7/26/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Only three games were left to be completed last night. All three produced positive results, the most significant of which was Somerset’s win against Worcestershire, although at one point it seemed really to be in danger. Somerset hang on to Surrey’s coattails and will remember fondly that the penultimate round of fixtures will see Surrey visit Taunton. In Division 2, there were wins for Gloucestershire and Derbyshire in games where the advantage ebbed and flowed constantly through the day in five hours of dramatic action.
Yes, the game that no one watches and no one is interested in, produced three epic finishes, each played out in front of an appreciative crowd. It might only by Division Two and two modest sides, but the game at Cheltenham was played in front of crowds of around 3000 every day.
Worcestershire v Somerset
Somerset did, finally, obtain their win and kept up the pressure on Surrey at the top of the table, but briefly and horribly, it looked as if Worcestershire might even threaten to win. When Luke Wood and Dillon Pennington both fell to Jack Leach in the space of three balls, the Pears were 165-9 and appeared to be out of the contest. These, though, are strange days. Alex Milton, playing just his fourth First Class game and Steve Magoffin, batted for almost 40 overs in a tenth wicket partnership of 136. Initially, the partnership was an annoyance, then it became a major irritation and, finally, horrible imaginings started to emerge and, when the target got within 150, there were even thoughts that Worcestershire could even win. All it takes is one magic ball, one error, one loss of concentration and, realistically, there was never any real chance that the home side could win, but you try explaining that to the suffering bowlers who wonder if they are about to make history of the wrong kind. If the truth be told, the attack did not react well to frustration and lost its discipline badly, making the Worcestershire task so much easier.
During the morning session it all looked so simple. Worcestershire started the day 50-2, needing two big innings from somewhere. What they got instead was a rapid and horrific collapse. It started in just the third over of the morning after a misleading blizzard of early runs. Josh Davey, who ended with 3-43 from 19 miserly overs, bowled Joe Clarke. Four balls later Jamie Overton removed the dangerous Travis Head to a catch behind and, next ball, Ed Barnard, edged to Marcus Trescothick at slip. Alex Milton survived the hat-trick ball, but Worcestershire were 65-5. Brett D’Oliviera then gave Davey his third wicket: 71-6 after just five overs of the morning. If, at that point in play, you had taken a bet that Worcestershire would still be batting after Tea, you could have earned a fair sum. Whiteley and Milton delayed the inevitable with the sort of partnership that their side had needed a few wickets earlier but, after seeing out 21 overs and exactly doubling the score, the fall of Whiteley, caught behind off Jamie Overton for 39 precipitated another collapse from the relative riches of 142-6 to 165-9.
Magoffin accompanied Milton to a magnificent century. Somerset tried Trego. They tried Azhar Ali, but nothing worked and Jack Leach was not getting the same, lethal turn that Moeen had the previous day. The new ball came, but still nothing shifted the batsmen. Magoffin, who has six First Class fifties, was nearing a seventh when, finally, Craig Overton got him to play a false shot and Josh Davey held the catch. The tenth wicket partnership had lasted 39.2 overs and added 136 runs.
Somerset are 34 points behind Surrey with six to play and are the only realistic challengers to Surrey. Nottinghamshire, in third, are 43 points behind, with a game fewer to play and Essex, in fourth, are 61 points down: for either to challenge for the title, the two sides can afford no more than one draw in what is left of the season and must win the rest of their games with good hauls of bonus points.
The concertina effect has continued at the top. Middlesex, in fifth, definitely feel that they are back in the promotion race, although they would need a spectacular run of form to be promoted. Derbyshire are now just a point back from them, in sixth and, by the same logic, must also be in the promotion race. Gloucestershire, in seventh, will reflect how fine is the dividing line between success and failure: twice this season a potential win against Sussex disappeared, once to a rain-sodden draw, the other time to a narrow loss; had those results fallen Gloucestershire’s way, they would have been on 101 points and in fourth place, just ahead of Sussex (given some of the awful cricket played by Gloucestershire this season another matter would be whether or not they deserved to have been luckier).
Gloucestershire v Durham
The equation at the start was simple. Durham needed to chase 340 to win and required 305 from 96 overs, with ten wickets in hand. Through the day, the advantage ebbed and flowed. Early in the afternoon a Durham win looked to be the most likely result but, after Tea, after a period when the odds on Gloucestershire winning had shortened spectacularly, the draw started to become a distinct possibility and, at a late stage, Durham even started to block out deliberately, looking to play out the last hour.
Yes, it was a roller-coaster day in front of another bumper crowd.
It comes to something when Sir Robert Hunt gets so excited that his yelp of “he’s out!” scares the wits out of listeners and threatens to break the microphone. It was a day when you were glad that there were just two voices on the commentary (Sir Robert’s cellist scorer, Julian, rarely utters a sound, despite being bombarded with constant questions) and they were two of the best. Bob Hunt and Martin Emmerson live (and die) the success and failure of their respective teams and both ran the whole gamut of emotions as Durham started so well that they seemed certain to pull off what would have been their third largest chase and their first away win against Gloucestershire since 1999. It was good just to have the familiar home and away voice and no pseudo-neutral distractions.
Tom Latham and Cameron Steel batted with great solidity almost until Lunch when, finally, Matt Taylor got Latham to give a catch behind. Their opening partnership of 94 was just the foundation that the Wearsiders needed. At Lunch, Cameron Steel and Will Smith were bedding-in and the match was heading Durham’s way. Approaching mid-afternoon, the score was 168-2 and the situation was getting desperate for the Shire. On commentary, you could see Martin Emmerson’s smile, while Sir Robert was sinking into good-loser mode. What was needed was for one of the Gloucestershire bowlers to put on the Superman cape: astute followers of the Shire will know that there is one man that the captain turns to in such cases. Ryan Higgins bowled a super delivery that Graham Clark could only nick behind. That was the good news. The bad news was that this brought in Ben Stokes, who had had an excellent game with the ball and entered determined to score some runs too. Stokes could have been out half a dozen times as he charged the bowler, but rode his luck for a time. The turning point came when Will Smith and Ben Stokes fell in successive overs: Higgins, inevitably, got Smith and then Matt Taylor compensated for an anaemic first innings display with an, at times, devastating second innings performance, castling Stokes to the explosive joy of Sir Robert. Another jaffa from Taylor re-arranged the stumps of Stuart Poynter as, like various of his colleagues, he played back instead of forwards and, for the first time, Gloucestershire were favourite. 201-6 and that target of 340 was starting to recede into the distance.
Richardson and Wood came together and, again, the match changed direction. Wood has yet another foot injury – he is not so much “injury-prone” as “injury-plagued”, but he batted bravely, clearly seriously hampered. Together, they whittled down the target to 80 and, again, the home side was on the verge of panic. Then came the second turning point of the day. A couple of chances had gone begging in the field but, now, in his first over with the new ball, having just seen Mark Wood take 17 from him in an over, Craig Miles produced a ball that seemed to lift awkwardly from a good length. Richardson played back, the ball thudded into his pads and, despite looking suspiciously high, the umpire drew out his fickle finger of fate, while something suspiciously like dissent, pronounced in broad Geordie tones, went into the microphone in the commentary box. In his next over, Sailisbury played back instead of getting forward and Miles re-arranged his stumps too and you felt that, now, the fat lady was warming up her vocal cords. Wood continued to attack, but lost Harding to a catch by Bracey off Matt Taylor.
As the match entered the last hour, all four results were possible. Durham needed around 50 at just over 3-an-over, but Wood and Rushworth shut up shop, presumably trying to bat out the hour. It was though, only fitting, that Ryan Higgins, who had turned the match on its head earlier in the day, got the last wicket as Rushworth edged a catch behind. Matt Taylor will probably get the headlines for his 4-31, but Ryan Higgins had the splendid match figures of 6-85, taking him to 30 wickets at 19.9.
Gloucestershire will, most certainly, not be promoted, but at least see the threat of the wooden spoon recede and can still hope for the top-six finish that would represent success.
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire
Another game that ebbed and flowed through the day. During the morning it seemed that Northamptonshire were heading to a win that would allow them to dream of being in the promotion shake-up. Instead though, we had yet another epic finish, as Derbyshire held their nerve to close out a narrow win that had seemed unlikely a couple of hours earlier.
The visitors started the day 174-3, with two set batsmen, the chase of 314 seemingly well in hand. Derbyshire needed quick wickets. 140 to get with two set batsmen and seven wickets in hand is usually a position that favours the batting side nine times out of ten. This though, was the tenth time and it turned on two, young spinners. Qadri and Critchley bowled most of the overs in the day and took nine of the ten Northamptonshire wickets. Levi, Crook and Prasanna all got past twenty, but none could make the fifty that would surely have won the match. Once Wakeley fell to the wiles of Qadri for 68, the Northamptonshire slide was as inevitable as someone hanging on to a ledge by their fingertips until, inevitably, losing their grip and falling.
Critchley scythed through the middle order with his leg-spin, taking career best innings and match figures: not bad for a 21-year-old bowler who averages 61 with the ball. At 265-7, with just 49 needed, the odds were stacked heavily in favour of Northamptonshire still. Prasanna was batting well and seemed to be guiding his team to victory, but Critchley got one through him and bowled him. With Prasanna in the hutch, the last two wickets fell quickly: Hutton and Buck lasted just thirteen more balls, as Critchley and Qadri divided them between themselves. The final margin was 39 runs but, as they say, the winner was cricket.
7/25/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
If you are of a certain age, you will remember seeing dark, grainy black and white images with an excited Kenneth Wolstenholme shouting “they think that it’s all over. It is now!” That might be true of the Championship race, with Surrey pulling away from their faltering challengers. However, if you are from south of the river, a look at the carnage in Division 2 will not go amiss: promotion seemed to have been carved up between Warwickshire and Kent and served on toast... it is not any longer.
Lancashire v Yorkshire
A Roses match knows nothing of logic. When Joe Root came on for the penultimate over last night, probably in the hope that his England colleague, Jos Buttler, would relax and do something daft, little could he imagine that he would finish the innings with career-best figures. Lancashire held out for 12.4 overs in the morning, time enough for Joe Root to bowl himself to figures of 7.4-5-5-4.
Having holed Lancashire below the waterline by getting Jos Buttler with his fifth delivery last night, Joe Root compounded the Lancashire misery by getting Graeme Onions to edge through to Jonny Bairstow with the first ball of the morning and, in the process, going on to bowl a second consecutive wicket maiden. Parkinson ruined his figures by taking a single from his third over before Root bowled a third wicket maiden in his fourth. Root though punished Parkinson for his cheek, getting him to give a catch to Lyth, leaving him, at that moment, on 3-2-1-3. In came Jimmy Anderson and, with Liam Livingstone nursing a broken thumb, it was assumed that this would be the last wicket partnership. Anderson held out for 19 balls in the company of Tom Bailey before Steve Patterson removed Bailey LBW. To everyone’s surprise – and not knowing exactly why he was being risked – Livingstone came out with his thumb in a cast but, before he could face a delivery, Jimmy Anderson did the decent thing and allowed Joe Root to castle him.
Yorkshire won by 118 runs and took away 19 points. Lancashire’s misery was complete when they had a point deducted for a slow over rate. Yorkshire are now 14 points ahead of their rivals with a game in hand and 15 clear of relegation. In contrast, Lancashire have a sizeable relegation problem now.
Worcestershire v Somerset
Can anyone stop Surrey? Step forward the Cidermen. Only Moeen Ali stood between Somerset and an easy victory. While the rest of the Worcestershire attack wilted before the assault of Marcus Trescothick and Azhar Ali, Moeen showed the England selectors that he is still “The Beard that is Feared”. Moeen took five of the top six and, while the rest of the attack bowled pies, he seemed to be bowling hand grenades. Sadly, for the romantics, Banger did not get his century: having scored 71 of the first 110, he advanced to Moeen Ali and was stumped smartly by Milton. However, Worcestershire needed quick wickets, and enough players added runs to Azhar Ali’s 125 for the lead to grow rapidly past 300. Finally, Tom Abell had mercy when Azhar Ali was out and declared at 362-9. The target for Worcestershire was a mere 443. More realistically, Worcestershire had to survive 111 overs. Their first task though was to survive the 15 overs to the Close. Josh Davey got Daryll Mitchell for 6, but Head and Moeen seemed to be steering their side to Stumps with no further loss until Moeen had a rush of blood to the last ball of the day and was bowled by Jamie Overton. 50-2, Worcestershire need a miracle. Somerset, in contrast, are eyeing 16 points and leap-frogging into second, 34 points down on Surrey and still, just about in the fight for the Championship, with a game against Surrey to come at Taunton in the penultimate round.
