6/28/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Day 3 ended with all four games in Division One still in play. Only at Scarborough is a result certain: barring a spectacular clatter of wickets, Surrey seem destined to win that one, to re-affirm their title credentials and to put Yorkshire in some difficulty around the relegation places. Nottinghamshire will be confident of bowling out Worcestershire, but the hosts may yet hold out for a draw. The games at Chelmsford and at Old Trafford look like draws, although quick wickets for the visitors in either might just revive the prospect of a run chase.
In Division Two, two of the four matches ended on Day 3, with big wins for Leicestershire (currently third in the table) and Kent (who have snatched, at least temporarily, the top spot from Warwickshire), while Middlesex are now in fifth, 40 points behind the second promotion spot. Both remaining games look likely to produce results: Northamptonshire will feel that they can wrap up the game at Cardiff, while all results are still possible in the match at Chester-le-Street, although it was leaning towards Warwickshire.
Did it pan out this way? Read on!
We start at Chelmsford, where Browne and Bopara had got Essex through to the Close at 17-2, recovering from 1-2. Essex started 127 ahead and in the knowledge that they could ill-afford a quick wicket that would leave Somerset pushing for an unlikely win. In reality, the equation was simple: if Essex were still batting halfway through the second session, the game would be a draw; if Somerset had them 7 or 8 down in the first session, there would, most likely, be a run chase. With Nick Browne acting as sheet-anchor at one end and Ravi Bopara with a fifty at the other, the game was dying a death until Dominic Bess had Bopara caught at slip for 58 and then, three balls later, bowled ten Doeschate. The lead was 218 at that point, with 69 overs left, so the game was still, just about alive, although Essex knew that Alastair Cook would be available to bat at #7 having recovered from illness, so they would not be batting a man short. At Lunch, Essex were 125-4, 235 ahead with 65 overs to go after a potential change of innings and Somerset knew that they needed an improbable three or four quick wickets to keep their slim victory hopes alive. The wickets came in an extremely unexpected manner after Lunch. Essex came out swinging and, even though Wheater, Cook and Browne fell in quick succession, 60 runs came from 10 overs. With both sides needing the win to stay in touch with the leaders, Essex declared, challenging Somerset to score 319 to win in 50 overs. Somerset set off at the necessary 6-an-over, but once Byrom was run out by ten Doeschate, wickets started to fall, and Somerset had to think of survival. Essex used Simon Harmer and Tom Westley in tandem, with very attacking fields, but Tom Abell and Lewis Gregory showed the sort of mastery of the forward defensive that would have made Fred Boycott drool. Essex kept going until the bitter end, only giving up when they required five wickets from the final over. If there was music playing over the public address during the last hour of inaction, it could only have been Te Deum.
Surrey had reached Stumps on 89-0 with Mark Stoneman past 30 for the first time in the season: would this be the day when he re-discovered his hunger for runs? Sadly, not! He fell, LBW to Ben Coad, without adding to his overnight 32. Rory Burns though continued to lead the charge to victory until he picked out the fielder on the rope when looking for the boundary to take him to his century, giving Tim Bresnan an unexpected wicket. Scott Borthwick though picked up the torch in partnership with Ryan Patel. He fell to Jack Leaning, for 62, with victory in sight, but Surrey won soon afterwards by seven wickets and go back to the top of Division One. The way that Surrey turned this game around will send a warning to their rivals, while Yorkshire know that this season they could be too close to comfort to the relegation places during the run in.
At Old Trafford, Hampshire started 66-2 and 106 ahead. Lancashire needed quick wickets to make something of the game. Although Sam Northeast fell early, Tom Alsop combined with Joe Weatherley in a 75 run stand that appeared to have killed the match. However, when Stephen Parry bowled Alsop and, immediately afterwards, Clark pinned Roussow, the lead was only 204 and another wicket would have made things very interesting. Unfortunately, that was as exciting as it got and, with no further wickets falling by Tea, there was some pretty blatant time-wasting to reduce the number of overs that would be bowled before the 4:50 pm handshake. Weatherley went on to 126* against some less than challenging new ball bowling, with Holland 26* and the score 237-5 when the declaration and handshake came.
At Trent Bridge, Worcestershire started at 43-0, with the challenge to survive the last day, albeit with all wickets intact. Daryl Mitchell and Martin Guptill ticked-off the overs, seemingly without great alarm, but it really needed one batsman to stay there for much of the day and let the rest of the batting take their lead from that. There was the rub. What you might define as sticktoitiveness has not been a defining characteristic of the Worcestershire season, with the county getting into promising positions and then finding ways to lose. Wickets fell just often enough to keep Nottinghamshire interested. After an opening stand of 62, Mitchell and Guptill fell in quick succession. Fell and Clark added 63, and then Fell gave a catch to stand-in wicket-keeper Rikki Wessels. At Lunch, it was 151-3, there were at least 67 overs to go, and the smart money was, just about, on Nottinghamshire, particularly as, if everything panned-out as Nottinghamshire hoped, the tail would be batting in the difficult twilight conditions at the end of the day. This time though, Worcestershire refused to fold. Led by a century from Joe Clark who, fortunately for the Pears, did show the necessary application. But Nottinghamshire made just enough progress to be kept interested as none of his partners wanted to stick around for long enough to make the game completely safe, seven of them got into double figures, but none passed 35. Nottinghamshire knew that if Clark went, they would win. However, Joe Clark also knew this and refused to budge. His 150 came up in the company of Ben Twohig, and Nottinghamshire must have known that the game was up. Twohig fell finally, bowled by Luke Fletcher for 35 but, by then, there were just 24 balls left, and Clark was certainly not going to give anything away. Pennington fell with 12 balls left and the last over started with Nottinghamshire two wickets short and with Luke Fletcher bowling at #10, Charlie Morris. Morris survived and sealed the draw, with Clark 177* at the non-striker’s end.
With Surrey the only winners, the table looks very good from South of the River Thames. Surrey are 22 points clear of Nottinghamshire and have played a game fewer. Somerset are 10 points behind Nottinghamshire and Essex 5 points further back, while Yorkshire have fallen into the bottom two and face a relegation battle in the second half of the season.
Back in Division Two, the game at Chester-le-Street, Day 4 started with the visitors at 152-5. Durham needed an almighty clatter of wickets for something to be set up. Initially, Warwickshire appeared to be sailing calmly to a token declaration; they reached 179-5 and then, suddenly, all hell broke loose. Ryan Pringle took three wickets in four balls, then, with the third ball of the next over, Chris Rushworth added Hannon-Dalby. Warwickshire were 182-9 and only 309 ahead, with a potential 89 overs to play after the change of innings. The match was alive, and Durham needed that last wicket as quickly as possible. Keith Barker survived the hat-trick ball. Warwickshire then declared on 185-9, setting-up a chase of 313 in 88 overs. This was exactly what the match needed. All four results were possible. Despite the early loss of Cameron Steel, Will Smith and Tom Latham batted sensibly and kept the required run rate under control. At Lunch, the game was intriguingly poised, with Durham 60-1, needing 253 more runs in 68 overs, but knowing that the low, slow nature of the pitch would make acceleration difficult, so they could not let the required run rate rise much more if they were to reach their target. The fall of Will Smith, soon after Lunch led to a full-scale collapse and, at 148-8, it seemed that Warwickshire would win with time to spare. Rimmington and Salisbury put on 31 for the ninth wicket before Rimmington decided that, with the situation hopeless, he would at least have some fun. The last wicket pair had added 47 and had the runs required down to 87 when Rimmington made one heave too many against Samit Patel and was castled for 61.
Leg spinner, Seekkuge Prasanna gave Northamptonshire the perfect start to day three at Cardiff, by taking his 3rd wicket of the innings when he trapped van der Gugten LBW, leaving Glamorgan 126-5 chasing 434. From there it was just a matter of time as batsman after batsman got in and then got out: seven got into double figures, but there was no score higher than Khawaja’s 38. With the captain, Michael Hogan, unable to bat, the only sustained resistance was the ten and a bit overs when Carlson and Cooke were together. When Hutton got Carlson caught behind for 32, the end came swiftly and was sealed when Prasanna took his fourth wicket, finishing with 4-49 in a straightforward win by 233 runs that lifts Northamptonshire off the foot of the Division 2 table.
Warwickshire return to the top of Division 2, 11 points clear of Kent, with Leicestershire 21 points behind Kent. Sussex are 34 points behind Kent with a game in hand but Middlesex, in fifth, are 45 points from the promotion places and would need an extraordinary run of results to get into contention, with only seven games left.
6/25/2018 0 Comments
Written by Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid
Day 1 of a new round of battles at the top and the bottom of the table.
After its pause for the Royal London One Day Cup, the frenetic action in the County Championship continued, with another back-to-back round of matches featuring some more fascinating clashes in both divisions.
This was a peculiar round of matches, with just two clashes, one in each division, featuring the traditional 11 am start. The game at Old Trafford started at 12, the one at Derby, at 1:30 pm, with the others at 2 pm.
In Division 1, with a full round of matches, the top clash is, without question, the Essex v Somerset clash: fourth against third. Both sides lost in the previous round, and both desperately need the win to keep in touch with the top of the table. While neither team could afford a defeat, a draw would be of little use to either save as a holding operation, particularly as Nottinghamshire, reinforced by the return of Stuart Broad, would play the bottom side, Worcestershire. Surrey, in contrast, have the tougher job with an away game against Yorkshire at Scarborough.
In Division 2, where Sussex and Gloucestershire are without a game in this round, two interesting clashes stand out. At Canterbury, Kent entertain a Middlesex side who won an extraordinary match against Leicestershire in the previous round. That win has re-awoken their interest in promotion. With Warwickshire’s slip in the last round, Kent suddenly have the top of Division 2 in reach. Defeat for the visitors would undo all the excellent work that Middlesex did at Grace Road and advance Kent’s promotion chances a lot while, a win for the visitors would put them right back into the centre of the promotion battle, so this one really has a lot hanging on it. The other clash that will impact the top of the table is at lovely Chester-le-Street, where Durham entertain Warwickshire – both sides losers in the previous round. A win would put Durham right into the promotion race, whereas Warwickshire need a win to re-affirm their promotion bid. Here too, defeat for either side would severely dent their promotion ambitions, possibly fatally in the case of Durham.
