By Harry Hill (@HarryHill96)& Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Where else to start in Division Two than at Tunbridge Wells, where both Kent and Warwickshire would have surely been left wondering what could have been had a period of calm with the bat occurred. In a highly dramatic day, 20 wickets fell, with only Joe Denly and latterly Jonathan Trott occupying the crease for any period of time. The spectators at the Nevill Ground would have been forgiven if caught unprepared for the mass of wickets, on a ground famous for its favour with batsmen. However, Warwickshire skipper Jeetan Patel may have found something in the pitch at the toss, by electing to bowl. That decision was vindicated early as Daniel Bell-Drummond and Sean Dickson fell early before a stabilising 51 run partnership between Heino Khun and Joe Denly. A further 51 run partnership between Denly and Darren Stevens saw Kent into lunch, before Keith Barker set about mopping up the Kent tail with the wickets of Matt Henry, Harry Podmore and Ivan Thomas. Barker himself finishing with incredible figures of 5-32 from just 13.1 overs, as Kent finished on 197 all out. Warwickshire’s innings was even more brief, thanks to 4-52 from Matt Henry and 4-26 from Harry Podmore, including 3 wickets inside the 21st over by Podmore. Warwickshire’s blushers were saved somewhat by a 54 run partnership for the tenth wicket between Jonathan Trott and Henry Brookes. After all that, there was still room for 2 overs for Kent’s 2nd innings, leaving the hosts 76 runs ahead at the close.
Next to Arundel, where in contrast with the match at Tunbridge Wells, the batsmen can rest rest easy tonight with a job well done in the south coast sun. Phil Salt and Tom Haines in particular will be delighted with their day, as both reached maiden CC hundreds, with a mesmerising 244 run partnership. Despite the tough day for the Durham bowlers, credit goes to part-time leggie, Cameron Steel for breaking the partnership, along with the wicket of Luke Wright later in the innings from his 3 overs. Ominous signs for the bowlers tomorrow as Ben Brown and Michael Burgess return unbeaten on a 75 run partnership, with Sussex on 439-5.
We move onto Leicester, where all the talk in the local pubs tonight will be about Colin Ackermann and his magnificent 151*, as Leicestershire took the upper hand on day one against Middlesex. However, despite all their rightful plaudits, only Neil Dexter and Ben Raine accompanied Ackermann for a meaningful period of time throughout the day, as six Leicestershire batsmen failed to reach 20. The ever-reliable Tim Murtagh was the pick of the Middlesex bowlers, taking 5-52 from his 23 overs, including the significant wicket of Neil Dexter. Ackermann will return in the morning with Gavin Griffiths with Leicestershire already gaining maximum batting points on 353-8, looking to push up towards 400.
Meanwhile, at Swansea, rain restricted the first day to just 46 overs, but this didn’t stop Derbyshire from picking up seven Glamorgan wickets. Tony Palladino was very effective in swinging the ball in the helpful conditions with persistent dark clouds overhead. The home faithful would have been concerned with Glamorgan stuttering at 52-5 after the key wickets of overseas star Usman Khawaja and Kiran Carlson. Chris Cooke went about rebuilding the innings adding 69 valuable runs. Palladino finished the day with 4-49 and will be eyeing a five-for in the morning, as Glamorgan finished on 175-7 a the close.
Floodlights, a pink ball and day-night – maybe better “day-twilight” – cricket arrived at Wantage Road, when two of the less fashionable and, if truth be told, less supported sides of Division 2 tried out this recent innovation designed to bring in the crowds, although the anecdotal evidence is that the fans tend to leave at the normal time of Close anyway, with the after-dinner session sparsely supported.
Up to now this season, sides have looked at Northants in the fixture list and rubbed their hands with glee at a quick sixteen points. Here though it is more a case of two “horizontal heavyweights” with a glass chin, slugging it out… in a manner of speaking. Gloucestershire’s thin squad has been stretched to breaking point by injuries and unavailability and Andrew Tye’s bowling figures at Trent Bridge yesterday will have done nothing to convince the fans that his arrival will change things. Relief may be on the way as David Payne and Liam Norwell were in the 2nd XI today and, hopefully will be available for the second half of the season. In contrast, Northants must keep plugging away because the players who, largely, served them well last season, although the locals point to an excess of batting collapses, have not become poor ones overnight. The long and the short of it was that Gloucestershire rang the changes, the most radical being to drop the vice-captain, Jack Taylor (also on duty with the 2nd XI) and played just three specialist bowlers plus an assortment of batting and bowling all-rounders. This was the sort of decision that can backfire horribly if the conditions favour the batsmen or, alternatively, one of your specialists has a poor day. Suffice it to say that Ben Duckett went out of the blocks like a scalded cat. After a relatively sedate first two overs, Matt Taylor bowled the third to Duckett, which went: 44444. One suspects that the final dot ball was the batsman showing compassion. After 16 overs it was 97-0 and the decision to insert looked catastrophic. Then Craig Miles and Kieron Noema-Barnett bowled a couple of quiet overs and, out of the blue, Matt Taylor, whose first three overs had gone for 24, induced an edge from Ben Duckett: Gareth Roderick did the necessary behind the stumps and suddenly there was a wicket-maiden and the tenor of the game had changed. In his next over, Taylor Vasconcelos for a duck – 105-2. Noema-Barnett’s seemly inoffensive dibby-dobbers induced a return catch from Wakely – 112-3. Northants fans had seen promising positions collapse like a card house often enough, but Procter and Levi added 74 and, again, Gloucestershire started to wonder how they would ever take a wicket with the softening pink ball. Again, it was Taylor who broke though. One of the fastest bowlers in the County game, if he could only add accuracy to his pace because the scorebook only seemed to register one of three things when he bowled: “4”, “.”, or “w”. Adam Rossington got a fair selection of the first two varieties of scorebook entry before adding another “w” – 209-5 and the shine was coming off that fast start. Then Higgins added Levy, who had made 63 in the mayhem. Noema-Barnett lulled Zaib into a false sense of security and trapped him LBW while Steven Crook, no mean batsmen who, at one time, was talked of as a genuine England prospect, tried to shepherd the tail. Miles took Kleinveldt as we moved to some more normal chiselling of runs by the tail and, finally, just before the New Ball was due, Higgins added Crook and, with him, Northant’s chances of scoring 300. Gloucestershire eschewed the New Ball and Higgins knocked-over Hutton to leave Northants 282ao. Taylor finished with 4-70 and Higgins, 3-52.
This left Gloucestershire a trick 13 overs to face. The cynics among the Gloucestershire fans felt that it could be getting close to the follow-on by the Close. Benny Howell and Chris Dent though batted calmly and seemed to have averted the crisis until the scheduled antepenultimate ball of the day, bowled by Crook, got through Chris Dent and trapped him LBW. Gloucestershire start the second day 25-1 and, on the morrow, we will see which of these two pugilists has the more fragile glass chin!
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