilding job to do in the morning. Middlesex, in contrast, can look forward to the possibility of a small first innings lead or, at worst, only conceding a small one in the morning.
Derbyshire v Kent
The message for Kent is clear: just three times this season they have reached 200 in the first innings, and they have accrued only six batting points – do better or resign yourselves to Division 2 cricket next season. Kent’s response has been to experiment with the batting order – Zak Crawley was moved up to open, and Daniel Bell-Drummond pushed down to the middle order – and the result has been that there is an excellent chance that, in this match, they will almost double their total of batting points for 2018.
When Sean Dickson fell in only the third over of the morning, it looked as if the new batting order was not going to work either. However, Crawley and Denly set about the bowlers with a will and the score mounted apace, as they added 170 at 4-an-over. With Crawley just four short of a maiden century, Tony Palladino beat him and won the LBW appeal. This brought in Heino Kuhn to support Joe Denly. Kuhn saw Denly to his century and then brought up his own fifty. With the partnership on 99, Paladino, who today fancied himself as the fun police, removed Kuhn with another successful LBW appeal after a period when both batsmen were becalmed, and Viljoen then added Denly for 106. Although Sam Billings and Harry Podmore also fell before the Close, Kent are 365-6, with Bell-Drummond 41*, being well-supported by Gavin Stewart (14*) and will be very disappointed if they do not reach the fifth batting point in the morning. Kent have built themselves a pretty good position to get their campaign back on track and will be watching events at Lord’s with great interest.
Glamorgan v Warwickshire
Bottom v top and everything seen so far on the first day indicates that Warwickshire will leave Sophia Gardens with another big haul of points and will make the Glamorgan crisis a little deeper. However, Warwickshire have not had everything their own way on the first day and will be looking to Ian Bell to push on to a decent score, having slumped to 43-2 in reply themselves.
At 38-3 – all three wickets catches to Tim Ambrose – Glamorgan must have been fearing the worst. Useful runs from Kiran Carlson and Chris Cooke helped stabilise the innings, though neither could pass the thirties. That Glamorgan reached the comparative riches of 203 and a batting point was all down to Craig Meschade, who shepherded the tail with 53*, while no one else in the Glamorgan bottom five could pass 5. Star turn with the ball for Warwickshire was Ollie Stone’s 4-28. In reply, Dom Sibley fell quickly to Meschade and, when Graeme Wagg added Will Rhodes, there was a chance the Warwickshire would fritter away the advantage. Bell and Trott added 63 before Ruaidhri Smith removed Trott but, at 106-3, Warwickshire still had some work to do. Bell and Chris Wright have taken the score to 116-3 at Stumps, but will look to their batsmen to bring in a decent haul of batting points tomorrow; in particular, they will hope that Ian Bell can move on from 43* to a match-defining score.
Gloucestershire v Leicestershire
Having suffered three depressing defeats in their last three Blast games, to bring the T20 to a disappointing conclusion and been utterly destroyed by Warwickshire in between times in the Championship, the hosts must have looked a tasty morsel for a Leicestershire side that is seeing its promotion bid start to flag badly. Gloucestershire pulled a surprise by playing Jack Taylor in the XI when he had not even been named in the 14-man squad – how much this is due to fan-pressure is uncertain, but the fans had been calling loudly for his recall to an inexperienced middle order that has been crying out for a senior batsman to shepherd it.
The Gloucestershire innings followed a familiar pattern for suffering Gloucestershire fans. Hammond and Dent started with a fifty partnership, scored at a crawl. Of those 50, just thirty-five were scored by the batsmen and Hammond’s share was a mere seven from 60 balls (shout out to Fred Boycott that Miles Hammond is a worthy candidate for the prestigious “Dig-In Trophy”), as the bowlers lent a significant hand in the quest for runs. Then, as has happened a few too many times for the liking of the fans, the fall of Chris Dent after getting a start, led to a house-of-cards collapse. 50-0 became 50-3 in 17 balls as Dent, Hammond and Howell fell in quick and bewildering succession to Gareth Griffiths (Dent) and Mohammad Abbas (Hammond and Howell). At this point, Gloucestershire fans usually pull out the tin hats and hide under the bed. Bobby Bracey and Gareth Roderick, though, batted through past Tea to the tune of a century partnership. At 150-3, the home supporters were emerging from under the bed, blinking with surprise. Even the fall of Gareth Roderick, to give Mohammad Abbas his third wicket, did not bring about an immediate capitulation as Bobby Bracey and Jack Taylor pushed on. With two balls until the new ball, it was 191-4, and home fans were wondering how many bonus points would be attained, not whether any would be. Alas, this is Gloucestershire, and we may expect the unexpected. The fall of Jack Taylor to Colin Ackermann for 21 to the penultimate delivery with the old ball propitiated the most horrific collapse. You feel for Sir Robert Hunt who has to commentate on these events. 191-4 became 202 all out in just 46 balls. James Bracey fell LBW to Mohammad Abbas for 76 as the innings imploded around him. Abbas finished with 5-30 and Ben Raine with 3-43.
In reply, Harry Dearden fell to the first ball of David Payne’s third over. Payne has had a miserable time with the ball recently but is a handy bowler, and one hopes that this does something for his morale. 11-1 in reply, Leicestershire will want to avoid losing early wickets in the morning.
Durham v Northamptonshire
Last and, probably, least, as it is the only game with nothing really to play for, for either side, was the game at the Riverside. Both teams now know that they will be playing their cricket in Division 2 next season. You only had to look at the grim face of Martin Emmerson as he gave his summary of the morning session at lunchtime to know that things had gone pretty badly for the hosts. Subsequent events have cheered him up slightly, but Durham are playing catch-up here.
No one reached thirty as Durham fell to 102-8 at Lunch. It was pretty grim stuff, with the top score Alex Lees with 25. After Lunch, Stuart Poyner added some useful runs with the tail, until Brett Hutton bowled him for 28, but 129 all out did not give much hope to the loyal home fans. The brutal truth was that 5-33 for Luke Procter simply dynamited Durham. Northamptonshire’s batting though has also been fragile for the last two seasons and, although every batsman who has come to the crease has reached double figures, they have closed in 189-6, held together by Alex Wakeley’s 60. The fall of Zaib to the last ball of the day has given Durham some hope that the damage can be limited if they can remove Adam Rossington – 40* overnight – early. However, in a low-scoring game, a lead of 100+ will almost certainly be decisive. If Northants avoid early losses, they know that they can bat Durham entirely out of this game.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid
Day Three of this round of Championship matches started with three games that appeared to be heading for comfortable wins – Worcestershire, Hampshire and Somerset had established very strong positions on Day 2 – and one game – Surrey v Lancashire – that was leaning towards the home side, but still very much in the balance. The chasing pack desperately wanted Lancashire to win to keep the Championship race open for another week at least.
What the fans got was an amazing Yorkshire implosion as Moeen swept all before him, while Nottinghamshire hung on desperately and Lancashire and Surrey continued to slug it out like the Claydons and the Earps at the OK Corral. And at Taunton, yet another instalment of “Tales of the Unexpected”, but if Brian Clemens, who produced that wonderful old TV series, had scripted this one, no one would have believed him.
Somerset v Essex
Through Day 2, Somerset established a formidable stranglehold on this game. Having folded themselves in the morning to finish on a disappointing 324ao, Somerset obtained a 133 run first innings lead, with both the seamers and the spinners taking wickets. That lead had been extended to 165 by Stumps, with nine wickets left. Anything over 250 lead looked like being enough to win, with the likelihood that Essex would be batting to save the game sometime in the evening. Essex would need to do something spectacular on Day 3 to pull this one out of the fire. Although before play, Ryan ten Doeschate insisted that Essex would be happy to chase anything under 300, that statement had to be taken cum grano salis… and a mighty big grain of salt at that. Still, seeing the way that the day developed, maybe he was right after all.
Nightwatchman, Dominic Bess, did not last very long, but kept the bowlers out for the first twenty minutes, until caught at slip by Simon Harmer off Sam Cook. Somerset were 33-2 and not exactly panic-stricken to lose that wicket. Even the good news seemed to be bad news for Essex, as Simon Harmer continued to pose problems: with the lead past 250 and only 4 wickets down, to see the opposition spinner doing well would not exactly cause Somerset to tremble with fear, given the fact that they had Leach and Bess lying in wait. With Somerset 127-5 at Lunch, now 260 ahead, Essex knew that they could not afford to concede many more after Lunch. Harmer then added Tom Abell, pouched at Leg Slip by Ravi Bopara, Somerset 143-6 and the lead 276. The score continued to mount and, although wickets continued to fall, with Tom Westley’s occasional off-spin claiming one too, Somerset had passed the Essex first innings score, ensuring that they would need the largest score of the match in the fourth innings to win. When Steve Davies fell to Jamie Porter for 29 to close the innings, Somerset had reached 202, and the Essex target was a towering 336.
Essex though started comfortably, scoring quickly. After just six overs of pace, Leach and Bess were on to attacking fields, but Essex went to Tea at 52-0, having taken a significant bite out of the chase. Jack Leach got the breakthrough after Tea, with Varun Chopra falling LBW for 24 – 58-1 – before Tom Westley had what may just be his best innings since losing his England place, accompanying Nick Browne, 75*, to the Close, on 43* and the score 147-1. Essex still need 189 and Somerset are not making it easy for them: Jack Leach has figures of 16-4-28-1, although Dominic Bess was not at his best at the other end. On a Taunton pitch that is helping the spinner, Essex are threatening to pull off a quite astonishing chase, against all the odds, on the last day.
Hampshire v Nottinghamshire
Hampshire have wrested control of this game on a surface that has not proved easy for the batsmen, thanks to a brilliant century for James Vince. Starting at 253-4, 364 to the good, there is likely to be a declaration sooner rather than later, with Nottinghamshire chasing a huge target or, more realistically, trying to bat around five sessions to save the match: something that should be beyond them.
Hampshire continued to accumulate for the first eighty minutes, taking the lead past 400. Finally, with Tom Alsop just five from his century, Luke Fletcher got the breakthrough by dismissing Rossouw LBW for 36 but, by then the lead was 430 and the only question was “when will the declaration come?” Alsop fell finally for 99, cutting Mark Footitt straight to Backward Point, but the lead was 438 and Hampshire were out of sight, if not out of mind for the suffering Nottinghamshire attack. At Lunch, the score had climbed to 350-7, the lead was 461 and, soon after Lunch, James Vince decided that enough was enough, setting Nottinghamshire a mere 511 to win.
How long would Nottinghamshire resist? They seemed to start well enough, but the Hampshire breakthrough came at 31-1 with a brute of a ball from Kyle Abbott to Jake Libby and, as so often, one wicket became two as Liam Dawson took new batsman, Chris Nash. Nottinghamshire tried to dig in, but when Fidel Edwards bowled a short ball, Samit Patel attempted to pull and just holed-out. Smart cricket from Fidel Edwards, not so smart from Samit Patel. It was then 53-3, and a three-day finish was becoming a real possibility. A quiet spell followed as Nottinghamshire tried to consolidate, but Liam Dawson was getting some help from the pitch and, finally, got his man as Gareth Berg caught Braithwaite from a defensive prod: 85-4 and Hampshire right on top. Nottinghamshire then hung on like a heavyweight on the ropes and got through to Stumps with no further loss, at 128-4. They have given themselves just a little glimmer of hope of a battling draw.
Yorkshire v Worcestershire
Overnight, Worcestershire had placed themselves in a position of total and utter dominance thanks to centuries for Daryl Mitchell (140*) and Moeen Ali (107*). Worcestershire started Day 3 already 94 runs ahead and looking to bat just once, with the assumption that they would aim to declare sometime in the afternoon and challenge Yorkshire to bat out at least four sessions.