So much for Division 2 being wrapped up. Kent and Warwickshire have looked so much better than the rest of Division that it seemed that everyone else was fighting for third place. If Division 1 has had its Kenneth Wolstenholme moment, Division 2 has seen a repeat of Devon Loch. Or, maybe, the right simile is the 1967 Gran National’s 23rd fence and, somewhere in the pack, there is a Foinavon who will come through unnoticed to win, while everyone else is trying to imitate John Cleese and the Ministry of Silly Walks. As of tonight, probably only Glamorgan of the sides in Division 2 feel, in their heart of hearts, that they are out of the promotion race. Even Northants, who had such a desperate start to the season, will look at the table tonight and think that, if they can wrap up the win, they will have a real chance of “doing a Foinavon”; actually, come to think of it, even Gloucestershire will wonder what might happen if they wrap up a win against Durham.
As of now, the Division 2 table is thus:
1 Warwickshire P8 W5 L2 D1 128
2 Sussex P8 W4 L1 D3 121
3 Kent P8 W5 L2 D1 115
4 Leicestershire P8 W4 L2 D2 111
5 Middlesex P8 W3 L3 D2 87
All four teams below Middlesex could conceivably win tomorrow and cosy-up behind them. The gap between Leicestershire and Middlesex is still 24 points, which is a considerable gulf with just six games left but, as we have seen, strange things can – and do - happen.
Middlesex v Warwickshire
Oh, Middlesex! Totally unreliable. Just about everyone had, sensibly, given up on the game this morning. 183-6 overnight, Middlesex felt that they needed at very least eighty more to have a chance. They did not get them. Not even near. Ollie Rayner hung around for a while, then John Simpson and James Harris added 23, but the lead was still under 200, and the last three wickets fell for six runs in under three overs. The target for the leaders was 203, and one felt that unless wickets fell quickly, Warwickshire would walk this. Who could stop them?
Enter the Lambeth Lara in his guise of a wily old seamer. First ball, Rhodes pushed a single and Warwickshire, it seemed, were off. Two dots to Dom Sibley. Fourth ball, Sibley edges and Ollie Rayner, the original bucket-hands himself, took the catch. Kevin Hand’s scream of delight shook the windows on the media centre. In came Ian Bell. Dot ball and then, last ball of the over, a shattering scream that registered on seismometers around the south of England: off stump uprooted, Warwickshire 1-2, Kevin Hand deliriously happy. Surely Middlesex, 76-7 on Saturday, could not pull off this heist? Warwickshire just needed one partnership.
Then James Harris bowled first-innings centurion, Rhodes. 21-3 and Warwickshire were trembling. For seven overs Trott and Hain threatened to put together the winning partnership that was needed. 36 runs came in rapid time. Murtagh bowling to Trott. Hit on the pad… GIVEN!!! Warwickshire though, like Middlesex, bat long. In came Chris Woakes; Ollie Rayner gained an LBW decision against him: 64-5. Now, the match situation shifted again. Sam Hain and Tim Ambrose were at the crease and knocked-off the runs steadily. Middlesex needed a wicket desperately, and James Harris provided it: 108-6. Again, two batsmen seemed to be guiding Warwickshire to victory as Tim Ambrose, and Jethan Patel combined in a crucial partnership that got the runs wanted down to 52. Had they stayed together for just another half a dozen overs they might well have ensured victory. Again, Middlesex were desperate to get a wicket and, this time, it was James Fuller, who had saved their first innings, who produced the magic ball and, again, bucket-hands Rayner did the necessary. In the very next over, Murtagh got Jethan Patel too and, for the first time, Middlesex were firm favourites to win. Hannon-Dalby did not last long: caught behind off Fuller; but Wright and Sidebottom inched towards the target in singles. Thirteen overs produced twenty-two runs: twenty singles and a two. The tension ratcheted-up with every run. Was there a hero? Finally, after seventeen consecutive dot balls, James Fuller re-adjusted Wright’s stumps and the delirium was complete. Middlesex had given their promotion campaign a lifeline and had blown apart the entire promotion race.
As I said, last night, they are totally unreliable. You cannot trust Middlesex with any match situation.
Gloucestershire v Durham
Durham’s season started so poorly that even the stoic Martin Emmerson was speechless. A side that has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous ECB decisions finished in the top half of Division 1, but was relegated and has seen most of its star players leave. Most around the club had given up promotion as a lost cause again but, with the events elsewhere in the last two days, suddenly a glimmer of hope has returned. If they could somehow get a win from this game, they would move onto 84 points, just three behind Middlesex. At the same time, Gloucestershire, who must have thought that their season was over when, for the second time this season, a winning position against Sussex went begging, will add 16 points mentally and see that suddenly they would enter the fringes of the promotion race on 76 points.
Tomorrow, there will almost certainly be a result, as the draw is possibly the least likely of the possible outcomes. Durham need to chase 340 to win and will require 305 from 96 overs with ten wickets in hand. Make no mistake; this is a dogfight. Bob Hunt, Sir Robert himself, felt that anything over 300 would take a lot of getting, but neither side is giving an inch.
Durham started the day 219-5, with Tom Latham, the danger man. Durham, undoubtedly, hoped for parity, or close to parity but, when Craig Miles bowled Poynter in the fifth over of the morning, there was very little more support on offer. Ryan Higgins got two, Wood was run out, and then Latham was the last man out, caught by Howell off the economical Payne. The Gloucestershire lead was 87, and it was obvious that they were going to set a target of some kind.
Within three overs Gloucestershire were in danger of losing the initiative. Rushworth removed Hammond and the still-bandaged Bracey. Gloucestershire were 15-2. Chris Dent and Benny Howell combined to steady the innings but, just as it looked as if things were under control, three wickets fell in nine balls, and Durham were right back in the match: 86-5 and the lead 173. Higgins and Noema-Barnett, once again, brought the innings out of intensive care and pushed the lead past 250. Higgins fell caught and bowled by Will Smith when nearing his fifty. The lead was useful, but more was needed, and Kieron Noema-Barnett supplied them. He batted steadily to 69*, guiding the tail. This time, not even Ben Stokes could stem the tide. The lead was 307 when the ninth wicket fell, and then Noema-Barnett and Drissell added 32 crucial runs for the last wicket before Will Smith came back and had Drissell caught, inevitably, by that man Stokes. Durham were severely handicapped in the field because Mark Wood was injured and unable to bowl and probably suffered for it in that last wicket stand.
Durham had to survive 12 overs before Stumps and did so quite comfortably. Gloucestershire need an early breakthrough in the morning. 340 should be too many to chase for Durham, but there again, they, like Middlesex are totally unreliable, as both their wins have come from positions in which they should have lost.
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire
Again, two sides in the bottom half of the table who can do arithmetic, add sixteen to their current points and like what they see. It is quite ludicrous to suggest that, having lost four of their first five games, Northamptonshire could be promoted but, were they to win this match, it would be far from impossible, with the sides above them taking wins off each other.
Derbyshire started the day 147-4, 118 ahead and thanks to a century from Wayne Madsen and fifty from Matt Critchley, reached 291-5, threatening to bat Northants out of the game. The key contest of the day was always going to be Madsen v Prasanna; Madsen won it but, when he was out, the innings subsided. 342ao left Northamptonshire a tricky target of 314 with more than four sessions to play so, one way or another; there was going to be a positive result.
When Wheeldon got Duckett LBW for 16 and Qadri added Vasconcelos for 10, Northamptonshire were 48-2 and wobbling. Luke Procter’s 68 steadied the innings and Wakely and Levi have put on an unbroken fifty for the fourth wicket. Northamptonshire need 140 in 96 overs to win on the last day with seven wickets in hand: if these two can stay together for an hour in the morning they will tip the balance irrevocably towards the visitors and Northamptonshire will start to dream of Division 1.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
In golf tournaments, Day 3 is often called “moving day”, in the County Championship though it is Day 2 that has been moving day in both divisions. Things could change, but it is entirely possible that, in late September, we will look back at today as the day when the Championship was settled and the Division 2 promotion race, that had looked an open and shut case, was thrown wide open. The relegation race – that Pythonesque battle to see who is the slowest – is also getting a good shaking-up: while Lancashire look like being the biggest losers, Hampshire, not playing in this round, seem almost certain to finish tomorrow in the relegation places. Things could be even worse for Hampshire and Lancashire, but it appears that Somerset will do them a favour by seeing-off Worcestershire (a Worcestershire win would take them out of the relegation places, leaving Hampshire bottom and Lancashire in seventh).
Nottinghamshire v Surrey
I would like to be referring to the battle for the Championship. Instead, it looks more like the sort of case of case of cold-blooded murder that Sherlock Holmes would, in his Benedict Cumberbatch incarnation, dismiss as “boring! It was Surrey that did it. Even the ECB can solve that case”. Day 2 has ended, and Nottinghamshire need only another 325 runs to avoid an innings defeat and to bat out close to six sessions to save the match. Barring a display of stone-walling that would make an all-night filibuster in parliament look like a garden party, Surrey will bury their nearest rivals and all but settle the Championship.
Having knocked-over Nottinghamshire in less than two sessions on Day 1, Surrey batted for three balls short of 120 overs at a rate of 5-an-over. Not only did they limit their rivals to just one batting point and seal their own full set of batting points with more than twenty-five overs to spare, but they also made sure that Nottinghamshire failed to get full bowling points. Even if Nottinghamshire somehow saved this match, the bonus points have broken 8-3 to Surrey, and their lead at the top of the table will be reinforced, even with a draw.
Not only was it the magnificent 153 from Rory Burns – leading to loud calls for him to be called up for the Tests against India – and the 86 from Mark Stoneman. After a mid-innings wobble, there was a first century in six years for Rikki Clarke, 70 from Sam Curran and then, when Rikki Clarke was dismissed, the last two wickets added 43 in 37 balls of gay abandon. One hundred and twenty runs were added in the last 51 balls of the innings. In the midst of the devastation, there was some room for levity: there is a tradition that when a player takes (or scores) a career-best, they buy drinks for the whole team: Steve Mullaney will have been delighted to drink the health of Billy Root tonight as put on at the end of the innings, he took his first, First Class wicket and then followed it by wrapping up the tail to finish with 4.3-0-37-3.
Batting again, 382 behind, Nottinghamshire could be forgiven for folding meekly but, instead, saw out the last hour for the loss of Jake Libby. 57-1 at Stumps, needing 325 more to avoid the innings defeat, the writing on the wall says “defeat on the third day”. Surrey will, undoubtedly, finish the day 43 points ahead of their victims, with a game in hand. Nottinghamshire are likely to finish this round of matches in third in the Championship, behind Somerset who will also have a game in hand.
Lancashire v Yorkshire
This match has seen more twists and turns than The Orbit in the Olympic Park in Stratford. It could easily have finished tonight as Yorkshire could have claimed the extra half hour, with Lancashire six wickets down and with Liam Livingstone unable to bat.
If, as seems almost certain, Yorkshire do seal victory, they would push themselves up the table into the fight for prize money and reduce their relegation worries, which dropping their eternal rivals right in the proverbial. Having dismissed Lancashire for 109, to seal a first innings lead of 83, Yorkshire fell to 21-3 and seemed to be letting the Red Rose right back into the match as the old warhorse, Graeme Onions, blew away the top order, while Jimmy Anderson removed Joe Root. Enter Jonny Bairstow. For just under two hours he changed the course of the match with a swashbuckling inning at a pace more attuned to T20 than County Championship. In the 19.3 overs that Harry Brook and Jonny Bairstow were together, they added 133 runs. Both went in quick succession and there followed the expected collapse, but Tim Bresnan and Steve Patterson added 41 for the seventh wicket to ensure that the lead was almost 300 and likely to be well out of Lancashire’s reach.
The target was 323. Lancashire needed someone to score a prominent century: quite likely they needed two centuries. Jennings and Davies got a start and were producing the sort of sensible batting that hinted at a Lancashire miracle. Even when Davies fell, LBW to Bresnan, Keaton Jennings held firm. At 86-1, Lancashire could hope. Seven overs later it was 110-5, and Lancashire were sinking fast. The fact that the match did not end well before the Close was entirely down to Jos Buttler. Buttler came in and played an innings similar to the one that Jonny Bairstow had played. It was more calculating, less violent; his 59 came from 69 balls. Buttler and Bailey added 80 in good time and seemed to be giving Lancashire reason to hope when Joe Root came on for a token over just before the Close and bowled a wicket-maiden, removing Buttler into the bargain. Graeme Onions faced only one of the seven balls remaining before Stumps and Lancashire start again in the morning needing 129 to win, with just Anderson and Parkinson to come.
