4/28/2018 0 Comments
BY Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
The games at Grace Road and Wantage Road have now had consecutive wash-outs. Hopefully, both will start tomorrow, but with no chance of a result. Play was also washed-out at Lord’s despite the fact that it was dry most of the day: morning rain did too much damage and, after inspection after inspection, play was finally knocked on the head in the late afternoon.
The game at Hove though more than compensated. If you want some manic action, you could do worse than to follow Gloucestershire. When Sussex started the day at 86-0, you had the feeling that this was the Glamorgan game all over again. Gloucestershire had used the new ball wastefully on the first day and were facing both barrels loaded for bear. For four overs there was no hint of what was to come as Wells and Salt played themselves back in, adding six, cautious runs. The ghosts of the game at Bristol were doing a haunting as bad as anything in the cinema of terror and the bullishness of Gloucestershire fans from the first round was evaporating like snow in an oven. However, it seems that Gloucestershire have found a solution: where there are ghosts “who you gonna call?” HIGGINS! Yes, even Middlesex fans are beginning to wonder what on earth they were thinking to let him go. Wells, Salt and van Zyl went to Higgins before Worrall joined the fun. Suddenly Sussex were 117-8, had lost 8 wickets for 25 and were in the most desperate straits. Luke Wright – remember when, many years ago, we thought that he would bat at 3 for England and play as fourth seamer? – added a few, vital runs with Danny Briggs, but Higgins was not to be denied and ended with 5-21. He now has 14 wickets in 5 innings for Gloucestershire and has scored vital runs too. After 5-22 against Kent, 5-21 here has set up the chance of another extraordinary win (we seem to be using that word a lot in these first rounds of games) for the Shire. However, to do that, Gloucestershire need to get some runs and, this season, as last, that has been an issue. Chris Dent is, frankly, all at sea this season and with Gloucestershire persisting with the experiment of Benny Howell opening and Gareth Roderick taking the gloves and batting at 3, the batting foundation does offer the stability of blancmange. However, while Benny Howell is there he is not going to die wondering. He scored 7x4 in his 37 and, with Roderick seemed to be batting Gloucestershire into a position of complete control. At 69-1 Gloucestershire were almost halfway to a first-innings lead and sitting pretty. That said, the middle order has been a real issue since Maxi Klinger left the side and one wicket rapidly became six. Bracey could not repeat his heroics of Bristol. Even Ryan Higgins cannot be expected to don on his Superman cape every time and 129-6 left the unpalatable prospect of Sussex getting a first innings lead. There is though, another superhero in the Gloucestershire dressing room and it is the least expected person possible. Were it not for injuries and Jack Taylor being banned from bowling, Kieron Noema-Barnett would probably not be playing in the 1st XI, however, just occasionally, he shows why Gloucestershire persist with him. After a start so slow that the fans were wondering if he had nodded-off at the crease – remember that Bob Hunt, Gloucestershire commentator and the only person in the world who knows where Forest Green is, claims that if Noema-Barnett were any more laid back he would fall asleep – woke suddenly from his slumber as wickets tumbled and briefly smote the ball to all parts with some effect. One could be uncharitable and say that when the leg-spinner comes on with the precise aim of trying to make him do something stupid, to try to hit his first ball for another six is not quite Mensa level thinking, but with 31 runs and after helping the Shire to a lead of 38, one has to be charitable. Wiese took 5-48, Ollie Robinson 4-67 and Sussex were batting again long before the Close. It is a measure of how Ryan Higgin’s stock has risen that he took the new ball. It was also no surprise to see him deliver with it, bowling Salt with just his second delivery. Sussex though took the lead and seemed to be heading calmly to the Close, before Gloucestershire’s other caped crusader – Kieron Noema-Barnett – bowled Luke Wells with the last ball of the day. At 51-2, effectively 13-2, this game could well end tomorrow. The first session will be critical for both sides as Gloucestershire know that they should win this one, but Sussex know equally that if they get 200 ahead, they have the attack to close the match out fast.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkfromMadrid)
There were plenty of remarkable events in Division 1 today. While one game – that at New Road – registered its second consecutive wash-out (with further bad weather forecasted for Monday too) and the game at Southampton barely got started, there was a pretty extraordinary day in the other two games. Let’s start at Taunton. If you had said at the start of the day that Yorkshire would end it battling to avoid the follow-on, you would probably have been locked-up as crazy, especially when Matt Renshaw was hitting the ball to all parts and Somerset were 145-1. The fall of George Bartlett for 39 led to the most extraordinary crash of wickets as, first, Somerset lost 9 wickets for 71 and then Yorkshire, requiring 67 to avoid the follow-on, collapsed from 51-2 to 64-8 and in real danger of allowing Somerset a Route One win. With rain forecast for Monday and thoughts that the final day will be washed-out, it needed something extraordinary to allow even the possibility of a result after the first day was lost but, after the early fall of Trescothick, Renshaw and Bartlett batted sublimely, adding 140 in just 25 overs, as the Yorkshire bowling was put to the sword. Jack Brooks – with 5-57 – and Ben Coad – with 3-67 – seemed to have upset the cider waggon and, when the previously expensive Tim Bresnan knocked over the last two wickets, the value of Renshaw’s 112 became obvious: without it, Somerset would have been hard-pressed to reach 100. Yorkshire’s start could hardly be worse as Adam Lyth was run out by Bartlett to the twelfth ball of the innings after eleven dot balls. Pujara has not exactly enhanced his reputation so far this season. He may average 50.5 in Tests, but has 2, 18 and now 7 for the Tykes and is finding April in England a slightly more daunting prospect than November in Mumbai. However, Brook and Ballance seemed to be setting a decent base before the young Somerset attack caused all kinds of panic. First Groenewald and then Gregory were on a hat-trick and Yorkshire, incredibly, needed three runs to avoid the embarrassment of the follow-on. Their plight would have been far worse had Tim Bresnan not hung on for more than an hour to eke out some runs from the tail. 96ao though was pretty bad and Somerset batted again before the Close, seeing out 2 overs and extending their lead to 126. They have an interesting decision to take tomorrow: with bad weather forecast for Monday, Somerset have the chance to chase quick runs and try to declare perhaps 300 ahead, hoping to force a result between tomorrow afternoon and any bonus play on Monday.
At Old Trafford, there was something equally remarkable: Lancashire, who have lost both games so far this season, will not lose this one. This was not something that you would have predicted after just over half an hour in the morning, with Lancashire 23-3 and Hameed, Jennings and Davies all back in the pavilion. Whatever else happens this summer, neither Hameed nor Jennings will enter England’s plans unless one of them has an extraordinary change in form and fortune. Their loss though was Liam Livingstone’s gain. He helped Shivnarine Chanderpaul to stabilise the innings and was unfortunate to fall LBW to Jade Dernbach with a 50 there for the taking: Livingstone looks the most likely of the three to play a Test this summer. This provoked another mini-collapse and, at 128-5, Lancashire were looking unlikely to break their season’s batting bonus point duck. However, there were then runs all down the order and 50s from Chanderpaul, Croft and Clark. A fourth batting point was attained comfortably and, in theory, with 48 needed from 36 balls and Meenie on 35*, you cannot quite rule out a fifth batting point. For Surrey, who many felt would be strong contenders for the pennant this season, it was a chastening experience. A draw looks almost certain, but Surrey will need to make sure that they get past the follow-on target, whatever it turns out to be. For Surrey, the high point of the day was, again, Amar Virdi’s bowling. He got flight and turn and ended up with 3-64. What was remarkable though was that his first wicket, Chanderpaul, was of a man who had made his Test debut four years before Virdi was even born! That Somerset v Surrey game at Taunton in September is looking more and more like a shoot-out for the title of the most lethal twirler in the country.
In the other game, at the Rose Bowl, Hants moved on to 154-2 before bad light ended play. New National Selector, Ed Smith, was there to see James Vince and reportedly liked what he saw. Vince though respected tradition by reaching 47 and looking like a million dollars before edging Harmer to Foster behind the stumps. With just 60 overs possible in the first two days, this one looks like it will be just a contest for first innings points. Essex still need a wicket to get their first bowling point, while Hants will be hoping for 3 or, or they really get a move on, just possibly 4, before setting to work on the Essex batsmen. However, with overs running out, it may well be that neither gets the full haul of bonus points in this innings. The spotlight will then, at some point tomorrow, focus on Alastair Cook, who desperately needs some runs.
At New Road, the groundsman has done an extraordinary job to get an outfield that was under water several feet deep in places just two weeks ago ready for Championship cricket, but more heavy rain has defeated him. Two days. Two wash-outs. The best that Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire can hope for is to make a start at some time tomorrow.
4/26/2018 0 Comments
By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu), Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid) & Harry Hill (@HarryHill96)
Game week three sees the start of the introduction of the England Test players returning to the County fold looking to find some vital form ahead of the English Test summer.
Alastair Cook in particular needs to find something, anything, to get him going ahead of potentially his last English Test Summer. The former England skipper looked woefully out of touch in the winter and will be hoping some time back with his beloved Eagles will rejuvenate him and offer him some vital time in the middle. Last summer, he was fantastic for the Champions contributing with nearly every innings in an Essex shirt and Anthony McGrath will hope the legendary left-hander can find that form again to help aid the Eagles to their second success of the season in Southampton.
It won’t be easy for Cook though, Hampshire are blessed with one of the best bowling attacks in the division with the likes of Kyle Abbott, Fidel Edwards and Gareth Berg already well amongst the wickets. That, of course, doesn’t even mention Liam Dawson and Chris Wood who are also always a danger with the ball in hand.
The Chef though will just want to go about his work, free of the pressure of holding up an end for England as the doubts continue to linger about his future and the batting order around him. A few early season runs will do Cook the world of good you would expect, and you could also argue he needs them to keep his place in the Test side.
The returning ‘little Chef,’ Sam Cook, who burst on the scene at the back end of last season for the Champions, will join ‘big Chef ‘in the squad. I was lucky enough to witness Sam Cook’s finest hour in his early career in an Essex shirt as he ripped through the Hampshire line-up at the Ageas Bowl last September. How he would love to repeat that trick again in Southampton to prove it wasn’t just a fluke.
A three-pronged pace attack of Cook, Jamie Porter and Peter Siddle, with the spin option of Simon Harmer, is one certainly to challenge the strength Hampshire have and you suspect the performance of those two attacks will go a long way to deciding the outcome of this encounter.
