By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Round 10 of the County Championship started with a bit of a dull squelch, but continued with a bang, as three of the four games had delayed starts due to the rain, but then made up for lost time. Meanwhile, the Essex v Hampshire game at Chelmsford the only non-starter as heavy rain left the bowlers’ run-ups soaked meaning the umpires abandoned play in mid-afternoon. Once again, all eight Division 1 sides had fixtures, with perhaps the stand-out games the one between the bottom two.
Lancashire v Worcestershire
The equation here is simple for both sides: lose and plan for a season in Division 2 next year. With Worcestershire definitely on a rising curve, their situation is less desperate, but having got off the bottom of the table, they can ill-afford to lose to the only side below them in the table. Lancashire, with just three games after this one, all of them away from home, know that a defeat will, quite possibly, be definitive. Both sides made positive noises before the game, but you knew that a draw would not be suitable for either and defeat would be very bad news. While Lancashire played what they hope will be their trump card in the run-in – new signing, Keshav Maharaj – the news that Moeen Ali returns to the England side has robbed the visitors of their talisman. A crowd of 1800 were at Southport to witness the last home game of the season.
This was a day when holding the advantage was rather like an angler struggling to get a slippery fish into his net: every time that you thought that you had the fish under control to biff it on the head, somehow it wriggled away. Worcestershire lost wickets regularly, with Tom Bailey’s 4-41 the star turn for the Red Rose, but 61 from Brett D’Oliviera, supported by thirties from Fell and Clarke, allowed the hosts to reach 222, with 24* from Ed Barnard to marshal the tail, ensuring that his captain’s efforts were rewarded with a batting point. In reply, Lancashire were scarred by Josh Tongue, who reduced them to 4-2 with two wickets in his first over and then 27-3 as Wayne Parnell added Steven Croft. Alex Davies and Dane Vilas initiated a solid-looking recovery, before Davies crashed a drive into Tongue’s boot and on to the stumps, leaving Vilas stranded. Then, just two balls later, Tongue added his third (or fourth) wicket of the day as Davies was adjudged LBW, although the batsman retreated making a meaningful examination of his bat.
Lancashire 96-5 at the Close, 126 behind and this match looks unlikely to go into the last day.
Yorkshire v Somerset
Again, a simple equation for both sides: Somerset need to keep winning and hope that Surrey slip-up; Yorkshire need points increasingly urgently to stave-off the threat of relegation – whisper it softly up North, but there is a real possibility of both Yorkshire and Lancashire going down together at the end of the season.
Somerset have most definitely had the better of the day, which has featured three batsmen reaching 80, with none of them going on to 90. After Somerset crashed to 5-2, thanks to early wickets for Willey and Brooks, Azhar Ali and James Hildreth then put on a merry 137 together and were hammering the attack into submission before Hildreth fell for 81. As Somerset slipped to 229-5, it seemed that the White Rose was hauling itself back into the game. Azhar fell for 89, the top score of the day, but that only brought in Lewis Gregory, who gave the selectors another reminder of his talent with a brutal, 46-ball 65, with 9x4 and 3x6, while Steve Davies accumulated at the other end to the tune of 80. The Yorkshire attack was begging for mercy, seeing the new ball going at around 8-an-over, before Gregory and Davies both fell to Jack Brooks in the same over Brooks has promised the Headingley faithful that his priority in his last five games is helping Yorkshire to stay in Division 1 and seems determined to deliver on that promise. Josh Shaw added Craig Overton just before Stumps, but 374-8 was a pretty good day’s work for the visitors, who will be hoping to squeeze out a fifth batting point in the morning, while Yorkshire will be hoping that Jack Brook’s limp near the end of the day is just a little cramp and not an inhibiting injury.
Surrey v Nottinghamshire
A late start due to the rain means that this game is less advanced than the first two. When Surrey were reduced to 36-3 by Fletcher, Gurney and Wood, the locals must have feared the worst. However, salvation came from an unlikely source, as Mark Stoneman showed that his form is returning slowly. First with Ben Foakes and then with Will Jacks, the innings was stabilised and then made much healthier. Will Jacks must have taken the news that Ollie Pope was on his way from the Ageas Bowl with mixed feelings as Pope will replace him in the XI overnight: had he been on 99* at Stumps, this might have been an awkward situation; fortunately for Pope’s conscience, Milnes bowled Jacks for 48 and so Pope will, presumably, take the field tomorrow, but will not bat until the second innings. At 204-4, it may have looked as if Nottinghamshire were losing the initiative, but two wickets in the last hour have evened the day somewhat, with Surrey indebted to Mark Stoneman, who has fought his way through the day and was 99* at Stumps. At 256-6, Surrey’s priority will be to get to at least the third batting point and to avoid losing the early wickets that might just stop them reaching it. Surrey though are looking at the likelihood of bleeding-off another point or two to Somerset. Whilst, Nottinghamshire will be looking over their shoulder a little nervously wondering if the prospect of a healthy end of season prize-money return could turn into a late relegation scrape with a defeat or two at the back-end of the season.