Knowing that they needed a big lead, Daryl Mitchell and Moeen Ali just kept batting on and established a new 2nd wicket record for Worcestershire versus Yorkshire, beating the 231 by Glenn Turner and Phil Neale at New Road in 1981. At 361-1, 145 ahead, the writing was already writ large on the wall for the white rose. The 400 and the fifth batting point came up in the 107th over, with Yorkshire still well short of even a first bowling point: Mitchell was then on 176* and Moeen, 155*. Runs were coming at six an over as Worcestershire had one eye on the clock and the limited time to chase any fourth innings target. Their overall second wicket record of 316 by Stephen Moore and Vikram Solanki against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham in 2008, was looming large as the score mounted. Finally, Adam Lyth made the breakthrough, having Mitchell well caught by Tim Bresnan for 178, to end a partnership of 294. This left the bowlers one over to take a third wicket and get a bowling point, however, as direct rivals for relegation, Worcestershire had no intention to gift them an extra point and saw out the over as the attempt to take a third wicket proved to be an impossible task. Yorkshire saw the 110 overs finish with Worcestershire 414-2 and the bonus points in the match split 8-1. By now wickets were anecdotal as their only real value was to slow down the scoring; Lyth took a second wicket on the point of Lunch, as Joe Clarke missed a straight one and fell LBW, but the horse had bolted and was halfway to London by then. Worcestershire 479-3 at Lunch, 263 ahead and facing a delicate declaration decision.
With time becoming a factor, Worcestershire pushed on after Lunch, Moeen going to a superb 200 from 260 balls, with 25x4 and 3x6. The team 500 followed quickly, with the batsmen scoring at 5-an-over and obviously pushing for a declaration. By mid-afternoon, the session was over 350, which Moeen decided was enough: he declared finally at 572-7, 356 ahead.
Yorkshire started well, but today was Moeen Day and who else was going to break the opening stand? Moeen brought himself on and trapped Adam Lyth with just his fourth delivery, LBW for 17: 37-1. In his second over, Moeen took Harry Brook’s wicket, and Yorkshire were 40-2 and slipping. Moeen, at that point, had two wickets for no runs. Yorkshire went into Tea at 43-2 and must have found their fairy cakes a little indigestible. After Tea, things seemed to be stabilising as the fifty partnership came up but, again, it was Moeen who made the breakthrough: Ballance edged, Clarke, took the catch at Second Slip, 92-3. By now, Moeen was getting enough turn to be a real handful (are you watching Ed Smith?) and soon had his fourth wicket as Kohler-Cadmore was LBW for 8; 116-4 and Yorkshire staggering under the kindly attention of the Beard that is Feared. That beard was giving Yorkshire the holy terrors in a way rarely seen since Ian Botham at his best used to jump out and shout “BOOOOO!!!!” at the Australians.
Could Moeen get all ten? Sadly, not, because Wayne Parnell is a spoilsport and had Kane Williamson caught behind for 59. Yorkshire were now 134-5, but not for long, because Parnell then took Tim Bresnan for a duck, caught at Slip, in his next over, to make it 138-6. Three overs remained, and another wicket before the scheduled Close might just have brought the extra half hour. However, the Tykes defended out the last three overs with a determination that would have made Fred Boycott purr – although he would have had a word or two about some of the top-order dismissals – and the match survived into the fourth day.
Surrey v Lancashire
Surrey started the day 197-4, 161 ahead and knew that, if they could see out the first hour in the morning, they would begin to build a position of complete dominance. At the same time, Lancashire knew that they needed quick wickets this morning to get back into the game. A fourth innings target anywhere north of 250 would be very difficult to chase, and 300 should be too many. Surrey would have been thinking of batting well into the afternoon session and then setting their bowling attack to work.
Sam Curran fell early after the start, for 31, caught behind by Dane Vilas off Tom Bailey, to give Lancashire an early boost. However, at 204-5, 168 ahead, Surrey probably felt that they just needed one partnership to seal a winning lead. Lancashire continued to make enough progress to convince themselves that they could win. Wickets for Mennie and Parkinson left Surrey 240-7, 205 ahead and far from safe. The new ball came and immediately brought success for Graeme Onions, with Rikki Clarke bowled for 19: 254-8, 218 ahead and the match back on a knife-edge. At Lunch, Jade Dernbach and Morne Morkel were hanging on at 278-8, the lead 242. After further post-Lunch defiance, Onions and Mennie picked up the last two wickets in quick succession and Surrey were 306ao, leaving a difficult, but not impossible target of 271 for Lancashire to win.
The openers added 45 before Virdi had Davies caught by the substitute fielder, Will Jacks, at Short Leg for 35. Haseeb Hameed has not had a good time for the last two seasons but hung around as Lancashire continued to score at 4-an-over until Morne Morkel added to the astonishing number of LBWs in the day in the grounds around the country: 83-2 and the match could still go either way. Entering the final session of the day, the game could still go either way, with Lancashire 93-2 and fighting hard. Rikki Clarke may never have added to his two England caps, obtained fifteen years ago in Bangladesh, but he is older and wiser now and still a formidable competitor. It was Clarke who pushed the match Surrey’s way as he came out straight after Tea to make the breakthrough and get Dane Vilas LBW: 97-3, the match was swinging back to Surrey. It was to do so even more decisively soon afterwards, as Shivnarine Chanderpaul played at a ball from Amar Virdi that he should have left, edged and it was Rikki Clarke who took a fine, diving catch. Chanderpaul had fallen for 2, it was 104-4, and Surrey were seemly marching to victory. Virdi was weaving his magic, and the red rose was showing no more staying power than the white had earlier in the day. Rob Jones was playing a lone hand, approaching his fifty, but Virdi got him to inside edge onto the pad, on 48 and, again, Will Jacks scooped-up the ball at Short Leg: it seemed to be the decisive blow.
With fifteen overs left in the day, Lancashire passed the halfway mark of the chase, but Surrey were very much on top. In the first innings though, Josh Bohanon had managed a fine fifty, and he still stood in the way. Runs were ticked off from the target until, with two overs to go, the runs to get ticked down under 100. Would this match have a last twist in the fag-end of the day? Croft and Bohanon keep the scoreboard ticking-over by running singles and the day ended with Lancashire on 177-5, 94 more needed and Croft 28*, Bohanon, 22*. Once again, it was tightening up. Could Lancashire squeeze over the line? We will know sometime tomorrow afternoon.
With one game already complete and another that would most likely have finished on the second day had rain not intervened, Division 2’s games are advancing apace. Warwickshire stand proudly at the top of Division 2, 28 points clear of Sussex and 34 clear of Kent. With Durham sure to take the points against Glamorgan and Northants firm favourites to finish off Middlesex, the mid-table positions were set for a shake-up today, as are the promotion places. Leicestershire v Kent was turning into a veritable arm-wrestle, with a result as certain as it is uncertain which way it would fall while, at Sussex-by-the-Sea, today would decide whether or not something could be made of the game or, in contrast, it will have the deadest of final days.
What the fans got was the expected quick win by Durham and a surprising victory by Kent, sweeping to what should have been a challenging target. There was also a fantastic attempt to set up a win by Sussex and a quite extraordinary fightback by Middlesex. Who says that Division Two is boring?
Leicestershire v Kent
The Leicestershire lead overnight was 151, with the hosts 126-5 at Stumps and this match was still wonderfully evenly poised. That there would be a result – barring a lot of rain – was certain, who it would favour, was not. With stalemate threatening at Hove, whoever did emerge dominant from today’s play would, most likely, finish the round as Warwickshire’s closest challenger. Any lead over 200 would be difficult to chase in the fourth innings, meaning that Leicestershire, with runs on the board, probably held a slight advantage at the start, but it seemed likely that it would take just take one inspired spell of bowling, or a batting cameo to upset the balance. What no one imagined was that a double century partnership would see Kent win an easy victory.
Within a quarter of an hour of the start, the balance started to shift again, as Harry Podmore induced Ben Raine, who had been well set overnight, to edge through to Sam Billings: 135-6 and the lead 160. However, Harry Dearden was still there and got solid support from Klein. Even though Parkinson had not help up Kent for long, the 36 added for the eighth wicket were far too many for Kent’s comfort and, when Darren Stevens finally got Dickson for 74, it was already 188-8 and the lead 213, with Kent knowing that they had to end the innings quickly to have a reasonable chase. The last wicket pair pushed the lead past 250 before Lunch and, with it, ensured that Kent would need comfortably the biggest score of the match to win. Joe Denly wrapped up the innings, finishing with 2-10, while Ivan Thomas had 5-91, but 253 to win looked as if it should be far too many for Kent. A low-scoring win for the side in fourth though seemed like the best possible result-match scenario for the top two. Kent though, were determined to have a go at the target, making a confident start, to finish 11-0 at Lunch.
Soon after Lunch though, Kent had slipped to 38-2. Mohammed Abbas got both Bell-Drummond and Stewart in quick succession. At that point, you would not have given much for their chances of an upset win. Dickson and Kuhn though had other ideas, consolidated and then went on the attack. The hundred came up in a blaze of fours and sixes and, once again, the momentum was changing in this remarkable game. Dickson and Kuhn continued, and the hundred partnership and then the team 150 came up with Dickson 66* and Kuhn 61*. At Tea, it was 153-2, the target was just 100 away and Kent, incredibly, were strong favourites. A boundary for Sean Dickson of Mohammed Abbas brought up his century from 131 balls, with 12x4 and 2x6 and brought the target down below 50. The scoring continued apace, with the overwhelmed Leicestershire attack entirely unable to control it. Two from Heino Kuhn took him to 95* and brought the scores level and, rather than go for glory and a century; a single next ball finished it off. Dickson was 134*, Kuhn 96* and a target that had seemed to be far too many to chase had been hunted down with ease.
Sussex v Derbyshire
With Derbyshire 315-5 at the Close on Day 2, the match seemed to be heading towards stalemate but, the loss of 4 wickets late in the day, including Sean Ervine to the last ball, gave Sussex some hope. A second factor though at the start of the day was that Sussex had, so far, only sealed one bowling point and needed four more wickets in 33 overs to get the full set: they could ill afford a barren morning session with Warwickshire having won already and either Kent or Leicestershire certain to win too.
Ravi Rampaul was withdrawn definitively from the match in the morning and will be seen by a specialist later in the week as he recovers from his severe breathing difficulties on Day 1. There was some encouragement for Sussex, as Ollie Robinson bowled Mark Critchley half an hour into the morning, still 97 ahead. Robinson then made it two wickets in three balls from his bowling by adding Alex Hughes for 77 at the start of his next over. The lead was still 91, and Sussex’s hopes were growing of being able to finish off the tail and set a target. Derbyshire though were still accumulating and brought up their own fourth batting point to offset the net points gain. Wiese took the last two wickets with consecutive balls (Rampaul, obviously, was absent), half an hour before Lunch, to leave a Sussex lead of 51, but it would need a gigantic effort with just five sessions left to set a target and then bowl out Derbyshire. Sussex though were not daunted and played positively from the off. At Lunch, it was 25-0 and the lead, 76.
After Lunch, Wells and Salt absolutely flayed the Derbyshire attack, scoring at close to 7-an-over as they tried to flog the match into life. After 17 overs the score was 120-0 before Derbyshire started to exert some control and managed, at least partially, to stem the flood of runs. Phil Salt’s own century came from 87 balls, scored out of 179-0. The lead was 250, and the idea was obviously to declare as early as possible in an effort to apply scoreboard pressure on the last day. Tea came at 216-1, a lead of 267 with Salt on a majestic 119* from 105 balls. Whatever tactics Derbyshire used to slow the scoring, Sussex were not going to die wondering; the intention seemed clearly to be to declare before the Close. Salt was one of a string of wickets to fall as batsmen gave away their wickets after Tea, chasing quick runs, but 148 from 138 balls had set the game up for Sussex.
With ten overs of the day remaining, the lead was 390, and Jofra Archer was swinging like crazy. Could they get past the 400 lead and have half a dozen overs at Derbyshire? 30 in 18 balls for Archer, including 2x6, allowed the lead to reach 400 with more than nine overs of the day left. The declaration came at the end of that same over, leaving a target of 405 to win for Derbyshire, with seven overs left to bowl in the day and 103 remaining in the match.