The place to start is, without doubt, Chelmsford, where Essex and Somerset both wanted to close the gap on the leaders with a win. As in almost all the games, both sides wanted to bat, but it was Essex who won the Toss, and Somerset suffered for it. Missing chances did not help. Nick Browne and Alastair Cook put on 151 for the first wicket before Groenewald run out Browne for 66. Cook though carried on and looked set for one of those daddy hundreds that have been his mark when on song: it was a big surprise when Dom Bess bowled him very full delivery which, instead of hitting for the boundary that would have brought him his century, missed it and was LBW. When Tom Westley drove loosely at Jack Gregory, captain Tom Abell took an excellent catch at Extra Cover, the score had slipped from 151-0 to 204-3, and a little of the gloss had come off the day for the hosts. When Dominic Bess bowled the splendidly named Michael-Kyle Pepper, making his First Class debut after playing for Cambridgeshire and Essex 2nd XI this season, it was 212-4, and Somerset were clawing their way back into the day. It could have been even better. At 245-4, Somerset skipper Tom Abell failed to hang on to a sharp caught and bowled chance from the Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate. That was a costly mistake, as Essex reached the Close on 298-4. Ryan ten Doeschate 46* and Ravi Bopara 37* had added an unbeaten 86 by the Close. Josh Davey had a huge should for LBW against ten Doeschate from the last ball of the day, but it was not to be Somerset's day in the end.
Surrey welcomed back Mark Stoneman on a hot day at Scarborough, with a large and noisy crowd watching. Somerset were without the luckless Jack Leach, who was confirmed to have mild concussion, after being hit on the head batting at the weekend and is rested under the concussion protocols. In the commentary box, Jamie Reid made his debut, sitting in the seat occupied for so many years by the sadly missed Dave Callaghan: his opening shots were secure as he introduced “the legend that is Mark Church” (you could see Churchie’s blush, even on the radio). The pitch looked superb, and both sides wanted to bat, but Yorkshire won the Toss. Even so, Dernbach and Morkel extracted life from the pitch and Lees did not last long, giving a return catch to a lively Dernbach at the end of the first over. For someone rather unkindly labelled “the tattooed trundler” in his ODI days, Dernbach looked pretty sharp. There was a real curiosity in the first hour in that after 13.1 overs, Yorkshire were 27-1, with all 27 runs to Adam Lyth: shades of Ben Duckett last week, with Pujara still scoreless after 25 balls and Lees facing six balls for his duck. The sequence was finally broken when a leg bye was run to the 80th ball of the morning. Pujara finally broke his duck with a boundary from his forty-second ball, all runs in the first 18 overs falling to Lyth, or as extras. Such profligacy could not last, and divine retribution came in the form of Lyth’s dismissal for 42, to a catch in the slips in the next over. Yorkshire got to Lunch 76-2, with honours reasonably even. The afternoon session was all Surrey, with wickets falling at regular intervals. Without Balance’s 54, Yorkshire would have been in dire straits. As it was, they slumped to 166-6 and were in danger of throwing away the advantage of the first use of the pitch. Enter Jack Tattersall, the hero of the Royal London One Day Cup Semi-Final defeat and a partnership of exactly 100 with Tim Bresnan, whose batting seems to get better and better as his career advances. Bresnan fell finally for 48 and Tattersall followed soon after for 70, but Steve Patterson and Jack Brooks took Yorkshire through to the Close and 299-8, with the third batting point almost assured.
At Trent Bridge, Stuart Broad returned to the side after England duty, as he is not involved in the T20s. Worcestershire are without batting all-rounder Ed Barnard, on Lions duty: a significant loss for them given his performance against Lancashire, while fast-bowler Dillon Pennington came into the side for his Championship debut and Ben Twohig replaced of Pat Brown. Nottinghamshire would keep the pressure on Surrey with a win, while Worcestershire know that they cannot afford to lose many more if they wish to stay in Division 1. On the day when fan favourite who is Jack Shantry (son of Brian Shantry of Gloucestershire and brother of Adam (Northants, Warwickshire and Glamorgan), was forced to retire with a back injury, Worcestershire suffered one of their worst days of the season – and they have had a few. A century for Chris Nash, finally trapped LBW by Martin Guptill for 139, 88 for Jake Libby and a 50 for Samit Patel. It was 306-1, and you started to hope for rain or a plague of locusts or anything that would save Worcestershire from taking more punishment. Suddenly, the situation had changed radically. D'Oliviera took the new ball, and Steve Magoffin took three wickets in five balls, without conceding a run as Patel and Billy Root went to consecutive balls. Ross Taylor went for a 12-ball duck as he edged to slip, and Notts had gone from 306-1 to 312-5 just a few overs. Moores and Wessels added 24* to take Nottinghamshire to 336-5 at the Close: still definitely their day, with a fourth batting point close and a fifth possible, but not as one-sided as it had seemed to be.
Similarly, both sides wanted to bat at Old Trafford, but it was Hampshire who won the Toss. Onions took Weatherley for a duck to a catch behind but, after that, it was reasonably steady progress for the visitors. Everyone got a start and, with 103 for James Vince, Hampshire reached 302-6 at the Close and are approaching a very solid position. Lancashire were indebted to Graeme Onions and his 4-64. However, in this bargain basement clash, it was definitely the visitors who will sleep happier tonight, with runs and three batting points in the bank and a real chance of a fourth that should ensure them against a damaging defeat that may prove costly to Lancashire should it come to pass.
At Canterbury, it was almost easier to say who *was* available for Middlesex, with Steve Finn joining the walking wounded with sore knees, to add to all the England, England Lions and Ireland calls, as well as the list of injured. It meant a rare 1st XI appearance for James Fuller. Kent rested Darren Stevens and Matt Henry: Henry who has had a massive load this season, while Darren Stevens took a bad blow to the head in the pink-ball game last season and was not risked ahead of the Royal London One Day Cup Final on Saturday. The Kent innings never really got going: they have struggled to get batting points this season, despite what looks like a power-packed line-up. There were no fifty stands until Rouse and Podmore added 51 for the 8th wicket. At that point, it was 185-8, and there was every chance that Kent were not doing add to their minimal season’s haul of batting bonus points. Podmore and Grant Stewart added 43, to assure at least one batting point for the hosts. The fall of Rouse, though, ensured that there would not be a second and Middlesex finished them off for 241, with James Fuller taking 4-84 from 15.2 action-filled overs. In reply, Stewart got Sam Robson quickly, and Middlesex were 7-1 after just 11 balls. Then Grant Stewart bowled Holden, Middlesex were 19-2, had lost both openers and were in a mess and needing runs from the out-of-form Dawid Malan. Earlier there had been a bizarre hold-up as the setting Sun reflected off windows in the pavilion, briefly leading to “Sun stopped play”, an old favourite in day-night games. Malan was not able to comply with his team’s needs, providing a third wicket for Stewart just three balls later: 19-3 and Middlesex sinking, with 16 overs still to play. It was not pretty against a side that was missing its two best bowlers and who the visitors had hoped to make pay for resting them. Grant Stewart was getting the ball to hoop around corners and Middlesex were not enjoying it. When Stewart had Eskinazi caught by Sam Billings for 25, it was 44-4, and Kevin Hand was praying for the Close. Unfortunately, his prayers were not answered because Middlesex reject Harry Podmore then added Saturday’s hero, Hylton Cartwright and it was 44-5. It got no better: Scott fell to Stewart for 3, and it was 50-6, and Grant Stewart had 7.5-1-20-5. Enough? Not on your life! Thomas bowled Harris and Haggett induced an edge behind from Simpson, and it was 54-8. Thomas bowled Ravi Patel for only the second duck of the innings, and it was 54-9 and Stumps. Yes, Middlesex fans and commentator were not happy with the amount of help that the pink Duke’s balls were giving the bowlers in twilight – however, this was not so much the case in the other games where there was no twilight crash of wickets.
Division 2 also threw up a clash of the bottom two at Sophia Gardens, with Northants knowing that they could shift off the bottom of the table if they dominated the match. The visitors won the Toss and decided to bat, but made a far from convincing start. Ben Duckett fell early to Tom Hogan and, when Luke Procter fell to Rhuaidhri Smith, both openers had gone with just 36 on the board. However, from then it started to turn around. Fifties for Vasconcelos, Wakely and Levi left Northants well-placed at 223-3, with captain Wakely seeming heading inexorably for a century. Just when it appeared that Glamorgan were in for a really tough day, there was an astonishing collapse by Northants, starting with the fall of Wakely for 82, losing 7-58 in 17.4 overs, to be bowled out for 281. After a partial recovery, with a stand of 44 between Levi and Crook, the final five wickets for just six runs in three overs. Tim van der Gugten finished with 5-45. It was hard to believe the turnaround after Glamorgan spent so much of this afternoon toiling to make any progress. Faced with a tricky seven overs before the Close, Glamorgan survived without loss, to start the second day on 21-0.
What about Warwickshire? Was their promotion juggernaut really de-railed? When the top three all got starts, but all fell without pushing on, including Ian Bell, it looked as if Warwickshire might have another off-colour day. Then Hose also got a start and got out, giving Salisbury his third wicket and leaving the visitors 130-4: there was a real danger that Durham could knock them over cheaply. A century from Jonathon Trott, who has re-captured his form batting alongside Ian Bell and 67 for Tim Ambrose, added 135 for the fifth wicket. 297-5 at Stumps, with Trott 119* and Barker 9*: this good Warwickshire position definitely was “hashtag Trott’s fault”! Warwickshire will feel most definitely that they have had the better of the day and that they can push on to 400.