There is still no place in the side for former Hampshire man Matt Coles who is seemingly being saved for Essex’s one-day side.
For Hampshire, they remain unchanged as they look to bounce back from their defeat at the Oval. They would have been pleased to see Sam Northeast amongst the runs, as they look for more stability in the middle order. Essex will know all about Hashim Amla, who previously spent a stint in Chelmsford. The form of the South African will be key to ensure Hampshire get runs on the board as you suspect the visitors will put Hampshire in on the opening morning. It is sure to be an exciting encounter with plenty of international stars past and present on show in Southampton, and who will come out on top is anyones guess, much will rely on Cook and Amla as these two bowling attacks have the ability to blow any batting line-up away.
How they line up:
Hampshire: Adams, Wood, Dawson, Berg, Vince ©, Amla, Northeast, McManus (w/k), Rossouw, Weatherley, Wheal, Edwards, Abbott and Sole
Essex: ten Doeschate ©, Foster (w/k), Beard, Bopara, Browne, Chopra, A. Cook, S. Cook, Harmer, Lawrence, Porter, Siddle and Westley
Day one: Heavy rain – little chance of play
Day Two: Cloudy
Day three: Cloudy – with a chance of afternoon showers
Day Four: Morning rain – clearing in the afternoon
Meanwhile, at Old Trafford, the Lancastrian faithful will be hoping and praying that they can get their season up and running.
It has been a surprisingly testing start to the campaign for Glen Chapple’s men with defeats to Nottinghamshire and Essex leaving them rock bottom of the Championship. They were many people picks for the Championship, a strong looking bowling attack coupled with a decent looking top order meant some of the esteemed View From the Outfield writers fancied them to lift the Division One trophy come September.
However, with a tricky looking game against Surrey now on the horizon, they must now start to look to get their season moving as they are at risk of being cast adrift even this early in the season.
The Red Rose have been forced to wait for the arrival of James Anderson back to their side, but they do still have an impressive attack with Joe Meenie settling in well to County cricket and the evergreen Graham Onions still look dangerous after his switch to Old Trafford from Chester-Le-Street. They do have plenty of potential run-makers in Hameed, Livingstone and Jennings at the top of the order, in theory, all the ingredients are there to make a title-winning team, for one reason or another it just hasn’t quite clicked yet for the Lanky boys.
Glen Chapple has made just the one change to the squad that lost in Chelmsford with promising pace bowler Saqib Mahmood coming into the 14 replacing all-rounder Danny Lamb.
For Surrey, they tasted the sweet taste of success at the first time of trying thrashing Hampshire at the Oval in game week two. The ‘Reys squad looks well balanced and is a threat to any side. The mystery of Amar Virdi adds a different dimension to their team, whilst Sam Curran is another year older and stronger and Jade Dernbach looks to have finally worked out how to stop leaking runs.
With the bat, they have runs throughout the batting line-up as was proved last week with Ollie Pope striking his first century of the season. Mark Stoneman is an England international and in Ben Foakes they have one of the best wicket-keeper batsmen in England. It is hardly surprising they nullified the threat of Hampshire with such ease and grace last week.
Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that ‘moneybags’ Surrey have named no fewer than nine Surrey academy graduates in their 13-man squad travelling to Manchester. Ravi Patel – who has been impressing in the 2XI and Stuart Meaker join the eleven men who played in their opening games success over Hampshire. Clearly, the Rey are expecting some seam movement at Old Trafford as they pack their squad with talented seamers.
If they can dodge the weather the visitors will fancy their chances of making it two-out-of-two at Old Trafford.
How they line-up:
Lancashire: Liam Livingstone (C), Tom Bailey, Shiv Chanderpaul, Jordan Clark, Steven Croft, Alex Davies, Haseeb Hameed, Keaton Jennings, Saqib Mahmood, Joe Mennie, Graham Onions, Stephen Parry, Matt Parkinson, Dane Vilas
Surrey: Rory Burns (C), Mark Stoneman, Scott Borthwick, Dean Elgar, Ollie Pope, Ben Foakes, Sam Curran, Rikki Clarke, Jade Dernbach, Matthew Dunn, Amar Virdi, Ryan Patel, Stuart Meaker
Day One: Light Rain – expect little play
Day Two: Light clouds
Day Three: Light Clouds
Day Four: Rain in the morning clearing throughout the day
Worcestershire v Nottinghamshire
Worcestershire 13-man squad: Daryl Mitchell, Brett D’Oliveira, Tom Fell, Joe Clarke, Travis Head, George Rhodes, Ben Cox, Ed Barnard, Joe Leach, Josh Tongue, Charlie Morris, Ben Twohig, Ross Whiteley.
Nottinghamshire 12-man squad: Jake Libby, Chris Nash, Steven Mullaney, Stuart Broad, Riki Wessels, Harry Gurney, Luke Fletcher, Samit Patel, Tom Moores, Ross Taylor, Jake Ball, Billy Root.
Ross Whiteley comes into the Worcestershire squad as a replacement for Steve Magoffin, who is rested after suffering a tight hamstring against Somerset last week. Young legspinner Ben Twohig could make his first-class debut if selected. Ed Barnard will be looking to continue his fine form, after taking 11-89 in the defeat at Taunton last week. For Notts, Stuart Broad returns after being rested for his first match of the season, whilst Tom Moores will be looking to take some more stunning catches behind the stumps, that attracted the attention of Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea during the week. Notts will know that they need to improve their batting from defeat at Headingley last week, after relying on Jake Ball’s 44* in the first innings.
Weather Watch: Rain forecast for Friday and Saturday, before dry spells on Sunday and Monday. Highs of around 10c.
Match Odds: Worcestershire 7/4, Nottinghamshire 4/9. (Betfair).
Somerset v Yorkshire
Somerset – Tom Abell (c), Tom Banton, George Bartlett, Dom Bess, Josh Davey, Steve Davies, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Matt Renshaw, Marcus Trescothick and Paul van Meekeren.
Yorkshire – Gary Ballance ©, Tim Bresnan, Harry Brook, Jack Brooks, Karl Carver, Ben Coad, Andrew Hodd (WK), Jack Leaning, Alex Lees, Adam Lyth, Cheteshwar Pujara, Josh Shaw, Matthew Waite
Top of the table Yorkshire visit Taunton. The Yorkshire faithful see their good start as evidence that Yorkshire will be Championship contenders, after being well off the pace in 2017. Somerset fans will hope that their side can follow up the win last week and get the fast start that will allow them to play their trump card of Leach and Bess successfully during the Championship run-in. For Somerset, Eddie Bryom dislocated a shoulder in the field against Worcestershire and Jamie Overton has a side strain, although it is minor and he is expected to be back quickly. Paul van Meekeren replaces the latter, while Tom Banton and George Bartlett are added to replace the former. Yorkshire have a long list of absences: apart from Adil Rashid, taking a red-ball sabbatical, Steve Patterson (broken finger), Matthew Fisher (torn side), Liam Plunkett and David Willey (both IPL), Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow are unavailable. Root and Bairstow will be netting at Headingley and should be available for the trip to Essex, although Bairstow will not start preparation until Monday. Yorkshire have won more than half of the 175 games between the two sides (91 wins to Somerset’s 24), but things have been far more even in recent seasons and this game could turn out to be finely balanced. Ben Coad has been flying again this season for the Yorkies and it must be a worry that he may get into the England squad this summer to add to the drain on resources. Jack Brooks is also having a good start to the season. For Somerset, there is quiet optimism, particularly as the quicks proved so potent against Worcestershire, meaning that they will be just as happy if the Taunton pitch has something in it for the seamers as they will be if it is a turner.
Middlesex v Glamorgan
Middlesex – Dawid Malan (captain), Tom Barber, Hilton Cartwright, Stephen Eskinazi, James Franklin, Tom Helm, Max Holden, Tim Murtagh, Ollie Rayner, Sam Robson, George Scott, John Simpson (wicket-keeper), Paul Stirling.
Glamorgan – Hogan ©, Selman, Murphy, Marsh, Carlson, Donald, Cooke, Lloyd, Salter, Carey, de Lange, van der Gugten, Smith
This is one of the most interesting games of this round, matching 2nd v 3rd in the table. Despite their late scare, Glamorgan looked very good against Gloucestershire, while Middlesex have shown the frustrating Jekyll and Hyde inconsistency of 2017 in their first two games. Glamorgan pick the XII who went to Bristol but add Ruaidhri Smith to give them an extra pace option. The Middlesex dressing room, in contrast, resembles a plot line from a popular BBC series when I was a (young) kid, called “Emergency Ward Ten”. While Middlesex welcome back Dawid Malan after his enforced rest for the first two rounds of Championship cricket and Steve Eskinazi (after missing two games with a virus), there is still too much bad news for comfort. After missing the end of the season and the England tour through injury, Toby Roland-Jones has been found to have a recurrence of the stress fracture of his back and will miss the rest of the season. “Toblerone” made such an impact for England on his debut last season and his injury is a tragedy both for Middlesex and for England: he seems fated not to add to his Test caps. Toblerone joins a lengthy injury list of James Harris (side), Steve Finn (knee), Nick Gubbins (not yet quite ready to come back) and Eoin Morgan (broken thumb). Tim Murtagh has recovered from his back spasm and is in the squad, although one suspects that the coach will watch him closely in the pre-match warm-up as Middlesex can ill-afford another bowler to breakdown mid-match, having lost Roland-Jones, Harris and Murtagh at different moments against Derbyshire. While Middlesex’s squad depth is such that they can still field six internationals, one wonders if the fates are against them in their promotion push. This game already looks like a “must not lose” for the Londoners, while Glamorgan are looking forward to their first game at Lord’s for nine years and travel with great optimism that they have a real chance to back up last week’s impressive win, with a big scalp.