Derbyshire made plain that they had no intention of going for the target by blocking out time to the Close, to end 6-0 from seven overs. An intriguing final day is served.
Northamptonshire v Middlesex
When Middlesex engineered a strong fightback to dismiss Northamptonshire for 346 and then set off as if in the Power Play of a T20, the fans were crowing. Let’s face it; when you are 34-0 after just four overs, and the fifty partnership comes up at five-an-over you feel pretty good to be a Middlesex supporter and dark suggestions that 346 was an over-par total look totally unfounded. However, as this campaign looks more and more like Middlesex’s 2007 campaign – on the field, if not off it – it was no great surprise that soon after Tea, Middlesex had been invited to follow-on, 159 behind. The bad light came as a relief with Nick Gubbins already dismissed second time around. So, the third day started with Middlesex still 127 behind, with nine wickets left and even Kevin Hand, slowly and reluctantly, coming round to thinking that Middlesex may not be promoted this season.
The overnight batsmen survived three-quarters of an hour of constant tension: loud appeals for catches, LBW, … balls that just missed the stumps, balls that flew just safe. It was all happening. Finally, though, Nathan Buck made the breakthrough, pinning Stevie Eskinazi LBW for 20. In came Dawid Malan, on a king pair, no doubt happy to receive two wides to settle his nerves, before finally receiving a legitimate delivery. One wicket soon became two as Rory Kleinveldt produced a wonderful delivery to Malan that nipped back in and clipped the off bail. Malan had avoided a pair, but not by much and must now be further than ever from an England recall. Middlesex were now 84-3, still 75 behind. All through this, Sam Robson, who some still think could be some time the answer to England’s problems at the top of the order (although he is struggling again with the bat this season), was battling through. It was though salutary to remember that the only three Middlesex batsmen averaging 30 in the 2018 season were back in the pavilion already. When Rory Kleinveldt then bowled a big inswinger to Eoin Morgan, one wicket had become three, as he was hit on the back pad, right in front: 70-1 had become 92-4, and Middlesex were struggling to see the match much past Lunch. To finish off the match though, Northamptonshire had to get past Sam Robson who, after a very poor trot with the bat, reached his fifty and was scoring with increasing confidence: even if he was not leading Middlesex to safety, he was at least making life difficult for the opposition. Disaster though, from the last ball before Lunch, as a Leg Gulley was placed carefully and Sam Robson picked him out: Nathan Buck had removed the one batsman who seemed to be a real threat. Sam Robson had made 72, easily his best innings of the season. Even if the Robson had ensured that Middlesex would not lose by an innings, they went into Lunch seemingly with just two chances of escaping defeat: slim and fat.
Brett Hutton picked up Robbie White cheaply soon after Lunch and Middlesex, who five minutes before the break might have been thinking “if we can just eke out a lead of 150”, were now, effectively, 7-6 with only the bowling all-rounders and tail to come. However, Holden and Harris accumulated steadily, and the lead started to grow to the point that hope was just beginning to rise again. This is life as a Middlesex supporter: it is the hope that kills you. With Tea approaching and Ben Duckett possibly unable to bat with his broken finger, could Middlesex’s lower order engineer an extraordinary escape? Things became even more interesting as Vasconcelos went off injured and former Middlesex man, Adam Rossington, came on as substitute wicket-keeper. At Tea it was 262-6, a lead of 103, with Max Holden 73* and James Harris 37*: at least Northamptonshire would have a tricky target to chase.
Finally, after a stand of 121, Max Holden fell to Hutton for 94, agonisingly close to his maiden century. In came James Fuller, with James Harris batting well and past yet another fifty. Fuller reined-in his attacking instincts until he decided to advance down the wicket to Rory Kleinvelt and aimed a massive wah-hoo that was neatly edged through to Adam Rossington, just when Middlesex must have been close to becoming favourites to win. What the dressing room much had thought watching the shot, one dreads to think. Still, though the score kept mounting and Extras got a healthy round of applause from the crowd for their own 50 from 576 balls: yes, it was that kind of day! The Northamptonshire bowlers were increasingly exhausted, and the ball was being chased in the field with ever-decreasing enthusiasm when, at last, Nathan Buck, who looked to be on his knees, got Bamber to edge through to Rossington. Just over four overs were left in the day, and the lead was 208. Tim Murtagh, the Lambeth Lara, held on until the Close and with James Harris 79 not out and the lead 215, Middlesex, 374-9, must be slight favourites going into the last day. You could not make it up.
Glamorgan v Durham
After losing a lot of time to rain and bad light and rain on Day 1, the rain stopped Durham from wrapping up a facile victory in two days. Even with an all-spin attack due to the grimy conditions, Durham still sliced through the Glamorgan batting in the final overs of play like a chainsaw through butter, which made it frustrating for all concerned to have to return on the third morning for the last rites, with Glamorgan starting 79-7, still needing 62 to avoid an innings defeat.
It did not take long for Durham to make the breakthrough, Chris Rushworth trapping Craig Meschade LBW for 8. That wicket just about sealed the innings win, with 46 still needed to make Durham bat again. Rushworth then added Lukas Carey and Durham were set to win in the first half hour of play. The final margin was an innings and 30, as Durham fell to 111ao. Chris Rushworth had added Michael Hogan, to finish with 5-32. A 21-point win does not give Durham any realistic hopes of threatening the top two, but they now can hope to finish the season just behind the leading pack.
Clearly, though, people are unhappy at Cardiff, and Aneurin Donald's decision to leave for Hampshire has not helped at all. Glamorgan Chief Executive Huw Morris even made the slightly unusual step of giving a public statement on his departure in the wake of the defeat, expressing his considerable disappointment at the news.
8/20/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Day Two of this round of Championship matches started with most of the games delicately poised. They say that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Twice on Day 1 Surrey were deep in crisis, but fought their way back. First, when they fell to 28-3 and 155-8 but battled back to post 211 and a batting point. Then, when Lancashire were 114-3, well into the last hour and threatening to post a substantial lead, a Lancashire brain-fade then led to a collapse to 134-6. Who would get the first innings lead and how big would it be? At Scarborough, Worcestershire bundled out the hosts for a modest 216 and were 39-0 when bad light and rain stopped play: could Yorkshire fight back there, or would Worcestershire continue their revival? At Southampton, after Hampshire produced a remarkable recovery from 137-7 to post 277ao, Nottinghamshire collapsed before the Close and were in deep trouble at 39-4: could Nottinghamshire come back, or would this be the end of their faint hopes of the Championship? And, last but not least, how would the pitch behave at Taunton, with Somerset 308-7 overnight and guaranteed to take more batting points than Surrey, allowing them to close the gap to the top, if only slightly.
Somerset v Essex
Somerset started at 308-7, with bonus points available for 18 overs more. For Somerset, the aim had to be the fourth batting point and, if the eighth wicket pair could hang around and deny Essex a third bowling point, that would be a bonus. Add as many as possible before putting Bess and Leach to work on a track where the Essex spinner Harmer had been in action well inside the first hour of play. Before we could see how the pitch would play, there was an enforced change of umpire at Taunton. David Millns, who stood yesterday, reported unwell and was replaced by James Middlebrook. Until he arrived, local umpire John Wheeler stood at square leg, with Ben Debenham standing at both ends.
After a confident start from Lewis Gregory, Peter Siddle gave Essex the boost that they wanted by bowling him in only the second over of the day. Siddle then bowled Jack Leach for 2 to ensure the third bowling point and hole below the waterline Somerset’s quest to add a fourth batting point themselves and thus inconvenience their rivals seriously. Somerset’s slide to 324ao was ultimately a little disappointing. However, Essex were soon in trouble, as Josh Davey took Browne and Lewis Gregory added Chopra LBW to leave Essex 29-2. Westley then departed LBW to Gregory for a duck and, at 29-3, Somerset were well on top. Jamie Overton added Ravi Bopara before Essex started to re-build. A partnership of 52 between Lawrence and ten Doeschate saw Somerset bring on Leach and Bess, twirling away in partnership, but without any outlandish turn in evidence. Leach has had little to celebrate so far this season, but broke the partnership and then added Wheater, while ten Doeschate held firm at the other end, leaving Essex 132-6 and back in deep trouble. Dom Bess then caught and bowled Harmer and, at 137-7, Somerset were well into the tail. Essex, though, continued to resist and it took a wonderful catch from Lewis Gregory to remove Peter Siddle and leave Essex 174-8 off the occasional leg-spin of Azhar Ali. The follow-on was saved, although there was never any possibility that it would have been enforced. Jamie Overton finally got rid of ten Doeschate, LBW for 73 and Essex were 180-9, with Somerset almost through and looking at a huge lead. Jamie Overton then got Jamie Porter caught behind, and Essex were all out for 191, leaving Somerset 133 ahead.
Sadly, batting again, there was no fairy-tale for Marcus Trescothick, LBW to Sam Cook for seven but, with Somerset 146 to the good, it was hardly a disaster for his team. They ended the day 32-1, 165 ahead and well placed to offer a really challenging target on the third day.
Hampshire v Nottinghamshire
Knowing that they need a formidable run of results in the run-in to have any hope of putting pressure in Somerset and Surrey, Nottinghamshire have set out to do things the difficult way. Letting your opponent off the hook from 137-7, to post 277ao, is one thing but, when you then reach the Close on 39-4 – with that score representing something of a recovery – you know that, in a match in which defeat is not an option if you wish to opt for something better than the minor places in the Championship, defeat is staring you full in the face.
Within five deliveries in the morning, the umpires gave the order to switch on the floodlights, indicating just how gloomy conditions were. Fidel Edwards needed no second invitation and rapidly added a fourth wicket, taking Samit Patel LBW in his second over and leaving Nottinghamshire 46-5 and in real danger of failing to avoid the follow-on. It could have been worse as, at 67-5, Rilee Rossouw spilt a low chance in the slips off Riki Wessels that would have been a fifth wicket for Fidel Edwards. It was not expensive miss though, as Kyle Abbott took him LBW for 11 and left Nottinghamshire 78-6. All through this, Steve Mullaney had batted on unperturbably at the other end until Gareth Berg came on and removed him to a catch behind for 38, to leave Nottinghamshire 82-7. Hampshire could have made things even better, but Luke Fletcher was dropped in the slips as he decided to go after the bowling. As the eighth wicket pair moved Nottinghamshire up to the follow-on mark, Dale Steyn was forced to go off in the middle of an over, giving Nottinghamshire further breathing space. Finally, though, Luke Fletcher went for one heave too many against Fidel Edwards and gave a catch in the deep: 133-8. A little resistance from the tail and Nottinghamshire’s final total of 166ao gave Hampshire a 111 run lead.
Batting again, Hampshire fell quickly to 24-2, which may not have exactly encouraged Nottinghamshire to believe that they could chase a target in the fourth innings. That though brought James Vince to the wicket, and he set about the business of setting a fourth innings target on his own. As other batsmen struggled, Vince motored on to 72* at Tea, scored out of a total of 110-3. After Tea he continued and reached his century, in 139 balls, out of 160-3; by then, Nottinghamshire were in desperate trouble. Vince fell finally for 147, after a partnership of 177. With Hampshire already 355 ahead, you felt that they already had more than enough. They ended the day on 253-4, 364 on and looking to wrap-up victory on the third day. Nottinghamshire know that their title big is as good as over, barring a remarkable fourth innings chase.
Yorkshire v Worcestershire
Yorkshire’s 216ao had represented a good day’s work already for Worcestershire, who may not have been too unhappy to go off for bad light and rain at 39-0, able to come back today unscathed and make a push to set up a winning position to continue their revival and hopes of eluding relegation.
The openers pushed their partnership to 111 before Jack Brooks finally dismissed Tom Fell for 45. Worcestershire though continued accumulating steadily, taking few risks, knowing that they had plenty of time to turn the screw. The 200 came up with just the one wicket down and, soon, Moeen had his own fifty, continuing to send a message to the England selectors. Daryll Mitchell then brought up a 191 ball century with consecutive fours off Adam Lyth and, to boot, put Worcestershire in the lead. A substantial rain delay came at 235-1 and, on resumption, Moeen drove Poysden immediately over Long On for six, to show that Worcestershire had no intention of hanging around. The new ball came at 284-1, with Mitchell 132* and Moeen 89*. Up came the 300, a third batting point, with Yorkshire still a long way from claiming even one bowling point themselves and then a wide ball from Jack Brooks was carved through the Covers for his own century. Moeen was dropped on 107 before the umpires ended the torture with Worcestershire 314-1, 98 ahead and hoping to twist the knife on the third morning.