There were no such shenanigans at Derby. Three of Leicestershire’s six completed fixtures have featured heart-stopping finishes. Will we have a repeat here? It seems not if the first day is any guide. Leicestershire put Derbyshire in and, at 93-1, it did not look like the wisest decision. However, three wickets then fell in seven balls for no addition and despite a partnership of 62 for the fifth wicket between Madsen and Critchley, the Derbyshire innings never really got back to cruising altitude. 245ao with four ducks was not quite what they had hoped for after a decent start. In reply, Leicestershire are 82-0, although with Dearden retired hurt on 9. Paul Horten is 48* and Leicestershire will look to push on tomorrow.
6/22/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Day 3 of the battles at the top and the bottom of the table. For Somerset though, this was a first defeat of the season and, by an innings and plenty to a title rival. Elsewhere, Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire set enormous targets for their opponents and will feel confident of wrapping up a win on the morrow. The result is that both the top and the bottom of the Division One table have been shaken-up. Surrey are on a roll and are threatening to stretch away from their rivals at the top of the table in much the same way that Essex did last season.
Elsewhere, there was a huge win for Northamptonshire, breaking their duck for the season and a bizarre runout at Grace Road.
Having only just come back from a broken thumb, Jack Leach was unfortunate enough to be hit on the head batting last night against Morne Morkel, has a concussion and has been withdrawn from the game under the concussion protocols. So, after Danny Lamb substituted yesterday for Joe Mennie at Worcester, Max Waller follows him as the second concussion substitute in quick succession. Concussion substitutes can bat *and* bowl so, at 209-9, Max Waller came out to bat, with Somerset still 70 behind and the situation hopeless. His innings was brief and Surrey wrapped-up the most brutal of wins by an innings and 69, moving to the top of the table in the process. Rikki Clarke ended the match with 42, 4-32 and 2-50. For Somerset, only James Hildreth and, to a smaller degree, Lewis Gregory showed the necessary application. As a statement of intent, this was very convincing, all the more so because the normal Surrey wrecking-ball, Amar Virdi, finished with match figures of 0-106. Surrey have been struggling for balance in recent seasons, oscillating at times between having too many veterans and too young a side; Surrey 2018 look like a title-winning side, with the right balance of youth and experience, some exciting batting and a bowling unit that covers all bases. As they stand proudly at the top of Division One tonight, they may reflect that today was the day that set up a surge to the title.
It appears that Ryan Patel’s effort yesterday may well be a new First Class record. Although Pat Pockcock once took seven wickets in 11 balls, that was at the end of a spell; it seems that no bowler has ever taken six wickets with fewer deliveries in an innings and his first five wickets came with his first eleven deliveries of the match.
At Chelmsford, Nottinghamshire challenged Essex to score by far the largest total of the match to win. At 143-7 Essex may have thought that the chase would be kept within bounds, but 87 from Tom Moores pushed Nottinghamshire up to 266ao and the target to 441. Essex need to more than double their first innings score to win and, realistically, someone needs to score a double century if Essex are to chase this down. Whoever was to be the Essex hero, it was not to be Alastair Cook: in a situation where, at his best, he would thrive on the pressure, he went for a second ball duck to get Essex off to the worst of starts. Matt Milnes then added a second wicket, bowling Varun Chopra to leave Essex 15-2 and fighting to see out the day. A fifty partnership between Dan Lawrence and Ravi Bopara for the fourth wicket gave Essex some hope, but Samit Patel had Lawrence caught and bowled with his first delivery and, with it, you think that at 86-4, any hope of victory had gone. Essex managed to get through to the Close with no further loss, 88-4, needing 353 more to win. Ravi Bopara us 33* and in the company of nightwatchman, Jamie Porter. You would not put much money on any result other than a Nottinghamshire win.
At Worcester Day 2 had ended with Worcestershire 361-4 and already way out of sight. Damian D’Oliviera only had to decide when to declare. After batting for 96 overs and scoring at over 5-an-over, he finally called his side in, setting 602 to win. If Worcestershire had expected their opponents to fold tamely again, they were to be disappointed. Jennings and Davies batted calmly against attacking fields and added 126 for the first wicket in good time. Jennings and Haseeb Hameed both debuted in India in 2016: Hameed has only regained his place due to injuries but, despite making his best First Class score of the season today, it was only 20 and his season aggregate is just 64 at an average of 6.4. At the other end though, Jennings made another century and, in the process, went past 6000 First Class runs. Like Hameed, Chanderpaul and Jones got a start, but Keaton Jennings needed someone to stay with him for a long time, and neither threatened to do that. At the Close, Jennings was 135* and showing that he remains in prime form, with Dane Vilas 7*. Lancashire, 269-4, need just 333 more to win on the last day and one fears that even a Jennings double century will not be enough to avoid defeat. However, if Lancashire were to bat out the day tomorrow, they would most likely win.
At the Ageas Bowl, Hampshire were 245-3 overnight. The game has continued in slow motion and as the second session of the day progressed and first innings lead was still not decided, the draw became more and more likely. Hampshire were finally bowled out for 443 and a lead of 93, with Jack Brooks taking 5-125, but the slow pace of play – Hampshire only just, barely scraped a third batting point and Yorkshire only managed one bowling point – means that a draw was always going to be favorite. With just four sessions left, Yorkshire should be able to bat out time for a draw, although they need to bat through to Tea tomorrow to make the game totally safe. After a solid start from Lees and Lyth, the introduction of Ollie Rayner suddenly livened things up. Two years ago Rayner should have gone to India, now he has been declared surplus to requirements at Lord’s as Ravi Patel, who has barely played in the last three years, has become the first choice. Rayner came on at 46-0 and made an immediate impact, taking Lyth for 17, caught at the wicket, to make the score 49-1 and then adding Lees, pinned in front for 39. Ollie Rayner has rarely been appreciated as much as he should be, often being used in a purely defensive, holding capacity at Lord’s, but he would be an excellent acquisition for a Division One team that needs a decent spinner, even if he knows that his chances of a Test call are now over (although he could yet play international cricket for Germany, the nation of his birth in the lower echelons of the World Cricket League). At 58-2, suddenly Yorkshire could not afford any more accidents. This left Pujara and Ballance together with a re-building job to do. Pujara has blown hot and cold this season, but has had one truly wonderful spell of form and Gary Ballance has shown consistent run-scoring this season, without making a really big score: this would be a great moment for them to stand tall. With Kyle Abbott and Dale Steyn running in at them in the twilight, this was a pretty good test of the batsmens’ nerve, especially with the still pretty nippy Fidel Edwards to take over when either of them needed a rest. It is also a challenge in another sense given Gary Ballance’s eyesight issue that makes it difficult for his to pick up the pink ball under lights. Fred Boycott would have approved of the way that the two experienced internationals dropped anchor as the Close neared. Even so, life is rarely boring when Fidel Edwards as the ball and, in the penultimate over of the day, Pujara guided a high full toss for six no balls, bringing Yorkshire almost to parity – one is not so convinced that Fred Boycott would have approved of such frivolity with just eight balls of the day remaining: Yorkshire though were happy to take any runs that were offered, however they were offered. Ollie Rayner bowled the last over. Ballance took a single from the first ball and then Pujara blocked out the remaining five, leaving Rayner with the quite unusual figures of 7-3-5-2, Yorkshire 2 runs behind and a critical first hour to come tomorrow afternoon. All results are still possible, with the draw favourite, followed by a Hampshire win, but there is plenty of cricket left in this one.
In Division Two, Northamptonshire finished off the hapless Gloucestershire team in quick order. It took just 17 balls to end the Gloucestershire innings. Miles and Taylor took their partnership to 78, but both needed to score big centuries to extricate Gloucestershire from Brett Hutton’s net. He took both wickets, ending with 8-57 and, chasing 31, Ben Duckett knocked off the runs in 32 balls after Luke Procter had played a maiden to Matt Taylor. Duckett finished 32* and Procter 0*, with no extras.
At Grace Road, a spirited bowling effort from Middlesex had them briefly speculating with a comeback but, in truth, they needed to dismiss Leicestershire for around 80 to feel that they had some chance. Not for the first time, Middlesex struggled to knock over the tail, and the target crept up past 350. This may not seem so many but, when Steve Finn dug one very short to Callum Parkinson, the ball barely bounced at all. The pitch is getting more and more difficult, and the feeling was that even 250 would be a tough chase. In the end, Leicestershire were 186ao, setting Middlesex 381 to win. The afternoon session featured one of the oddest dismissals of the season so far: Fireball Dexter was batting his former county out of the match when he squeezed out a ball from Tim Murtagh on the leg side. He then wandered absently out of his crease, not realising that the ball had reached ‘keeper John Simpson. Had any other fielder picked up the ball, he would have been safe as he was not attempting a run, Simpson though, aware that the recent rule-change to stop unsavoury runouts when the batsman has wandered out of his crease, gardening, or has taken avoiding action, did not affect wicket-keepers, rolled the ball onto the stumps and Dexter was given out, stumped. The last thing that Middlesex needed was to lose Max Holden for a duck in the first over as Ben Raine bowled him a tremendous delivery that was edged through to the ‘keeper. However, increasingly balls that were dropped short were grubbing though, and Sam Robson showed great skill to keep them out, even if the weakness outside off stump that terminated his Test career seems still to be present and problematic on pitches with more bounce. Robson was dealing with the variable bounce well until a ball from Gavin Griffiths almost rolled after pitching and trapped him LBW for 31. Middlesex desperately needed to reach the Close with no further loss, but Dawid Malan, whose form is becoming a concern, fell to Raine at the end of the day and, at 82-3, you feel that it may not last much past Lunch tomorrow.
At Arundel, the game took a sudden an unexpected twist in the morning. Going into the day 202-4, you felt that Durham just needed to bat until mid-afternoon, pick up the three or four bonus points that seemed to be coming their way and, even if they failed to reach the follow-on mark of 403, there would not be enough time for Sussex to force a result. What happened was a carnage so unexpected that the later batsmen got caught in the panic. Will Smith fell to the fifth ball of the morning. Poynter, Coughlin and Rimmington fell for ducks and 202-4 became 211ao. As collapses go, this one was extraordinary and entirely inexplicable. Batting again, Durham lost wickets at frequent intervals. Three of the top four got to 20, but no one could make 50 and act as the foundation for a fightback until, at 189-7, Poynter and Rimmington came together and added 79. Thoughts of the recent wins against the odds came back, but it was too little, too late. Once the stand was broken, there was little more to come. Durham fell to 277ao and lost by an innings and 64.