Worcestershire v Somerset
This game too is turning into a cracker. Somerset desperately need the win to keep alive their halting challenge, even if Runners-Up seems to be the best that they can aspire to barring a Surrey implosion. Having reached 337 and three batting points, Somerset looked to be set to be able to enforce the follow-on as Worcestershire struggled to 166-8; still 22 short of the follow-on. Jamie Overton was bowling fast and furious and was too much for some of the Worcestershire batsmen, who are still short on confidence. Luke Wood, though, 22 years old, came in and batted like a veteran in partnership with Pennington. Together they passed the follow-on, then they brought up a batting point and even a second batting point, with Somerset seeing their first innings lead disappearing apace. Finally, Pennington chopped on to his own stumps to Jamie Overton and Davey knocked-over Magoffin to leave a lead of eighty, far fewer than Somerset had hoped.
When Somerset batted again, Eddie Byrom acted as a limpet, while Marcus Trescothick scored more freely at the other end. Somerset were 47-0 at Stumps, 127 ahead, and will be looking to turn the knife on Day 3 while the wicket deteriorates further to give Jack Leach something to use on the last day. Somerset will be bitterly disappointed if they cannot close this one out.
Today, the Division 2 promotion race has been dynamited. Sussex, in third, have marmalised Glamorgan and, even more significantly, Leicestershire, in fourth have destroyed Kent. If Middlesex had shown a little more staying power, we might have talked about the promotion race being blown wide open as, for much of the day, it looked as if Warwickshire might be facing a tough chase at Lord’s. As of the close of play tonight, it looks as if a Warwickshire win is likely although, Middlesex being Middlesex, the watchword for Day might be “expect the unexpected”: they are worse than Durham for sheer unpredictability in the face of both triumph and defeat.
Let’s imagine that Warwickshire do wrap-up a win against Middlesex. What might the Division 2 table look like tomorrow night?
1. Warwickshire P8 W6 L1 D1 144
2. Sussex P8 W4 L1 D3 121
3. Kent P8 W5 L2 D1 115
4. Leicestershire P8 W4 L2 D2 111
5. Middlesex P8 W2 L4 D2 71
We see that, even though Warwickshire are riding high and dry, the battle for the second promotion spot has become a melange à Trois, with consecutive wins for Sussex and four wins in five matches for Leicestershire changing the panorama. A Middlesex defeat is likely to see them drop to sixth or seventh depending on other results. Any side wishing to come out of the mid-table scrum to be promoted will need to win at least five of their last six matches.
Kent v Leicestershire
What a run Leicestershire are having! Four wins in five matches and just ten points off promotion with six games to play. A ten-wicket annihilation has put a severe check on Kent’s apparently serene progress back into Division 1. Facing a 125 run first innings deficit, Kent needed a big score from someone and, at 109-2, looked as if they might be able to get back into the match. It was, though, just a mirage. After losing Daniel Bell-Drummond fifth ball, Dickson and Kuhn were batting confidently, but Kuhn’s wonder spell when he scored runs for fun has ended. He, Denly and Billings all got into the twenties, but only Dickson pushed on. Had Dickson got 80+ instead of 59; had one of Kuhn, Denly and Billings got 50, Kent might have set a tricky target, but each got in and got out as the Leicestershire bowlers shredded the wickets and made the vital breakthroughs every time that a partnership seemed to be getting threatening. At 133-3, Kent were ahead and still had a chance but, with the fall of Dickson, all resistance crumbled, and wickets fell regularly. Zak Chappell, with 3-39 and Mohammed Abbas, with 4-55 will get the headlines, but it was a team effort, and Kent subsided to 199ao, the last six wickets falling for 66.
Chasing 75, Dearden and Horton saw off the threat of the new ball and strolled to victory, with Dearden scoring 55*. Kent were well beaten, and Leicestershire have put their names in the pot for promotion.
Sussex v Glamorgan
At one point on the first day, Sussex had collapsed from 114-1 to 176-6 and seemed to be in danger of missing out on a vital win. Sussex though had got through a nail-biter with Gloucestershire and, with news of the Kent surrender telling them that a win would put them second, set about rectifying things. The Glamorgan horse had well and truly bolted when they let Sussex reach 327ao. Glamorgan batted this afternoon, not imagining that the match would be over before the floodlights were needed.
Archer and Jordan ripped into the Glamorgan first innings. There was no coming back from 15-5, with four wickets to Jofra Archer, tipped to play for England next season and one for Ollie Robinson and when Archer had to be rested, three wickets for Chris Jordan ripped the heart out of the middle order. Only Chris Cooke and, more briefly, Lukas Carey put up any kind of resistance and, when a run-out finished the innings in just 28.4 overs, there was never any question of the follow-on not being enforced.
Glamorgan had almost to triple their first innings 85ao to make Sussex bat again and did only fractionally better second time around. Again Archer and Robinson blew away the top three – this time it was 15-3 inside ten overs – before Jordan and Wiese joined in the fun. 88ao, with Archer taking 8-46 in the match, Jordan 5-37, Robinson 4-44 and Wiese 2-36. It was a devastating Sussex performance to win by an innings and 154 having scored only 327. Sussex look like a Division 1 side.
Middlesex v Warwickshire
Ah! Middlesex! For much of today, they had Warwickshire on the ropes and groggy, before inevitably offering a glass chin and ending the day looking to be on the verge of a knock-out themselves. Macbeth would have put it thus:
Is this a Middlesex collapse which I see before me,
The wickets toward Kevin Hand’s heart? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, defeat
Looming in my sight?
Yes, once again the Middlesex fans are threatening to open the MiddlesexBattingCollapse.com website that has been promised for a decade. Middlesex have gone from 152-2, threatening to bat Warwickshire out of the game, to 179-6, leading Warwickshire by just 139. One early wicket on the morrow and we may well see the game finishing soon after Lunch on Day 3. It seems incredible, given that around Tea today, the prospect of a draw seemed to be looming, as Middlesex appeared to be building up a big lead with the pitch apparently flat and dead. Middlesex fans say that no position is safe from a Middlesex collapse and here we had a superb specimen.
This was similar to the first innings, in which Middlesex stumbled from 51-1 to 76-7. It seemed that the recovery, led by the obdurate Holden and the brilliant Fuller might even be enough to give Middlesex a first innings lead, as Warwickshire themselves stumbled today. 152-4 overnight, wickets fell regularly, despite a superb century from Rhodes who added an invaluable 27 for the last wicket, of which Ryan Sidebottom’s contribution was 0*. Middlesex, led by the evergreen Murtagh and by James Harris could even feel disappointed to have conceded a lead as large as 40.
The similarity to the first innings was paralleled in another blazing cameo from Paul Stirling: 18 balls, 16 runs, all in boundaries – and then pocketed by Jonathon Trott at slip off Chris Woakes. Then we had an extended period of sensible batting as Gubbins and Eskenazi put Middlesex ahead and started to build a lead. The pitch looked flat, fans began to speculate with a boring draw, and the last thing that anyone expected was a calamity. Jethan Patel pinned Gubbings for 47, but Dawid Malan came in and batted nicely. It was 152-2, Middlesex were 112 ahead and sitting pretty. Then Jethan Patel got Eskinazi, caught by Hain for 73 and the bottom fell out of the Middlesex innings. Eoin Morgan fell LBW to Patel for 3. Sidebottom caught Holden off Patel for 8 and then, Malan, desperately short of runs, was bowled by Hannon-Dalby for 28. It was 179-6 and, from looking to set a target and declare, Middlesex were praying for more tail-end resistance.
Jethan Patel has 4-38 and seems to hold the key to this match. The lead is 143. Any target under 200 is unlikely to exercise Warwickshire seriously. If a wicket falls quickly in the morning, the match may well not reach Tea. There is no question that after great expectations, the disappointing Championship campaign, followed by poor One Day Cup and T20 results, has led to Middlesex struggling to remember how to win and, sad to see, the fans are kicking them when they are down when, what they most need, is some confidence.
Gloucestershire v Durham
This is not exactly the game where you would expect to find thud and blunder but, low-key or not, between two sides who know that they will be playing in Division 2 next season, there has been fire and some intrigue. As on the first day, the second ends with the match finely balanced. Gloucestershire reached the comparative riches of 362 and four batting points. And, what is more, they did it despite getting the holy terrors every time that Ben Stokes went near the ball. 25-8-52-5 and a batsman sent to hospital suggest that the thought of playing the Indians has put fire in his belly.
When Durham batted, wickets fell regularly. Were it not for Tom Latham’s 120*; they would be in a sorry mess, as the next highest score has been 21. Durham have closed on 219-5 and, if Latham were to fall early, you suspect that Gloucestershire could end up with a decent first innings lead.
The first session tomorrow should tell us whether this match is heading for a dull draw (neither of these teams seems to be good at dull draws) or, instead, Gloucestershire might just make something of the match and put some distance between them and the wooden spoon.
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire
With so much rip-roaring action going on elsewhere, it is easy to forget that this game is on too. After their strong start to the season, Derbyshire are now resigned to another season of Division 2, while Northamptonshire seem to be heading for the sort of mid-table mediocrity that seemed unlikely in the extreme at the end of May. In fact, with mid-table so tight, finishing in the top half is far from impossible for the boys of Wantage Road. If this match, which looks certain to produce a result, falls their way, they may even start to entertain thoughts of finishing higher than that.
A century for Alex Wakely and sixty for Steven Crook saw Northamptonshire to 289ao and a useful lead of 29. Tony Palladino’s 4-33 made certain that the lead would not be larger and Matthew Critchley added 4-88. Derbyshire had barely cleared-off the arrears when Billy Godleman fell, but then fifties for Ben Slater and Wayne Madsen seemed to be putting Derbyshire in a strong position. The fall of Slater to Prasanna at 123-1 hastened a mini-collapse as Hughes and Wheeldon followed quickly. Derbyshire reached Stumps at 147-4, 118 ahead, with Madsen still there on 52* and seemingly the key to this match. If Madsen goes early, Northamptonshire will be confident of finishing this one off. If, in contrast, he can push on, they may find themselves chasing a challenging target on the final day. The big threat is the leg-spinner, Prasanna: the winner of the contest between Madsen and Prasanna will win the match for his side.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
We do not quite have a full round of matches as Essex and Hampshire played a T20 last night and do not play today. At the end of this round, Lancashire and Nottinghamshire will have played nine matches and will be into the final run-in, in which every point counts. All other sides will have played eight matches and will have six left.
Today we have three, classic encounters, headed by the Roses match which, this year, takes on a special significance with Yorkshire in the relegation places and Lancashire one place above them, with a game more played. We also have a face-off between first and second and Somerset against the bottom side, needing a win to get back into Championship contention.
It has been a day of wild swings in the action, of many LBWs and the day that one Championship contender may well have said good-bye to its chances.
Lancashire v Yorkshire
Even though both teams have their England Test players available ahead of England’s series against India and thus Yorkshire can field a full-strength team, they hand a debut to on-loan Warwickshire leg-spinner Josh Poysden on a one-match deal, while Matthew Fisher missed out with a lacerated toe sustained on Lions duty and was replaced in the XII by Josh Shaw. Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow play against England team-mates Jimmy Anderson and Jos Buttler, giving this match excellent quality. The auguries are not great for Lancashire as they have not beaten Yorkshire at Old Trafford since 2000 – their only home win coming during the exile to Aigburgh. Defeat for Lancashire in this game would be catastrophic.
Play was delayed due to the miserable, wet morning conditions at Old Trafford, although the rain relented enough to allow an 1145 start to be contemplated. Yorkshire won the Toss and elected to bat. Yorkshire seemed to be recovering well from the early loss of Harry Brook to Graeme Onions (22-1), with Joe Root looking in prime form, when Jordan Clark came in for his third over. Little did the Yorkshire fans appreciate what was to come when Joe Root eased the second and third balls of the over to the boundary. The last three balls of the over produced a hat-trick. First, he pinned Joe Root LBW for 22 from 19 balls. Kane Williamson came in and went LBW first ball. And Jonny Bairstow got a snorter that he could only edge to Jos Buttler behind the stumps. 59-4 and some disarray in the visitors. Jordan Clark had dismissed the numbers 3, 4 and 16 in the ICC World rankings: Joe Root, Kane Williamson and Jonny Bairstow. It was the first hat-trick in a Roses match at Old Trafford since 1933 and the first in an Ashes match since Ken Higgs took one at Headingley in 1968. At Lunch, Yorkshire were 61-4 and needing Lyth and Ballance to steady the innings. Ballance though did not hang around after Lunch and was bowled by Onions for 9: the fact that he did not offer a shot to the ball did not make it any better. 78-5 and, already, a leading contender for the “Wally of the Day” award. Bresnan then made his bid for the award by running himself out as Lyth drove the ball back at bowler Clark and he deflected it onlto the stumps with Bresnan backing-up too far. Yorkshire were 86-6 and hearing the whisper of relegation threats in their ears.