Surrey v Lancashire
Lancashire started on 134-6, knowing that their position should have been so much better. While a defeat would not necessarily be catastrophic, if it were combined with wins for their relegation rivals, it would leave them deep in the mire.
Lancashire’s initial progress was serene, as Chanderpaul moved towards his fifty until a mix-up saw him batsmen stranded in the middle of the pitch and unable to apply reverse fast enough, with Rory Burns sprinting in to run out the danger man, leaving Lancashire 176-7. However, Lancashire continued to bat on calmly and went into the lead without further loss. Bohanon went on to a debut fifty as Lancashire started to build a small lead. Lancashire went to Lunch at 241-8, already 30 ahead and with a second batting point in sight. Finally, Amar Virdi removed Bohanen LBW for 52 after Lunch, but the damage was done with Lancashire 242-9 and on the verge of a second batting point and with a small, but useful lead. However, that extra batting point was not to be as Ryan Patel removed last man, Graeme Onions. The final lead was 36, with Lancashire three runs short.
Could Surrey clear the deficit without losing a wicket? Mark Stoneman’s season got no better as he fell to a catch at Deep Square Leg for 16, with Surrey still one behind. Surrey though started to build a lead, but a quiet spell of accumulation was rudely interrupted when Rory Burns and Arun Harinath had a communications breakdown: Harinath runout for 7 and Surrey 73-2, 37 ahead. Graeme Onions returned and, first ball, trapped Aaron Finch LBW for a violent 32 off 34 balls, with 3x4 and 2x6: 114-3 and a lead of 78. As the evening session wore on and Rory Burns and Ben Foakes kept adding to the lead, Lancashire must have started to get a little nervous that the match was moving away from them. Relief came in the form of Bohanon’s maiden First Class wicket, bowling Burns for 70, with eight overs to go and the lead 126. Sam Curran came in and scored at better than a run-a-ball. Surrey ended the day 197-4, 161 ahead and know that, if they can see out the first hour in the morning, will start to build a position of complete dominance.
The Warwickshire juggernaut has moved into high gear again after its brief stall at Lord’s. After a difficult first session, Warwickshire will already be looking to wrap up the game early on Day 3. Of their rivals, Sussex are well placed, after a day in which little went right for Derbyshire, with a player hospitalised and also an emergency call for a replacement wicket-keeper. Leicestershire and Kent are in an almighty battle at Grace Road, with first day honours even and a result looming. At Wantage Road, the Northamptonshire recovery continues at the expense of a Middlesex side that needs to stop kidding itself that is will be back in Division 1 next season and get on with the job of building for a proper tilt at promotion in 2019. And, at Sophia Gardens, Durham’s season continues to look up as they seek to build on an excellent first day, albeit frustrated by the weather.
Leicestershire v Kent
Leicestershire’s 220ao was built mainly around tail-end stubbornness. With Kent 53-3 and starting to re-build at the Close of Day 1, this match was going to turn on whether or not one side or other could take a firm grip on Day 2. Zak Chappell was substituted for Leicestershire yesterday, after being hit on the helmet while batting, retiring hurt on 31, with Dieter Klein drafted into the side under the concussion rule. Chappell though was at the ground on the second morning to support his teammates.
Mohammed Abbas took Sam Billings early, caught behind by Ned Eckersley (does any other player in English cricket have such a wonderful name?) to leave Kent 86-4, the match firmly in the balance and heading for a quick finish. A half-century partnership for the sixth wicket, with Joe Denly holding firm, steadied Kent, but a double-wicket maiden for Ben Raine then left them 157-7 and facing a likely deficit. The Kent tail did not hang around, and 6-48 for Mohammed Abbas and 4-62 for Ben Raine gave Leicestershire a useful lead of 25, with Kent 195ao, in what looks like being a tight, low-scoring match. More critically, it meant no batting bonus points for Kent, while promotion rivals Leicestershire had at least obtained one.
When Leicestershire batted again, set to build on their lead, batting was no easier, with a partnership of 69 for the second wicket between Harry Dearden and Colin Ackermann the only time that bat dominated ball. When Ackermann fell to Ivan Thomas, the bowler quickly added three more victims, and the relative comfort of 82-1 became 106-5 before Ben Raine hung around to keep Dearden company. Dearden finished 61* overnight, with Raine 15* and on the former lie, the Leicestershire hopes of victory. The lead is 151, with the hosts 126-5 at Stumps and this match is still evenly poised.
Sussex v Derbyshire
Some of the gloss was taken off Sussex’s 400-7 by the fact that Derbyshire played two sessions with an emergency wicket-keeper while Daryl Smit made the long journey down to Hove to replace Harvey Hossein in the playing XI and then Ravi Rampaul had hospitalised with severe breathing difficulties but hoping to be released this morning. However, Sussex took advantage of the misfortune of their opponents big time and will have been looking to push on this morning and bowl Derbyshire out twice.
Derbyshire started the second day well by seeing off both not out batsmen in the first half hour, with Jofra Archer and David Wiese both dismissed by Lockie Ferguson: Wiese on 93, agonisingly close to his century. The tenth wicket pair though hung around for a long time until Colin Viljoen ended a partnership of 31, leaving Sussex 440ao and in a very strong position.
The Sussex attack though was extraordinarily lacklustre and inaccurate, as Derbyshire batted and made little impact. Derbyshire brought up the 200 from just 45 overs, with Ben Slater the only casualty, as Wayne Madsen and Billy Godleman both neared a century. Godleman fell finally for 125 and Madsen for 72, to supply some encouragement to the bowlers at last. There was some relief for Sussex in having a strong final session, with 200-1 becoming 315-5 at the Close, as Sean Ervine was run out from the last ball of the day. Alex Hughes was still there on 60* but, if Sussex could get him early on the third morning, they might yet make something of this match.
Warwickshire v Gloucestershire
When you have struggled in the first session on what looks like a superb batting track, you hardly expect to end the day with a handy first innings lead and eight wickets in hand. Welcome to the bizarre world of games against Gloucestershire! To say that the visitors have been erratic this season is to sum it up in a single word. Already at the start of the day, the thoughts were that Warwickshire would bat once, maybe declare in the evening and aim to have the game done and dusted early on the third day. Well, we were most certainly wrong on that one!
Gloucestershire have made a habit of starting horribly in games and then, somehow, extricating themselves. Craig Miles had had a very poor first day, but dispatched Ian Bell rapidly in the morning, bowling him for 2 and, just four balls later, added Jonathon Trott, who had got off the mark with a boundary from the previous ball. Rhodes and Hain seemed to be rubbing in the advantage until Hammond took a fine catch at Point to remove Hain, giving Lintott a second wicket. Then Craig Miles removed Tim Ambrose and Warwickshire were 236-6, twenty minutes before Lunch and seeing that things were not panning-out at all as they had expected before the start of play. Things got even better straight after Lunch as, first George Drissell, the 19-year-old off-spinner, removed Rhodes, bowling him with an arm ball for a magnificent 137 and then Matt Taylor added Jethan Patel. Craig Miles finished the innings with two in two balls and would have been on a hat-trick had Warwickshire batted again, finishing with 5-69 as Warwickshire collapsed from 171-2 to 277ao.
Desperately needing a good start, a brief shower interrupted the Gloucestershire reply after just eight balls. Concentration broken, Hammond fell immediately on the resumption, as Ryan Sidebottom added yet another wicket to his career figures. We then had a collector’s item as Keith Barker ripped out Roderick’s leg and off stump, leaving middle standing proud (the commenters had an explanation for this that ignored the physical laws of scattering beautifully, but what has physics to do with cricket?), his second wicket in the over. Gloucestershire were 27-4 already and sinking fast. Thanks to a combination of rain and slow over-rate, Tea was taken an hour late, with Gloucestershire 84-7, in complete meltdown and the danger looming that Tea could have been delayed even further if another wicket had fallen before the umpires could get the players off to relieve their own parched throats. After a good morning, it was another abject display from Gloucestershire against a relentless Warwickshire. Two wickets fell immediately after the resumption, but there was high comedy as, with rain threatening, Warwickshire attempted to take the tenth wicket: a catch off a no-ball (the first wide or no ball of the match), a drop and all manner of excitement as the batsmen played and missed constantly. In the end, Will Rhodes was brought on and immediately took his maiden First Class wicket to end the fun and games. Warwickshire had won by an innings and 47 and consolidated themselves at the top of Division 2.
Northamptonshire v Middlesex
A Middlesex fightback late in the day had left the scoreboard at the start of play better than might have been expected. At 332-8, Middlesex could expect to wrap up the third bowling point, while, with Hutton and Zaib set at the crease, Northamptonshire were looking at ensuring a fourth batting point and continuing the side’s revival of fortunes. There was though already a suspicion that the Northamptonshire score was over par for this track.
Omens looked poor for Middlesex as, despite lowering skies, the batsmen looked comfortable initially but, just as the number of overs to the end of bonus points started to becoming worryingly small, James Harris produced a corker of a delivery to dismiss Zaib for 27, before ending the innings by bowling Ben Hutton to finish on 7-83 to leave Northants agonisingly short of the fourth batting point, on 346ao. However, Nick Gubbins and Sam Robson came out as if they were batting in a T20 and took 32 from the first four overs of Hutton and Sanderson. For a short while the Middlesex fans could believe that the Northants total was not such a big one, however, that feeling did not last long. Middlesex were soon in familiar trouble as four wickets fell quickly before Lunch, with Rory Kleinveldt removing Sam Robson and England's Dawid Malan with consecutive balls to leave them 76-4. Middlesex needed a good afternoon session but, when Eoin Morgan fell soon after Lunch to leave them 94-5, the arrival of rain came as blessed relief. On the resumption, Holden and White held up the bowlers for a while, but neither could pass the thirties and the tail melted away, leaving Middlesex 187ao and 158 behind. The star turn in the attack was Nathan Buck with 4-51. Unexpectedly, Northamptonshire enforced the follow-on, with lowering skies and 29 overs left to be bowled.
When one follow-on, the last thing that you need is to lose an early wicket. Nick Gubbins, touted for an England debut, supplied it, LBW to Sanderson for 8: 23-1. Middlesex though were delighted when the umpires took a light reading and led the players off at 32-1, without further damage. By then, though, even Kevin Hand was accepting, reluctantly, that Middlesex were not going to be promoted this season. It was no surprise when, after a discrete wait, the umpires called Stumps.
Glamorgan v Durham
Despite the frustration of plenty of time lost to rain and bad light, when you are 75-0 chasing 154, you can feel that it has been a pretty good first day. Durham who, like Northants, looked in complete disarray at the start of the season, are starting to build a platform from which it may not be fantasy to say that they could be back in Division 1 in 2020. In contrast, Glamorgan have had better days, with stalwart, Aneurin Donald, rejecting a new 3-year contract to move to Hampshire.
That said, discipline is still a problem in the Durham batting order and, having reached 94-0 and a position of almost total dominance, Durham stuttered to 133-4, losing wickets to loose shots. The procession continued as Ruaidhri Smith took four wickets in the morning session to leave them 175-6 at Lunch. It was a sad waste of a wonderful position for Durham fans, but a spirited comeback from Glamorgan. However, despite themselves and despite a maiden 5-for for Smith, Durham built a lead and accrued batting bonus points. Durham had Axar Patel to thank for re-establishing their strong position, as he added an excellent fifty, bringing up the second batting point and the hundred lead. When Patel found himself eleven short of a century, with only Chris Rushworth left, he whacked a six off Salter, trying to hurry on to the century, but could not engineer the single needed to keep the strike and Chris Rushworth could only survive one delivery of the next over, leaving Patel high and dry on 95*. Durham ended just short of the third batting point on 295ao. Even so, a lead of 141 was more than useful.