At Swansea, the game seems to be heading to a sleepy draw. Derbyshire were 207-3 overnight and pushed on to 362, and a handy lead of 79. 103 from Alex Hughes and 54 from Matt Critchley gave them a chance to push for the win if they could take early wickets. Glamorgan though have not read the script and, despite falling to 48-3 and being in desperate trouble, seem to be batting their way to a solid draw. Khawaja is 79*, Carlson 69* and the fourth wicket stand is now 153. Unless there is a huge rattle of wickets in the morning, this match should be a reasonably dreary draw.
At Tunbridge Wells the match has taken an extraordinary turn. Neither side managed to reach 200 in the first innings but that changed suddenly on Day 2, with Kent closing at 359-6 and, apparently, batting the runaway leaders of Division 2 out of the match. Kent continued for 22 overs in the morning before Joe Denly called the batsmen back in, leaving Warwickshire’s openers a tricky spell to face before Lunch. 446-8d and a lead of 518 looked like overkill, but the sudden runglut has continued unabated. Rhodes and Dom Sibley could only put on 44 for the first wicket, with Harry Podmore showing once more what a brilliant acquisition he has been for Kent. However, the arrival of Ian Bell saw the batsmen take total command again. Ian Bell knows that he is not going to get his England place back, but he is taking diabolical revenge on Division Two bowlers. He and Sibley have put on 185 so far; Bell reached his century three overs before the Close, while Sibley is on 82* and Warwickshire have reached 229-1, needing 290 more to win, with both batsmen scoring freely and runs coming uncomfortably fast for Kent’s liking. While all logic says that Kent must win this, were Bell and Sibley to get to Lunch unbeaten, Warwickshire might just fancy their chances. With 96 overs to bowl, the required run rate is under 3 and, if a side bats through the day, they would expect to get the runs. Kent though know that a wicket in the first hour should put the skids in the Warwickshire challenge: this could be a wonderful last day.
6/21/2018 0 Comments
by Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Day 2 of the battles at the top and the bottom of the table. There is a lot of cricket still to play in all four Division 1 matches, but definitely, there are three sides that will be viewing their match situation with great satisfaction. In the two top of the table clashes, there is no doubt that Surrey will be the happiest of the four sides, followed closely by Nottinghamshire, while Worcestershire will reflect on a day when things suddenly went gloriously right. Yes, there are all the elements for a shake-up at the top of the table at the end of this round of games – and at the bottom too.
Of course, avid followers of the game know that the action on the field is only part of the story: the rivalry between commentators is often the most entertaining part of the game. Right now, Dave Bracegirdle is in clover… and quite right he is too! Meanwhile, in the genteel surroundings of Guildford Cricket Club, Mark Church is wearing a grin that the Cheshire Cat would envy and chuckling away to himself on the microphone. So, let’s start at Guildford where, even if Surrey have not quite had things all their own way, only the news that Churchie has won the lottery could improve his mood much further.
If you are a Somerset supporter, the good news is that the Surrey innings included two ducks and a 0*. The bad news is that having been put in, the other eight batsmen accrued 459 runs between them. Yes, that is egg on the captain’s face and probably the bacon and the frying pan too. There is also a degree of relief that, at 447-7, Somerset could have been facing 500+. A century from Ollie Pope that eye-witnesses were drooling over was the ventral column of a Surrey total that just about eliminates defeat as a possibility and leaves Somerset with a lot to do to stay up with the game. The pitch is nowhere near as easy as the score suggests and the suggestion is that probably 350 batting first was about par for the course. This was confirmed when Somerset suffered an astonishing collapse to 180ao, 279 behind. Like yesterday, this has definitely not Tom Abell’s day: edges just avoided fielders, marginal LBW shouts fell to the batsman… Somerset suffered a lot of frustration and, had their luck ran differently; things could have looked much better for them. Almost as worrying is that Jack Leach was only entrusted with 4 of the 120+ overs in the innings, suggesting that he is still not fully fit.
Despite the fact that the pitch was not entirely straightforward, Surrey obtained their five batting points with plenty to spare and, what is just as important, denied Somerset a third bowling point. Then, with the follow-on mark standing at 310, Rikki Clarke, who had an excellent day, followed-up his 42, by coming on after Morkel and Dernbach had got no joy from the new ball and put in a wrecking-ball spell. Somerset were 53-0 and looked in no great difficulty. Clarke’s first three overs had gone for 15, and Amar Virdi had not conjured anything either in his first, probing spell. Then, in his fourth over, Clarke got a catch to de Bruyn from Matt Renshaw and, suddenly, the skids were under the Cidermen. In his next over, he pinned George Bartlett LBW for a duck and then, with the last ball of his sixth over, got James Hildreth too. Suddenly, Somerset were 63-3, Surrey had their first bowling point, putting them 3 points ahead of Somerset overall and that follow-on mark looked a long way away. Abell and Byrom tried to re-build and, seemed to have steadied the ship but Rikki Clarke came back and with his eighth ball, got Tom Abell to edge behind. Somerset 117-4 and sinking. Byrom and Davies put on a 50 partnership and Somerset were scrambling back into the match, albeit in a slightly undignified fashion. Little were they to imagine what the fall of Ed Byrom for 52 would bring.
Ryan Patel is an Academy product who had taken just two wickets in his previous seven First Class matches. Nor had he shown any bowling form for Surrey 2nd XI with his medium pace. Patel came on, and Somerset disintegrated and, with it, possibly their hopes of the Pennant. Patel’s spell went like this:
3.5-2-5-6, including a triple-wicket maiden. Crazy! Rory Burns enforced the follow-on, and Somerset were left with 199 overs to survive. They have got through seven of them to close on 18-0 but, then, their first innings started with a partnership of 53 for the first wicket. In boxing terms, Somerset are hanging-on on the ropes, with their opponent all over them, looking to finish off the contest quickly.
Standard issue from Dave Bracegirdle is a tweet in mid-afternoon of a sun-drenched pitch with the legend “afternoon delight”. On this occasion, the fact that his beloved Nottinghamshire had Essex in desperate trouble only added feeling to the post. Nottinghamshire pushed on from 311-6 to 380ao. Four bonus points and contributions all the way down the order to back up Ross Taylor’s 146. For Essex, Simon Harmer’s 4-70 helped keep the score respectable, but Nottinghamshire’s powerful attack had a score to defend and set about doing it. At 26-3, with Chopra, Westley and Lawrence back in the hutch, Essex were in deep, deep trouble and in need of a big innings from Alastair Cook: he and Bopara reached the 50 partnership, and it seemed that the crisis had passed, but Harry Gurney ended Cook’s tenacious innings – more than 2 hours for 33 – and the responsibility passed to Ravi Bopara. The trouble was that no one was willing to stay with him for long. Adam Wheater scored 24 before edging Luke Fletcher to Tom Moores, and an end was open. The Nottinghamshire attack then dynamited the lower middle order as Carter and Fletcher shared the wickets between them. Carter bowled Bopara for 69 and the question of whether or not Chris Nash would enforce the follow-on became a point of discussion: 156-8 and 224 behind, it came down to strategy, with the assumption that, with more than 2 days to play, Nottinghamshire would bat Essex out of the game and declare at leisure. With the situation hopeless, Neil Wagner decided to go down swinging and scored 37 in 23 balls, with 3x6, before Matt Carter got his revenge. Even when Wagner fell, there was maddening tenth wicket partnership of 21 before Carter got Quinn too to end the entertainment.
As was logical with a lead of 174, Chris Nash decided that the only way that Nottinghamshire could lose was to enforce the follow-on. Although he fell for 8, Nottinghamshire closed on 35-1, 209 ahead and looking to declare some time during the afternoon tomorrow, with a 23-point win firmly in their sights. With Somerset looking to be heading for defeat, a win will put the Outlaws firmly back in the mix and make Dave Bracegirdle purr contentedly for a good while to come.
At Worcester Day 1 had ended with an epic Lancashire collapse. Keaton Jennings was left watching in bewilderment at the non-striker’s end as 77-0 became 86-5, with Parry, Hameed Chanderpaul and Jones all departing for ducks. Dane Vilas broke the sequence, but Clark and Onions became the fifth and sixth batsmen to depart without troubling the scorer. In the end, 77-0 became 96-7 in 8.1 overs as Ed Barnard ran rampage. Jennings fell finally for 55, pinned by Magoffin and Lancashire were, amazingly, 130ao and chasing the game. Daryl Mitchell and Martin Guptill then came out and flayed the new ball attack, then flayed the change bowlers and then started to enjoy themselves as they added 215 for the first wicket at 6.5 an over. Guptill finally fell for 111, but Mitchell continued happily past his century. With the lead past 400, it is just a matter of when Worcestershire will decide to pull out. Lancashire face a massive defeat and being sucked into real relegation trouble, while Worcestershire may just have given themselves a life-line. Worse still for Lancashire was that Joe Mennie took a horrible blow to the head when Martin Guptill slammed the ball back at him and is now confirmed to be missing the rest of the match as he is monitored. Danny Lamb becomes the first substitute to appear under the new concussion protocol. Mennie has not yet been to the hospital, but is feeling understandably shaken: should he show symptoms of a concussion he will be taken for a check-up.
Mitchell finally fell for 163 to add to his first innings 118. Tom Fell added 62. Worcestershire close on 361-4, already 478 ahead and, undoubtedly, in no hurry to declare, as this is great therapy for batsmen who have been low on confidence.