As Lyth and Patterson battled on, Liam Livingstone dived for a catch in the slips and took the ball on his wrist. Yorkshire had a life and Livingstone had to go off for treatment. Yorkshire could not take advantage of their luck for long as Petterson edged Bailey to Jennings at First Slip for 22 and Lyth fell to Anderson, also to a catch by Jennings. 131-8 and Yorkshire back up against it.
Jack Brooks and Josh Poysden though saw Yorkshire through to Tea with some sensible batting at 166-8 and gave some hope of a batting point. Clark though was not finished with Yorkshire and got Brooks to edge to Hameed, in the covers, straight after the resumption. Enter Ben Coad with a swinging bat. Poysden and Coad added 26 in 23 balls and seemed to be about to lead their side to an unexpected batting point when Coad got a straight one: need you ask who the bowler was? Jordan Clark ended with 5-58 and a run-out: career-best figures and not a bad day’s work!
Lancashire made a slow start with just 3 runs from the first five overs, then Jennings and Davies broke loose with five boundaries in eleven balls. Finally, Tim Bresnan brought the breakthrough. Keaton Jennings smashed the ball towards Joe Root at Mid-Wicket; Root flew through the air and took a brilliant one-handed catch and Yorkshire had their breakthrough: 46-1. Once again, a second wicket fell quickly as Haseeb Hameed’s nightmare season continued as he shouldered arms to a ball from Patterson that thudded into his stumps. Two balls later Dane Vilas fell LBW to Patterson for a duck and Lancashire were 55-3. Jos Buttler came in for a rare Championship innings and survived just four balls before leg-glancing a ball from Bresnan behind, where Jonny Bairstow took a smart catch to make it 66-4: Yorkshire were roaring back into the match.
Davies reached his 50 but fell immediately, edging Coad to Bairstow. Lancashire 92-5 and the match, wide open again. In came Bailey, out went Bailey, bowled second ball by Coad. 92-6 and, incredibly, Yorkshire were right on top. In came Onions and he too fell, second ball, bowled by Coad to give the bowler a rare, triple-wicket maiden. Six overs still remained, with Lancashire struggling to see out the day. Three balls into the next over Jack Brooks got Jordan Clark as Tim Bresnan caught him at Deap Square Leg and Lancashire had collapsed from 46-0 to 92-8: four wickets had fallen in eight balls for no addition. Seven wickets had fallen in ten overs and Liam Livingstone was presumed unfit to bat. Jimmy Anderson and Matt Parkinson managed to get through to the Close at 106-8, but Yorkshire are right on top and looking set for a desperately needed win that would compound Lancashire’s relegation worries.
Nottinghamshire v Surrey
Second plays first. After this match Nottinghamshire will have just five games left. With Nottinghamshire 22 points behind Surrey and only five games left after this one, a Surrey win would almost end Nottinghamshire’s chances of winning the Championship. Surrey play Australian Aaron Finch and recover Sam Curran and Ben Foakes from Lions duty. Nottinghamshire have Stuart Broad back, meaning that both sides can boast a very strong attack.
The Toss was uncontested and Surrey did not hesitate in putting in Nottinghamshire. Their decision was rewarded immediately as Jade Dernbach had Mullaney caught behind by Foakes, second ball, for a duck. 0-1 and Surrey had made an immediate statement. For a while, things seemed to be under control as Nottinghamshire reached 59-1 without further alarm, at which point Morkel took Fraine to catch by Ollie Pope. 50-1 became 60-3 as Morkel then added Jake Libby and then Sam Curran added Samit Patel. Nottinghamshire were 74-4 and in trouble. What Nottinghamshire did not need was for Billy Root to give a second catch to Ollie Pope in the penultimate over of the morning. Nottinghamshire 94-5 at Lunch and seeing the chances of the Championship title disappearing.
After Lunch Surrey seemed to struggle to maintain the intensity, but then they only needed one wicket to have Nottinghamshire wobbling again: Jade Dernbach duly took it by removing Riki Wessels for 23; 121-6. Morkel then got Stuart Broad caught by Sam Curran for 3 and Nottinghamshire were a very unhappy 128-7. Luke Fletcher and Tom Moores worked hard to push Nottinghamshire towards a batting point, but their stand was cut short at 36 when Rikki Clarke got Tom Moores LBW. As so often happens, one wicket brought two as Luke Fletcher was bowled by Morkel for 21: 165-9. Harry Gurney and last man, Jake Ball, hung around and took Nottinghamshire to a batting point that they would scarcely have expected a while before, swinging the bat merrily. In the end, Sam Curran launched a straight one at Jake Ball and sent the middle stump cartwheeling: 210ao, but it could have been so much worse.
The Nottinghamshire innings though was put into sharp contrast as Surrey set off in pursuit at a frantic pace. Mark Stoneman decided that the best way to get some form back was to attack and he did so with gusto. After just ten overs Surrey were 61-0 with Stoneman 43* and starting to enjoy batting again. The next three overs then went for 26. Stoneman’s first fifty of the summer took just 40 balls of carnage as Surrey continued to score at faster than a run-a-ball. The hundred partnership came up in one ball under sixteen overs. Stoneman fell finally to Jake Ball to a catch behind for 86, Surrey were 147-1, but the damage had been done to Nottinghamshire’s title hopes.
Surrey reached Stumps at 223-1, with Rory Burns on 97* and 19*, already 13 ahead and looking to eliminate Nottinghamshire as a title rival on Day 2.
Worcestershire v Somerset
After a win in their last fixture, Worcestershire can now see light at the end of the tunnel. Another win in this game would end Somereset’s title hopes and boost their own chances of survival. The big news for Somerset is that Marcus Trescothick is available after his successful 2nd XI return from what many feared was a career-ending injury whilst Jack Leach and Dom Bess are also available again after returning from England Lions duty. Matt Renshaw though has been forced to end his season through injury and Somerset are still without Tim Groenewald (groin), although Azhar Ali was available to make his debut. For Worcestershire, wicket-keeper batsman Alex Milton makes his Specsavers County Championship debut: captain of Cardiff MCCU this summer, he replaces Ben Cox who is ruled out with cracked ribs suffered in the Championship game versus Nottinghamshire. Incredibly, despite his injury, Cox has continued to play in the Blast but the injury has now become too painful for him to be able to play a four-day match: a sore (literally) loss for Worcestershire.
Both sides wanted to bat, but it was Worcestershire who won the Toss and elected to field, no doubt hoping to reduce the influence of Leach and Bess. The Somerset start was awful as Byrom was given caught behind to Magoffin for 5 (11-1) and Marcus Trescothick’s return was brief as he fell LBW, four balls later, to Wood for 6 (11-2). Another wicket would have been serious but, as so often this season, James Hildreath applied his calm head to the situation and, ably supported by Azar Ali, re-built the innings and even went on the attack, with 20 coming off the last two overs before Lunch, which was taken with Somerset at 95-2 and in a much happier place than they had been an hour and a half before. It did not last as Azar Ali edged Pennington behind for 37 from the bowling of Pennington, but 110-3 was a lot healthier than 11-2. In his next over, Pennington bowled Hildreath for 57 to a ball that the batsman was trying to leave (!!) and Somerset were 115-4, with two new batsmen at the crease and back in danger.
However, Steven Davies and Tom Abell were still there for Somerset and they had added 95 by Tea, leaving Somerset 214-4 and the happier of the two sides. Davies on 50, Abell on 49. Moeen Ali, having his first bowl of the season for Worcestershire, had caused problems, without having any luck but, after Tea, he finally got his reward. Steven Davies played back to a ball which turned from the Beard that is Feared, got a nick and ‘keeper Milton did the necessary. Davies out for 72 and Somerset 241-5. Then Moeen added Peter Trego LBW for 1 and Somerset were 251-6, with Tom Abell still there, although not for long, as Steve Magoffin got him LBW for 70: Somerset 266-7 and in danger of falling short of 300. The Overtons though had no intention of letting slip the match position and started to hit out, taking Somerset past the 300. 53 runs came in 7 overs. Finally, Craig Overton edged Moeen to slip for 31 and, soon after, Jamie Overton fell LBW to Ed Barnard for 28, making it 323-9. Stumps were drawn at 324-9, with Leach and Davey holding out, the former undoubtedly looking with interest at the turn that Moeen Ali was obtaining on Day 1.
The highlight of this round was undoubtedly Kent entertaining Leicestershire: 2nd v 4th, with Leicestershire knowing that a win would shake up the promotion race. Elsewhere, Sussex have the chance to keep their chances of promotion very much alive with a win against Glamorgan.
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire
The Derbyshire decision to bat looked pretty dubious when they fell to 21-3 and Northamptonshire had their first bowling point in little more than a quarter of an hour of play. Things got no better as Nathan Buck bowled Hughes to leave Derbyshire 53-4. It looked though as if Hossein and Critchley were weathering the storm until Nathan Buck got one through Critchley and sent the sides to a premature Lunch at 113-5. After Lunch, the Northamptonshire bowlers worked their way through the Derbyshire middle order and, at 183-8, things did not look good for the home side, but Gary Wilson was still there and got some solid support from Dan Wheeldon, adding vital runs and taking Derbyshire to 222-8 at Tea.
Still Derbyshire batted on and even when Wilson fell, bowled by Nathan Buck for 66, Wheeldon and Qadri took them to the second batting point. The fun ended finally on 260 when Prasanna bowled Qadri.
Northamptonshire got off to an excellent start in reply, Luke Procter and Ben Duckett adding 53 at better than 4-an-over. However, the fall of Duckett for 29 led to a mid-collapse as Vasconcelos fell two balls later for a duck – two in three balls to Tony Palladino. Three overs later Luke Procter fell LBW to Viljoen for 30 and Northamptonshire were 59-3 and Derbyshire were back in the game. Buck and Wakeley took Northamptonshire through to the Close at 74-3, with the game well balanced.
Gloucestershire v Durham
Gloucestershire brought in the recovered Benny Howell for the disappointing Graeme van Buuren and elected to bat. After his success against Sussex, Miles Hammond kept the opening spot, with Benny Howell slotting-in down the order. For Durham, Ben Stokes got a rare County Championship outing. Solid starts have not been a feature of the Gloucestershire batting this season but Dent and Hammond were giving the home team one of their better starts before Ben Stokes got Chris Dent LBW for 19: 40-1 and Chris Dent’s disappointing season continues. Stokes then hit James Bracey a heavy blow on the arm and forced him to retire hurt. Benny Howell came in at #4 to replace him. Whatever concerns there might have been about Ben Stokes’ ability to bowl his full share of overs in a Test, were dissipated further as he got Howell to nick it through to Cameron Steel: 48-2 and the Gloucestershire fans thinking “here we go again…” Miles Hammond though has a good head on his shoulders and, in partnership with Gareth Roderick, took Gloucestershire through to Lunch at 88-2.
Miles Hammond duly went through to his 50, confirming that in Bracey and Hammond, Gloucestershire have two young batsmen to watch. Sadly, though, just as he had against Sussex, where he seemed to lose concentration on reaching his century and get out immediately, he was dismissed immediately after reaching his fifty, when Chris Rushworth flattened his off stump for 51. With Bobby Bracey unable to return and in hospital with a suspected broken arm, Ryan Higgins came in and accompanied Gareth Roderick to a fine fifty and a fifty-partnership. Higgins then went on to his third fifty of the season. As Higgins reached his fifty, Ben Stokes started rubbing is left knee and went off for a time at the end of the over before coming back just before Tea. Roderick and Higgins went on to the century partnership. Gloucestershire 218-3 at Tea and Higgins just short of his highest First Class score.
Roderick fell LBW to Salisbury, second ball after Tea, for 67 and James Bracey came back bravely, arm well strapped. Higgins roared past his highest ever First Class score, supported by the valiant Bracey, until the new ball did for Bracey, LBW to Chris Rushworth for 38; 283-5 after a partnership of 64. Rushworth then bowled Noema-Barnett for 7 before Higgins hit consecutive boundaries off Salisbury, the second, a hook to the Fine Leg boundary to reach his first First Class century and bring up the Gloucestershire 300. Ryan Higgins fell finally to Ben Stokes for 105 and Stumps were called at 315-7: Stokes can be satisfied with a fine day’s work, as can Ryan Higgins, with honours even on the day.