Glamorgan made no better fist of it second time around. After an opening stand of 31, two quick wickets for Rushworth and two for McCarthy left Glamorgan 40-4, with Poynter taking three catches behind the stumps. More rain was coming, but it was too late to save Cooke, a fourth catch of the innings for Poynter, to make Axar Patel’s day even better. 54-5 and six balls and two singles later, the umpires took the players off. On the resumption, with an all-spin attack, Cameron Steel took the wicket of Connor Browne with his first delivery, bowling his occasional leg-spin. Glamorgan were then 64-6 and, if the light held, the extra half hour was becoming a real possibility. Steel then added the wicket of Andrew Salter in his second over, to give him – at the time – his best bowling figures in an innings. Unfortunately, it then started to rain, and all hopes of a two-day finish were ended.
By MaRk Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
After the T20 Blast interlude, we are now into the Championship run in. Six of the eight sides have six games left – the exceptions are Nottinghamshire and Lancashire, who have only five. There will be six weeks of concentrated Championship cricket now, on pitches that should have something for the spinners after the early season green-tops.
The Championship title looks to be a two-horse race. As in 2017, we have a runaway leader, and we have a chasing pack, desperately trying to stay in touch. Even with six games left, it would take a Devon Loch moment for Surrey to fail to win, so big is their lead. Thirty-four points clear – more than two wins – of Somerset, you have to suspect that the Cidermen would need to win at least five of their last six matches to put any sort of pressure on the men from south of the river. Nottinghamshire, in third, are 43 points back and, with a game fewer to play, would surely need to win every one to challenge: a tall order at best. Essex, defending Champions, are fourth, a whopping sixty-one points back and surely too far away to mount any serious challenge to defend their title needing to make up more than ten points per game on the leaders.
Realistically, it looks like Surrey to win the title, with the battle for the runners-up spot between Somerset, Essex and Nottinghamshire.
At the bottom of the table, things have closed-up. Realistically, even Essex are not safe, just twenty points clear of the relegation places and would slip into trouble with a couple of defeats. Yorkshire did a lot to ease their relegation worries with a win in the Roses match but will need at least one more win to feel safe. Only twice in two-division history has a side with four wins gone down, but Yorkshire and Essex have accrued only 29 bonus points all season, far fewer than any of the sides below them and Yorkshire’s ten batting points from eight matches is the worst in the Division, which goes a long way to explaining why, with three wins each, neither are out of the relegation woods. Realistically though, relegation looks most likely to be between Hampshire, Lancashire and Worcestershire. Worcestershire are now only fourteen points from safety, having finally got a win in the last round of games and Lancashire, in the relegation places and with a game fewer to play, look to be in real trouble.
Somerset v Essex
This is undoubtedly the stand-out game of the round. If either side is to make Surrey even slightly nervous, it has to win. With both sides desperate for the win-points, do not expect a draw, as there is a strong incentive to make something of the game, even if a stalemate seems to be coming. In the last two seasons, Somerset have been a one-trick pony, their success based on big turners at Taunton in the last few games of the season. This campaign has been marked though by Somerset showing the strength of their seam attack, backed-up by some powerful batting, so it will be interesting to see what type of pitch the Taunton groundsman provides: taking a long-term view of England success, more pitches that encourage spinners would be welcome. Essex’s season is put into context by the fact that Surrey have almost as many batting points (26) as Essex have batting and bowling points combined (29): no side in the division has fewer bowling points than Essex, and only Yorkshire have fewer batting points.
Marcus Trescothick, on his return to Championship action at Taunton, after recuperation and runs in the Somerset 2nd XI, struck four boundaries in Porter's first two overs in an exhilarating start, including consecutive boundaries. He then became becalmed in mid-session and rendered virtually scoreless for an hour, before repeating successive boundaries off Porter again to bring up an excellent, 83-ball half-century as he accelerated again before lunch. With Somerset playing both spinners and with Essex bring Simon Harmer into the attack after just nine overs, all the signs are that Somerset’s seam sojourn has ended and they plan to chase Surrey, who still have to visit Taunton, using Plan A: bat, put up a score of some kind and spin out the opposition.
Marcus Trescothick reached the nineties and seemed to be on the way to a century before Peter Siddle bowled him a short ball, and he picked out Deep Square Leg to fall for 95 although, with Tom Abell managing a fifty of his own, 200-4 at Tea was hardly a disaster. Seventy from Tom Abell, well supported by 45 from Steve Davies ensured that Trescothick’s efforts were not wasted and when they fell, Lewis Gregory got through to Stumps on 42*, leaving Somerset 308-7. With just 18 overs to go to obtain bonus points, Somerset will be looking to hang around and get their fourth batting point and, hopefully, deny Essex a third bowling point before putting Bess and Leach to work.
Hampshire v Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire are, realistically, looking at runners-up spot – and a handy cash prize – at best this season after four wins and four defeats. Hampshire, who have been hanging on to Division One status by their fingertips for the last two seasons, are in another struggle for survival. Having seen the men from Southampton survive at the expense of Durham in 2016, there are plenty of fans north of the Solent who would see karma in a relegation, so it is essential for Hampshire’s image in the game to show that their Division One status is deserved. Defeat for Hampshire in this game would leave them deep in trouble, while a win for Nottinghamshire would keep the pressure on Somerset.
Rain at Southampton caused a late start and, when the players came out, the conditions were tough for batting, but Hampshire got through to Lunch relatively unscathed, with just one wicket down. The post-Lunch session though was a dreadful one for them, as Hampshire slid to 137-7, with Mullaney taking three, before Liam Dawson and Kyle Abbott put on a fifty partnership. The recovery continued after Tea as Liam Dawson went on to a confident fifty. What started as a nuisance to Nottinghamshire became a major annoyance as the partnership went past one hundred and the second batting point loomed, while Nottinghamshire, having sealed two bowling points early, were utterly unable to seal the third, let alone put a stop to the fun. Abbott then reached his own fifty just after the second batting point was brought up and Nottinghamshire was becoming desperate to break the partnership somehow. Dawson fell finally for 72, bowled by Matt Carter, making an almighty heave at a straight ball, having added 133 with Kyle Abbott and reduced Nottinghamshire to distraction. Dale Steyn fell immediately for a duck and Carter had two wickets in an over after several hours of fruitless toil. Fidel Edwards was the last man out, run out for 1: a total of 277ao must have looked like riches to Hampshire from their desperate position halfway through the day.
Things got even worse for Nottinghamshire as Fidel Edwards ripped into them with three, cheap wickets, including both openers and nightwatchman Matt Milnes, for figures of 3-5 at that point. Edwards was well-supported by Gareth Berg, who removed Chris Nash. Nottinghamshire were 25-4, and in disarray with five overs still to come, however, Samit Patel and Steven Mullaney held on to take Nottinghamshire to the Close on 39-4, still in deep trouble in this match and needing a partnership in the morning.
Yorkshire v Worcestershire
Two relegation-threatened sides who need points badly. At the end of May, it seemed that only a miracle could save Worcestershire from the drop after a start that recalled some of the most awful Division One starts of recent seasons (Derbyshire and Northamptonshire come powerfully to mind here). However, a win, combined with the awful form of Hampshire and Lancashire has given Worcestershire some hope. Yorkshire have hauled themselves away from the relegation places and know that defeat in this fixture would put them back in trouble and, worse, leave their rivals in this match breathing down their necks. The announcement of coming, high-profile departures from Leeds have re-opened the spectre of turbulent post-seasons past with their inevitable destabilisation of the run-in, while Worcestershire, the original yo-yo side, would like to have the unusual pleasure of consecutive seasons in the top division.
An excellent first session for the visitors saw Yorkshire reduced to 63-4 before Williamson and Tattershall started a recovery. Williamson was finally dismissed by acting skipper, Moeen for 87, with Daryl Mitchell takes a one-handed diving catch to end a stand of 88, after which they added just 63 runs, 38 of them coming in a whirlwind knock from Jack Brooks in only 20 balls. Brooks and Fisher had added 56 in rapid time. The recovery ended with Brooks caught and bowled by Ed Barnard off a skier for 38, while Dillon Pennington took 4 for 53 in the innings. To have Yorkshire 216ao was an excellent performance for Worcestershire, who started confidently before the rain began to fall and the players went off at 39-0, which proved to be the last action of the day as rain brought a premature finish.
Surrey v Lancashire
A win for Surrey in this game would all but settle two issues: Surrey would be virtually the anointed Champions; while Lancashire, with just four games left, would be confirmed to be in grave danger of spending a season at some of the lesser grounds of England and Wales in 2019. With just four games left, Lancashire would need probably two wins from them to ensure survival. In contrast, at The Oval, after several years of trying all manner of different options to obtain success, Surrey have hit, finally, on what looks to be a winning formula: a mixture of youth and experience, a potent pace attack, backed-up by some excellent spin; all bases are covered, and it is hard to see any real weaknesses in the squad.
This match was the joker in the pack, continuing the day/night, pink ball experiment. Surrey welcomed back the Curran brothers, with Sam released by England and Tom back from injury, but were missing Jason Roy, whose fit of pique at getting a golden duck in the Blast literally re-bounded on him: he threw down his bat, and it bounced back and hit him in the face, putting him out of this match. Surrey made a very poor start to the day with Burns and Stoneman falling quickly to leave them 21-2. At Lunch, there was a slight recovery, but 110-5 was a great first session of work for Lancashire and left the title and relegation races interestingly poised. Sam Curran fell soon after Lunch and Surrey were now 130-6 and in some trouble. Morne Morkel and Jade Dernbach hit out to add some respectability and brought up the batting point, before both fell in four balls and Surrey were 211ao, with five wickets for Tom Bailey.
In reply, Jade Dernbach, who is experiencing a great revival in fortunes in the twilight of his career, took Alex Davies with the last ball of the first over, edging to Rikki Clarke at slip. Thereafter Curran and Dernbach bowled tightly and kept Haseen Hameed and Rob Jones almost runless until they broke the shackles with three boundaries in four balls. That though was as good as it got for Lancashire. Morne Morkel took Chris Jones for 10 (34-2), and Haseeb Hameed’s vigil ended when Morkel bowled him for 22 (41-3): Hameed still looks a shadow of the player who made such a wonderful entrance into Test cricket. Matt Parkinson was already getting turn early in the day, suggesting that there could be plenty in the pitch for Amar Virdi so, as the match moved into the evening session, Lancashire started to re-build as captain, Rory Burns turned to Virdi to engineer a breakthrough before the Close, although this time without success.
Dane Vilas and Shivnarine Chanderpaul brought up the fifty stand, before Vilas crashed a ball to the boundary to bring up his own fifty, passing on the way the 43 of Aaron Finch that had been the highest score of the day at the Kia Oval and, at the same time, bringing up the Lancashire 100. With the scoring rate increasing and the batsmen looking increasingly comfortable under the lights, Surrey needed a break-through before the Close. As play moved deep into the last hour, the batsmen were content to score almost exclusively in singles, of which there were a plentiful supply available, and it seemed that Surrey could be facing a significant first-innings deficit. Finally, Vilas started to get ambitious against Sam Curran and, after hitting the first boundary in plenty of overs, tried a booming drive two balls later and only edged through to Ben Foakes, departing in high dudgeon, knowing that he had let Surrey back into the match. What he was not to know is just how the game would turn on that one mistake. Steven Croft came in with just over half an hour to play and got off the mark with consecutive boundaries off Curran: the first a big cover drive, the second an edge past the slips to keep up the momentum. However, Vilas’s folly in opening an end late in the day was illustrated when Steven Croft edged Rikki Clarke to Aaron Finch and, at 129-5, Surrey were looking at perhaps even managing to engineer a small lead first innings lead. Two balls later, nightwatchman Matt Parkinson was LBW to Clarke, who had a double-wicket maiden and 114-3 had become 129-6. Debutant, Josh Bohannon, came in with five and a half overs left. Twenty-five consecutive dot balls were played before Bohannon broke the sequence with a single. Lancashire closed on 134-6 and know that they have let an excellent position slip here.