Sussex v Gloucestershire
Sussex – Ben Brown (c/wk), Danny Briggs, Michael Burgess, Harry Finch, Ollie Robinson, Phil Salt, Ishant Sharma, Stiaan van Zyl, Stuart Whittingham, David Wiese, Luke Wells, Luke Wright
Gloucestershire – Dent (c), Howell, Roderick, Bracey, J.Taylor, van Buuren, Higgins, Noema-Barnett, Miles, Worrall, M.Taylor, Liddle, Hankins
Gloucestershire travel to Sussex-by-the-Sea having followed a fine win against Kent, with three days of abject cricket against Glamorgan that left them just too much to do to salvage the draw. Sussex have been unfortunate to play their first two matches on absolutely dead surfaces that would not have produced a result in five days and, the pitch at Grace Road, probably not even in six. Both sides want the win to keep up the pressure on the sides at the top of the table. Sussex replace Will Beer, who has a sore side after a long bowl on the pitiless Grace Road pitch, with Danny Briggs, who has recovered fitness after a knee operation and has been playing for the 2nd XI to get match fit. Many people see Sussex as a good outside bet for promotion and it is certainly true that they have impressed in the two draws. Gloucestershire go back to the team that beat Kent. Giant Liam Norwell, who came out batting on one leg to try and save the game against Glamorgan, misses the game with a hamstring injury. After perhaps unwisely being left out against Glamorgan, Craig Miles will expect to be in the final XI. Both sides will hope that the pitch offers something but, if it does, an opening attack of Worrall and Taylor will be a handful, with Miles as first change. Sussex will undoubtedly play the same XI save for the aforementioned enforced change of spinner. Gloucestershire will be delighted by the form of Ryan Higgins and the return to form of Bobby Bracey, but captain Chris Dent is struggling for runs and putting too much pressure on Benny Howell and Gareth Roderick at the top of the order.
Northamptonshire v Durham
Northamptonshire 13-man squad: Alex Wakely, Luke Procter, Richard Levi, Adam Rossington, Josh Cobb, Rob Keogh, Ben Duckett, Steven Crook, Doug Bracewell, Brett Hutton, Richard Gleeson, Ben Sanderson, Rob Newton.
Durham 12-man squad: Paul Collingwood, Aiden Markram, Cameron Steel, Will Smith, Graham Clark, Michael Richardson, Stuart Poynter, Nathan Rimmington, James Weighell, Chris Rushworth, Barry McCarthy, Josh Coughlin.
Both teams will be looking to bounce back from less than ideal starts to the season after Northants have lost both matches inside three days, whilst Durham were taken part by Kent in just two. Northants will be keen to occupy the crease better, starting at the top of the order with Rob Newton and Ben Duckett. Meanwhile, for Durham, Cameron Steel returns to the squad after missing last week’s fixture with illness, as Gareth Harte misses out. Aiden Markram will be looking to put a difficult match last week behind him, after becoming the first player to make a pair on their first day of the County Championship.
Weather Watch: Rain Friday and Saturday afternoon, cloud on Sunday before more rain forecast for Monday. Highs of around 9c.
Match Odds: Northamptonshire 8/11, Durham 11/10 (Betfair).
Leicestershire v Derbyshire
Leicestershire 12-man squad: Michael Carberry, Varun Aaron, Colin Ackermann, Mark Cosgrove, Ned Eckersley, Neil Dexter, Gavin Griffiths, Lewis Hill, Paul Horton, Dieter Klein, Callum Parkinson, Ben Raine.
Derbyshire 14-man squad: Billy Godleman, Ben Slater, Luis Reece, Wayne Madsen, Alex Hughes, Matt Critchley, Callum Brodrick, Gary Wilson, Tony Palladino, Ravi Rampaul, Hardus Viljoen, Duanne Olivier, Will Davis, Hamidullah Qadri.
Paceman Varun Aaron could make his Leicestershire debut for this East Midlands clash in place of Mohammed Abbas who joins up with Pakistan training squad in preparation for the test matches with England next month. Ned Eckersley returns to the squad after a groin injury kept him out of last week’s draw with Sussex. Harry Dearden and Richard Jones are both ruled out through injury. Derbyshire will be high on confidence after a rare home victory against Middlesex last week. The same 11 from that match remain in the squad, with the additions of Will Davis, Hamidullah Qadri and Callum Brodrick.
Rain on Friday, dry and overcast conditions on Saturday and Sunday with the risk of further rain on Monday. Highs of around 10c.
Leicestershire 11/10, Derbyshire 8/11 (Betfair).
4/26/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkfromMadrid)
'O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.'
No, I cannot imagine David Fletcher of BBC Radio Derby, even inspired by the legendary presence of Kevin Hand at his side, coming out with Hamlet’s declamation. Mind you, around about Tea on the last day of the second round of Division 2 matches, the same phrase would have been equally appropriate for the lyrical tones of the softly spoken, proudly Welsh, Ed Bevan.
While the game at Grace Road was eminently forgettable: let’s face it, it is uncertain that there would have been a result even in six days and the 1101 runs for 21 wickets were scored in 361 overs of tedium, the other two Division 2 games to finish were brilliant entertainment. If Grace Road pitches are going to be like this, Leicestershire can look forward to not losing home games, but visiting sides may be tempted to call the Seventh Doctor’s companion ACE, if she is still in Perivale and ask her to use one of her special Nitro explosive mixes on the pitch. It is the kindest thing that can be done to put players, fans and umpires out of their misery.
So, what were these bad dreams?
Derbyshire had not won a home match since the final round of the 2014 Championship. David Fletcher of BBC Radio Derby even had a note of the exact number of days since their last win. The two overnight batsmen had been removed within five overs in the morning. Middlesex were 95-5 and, let’s face it, they had been truly awful for nine sessions. Injuries to bowlers Toby Roland-Jones and James Harris did not help and a guy in the Car Park had missed a couple of sitters off Ollie Rayner, quite apart from the one dropped by a building worker on the roof of the terrace house down the road from the 3aaa ground, but that did not excuse 157ao and 95-5 by the batsmen.
Fair enough. Paul Srirling, John Simpson and Toby Roland-Jones showed some much-needed resistance with the bat, but: 223-8, nearly 60 overs to go. Come on! What could go wrong? Fletch was purring. Tom Helm at #10 had a career average of 12. Okay, so James Harris, who does have some notion of batting was still there and, in the absence of the Watford Wall (Steve Finn), Middlesex could offer the legendary Lambeth Lara – Tim Murtagh – at #11. Even Kevin Hand at his most optimistic would not have expected to enjoy his co-comm getting increasingly impatient and then watching him starting to have horrible imaginings. It was to be drama of the highest order.
As the ninth wicket stand passed the century, you started to hear David Fletcher say “if they don’t win this, they’ll have some explaining to do”. And he said it several times. And, of course, when you have Kevin Hand alongside, pointing out that “if Middlesex were to bat out time, which they won’t” (even Kevin Hand covers his back sometimes), they would be very close to their target of 442.
Tom Helm reached a first, First Class fifty. James Harris his thirteenth. Surely they could not bring of an escape – and even a chase – of such epic proportions that Derbyshire mums would be frightening their kids with tales of the Middlesex tail for years?
This is the sort of end to a cricket match that T20 can never match. Slowly rising tension. Every over survived increasing the chances that the impossible might happen. And, as one fan wrote in – and not for the first time with his side – “with Middlesex, it’s the hope that kills you”. Poor David Fletcher must have been in real medical danger when the occasional leg spin of Matt Critchley was brought out again to try and buy a wicket. He had already taken Toby Roland-Jones. Critchley tried a straight delivery. Tom Helm just missed it. A huge shout (that was just the local commentator). "Umpire?". The incoherent scream that might have been “he’s got him this time!!” In comes the Lambeth Lara who, in his Surrey days, was actually a decent all-rounder. Tim Murtagh is nothing but a gentleman and knowing that James Harris deserved a red-inker, he did not raise David Fletcher’s blood pressure any more.
That was so ridiculously tense.
Anything you can do, I can do better… at Bristol, the tension even went a step further. Like Middlesex, Gloucestershire had won a low-scoring first game of the season comfortably. Like Middlesex, they had a second game against one of the less-fancied teams in Division 2. And like Middlesex they had been embarrassingly bad for three days.
Gloucestershire had started the day at 133-5 and even that represented a considerable recovery. It is hard to imagine that any Gloucestershire fan expected the match to last the morning session. To have a hope of saving the match you needed you not out batsmen overnight still to be there at Lunch, right? When Ryan Higgins fell after 40 minutes, albeit after another valuable innings (Note to Gus Fraser: why did you let this boy go? In his first two Championship games for Gloucestershire he has taken 9 wickets and scored 107 runs) the last hope was called Kieron Noema-Barnett, who has been described by Gloucestershire commentator, Bob Hunt as “being so laid-back that if he were any more laid-back, he’d be asleep”.
When defeat is inevitable, you can sit back, relax and enjoy it. So, the Gloucestershire tail enjoyed themselves once Noema-Barnett was back relaxing in the rather smart Bristol Pavillion. Dan Worrall batted an hour and a half for fifty – his First Class best. The new ball came and went. Matt Taylor came in. Maybe he could accompany “Bobby” Bracey, to his century? After all, with Liam Norwell unlikely to bat with his hamstring pull, it was all about the personal landmark for James Bracey – who just happens to have come to Gloucestershire from Winterbourne CC (Yes: I grew up in Winterbourne and, emotionally, it is still home to me).
But swift, what light through yonder window shines? It was Matt Taylor’s shining First Class best score! Tea came. Tea went. And you could start to see the distant light of the unlikeliest of draws. “If Bracey and Taylor could hold out until 5 pm, Gloucestershire would be about 100 ahead and Glamorgan might well shake on the draw.” Bob Hunt showed that he did not have the exclusive on making mischief with a nervous co-comm! The comment cried out for Jon McEnroe to scream back “you cannot be serious!”
All good things… Matt Taylor was probably becoming embarrassed by the length of his stay in the middle, after an hour and a half batting. He was in good company… on the field at least. In his desperation to make the breakthrough, Michael Hogan had given Matt Taylor the company of the wicket-keeper and no fewer than seven slips: it was the day for the funky fields.
Adam Salter came back for what was probably one, final effort. He was still waiting for his first wicket of the season, having gone wicketless through the game with Cardiff MCCU and in the first innings here. Most likely Michael Hogan thought that he might make the batsman relax and do something stupid. So Taylor edged through to the ‘keeper and the Salter gambit was justified. Surely the Glamorgan bad dreams could be put to bed? In came Liam Norwell with a runner. Here the tension probably got to the batsmen. Norwell, who has a First Class century, can look after himself. If Gloucestershire had scored a quick thirty for the final wicket, with Bracey chancing his arm a bit, the chase would surely have been beyond Glamorgan. Norwell blocked to good effect. Bracey limited himself to a single from the fourth or fifth ball of the over and, although overs were ticked off, the vital number of runs to chase barely increased. The inevitable happened. Norwell, with his limited movement, edged a delighted Hogan to the ‘keeper and the target was a very gettable 83 when it could have been over 100 at a run-a-ball.