Kent v Leicestershire
A year ago, any county seeing Leicestershire as visitors on their fixture list would have licked their lips and anticipated slaughter. This season though, Leicestershire have suddenly come alive and consecutive wins have left them in with a realistic chance of promotion. This thus became the original “promotion 48-pointer”: not something that many would have predicted back in April. Leicestershire elected to bowl at Canterbury and saw their decision justified rapidly as two wickets from Ben Raine in his fourth over shook-up the Kent batsmen. Raine dismissed Bell-Drummond and Kuhn with consecutive balls, leaving Kent 25-2. From there, things just got worse as Zak Chappell came on as first change and scythed through the Middlesex middle order with three wickets for very little, supported by the dismissal of Sam Dickson by Gareth Griffiths. At Lunch Kent were 73-6 and in desperate need of both Live Aid and Band Aid from the old rocker, Darren Stevens.
Things though got no better after Lunch as “Fireball” Dexter bowled a double-wicket maiden, getting both Harry Podmore and Gavin Stewart and leaving Kent 78-8. In a match that that Kent could not afford to lose, their promotion bid seemed to be running out of oxygen with the summit in clear view. A third wicket for Raine and a wicket for Mohammed Abbas and Kent were 104ao and in desperate trouble, not half way through the first day. A quick response was needed and Harry Podmore took just two balls to clean-up Harry Dearden: 0-1 and this game was not making plans to go into a fourth day.
Darren Stevens added Ackerman and, at that point, had the extraordinary figures of 5.1-4-1-1, with Leicestershire 17-2 and struggling in turn. Paul Horton edged Thomas through to Sam Billings and it was 47-3. Mark Cosgrove fell LBW to Gavin Stewart: 51-4 and Kent right back in the match. Leicestershire though had Fireball Dexter and Ned Eckersley together: they put on 70 and got Leicestershire into the lead before Ivan Thomas bowled Dexter for 41: 121-5. Joe Denly came on late in the day and produced an expensive first over before getting Raine with the last ball of the day. Leicestershire have ended the day 149-6 and Kent can still hope to keep their first innings deficit under control.
Middlesex v Warwickshire
Middlesex won the Toss and batted in a must-win match on a track that looked full of runs. With pre-season expectations set so high: promotion and the knock-out phases of at least one of the Cups, as a minimum, this was a last chance for Middlesex to set down a real marker, as Gus Fraser indicates that there will be a major re-think about the playing staff this winter. Chris Woakes and Ryan Sidebottom returned for Warwickshire to give the home side’s batting a serious test, with Woakes immediately promoted from recovery in the 2nd XI to new ball duty. For Warwickshire, a win would leave them with one foot in Division One and just requiring a steady run-in to get promoted. For Middlesex, Sam Robson was out with a broken finger. Middlesex featured a new 1st XI coach whose influence was reflected in the choice of Stirling to open with Gubbins, with Holden dropped back #6. Stirling immediately launched into Woakes, who produced one jaffa and two very slightly short balls that were hammered to the boundary, suggesting that the batsmen may still have been in T20 mode. In the commentary box, Kevin Hand made an immediate check of the colour or the clothing and the ball on the field, concluding that this was, genuinely a County Championship match: given Middlesex’s lack of success in T20, one wondered if it was a sound strategy to use T20 techniques. Stirling whacked four boundaries in the first two overs before edging behind to the last ball of the second over. With Stirling’s dismissal, the game started to look more like four-day cricket again. Hannon-Dalby then game on and bowled a ball that snorted back in and castled Nick Gubbins. Chris Wright then removed Eskinazi to a catch by Jonathon Trott at First Slip. Middlesex were 53-3 and already in some difficulty.
Things rapidly got worse and the riches of 51-1 soon became 76-6 as Malan, Morgan, Simpson and Harris departed in swift succession. The good news for Middlesex though was that this brought in James Fuller, whose form for Middlesex 2nd XI and, latterly, for the 1st XI, should see him awarded a Superman cape rather than a County Cap. Although he was lucky to see Tim Ambrose drop him on 29, Fuller and Max Holden decided to take the attack to the bowlers and score runs while they were available. The result was a quick fifty-partnership and a switch in the balance. Finally, Max Holder tried one hit too many at Jeethan Patel and was LBW for 48 after a partnership of 86. Fuller though kept on his merry way going on to a 50 with 5x4 and 1x6. With Ollie Rayner back from loan and back in favour, batting at #10, Fuller found a solid partner in a ninth wicket partnership that earned the first batting point. As Fuller took a rest and let the Brighton Bradman, Ollie Rayner, take the lead, the fifty partnership came up in good time, before Rayner was adjudged caught behind off Wright for 28 and very unhappy with the decision.
Rayner’s dismissal brought in the Lambeth Lara and Tim Murtagh set off to show just why the fans call him that by joining Fuller in some swinging to push Middlesex towards what would have been a totally implausible second batting point. Finally, Fuller got a straight one from Hannon-Dalby and departed for a brilliant 71. Middlesex 236ao.
There were a few scares for Warwickshire when they batted but, in general, Middlesex bowled a little too short. James Harris though bowled a straight one at Sibley and pinned him to make it 20-1 and give the bowlers a lift. Ian Bell came in, hit two gorgeous fours and the Murtagh got him LBW with a ball that swung a little. 30-2 and game on! Rhodes and Trott – playing his last game at Lord’s? – batted solidly to the tune of an 88 run partnership before Rayner who, a fortnight earlier looked to have played his last game for Middlesex, pinned Trott LBW for 47. A second wicket came for Tim Murtagh when he got Tim Hain LBW for 16: yet another LBW on a day when there was an incredible quantity of LBWs around the country.
Warwickshire reached Stumps at 152-4, with the match in the balance.
Sussex v Glamorgan
This was the joker in the pack. With Sussex having got their promotion bid back on track, they played host to Glamorgan in a day-night match, knowing that Kent’s innings was in tatters before they started. Sussex won the Toss and batted. Salt and Wells added 73 for the first wicket, before Salt edged Hogan to ‘keeper, Cooke. Tom Haines came in and kept Luke Wells company, with Sussex going to Lunch at 114-1, Wells 48* and looking to make their decision to bat count.
The afternoon session, though, was a bad one for Sussex. From the riches of the lunchtime score they slipped to 171-6, squandering the opportunity to turn the screw. The rot started immediately after Lunch when Lukas Carey dismissed Haines for 18, without addition to the score. Harry Finch came in and acted as sleeping partner for Luke Wells: his contribution to a stand of 25 was a single. Hogan got him to another catch behind to wicket-keeper Cooke: 139-3 and some of the shine was going off the scorecard. Luke Wells was next to go, in Hogan’s next over, for 71 and Sussex had slipped to 140-4. Burgess was joined by captain Ben Brown, needing a partnership to steady the innings, but the former became the first of two victims for young Jeremy Lawlor, promoted from Glamorgan 2nd XI after some solid all-round performances and playing just his seventh First Class match. Burgess became the third catch for wicket-keeper, Cooke. In his next over, the same combination accounted for David Wiese for 2 and Sussex were 171-6 and sinking.
Ben Brown though was still there and Chris Jordan has considerable talent with the bat, even if he does not always use it. Together, they added 83 and brought up two batting points, with Jordan reining-in his attacking tendencies. The pair were turning around the day again, when Ben Brown fell to the off-spinner Andrew Salter for 49, giving Cooke his fifth catch of the day. Jordan, on 46, was joined by the hero of the Sussex win against Gloucestershire: Jofra Archer. Just four balls later, Jordan fell too, bowled by Hogan for 46 and 254-6 and dreams of 300+ had become 254-8. Hogan had 4-29 and, as so often this season, was holding together the Glamorgan attack with another heroic bowling performance, taking him to 28 wickets at 20.2 for the season. Ollie Robinson joined Joffra Archer with nearly 20 overs of the day remaining and Sussex struggling to see out the day.
Glamorgan took the new ball, hoping to finish off the innings quickly. It took Timm van ter Gugten just three balls to break though, dismissing Ollie Robinson for 6. With only Danny Briggs left, Archer was a model of self-denial, scoring off just 3 of his first 29 balls (and 5 of his first 47, although four of those scoring-shots were boundaries) as Danny Briggs cracked-on at the other end towards the third batting point. A boundary from Archer off Hogan brought up the 300 and three batting points: Sussex cannot afford to leave bonus points behind and were grateful for this unexpected last wicket stand. As the tenth wicket partnership pushed on towards fifty, Glamorgan were probably happy to keep the batsmen quiet rather than have to come out to bat for a few overs under lights, although there was no hint of the extreme behaviour of the ball that the Kent bowlers had found a few weeks earlier against Middlesex. Consecutive boundaries to Danny Briggs off Lukas Carey took Briggs to 40 and brought up the fifty partnership in what was no longer a nuisance stand and was becoming a major annoyance, with even a fourth batting point looming into view.
With two overs of the day remaining, Glamorgan were guaranteed not to have to bat, even if the last wicket fell and the major question became whether or not Briggs, scoring at better than a run-a-ball, could reach his fifty before Stumps. Archer played out a maiden to Hogan and the last over started, with Briggs on 46*. Sadly, for Briggs, he fell, first ball, to Lawlor – yet another LBW – and Sussex were all out for 327: fewer than they would have expected at Lunch, many more than seemed likely at Tea. Glamorgan will bat in the morning against a strong Sussex attack: this will be one of the decisive days of the Sussex season if they are to exploit Kent’s difficulties.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Sussex won in a dramatic finish as Gloucestershire fell just short of the line, despite James “Bobby” Bracey’s 87. And for the fourth consecutive day, Cheltenham had a large and appreciative crowd that enjoyed a tense day’s cricket as the pattern of clusters of wickets, and large partnerships were repeated.
The inevitable result of the Gloucestershire double-night-watchman policy was that they were likely to find themselves a traumatic 40-4 early on the fourth morning. In fact, the reality was even worse: 38-4, as Archer and Robinson divvied-up the freebie night-watchmen. Ollie Robinson was the first to tuck-in, taking Matt Taylor for 3 (36-3) and then Jofra Archer got George Drissell for 5 (38-4) – all four wickets caught behind by Ben Brown.
At this point, the Sussex fans were sporting big grins and thinking of the 20-point win that would see them leapfrog Leicestershire in third in Division 2, while the Gloucestershire fans were hiding behind the sofa and wondering about 60 all out. One, presumably Sussex fan said, before play, that Gloucestershire would make “150 tops”. In the fan poll overnight, of 18 votes, 14 went for the Sussex win, 3 for a Gloucestershire win and 1 for the tie. It was hard to disagree that Sussex had to be favourites, but one somewhat expected a few twists and turns on the way.
This game has featured big partnerships and clusters of wickets, and there was a strong likelihood that there would be at least one significant partnership as the most in-form batsmen were yet to come. That was, indeed, what happened. Bobby Bracey and Gareth Roderick stabilised the patient and, slowly, whittled down the target. First, the batsmen got past halfway in the chase. Then Bobby Bracey passed 50 for the third time this season. Then Gareth Roderick reached his own 50 – his third of the season, although Bracey had converted the previous two into centuries. The Sussex body language started to deteriorate. There were some horrible miss-fields. Suddenly the desperation for a wicket started to show. Then Roderick took a sudden liking to Wiese, and consecutive balls went for 4 and then a towering six over Luke Wright’s head on the boundary edge. Incredibly, although Sussex had to be favourites still, Gloucestershire were back in the game.
The target reached 100. Bracey and Roderick were batting like a million dollars. It seemed too good to be true for the Gloucestershire fans, now starting to peak over the back of the sofa. Then, disaster. Luke Wright pulled-off a brilliant, diving stop; a frustrated Roderick then tried to hit Danny Briggs and was castled. Suddenly the energy was back in the Sussex team, and Jofra Archer was champing at the bit, but Ben Brown, possibly wrongly, kept him away from the ball. Given that Graeme van Buuren has averaged just 22 this season and looked vulnerable, it seemed a strange decision although, in the end, it turned out not to matter. The bowlers were quick, they were putting in a lot of effort but maybe did not make the batsmen play enough. It was tense again, but the threat seemed to be missing, but there was a feeling that if one wicket were to fall, several would fall quickly and that is how it turned out.
The elephant in the stable was the new ball. It would be available at around Tea and Gloucestershire desperately needed to conserve wickets, and to knock-off, the majority of the runs before the new cherry got into the lethal Mr Archer’s hands. Van Buuren took a boundary off Chris Jordan thanks to a horrible miss-field from Jofra Archer but offered a catch next ball which Harry Finch pouched nervously. 79 to win. Just four wickets left. Ryan Higgin in and only Kieron Noema-Barnett of the recognised batsmen to come to support Bobby Bracey, who was still there on 64*.