All the teams in Division Two have six matches left and, having looked as if Warwickshire and Kent were going to run away with the promotion spots, suddenly we have a battle on our hands, as both were defeated in their last game. As a result, the promotion race has concertinaed, with Warwickshire still top, but now Sussex their nearest challengers, Kent in third and, the surprise package, Leicestershire, in fourth are very much in touch. Just seventeen points cover the top four.
For the inveterate fantasists, Middlesex – 34 points behind the promotion spots – and Derbyshire – a further point back – are clinging on to their hopes of promotion and, even Gloucestershire, forty-five points behind Sussex, could still challenge mathematically. However, for any of these three sides to come from so far back will take a minimum of five wins from six.
Leicestershire v Kent
Top billing today has to be for Leicestershire’s home fixture against Kent. With four wins from their last five matches, the Foxes are, suddenly, out of the wooden spoon fight and into the promotion battle. This is very much a “promotion 48-pointer” with the winner pushing its claims to go up at the end of the season. Kent, with just six batting points from eight games, take on a Leicestershire side that has accrued eighteen (only the top two have more), on a Grace Road pitch that has encouraged huge scores and, while other grounds offered matches that were over in two days in early season, was giving us pitches that would have struggled to get a result in even five or six days.
This pitch though was certainly more lively as Leicestershire struggled in the morning session. Things were no better after Lunch as Leicestershire staggered drunkenly to 114-6. There was some tail-end stubbornness as Leicestershire moved on to 170-8 and then 216-9, with Dieter Klein batting as a concussion replacement for the injured Zak Chappell, but Harry Podmore’s three wickets and three more from Ivan Thomas had put Kent into a good position, despite the recovery.
When Kent batted, Dickson fell to Raine for 15 to make it 24-1. Mohammed Abbas then removed Bell-Drummond and Kuhn and, at 45-3, the match had taken a sharp turn back towards Leicestershire. Soon after the umpires decided that the light was too bad to continue and Kent, no doubt, at 51-3, fell some relief at being able to go off and re-group. The light did not improve, and the umpires called Stumps for the day. Kent cannot afford to concede a lead and will look at add to their meagre supply of batting points tomorrow: if they cannot do so, their promotion push will start to stall badly.
Sussex v Derbyshire
Sussex’s season has come alive since Jofra Archer, and Chris Jordan returned to the attack. Not unreasonably described as an almost Test-standard attack, they are the team with most batting points in the division (20) and have muscled into the promotion party as a formidable batting line-up has been backed-up by its bowlers. Derbyshire, whose season started so well before tailing-off, have the third highest number of batting points in the division (18) and, were they to win this one, they might just start swapping thoughts of another season trudging round Cardiff, Bristol and Leicester, for more exotic locations, if not climes, next season.
Drama before the game started, as Derbyshire keeper, Harvey Hosein dislocated a finger in the warm-up. He was replaced behind the stumps by Wayne Madsen, while Derbyshire awaited the arrival of Daryn Smit, who finally reached Hove around Tea after a rapid drive. Then, Derbyshire’s problems increased as Ravi Rampaul started to experience such severe breathing difficulties that he was hospitalised, although latest reports are that he is feeling much better. Despite everything, Sussex were reduced to 65-3, before recovering and, by the time that Smit could take the field, had climbed to a much more satisfactory 271-5 at Tea, taking firm control, helped by 82 from Harry Finch. Ben Brown though then took on the mantle of leading the way and pushed his side past the 300, finally reaching his century from 155 balls, after a seemingly endless time waiting on 99*. After his period of self-denial, he then added twelve from the next six balls bowled, powering Sussex past the 350 and a fourth batting point. Brown finally fell LBW to Callum Ferguson for 116. Sussex ended the day 400-7, bringing up the fifth batting point with the final ball of the day, with Wiese 89* and Archer 13* and in an excellent position to bat Derbyshire out of the game in the morning.
Warwickshire v Gloucestershire
Warwickshire’s seeming royal progress back to Division 1 has been rudely interrupted by defeat to Middlesex in their previous match. Still favourites to go up, a win is desperately needed to get the season back on track after the disappointment of missing out on the T20 Quarter-Finals and the disappointing Championship defeat in the last round. In front, they have a Gloucestershire side that seemed to be in terminal decline after a highly competitive start to the season. Victory in the last round of the Championship and a scrambled progress through to the T20 Quarter-Finals has restored some hope to the Bristol faithful, who were looking at another season of struggle to avoid the wooden spoon, but two miserable defeats in their last two T20 fixtures have brought back the shadows.
After a late scare, when David Payne reported sick, having fallen ill overnight, requiring a late call-up for Chris Liddle, with Kieron Noema-Barnett already ruled out by his injury in the Blast, there was an interesting first session saw Gloucestershire’s openers put on a rare fifty partnership. Skipper Chris Dent, who has been playing in the 2nd XI to get some middle time, was looking in better nick than recently. Unfortunately, every time that Gloucestershire seemed to be getting on top, with everyone getting a start, a wicket fell. All the top four all looked well set and then, disappointingly, got out: with a long tail to come due to the late changes in the side; it did not bode well. However, any suggestion that Gloucestershire would come as sacrificial victims to get the home campaign back on track seemed confounded by the first two hours of play as the visitors reached 101-2. Unfortunately, a wicket just before Lunch was followed by three immediately after and Gloucestershire were soon back in their familiar position: on the ropes and hanging on for dear life at 113-6, with only a long tail to come! The procession continued as batsman after batsman gave his wicket away against some excellent bowling from Wright and Barker. Chris Wright, heading to Leicestershire next season, produced a spell of 5-9 after Lunch and Gloucestershire were 127ao. In the end, the top five had all got a start, but no one else passed 2. The last eight wickets fell for twenty-six. It was a wretched performance.
When Warwickshire batted, they were as gloriously untroubled as Gloucestershire had been initially. The difference was that Warwickshire continued to bat on, with the collusion of the fielders. At 80-0, Will Rhodes produced a big skier, Matt Taylor ran in, got to it and shelled a simple chance, even as Rhodes started to walk off: it was a good summary of the last three days of abject cricket played by the Shire. The century came up with fifties for both batsmen and no extras at all and was only the sixth Warwickshire partnership of the season for any wicket and the first that Rhodes and Sibley have managed all season. Warwickshire were already ahead when Chris Dent put down a second, sharp chance off Matt Taylor and everything continued to break their way. Finally, the opening stand was broken on 161 as Bracey caught Sibley for 65 off Ryan Higgins, at which point, with nine overs to go, Chris Wright was sent in as nightwatchman!! The early nightwatchman policy backfired when Chris Liddle got Wright LBW, and Ian Bell had to come in anyway before the Close, accompanying Will Rhodes to his century. Warwickshire will look to bat long and bowl Gloucestershire out a second time for an innings win, to obtain maximum points here.
Northamptonshire v Middlesex
After winning their opening Championship fixture at a canter, the more radical Middlesex fans were talking about winning all fourteen games. What has happened since has been a severe reality check: Middlesex are mired in mid-table obscurity, did a little better than in previous seasons in the One Day Cup, without ever looking to get to the knock-out stages, and finished bottom of the South Group in the Blast. Middlesex insist that they are still alive in the promotion stakes, although they need a formidable run in to get into the top two. In front, they have a Northamptonshire side who had a horrific start to the season, having missed out on promotion in 2017 only due to an over-rate penalty, but who have recovered with two wins and are off the bottom of the table. Realistically, if Middlesex lose this match, their season is over, with just pride left to play for, while a win will allow them to continue hoping.
Middlesex though did not have a particularly good start, with wickets refusing to fall, despite Duckett falling for 6 to make it 16-1. Northants were 234-4 by Tea, with Ricardo Vasconcelos past his century, well-supported by Richard Levy with 41. Vasconcelos, the only centurion of the day, finally fell for 140, bowled by Middlesex debutant, nineteen-year-old Ethan Bamber. At 301-5, it looked like being a long day in the field for Middlesex, but even James Harris must have been surprised to find himself on a hat-trick as the visitors fought back late in the day. Without Harris’s five-for, Middlesex would have been in a sorry state. Saif Zaib and Brett Hutton added an unbroken 20 for the ninth wicket and Northamptonshire were 332-8 at Stumps and in a good position to add a fourth batting point in the morning.
Glamorgan v Durham
A bottom of the table clash, between two sides that know that they will spend 2019 in Division Two and who now have little more to play for than avoiding the wooden spoon and reaching mid-table mediocrity. Durham though can approach the end of the season with more optimism now that, having spent two seasons losing start players hand over fist in the ECB-inspired meltdown, are now starting to make some high-profile acquisitions. While Durham can feel, with some justification, that they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, Glamorgan’s season has been one with few high points to take pride in and already suggests another season of struggle in 2019.
Rain at Cardiff meant a very late start and, when it did come, Glamorgan made a poor start, losing three wickets cheaply and going into Lunch 29-3. Carlson and Lloyd added 51 to add some respectability before there was another clatter of wickets to 91-7. Salter and Smith then added another fifty partnership, before again wickets fell quickly. It cannot be often that a total of 154ao has contained two fifty partnerships, as the Durham bowlers exploited favourable conditions to roll the batsmen with great ease around those two stands. Seamers Chris Rushworth and Matt Salisbury led the way with three wickets apiece, while spinner Axar Patel claimed the last two wickets of the innings on his debut.
Durham responded confidently, and the fifty came up in just the thirteenth over, with Alex Lees 38* from only 36 balls. Stumps were drawn at 75-0, with Lees, bringing up his fifty in the final over of the day, 53* and Cameron Steele 22*, as the revival in Durham fortunes continues after a difficult early season. A good morning session and Durham will be looking at a win that will push them up to a comfortable and respectable mid-table position.
By Mark Kidger (@markFromMadrid)
Last night was a make-or-break night for several teams, with the final pieces of the qualifying puzzle supplied in the last round of games, today.
In last night's report I - idly - assumed that the ECB would apply common sense and that the same Tie-breakers would apply in the Blast as in the Royal London One Day Cup. They have not, and they do not!
The relevant extract from the playing conditions is:
The tie-breakers for teams finishing on equal points will be:
22.214.171.124 The team with the higher net run rate in the Group Matches will be placed in the higher
position (see below).
126.96.36.199 If teams cannot be separated by 188.8.131.52 above, this will be done by drawing
So, unlike in the ODC, where a number of wins in group matches is the first tie-breaker, here only Net Run Rate is important. With 1st playing 4th and 2nd playing 3rd in the other group at home in the Quarter Finals, there is a distinct advantage both to obtaining a top-two place and to topping the group. So, even for sides that have already qualified before these games (Durham, Lancashire and Worcestershire from North Group and Somerset and Gloucestershire from South Group), like grid position in Formula 1, the higher you are, the more significant your advantage.
In North Group, Notts Outlaws, Birmingham Bears and Yorkshire Vikings are all after the remaining spot while, in South Group, Kent Spitfires, Glamorgan, Surrey and Sussex are in a blanket finish for two places. According to results, Kent could top South Group, or fail to qualify: it is that close.
An additional factor is a band of heavy rain moving south-east which, at midday, was hammering London, East Anglia and the home counties. With the West country dry and the rain about to reach Kent, Gloucestershire and Sussex were no doubt feeling happier than Yorkshire, Kent and Somerset about the prospects of play.
Just one game in North Group as Northamptonshire host Yorkshire Vikings. Northamptonshire are already guaranteed to finish bottom of the group, while the Vikings need to win this game in hand by a wide margin to keep open their chances of a Quarter-Final place. Of the three teams chasing one place, the Vikings have the worst NRR and, with the Vikings playing the Outlaws in the final game, would be eliminated if rain does not allow a result against the Outlaws unless tonight’s result pushes them ahead on NRR. To complicate things further, the Bears are 1 point ahead and also have a better NRR going into the game. Yorkshire welcome back Liam Plunkett, but Kane Williamson has bone damage to a finger taking a catch against the Outlaws on Friday. David Willey captains the side in the absence of Steve Patterson with a broken finger.