Essex v Hampshire
With any of the bottom six in the division potentially threatened by relegation, both sides will be looking for points. This game though will be reduced to three days after the first day has been lost. The rain that swept across the country overnight did not clear Chelmsford until after the scheduled start and left the outfield so soaked that, despite multiple inspections, the run-ups were deemed to be unsafe. With better weather promised, this one should get underway tomorrow but will need to play catch-up.
Another full round of matches with all the top five looking at the enticing prospect of Division 1 cricket next season. With Middlesex and Sussex on a roll and Warwickshire winning in the last round, to get their season back on track, Kent and Leicestershire know that they need a win in this round. Here, the stand-out game was undoubtedly the Middlesex v Sussex clash that could help define the season for both teams.
Middlesex v Sussex
The clash between the Middle Saxons and the South Saxons is deliciously set-up by the table. Sussex have come from some way back to gate-crash what looked like a Warwickshire and Kent promotion party, while Middlesex have just produced two extraordinary wins against the odds and are trying desperately to reach the top two. Were Middlesex to win this one and other results to go their way, they would be right in promotion contention. While the day started depressingly badly for the hosts, it took an unexpected late turn and Middlesex will feel that they are, if not favourites, looking at a very surprising, potential, small first innings lead tomorrow.
With heavy cloud overhead, both sides wanted to bowl, so there was no question of a Toss and Sussex took full advantage of the conditions. To the surprise – probably more like, amazement – of patrons, Middlesex have dropped their specialist ‘keeper and given the gloves to Steve Eskinazi, as well as re-calling Ollie Rayner, with the aim of lengthening the batting without reducing the potency of the seam attack. It was easy to reach snap judgements as four of the top five fell in single figures, as the batsmen struggled in the morning session. Nowhere was this more epitomised than by Eoin Morgan’s crawl to 1* from 57 balls. From the relative riches of 99-4, Middlesex subsided to 169 all out, with Max Holden’s 50* holding the innings together: apart from Holden, only Nick Gubbins with 29 and James Fuller with 17 reached double figures. While Archer with 3-34 and Jordan, with 3-26, had the stand-out figures, all the four seamers took at least two wickets.
Middlesex needed a devastating response but, at 87-2, scoring at 5-an-over, Sussex seemed to be setting the basis for a really solid reply. Middlesex though are rarely dull and, in the last forty minutes of play, suddenly roared back into the match. Two wickets for James Fuller and two for James Harris have turned the scoreboard around. Ben Brown and Chris Jordan held on until Stumps but, from 120-6 overnight, will have a big rebuilding job to do in the morning. Middlesex, in contrast, can look forward to the possibility of a small first innings lead or, at worst, only conceding a small one in the morning.
Derbyshire v Kent
The message for Kent is clear: just three times this season they have reached 200 in the first innings, and they have accrued only six batting points – do better or resign yourselves to Division 2 cricket next season. Kent’s response has been to experiment with the batting order – Zak Crawley was moved up to open, and Daniel Bell-Drummond pushed down to the middle order – and the result has been that there is an excellent chance that, in this match, they will almost double their total of batting points for 2018.
When Sean Dickson fell in only the third over of the morning, it looked as if the new batting order was not going to work either. However, Crawley and Denly set about the bowlers with a will and the score mounted apace, as they added 170 at 4-an-over. With Crawley just four short of a maiden century, Tony Palladino beat him and won the LBW appeal. This brought in Heino Kuhn to support Joe Denly. Kuhn saw Denly to his century and then brought up his own fifty. With the partnership on 99, Paladino, who today fancied himself as the fun police, removed Kuhn with another successful LBW appeal after a period when both batsmen were becalmed, and Viljoen then added Denly for 106. Although Sam Billings and Harry Podmore also fell before the Close, Kent are 365-6, with Bell-Drummond 41*, being well-supported by Gavin Stewart (14*) and will be very disappointed if they do not reach the fifth batting point in the morning. Kent have built themselves a pretty good position to get their campaign back on track and will be watching events at Lord’s with great interest.
Glamorgan v Warwickshire
Bottom v top and everything seen so far on the first day indicates that Warwickshire will leave Sophia Gardens with another big haul of points and will make the Glamorgan crisis a little deeper. However, Warwickshire have not had everything their own way on the first day and will be looking to Ian Bell to push on to a decent score, having slumped to 43-2 in reply themselves.