Ryan Higgins has been the go-to bowler for Gloucestershire this season and has also scored some useful runs. Today he needed to put on his Superman cape again if Gloucestershire were to get close. Higgins started confidently, with three boundaries, before feathering a catch behind to Ben Brown off Jofra Archer. Five catches to Ben Brown and this one, probably the most vital. It was noticeable though how many of the Gloucestershire batsmen were caught that way down the leg side And, that was Jofra Archer’s one hundredth First Class wicket at an excellent average of 25.2. 61 to win. Bracey 70* and the legend that is Kieron Noema-Barnett the last hope for Gloucestershire. Archer with figures of 15.3-6-23-4. Surely now Gloucestershire would die quietly. Sussex though were not making the batsmen play, and the target crept below 50. Then below 40, helped by a wild delivery from Archer that flew way over KNB’s head, over Ben Brown’s head and flew to the boundary for four byes.
With Tea approaching and the new ball due three overs after, Ollie Robinson bowled one down the leg side to KNB. KNB got a tickle – yet another leg-side strangle. Ben Brown took his sixth catch of the innings (equalling the Sussex record) and confusion reigned as players and umpires tried to work out if it was Tea, while there was also a suggestion that the dismissal was off a no-ball that had not been called and it seemed as if Noema-Barnett was told by the umpires not to walk. The dismissal was confirmed. 34 to win. Bracey 86*, but only Miles and Payne to come. Miles has 5x50, averages 17.6 and has a best score in First Class cricket of 62*, but does not like quick bowling at all and even less, short fast bowling. Miles against the new ball would be a catch-weight contest: what would James Bracey do on the resumption? Unfortunately, the decision was taken out of his hands as Craig Miles pinched the strike twice with singles before being given out LBW to Ollie Robinson with 32 still needed. Miles was evidently unhappy with the dismissal, swishing his bat angrily and showing obvious dissent.
The new ball was taken immediately. David Payne took a single, second ball and then James Bracey, who had to go for quick runs, went for a big hit and Danny Briggs took a brilliant low catch at Deep Square Leg. Bracey was out for 87. Sussex won by 28 runs, and a distraught Bracey left the field to a standing ovation from the fielders and a large and appreciative crowd: it was the first time this season that he has reached 50 and not converted. The heroes of the day though were Jofra Archer with 21-8-29-4 and Ollie Robinson, with 22.3-3-49-4 and, of course, Ben Brown with his six catches.
Sussex move onto 99 points, 13 behind Kent and leapfrog Leicestershire into third in Division 2, while the consolation prize for Gloucestershire, who got closer to the win than anyone dared to hope, was to edge ahead of Glamorgan in the battle for the wooden spoon.
7/18/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
"Championship Cricket is dying" is the word from the big wigs at the ECB, well tell that to the close to three-thousand fans who have attended each day of this Division Two game at Cheltenham: an encounter hosted by one of the lesser supported sides in the Division.
Day 2 was a bit of a curate’s egg. Gloucestershire’s top order has been in pretty desperate form and with the experienced Benny Howell being replaced for this game by the very inexperienced Miles Hammond – who boasts a high score in First Class cricket of 30 – you feared that the lower-middle order might have its usual repair job to do from a pretty desperate position. In contrast, on this occasion it was entirely the opposite: the top order ground Gloucestershire into a position of near impregnability against some very hostile fast bowling, before a late collapse changed the momentum of the match entirely. Forty minutes before Stumps, there was a genuine prospect that Sussex might manage but a single bowling point. At the Close, they were on the verge of obtaining all three and limiting the deficit to under 30.
While the day ended much better for Sussex than might have seemed possible, it was still a deeply disappointing day in the sense that, having left three batting bonus points out on the field on Day 1, Sussex can scarcely afford to leave bowling points out there too. They can get promoted with seven wins, *if* they make sure that there is a big haul of bonus points in every game and that means, making 300+ every game and, with such a powerful bowling line-up, ensuring all three bowling points. As it is, they had 19 balls to remove either David Payne or Gareth Roderick and get that third bowling point.
When a side is 295-3, already ahead and has two, set batsmen, with nine overs left to search for bonus points, you would normally reckon that the batting side has a 50-50 shot at its fourth batting point and the bowling side is going to end up with just one. That though is not the Gloucestershire way. How did we get here, you might ask?
Hammond and Dent came out against a hostile attack, and it was hostile. Jofra Archer clanged Miles Hammond a solid blow on the helmet in the morning session. Hammond took a short time out to be checked-out by the physio before continuing, while Jofra Archer seemed genuinely upset because the ball had been delivered with no malice but just took off. All the bowlers put in plenty of effort, and much of the bowling was genuinely quick but achieved scant reward. Had Chris Dent not been put down, early, from a dolly of a catch to Second Slip, things might have turned out differently but, as it was, the batsmen had few real scares and the score mounted, if only slowly. Landmarks were reached one after another: a boundary from Hammond and he passed his best First Class score and brought up the 50 partnership, and a boundary and a two from consecutive balls off Wiese took Hammond to fifty with Dent still only on 25. The century partnership was brought up with a bizarre six No Balls, as Archer let one go that beat everything; Dent was on 48 for 4 agonising overs before he hit Robinson for the boundary to bring up just his third fifty of the season and push his average over 25; another single to Hammond to bring up the 150.
Finally, just as Sussex must have wondered where they would find a wicket, Danny Briggs brought an end to the captain’s stone-walling innings. It was a record first wicket partnership – 182 – against Sussex. Hammond tip-toed through the nineties: 93 when Dent fell, he finally reached his maiden century with a boundary of Wiese, with 80 of his 103 runs coming in boundaries. Did Wiese notice that he had relaxed on reaching the landmark? Two balls later he got an edge through to ‘keeper, Ben Brown, and Wiese had a deserved wicket.
If Sussex thought that their travails were over, they were wrong. Bobby Bracey and Gareth Roderick avoided any further loss and bedded-in nicely. The new ball came and went, and Sussex were still a wicket away from that vital, first bowling point. There were few easy runs available – just look at Chris Jordan’s figures for the day of 21-6-39-1 – runs had to be sweated out, but that is just what Gloucestershire have not done all season. Up came the second batting point – unheard of riches!!! – And the question was: just how big would the lead be? Chris Jordan finally got a ball through Bracey, and he departed for 34. 259-3.
100 overs gone. 294-3. Third batting point a formality. Fourth a distinct possibility. Sussex being batted out of the game. Wiese to van Buuren. Bowled him! Little could the Sussex bowlers imagine what was about to happen. In came Drissell and four overs produced just three singles. Two overs to Stumps.
Archer with his final over of the day. He started it with 0-59 and bowled a triple-wicket maiden.
Drissell went second ball of the over after an 18-ball stay that produced just a single. Cleaned bowled.
In came Ryan Higgins. Also, clean bowled. Archer on a hat-trick.
Hat-trick ball. Noema-Barnett survives … only to edge through to Ben Brown next ball.
Gloucestershire fans on social media were tearing their hair out, those that had any to start with anyway.
In came Craig Miles to accompany a bewildered Gareth Roderick at the other end. Perhaps unwisely, Roderick took a single to the first ball of the last over despite the well-known fact that, as Lance Corporal Jones would tell you (in a parade ground whisper) that “he doesn’t like it up him”. A fired-up Ollie Robinson against a nervous Craig Miles was always likely to be on the level of Christians v Lions on a minefield at the Coliseum Oval. It took four balls for Robinson to produce a straight one on a good length and end the day’s play, one ball early.
So, we got to Day 3, 303-8. The lead 17. Sussex with 19 balls left to get that bowling bonus point and complete the humiliation.
It was brief, and it was embarrassing. Three singles. Seventeen balls. Gloucestershire 306ao. The lead 20. And the Shire had lost seven wickets for just 12 runs in 53 balls. 4-62 for Jofra Archer. 2-67 for Ollie Robinson who, when they started their spell, had 0-59 and 0-61 respectively.
Sussex batted again and really wanted to get the lead without losing a wicket. A measure of Ryan Higgins’ rise in status since arriving was that in the first game against Kent, Ryan Higgins started as fifth seamer playing only a very minor bit part but, now, is usually opening the bowling ahead of the express-pace Taylor and Craig Miles who has gone on an England Performance Tour. It was he who made the breakthrough, bowling Salt for 9: 16-1. Next over, David Payne had Luke Wells edging through to Roderick: 22-2, just two ahead, and Sussex in deep trouble again, as if the Gloucestershire collapse had never happened. However, Harry Finch and Luke Wright came out with all guns blazing, first putting a severe dent in the figures of Ryan Higgins – he conceded as many in the eighth and final over of his spell as he had in his first seven and then tucking into Taylor, Miles and Drissell with a boundary almost every over.
At Lunch, it was 103-2. The lead was 83, and Luke Wright was on 48 from just 53 balls. The resemblance to the Sussex first innings cavalry charge was considerable. Against the second ball after Lunch, before getting his eye back in, Wright went after Payne and could only send the ball straight to a grateful Ryan Higgins. 103-3 and the match was back in the balance. Four overs later, David Payne bowled an absolute pearler of a delivery at new batsman, Michael Burgess and bowled him. Payne now had 3-28, and the lead was merely 99. The direction of the match was giving another lurch.
Once again though, a cluster of wickets was followed by a partnership as Ben Brown and Harry Finch dug in, although the positivity in the batting made it obvious that Sussex did not plan to die wondering: win or lose, they had no plans to get a draw that would not be too much use to them. The partnership reached 61 and Gloucestershire were, again, under the cosh, with the bat dominating, when Matt Taylor got one through Brown and won an LBW decision. Again, a partnership started to build between Finch and Wiese. Finch was set for a wonderful, possibly match-winning century, when he edged the rather expensive Craig Miles through to ‘keeper Roderick, two short. Then Wiese, who gave Gloucestershire no end of problems in the early season fixture at Hove, came together with Chris Jordan and pushed the lead past 200 and towards 250 before Miles pulled-off what has been described as the catch of the season to remove Wiese off the bowling of Higgins. Then, soon after, Payne castled Archer, the match was swinging back to Gloucestershire, but only if they could finish off the tail.
This was “Operation Winkle” – the battle between the will of the batsmen to survive and the won’t let them build a lead of the bowlers. As the lead grew, Sussex were obviously thinking of getting 300 ahead and declaring to allow themselves a bite at the openers before the Close. The stand between Jordan and Robinson was getting alarming when Craig Miles got Jordan to nick behind and then, in the next over; Matt Taylor got Robinson. The lead was 275, and that was probably the best thing that could happen. Gloucestershire had 15 overs to survive and a tempting target. Sussex had 111 overs to take ten wickets of a Gloucestershire that, this season, has shown all the stability of a blancmange.
Dent and Hammond set out confidently against Robinson and Archer. Ben Brown brought Chris Jordan into the attack early, and the change paid dividends as Archer took two quick wickets. First Chris Dent edged through to Ben Brown and then, in Archer’s next over, first innings hero, Hammond fell the same way. Gloucestershire were 27-2 and in deep trouble. Here, Gloucestershire did something that left one blinking with surprise. Having seen the tail blown away on the second evening, Drissell and Taylor were sent out as a double night-watchman, presumably in the pious hope that they would do better at the second attempt. Unbelievably, David Payne was padded-up to bat if either fell, in an unprecedented TRIPLE night-watchman policy. Gloucestershire fans were speechless.
Payne was not needed. Drissell and Taylor saw out the remaining overs and, at 30-2, the match has leant towards Sussex again.
With scores of 286, 306 & 295 and wickets falling in clusters, you would expect a large partnership at some point and a tight finish. We will see tomorrow if we get it. Hats off to Sussex who have turned this game on its head in the last three and a half sessions.
7/16/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkfromMadrid)
Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival has produced an excellent day of cricket with a series of twists and turns on the way. There was mayhem in the corresponding game last year when Glamorgan were the guests: 25 wickets fell on the first day, the highest innings total of the match was 158 and the game ended long before the end of the second day.
Not unexpectedly, Sussex went with a seam-based attack, supported by Danny Briggs: Will Beer missed out. Gloucestershire gave George Drissell, a nineteen-year-old off-spinner, just his third First Class start and still without a wicket, to back their own five seamers. Comparing the two sides on paper, you wondered how many of the host’s XI would get into the opposition team – the betting was that it would be one or two at most.