Northamptonshire won the Toss and elected to bat. Despite a slowish start, 68 from 39 balls from Josh Cobb kept the score moving. David Willey took three wickets in 4 balls in the penultimate over to knock back their chances of a big total but, despite this, 162-8 was strongly competitive. Chasing 163 to stay alive in the competition, Yorkshire lost Kohler-Cadmore for a duck to the fourth ball of the innings, but Lyth and Willey then set off in pursuit of the target at a furious pace and then accelerated. Yorkshire, needing the victory and, preferably a big one to improve run-rate, were cruising, with Willey and Lyth utterly dismantling the Northants attack, with Willey eschewing boundaries to score mainly in sixes. When Lyth fell for 66 from 41 balls, the job was all but done with Willey out for 79 from 42 with 7x6 from the next ball. Yorkshire won by seven wickets with 27 balls remaining and keep themselves alive.
Mission accomplished for Yorkshire who go ahead of Notts Outlaws by 0.05 on NRR and thus just need to match their result in the last game to go through.
Two big games and a dead rubber here. Gloucestershire host Sussex and Kent host Somerset, with a lot riding on both games. In the third match, Middlesex and Essex are in a three-way battle with Hampshire to avoid the wooden spoon in South Group. Victory for Gloucestershire would put them level on points with Somerset at the top of the Group, although their NRR is currently inferior and would all but eliminate Sussex, who would have to win their last game and hope for either rain in the Glamorgan v Surrey game or a narrow Surrey win combined with a big Sussex victory against Middlesex on the previous evening. For Kent, a win would seal qualification and open the chance of winning the South Group; defeat though would leave a must-win match on the last evening against Essex.
Unlike the final round of games, which all start at 1930 BST, Somerset had the advantage of starting at 2000 BST, half an hour after their rivals from across the River Avon and knowing how that match has ended before their own game did.
Gloucestershire v Sussex
Sussex may point to their four rained-off games if they fail to qualify, but a hit or miss attack also has a lot to do with it. When the Sussex pace attack comes off, as demonstrated by the two T20 hat-tricks that it has obtained this season, it is well-nigh irresistible; when it is off target, balls race to the boundary so much faster. Sussex went into the game without ace gunslinger, Luke Wright, injured, with Danny Briggs captaining the side. Gloucestershire picked the same squad as for their well-nigh miraculous win against Surrey, expecting to play the same XI, but gave Jacob Lintott a first start for Gloucestershire, having played T20 for Hampshire last season. Sir Robert Hunt described Jacob Lintott as “not looking very athletic, in fact, he makes Noema-Barnett look like Kate Moss”.
At the Brightside Ground at Bristol, Gloucestershire won the Toss and elected to bat. Tymal Mills immediately showed what a threat he is with a brutal fast over, including a delivery that hit Maxy Klinger and a brutal short ball that was neck high. Some tight bowling, particularly from Rashid Khan, who the batsmen were entirely unable to pick and Chris Jordan, made scoring tricky in the middle overs. 85-3 after 12 overs presaged a total around 170 but, despite some quite wild bowling from Tymal Mills, mixed with more brutal deliveries, Gloucestershire were never allowed to get away. With real difficulties to get the ball away, wickets started to fall quickly as the batsmen hit out. Jofra Archer’s last oversaw three wickets fall (a catch in the deep, a clean bowled from a hoik and a run-out) and just six runs scored. Gloucestershire’s final total of 159-9 was bitterly disappointing. With Michael Klinger’s back giving him a lot of trouble, it appeared initially that Chris Dent, who has been playing for the 2nd XI this week, was going to field for him, with Ian Cockbain took over the captaincy. However, after a delay, Klinger, who has been taking strong analgesics to allow him to play recently, joined the side on the field. The first over from David Payne was extraordinary, with three skied balls, two that went close to Lintott without being chances and a huge skier that Andrew Tye just missed over his shoulder, with the ball bouncing off his hands: 13 off the over, but it could so easily have been two wickets. Early omens for Gloucestershire were not good as Salt swung merrily and the bowling and fielding were, at times, shoddy. Salt finally fell after scoring 60 from 30 balls and then Jacob Lintott, captain of Clevedon CC, came in, gave the ball some air and, after two dot balls that were cheered loudly by the crowd and two singles, then took wickets with the last two balls of his over, the second of which utterly bamboozled Deloy Rawlins and clean-bowled him.
However, Finch and Wiese hammered the ball to all parts and Sussex seemed to be cruising, before Benny Howell got both with consecutive balls and, again, hope, however forlorn, returned as the crowd came to life, before the comment “that’s a terrible ball” started to repeat itself persistently. Sussex won eventually by four wickets with six balls to spare and were far from flattered by that margin. Gloucestershire were left to watch nervously events at Canterbury, while Sussex knew that they were still very much alive in the competition.
Sussex move ahead of Glamorgan into fourth in South Group and only have to avoid defeat in their last game to go through: a tie or a rained-off game would suit them nicely as their NRR is massively superior to Glamorgan. Surrey must win and hope that Sussex lose to Middlesex to go through on NRR.
Kent v Somerset
Kent have won 10 of the 14 previous meetings, with one abandoned and 3 Somerset victories so, on paper, the odds were stacked against Somerset. Unusually, Kent picked a 15-man squad, with Marcus Stoinis back after his hamstring injury, although not in the final XI. With the heavy rain clearing more than an hour before the start, the danger of a drastically shortened, or abandoned match was lifted.
Somerset won an on-time Toss after some great work from the groundsmen to make the outfield playable and put Kent in. The decision became debatable when Kent reached 58-0 from just five overs, with Daniel Bell-Drummond and Joe Denley enjoying themselves immensely. However, Denly and the Bell-Drummond fell in quick succession, and the scoring rate slowed considerably, with Max Waller taking two, cheap wickets. Sam Billings and Alex Blake then put together a rapid partnership before exploding and putting Jerome Taylor especially, to the sword. Blake fell for 42 from 22 balls, but Sam Billings kept on swinging, finishing with 57 from 35 balls, with able support from Sean Dickson’s 20 from 9 at the end, leading Kent to 231-5, including six penalty runs. Somerset needed a huge innings from someone but lost Myburgh quickly. Peter Trego scored swiftly, but fell for 30 from 18 and Somerset could see the run rate required rising rapidly. Steven Davies looked to be the main hope, but then fell for 45 from 25 balls, the RRR over 13 when he fell to make it 91-3. However, incredibly, after ten overs, Somerset were actually slightly ahead of Kent’s score at the same stage. Corey Anderson joined James, and 29 came from their first ten balls together, 42 from the first 16. One six went into the flats overlooking the ground; a top edge flew over the boundary.
Eventually, Corey Anderson swung once too often and a swirling edge went high in the air allowing Sam Billings to chase 30 yards and pull off a brilliant catch. 138-4 after 12.5 after a partnership of 47 from 21 balls. With the fall of Anderson, singles came at will, but Somerset needed at least two boundaries each over and could not get them. Hildreth fell finally for 45 and, with it, any remote chance that Somerset had of victory departed with him. However, Lewis Gregory was not going to die wondering and swung for his life, helped by a catch off a no-ball. The equation came to 30 from 8 when Milne bowled a high full toss that Gregory skied and was caught off, before John Lloyds, the TV umpire (and ex-Somerset player) called the delivery a new ball and, Milne had to be removed from the attack, with Tom Abell taking a boundary of the subsequent Free Hit. Grant Stewart came on to finish the over and went for two boundaries and bowled a wide, leaving 18 needed from the last over.
1st ball, Claydon to Gregory: boundary, 14 required.
2nd ball, Claydon to Gregory: a single, 13 needed from 4.
3rd ball, Claydon to Abell: Abell misses… a bye to the ‘keeper, 12 needed from 3.
4th ball, Claydon to Gregory: swung to leg, cut off on the boundary by Heino Kuhn who appeared to touch the rope as he fielded, two runs after a long delay. 10 needed from 2.
5th ball, Claydon to Gregory: Yorker, missed. Cut off just short if the boundary for three byes. Six need to tie.
6th ball, Claydon to Abell: a single on the On side and Somerset lose by five runs.
Somerset’s seven-match unbeaten streak ended and Kent, Somerset and Gloucestershire will dispute the top 3 places in South Group in the last round of matches, with Somerset who have finished their games, having the NRR advantage over Kent in second and Gloucestershire.
Middlesex v Essex
Yet another disappointing T20 campaign comes to an end at Lord’s, with rumours circulating that Dan Vettori may pay the price for two wins in 12 matches to date, six straight defeats and a battle to avoid coming bottom in South Group. Steve Finn and Nathan Sowter return to the squad for the “Machines”, who are captained by Dawid Malan now that he has no international commitments. Essex won the Toss and put Middlesex in.
This proved to be an evening when the stuttering Middlesex batting functioned reasonably well, even if the commentary stream did not. 210-3, built around 77 from 38 balls by Eoin Morgan and 78 from 52 by Paul Stirling powered Middlesex past 200, although the fans had seen Middlesex score 220+ and still lose comfortably this season. Essex though set off with gusto and, although they fell to 33-2 in the fourth over, Varun Chopra and Dan Lawrence kept Essex well up with the run-rate: the Middlesex nightmare of being unable to defend 220+ was repeating itself. Essex cruised to victory, winning by six wickets with four balls remaining. Poor bowling, dropped catches and generally shoddy fielding contributed to the Middlesex nightmare.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Love it or hate it, you cannot deny that the T20 Blast is pulling in the fans. Most teams are reporting record crowds, and we are now at the sharp end of the season. The last three evenings of games will decide Quarter-Final places, and the Quarter-Final crosses. Most of the games still have something riding on them. The pictures of crowds streaming into the Kia Oval more than an hour before their must-win match against Hampshire are proof of product.
Tonight we have had two games: Surrey v Hants and Bears v Lancs.
The long and short of it before the start is that only Hants have nothing riding on the games. If Surrey win, their fate will be decided on the last two evenings; if Surrey lose, they are out, and the last two qualifying places in South group will be decided between Kent, Glamorgan and Sussex. In North Group, the slim chances of the Bears ride on winning their last two games and hoping that other results fall the right way, while Lancashire are in a tight battle with Durham and Worcestershire for a top-two spot and a home Quarter Final: win and they all but guarantee it; lose and their fate will lie in the hands of Worcestershire.
Surrey brought in Aaron Finch and Tom Curran for Rory Burns and Matthew Pillans to add some firepower, needing to win well and for things to fall their way. That Surrey are in this position, their hopes balancing on a knife-edge is mostly their own making: they were cruising to a facile win against Gloucestershire in their previous game, needing just 12 to win from the last two overs with plenty of wickets in hand and, incredibly, lost by five runs. Hampshire, One Day Cup Champions, have been far less successful in the Blast and are in a tight battle with Essex and the hapless Middlesex for the wooden spoon in South Group.
Hampshire’s innings started well, with James Vince scoring quickly, but began to run out of steam in the second half of the innings, after the fall of the top three. From looking set to set a total of 170+ if you apply the rule of doubling the score after 12 overs, the innings subsided, with the run-rate slowing steadily as it progressed. Just 16 runs were added in the last three overs, 30 for the loss of 4 wickets from the previous five. From a promising high of 107-3, the final total of 133-7 was illustrative of Hampshire’s struggles in the competition, in complete contrast to their One Day Cup success. Tom Alsop struggled along at well under a run-a-ball when Hampshire needed far more, and no one was able to compensate. For Surrey, Morne Morkel was expensive, his first two overs going for 21 as Vince and Roussouw took advantage of the powerplay, but Dernbach and, especially, Batty, were particularly mean, pulling the advantage back and stifling the batsmen, the two combining for 8-0-37-3.