At 38-3 – all three wickets catches to Tim Ambrose – Glamorgan must have been fearing the worst. Useful runs from Kiran Carlson and Chris Cooke helped stabilise the innings, though neither could pass the thirties. That Glamorgan reached the comparative riches of 203 and a batting point was all down to Craig Meschade, who shepherded the tail with 53*, while no one else in the Glamorgan bottom five could pass 5. Star turn with the ball for Warwickshire was Ollie Stone’s 4-28. In reply, Dom Sibley fell quickly to Meschade and, when Graeme Wagg added Will Rhodes, there was a chance the Warwickshire would fritter away the advantage. Bell and Trott added 63 before Ruaidhri Smith removed Trott but, at 106-3, Warwickshire still had some work to do. Bell and Chris Wright have taken the score to 116-3 at Stumps, but will look to their batsmen to bring in a decent haul of batting points tomorrow; in particular, they will hope that Ian Bell can move on from 43* to a match-defining score.
Gloucestershire v Leicestershire
Having suffered three depressing defeats in their last three Blast games, to bring the T20 to a disappointing conclusion and been utterly destroyed by Warwickshire in between times in the Championship, the hosts must have looked a tasty morsel for a Leicestershire side that is seeing its promotion bid start to flag badly. Gloucestershire pulled a surprise by playing Jack Taylor in the XI when he had not even been named in the 14-man squad – how much this is due to fan-pressure is uncertain, but the fans had been calling loudly for his recall to an inexperienced middle order that has been crying out for a senior batsman to shepherd it.
The Gloucestershire innings followed a familiar pattern for suffering Gloucestershire fans. Hammond and Dent started with a fifty partnership, scored at a crawl. Of those 50, just thirty-five were scored by the batsmen and Hammond’s share was a mere seven from 60 balls (shout out to Fred Boycott that Miles Hammond is a worthy candidate for the prestigious “Dig-In Trophy”), as the bowlers lent a significant hand in the quest for runs. Then, as has happened a few too many times for the liking of the fans, the fall of Chris Dent after getting a start, led to a house-of-cards collapse. 50-0 became 50-3 in 17 balls as Dent, Hammond and Howell fell in quick and bewildering succession to Gareth Griffiths (Dent) and Mohammad Abbas (Hammond and Howell). At this point, Gloucestershire fans usually pull out the tin hats and hide under the bed. Bobby Bracey and Gareth Roderick, though, batted through past Tea to the tune of a century partnership. At 150-3, the home supporters were emerging from under the bed, blinking with surprise. Even the fall of Gareth Roderick, to give Mohammad Abbas his third wicket, did not bring about an immediate capitulation as Bobby Bracey and Jack Taylor pushed on. With two balls until the new ball, it was 191-4, and home fans were wondering how many bonus points would be attained, not whether any would be. Alas, this is Gloucestershire, and we may expect the unexpected. The fall of Jack Taylor to Colin Ackermann for 21 to the penultimate delivery with the old ball propitiated the most horrific collapse. You feel for Sir Robert Hunt who has to commentate on these events. 191-4 became 202 all out in just 46 balls. James Bracey fell LBW to Mohammad Abbas for 76 as the innings imploded around him. Abbas finished with 5-30 and Ben Raine with 3-43.
In reply, Harry Dearden fell to the first ball of David Payne’s third over. Payne has had a miserable time with the ball recently but is a handy bowler, and one hopes that this does something for his morale. 11-1 in reply, Leicestershire will want to avoid losing early wickets in the morning.
Durham v Northamptonshire
Last and, probably, least, as it is the only game with nothing really to play for, for either side, was the game at the Riverside. Both teams now know that they will be playing their cricket in Division 2 next season. You only had to look at the grim face of Martin Emmerson as he gave his summary of the morning session at lunchtime to know that things had gone pretty badly for the hosts. Subsequent events have cheered him up slightly, but Durham are playing catch-up here.
No one reached thirty as Durham fell to 102-8 at Lunch. It was pretty grim stuff, with the top score Alex Lees with 25. After Lunch, Stuart Poyner added some useful runs with the tail, until Brett Hutton bowled him for 28, but 129 all out did not give much hope to the loyal home fans. The brutal truth was that 5-33 for Luke Procter simply dynamited Durham. Northamptonshire’s batting though has also been fragile for the last two seasons and, although every batsman who has come to the crease has reached double figures, they have closed in 189-6, held together by Alex Wakeley’s 60. The fall of Zaib to the last ball of the day has given Durham some hope that the damage can be limited if they can remove Adam Rossington – 40* overnight – early. However, in a low-scoring game, a lead of 100+ will almost certainly be decisive. If Northants avoid early losses, they know that they can bat Durham entirely out of this game.