At the Ageas Bowl, Yorkshire extended their overnight 315-7 to 350ao. When Tim Bresnan and Jack Brooks fell quickly, it looked as if all hope of the fourth batting point had gone with them, but Steve Patterson and Ben Coad 31 from 35 balls with the sort of partnership that drives bowlers and captains to distraction. The fourth batting point obtained, with no hope of a fifth, the captain, Patterson, did the decent thing and allowed the suffering Abbott his small moment of glory. 350ao was a marketable total and all the more so from the depths of 21-3. However, the suspicion is that this game will need to speed up a little on the third day to produce a result as, even if they did not make the best of starts, Hampshire have shown that there are no great demons in the wicket. A century for Jimmy Adams has led the reply despite the early loss of Weatherley and then falling to 68-3 and James Vince and Sam Northeast fell in quick succession. Adams and Tom Alsop though batted with comfort as the pink ball softened. 245-3 at the Close, this match is looking increasingly like a draw. Yorkshire desperately need early wickets tomorrow. Jimmy Adams will start the third day 132*, while Tom Alsop is 62* and the possibility exists that Hampshire will be able to gain a substantial first innings lead and put real pressure on Yorkshire on the last day.
The race for a place in the semi-finals of the Royal London One Day cup begins tomorrow as Essex, Kent, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire all seek Play-Off glory.
We’ll start at Trent Bridge as Nottinghamshire and Kent take the starting gun as they get underway at 11 am, three-hours before Essex tackle the White Rose at Chelmsford in front of the sky-live cameras.
Nottinghamshire enters the encounter fresh from their demolition job on Derbyshire to sneak an unlikely home tie. The defending champions weren’t there usual dominant self and indeed had to rely on other results to even reach this stage of the competition. With five wins out of eight enough to see the Outlaws through to another knockout stage, their latest win an eight-wicket stroll against the Falcons boosted their net run-rate enough to set up this enticing looking encounter with a decent looking Kent side blessed with batting talent throughout.
Joe Denly and Heino Kuhn have impressed through the competition leading the run-scoring charts in the competition. Denly, in particular, has looked in imperious form throughout and his and Kuhn’s rare failure at Chelmsford last week is in small part why they have to travel to the Midlands. The Spitfires looked sure bets entering play on the final game week to be lining up in Canterbury but came short against Essex.
It will be a proper battle between Nottinghamshire’s talented bowling attack and Kent’s star-studded batting line-up, and much will decide on that battle as to who goes on to win this match. Jake Ball and Harry Gurney are always a threat, and with Samit Patel’s spin in the middle overs, the Outlaws are a tough side to dominate.
With bat in hand though, they have the players that can quickly blow a side away. Steven Mullaney – who has recently been named Lions skipper for an upcoming tour is full of talent and can hit some lusty blows at the top of the order, Ross Taylor is one of the best one-day players on the planet, and Riki Wessels can hit a ball a long, long way.
For Kent, a lot will depend on the control that Matt Henry offers with the ball, and the ever-reliable Darren Stevens is always a danger on his day. The evergreen all-rounder will want to have one final day in the sun as his career begins to enter its twilight stage and this could well be the time to produce.
This match has the makings of a belter, but if I was a betting man I have Nottinghamshire to just edge it due to their big match experience in recent years. The winners of this encounter will face Worcestershire in the Semi-Finals.
Elsewhere, Essex makes a rare appearance on Sky Sports as they chase another semi-final place with victory over Yorkshire.
The Eagles were dealt an early blow in the lead up to the match following the news that skipper Ryan ten Doeschate will be banned for this match and one other for breaching ECB rules on the field. Handy time eh Colin? It means that Tom Westley will deputise for the Dutchman as he leads his troops to battle against a weakened Yorkshire side. The Tykes will be missing a number of key men with England now in the midst of a pointless One-Day series with Australia.
Still, Yorkshire’s loss is Essex’s gain, as the hosts welcome back England opener Alastair Cook to the ranks – whether the former England skipper will make the side remains to be seen given the excellent form of Varun Chopra and Adam Wheater in recent weeks. Indeed, the openers have played a substantial part in the Eagles unbeaten run to take them to this stage.
Three wins on the spin have taken them from no-hopers to genuine contenders for the title. At the end of their heavy defeat to Surrey at Chelmsford they looked dead and buried but wins against Glamorgan, Sussex and Kent gave them a home tie against Yorkshire.
Ravi Bopara has also found form with both bat and ball in this competition giving a timely reminder to the England selectors that he may well not be a bad shout for a call-up to the national side given the calamitous batting that England have been offering up recently. Though, you suspect his age may well be a factor that means he falls short of adding to his 100+ ODI caps for England. It is not only his batting that has been impressive, but he has also produced vital wickets for Anthony McGrath’s men on route to this Play-off clash.
For the visitors, they were dealt a blow with the news that none of their international stars will be available for this encounter with Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid and David Willey all missing for the Tykes. It does though give the opportunity for the fringe players to make a name for themselves in their absence.
Ben Coad, Jack Brooks and Tim Bresnan have the task of stopping the Eagles batting line-up at tiny Chelmsford. Though, you would think they would have fond memories of the Chelmsford sun having defeated the Eagles in the County Championship earlier this season.
Their batsmen may not though after they were skittled for a pitiful 50 in the same fixture. One man who will be looking forward to striding to the crease is Harry Brook – who made his maiden century in the second innings of that match and will be hoping to repeat the trick again. Tom Kohler-Cadmore is another man the Essex bowlers will be keen to dismiss cheaply as the former Worcestershire man has found some useful form in recent weeks.
You would think given the weakening of the visitors’ side that Essex would be firm favourites for the clash but write the Tykes off at your peril.
The winners of the match will face Hampshire in the semi-finals
By David Bowden
5/11/2018 0 Comments
By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
Ball dominated bat on the opening day of the fifth game week of the Specsavers County Championship Division One season, no fewer than 39-wickets fell as the heat subsided and the cool air returned to give the bowlers a much-needed lift.
We’ll start with the leaders Nottinghamshire who endured their worst day since promotion after finding a rampant Lancashire side too hot to handle at Trent Bridge. An already talented Red Rose bowling attack was further bolstered by a fired up James Anderson keen to bounce back from a disappointing match last week against Somerset. With that in mind, Lancashire skipper Liam Livingstone used his right to do away with the toss and invited the hosts to have the first crack at batting. Jake Libby and Steven Mullaney negotiated Anderson’s first over fairly successfully but couldn’t see our Graham Onions’ first over unscathed as the former Durham man removed with Nottinghamshire skipper Mullaney with the penultimate ball of the 2nd over. The naggingly accurate pace duo continued to frustrate the Outlaws top order with runs very much a premium under the hazy Trent Bridge sky. Chris Nash and Libby plodded their way to 46-1 from eighteen and a half overs when Nash was finally put out of his misery departing gritty 18, Onions again the man with the breakthrough. In his very next over, the former England man struck for a third time, this time removing the dangerous Ross Taylor for a duck. Libby must have been watching at the other end of the wicket, thinking ‘come on chaps, this isn’t that hard’. He had moved on to a very patient 34 but must have been dreaming of a nice warm cuppa as he wafted at a ball from Jordan Clark and was snaffled at slip by Livingstone. That left the hosts in a spot of bother on 80/4 and in unfamiliar territory given their largely enjoyable return to the top flight. All that was left now from a Lancashire point of view was for James Anderson to join the wicket-taking party and he did just that striking twice in quick succession to remove Riki Wessels and Tom Moores with Samit Patel run out in between also to leave the hosts on 106/7 and in need of some Stuart Broad magic. After all, he has had the magic touch all week you only have to look at his football fantasy team to know that. The Nottinghamshire faithful were treated to a little 28-ball cameo from the England man but his 20 wasn’t enough to rescue an already sinking ship. Indeed, Tom Bailey finished off the tail and the hosts were dismissed for a disappointing 133.
Fifties for Keaton Jennings (52 not out) and Alex Davies (50) had seemingly given the visitors the upper hand, but a late fightback with the ball has meant that there is still work to do for the Red Rose as they look to finally capitalise on a good start to a County Championship fixture. They close day one with a lead of 24, on 157-4.
Ollie Pope’s blossoming career continued at the Oval as the youngster helped Surrey return back to the straight and narrow against Yorkshire. The Tykes enjoyed a promising start removing four of the top five before 70 was notched up on the scoreboard. That left the Surrey chairmen seeing if the ink had dried on that Virat Kohli contract and getting out the tipex to see if they can change the start date of his contract to today. Dean Elgar and Pope though began to calm the nerves in Surrey dressing room with good measured cricket shots as they slowly silenced an excitable Yorkshire fielding side. The duo shared an unbroken 50-run stand together before the White Rose were back off celebrating again as the South African departed for a well-made 61, England’s Joe Root acting as the golden arm again. Unprederbed though, Pope continued on his merry way slotting the ball away with ease and grace in front of the watching England captain, who would surely be impressed by the 20-year-old. The Londoner would need a partner though if he was going to help the Rey put a decent score on the board, and he finally found one in Rikki Clarke. The former Warwickshire man played a masterful counter charge act to offer the perfect support to Pope. Clarke and Pope took the score beyond 250 and towards 300 as the pair found the rope with alarming regularity. Pope had hit 22-fours in his unbeaten 131 at close, whilst Clarke had his 10 fours and 2 sixes during his entertaining 91-ball 71. Connor McKerr joined the Pope following Clarke’s departure and the young pair would take the hosts through to a dominant position at close at 366-7, a million miles away from the trouble they had previously found themselves in after lunch.
Elsewhere, Worcestershire enjoyed their best day of the season against Champions Essex at New Road. Bizarrely, given their batting fragility at the moment, Ryan ten Doeschate decided to chance his arm at having a toss seemingly forgetting the fact he could’ve just chucked an equally dodgy batting line-up into the cauldron. Instead, the South-African born Dutchman decided to have a bat in gloomy cold conditions in the Midlands. It would prove to be a fateful decision as the visitors never looked comfortable on a pitch that offered early movement. Indeed, only Alastair Cook looked remotely in control during his innings, but even he could only manage 37. The Essex batting line-up looks a shadow of the 2017 side that won by an innings quite frequently during their unbeaten Championship winning season. Tom Westley, who fought his way into the England Test side last year looks rustier than a nail that has been left in the rain too long, he will perhaps be pleased he reached double figures though after his wretched run of low scores. Of course, credit must be given to the Pears pace attack who piled the pressure on the visitors with some tight overs, and that pressure built to create plenty of errors from the Eagles batsmen. It is become a worrying norm to see players like Peter Siddle (playing his last game for the Eagles in this game week) and Simon Harmer digging the top order out of a hole. Again, the Australian added vital lower order runs making 29 to help the visitors to 177. Josh Tongue was the pick of the host's attack collecting four for 45 as the visitors fell short of expectation again. In quickly fading light the Pears easily survived 17-overs of Porter, Siddle and Cook to reach 47 without loss at the close as they enjoyed a very positive opening day.