The light faded. Gloucestershire wasted time as wilfully as they could get away with. The bowlers bowled as far down leg as they dared. And there were nine men on the boundary. Unfortunately, Worrall’s radar was a bit off and he fed the batsmen runs. Fifty up in the eighth over. Thanks for the game lads. All over! Not quite... Matt Taylor took a wicket. No panic boyo. Shaun Marsh fell to Worrall for a duck. Now I have not been in the ground in its new configuration but, with Matt Taylor bowling genuinely fast in the late evening, sighting the ball must have been a tricky proposition by this point. At 67-4, with Taylor on 3-25, the bad dreams for Glamorgan must have been turning into nightmares. Yes. Now you should consider seriously panicking. The umpires kept the players out, but it was obvious that Glamorgan might only have two, or at most three overs to get the remaining fifteen runs.
In the end, Worrall’s seventh over was hit to all parts of Ashley Down and Glamorgan won what was, according to the scorebook, a comfortable victory. In reality, Gloucestershire should not have lost but, probably deserved to lose for not being ambitious enough at the end of their innings and for blatant time-wasting. Had they drawn, they would have gone second in the table. Small margins.
So, what can we take away from (nearly) two rounds of games in Division 2?
First, despite the sneering that goes on about Division 2, the product is good. Four days of tough cricket at Derby and at Bristol, with incredible tension and a result in the final session.
A good product, that interests no one? One newspaper printed a photograph of a stand at Chester-le-Street that was closed for safety reasons and headlined it with a comment that no one comes to watch the Championship. It is grist to the mill that demands that an unpopular niche competition be further cut. In fact, crowds continue to increase. Several of the games were attended by two thousand or more who paid on the turnstiles, plus an unknown number of members, whose attendance is not counted. Just think what football attendance figures would look like if season ticket holder were not counted. Add to that the fact that Radio London noted that Middlesex, the less supported of the two London sides, had 17000 unique listeners tuned-in to the Internet commentary of their game against Northants and that even Radio Derby had 4000 listeners (their words, not mine) and you see that the “one man and his dog” story is a complete fabrication.
Warwickshire stand proud and clear at the top of Division 2 after two games. They do look a good bet for promotion but let’s wait and see until they have played four or five games and the picture is clearer.
Two points cover Middlesex in second down to Gloucestershire and Sussex in joint sixth. This may not be the royal progress that Middlesex fans were hoping for (some, even genuinely seemed to think that Middlesex could win most, if not all their games this season). Two games are not enough to make judgements, but Middlesex’s win came against Northants, who have been badly beaten in both their games. Are we going to see a repeat of 2007 and the second season of Middlesex underperformance? On Friday, Middlesex host Glamorgan. Without overdramatising, that game already looks like a “must not lose”.
Derbyshire look like a decent side with a four-man attack, but it is hard to tell who might come out of the pack. Sussex are fancied as dark horses by some but have played out two draws on uncharacteristically flat surfaces, on which a result would have been hard to achieve in five days, let alone four. How will they do on more responsive surfaces? Watch this space!to edit.
A Middlesex Watcher
Today, social media has been abuzz with various items about radio commentary. Let us pass over the news that the BBC has, again, lost commentary rights for overseas Tests to TalkSPORT Radio. The cash-strapped West Indies Cricket Board, for which a tour by England means lots of wealthy, visiting fans, full stands, a windfall for hotels and a much-needed injection of foreign exchange, was always going to take the highest offer and, if that was not BBC’s Test Match Special, quality of product would not come into it. No, the first item in question was a cricket A-Z that defined “L is for local” and went on to mention that Martin Emmerson is “never knowingly unbiased”. Martin, for some reason, took exception to this.
This is an old saw. There is a group of commentators who one of their colleagues has occasionally (“occasionally”, as in “a few times each session of play”) refers to as “the one-eyed brigade”. Dear old DT has got that wrong – as usual. One of the glories of the county commentaries is the fact that there is none of this TMS faux impartiality. Each of the commentators who follow their team around, day after day through the season, season after season, is a fan just as fanatical as any of their listeners. Kevin Hand admits that, in his early years, he even got too close to the team and his hero-worship showed up in the commentary. Kev really thought that his heroes were invincible and to watch them struggle so desperately, as they did in 2006, 2009 and, especially, 2010, was very hard for him. Long-time listeners will swear that more than once there was a catch in his voice and he genuinely seemed on the verge of tears when watching failure. Marty is a proud Sunderlander. He makes no secret of the fact that the Roker Riviera is heaven on Earth, chunters that it is “grim down south” (he takes exception to the idea that the weather is too bad for cricket “oop norf” and delights in every flood, storm, or cold snap down in the frozen south), follows local non-league football with passion and loves Durham cricket with unquestioning devotion. Marty has various things clear and one is that Yorkshire is definitely not in the north but, on a good day, when Durham are playing well and he is feeling charitable, he may grudgingly accept that Manchester is in the north and possibly even Middlesborough too.
For one glorious session of play in 2011, I was able to share commentary on Durham v Nottinghamshire with Martin Emmerson and Dave Bracegirdle, who are always squabbling on Twitter like an old married couple. We were in the huge TMS box at Chester-le-Street with its superb view of this lovely ground. There is no better commentary pairing in County cricket: they bounce off each other like the two Ronnies or Morecambe and Wise. Part of the fun of listening to them is that they are so passionate about their respective sides, but never one-eyed: they both appreciate good cricket, even when their own side is on the wrong side of it and they are unquestionably the best pairing to listen to if you just want to enjoy the game and do not care about the result.
One of the innovations about county commentary when it was extended to all eighteen First Class sides – and now, even to some Minor Counties games – is the fact that the commentary is set up with a home commentator, a visiting commentator and a neutral “third voice”. It is fine for Marty, or Kev, or the Girdler, or Bob Hunt to gush about their own side because you will also hear the other side of the story and you will hear too that third voice who has the specific mission to be neutral and to allow the other two commentators to show their true feelings. It is one of the great strengths of the commentary.
So, what is the great news of Kev this week: a piece of news that will have social media buzzing during the Derbyshire game? There are a number of Middlesex fans – some one suspects are Kevin Hand fans in reality – who have been with him since he started (“Tony in Twickenham”, “Derek in Hurstpierpoint”, “Texas Tom”, PJ Meade and yours truly may just occasionally have been mentioned by Kev on commentary, along with a few others – it was Texas Tom who suggested that Kev should have his own chat show called, “Speak to the Hand”). Today, ZK Goh, another familiar name, presented his Kevin Hand Middlesex Commentary Bingo. Not a mention of rhubarb in it, but some very sharp observation from someone who has been a long-term listener.
So, here it is:
Fans have pointed out that there is no mention of promotion for Middlesex and, of course, in the first session of play in the Northants game, he must have said: “promotion is a bare minimum for Middlesex this season” at least half a dozen times. Kev, you never learn! That kind of prediction almost always ends in tears.
So, print out your cards – versions for various other commentators will, no doubt, follow – put on Kev’s commentary and see how quickly you can shout “HOUSE!!!!” I doubt that it will take long.
4/25/2018 1 Comment
By Mark Kidger (@MarkfromMadrid)
Just two games were left on the last day. Both were so far advanced that there was every possibility that there would be no Division 1 cricket after Lunch. Instead, though, patrons got a pleasant surprise – and it was not that Andrew Strauss has resigned and that the 100-ball competition has been consigned to a dustbin in St. John’s Wood.
Starting in God’s Own Country, also known as the Leeds Lido, Yorkshire duly finished off their hapless opponents within an hour. After the Nottingshire Hari-Kiri the previous evening, this game could easily have been over in two balls. Instead, the ninth wicket pair of Tom Moores and Jake Ball entertained the patrons for around forty minutes, adding 57 runs and taking their stand to 66. Jake Ball must have been entertaining fond thoughts of a maiden First-Class fifty when Ben Coad decided to put an end to the fun by bowling a straight one at him. Two balls later, while Tom Moores watched helplessly at the other end, one short of equalling his career best, Coad got an outside edge from Harry Gurney. Coad finished with 6-81, 10-130 in the match and will be starting to check potential tourist destinations in Sri Lanka for the winter, ready for the days when he isn’t in the England XI.
Moving to South London, we had another game that looked a pretty open and shut case to the judge in the morning and ready for sentencing at Lunch. Hampshire started at 141-4 with their last two specialist bats together. After a little more than an hour, they were 163-6 and Surrey must have been anticipating an early Lunch. What happened was drama to match anything in Division 2 – Nay! That is hyperbole! NOTHING could match the drama in Division 2. However, with the pitch easing and Sam Northeast not inclined to follow the lead of the top order and surrender tamely, the game continued far into the afternoon. Surrey took wickets seven and eight without too much bother, although both Abbott and Wood showed the sort of stubbornness that the top order could have imitated. Where things got seriously weird was thereafter. Brad Wheal has no pretensions as a batsman – a career average of 6 testifies to that – but hung around as Sam Northeast got going. The new ball was seen off. Rikki Clarke bowled his heart out to some seriously funky fields – what do you call having three men just wide of square leg? Three square mid-wickets? It sounds like a serious medical condition! It was one of the oddest fields ever seen but, try as Rikki Clarke might (and he put in so much effort that he could easily have done himself a serious mischief), Wheal saw off everything thrown at him for an hour and a half and accompanied Sam Northeast to his century. There was never a realistic danger that Surrey would not win but, as the partnership ate up the afternoon session, there were not many neutrals around the country who were not rooting for Hampshire. Finally, Jade Dernbach pinned Wheal LBW and Fidel Edwards came in.
Now, the fairest thing that you can say of Fidel Edwards as a batsman is that he comes in after Wheal (career average 6) on merit. He is the sort of #11 who inspires the captain to declare pre-emptively at the fall of the ninth wicket. Even dear old Fidel hung around and the tenth wicket partnership started to prosper too to the delight of thousands following the score – updates were being fed into the commentary in other games as Surrey’s frustration grew. Yes, we all love a hapless tail-ender who somehow survives to the utter disgust of the opposition bowlers. Unfortunately, Matt Dunn is a spoilsport and got Sam Northeast to edge through to Foakes for a magnificent 129. The scorebook will say that Surrey won by 139 runs and they thoroughly deserved the win, but they were made to sweat a bit for it.