Chasing just 134 to win, with Finch and Roy opening, there was a possibility that Surrey could win with a lot of overs un-bowled, what was not in the script was that, after a confident opening from Finch, Jason Roy was clean bowled by off-spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman for a golden duck to the fifth ball of the opening over, looking to sweep. Just a single came off Chris Wood’s opening over, as Surrey struggled initially in the Power Play overs, giving the Hampshire fans brief hope. Five wides at the end of Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s second over seemed to have opened the flood-gates but, with time, not an issue, Will Jacks backed away from Steyn and offered a slogged catch to Sam Northeast. Incredibly, after four overs, Surrey were actually behind the run-rate and in need of some sensible batting. Aaron Finch though was still there and, in partnership with Nic Maddison, accelerated the scoring. Together they pushed Surrey to the target and, although Maddison fell to Mujeeb Ur Rahman, stumped for 41, to make it 117-3 after 15.3 overs, Aaron Finch powered Surrey over the line with 15 balls to spare, ending 67*. Liam Dawson’s spell of 0-14 from 4 overs and Chris Wood’s 0-16 from 3, kept the scoring under check, but Hampshire needed quick wickets and did not get them.
Surrey now need to beat Glamorgan on Friday and hope that either Gloucestershire or Middlesex beat Sussex to obtain a Quarter Final place. If Sussex lose to Gloucestershire, even though they could still finish on the same points as Surrey by winning their final game, against the hapless Middlesex, they would have one win fewer than Surrey and thus be eliminated.
In the other game, Lancashire’s batting struggled against a Birmingham Bears attack that needed a big win to keep their hopes alive. After Davies and Brown added 22 for the first wicket in the first three overs, it was all downhill. Lancashire limped to 102ao from 19 overs, with Oliver Hannon-Dalby taking 4-20, as only Danny Lamb, at #8, with 24, passed 13. It was a pretty miserable performance from a side looking to top the North Group. The Bears only needed a reasonable start, and they were well on their way to a huge win and a significant boost in NRR. Bell and Pollock supplied an opening partnership of 68 in 9.2 overs and, despite both falling in the space of 8 balls, the match was all but over. Young leggie, Matt Parkinson, took 2-16 from his four overs but lacked any kind of effective support. When the Bears took 13 from Zakhir Khan’s final over, which included three wides, any remote chance of a Lancashire comeback ended, and Sam Hain duly finished the match with a boundary from the first ball of the fifteenth over. The Bears won by seven wickets with 35 balls remaining, to put a significant dent in the Lancashire NRR.
If Worcestershire win their last game, against the Bears, on Friday, they will eliminate their rivals and send Lancashire into an away Quarter Final. However, even if Warwickshire win that game, Yorkshire Vikings, with two games left – against bottom place Northants and against Notts Outlaws – will eliminate them. Similarly, a win for the Outlaws against the Vikings will seal the final qualifying spot for the Outlaws. The North Group is in for a tense finish.
7/26/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Only three games were left to be completed last night. All three produced positive results, the most significant of which was Somerset’s win against Worcestershire, although at one point it seemed really to be in danger. Somerset hang on to Surrey’s coattails and will remember fondly that the penultimate round of fixtures will see Surrey visit Taunton. In Division 2, there were wins for Gloucestershire and Derbyshire in games where the advantage ebbed and flowed constantly through the day in five hours of dramatic action.
Yes, the game that no one watches and no one is interested in, produced three epic finishes, each played out in front of an appreciative crowd. It might only by Division Two and two modest sides, but the game at Cheltenham was played in front of crowds of around 3000 every day.
Worcestershire v Somerset
Somerset did, finally, obtain their win and kept up the pressure on Surrey at the top of the table, but briefly and horribly, it looked as if Worcestershire might even threaten to win. When Luke Wood and Dillon Pennington both fell to Jack Leach in the space of three balls, the Pears were 165-9 and appeared to be out of the contest. These, though, are strange days. Alex Milton, playing just his fourth First Class game and Steve Magoffin, batted for almost 40 overs in a tenth wicket partnership of 136. Initially, the partnership was an annoyance, then it became a major irritation and, finally, horrible imaginings started to emerge and, when the target got within 150, there were even thoughts that Worcestershire could even win. All it takes is one magic ball, one error, one loss of concentration and, realistically, there was never any real chance that the home side could win, but you try explaining that to the suffering bowlers who wonder if they are about to make history of the wrong kind. If the truth be told, the attack did not react well to frustration and lost its discipline badly, making the Worcestershire task so much easier.
During the morning session it all looked so simple. Worcestershire started the day 50-2, needing two big innings from somewhere. What they got instead was a rapid and horrific collapse. It started in just the third over of the morning after a misleading blizzard of early runs. Josh Davey, who ended with 3-43 from 19 miserly overs, bowled Joe Clarke. Four balls later Jamie Overton removed the dangerous Travis Head to a catch behind and, next ball, Ed Barnard, edged to Marcus Trescothick at slip. Alex Milton survived the hat-trick ball, but Worcestershire were 65-5. Brett D’Oliviera then gave Davey his third wicket: 71-6 after just five overs of the morning. If, at that point in play, you had taken a bet that Worcestershire would still be batting after Tea, you could have earned a fair sum. Whiteley and Milton delayed the inevitable with the sort of partnership that their side had needed a few wickets earlier but, after seeing out 21 overs and exactly doubling the score, the fall of Whiteley, caught behind off Jamie Overton for 39 precipitated another collapse from the relative riches of 142-6 to 165-9.
Magoffin accompanied Milton to a magnificent century. Somerset tried Trego. They tried Azhar Ali, but nothing worked and Jack Leach was not getting the same, lethal turn that Moeen had the previous day. The new ball came, but still nothing shifted the batsmen. Magoffin, who has six First Class fifties, was nearing a seventh when, finally, Craig Overton got him to play a false shot and Josh Davey held the catch. The tenth wicket partnership had lasted 39.2 overs and added 136 runs.
Somerset are 34 points behind Surrey with six to play and are the only realistic challengers to Surrey. Nottinghamshire, in third, are 43 points behind, with a game fewer to play and Essex, in fourth, are 61 points down: for either to challenge for the title, the two sides can afford no more than one draw in what is left of the season and must win the rest of their games with good hauls of bonus points.
The concertina effect has continued at the top. Middlesex, in fifth, definitely feel that they are back in the promotion race, although they would need a spectacular run of form to be promoted. Derbyshire are now just a point back from them, in sixth and, by the same logic, must also be in the promotion race. Gloucestershire, in seventh, will reflect how fine is the dividing line between success and failure: twice this season a potential win against Sussex disappeared, once to a rain-sodden draw, the other time to a narrow loss; had those results fallen Gloucestershire’s way, they would have been on 101 points and in fourth place, just ahead of Sussex (given some of the awful cricket played by Gloucestershire this season another matter would be whether or not they deserved to have been luckier).
Gloucestershire v Durham
The equation at the start was simple. Durham needed to chase 340 to win and required 305 from 96 overs, with ten wickets in hand. Through the day, the advantage ebbed and flowed. Early in the afternoon a Durham win looked to be the most likely result but, after Tea, after a period when the odds on Gloucestershire winning had shortened spectacularly, the draw started to become a distinct possibility and, at a late stage, Durham even started to block out deliberately, looking to play out the last hour.
Yes, it was a roller-coaster day in front of another bumper crowd.
It comes to something when Sir Robert Hunt gets so excited that his yelp of “he’s out!” scares the wits out of listeners and threatens to break the microphone. It was a day when you were glad that there were just two voices on the commentary (Sir Robert’s cellist scorer, Julian, rarely utters a sound, despite being bombarded with constant questions) and they were two of the best. Bob Hunt and Martin Emmerson live (and die) the success and failure of their respective teams and both ran the whole gamut of emotions as Durham started so well that they seemed certain to pull off what would have been their third largest chase and their first away win against Gloucestershire since 1999. It was good just to have the familiar home and away voice and no pseudo-neutral distractions.
Tom Latham and Cameron Steel batted with great solidity almost until Lunch when, finally, Matt Taylor got Latham to give a catch behind. Their opening partnership of 94 was just the foundation that the Wearsiders needed. At Lunch, Cameron Steel and Will Smith were bedding-in and the match was heading Durham’s way. Approaching mid-afternoon, the score was 168-2 and the situation was getting desperate for the Shire. On commentary, you could see Martin Emmerson’s smile, while Sir Robert was sinking into good-loser mode. What was needed was for one of the Gloucestershire bowlers to put on the Superman cape: astute followers of the Shire will know that there is one man that the captain turns to in such cases. Ryan Higgins bowled a super delivery that Graham Clark could only nick behind. That was the good news. The bad news was that this brought in Ben Stokes, who had had an excellent game with the ball and entered determined to score some runs too. Stokes could have been out half a dozen times as he charged the bowler, but rode his luck for a time. The turning point came when Will Smith and Ben Stokes fell in successive overs: Higgins, inevitably, got Smith and then Matt Taylor compensated for an anaemic first innings display with an, at times, devastating second innings performance, castling Stokes to the explosive joy of Sir Robert. Another jaffa from Taylor re-arranged the stumps of Stuart Poynter as, like various of his colleagues, he played back instead of forwards and, for the first time, Gloucestershire were favourite. 201-6 and that target of 340 was starting to recede into the distance.
Richardson and Wood came together and, again, the match changed direction. Wood has yet another foot injury – he is not so much “injury-prone” as “injury-plagued”, but he batted bravely, clearly seriously hampered. Together, they whittled down the target to 80 and, again, the home side was on the verge of panic. Then came the second turning point of the day. A couple of chances had gone begging in the field but, now, in his first over with the new ball, having just seen Mark Wood take 17 from him in an over, Craig Miles produced a ball that seemed to lift awkwardly from a good length. Richardson played back, the ball thudded into his pads and, despite looking suspiciously high, the umpire drew out his fickle finger of fate, while something suspiciously like dissent, pronounced in broad Geordie tones, went into the microphone in the commentary box. In his next over, Sailisbury played back instead of getting forward and Miles re-arranged his stumps too and you felt that, now, the fat lady was warming up her vocal cords. Wood continued to attack, but lost Harding to a catch by Bracey off Matt Taylor.
As the match entered the last hour, all four results were possible. Durham needed around 50 at just over 3-an-over, but Wood and Rushworth shut up shop, presumably trying to bat out the hour. It was though, only fitting, that Ryan Higgins, who had turned the match on its head earlier in the day, got the last wicket as Rushworth edged a catch behind. Matt Taylor will probably get the headlines for his 4-31, but Ryan Higgins had the splendid match figures of 6-85, taking him to 30 wickets at 19.9.
Gloucestershire will, most certainly, not be promoted, but at least see the threat of the wooden spoon recede and can still hope for the top-six finish that would represent success.
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire
Another game that ebbed and flowed through the day. During the morning it seemed that Northamptonshire were heading to a win that would allow them to dream of being in the promotion shake-up. Instead though, we had yet another epic finish, as Derbyshire held their nerve to close out a narrow win that had seemed unlikely a couple of hours earlier.
The visitors started the day 174-3, with two set batsmen, the chase of 314 seemingly well in hand. Derbyshire needed quick wickets. 140 to get with two set batsmen and seven wickets in hand is usually a position that favours the batting side nine times out of ten. This though, was the tenth time and it turned on two, young spinners. Qadri and Critchley bowled most of the overs in the day and took nine of the ten Northamptonshire wickets. Levi, Crook and Prasanna all got past twenty, but none could make the fifty that would surely have won the match. Once Wakeley fell to the wiles of Qadri for 68, the Northamptonshire slide was as inevitable as someone hanging on to a ledge by their fingertips until, inevitably, losing their grip and falling.
Critchley scythed through the middle order with his leg-spin, taking career best innings and match figures: not bad for a 21-year-old bowler who averages 61 with the ball. At 265-7, with just 49 needed, the odds were stacked heavily in favour of Northamptonshire still. Prasanna was batting well and seemed to be guiding his team to victory, but Critchley got one through him and bowled him. With Prasanna in the hutch, the last two wickets fell quickly: Hutton and Buck lasted just thirteen more balls, as Critchley and Qadri divided them between themselves. The final margin was 39 runs but, as they say, the winner was cricket.
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