5/17/2018 1 Comment
By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
The white-ball replaced the red-ball as the Royal London Day cup got underway on Thursday.
It meant power plays, field restrictions and boundaries galore as Colin Graves finally found his happy place away from the ‘boring scenes’ of County Championship cricket.
Let’s forget the fact that in the last round of Championship cricket we saw a 3-run nail-biter at Grace Road and a tight comeback win for Essex at New Road. A pair of games that had more twists and turns than any games of White-ball cricket could dream of having, but that’s a story for a different day.
One man who perhaps would’ve been pleased to see the boundary rope that much closer and the field that much more spread would be Essex’s Tom Westley. The Eagles number three has been enduring a torrid time with the bat in the early season but pulling on the coloured clothing rather than the white seemed to release the shackles. The Cambridge-born 29-year-old struck a match-winning 134 as the Eagles eased passed a poor Middlesex side at the picturesque Radlett.
After winning the toss, Middlesex elected to bat first hoping to make the most of the small boundaries in an attempt to create some scoreboard pressure. Indeed, things started swimmingly for the Londoners with Nick Gubbins striking the Essex attack to all parts of the Radlett outfield. Jamie Porter, Sam Cook and the returning Neil Wagner all finding it difficult to stem the flow of runs with the hard new ball. Stevie Eskinazi offered strong support to the hard-hitting Gubbins as the pair took the score to 79 without loss entering the 13th over. With the last ball of the twelve over though Wagner bagged his first wicket of the season to remove Eskinazi, Asher Zaidi taking a smart catch to dismiss the opener for 28. Paul Stirling came and went as Wagner again enticed a false shot to offer Ryan ten Doeschate a catch. That put the score on 86/2 and that soon become 86/3 as Gubbins, who had just reached his 50 lost his middle stump to Simon Harmer. Trouble was brewing in the Hertfordshire sun, and the hosts were in desperate need of a partnership. Tasked with doing just that was England’s Eoin Morgan and Australia’s Hilton Cartwright, and the duo started to steady the ship adding 57 for the fourth wicket. But just when the foundations were beginning to be set, ten Doeschate called Sam Cook back into the attack, and the youngster struck with his third ball pinning the Australian in front leg before. John Simpson offered brief support to Morgan, who by was beginning to hold the key for Middlesex. Simpson and Morgan added 37-runs before the Eagles went bang bang to leave the hosts in all sorts of strive. The pair fell within an over of each other and Essex were suddenly right back on top, Harmer and Bopara with the wickets. James Franklin and Tom Helm were the last hopes for the hosts, and they did offer some resistance to the Essex attack who now firmly had their tails up. The pair added a useful 48-runs to take the Londoners passed 200 and beyond. But an inspired Bopara soon ripped through the lower order after Porter removed Helm to keep the hosts down to a below-par 250. Bopara finished with impressive figures of 3-30, while Wagner on his Essex return also collected excellent figures of 3-40 from his nine overs of work.
That left Essex with 251 to get from their 50-overs. Adam Wheater, who has seen his first-team action limited, opened with Varun Chopra as the Eagles looked for a positive start. They didn’t get it, as the former Hampshire man edge through to keeper Simpson to fall for 1, Helm, the bowler. That brought the out-of-sorts Westley to the middle desperate to be rid of the rust that has been following him around. Indeed, he immediately looked to be positive flashing delightful cover drives to the boundary off Helm. He and Chopra continued to be busy at the crease finding the rope with regularity and rotating the strike nicely with quick ones. Although Westley dominated the score the role of Chopra mustn’t be underplayed, the former Warwickshire man offered vital support as he notched a half-century as Essex continued to move serenely to their target. The onslaught continued even when Chopra departed as the in-form Dan Lawrence fresh from his match-winning half-century at New Road kept the scoreboard moving with a typically fluent 35. But make no bones about it the day belong to Westley who had struggled to make double figures against the red-ball flayed the ball to all parts of the Radlett outfield on his way to his century. In the end, he departed with the Eagles just 5-runs short of victory having gone beyond his previous list A best of 111 and reached 134 before the impressive Ryan Patel removed him. The Essex number three had struck 17-fours, and a six during his 117-ball stay to help guide the visitors to a comprehensive six-wicket success in Hertfordshire winning with 44-balls to spare.
Elsewhere, Sussex smashed Kent at Hove in front of a good crowd bolstered by a busload of local school children. Those lucky youngsters saw a bowling masterclass by the hosts as they restricted the Spitfires to a disappointing 188 despite the best efforts of Daniel Bell-Drummond who made just under half his teams runs alone with a score of 90. The Kent opener struck six-fours and a six during his 115-ball stay but lacked the support required to really propel his side to a decent score, indeed only Alex Blake reached double figures as the pace attack of Ishant Sharma, and Ollie Robinson ripped through the top order. Danny Briggs was also dangerous with the ball claiming exceptional figures of 3-23 from his ten overs. Including the wicket of the wily old fox Darren Stevens who can be dangerous on his day. Robinson also impressed with the ball in hand bagging three wickets as the Sussex attack simply outclassed the Kent line-up.
A score of 188 was never going to be enough for the visitors even with the impressive Matt Henry in their ranks. Typically, the Kiwi took two wickets as he continues to shine for Kent following his winter arrival, but he just simply didn’t have enough runs to protect at Hove. Luke Wells and Ben Brown both struck half-centuries in the Sussex sun as the pair helped the hosts to a routine win with more than ten overs to spare. Brown hit six-fours on his way to an unbeaten 73, while Wells struck nine boundaries during his 89-ball 62.