Lastly, Somerset continued their fine early season form to gain the upper hand in their rain-affected opening day encounter with Hampshire at Taunton. Somerset skipper Tom Abell was the unlikely hero with the ball claiming 3-18 as the visitors crumbled to 198-8 at close. The part-time spin of Abell accounted for James Vince – who again failed to kick on after making another decent start, Joe Weatherley and Lewis McManus. Rilee Rossouw made a pleasing 38 as he slowly starts to return to form before becoming Dom Bess’ only wicket on the innings thus far. But it will be Abell who will be the happiest man in the West Country after collecting 3-wickets to help justify his decision to bowl first after Hampshire asked to have a toss at the County Ground.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid
Division 1 already looks to be a battle between 3 or 4 sides. There is only one really juicy clash, but some interesting games are promised.
Surrey v Yorkshire
Surrey squad: Rory Burns (captain), Gareth Batty, Scott Borthwick, Rikki Clarke, Sam Curran, Jade Dernbach, Dean Elgar, Ben Foakes, Conor McKerr, Stuart Meaker, Ryan Patel, Ollie Pope, Mark Stoneman, Amar Virdi
Yorkshire squad: Gary Ballance ©, Jonny Bairstow (WK), Tim Bresnan, Harry Brook, Jack Brooks, Karl Carver, Jack Leaning, Adam Lyth, Steven Patterson, Cheteshwar Pujara, Joe Root, Josh Shaw, James Wainman
Yorkshire lose Ben Coad for this match that is undoubtedly the pick of the Division 1 clashes. After their miracle win, Yorkshire are firmly back on the Championship train. Dean Elgar returns for Surrey, who will be disappointed to have managed only two draws against the bottom two clubs. This is the last chance for England Test contenders to impress: with runs for Gubbins and Jennings, Mark Stoneman knows that he needs runs. For Yorkshire, this is likely to be the last that they see of Root and Bairstow. An Oval pitch that was full of runs looks an unlikely surface to produce a positive result, but Amar Virdi can expect to get a lot of overs in and will hope to enhance his growing reputation.
Nottinghamshire v Lancashire
Nottinghamshire squad: Jake Libby, Chris Nash, Steven Mullaney (c), Stuart Broad, Riki Wessels, Harry Gurney, Matt Milnes, Luke Fletcher, Samit Patel, Tom Moores (wkt), Ross Taylor, Jake Ball, Billy Root.
Lancashire squad: Liam Livingstone (c), James Anderson, Tom Bailey, Shiv Chanderpaul, Jordan Clark, Steven Croft, Alex Davies, Haseeb Hameed, Keaton Jennings, Graham Onions, Stephen Parry, Matt Parkinson, Dane Vilas
Nottinghamshire start this round of matches in pole position and will see the Lancashire side as vulnerable and another potential win, having already beaten them at Old Trafford. Joe Mennie has a thigh strain and misses out, undoubtedly reducing the potency of the Lancashire attack, while Jimmy Anderson will hope for a much better outing this week. The Nottinghamshire attack has looked imperious so far this season and Stuart Broad has looked like the bowler of five years ago. There are signs though that Lancashire are starting to get to grips with Division 1, although they will be concerned that they could not close out a strong position against Somerset and the Nottinghamshire attack will test them sorely.
Somerset v Hampshire
Somerset squad: Tom Abell (c), George Bartlett, Eddie Byrom, Josh Davey, Steve Davies, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Matt Renshaw, Paul van Meekeren.
Hampshire squad: Jimmy Adams, Joe Weatherley, Mason Crane, Brad Taylor, Rilee Rossouw, James Vince*, Hashim Amla, Kyle Abbott, Gareth Berg, Ryan Stevenson, Fidel Edwards, Lewis McManus, Tom Alsop, Brad Wheal.
Could this be Somerset’s season? Most pundits have marked Somerset for relegation but, despite a relative lack of impact by Jack Leach so far, Somerset are looking to be one of the strongest sides in the Division. Marcus Trescothick is unavailable with a broken toe, but Eddie Byrom is available again, but there are doubts about Josh Davey’s fitness. Hampshire pushed Nottinghamshire very hard on the last day at Trent Bridge and will need to show similar determination to get a result from this game. While the Somerset seam attack is looking strong, Hampshire have been lacking an attack leader, with Fidel Edwards blowing hot and cold and often very expensive.
Worcestershire v Essex
Worcestershire squad: Mitchell, D’Oliveira, Fell, Clarke, Head, Cox, Barnard, Leach, Twohig, Morris, Tongue, Magoffin
Essex squad: Ryan ten Doeschate (27) Captain, James Foster (7) Wicket-keeper, Aaron Beard (14), Ravi Bopara (25), Nick Browne (10), Varun Chopra (6), Alastair Cook (26), Sam Cook (16), Simon Harmer (11), Dan Lawrence (28), Jamie Porter (44), Peter Siddle (64), Tom Westley (21)
This is not a game that many people would have picked as a relegation battle at this stage of the season, but Worcestershire, despite having their moments, have looked badly off the pace and how much Essex’s confidence will have been harmed by defeat to Yorkshire remains to be seen. Another defeat for Worcestershire would leave them short-odds to drop back into Division 2, while Essex desperately need the win to kick-start their season. Worcestershire welcome back Steve Magoffin to strengthen their attack. Essex’s problems are not hard to identify: Alastair Cook is struggling for runs at the top of the order and Tom Westley has hardly scored a run since being dropped by England, leaving the batting short of punch. The Essex squad is unchanged and they will look to restore their fortunes at New Road.
County Championship Division 2
Division 2 is lagging behind Division 1 but this round of matches throws up a couple of fascinating encounters that could help shape the table.
Kent v Sussex
Kent squad: 6 Joe Denly (c), 23 Daniel Bell-Drummond, 58 Sean Dickson, 4 Heino Kuhn, 16 Zak Crawley, 10 Alex Blake, 3 Darren Stevens, 25 Calum Haggett, 12 Adam Rouse (wk), 24 Matt Henry, 1 Harry Podmore, 5 Ivan Thomas, 33 Adam Riley.
Sussex squad: 26 Ben Brown (c/wk), 21 Danny Briggs, 5 Michael Burgess, 15 George Garton, 6 Harry Finch, 25 Ollie Robinson, 11 Abi Sakande, 28 Phil Salt, 97 Ishant Sharma, 74 Stiaan van Zyl, 96 David Wiese, 32 Luke Wells, 10 Luke Wright
Third against second in the table. Both sides had good wins last week. Kent have now won their last two games and a third win would see them well-positioned to make a long-overdue promotion bid. This though is the classic “promotion 32-pointer”, with the winner damaging the loser’s challenge, as well as setting-out their own credentials. Kent welcome back Blake and Hackett, while Will Gidman continues to tread water on the sidelines. Sussex have Ishant Sharma back in their squad. The struggling Kent batting will have their hands full with the Sussex attack.
Warwickshire v Northants
Warwickshire squad: Patel, Ambrose, Barker, Bell, Brookes, Hain, Hose, Hannon-Dalby, Lamb, Rhodes, Sibley, Stone, Thompson, Trott, Wright
Northants squad: Wakely (c), Newton, Duckett, Levi, Keogh, Procter, Rossington, Cobb, Crook, Bracewell, Hutton, Sanderson
Warwickshire have a chance here to go further clear at the top of the table against the side that appears to be comfortably the weakest in the Division. Ryan Sidebottom has a side strain, but Olly Stone and Keith Barker are available again for Warwickshire. The Warwickshire attack has so far swept all before it and comes up against a Northants side short of confidence that seems to depend too much on Bracewell. A third win in four games would leave Warwickshire in a very strong position.
Middlesex v Gloucestershire
Middlesex squad: Dawid Malan (captain), Tom Barber, Hilton Cartwright, Stephen Eskinazi, Steven Finn, Nick Gubbins, James Harris, Tom Helm, Max Holden, Eoin Morgan, Ollie Rayner, Sam Robson, John Simpson (wicket-keeper)
Gloucestershire squad: Dent (c), Howell, Bracey, Roderick, J.Taylor, van Buuren, Higgins, Noema-Barnett, Miles, Worrall, M.Taylor, Liddle, Hankins.
Not a game that would have caused Middlesex many sleepless nights when the fixture list was published but, now, they are desperately in need of a win and cannot afford a defeat. Tim Murtagh and Paul Stirling hope to make their Test debuts in Dublin, but Middlesex recover Steve Finn, who has been getting back match fitness in the 2nd XI and Eoin Morgan. Gloucestershire name the same squad that were robbed by rain of possible victory against Sussex. A measure of Chris Dent’s determination to regain form was that he joined van Buuren and various others of the 1st XI in the 2nd XI team that overwhelmed Glamorgan 2nd XI this week. Dent scored runs and van Buuren took wickets. Gloucestershire are likely to field an unchanged XI, with Ryan Higgins keen to join the long list of players released by Middlesex who have haunted their former county. Higgins has been promoted to the new ball and has runs and wickets to his name. The loser of this game will probably be parking any thoughts of promotion.
