County Champions Surrey begin their defence of their title with a home game against the side who denied them unbeaten season last year, Essex.
Essex will have fond memories of playing at the Oval after ending their county campaign last season with a dramatic win over Surrey. With bragging right on the line, a battling last wicket stand between Ryan ten Doeschate and Matt Quinn saw the Eagles over the line to seal a one-wicket success, and in doing so stopping the ‘Rey from ending the season unbeaten, a feat ten Doeschate’s men managed in 2017.
Surrey will surely begin the campaign as bookies favourites again with the ‘Rey’s star-studded line-up is sure to cause plenty of problems this season. Rory Burns, Scott Borthwick, Mark Stoneman, Ollie Pope and Ben Foakes have all enjoyed a stint in the England set up recently and provide a daunting top six. Whilst, Morne Morkel returns to lead the line for Rory Burns’ men, and he will be backed up by Tom Curran, new signing Liam Plunkett and Rikki Clarke in a formidable bowling attack.
Surrey enjoyed a productive pre-season and will be looking to get their defence off to a positive start. Michael Di Venuto’s men drew with the MCC – after dominating for large spells in the Middle East, and poor light saw them also draw with Durham MCCU, but their batsmen look in fine touch with Ollie Pope smashing 251 vs the MCC and Stoneman, Borthwick and Ryan Patel all hitting centuries in the final warm-up game.
Liam Plunkett could make his first-class debut for Surrey following his winter move from Yorkshire, whilst England hopefuls Burns, Foakes, and Pope are all likely to be in the starting XI for the hosts.
Essex, meanwhile, will be looking to bounce-back following a disappointing start at the Ageas Bowl. Anthony McGrath’s men were simply blown away by their South Coast Counterparts eventually succumbing to an innings defeat. There were few positive to take from the match in Southampton but the early season form of Ravi Bopara – who struck a second innings century will give the Eagles hope that it was a mere blip.
In Alastair Cook, they have a man who enjoys batting at the Oval, and he too will have fond memories of the batting in South London. The former England skipper struck one final international century in his final appearance in a Test uniform last Summer. Essex will need him to impress again if they are to right the wrongs of their opening fixture.
Injury to Adam Wheater (out for six weeks with a finger injury) and Michael Pepper (missing following an appendix operation) has seen the Eagles utilise the loan market, bringing young Rob White from Middlesex on a two-month long contract, he will deputise behind the stumps while Wheater and Pepper recover from their respected fitness problems.
Peter Siddle, who jetted into England after winning the Sheffield Shield in his native Australia with Victoria will be a welcome return for ten Doeschate’s men, who struggled for breakthroughs in Hampshire with the big Australian set to return to the side against Surrey.
Joe Root will look to continue his early season form as Yorkshire travel south to the Ageas Bowl to face Hampshire.
The England captain struck an unbeaten 130 to save the game for the Tykes at Trent Bridge in game week one of the 2019 campaign. Root, shared a mammoth unbroken stand with Gary Ballance as Yorkshire batted the entirety of the final day to secure a draw. The 28-year-old will get the opportunity to bat at another test venue as he continues his preparation ahead of a busy summer of cricket for England with the World Cup and then the Ashes.
Duanne Olivier will look to continue his decent start to his new career as a county pro, after giving up his South African test hopes to become a full-time Yorkshire player. He began life with a five-wicket bag to be the pick of the bowlers as Nottinghamshire racked up the runs in the first innings in Nottingham.
Of course, there is still a chance albeit unlikely for Adam Lyth and Gary Ballance to receive a call-up to the Ashes such is the wide-open vacancy in the top order for England, they will both hope that time in and around Root will help keep the duo firmly in the mind of the England selectors and captain.
Hampshire meanwhile are looking to make it four championship wins on the spin following their opening game week smashing of Essex.
Against Essex everything seemed to click in Adrian Birrell’s opening game as coach, after being inserted by the Eagles following an uncontested toss they racked up the runs and then simply blew their counterparts away with the ball with Kyle Abbott and Fidel Edwards’ particularly impressive taking a five-wicket haul each.
Sam Northeast struck an important and simply magnificent 169 to lead Hampshire to a massive 525-8 to take the game away from Anthony McGrath’s Essex. His early season form will be pleasing for Birrell with the former Kent man already well on his way to the 451 runs he amassed last summer.
Aiden Markram completes the South African trio, and he made a promising debut and will look to continue to impress ahead of the World Cup in England this summer. Edwards and Abbott will be given the task of removing Root and if their excellent bowling display against Essex is anything to go by it will be a great test for the England skipper.