There were a pair of centuries at Edgbaston as Derbyshire beat Warwickshire by 57-runs. In this high-scoring encounter, both Billy Godleman and Sam Hain went big as over 650-runs were scored in a day. Godleman hit 137 striking 12-fours and three sixes during his 116-ball stay before the former Essex man was run out by Adam Hose. But by then the damage had already been done with Godleman with the excellent support of Ben Slater (69) and Wayne Madsen (58), and Daryn Smit and Matthew Critchley latterly had gone beyond 330 by the time the opener was dismissed. Jonathan Trott did his best to stem the runs with his aim of taking regular wickets hoping to slow down the tempo. The former England man bagged four wickets for 60 runs during his 10-over stint. Smit added late runs with Duanne Olivier as the visitors pushed their total beyond 350 to finish on 357-8.
In pursuit of their lofty target, the Bears lost a couple of quick early wickets as Derbyshire’s South African paceman Olivier bagged the wickets of Trott and Ed Pollock to leave the hosts in early trouble on 20/2. Sam Hain and Ian Bell stung to tails of the Falcon bowlers by adding a 78 for the third wicket with Bell contributing just 18 of that with the dominant Hain taking centre stage for the hosts. Another decent partnership then took place this time between Hain and Hose as Warwickshire looked to attack. The pair knew that they had to grab the bull by the horn and start to chip away at the visitors total, the duo shared 75-runs in ten overs before Hose became Ravi Rampaul’s only victim of the day. But with the total on 173 just past the halfway mark, the Bears were well and truly still in the game, and Derbyshire knew that the wicket of Hain would be crucial for their hopes of victory. Tim Ambrose and Aaron Thomason came and went, and while Hain had reached his deserved century by now hitting 11-fours and a six in the process he was acutely aware he was running out of partners. And to his 101st ball, the visitors finally had their man as the centurion went for one big shot too many and found the hands of Rampaul to fall for a quite brilliant 108. His departure left the hosts in the perilous position on 210-7 and staring down the barrel, suddenly it was down to the tailenders to see the job through, and Derbyshire could almost taste success on the tips of their tongue. The ever-reliable Keith Barker had other ideas though; the Bears stalwart frustrated the visitors and even threatened to take the hosts to victory at one point. He shared 59 with Olly Stone for the 9th wicket as Warwickshire edged closer to the 300 mark, but when Stone went for 16 the game was up, and Barker was left stranded on 48, and the Bears were 57-runs short. An excellent advert for 50-over cricket at Edgbaston.
Meanwhile, Olly Stone’s former employers Northamptonshire miserable start to the season continued at Wantage road as the Steelbacks fell to a 72-run defeat at the hands of Leicestershire. The Foxes veteran opener Paul Horton was the hero for the visitors striking a magnificent century to guide Paul Nixon’s men to a competitive 265-7. Horton was the only man to capitalise on a good start as a number of batsmen got going but failed to kick on with five of the Leicestershire top order made 25 or more. The 35-year-old opener though underpinned his sides total hitting nine-fours during his 126-ball stay at the crease sharing decent partnerships with Michael Carberry (25) and Colin Ackermann (30). Ben Raine (32) and Ned Eckersley (25 not out) added vital late runs to help the Foxes set a decent looking total against a team bereft of any real confidence. True to form, the Steelbacks were dealt an early blow when Carberry ran out key man Ben Duckett for just 2, and the wickets continued to fall in clusters as the hosts found themselves in an all too familiar situation at 95/6. Gavin Griffiths (4-30) and Raine (3-31) the men doing all the damage of Leicestershire continue their rebuilding process under Nixon in fine style. Josh Cobb (56), Rob White (38) and Brett Hutton (34 not out) were the only Northants batsmen to show any real fight and resistance of the Griffiths and Raine show ripped through the top and middle order. It was another humbling defeat for the hosts who fell to another heavy defeat, but for Leicestershire, it is another progression box ticked off for Nixon and his coaching staff.
Lastly, in the Sky Live day-nighter at Old Trafford, holders Nottinghamshire edged past Lancashire in a thriller. Scores from Chris Nash (52), Tom Moores (47), Ross Taylor (58) and Steven Mullaney (70) led the Outlaws to the commanding total of 318 from their 50 overs. Mullaney looked mightly impressive indeed against his former employers striking eight-fours and a six during his 54-balls stay. In the grand scheme of thing though, perhaps the six and the four hit late on by big Luke Fletcher was the most crucial moment in the match given how the game panned out. With the ball young Matt Parkinson impressed for the hosts with the young spinner bagging figures of 5-68. In response, Keaton Jennings’ excellent recent form continued as the England hopeful smashed eleven-fours on his way to 136 in front of the sky cameras. He dominated his side’s score of 309-9 with the lack of partners the real reason why the hosts fell agonisingly short. Indeed, only Dane Vilas, Liam Livingstone and Steven Croft offered the opener any semblance of support with scores of 41, 33 and 33 respectively. A cluster of wickets from the 40-over mark onwards also didn’t help matters as the visitors fought back superbly with the ball with Jake Ball and Harry Gurney particularly impressive with the ball for the Outlaws. Gurney bagged the vital wicket of Jennings who held the key to success throughout and when he went in 47th over with 30-runs still required, so did the game and remember those 12 runs that Fletcher hit late on, boy did they prove crucial in the end. Lancashire fell just 9-runs short of victory to give the defending champions the ideal start to the season.
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