Derbyshire v Durham
Derbyshire squad: 1. Billy Godleman, 26. Ben Slater, 10. Luis Reece, 77. Wayne Madsen, 18. Alex Hughes, 20. Matt Critchley, 11. Daryn Smit, 16. Harvey Hosein, 41. Ravi Rampaul, 7. Hardus Viljoen, 74. Duanne Olivier, 28. Tony Palladino, 44. Will Davis
Durham squad: Paul Collingwood (c), Aiden Markram, Cameron Steel, Will Smith, Graham Clark, Gareth Harte, Michael Richardson, Stuart Poynter (wk), James Weighell, Mark Wood, Nathan Rimmington, Matt Dixon, George Harding
Mark Wood has decided to return early from the IPL in an attempt to get back into the England side. Gary Wilson is playing for Ireland, so Derbyshire name both Smit and Hosein as potential replacements and Tony Palladino is again available. Durham have been boosted by their extraordinary comeback win against Leicestershire and know that a second win would put them back in the hunt for promotion, while Derbyshire’s strong attack will pose a real challenge. Chris Rushworth and Barry McCarthy are injured, but loan signing Matt Dixon seems likely to play, while George Harding and Gareth Harte have been withdrawn from the current Durham 2nd XI match to reinforce the squad.
Leicestershire v Gamorgan
Leicestershire squad: Carberry (capt), Aaron, Ackermann, Cosgrove, Dexter, Griffiths, Hill (wk), Horton, Javid, Klein, Parkinson, Raine.
Glamorgan squad: Hogan (capt), Selman, Murphy, Marsh, Donald, Carlson, Cooke (wk), Lloyd, Salter, Carey, de Lange, van der Gugten, Smith.
Two sides that lost badly last time out and need a boost. Leicestershire have just about forgotten how to win and, on a dead Grace Road pitch, will at least be confident of avoiding defeat. Glamorgan name an unchanged squad. Ned Eckersley injured against Durham is replaced by Lewis Hill for Leicestershire, while Ateeq Javid's excellent 2nd XI form earns him a call-up to the squad. Leicestershire say that they feel that the team is “in a really good place” despite the loss to Durham, but Glamorgan have been showing signs of some real form.
5/6/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
The games at Old Trafford and The Oval are heading for the most tedious of draws, but events at Chelmsford have more than made up for them. As for Trent Bridge, a finish is on the cards, but there is still plenty of life in the game.
Only six times in Championship history has a side been bowled out for fifty or fewer in the first innings and won. The fans would have turned up at Chelmsford this more expecting a tight finish, after all, Essex were 97-4 and only needed 141 more to win, with two set batsmen at the crease. A tight finish threatened. What no one expected was that, after a steady start, they would implode in the most extraordinary way. Six overs were seen off, seventeen added. Suddenly, things went horribly wrong for Essex. Ben Coad got ten Doeschate and James Foster with the second and fifth balls of the 39th over and Harmer with the last ball of his next over. Then Steve Patterson took Dan Lawrence. 114-4 had become 114-8 and the match was all over bar the shouting (mainly expressed as fevered appeals). Although Siddle, Porter and Cook hung around for a while, the result was never in doubt. Yorkshire came back from being bowled out in a little over an hour on the first morning to win by the large margin of 91 runs and go top of the table, at least temporarily.
No such fun at Old Trafford, or at The Oval. Both games look set to end in the driest of dull draws. Surrey must have been licking their lips and be anticipating an easy win when they saw that Worcestershire would be coming. Reality though has been different. Worcestershire have passed Surrey’s 434 with something to spare and could yet get far enough ahead tomorrow to make Surrey bat for survival. Given though that the biggest danger to the batsman on this pitch is boredom, it will take something nigh on miraculous to produce a result. Worcestershire will begin the final day 469-6, 35 ahead and will be hoping to add enough runs to make Surrey at least a little nervous tomorrow.
At Old Trafford, any chance of a good finish tomorrow depended on Lancashire making a monumental score and being able to put some pressure on Somerset in the last two sessions. The good news for England was that Keaton Jennings took full advantage of the benign conditions to score an excellent century. He has been getting in recently, but not pushing on – trying too hard, perhaps? – but, today, it came right. In the company of Dane Vilas, who made the first double century of the season, they nullified the Somerset attack (perhaps “attack” was being generous here, with conditions so loaded in favour of the bat). They put on 201 together. At 431-5, Lancashire looked set for a big lead. An amazing collapse in the circumstances saw them fall to 443-9 before Clark and Parkinson added 49 for the last wicket. With no Marcus Trescothick, Renshaw opened with Davies and saw Somerset to 51-0 and near parity at the Close. It is now hard to see any way that there can be a result here.
At Trent Bridge, there should be a finish. Nottinghamshire batted far beyond the point at which there was any reason to do so, finally setting Hampshire 469 to win. Ross Taylor scored 83 in just 69 balls and the score mounted at an astonishing pace. Nottinghamshire batted in full T20 mode at the end of their innings and lost some wickets doing so, but they were set on enjoying themselves and did not care in the slightest about wickets. Tasked with surviving four and a half sessions, or a nominal 140 overs, Hampshire started well, but Nottinghamshire just needed a breakthrough. When Samit Patel, who finished the day with remarkable figures of 8-5-6-1, got Weatherley, Gurney added Jimmy Adams quickly and then Stuart Broad bowled a fine delivery to get James Vince cheaply. Amla and Wood hung on to the Close, but it will be a huge surprise if Nottinghamshire does not close this one out and leapfrog Yorkshire back into top spot.
5/5/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
This is a warning to readers: some normal, sensible cricket has happened today and some England players are beginning to show signs of returning form and confidence. Do not adjust your reading glasses!
Starting at Chelmsford, there has been a very severe outbreak of tough, competitive cricket. The bare facts are that after their jet-propelled start last night, Yorkshire stuttered a little, but still set Essex 238 to win. This has left statisticians consulting record books to find out if any side has ever scored as few as fifty in their first innings and won. In truth, Yorkshire should have put this match out of sight, having reached 276-3, with Joe Root and Harry Brook batting beautifully. That they did not was down, in the first place to Ravi Bopara, one of the forgotten men of English cricket and then to a fine spell from Jamie Porter. The day though, belonged to Harry Brook, with a highest score of 38 before this match; the youngster scored his maiden First-Class fifty and then converted it into a maiden ton. First, Pujara, with 41 kept him company and then Joe Root, with 35 although, of the last six, only Leaning with 29 reached double figures. Essex must have been mighty pleased not to be chasing 350 and set off well in pursuit of their target. Alastair Cook, who has not repeated his extraordinary batting for Essex of 2017, looked in decent form, seeing off Coad and Brooks. The introduction of Steve Patterson shook things up, with Cook and the luckless Westley, who has hardly scored a runs since being dropped by England last summer, both fell in the same over and when he repeated the trick by taking Browne and Bopara in the sixteenth over it looked like a quick finish might be in order. Lawrence and ten Doeschate took the score from 55-4 to 97-4 at the Close and left the match in the balance. If they can bat on for an hour in the morning without alarms, this game will be heading for a heart-stopping finish. Patterson, with 4-21, will be planning to derail the Essex bid for a successful chase.
Off to Old Trafford and a game that looks to be heading for a bore draw. If yesterday belonged to Marcus Trescothick – although there are fears that his injury may be career ending – today has belonged to Tom Abell and to Keaton Jennings. Abell fell agonisingly short of his own century, falling for 99 dismissed, appropriately, by Mennie. After his batting struggles since taking on the captaincy, Abell is finally getting rewards, both personal and with the team. Somerset’s 429 though was put into context by the Lancashire batsmen who, after a shaky start, shook off their stupor and were lifted from 48-2 to 217-2 by Keaton Jennings and Dane Vilas. Jennings, with 91* is threatening to be the first serious candidate for the England opening spot to score a century this season, while Vilas is 83*. While the match is seemingly heading for a bore-draw, no one will want to see Keaton Jennings fail to add those extra nine runs tomorrow morning. Spare a thought though for poor Haseeb Hameed, who has lost his England place to injury and to Keaton Jennings and now has lost his place in the Lancashire side.
Another bore draw threatens at The Oval. Surrey’s 434 was built around Rory Burns’ monumental 193. Charlie Morris finally got him when it looked as if the first double century of the season was his for the taking. However, after taking 144 overs to score their 434, they needed wickets to hurry the match along. Worcestershire’s batsmen have struggled horribly so far this season, but look as if they should avoid a fourth consecutive defeat here. So far only Brett D’Oliviera has fallen, LBW to Rikki Clarke for 23. Worcestershire have closed on 135-1 and, with their shaky batting and confidence, it is not impossible that they could lose quick wickets in the morning and end up struggling to avoid the follow-on, but this one looks like a draw unless Virdi can extract something from the pitch.
There should be a finish at Trent Bridge, but it may have to wait until Monday. There is every chance that Nottinghamshire will increase their lead at the top of Division 1 with a third win. Although 69 from Amla and 66 from McManus reduced the Hampshire arrears to something more respectable than seemed likely, 79 put Nottinghamshire in the driving seat unless their batsmen did something stupid. Mullaney and Libby have both reached their fifty. Nottinghamshire are 136-0, 215 ahead and will be looking to turn the screw in the morning. Hampshire will be chasing 350 or more.
5/4/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid) and Harry Hill (@HarryHill96)
It is Spring Bank Holiday weekend. The weather is nice. The rain is forgotten. Pakistan take on Ireland in their inaugural Test next week, before facing England. It is time for England’s stars to show that they are up for it and for suitors for the open positions at opener and at #3 to hammer helpless attacks into cringing submission. That at least is the theory. The practice was that the star opener of the day is a sprightly 42-year-old and that the England stars making hay in the Sun were a little in short supply.
We start at Chelmsford. Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Cheteshwar Puajar, Gary Ballance, Dan Lawrence, Tom Westley. Just tell the bowlers to take a couple of Aspirin before plays starts to dull the pain of a cricked neck caused by watching the ball whizzing past at great speed off broad bats. That was the theory. The reality was that the day looked more like a homage to the Marx Brothers’ classic “Duck Soup”. There was even, at one point, the very real possibility that the extra half hour could be requested to finish the game on the first day. Had it not been for Ballance’s 22 from 41 balls, Yorkshire could genuinely have lost in one day. Harry Brook went for the first duck of the day after nine balls of the morning. Adam Lyth, with seven Tests behind him, joined him back in the Pavilion pretty quickly. Joe Root took his cue from this and got a first-baller. None of them had troubled the scorer and Yorkshire were 9-3, all the runs to Pujara. Sam Cook had 3 wickets and the locals were rubbing their eyes. Pujara, who was obviously getting embarrassed by the length of his stay, rapidly joined the queue of batsmen at the door of the Pavilion. 27 balls. 11-4. Jonny Bairstow, who reportedly only had his first net of the season on Monday, also fell cheaply and surprise at the goings on was no longer sufficient: the members had to resort to astonishment. Six overs of – gosh! – sensible batting followed. Were Yorkshire going to dig in and scramble out of the mire? They reached 41-5 before the question was answered. The last five wickets fell in twenty-six balls for just nine runs. Yorkshire 50 all out and much consulting of the record books.