Seeing a hard, dry surface that seemed full of runs, both sides wanted to bat. Sussex won the Toss and set off at a furious pace. Those who know the Shire well looked at the home attack and started to hide behind the sofa: this sort of opening is usually the prelude to a massive total by the opposition, followed by a Gloucestershire collapse and a follow-on 300+ behind. Matt Taylor’s third over went for 14, and the good work of David Payne at one end (4-2-5-0) was being brutally counterbalanced by Taylor’s 3-0-25-0. There was only one thing to do and, as has been Gloucestershire’s won't increasingly this season, the cry went out from the captain for Ryan Higgins. The immediate result was to slow the flow of runs – four of Higgins’ first seven overs were maidens and, although no wicket fell, pressure and frustration started to increase in the batsmen. Craig Miles relieved David Payne and, although he gave the batsmen something to hit, he also made the breakthrough as Luke Wells gave a catch to Graeme van Buuren. The opening stand was 74 and beginning to look really threatening and that wicket desperately needed. After a nightmare 2017, Craig Miles, so highly rated beforehand, has 17 wickets at 27.7 as of the Close today and is bowling so much better again; today he had one of his best days for two years.
In his very next over, Miles bowled Phil Salt for 57 from 54 balls: both openers had fallen in just ten deliveries, and the scoreboard looked so much better. It was to get better still. On came the popular Kieron Noema-Barnett – incredibly, top of the Gloucestershire batting averages this season – to bowl a tight first over. Craig Miles got six balls at Luke Wright, slightly surprisingly retained despite modest returns this season. The first ball of the over was hammered to the boundary but, after four dots, Wright obligingly chipped to Bobby Bracey, and Miles was guarding figures of 7-1-31-3. When you win the Toss and bat, losing three wickets in the morning means that you have probably lost the session, but things were to get worse: last over before Lunch, the legend that is Kieron Noema-Barnett trundled in. The moment brilliantly described by Sir Robert Hunt in person:
“Optimistic shout from Noema-Barnett. That will never be given.
[Two beat pause] Oh! [Voice rising almost to hysteria] He’s given it!”
Thank you, Sir Robert. When we are looking for an umpire for the elite panel, we’ll give you a call!
Lunch called at 97-4, and a bewildering turnaround had taken place. In one ball fewer than seven overs, Sussex had slid from a comfortable 74-0 to a somewhat precarious position. However, as Adrian Harms pointed out from the Sussex end of the commentary box, only Jofra Archer of the Sussex XI was missing a First Class century. In other words, he warned Bob Hunt to: “fear men of Hove, even when they offer easy wickets”.
For close to two hours, Adrian Harms’ words seemed to presage the recurring Gloucestershire nightmare of getting rid of the top order and then not being able to finish the job; that nightmare seemed to be coming back to haunt them once again. Chris Dent tried Ryan Higgins. He tried Kieron Noema-Barnett. The stand between Finch and Brown, presumably using kryptonite-encrusted bats, grew and grew. The ball was old and soft, and the two spinners had not bowled a ball. Did Chris Dent remember that George Drissell was on the field? Had Graeme van Buuren refused to pass him the ketchup over lunch and thus been consigned to Purgatory? Or was it that the inviting, short leg-side boundary just scared the life out of him? Finally, possibly by accident, the ball was passed to the former. First over: two singles and not a leg-side six to be seen. Tight over from Kieron Noema-Barnett: just a leg-bye and a single. Maiden from Drissell. A loose ball from KNB, slapped to the boundary before the strait-jacket was tightened again. Captain Ben Brown decided that enough was enough and tried to launch Drissell into orbit but only lifted the ball as far as Ryan Higgins at Mid-On. Higgins had to be involved somewhere although, long after, the identity of the fielder who took the catch – Higgins or van Buuren – was still being debated! A partnership of 113 was ended, and Gloucestershire had an opening. Sussex though still had Finch, Wiese, Jordan and Archer and had the platform for a total in the range 350 to 400… if they batted with care.
Cricket though knows no logic. There is a feeling that there are few things more embarrassing than giving your wicket to Kieron Noema-Barnett, but it was KNB, a worthy successor to David Shepherd as Gloucestershire anti-athlete, who twisted the knife. In he trundled. Wiese, who had possibly just got bored waiting for the ball to arrive from the bowlers hand, missed it and KNB had his second LBW. He must have imagined that the batsmen thought that it was his birthday! [Note to Sussex batsmen: his birthday was on June 4th, but he would like to point out that further, late gifts will not be refused].
In came Chris Jordan. “Jordan will fancy Drissell” opined Sir Robert Hunt on commentary. Six balls later Jordan was caught by Noema-Barnett off Drissell for a duck! Let’s just say that neither commentator covered himself with glory with his punditry today, while the “third voice”, only known by his initials of “DT”, limited his efforts on the mic to sound effects, by munching on a packet of crisps right behind Mssrs Harms and Hunt! Yes, it was one of those days when the commentary was fun and the cricket, at times, plain daft to accompany it. This is Division 2 at its best: enjoying the more relaxed pace and being competitive, but not taking itself too seriously.
Back came Matt Taylor, whose first six overs had gone for 44. Life is rarely dull when Matt Taylor has the ball. Sussex’s hopes of 300+ lay with Harry Finch. Finch hit the ball straight back at Taylor, Taylor pouched it gratefully and, from being 210-4 and things looking pretty grim for the Shire, suddenly it was 236-8, and the grim was with Sussex. What is more, Matt Taylor, having started with 6-0-44-0, had returned with 8-4-16-1: the buffet at the Taylor end was, most definitely, closed.
Not for nothing though do Sussex bat down to #11. Archer and Robinson got their eye in and then decided to cash in. Drissell, who had been guarding the remarkable figures of 7-1-15-2, came in for some punishment. The second batting point came, and a third seemed to be approaching at express pace. Drissell was relieved, his last three overs costing 23 and Miles and Payne brought back. Even if it was Craig Miles who bowled the ball, today there was, but one man who could make the breakthrough as the Sussex tail sought to right the ship: Jofra Archer went for one hit too many and dear old Kieron Noema-Barnett pouched the catch. Out went Archer for 21 and, with him, remaining hopes of reaching 300. Payne bowled a straight one at Danny Briggs, pinned him, and the innings was over for 286 when, one suspects, Sussex were thinking of 450+ as their target batting first.
The day though still had ample opportunity to go pear-shaped for Gloucestershire. Of the batsmen playing today, only Kieron Noema-Barnett (who else?), Bobby Bracey and (just) Ryan Higgins average over 25 in the Championship this season. And, in front of them, Jofra Archer – widely regarded as the hottest property in County cricket – Ollie Robinson and Chris Jordan. Eleven overs to survive and the script stated that Gloucs could well end the day 18-5 and struggling to avoid the follow-on. Miles Hammond, playing only his fourth First Class innings in his fourth match, had the job of opening with captain Chris Dent, without exactly a sparkling 2nd XI record this season to back him up. At the Close though, he was approaching his highest First Class score and had given his county a solid start, at 42-0, backed-up by Chris Dent’s solid imitation of a limpet.
Sussex have left three batting points behind and desperately need a big day tomorrow to keep their promotion hopes on track. If they fail to win this game, their chances will depend on combining a remarkable second half of the season with one of Kent and Warwickshire imploding horribly. Gloucestershire are facing the unpleasant prospect of the wooden spoon writ large ahead unless their batsmen can start to grind-out some scores. Both sides have plenty to play for. Tomorrow may determine how each side views the second half of the season.
7/15/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
We have a single, orphan County Championship game this week in the middle of a block of T20 Blast. Given the fact that players have had problems in the past with the sudden T20 – Championship – T20 switch, the best advice is to expect the unexpected in this game. The reason for this scheduling is the Cheltenham Festival, with its traditional Championship fixture and two T20 Blast games.
Gloucestershire host Sussex, with both sides having played a game fewer than the rest of the sides in Division 2. This fixture then marks the exact halfway point of the Division 2 season, with all teams having played seven games when it ends.
The two teams arrive in very different states of mind. After winning their opening fixture against Kent and then seeing the final day of the game against Sussex abandoned when both sides thought that they could win, Gloucestershire have suffered a nosedive in form, due in no small measure to the loss of almost their entire first-choice seam attack to injury: for a team with a small playing staff, this has been a grievous loss. Add the non-availability of Michael Klinger as his wife battled – it seems, at this moment, successfully – cancer and it is no surprise that Gloucestershire have suffered. Bottom of the Championship and with a top-order that has struggled for runs all season, the only bright light at the end of the tunnel has come in the form of three consecutive Blast wins, in which the calm captaincy of Michael Klinger has been vital. In contrast, Sussex, after a slow start, have wins in two of their last three Championship fixtures and are hovering in fourth place in Division 2, 34 points behind Kent and at the fringes of the promotion race. In the Blast, Sussex are second in the South Group with three wins from 4 and a healthy NRR.
Sussex know that they cannot afford to lose any more ground to the top two in the Division who are racing away from the rest. For Sussex, this is a “must-win” and, preferably, a “must win big” game as even a maximum points draw would leave them in fourth and with a substantial gap to bridge to the promotion places. Last season, Northants missed-out on promotion with eight wins, suggesting that Sussex need, most likely, six wins from eight games to go up.
The following hypothetical situation illustrates Sussex's problems to link up with the front units of the promotion train: a maximum points win for Gloucestershire would move them from bottom up to 5th; a maximum points win for Sussex would move them only above Leicestershire, into 3rd, still ten points and two wins behind Kent.
It is a measure of how out of place this fixture is that the Blast completely dominates this stage of the season that the Gloucestershire webpage and Social Media are still dominated by news of Friday’s win against Somerset: barely a hint that there will be a Championship game tomorrow.
Dent (c), Hammond, Bracey, Roderick, van Buuren, Higgins, Noema-Barnett, Miles, Payne, M.Taylor, Drissell
26. Ben Brown (capt. & wk), 22. Jofra Archer, 18. Will Beer, 21. Danny Briggs, 5. Michael Burgess, 6. Harry Finch, 8. Chris Jordan, 9. Delray Rawlins, 25. Ollie Robinson, 28. Phil Salt, 31. Luke Wells, 96. David Wiese, 10. Luke Wright
The big news for Sussex is that they can play Jofra Archer and Chris Jordan together for the first time this season, adding potency to their attack. Laurie Evans pulled a hamstring in Friday’s Blast defeat v Surrey, and Tom Haines received a blow to the head in training and has not been considered. The Sussex XIII covers all bases with two spinners, although I suspect that Will Beer and Luke Wright will miss out, with Sussex going for a potent pace attack, supported by Danny Briggs.
For Gloucestershire, David “Sid” Payne has been bowling in the Blast and seems completely recovered from the injury that required an ankle operation pre-season, but although Liam Norwell is getting close to a return to 1st XI action, but still not ready to return. Payne plays his first First Class match of the season and, for a side with such limited resources, this is good news. Various of the 1st XI have been getting a reviving run-transfusion in the 2nd XI this week, although captain, Chris Dent’s, form is a concern, although he scored runs against Lancashire 2nd XI, as did several more of the batsmen, although the shadow attack conceded over 600. With Benny Howell still injured, Miles Hammond comes into the XI and will open in his place. George Hankins has a “knee problem” and misses out, while Craig Miles replaces Chris Liddle in the squad, giving an attack which still looks much less threatening than the Sussex line-up, but has a distinctly less pop-gun appearance.
The Cheltenham wicket tends to have pace and bounce for the bowlers and it as well to remember that when Glamorgan played there last season, 25 wickets fell in a day, suggesting that it could be a low-scoring, result encounter.
7/5/2018 0 Comments
How do you solve a problem like Ian Bell? Last season he seemed like a player on the decline, with little chance of playing for England. Today there were echoes of the old bell. It may be a phantom ring that you get out at sea of villages long lost to mother nature.
This fixture was a replay of last season’s final which Nottinghamshire won on that occasion. Today they were mainly second best to Birmingham Bears (Warwickshire).
Chris Nash didn’t enjoy his finest day at the office as the was dismissed third ball, and then when fielding, he seemed to land awkwardly on his shoulder going for a catch.
Nottinghamshire lost a cluster of wickets, Samit Patel went first ball caught and bowled by Colin de Grandhomme. Dan Christian didn’t last much longer as Nottinghamshire started to become desperate.
Riki Wessels struck 41 from 29 balls to add impetus to the innings. The innings then began to falter and Billy Root while ticking over the strike could only score singles. It put pressure on the batsman at the other end. Stephen Mullaney with a brisk 22 from 12 balls, he fell for the unwritten rule of six and out.
Luke Fletcher with three sixes in one Jeetan Patel over gave Nottinghamshire some hope late on. It wasn’t until the final over that Root scored a boundary, as a four followed his maximum. It was enough to power Nottinghamshire over the 150 mark and to 155 for 7.
It soon looked far from enough as Ed Pollock hit two sixes in the first over. It was a brief show from Pollock but allowed Bell to settle in for the day.
Adam Hose also came and went for 17. In stepped Sam Hain and along with Bell set about the target with relish. Both traded in fours, Hain the heir apparent to the Bell throne. There were the trademark cover drives on show.