Hampshire make one change from the victory over Essex with Lewis McManus replacing the injured Tom Alsop to deputise behind the stumps.
Somerset will hope to make it back-to-back Championship wins to kick off their season with a victory at Trent Bridge in the second round of action in the County Championship.
The Cidermen secured victory inside three-days after seeing the opening day wiped out due to rain against Kent at Taunton. The impressive Lewis Gregory starred in the opening round of fixtures securing a Michelle fivefer to help Somerset dismiss Kent to on the final day to secure a 74-run win in a low-scoring encounter.
James Hildreth will look to improve upon the 29 cumulative runs he scored at Taunton last week as he hopes to finally break into the England set-up after years of pundits clambering for the 34-year-old to receive a call-up. A steady run scorer in the County Championship, Hildreth has yet to break down the door and will hope that early season runs will be enough for an Ashes call-up at the twilight of his career. He will likely have a watching England Selectors eye on him at Trent Bridge particularly with Stuart Broad on display.
In the reverse fixture last season, Hildreth struck a century, so will have fond memories of playing at Trent Bridge as Somerset thrashed the Outlaws by an innings in the final game of the season. Craig Overton starred with the ball in that fixture, and he will be another name on the scouting sheet of the on watching England selectors.
It is Joe Clarke though who is the most likely to receive a big chance this summer in the England Test side as the newly signed number three has continued his fine form from last summer into this year. The 22-year struck a debut century in-front of the watching Joe Root last week and followed that up with an unbeaten 97 in the second innings only to be denied a second century in as many innings by a declaration.
Clarke has been around the England Lions set-up for some time and has age on his side with selectors more favourably selecting future talent over ageing talent. I am sure that Stuart Broad will be in the ears of Root even more in the dressing room should the youngster continue to pile on the runs this summer.
Speaking of Broad, this is another opportunity to find some bowling rhythm ahead of a busy summer. He bowled with hostility against Yorkshire but could only manage three first-innings wickets, and was largely frustrated by Root and Ballance in the second innings as batting became easier on the final day.
Nottinghamshire will want to go one further and secure victory after dominating for large spells of the Yorkshire game; it should be a good game this between two good sides.
The two promoted teams meet at Edgbaston as Kent and Warwickshire look to get their first wins of the new 2019 County Championship season.
Kent, of course, suffered defeat against Somerset on the opening week of the season at Taunton; meanwhile, Warwickshire kick start their season with what they will see as one of their ‘must win’ fixtures.
The Spitfires were let down by their batting after they dismissed Somerset for 171 in the first innings with Mitch Claydon particularly impressive on his first foray in Division One, he bagged 5-46. Young Harry Podmore also enjoyed a promising start taking 2-36. Matt Walker’s men even managed to secure a first-innings lead reaching 209 with Sean Dickson and Zak Crawley and Daniel Bell-Drummond all getting starts but failing to kick on.
That is something they will be hoping to rectify in this fixture; they must turn starts into big scores if they are going to compete in Division One. It is a big step up from Division Two attacks to Division One, and they must settle quickly; otherwise, they face a fight to survive this season. Much will rely on Heino Kuhn and Matthew Renshaw who both largely disappointed against Somerset.
They travel to Birmingham with the same squad hoping to collect their first Championship top-flight win since 2010. Warwickshire won the last fixture last time these two met on what was described as the Division Two title decider in 2018.
Ahead of their season opener, Warwickshire will have been buoyed by the news of a new contract for Jeetan Patel – who has become an ever-present overseas professional for the Bears. The Kiwi spinner has become a huge fan favourite at Edgbaston and will as ever play an important role as he will hope to lead his side to comfortable survival this summer.
Sam Hain, Liam Banks and Henry Brookes represent the Brummie community for hosts as they look to build a young side good enough to compete in the top flight. The Bears are very excited by Brookes who has been tipped for a future England call-up by our very own Charlie Jennings.
Warwickshire were the dominant side in Division Two last year and will be looking to carry on the momentum from last season. You do worry that they lack Division One experience though, with only Tim Ambrose, Jeetan Patel and Dom Sibley with any real experience in the top flight.
They will bring plenty of energy to proceedings though and will hope that they can get off to a positive start in a fixture they will see as winnable. Their form has been solid in pre-season with a 530-run win over Leeds Bradford Uni with runs for Adam Hose (200) and Will Rhodes (92) and wickets for Aaron Thomason (5-6) and Patel (3-12).