Up to the fall of the eighth wicket, the biggest takeaway of the match was the sight of a beturbaned spinner weaving magic. The sight brought back memories of a young Northants bowler nearly fifteen years ago: Monty is now gone, if not completely forgotten, a sad case of what might have been, but to see nineteen-year-old Guramar Singh Virdi, playing just his fourth First Class match, twirling like a demon, was to evoke memories of Bishan Bedi and of Monty Panesar at his very best. Amar Virdi did not get a bowl in the first innings, but he made up for it in the second, bowling 33 overs, taking 4-79 and showing a lot of skill. Of course, young players have shone and faded, but if this lad gets some turning pitches, he will be worth paying the price of entry to the ground to see him. Somerset play Surrey at Taunton on September 18th and, on this showing, Virdi versus Leach and Bess will be a wonderful contest to watch.
Where does that leave us after two rounds of games (which are really a bit more than one and a half rounds, but why make it simple for the fans)?
Popular legend has it that the human race split some time back into two species: Yorkshiremen and everyone else. In fact, anthropologists have suggested that there is more in common between your average Lancastrian and his daily routine and a bushman of the Kalahari Desert (I assume that our highly cultured readers need no explanation of where that is) than there is between a Yorkshireman and a Lancastrian (or a Yorkshireman and anyone else for that matter). It is not only in this anthropological sense that Yorkshire and Lancashire are divided: after two games, Yorkshire are top of Division 1, Lancashire are bottom and there is already a significant gap between the bottom two – Worcestershire and Lancashire – and the rest of the table. It is the sort of situation to make Fred Boycott drool with pleasure… which he duly did in a celebratory Twitter post. Despite the opening game wash-out at Headingley, as any Yorkshireman will tell you: the natural order has been restored (Fred Boycott may just have made that point for them) and Yorkshire’s twenty-one points for the crushing victory over Nottinghamshire has trumped Essex’s nineteen for their own narrow win over Lancashire.
While it is not yet time for panic stations either at Old Trafford or at New Road, the bare facts are that six of the eight teams in Division 1 have won a match in the first two rounds, while Worcestershire and Lancashire have lost both. Worcestershire have looked so far off the pace in both games that it comes as a surprise that they are not bottom, thanks to their solitary batting bonus point obtained against Hampshire. Thanks to their near miss against Essex and the frenetic finish against Nottinghamshire, the Lancastrian struggles have passed under the radar, but they have so far managed totals of 158, 73, 144 and 288.
Even with Surrey and Somerset having played just one game, the gap between Yorkshire – top – and Surrey and Somerset in joint fifth, is just six points. It is far too early to draw conclusions apart from the fact that the bottom two are going to have to improve a lot if they are to avoid having a long and very hard season. In contrast, Surrey looked very good in their win against Hants and now play Lancashire (away) and Worcestershire (home): given the struggles so far of their opponents, it might not be a bad moment to invest the few million that you made from Bitcoin, on a Surrey Championship win, before the odds crash. It is not impossible that, if weather and good fortune are fair for the South Londoners, that they could be sitting pretty at the top of the table with three wins from three on the evening of May 8th. Another game to look at that may be a pointer to the title race is Essex v Yorkshire on May 5th. Lest we forget, on May 8th we will have completed more than a quarter of the Championship and the table will, at that stage, start to be highly significant.
Three thoughts to take away from these games:
• Sides will be checking the fixture list eagerly to see when (and where) they play Lancashire and Worcestershire and will go into the games thinking that they are “must win” to keep up with their rivals.
• Ben Coad will, if he stays fit and maintains his form, tour with England this winter (a couple of injuries and he may even debut v India)
• And, long-term, maybe the most important takeaway – Amar Virdi really looks promising and we may even have the luxury of some stiff competition for the England spin spot(s) in a couple of seasons… I hope!
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Last season no one gave Essex any chance of winning the Championship. In fact, most pundits had marked their cards with an imminent return to Division Two. Similarly, no one has given Somerset much hope this season, with most pundits foreseeing the drop for the Cider Boys. These two sides though have been the winners on a day of drama.
Let’s start at Taunton, if for no other reason than the fact that they have not won their opening Championship fixture since 2012. Not so long ago Taunton was known for pitches so flat that even the pigeons on the outfield fell asleep because the greatest excitement during games was watching the grass grow. The apogee of this was the Somerset v Middlesex game from 18th-21st April 2007, when Somerset replied to Middlesex’s 600-4d with 850-7d in a match that featured one triple century, seven other centuries and four fifties. Three seasons ago, Somerset realised that they would never add the County Championship pennant to their titles on such pitches. The result was to add some spice to the surface, leading sides to make bitter comments about “playing on the beach at Taunton”, although this policy has allowed them to develop two of the brightest spin prospects in a decade and a half in Jack Leach and Dom Bess. Somerset’s strategy has been to rely on a late-season charge on spinning tracks. It was noticeable that, in 2016, with Somerset bottom of the table in July, the Somerset Chief Executive stated that the weren’t thinking about relegation: they were planning to win the title. That campaign ended in controversial circumstances, with Somerset just missing-out, as they have done several times. The wise heads though have looked at the number of promising young players in the squad and warn that if Somerset are mid-table in July, that is the moment to put some money on them to win the title.
When you have just 14 games in the season, getting a fast start to the season is essential and Somerset were well on the way at the start this morning. Somerset were 255-9 at the start of play, 279 ahead and hoping to push the lead up closer to 300. However, the result of last night’s play was that James Hildreath was left at the non-striker’s end for the start of the day, watching Tim Groenewald trying to repel bullying, beastly Barnard, who was the massive Worcestershire thorn in the Somerset side in this match. Unfortunately for Somerset’s plans, it only took Barnard two deliveries to bowl a straight one. This left Barnard’s contribution to the first three innings of the match as: 5-52, 50 and 6-37. Spoiler alert! He wasn’t finished in this game.
Chasing 279, the Pears needed a decent start. Unfortunately, things went pear-shaped for them quickly. Before the shine had started to fade on the ball they were already 25-3 as Gregory and Davey combined to great effect, as they had in the first innings. Despite some resistance from Tom Fell, it really did not seem that the hearts of the Worcestershire batsmen were in the task of saving the match. At 85-6 the only hope for Worcestershire was either a sudden hurricane or, what would be similar, a quick century for Barnard. As in the first innings, the resistance stiffened when Barnard came in and became serious when he teamed-up with Josh Tongue at 121-8. Barnard deserved a second fifty in the match, but was left high and dry on 45* when Magoffin was run out. Somerset won by 83 runs and not a ball of spin was bowled by them until the closing moments of the match. One swallow does not a summer make (some idiot always uses that phrase to hide the fact that he can’t say anything perceptive) and one win does not make a Championship win, but if Somerset can follow this up, other sides should start to worry about those late-season games. For Worcestershire, this may turn out to be a long, hard season.
The other winner was Essex. They should have got over the line comfortably, but it turned out to be absolutely heart-stopping as Lancashire got far closer to their target than anyone had imagined. That the conditions had eased on Day 2 was evident as there were runs all down the Essex order until the last three wickets had fallen in a heap. A target of 320 in the fourth innings was always going to be tough, but it was a chance for Hameed and Jennings to make a big statement of intent thinking of the 1st Test in late May. In front they had Jamie Porter – tipped for an England cap in the near future – and Peter Siddle, an old warrior of Ashes battles, with the new ball. They knew that it would be a searching examination, but that a fifty against them would put big pressure on Mark Stoneman. Could they take the chance? Could they, hell! Hameed did not see out the third over, falling for a single. Jennings fought for over an hour, scoring 24 the 32 runs on the board before he guided Siddle to Varun Chopra. Hameed’s First Class scores this season are 5, 3, 19, 8 & 1. Jennings has 44, 11, 27, 2 & 24. Neither is making any kind of case to replace Stoneman.
Livingstone and Davies started to put the world to rights and, with Chanderpaul to come, Essex must have started to have doubts until Walter took wickets in consecutive overs to rock Lancashire back on their heels again. When Davies fell to Porter it was 139-5 and Lancashire were subsiding. %9 from Clarke kept Lancashire just about in the hunt but, when he and Onions fell quickly, Lancashire were 74 short with only Mennie and Parkinson left. What happened was pure theatre. The last pair survived for a few overs and the target came down slowly… 70, 60. The Mennie decided that if he could see the ball, he would hit it… as far as possible! Shielding Parkinson carefully, he took charge of bringing the target down. One towering six took it below 50, another brought up his own 50. The new ball came with 38 needed. Porter took it, Meenie whacked it. 33 needed. The tension was racking up with every run. Ball with Siddle. A single. Parkinson survived the last three balls. 32 wanted. Back to Meenie. Porter with the ball. First ball… a dot. Second ball straight and on a good length. Huge swing from Meenie. Stumps re-arranged. Essex have won by 31 and the crowd could breathe again. Amazing drama and, after the wash-out in the first round of matches, Essex are up and running in their title defence.
Drama of a different sort at Headingley. Yorkshire started at 189-4, with Ballance and Leaning approaching a century partnership. Trailing by 68 on first innings Nottinghamshire needed quick wickets. Within five overs they had both the overnight not out batsman. Hodd and Shaw fell quickly too. The ball was new, two genuine tail-enders were in their sights and Nottinghamshire must have thought that they would be batting quickly. However, Tim Bresnan was still there. It is five years since he last played a Test for England, but we forget that he is still only thirty-three and even with an elbow that looks like a Chinese puzzle after multiple operations, he is still a more than useful all-rounder at this level. He added 106 runs for the last two wickets with Brooks and Coad, 77 of them with the latter. Both hit sixes the impression was of a brutal mugging when Nottinghamshire thought that they had got themselves right back into the game. The final target was 403. The only question was: how deep into the final day Nottinghamshire could take the game?