Surely Essex were going to return some equilibrium to the Force? After all, it was Star Wars day. Answer: no! Alastair Cook added his homage to the Marx Brothers (six balls, caught behind off Jack Brooks). Tom Westley may have fond thoughts of getting his England place back, but his innings, like Joe Root’s, was the shortest possible. In no time Essex were 12-3 and that Yorkshire total started to look like a decent score. The only batsman who seemed not to be in a hurry to get back and have a cup of tea and a chat with his teammates was Dan Lawrence, who even threatened to make a fifty. When Lawrence fell, the procession resumed. With more than forty overs of the day remaining, Essex were 93-7 and a result on the first day looked all too possible. Harmer and Siddle pushed the total up to 142. Yorkshire needed 92 to avoid the innings defeat. There were 31 overs left, plus the possibility of an extra 8. Let the fun begin! And it did, but suddenly it was the batsmen who were enjoying themselves. Jonny Bairstow was sent out to open and responded with 6x4 and 1x6 in a 44-ball 50. Harry Brook, demoted to #3, took his cue from that and Yorkshire knocked-off the deficit at quicker than a run-a-ball. We do not know what the batsmen were served at Tea, but it was certainly performance-enhancing. The bottom line is that Yorkshire lead by 62, with 8 wickets left and suddenly and bizarrely are on top. How often a side is dismissed for 50 in just over an hour and can end the day saying that is open to question. Heaven only knows what these two sides have planned for Day 2.
At Old Trafford it was definitely a batting day and what a hero to take advantage. Marcus Trescothick could well decide to call it a day if Somerset do not win the Championship this year but, if he does, he has shown that he still has runs in him. When Banger was an England regular, Jimmy Anderson was just getting established in the team. Today, he appeared on the pitch as a dyed blonde, possibly hoping to dazzle the batsmen into submission. Even if Matt Renshaw failed to score a century, Banger certainly had no intention of missing out. In the company of George Bartlett the batsmen set about the Lancashire attack, which was made to look pedestrian and helpless. What we did not know is that he had broken a bone in his foot in an awkward fall as he approached his century. Trescothick, who was in obvious pain, got those last few runs, before falling almost immediately to the leg-spin of Livingstone and heading straight off to hospital, where the break was confirmed. Hildreth missed out, but Bartlett went on his sweet way to his own century in company with the gloriously revived captain, Tom Abell. Lancashire were watching the overs ticking-down and beginning to wonder if they were going to get any more than the single bowling point that had been obtained by mid-afternoon. Two wickets in the last hour sweetened the medicine a little, but Somerset will certainly be hoping to obtain full batting points still. Oh yes… Jimmy Anderson ended with 0-70 and added his name to the list of England players who did not have the best of days. Somerset are making a fast start to the season and look to be real contenders for that Championship Pennant.
The Oval, in contrast, saw a day of more attritional play. Worcestershire’s start to the season has been dire and Surrey were in no mood to give anything away. with one exception (need one say that it was a candidate to open the batting in the 1st Test?) Rory Burns batted through the day for 137* and will come back tomorrow hungry for more. When anything happened for Worcestershire it was thanks to Barnard, Leach and Cox in differing combinations. Barnard ran out Stoneman for 28 – his second highest innings of the season so far, his best being 29 – Borthwick and Patel must be twins, both falling for 10 to catches by Cox off Leach, but Ben Foakes, one of the few England possibles to be scoring runs for fun, put on 125 with Burns before falling to the Cox/Barnard combo. With Ollie Pope bedding-in, there is a real danger of Worcestershire having to settle for a single bowling point in the morning. Surrey will hope to accelerate against a tiring attack and rub in their advantage. One thing that Worcestershire will not want is to spend five sessions in the field and concede well over 400, but that scenario looks more than likely right now. Worcestershire may be thinking fondly of how much easier life was in Division 2 last season and consoling themselves that another promotion bid lies in store in 2019. Surrey, in contrast, will be thinking of a 22-point win and getting themselves up into the jostling pack at the top of the table.
Last, but by no means least, the current leaders of Division 1, Nottinghamshire, can reflect on a thoroughly satisfactory day. At 27-3 in the seventh over, they would have settled gratefully for 302ao and three batting points. Their total was based on solid contributions from Ross Taylor (47), Samit Patel (73), Rikki Wessels (54), Tom Moores (29) and Stuart Broad (33), although it took one of those tenth wicket partnerships that drive opposing teams to distraction to add the third batting point, as Harry Gurney and Jake Ball added 27. What was remarkable is that the runs were scored at a fast rate and left Nottinghamshire plenty of time to go at Hampshire with the ball in the evening. While most of the England team and the possibles are having a fairly torrid time, Stuart Broad seems to be reborn. His form has definitely been the exception to the rule and he looks to be raring to go. 3-28, 38 & 1-17 v Worcestershire. Now, 33 with the bat and a fine new ball spell to put the skids under Hampshire and leave them 17-2. Broad has ended the day with figures of 7-3-19-2 and is currently averaging under 11 with the ball and 35 with the bat this season. Those figures won’t last, but the Stuart Broad of a few years ago seems to be back and loving playing cricket. We know how Stuart Broad saves his best for Pakistan and, yes, they are the first Test opponents that he will face. Luke Fletcher supported him well at the other end and, needless to say, another England hopeful, James Vince, his hapless victim. Scores of 75, 12, 6, 33, 47 & 5 make him one of the form England batsmen this season – arguably the only one and will probably earn him a place in the squad for the 1st Test, but today was definitely not his day with the bat. Amla and Rossouw have steadied the innings and taken the score from 23-3 at the fall of Vince, to 70-3 at the Close, but Nottinghamshire know that an early wicket will open-up an end with Liam Dawson at #6 and a long-looking tail. While the late partnership has evened things up, you cannot help thinking that, with the pace that this game is progressing, the win is there for Nottinghamshire if they want it.
Glamorgan V Kent
Allow me to briefly set the scene in Cardiff this morning, everything was calm, Nick Selman and Jack Murphy enjoyed a solid start with a 57 run partnership during the morning session, but the supporters in attendance at Sophia Gardens were unsuspecting of the drama that was about to unfold. After the lunch break, Kent stalwart Darren Stevens was a man possessed and on a mission, aided well by Matt Henry, 8 wickets fell in the first hour. Opening batsman Murphy was left stranded on 39 as Glamorgan fell to 94 all out. In overcast conditions, the Glamorgan batsman couldn’t read the movement that 42-year old Stevens achieved, as he finished on very impressive figures of 6-26. Without being too cheeky, one might wonder whether the Glamorgan batsman got a bit confused and thought the T20 Blast campaign started, falling inside just 15.3 overs after lunch. Perhaps with the surprise of getting out to bat so early in the day, the Kent batsman got off to a shaky start thanks to a good opening spell of bowling from Timm van der Gugten. Nevertheless, Kent skipper Joe Denly steadied the ship in a way the Glamorgan batsman failed to earlier in the day, sharing an important 78 run partnership with rising-star Zak Crawley. Not to be downhearted, van der Gugten soon got back to work, adding Stevens, Rouse and Henry to his scalps, finishing the day with 6-40. Harry Podmore offered some late resistance and is still at the crease with Ivan Thomas, with the spitfires closing on 163-9, 69 runs ahead of their hosts.
Durham v Leicestershire
A huge clash is taking place at Chester-Le-Street as last years’ bottom sides are looking for vital points to kick-start their respective seasons. Leicestershire’s opening batsman, Michael Carberry and Paul Horton got the Foxes off to a fantastic start with an opening partnership of 146, with the level of dogged resistance rarely seen this season. Durham skipper Paul Collingwood must have expected better from the likes of Chris Rushworth and Nathan Rimmington, who were unable to offer much threat with the new ball. Runs continued to flow after lunch with the introduction of Barry McCarthy and James Weighall into the attack. Carberry and Horton went on to make fifties alongside Mark Cosgrove, who were very patient in their attention of the Durham attack. In the final overs of the day, Durham were unable to find a 5th wicket that might open the match-up on day 2, as Mark Cosgrove returns to the crease with Lewis Hill on 66*. Leicestershire reached 301-4 at the close, with more Durham toiling in the field expected tomorrow.
Sussex v Middlesex
Middlesex’s blushes were sparred on the south coast today thanks to a fluent 84* from young Max Holden, who seemed to be the only batsman capable of facing Ollie Robinson in the form that he showed today. More top order woes will be a concern for Dawid Malan’s men, with Gubbins, Robson, the skipper himself and Cartwright all falling short of meaningful contributions. Despite this, full credit should go to Ollie Robinson, achieving career-best figures of 7-58 on a lively pitch at Hove. It could have been worse for Middlesex, had Sussex not dropped the three chances they created, although Stevie Eskinazi and Hilton Cartwright will be disappointed to have not punished such mistakes. At 169-8, and looking like missing out on any batting bonus points, Tim Murtagh added some useful late runs with Holden, as Middlesex finished on 230 all out. However, with the bat, Sussex were unable to capitalise on Robinson’s good work, thanks to some very tight bowling from Tim Murtagh in particular, who picked up the wickets of the opening pair of Luke Wells and Philip Salt. In honesty, it was difficult to see what Middlesex could achieve in the tricky 21 overs left in the day, but the Londoners will be delighted with the wicket of the dangerous Luke Wright towards the close. Sussex will return in the morning 60-4, with Harry Finch set on 26*, 170 runs behind.
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