Thomason will perhaps feel a little aggrieved to miss out the squad after bagging those fixtures, but Oliver Hannon-Dalby is preferred to the youngster.
4/8/2019 0 Comments
By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
The County Championship Season is underway, and with the stars on display as players look to get some much needed practise in before the Ashes - there were plenty of talking points from the opening game week of 2019.
In Division One, Joe Root faced up against England team-mate Stuart Broad in arguably the biggest game of the opening set of fixtures. The England Test Captain struck an unbeaten 130 to help salvage a draw for the White Rose at Trent Bridge after making 73 in the first innings to find some welcome form ahead of a big summer for English Cricket.
Root would no doubt be impressed by Joe Clarke as he watched on from slip as the former Worcestershire man struck a century in the first innings and ended 97 not out in the second as the Outlaws looked to force a win by declaring overnight. Clarke, who has toured with the Lions has been a name on the radar for the selectors and making runs in front of the on watching England skipper will have done his chances of an Ashes call-up the world of good.
Broad, meanwhile struck three times in the first innings as Yorkshire found themselves 117-runs behind on first innings. Half-centuries from Ben Duckett (61), Chris Nash (75), Steven Mullaney (57) and Clarkes brilliant unbeaten 97 meant the visitors were set an unlikely 446 runs to win on the final day.
Jake Ball (2-73) struck twice early to leave the Tykes wobbling a little on 24-2 but Root and Gary Ballance steadied the ship despite some hostile bowling from Broad to share an unbroken 253-run third wicket partnership to guide the visitors to a hard-fought draw.
Root finished with an unbeaten 130, striking 18-fours in his 189-ball stay at the crease whilst Ballance struck 17-fours and a six during his 224-ball innings.
Elsewhere, Hampshire thumped Essex at the Ageas Bowl by an innings and 87-runs to get Adrian Birrell's coaching regime off to a dream start.
After an uncontested toss, Hampshire racked up the runs on a pitch that offered surprisingly little on the opening day with Jamie Porter and Sam Cook particularly struggling to offer a threat. James Vince, looking to get his season off to a bright start opened the innings for the Hawks hoping to make an impression at the top of the order to force his way back into the England reckoning.
He made a typically stylish 40 before falling to the final ball before lunch on the opening day trapped leg before falling across his stumps off the bowling of Ravi Bopara. Aiden Markram, a late overseas arrival struck a half-century on debut sharing a 75-run stand with the impressive Sam Northeast - who finally started to show the Hampshire faithful his true potential with a magnificent 169.
The former Kent man shared solid partnerships with Markram and Rilee Rossouw before becoming the fifth man to fall in the innings, smashing 23-fours and a six during 255-ball inning. The Eagles continued to toil away in the Southampton sun as Liam Dawson (64), Gareth Berg (33) and Keith Barker (31 not out) took the Hampshire total up to a mammoth 525-8.
Essex lost wicketkeeper Adam Wheater, who damaged his thumb standing up to Sam Cook's medium fast to injury for the match leaving the visitors with just nine wickets to play with in both innings. The former Hampshire gloveman is expected to be missing for six weeks after undergoing surgery during the match.
Buoyed by having runs on the board, Hampshire ripped through the depleted Essex batting line-up to dismiss the Eagles for a disappointing 164 with Alastair Cook (50) top scoring for the visitors. Fidel Edwards, 5-51, was the pick of the bowlers for the hosts.
Predictably with a lead of 361 on first innings Hampshire asked Essex to have another go at reaching their first innings total. Browne (7), Cook (8) and Lawrence (6) all fell cheaply to give Hampshire a dream start in their pursuit of victory. Tom Westley and Bopara briefly offer respite for Anthony McGrath's men sharing a 67-run stand for the fourth wicket before Edwards enticed Westley to feather an edge through to substitute keeper Lewis McManus to leave the Eagles in trouble on 94-4.
No further wickets fell on the third day, but Essex knew the writing was probably already on the wall, particularly knowing they were a batter light, they were praying for a miracle, that or a deluge of rain overnight and throughout the morning.
The rain didn't come, and it was down to Bopara and skipper Ryan ten Doeschate to attempt to get the visitors out of the woods. The pair added 26-runs to the overnight total of 132-4 before ten Doeschate became Edward's second victim of the innings, edging to McManus behind the wicket.
Bopara was turning into the key man, having survived the carnage of the first innings finishing on an unbeaten 37. He was seemingly playing on a different pitch to the rest of his teammates, seldom looking in any trouble as he began to build a partnership with the last recognised batsmen, and even Simon Harmer himself would admit to being a bowling all-rounder at best.