Bell finished with 82 from 57 balls and threatened to overshadow the young pretender Hain. If both had opened this game could have been over much sooner. Hain took only thirty balls to reach 45 not out and if anything deserved a fifty along with Bell.
It will for Birmingham ring out a warning that they can go far in this competition.
Elsewhere, Sussex’s dynamic bowling attack proved far too strong for a weak looking Essex side. Debutant Rashid Khan had the Eagles batsmen's heads spinning as he collected excellent figures of 2-25 to put the brakes of the host’s pursuit of 181.
Earlier in the day, Sussex recovered nicely from 32/3 thanks to fifties from Laurie Evans and the impressive Michael Burgess, who struck a rapid 56 from 23 balls in just his second T20 game of his first-class career.
It was a curious display from the Eagles who picked four spinners but only bowled five overs of spin during the visitors' innings. Three of which came from new overseas signing Adam Zampa, who despite bagging a wicket in his first over, was comfortably outshone by his Afghan counterpart.
Burgess and Evans’ show alongside late hitting from Jofra Archer propelled the visitors total beyond 180, a decent total on a pitch that offered spin and swing for the bowlers. And so it proved as Essex struggled to get going throughout and the anchor that was Khan weighed them down even further. South African David Weise took five-wickets as he took advantage of the scoreboard pressure that was building on the hosts throughout as the Eagles strutted and stalled.
Only Varun Chopra threatened to take Essex close to their target with the former Warwickshire man striking 64 off 48-balls before he fell victim to Khan in the Afghans final over. That triggered the collapse with the hosts capitulating in spectacular style losing their final five wickets for just one run to fall to a 36-run defeat on opening night at ‘Fortress Chelmsford’.
There was plenty of excitement at Wantage Road though as over 440 runs were scored as Leicestershire’s excellent season continued with an opening night success over Northamptonshire.
Leicestershire won the toss and inserted their hosts clearly with half an eye on a chase later in the evening. But they didn’t account for the hitting of Ben Duckett, Josh Cobb and Alex Wakely who all helped themselves to fifties as the Steelbacks raced to 218/3 from their 20 overs.
Duckett, in particular, looked in fine form smashing 12 fours and three maximums on his way to 96, before he holed out to Neil Dexter off the bowling of Ben Raine. But the clean hitting of Alex Wakely ensured Duckett’s efforts wouldn’t go to waste as the hosts set a testing total for the Foxes to chase down.
But this Leicestershire side is a different animal to that of a few years ago; they have grit and steel under their new coach Paul Nixon. And they needed it to chase this total down, what will be please for Nixon and his coaching staff is the fact that everyone mucked in during this innings. With only really Tom Wells failing with the bat.
Colin Ackermann acted as the glue as he held the innings together with an excellent 66 from 31 balls, striking at well over 200. He smashed four sixes and five fours to guide the visitors’ home.
Whisper it quietly, but the Foxes could well be the dark horses from the north group.
Reports by Jamie Ramage (@famousstrauss) and David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
7/1/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
The Royal London One Day Cup is, as Sir Humphrey Appleby would have put it, “in the propinquity of its ultimate and regrettable termination”. A September One Day Cup Final at Lord’s was the highlight of the season for decades, with counties and their supporters desperate to reach the Final. It has seen multiple formats, including starting as a 65 over competition with a maximum of 15 overs per bowler, followed by many years of 60 overs. It has also seen the unexpected (who now would believe that, for many years, it was a blistering innings by Geoff Boycott that produced the record score in a Lord’s Final?) Now, the old and popular knock-out format long abandoned (I wonder just how much fans regret, like me, that we no longer see the Minor Counties and the recreational cricketers of the County Boards fighting through various rounds for a place in the last 16 and the chance to carry out a giant-killing – games such as Devon v Somerset, or Durham County Board XI v Durham were the lifeblood of the competition). Now, the Royal London One Day Cup has become a hybrid version of the old Benson and Hedges Cup, with its 55 over format, league + knock-out structure and mid-season Final. The old B&H was always the ugly sister of the one-day competitions, never taken quite as seriously by the counties, although the silverware was always welcome, especially when one of the less-fashionable teams won. However, next year will see the final Lord’s Final. Like John Cleese’s parrot, it will be no more; it will cease to be. No longer does the Lord’s Final see noisy sell-out crowds, with tickets all-but-impossible to obtain but, still, more than twenty thousand fans were in Lord’s, undoubtedly helped by the fact that one of the counties that makes up the Greater London area was a finalist.
Both teams came from the tight and hard-fought South Group. Hampshire had topped that group with a 5-2 record, while Kent had just squeaked into third place with a 5-3 record. While Hampshire had overwhelmed a Yorkshire 2nd XI in the Semi-Final, thanks to a brutal James Vince century, Kent had to defeat holders Nottinghamshire in the eliminator and then North Group winners Worcestershire in the Semi-Final: in both cases, Kent had won on the back of a devastating Heino Kuhn century. The trouble with such runs of form is that they have a nasty habit of running out just when you need them most. Before the Final Kuhn had had a modest run of scores in the competition of 36*, 117, 113, 4, 124* & 127, the “4” against Essex was just to prove that he is human after all.
Before the Final, Reece Topley had expressed a fear that the Topley family curse would hit him. His father was Twelfth Man four times for Lord’s Finals and never did make it into the playing XI; now back from injury, Reece Topley made it five-out-of-five for the Topleys as Hampshire opted to play leg-spinner Mason Crane instead of left-arm seamer Reece Topley in this Final. The word from the Hampshire camp was that Crane had received a pain-killing injection to allow him to play and that it will be last time he plays for his county for the rest of the season.
On the Kent side, a devastating century and a lot of wickets against Middlesex was obviously no preparation for a 50-over Final, so Grant Stewart missed out, but Darren Stevens and Matt Henry were back in the XI.
Sam Billings won the Toss and decided to chase on a warm and sunny morning, with what appeared to be a pretty good pitch beckoning, with the sides lining up:
Kent: Bell-Drummond, Kuhn, Denly, Dickson, Billings, Blake, Stevens, Haggett, Podmore, Henry, Qayyum.
Hampshire: Rossouw, Alsop, Vince, Northeast, Weatherley, Dawson, McManus, Berg, Wood, Steyn, Crane.
Despite the danger that the Kent attack of Harry Podmore and Matt Henry could be hard to cope early on, with a slightly green pitch that had not yet dried out in the sun and might be expected to get better and better through the day, James Vince admitted that he had wanted to bat first, so Sam Billings’s invitation suited him nicely.
One always felt that Kent needed early wickets, but Hampshire made a solid start. 25-0 from 5 overs. 58-0 from 10, with Callum Haggett’s opening over going for 18. By then a sinking feeling may have been growing in the pit of Sam Billings’ stomach that he had made the wrong call. On came Darren Stevens, up came Sam Billings to the stumps: it was lovely to see a wicket-keeper standing-up to a seamer. 15 overs, 90-0 and Hampshire scoring comfortably at a run-a-ball with few alarms. The writing was on the wall that Hampshire could run up a huge score.
With Callum Haggett bowling with all the control of a faulty paint spray, it was Joe Denly’s turn to come on and try his luck. It is hard to recall that Denly was an integral part of the England limited-overs sides in 2009/10 and was a promising leg-spinner to boot. This season, Denly’s bowling has been dusted-off, and he has had some success, particularly in the red-ball game. Initially, it seemed that he was giving Rilee Rossouw some problems, but Rossouw got through them, and the breakthrough refused to come. 20 overs, 126-0 and Hampshire were starting to accelerate, even if they were treating Darren Stevens with respect still.
Finally, on came Imran Qayyum and out went Tom Alsop for 72: flighted delivery, two or three steps down the wicket, miss and Sam Billings whips off the bails. Kent needed the wicket, but 136-1 from 22.2 overs was not the greatest of starts, and the bad news was that it brought in James Vince, who had a point to make to Ed Smith. At the 30-over mark, it was 193-1, Vince was getting into his stride, Rossouw was playing with increasing freedom and Kent seemed set to be chasing a massive total: 380-400 looked all too possible.
From there, it did not go quite as Hampshire had wanted. Vice lofted Qayyum to Joe Denly at long-on, falling for 23. 193-2. However, Rossouw was still there and duly reached his century in the thirty-fifth over, and Kent still had a sizeable problem. Sam Northeast and Rossouw continued to accumulate runs. After 40 overs Hampshire were 262-2 and always looking set for a score in the 360-380 range. That fortieth over featured a straight drive from Rossouw, aimed straight at the umpire, that had him diving for cover, as self-preservation took over from dignity. However, to the first ball of the forty-second over he lashed out at Joe Denly and was caught at mid-wicket for 125. 270-3. Two overs later, Liam Dawson chipped a catch to cover point and Denly had another. Sam Northeast has his fifty, but wickets kept falling at the other end as Kent clawed things back. Lewis McManus hit Denly high into the Lord’s sky, and Sean Dickson dived forward to reach it: 297-5 with just over four overs to go and Kent were clawing their way back as Hampshire imploded somewhat. Then Weatherly missed his second ball and Denly had a fourth wicket. 297-6 with just 24 balls left. Thirty-three came from those last four overs as Hampshire finished on a record score for a Lord’s Final of 330-7, although it should have been a lot more as they only managed 68-5 in their last ten overs. However, with such a brilliant start, it was always likely that Hampshire would struggle to keep up the momentum in the slog overs as batsmen came in and tried to play shots with little or no reconnaissance. In truth, it was a massive score for a Lord’s Final and just reflected how well Hampshire have batted in the competition.
For Kent, it looked like a case of Kuhn or bust. For Hampshire, Chris Wood and Dale Steyn with the new, white ball. For two overs things seemed pretty good: 16-0, with Kuhn, looked in pretty good form – and well he should. The next two overs produced just two singles, as Hampshire showed that 331 would take some getting. Still, after nine overs it was 55-0, and Kent were going nicely at just better than a run-a-ball, well up with the asking rate. Had Daniel Bell-Drummond and Heino Kuhn been able to keep this up for 20 overs, they would have put the Hampshire fourth and fifth bowlers under terrific pressure. Unfortunately for Kent, the last over of the Power Play saw Kuhn run out as Gareth Berg dived and threw at the stumps from close range, with just one stump to aim at as Kuhn tried to run a suicidal single. 55-1 and Kent could not afford another quick wicket. That though is what they got. The scoring rate had dipped significantly with the fall of Kuhn, Kent were little above 5-an-over and needed some momentum. Joe Denly went after Gareth Berg and only lobbed a catch to James Vince. 17 overs, 83-2 and Hampshire, were on top.
James Vince introduced an all-spin attack with contrasting fortunes: Liam Dawson bowled his first 4 for 14 runs and kept a tight lid on the scoring; Mason Crane’s first three went for 29. The Crane gamble was failing, and so Vince brought himself on and reined-in the scoring at the other end. Denly and Dickson were scoring as many singles as they wanted, but the boundaries needed to stop the required run rate from rising stubbornly refused to come. Crane came back, and Dickson swiped at him and lifted a catch to Rossouw.
30 overs: Kent 158-3, Hampshire 193-1.
Kent desperately needed someone to score, score big and score quickly.
33 overs. 168-3 and the RRR now over 9. The match was slipping away from Kent.
Daniel Bell-Drummond was still there, but he was struggling to raise his tempo up to a run-a-ball when Kent needed significantly better than that to get back into the game. Finally, in the thirty-fifth over, the killer blow: Chris Wood bowled Bell-Drummond for 86. 179-4 after 35 overs. From there on it was just a matter of how large the margin of defeat would be as Hampshire’s bowlers and fielders hung on to their prey like an angry bulldog as the usual crazy mix of run outs and dismissals to wild slogs sunk the chase without a trace. 40 overs, 217-6 and Dale Steyn back into the attack: not a bad change to be able to make for the last ten. Sam Billings was still there, but the best score from the Kent bottom six was the 12 of Darren Stevens. Berg finished it off by having Sam Billings caught by Dale Steyn for 75.
Kent were 269ao and lost by 61 runs, with 2.5 overs left to bowl but, in reality, it was not even as close as that rather large margin suggests. To a degree, it was self-inflicted, because there were no fewer than four runouts in the Kent innings, but run outs are an operational hazard when you are chasing a big total and falling behind the run rate against a side as professional and clinical as Hampshire have been in the knock-out phase. The Hampshire fielders backed-up their bowlers brilliantly and, as a side, were just too good for Kent on the day. Unquestionably, the better team won, although the losers can console themselves that they are doing enough to suggest that they may be a force to reckon with next season in both red and white ball cricket.
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