Nottinghamshire needed someone to close up an end and give the rest of the batsmen someone to work around. What happened was the sort of mess that got them relegated in 2015. Four batsmen got past 20 and three more reached double figures, but no one passed 38. However, at 135-4, they should have at least seen out the day safely. When a little sense and a cool head was needed, the middle order fell apart. Ross Taylor, Luke Fletcher and Rikki Wessels all fell shortly before the scheduled Close. With the floodlights on and sunshine, despite some black clouds, Gary Ballance took the extra half hour. It looked as if the day would end quietly as Moores and Wood tried to ensure that at least the game went into it final scheduled day, but Ben Coad made one, final effort and dynamited Wood. This left 16 balls to survive, two wickets left and Adam Lyth floating down his occasional off-breaks along with Ben Coad. Moores and Ball survived, but they can expect to face a fired-up Coad, after a five-for in the morning and two batsmen without a First Class fifty between them. One assumes that the game will end quickly in the morning and Yorkshire will go top of the table, at least until the Surrey-Hampshire match ends.
So, we are left with the game that will decide who leads the Division 1 table on Monday night. A draw or a win for Hampshire and they will go top. If Surrey win, Yorkshire will be top of the table. A measure of just how much conditions have eased is that Surrey’s declared second innings was far in excess of the sum of the two first innings in this match.
Surrey started the day with Foakes and Pope batting confidently and already 281 ahead. Surrey just batted on and batted on and batted on. Ollie Pope went from 30* to 145 before Liam Dawson got him finally, by all accounts batting brilliantly and Surrey declared on 407-9, leaving Hants a mere 472 to win. Kyle Abbott came out of the slaughter best, with 3-72, but Fidel Edwards’ three wickets cost him 130 at not far short of 6-an-over. Much of the day it was Liam Dawson taking the heat, economical, but with little threat.
Bad light has helped Hants’ cause but, with Surrey off-spinner Amar Virdi, not yet 20 and in just his fourth First Class match, getting huge turn, their cause looks lost. Hampshire are 116-4 and Virdi has removed Vince and Amla, both LBW. It will be no surprise to anyone that Vince reached 33, looked good and got out. Hants should take the game into the afternoon session, but a win looks out of the question with 356 needed on the last day and only six wickets left and even a draw will take an almighty effort.
4/22/2018 0 Comments
By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
Warwickshire thrashed Northampton at Wantage Road to kick-start their Promotion challenge with a comprehensive innings and 48-run success. After building a mammoth lead over their hosts by reaching 413 thanks to telling contributions from veteran wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose (103), Sam Hain (85) and youngster Henry Brookes (70) the Bears were in confident mood especially given the brittle nature of the Northants batting line-up at present. Indeed, their latest effort of 218 was their highest total to date after being dismissed for 71, 142 and 147, so take some solace Steelback fans that slowly but surely you are making progress, maybe by late May you’ll reach that magic mark of 400. It turned out to be the Ryan Sidebottom show (no, not the curly haired Yorkshireman) as the young Australian plucked from the local Birmingham cricket league ripped through the hosts for a second time to claim his first ever 10-wicket match haul. Only Adam Rossington (58) threatened to frustrate the Bears as Northamptonshire sunk without a trace for the fourth time which is becoming a worrying trend for the much fancied Midlanders. Fittingly the contest ended with young Brookes collecting the final two wickets to secure a well-earned victory for the visitors, the tailender enjoyed a memorable game making his highest score with the bat whilst also contributing with the ball. It is a damaging defeat for Northants but for Warwickshire, it is the first of what they will hope to be many comprehensive successes in their pursuit of an immediate return to Division One.
Perhaps the story of the day is at Derby though as Derbyshire enjoyed a day to remember against promotion favourites Middlesex. The hosts made the most of a weakened visitors attack to put themselves into a dominant position going into the fourth day, only the weather now can deny them what would be a deserved success. I am sure the Londoners will be Googling ‘Rain dances’ tonight as they seek to avoid what would be a pretty humbling defeat for the 2016 County Champions. Derbyshire began the day on 116 without loss with Ben Slater and Luis Reece in imperious form slapping the Middlesex attack all over the place. Slater fell one short of a deserved ton when he was caught off Ollie Rayner, which I am sure he would admit makes a welcome change from watching the ball sail into the car park. Reece though continued on his merry way to collect a magnificent century, the opener had struck 10-fours and a six on his way to an unbeaten 157. He will perhaps be a little miffed that the skipper didn’t allow him to knock off the 12-runs he would need to get a career best especially given the way the evening session panned out. Instead, though, Derbyshire declared on 333-3 with a mammoth lead of 442 in their back pocket. In truth, that lead is more than enough as Middlesex look seemingly all at sea in Derby – a place that it is important to point out the hosts have struggled to pick up wins in recent history. If you ask a member of Derbyshire – their response would be ‘a win here? They are as rare as rocking horse poo’. Well, pinch yourself chaps it is about to happen in this match, the visitors found themselves three down at close with Daunne Olivier bagging two wickets to leave the Londoners starring down at the barrel on 86/3 heading into the final day.
Whilst the whole country found batting an absolute nightmare, at Grace Road it felt like high August batting on an absolute road. Indeed, 860 runs were shared between Leicestershire and promotion hopefuls Sussex; even Ishant Sharma scored a cheeky 66 to help Michael Burgess reach a superb century in the midland sunshine. Burgess’s second day century though was outshone by Colin Ackermann’s wonderful 186 striking 24 fours during his 350-ball stay at the crease. Ackermann’s hundred very much underpinned his side's total of 422-9 but he did have useful support from veteran Mark Cosgrove (64) and all-rounder Ben Raine (40) down the order. Captain Michael Carberry tactically declared with 6-overs left remaining in the day as he hoped to cause some nerves in the Sharks camp but given the docile nature of the pitch they easily saw those over through to reach 11 without loss at the close. The smart money is on a draw; however, if Sussex harbour genuine hopes of promotion perhaps these are the kinds of games they will have to manufacture into unlikely wins.
Lastly, Glamorgan took a firm grip on their game against West Country rivals Gloucestershire in Bristol. In truth, it is a game that has been totally dominated by the Welsh side, centuries from astute Australian recruit Shaun Marsh (111) and David Lloyd (no, not Bumble) helped Michael Hogan’s men to a massive first innings score of 526/9 declared. If you are a Gloucestershire bowler I wouldn’t be walking up to the scorers and asking for your figures it doesn’t make for pretty reading fellas. Perhaps still a little drained from their extended stint in the sun, the hosts' reply didn’t get off to the perfect start losing three quick wickets on a pitch that now looked like an absolute minefield in the minds of the hosts' batsmen. Lukas Carey removed Benny Howell (6) and Gareth Roderick (4) to put the Bristol-based club firmly on the back foot and staring defeat in the face. That face pressed its head that little closer when Marchant de Lange collected two further wickets to add to his earlier dismissal of Chris Dent to leave the hosts on 133/5 at the close with Ryan Higgins and James Bracey tasked with the role of performing the great escape. The hosts' trail by 157-run with just five-wickets still in hand and that would only make Glamorgan bat again.
By the View from the outfield team
The official hashtag on Twitter for County Championship cricket is #ProperCricket, and today we saw plenty of that in the Saturday sun.
Of the nine Championship games over the two division, we saw one concluded in five sessions, although there were plenty of twists and turns in those sessions. All four Division One encounters are delicately poised although again one suspects if you fancy a trip to the cricket on Monday you may be hard pushed.
We'll start in Chelmsford where Lancashire will require 320 to win in two-days as Essex enjoyed the better of the second day at Chelmsford. In a game where the ball has often dominated the bat, the Eagles showed that it wasn't the minefield that everyone previously had made it seem. The day started perfectly for the hosts who wasted no time in wrapping up the Red Rose’s innings with Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer picking up a wicket apiece to both collect their first five-wicket hauls of the season.
That all meant that Essex had squeaked a lead of six on first innings, that small lead seemed to give Anthony McGrath’s men the momentum and they looked to capitalise with some attack minded batting against the new ball. Varun Chopra, who was presented his county cap during the lunch interval, in particular, took the mentality of see ball hit ball; he raced to 32 before having his stumps rearranged by the impressive Graham Onions. That brought Tom Westley to the crease, the Essex number three still harbours genuine hopes of a future England berth if he can impress again this season and he looked in good touch at the County Ground as he patiently made his way to 49. Nick Browne fell for 17 edging Australian Joe Meenie to Dane Vilas in the slips, whilst Dan Lawrence was the only man to not really get a start for the hosts as he also edged through to the slips off the bowling of Meenie. Westley finally found a partner in crime in Ravi Bopara and the pair began to show the wicket wasn’t as bad it had seemed. The pair added 57 for the fourth wicket before ‘The Big Bopper’ as he is affectionately known as in Chelmsford drove to Livingstone in the slips to give Tom Bailey his first wicket of the innings. Westley and Ryan ten Doeschate continued to build the lead playing with some renewed freedom with the Essex skipper taking a particular liking to young Lancashire Leggie Matthew Parkinson swatting him for a big leg-side six on his way to 25. But it was to be Westley who would be the next to fall. The Essex vice-captain going for his 50th run drove a long hop from Parkinson to Keaton Jennings in the covers and he whacked his bat against his pad in disgust as he walked off knowing that that is another start that he has failed to cash in on. And when ten Doeschate departed with Essex’s lead on just 180, Lancashire began to sniff a chance of victory, and whilst Paul Walter looked all at sea against the Red Rose pace men he provided able support to James Foster albeit by playing and missing an awful lot against the luckless Onions. Walter took the Eagles through to Tea alongside Foster stretching the host’s lead to 214 before finally running out of luck edging Meenie through to the keeper.
Foster was left begging for a partner to add to Essex’s lead with and he found the perfect right-hand man in Simon Harmer, fresh from receiving his County cap he looked like a man on a mission. The pair totally nullified the Lancashire attack playing in a patient yet assured manner waiting for the right ball to slap away to the boundary rope. The duo hit 15 boundaries between them as the long day in the sun seemed to begin to take its toll on the visitors. They shared a potential match-winning 103 for the 8th wicket taking Essex’s lead beyond 300 in the process. But then cruelty struck as Harmer, approaching a well-deserved 50 feathered an edge through to Davies with just five-overs remaining in the day. But he had done his job helping to guide Foster through to his fifty during the partnership. Siddle, whose first innings score of 33 is proving vital came and went for a duck as the effects of the new ball began to show, and with the last ball of the day Foster was adjudged LBW to give Bailey his third wicket. That left the visitors with 320 to get for victory in this clash of potential champions in two days in what is sure to be a fascinating climax to this match.