But alongside Bopara, the South African showed great resolve and battle to frustrate the hosts as the pair shared 111 for the sixth wicket, with Bopara reaching his well-deserved century during that century stand.
When Bopara fell though to Kyle Abbott for 107, the Essex hopes of stealing a draw dissipated. Harmer, who reached 62 fell two runs later to Edwards, and the Essex tail soon folded like a pack of cards struggling to resist Edwards and Abbott's new ball prowess.
Abbott bowled Sam Cook for 3 to collect his five-wicket haul and finish Essex off once and for all to seal an emphatic opening game victory with plenty of time to spare.
The final game in the top flight saw Somerset defeat newly promoted Kent by 74-runs.
After the first day's play was washed out, Somerset batted on the second day following the uncontested toss. The hosts could only manage 171 with Tom Abell (49) top scoring for the West Countrymen; Mitch Claydon bagged figures of 5-46 to impress on his first venture into Division One cricket.
Sean Dickson (43), Zak Crawley (37) and Daniel Bell-Drummond (33) helped Kent to a first innings lead and a batting point reaching 209 all out. Lewis Gregory finishing with figures of 3-26 to be the pick of the bowling for the hosts.
In this low-scoring affair, Somerset were hoping to set the Spitfires a challenging final day score to chase, and thanks to young George Bartlett's 63, they set Kent a tricky looking 205 for victory.
Unfortunately for Kent, their chase got off to the worst possible start losing Dickson to the first ball of the innings, caught by Craig Overton off the bowling of the ever-impressive Lewis Gregory. Worry not, thought the Kent faithful overseas star Matthew Renshaw, formerly of the Taunton Parish, will come to the rescue.
Renshaw, fell for a 6-ball duck to shoot fear through the Kent dressing room as Somerset new boy Jack Brooks removed the Aussie. Bell-Drummond, Kuhn and Crawley all soon followed to leave the visitors staring down the barrel on 41-5. Alex Blake and Darren Stevens threaten to take the game deep, with the veteran Stevens hitting an unbeaten 43.
Once Blake fell though for 20, with the score on 82-7, Somerset hurried to victory with Gregory bagging his fifth wicket when removing Matthew Milnes. Josh Davey finished things off for the hosts when he had Claydon removed caught by Hildreth to get Somerset off to a winning start.
4/7/2019 0 Comments
By Jamie Ramage (@famousstrauss)
Joe Root struck an unbeaten half-century as Yorkshire battled their way back into an unusually high scoring early season game at Trent Bridge. In front of a decent crowd in Nottingham, with the main attraction undoubtedly the highly anticipated battle between Root and Stuart Broad.
Eye were also on Duane Olivier who has given us his South African Test status in the hope of qualifying for England in the future after signing a Kolpak deal with the White Rose. Olivier impressed on his first start with the Tykes collecting figures of 5-96 as Nottinghamshire finished were dismissed for 408.
Nottinghamshire went into day two in a healthy position on 324 for 5. This was thanks in part to a first day hundred from Joe Clarke who started the day on 109 not out for his new county.
He would only add three more runs to that total as James Taylor one of the England selectors watched on. Clarke prodded at a ball from Olivier that not only kept low but also swung back in to bowl the former Worcestershire man who was caught in no man's land.
It was Olivier and Steve Pattinson who between them took the final five Notts wickets just before lunch. It was a decent fight back from Yorkshire as Nottinghamshire should have scored more than their 408 all out.
Yorkshire’s openers started well, and the top order looked on course to gain parity with their hosts. Harry Brook who has potential by the bag-full was well set before Stuart Broad got one to keep a little low and the young gun had to depart for 30 off 29 balls.
Gary Ballance (7) went cheaply, well bowled by Luke Fletcher. Joe Root joined Adam Lyth and the two started to pick up the pace for Yorkshire.
Lyth’s 50 may have come from 87 balls, but it included ten fours as he waited for the inevitable half volley. Root was his usual bundle of energy at the other end and was on 26 from 26 balls when he was dropped by second slip.
It was one of two chances that Root gave, but the hosts failed to take either of them. Root started to become more becalmed as Broad and co bowled a challenging line and length, and it took the England Captain 99 balls to reach his fifty in the end.
Yorkshire lost wickets towards the end and none more frustratingly than that of Jack Leaning who was bowled by Fletcher without offering a shot.
Yorkshire finished day two on 206 for 5 when at one stage it looked as if they were going to keep pace with Notts. It will take a good morning session and Root to bat for most of the day for Yorkshire to feel they are back in this game.
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