Surrey took a hulk like grip on their game against south coast rivals Hampshire at the Oval on Saturday. In a contest that looked evenly poised at the start of the day after Surrey could only manage a disappointing 211 in their first innings and Hampshire getting a quarter of the way to that total by the close of day one. But early wickets soon turned the game on its head as the momentum shifted across to the Rey in dramatic fashion. It took just two balls for the pendulum to start swinging the host's way with the experienced Rikki Clarke removing James Vince leg before. Sam Northeast, still yet to find his feet in a Hampshire shirt was soon joining Vince in the dressing room as he pushed forward to a delivery from young Sam Curran only to find the gloves of Ben Foakes behind the stumps to leave the visitors well and truly wobbling on 63/5. Another man struggling for runs is Rilee Rossouw, his disappointing start to the season continued as Tom Dunn, another Surrey youngster pinned him in front to leave Hampshire staring down the barrel on 79/6. If Hampshire were to get anywhere near Surrey’s first innings score everything rested on the shoulders of Hashim Amla, who clearly saw a different wicket to those around him as he serenely went on to his half-century. He shared a mini-revival partnership of 37 with Liam Dawson as Hampshire chipped away at the Surrey total but Dawson’s departure was another untimely blow for the visitors with Jade Dernbach finding the edge of his bat. Perhaps the surprise of the ‘summer’ so far for Hampshire is the batting form of Kyle Abbott, and he again played a steady hand sharing a decent stand of 31 with Amla before two quick wickets from Sam Curran (4-39) put the Rey back in the driving seat. The very next over Amla departed to give Clarke his fourth and spookily gave him the exact same figures as Curran in the process and Surrey had a lead of 64.
With three England hopefuls and a South African run machine in the top five that deficit already looked ominous for Hampshire, and it was only going to get worse as the afternoon wore on in the London sun. Abbott gave them some brief early respite taking the wickets of Rory Burns (10) and England’s Mark Stoneman (24) but Borthwick, Elgar, Foakes and Pope all played decent hands to stretch the hosts lead into a winnable position. Borthwick is the current top scoring hitting eight fours and a six in his total of 74, but with the ever impressive Foakes currently unbeaten on 50. You fear it could be a long day tomorrow for Hampshire unless they can go ‘bang, bang’ in the morning session.
You have to make Surrey firm favourites for this one now with a lead of 281 and six-wickets in hand.
In these days of the super-reduced Championship, three wins give a side a good chance of surviving the drop and four seals the deal. Somerset have been many peoples’ tip for relegation for the last two seasons but will hope to seal the first of those wins tomorrow. Having started the day 49 ahead, but with two Worcestershire wickets left, the first order of business was to knock over the rabbits, breaking the annoying ninth wicket stand. Barnard and Tongue added 20 more before Tongue fell to Gregory and Overton then finished off the innings by dismissing Barnard, but not before he had reached a valuable 50. Somerset must have been heartily sick of Barnard by the end of the day, as he added 5-37 in the second innings to his 5-52 in the first innings and 50 with the bat. However, one man, however brilliant, cannot make up for the inadequacies of the other ten and Worcestershire, beaten once already this season, look to be heading straight back down to Division 2. With a lead of just 23, far fewer than they had hoped for, the last thing that Somerset needed was to lose two quick wickets, one of them Matt Renshaw. However, Marcus Trescothick was still there and, with James Hildreth, steadied the ship. Although Hildreth has Lions caps, he has never had an England call-up and now, 34 in September, never will receive a call from the selectors, despite a First Class average of 43 and, today, making his 42nd First Class century. Hildreth ended the 2017 season with 41 and 109 against Middlesex, which sent the Londoners down, here he has added 48 and 111* on a similarly crabby pitch: one cannot but wonder if he might not have done better than some of the sacrificial lambs sent on recent England tours. When Trescothick fell for 43, Hildreth received useful support from captain Tom Abell; together, they seemed to be batting Worcestershire out of the game. Somerset though, seem to like to get from A to B by the scenic route: 145-3, a lead of 168 – very nice! 153-6… three quick wickets to Beastly Barnard – not so clever! Despite the wobble, Somerset have been battle-hardened by the struggles over the last two seasons and their young lions are starting to show why they might not be a bad outside bet for a top-three finish this season. Rather than folding, the tail gave sensible support to James Hildreth and, despite no one making a big score, the runs were accumulated: 53 added with Overton, 17 with Davey, 16 with Leach and, so far, 16 with Groenewald. It all adds up and, in the case of Worcestershire, adds up to a substantial chase tomorrow. The lead is now 278, Hildreth has only let Groenewald face three balls so far and every additional run added on the third morning will be a further nail in the Worcestershire coffin. Somerset will feel confident of finishing this one off and not a rake, or even a delivery from Jack Leach in sight.
Elsewhere, at Leeds, there was not a pair of water wings in sight in the outfield and the only sharks had a hard, red ball in their hands. Starting 53-4 in reply to Yorkshire’s 256, Nottinghamshire were desperately in need of someone to help Ross Taylor after his first four partners managed just ten runs between them. Rikki Wessels applied for the job and even started to make a go of it, although a tip to Nottinghamshire in their pursuit of First Division success is that finding yourself 6-3 on a regular basis is not the best place to begin. A second tip might be: if you have found yourself 6-3, try to avoid a new collapse just as you are starting to get out of trouble. At 100-4, things were beginning to look up, Ross Taylor was past his 50 and starting to look good and Rikki Wessels was giving a nice imitation of a limpet mine at the other end. Ten balls later it was 102-6 and the outlook was decidedly less rosy. Half an hour later, it was 130-8 and things were looking decidedly grim. Had it not been for Jake Ball, who was so impressive with the… err… balls… against Lancashire, who showed that he can also handle a bat, scoring 44* from 36 balls, Nottinghamshire would have been in an even sorrier plight. Ben Coad was the chief wrecker with 4-49 and is following on from last season’s success. Coad can expect to play for the Lions soon and a trip with the England side in the winter cannot be out of the question. This is only his sixteenth First Class match, but he is averaging around 22 with admirable economy and a strike rate of 48. A lead of 68 was less than the White Rose may have wanted, but still handy, although they made a ropey start in a quest for a winning lead. Like Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire seems to like repeating a good collapse and, in their case, they repeated their first innings slump to 37-3 [this is a nice one for the statisticians – if Nottinghamshire fall to 6-3 for a third consecutive inning it will start to get positively spooky]. In the first innings, it was Lyth and Brook who started to pull things around from 37-3, this time it was Ballance and Brook: different names, similar result: a fifty stand and then a wicket. The difference though was that this time Ballance and Leaning followed through and are closing on a century stand for the fifth wicket. Yorkshire are now 257 ahead and Nottinghamshire have the sort of headache that not even two double-strength Tylenol is going to clear. If the lead gets past 300 – and, surely it will – the writing will be on the wall and Nottinghamshire will be reading something along the lines of “defeat is coming”. With two days to go, they are getting into the sort of bind that would have taxed the powers of Harry Houdini.
Wickets continued to tumble across the grounds on day 2 in Division Two, and there was even a result within 5 sessions at Chester-Le-Street as Kent cruised to the 93 runs required; losing just the one wicket in the process. The day started with Durham 13-1, 65 runs behind Kent, and the day played out as many would have expected, with Matt Henry taking a highly impressive 12 wickets for 73 runs in the match. Only James Weighell and Nathan Rimmington offered some resistance to the Kent attack as Durham added 131 runs for the final three wickets, with Durham recovering from 39-7 to finish 170 all out. Paul Collingwood’s men will need to improve drastically as they head to Wantage Road next Friday to face Northamptonshire.
Meanwhile, at Derby, Middlesex's struggles continued, reaching just 157 all out in reply to Derbyshire’s 265 from day 1. Six Middlesex batsmen made double figures, but no one was able to make a meaningful score as John Simpson top scored with 32. South African Duanne Olivier was the pick of the Derbyshire bowlers on debut, with a probing spell, finishing with 4-26. The Middlesex batsmen may be well advised to re-check their guard, as half of the wickets fell LBW. After lunch, Derbyshire were out to look to extend the first innings lead of 108, with Ben Slater and the highly rated Luis Reece getting off to the good start before rain disrupted proceedings at 56-0. Play resumed after a lengthy delay, as Middlesex were left to toil to no avail as both Slater and Reece pilled on the runs. Derbyshire settled with 118-0 at the close, surely delighted with a very handy 228 run lead.
Across the county border from Derbyshire, at Leicestershire, Sussex bucked the trend of weak batting performances across the country as they extended their total to 438, thanks to a free-flowing 101* Michael Burgess before Sussex skipper Ben Brown called them in with a declaration halfway through the afternoon session. The rain immediately disrupted Leicestershire’s reply meaning an early tea interval. Ishant Sharma got an early breakthrough after the break, as Paul Horton played across a straight one, out LBW. However, Colin Akermann was solid in the face of adversity against a talented Sussex attack and made it to the close on 62*, as Leicestershire reach 112-2, trailing by 326.
Elsewhere, Warwickshire added to Northamptonshire’s early-season woes at Wantage Road. Tim Ambrose shared a 116 run 9th wicket partnership with young Henry Brookes. Ambrose managed a fine 103, and Brookes made 70 in only his 2nd first-class match. Northants had no answers with the ball and will do well to make Warwickshire even bat again, with a 266 first innings deficit. Northants then faced a tricky 10 overs to see out before the close, which Rob Newton and Ben Duckett negotiated well, closing on 41-0, requiring another 225 avoid an innings defeat.
Finally, to Bristol, as a classy 111 from Shaun Marsh has left Glamorgan in control against Gloucestershire. Marsh was well supported by the other batsmen, with 40s from Jack Murphy and Kiran Carlson. With the ball, Ryan Higgins offered the biggest test for the Glamorgan batsmen, with 2-43. This is likely to be the most exciting matches in the next two days, and with a few early wickets tomorrow, all three outcomes remain possible. Glamorgan finished on 296-5, 60 runs ahead.
Written by David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu), Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid), and Harry Hill (@HarryHill96)
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid
Essex finally got their title defence under way after the wash-out at Headingley and look in an indecent hurry to finish their game. Both the game at Chelmsford and the game at Taunton look set for a finish in two days, while the other two games are not much further behind: there may well be no Division One cricket on Monday.
Let’s start at Chelmsford and the Essex title defence. They would hardly have hoped to find themselves 113-9 soon after Lunch. Bailey, Onions, Meenie & Clark shared the wickets, with only Nick Browne reaching a score in the twenties in the morning session. Essex’s Championship win though was based on resilience. Early in the season they were in desperate trouble against Middlesex and wriggled free and struggled in other games: when they found their feet though, they were unstoppable. Today, Siddle and Porter added 37 priceless runs for the last wicket, Siddle top-scoring with 33, including 1x4 and 2x6, pushing the momentum suddenly and firmly with Essex. Alastair Cook is rested from this game, but Lancashire could showcase two potential suitors to bat with him this summer in Hameed and Jennings. There were signs on the Lions tour to the Caribbean that maybe Hameed was getting his batting back as Jennings started to struggle under the pressure of trying to carry a Lions side that were totally out of their depth but, today, knowing that early season runs would put immense pressure on Mark Stoneman, both were back in the hatch after nine overs and Lancashire were 19-3 and sinking fast in the face of destructive bowling from Porter. A series of small partnerships have helped Lancashire creep up towards the Essex total and, at 141-8, it looks likely that there will be close to parity on first innings. The match is there for the taking tomorrow morning, with the side that has the best first session favourites to win. There is every chance that this match will not go into a third day.
A two-day finish looks a real possibility at Taunton too. On hearing the score, one Middlesex fan suggested that the pitch had obviously not been as well raked as the one served up for them last September. That said, only Matt Renshaw, Cameron Bancroft’s replacement, has reached fifty. Renshaw scored exactly half of the Somerset total of 202, making a superlative century and, only when he was batting with James Hildreath, did batting look easy. Barnard, with 5-52 was the main destroyer, but Somerset will reflect that with Renshaw and Hildreath scoring 149 between them, they should have reached 300 rather than just struggling past 200. When Worcestershire batted they did no better and will be desperate for their ninth wicket partnership to keep chipping away at the likely Somerset lead on the ‘morrow. So far Barnard and Tongue have added 29, invaluable runs but, still 49 behind, Worcestershire face a significant first innings deficit in yet another low-scoring match. Lewis Gregory and Josh Davey have three wickets each so far and, with another burst of pace in the morning, Somerset will hope to put themselves in pole position to win this game.
By far the biggest first innings score of the day in Division 1 came at Headingley, fortunately now fit for play. Both sides lined-up before the start for a minute’s silence for Dave Callaghan: a touching tribute to a well-loved commentator. During the first hour the efforts of Andrew Lyth added a little respectability to the scoreboard but Lees, Pujara and Ballance all went cheaply before Hodd organised the tail to great effect, so much so that, despite the fact that even getting one batting point was looking highly unlikely half way through the afternoon session, Yorkshire were able to push on past 250 thanks to an old-fashioned tail-ender’s innings from Jack Brooks. Luke Fletcher and Harry Gurney took four and three wickets respectively although Luke Wood took a lot of punishment: a worry for Notts. Nottinghamshire’s start could not be more catastrophic – in a bizarre echo of their collapse last Sunday they fell again to 6-3 – with Jack Brooks taking 3-11 so far. Only Ross Taylor, 34* overnight, has made runs so far and Yorkshire will be thinking that if they can get him quickly tomorrow, Nottinghamshire could be dismissed very cheaply. At 53-4, Nottinghamshire are still 203 behind and their first priority will be to get past the follow-on mark of 107 in the morning.
Finally, at The Oval, a strong candidate for the title of “Collapse of the Day”, despite this being a vintage day for collapses. Surrey, who were 110-2 and 187-4, subsided to 211ao. Burns and Foakes made 46, Elgar 44 and Pope 34, but no one could make a telling contribution with the bat. Fidel Edwards caused all kinds of problems and was not flattered by his figures of 4-38, while Liam Dawson blew away the tail with 4-30. Hampshire reached 37-0 in reply and seemed to be threatening to take control, but two wickets for Ricky Clarke and a wicket with the last ball of the day for Sam Curran has evened things out and, at 52-3, both sides will think that they can take control tomorrow. With that late Hampshire collapse, possibly it is Surrey who will feel the more pleased of the two sides but, with batsman finding life difficult, you would not rule out another big clatter of wickets in the morning.
Meanwhile in Division Two there was equal mayhem as the bowlers held sway in four of the five matches. With one of which looking likely to finish on Day 2, possibly in four sessions. Sixty-one wickets. Five completed innings. And just five batting bonus points: two each for Derbyshire and Sussex, one for Gloucestershire. It is still early days, but Sussex and Warwickshire seem to be making steady progress without making headlines and look serious candidates for promotion. In contrast, Middlesex, as their fans feared, remembering their highly inconsistent performances in 2017, looked far from the unstoppable force of the first round of matches. Elsewhere, surprise package Gloucestershire have edged the first day of their game and will retain their dream of starting the season with two wins.
The two sides that were relegated from Division One will look back on their day’s work in quite different ways. Middlesex looked so good against Northants that some fans felt that Division 2 would be a cakewalk however, Warwickshire have done their own demolition job on the same side that only just missed out on promotion last season. For Northamptonshire, this was a case of déjà vu. Last week they were unhappy about the state of the Lord’s pitch; this week though they are playing at Wantage Road and have no excuses for rolling over for 147 against a Warwickshire side robbed before the start of Ollie Stone, their most potent bowler, by injury. The fact that this was their best innings total of the season and that they have improved in each of the three innings does not make the sequence of totals of 71, 142 and 147 any easier to bear. In Stone’s absence, Ryan Sidebottom made an unexpected comeback and responded with 6-35 from 12.4 rabble-rousing overs. For Northants, who were 101-3 at one point, the loss of seven wickets for 46 was another indication that something is seriously wrong with the batting, especially after suffering multiple collapses last season. Northants needed a devastating response with the ball and had the visitors 28-3 in reply, but the fact is Rhodes and Hain have put on 85 so far and the Bears are just 34 behind. Warwickshire must be wondering if they can win this match batting just once.
In contrast, Middlesex looked off-colour. It is nothing that you can quite put your finger on, but a feeling that they were well off the pace today. James Harris added another four wickets and, if he continues like this, the England selectors may yet take notice of him, while highly-rated Tom Helm took three. You felt that wickets were there to be taken, so Derbyshire must have been more than satisfied when they reached 117-2 shortly before Lunch, with things not quite happening for the previously unstoppable Middlesex attack. However, the fall of Hughes just before Lunch left Derbyshire crumbling in the afternoon and seemingly throwing away their good start. At 167-7, Middlesex must have hoped to finish the innings for under two hundred but, instead, they lost the plot completely. Palladino and Viljoen started to re-build before Sam Robson tossed the ball to Ollie Rayner for this first bowl of the season. Viljoen went ballistic and greeted him with three sixes in an over. Poor Ollie must have wanted to put a couple of fielders in the carpark and later joked on Twitter that he owes the owner of a house by the ground a beer to compensate for a damaged roof. Rayner did get the last laugh as he took four catches at second slip, two of which were just sensational, but he admitted that, even though he was glad to contribute with the catches, his first bowl of the season had not quite gone the way that he had hoped. Derbyshire’s 265ao looked to be a good total and got better rapidly as Rampaul got Holden for a duck and White fell to Olivier. When Viljoen made his day even better by adding the wicket of Cartwright, Ollie Rayner had to come back out as nightwatchman and, at 45-3, Middlesex are looking decidedly rocky. Sam Robson is still there, 15* and it is sobering to think that he has already scored more than rivals for the England opening spot Hameed, Jennings and Stoneman combined. Suffice it to say that Middlesex did not show the form of a side for which promotion is a formality: the fan name of them is “The Machines” and, if last week they were a Mercedes, today they looked more like a rattling jalopy.
What of Round 1’s other winners: Gloucestershire? They looked in real trouble at 86-5 and 124-6 after deciding to leave out Craig Miles on a distinctly foggy morning that had Glamorgan deciding that they wanted to make first use of the ball. However, Ryan Higgins – who looks a better signing with every passing day – made 43, Noema-Barnett, 46 and Worrall 36*, taking Gloucestershire to their first batting point of the season and threatening to reach a second. 236 looks a competitive total, although Glamorgan made a good start, surviving eight overs and reaching 26-0. However, the ball is still new and they know that they will need a good start in the morning. Gloucestershire probably have not won their first two games of the season since the days of W.G. Grace – who played his cricket in the next village to the one where I grew up, on a green that I passed hundreds of times over the years – but will be dreaming that, with a couple of early wickets, they might yet find themselves top of Division 2 on Monday.
At Grace Road, there was a severe attack of proper cricket. As wickets fell like snowflakes in a blizzard elsewhere, the last game of the day to see a wicket was, by some distance, Leicestershire v Sussex. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t glamorous. Sussex crawled to 254-7 from 96 overs, with Luke Wright and Ben Brown adding 119 from 37 overs the batting highlight. The key though is that Sussex are still batting and are in control of the match. With their two biggest stars away on IPL duty, Sussex are progressing quietly and steadily and look like a good bet to be in the promotion shakedown when they will be able, at last, to field their strongest attack.
The game at Chester-le-Street is already hurtling towards a finish in under two days. Durham were indebted to tail-end resistance to make as many as 91, batting first. Matt Henry, with 5-28, was the wrecking ball and Durham rolled over, failing to bat out the first session. No one passed 16. When, despite the loss of an early wicket, Kent reached 67-1, Durham must have feared the worst. Dickson and Kuhn were threatening to take the match out of Durham’s reach. But three quick wickets gave Durham hope of limiting the damage and even of getting back into the game, but Kent were still ahead with only four wickets down. Could they make it count? As had happened against Gloucestershire, when they seemed to be taking control of the situation, a cluster of wickets fell: Kuhn, Rouse and Henry fell in the space of eleven balls and Kent were grateful to a ninth-wicket partnership to get as far as 169ao although, in the context of the match, it might as well be 500ao. Durham started their second innings 78 behind and, with Markram falling to a second duck in the day – not quite the impact that Durham expected from their South African Test star – third ball of the innings, the danger of an innings defeat on the second morning of the match looks all too real. Durham need 65 to make Kent bat again and it must be no better than Evens that they will make the runs. Warn the Chester-le-Street caterers that it may be an early Lunch…
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