8/20/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Day Two of this round of Championship matches started with most of the games delicately poised. They say that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Twice on Day 1 Surrey were deep in crisis, but fought their way back. First, when they fell to 28-3 and 155-8 but battled back to post 211 and a batting point. Then, when Lancashire were 114-3, well into the last hour and threatening to post a substantial lead, a Lancashire brain-fade then led to a collapse to 134-6. Who would get the first innings lead and how big would it be? At Scarborough, Worcestershire bundled out the hosts for a modest 216 and were 39-0 when bad light and rain stopped play: could Yorkshire fight back there, or would Worcestershire continue their revival? At Southampton, after Hampshire produced a remarkable recovery from 137-7 to post 277ao, Nottinghamshire collapsed before the Close and were in deep trouble at 39-4: could Nottinghamshire come back, or would this be the end of their faint hopes of the Championship? And, last but not least, how would the pitch behave at Taunton, with Somerset 308-7 overnight and guaranteed to take more batting points than Surrey, allowing them to close the gap to the top, if only slightly.
Somerset v Essex
Somerset started at 308-7, with bonus points available for 18 overs more. For Somerset, the aim had to be the fourth batting point and, if the eighth wicket pair could hang around and deny Essex a third bowling point, that would be a bonus. Add as many as possible before putting Bess and Leach to work on a track where the Essex spinner Harmer had been in action well inside the first hour of play. Before we could see how the pitch would play, there was an enforced change of umpire at Taunton. David Millns, who stood yesterday, reported unwell and was replaced by James Middlebrook. Until he arrived, local umpire John Wheeler stood at square leg, with Ben Debenham standing at both ends.
After a confident start from Lewis Gregory, Peter Siddle gave Essex the boost that they wanted by bowling him in only the second over of the day. Siddle then bowled Jack Leach for 2 to ensure the third bowling point and hole below the waterline Somerset’s quest to add a fourth batting point themselves and thus inconvenience their rivals seriously. Somerset’s slide to 324ao was ultimately a little disappointing. However, Essex were soon in trouble, as Josh Davey took Browne and Lewis Gregory added Chopra LBW to leave Essex 29-2. Westley then departed LBW to Gregory for a duck and, at 29-3, Somerset were well on top. Jamie Overton added Ravi Bopara before Essex started to re-build. A partnership of 52 between Lawrence and ten Doeschate saw Somerset bring on Leach and Bess, twirling away in partnership, but without any outlandish turn in evidence. Leach has had little to celebrate so far this season, but broke the partnership and then added Wheater, while ten Doeschate held firm at the other end, leaving Essex 132-6 and back in deep trouble. Dom Bess then caught and bowled Harmer and, at 137-7, Somerset were well into the tail. Essex, though, continued to resist and it took a wonderful catch from Lewis Gregory to remove Peter Siddle and leave Essex 174-8 off the occasional leg-spin of Azhar Ali. The follow-on was saved, although there was never any possibility that it would have been enforced. Jamie Overton finally got rid of ten Doeschate, LBW for 73 and Essex were 180-9, with Somerset almost through and looking at a huge lead. Jamie Overton then got Jamie Porter caught behind, and Essex were all out for 191, leaving Somerset 133 ahead.
Sadly, batting again, there was no fairy-tale for Marcus Trescothick, LBW to Sam Cook for seven but, with Somerset 146 to the good, it was hardly a disaster for his team. They ended the day 32-1, 165 ahead and well placed to offer a really challenging target on the third day.
Hampshire v Nottinghamshire
Knowing that they need a formidable run of results in the run-in to have any hope of putting pressure in Somerset and Surrey, Nottinghamshire have set out to do things the difficult way. Letting your opponent off the hook from 137-7, to post 277ao, is one thing but, when you then reach the Close on 39-4 – with that score representing something of a recovery – you know that, in a match in which defeat is not an option if you wish to opt for something better than the minor places in the Championship, defeat is staring you full in the face.
Within five deliveries in the morning, the umpires gave the order to switch on the floodlights, indicating just how gloomy conditions were. Fidel Edwards needed no second invitation and rapidly added a fourth wicket, taking Samit Patel LBW in his second over and leaving Nottinghamshire 46-5 and in real danger of failing to avoid the follow-on. It could have been worse as, at 67-5, Rilee Rossouw spilt a low chance in the slips off Riki Wessels that would have been a fifth wicket for Fidel Edwards. It was not expensive miss though, as Kyle Abbott took him LBW for 11 and left Nottinghamshire 78-6. All through this, Steve Mullaney had batted on unperturbably at the other end until Gareth Berg came on and removed him to a catch behind for 38, to leave Nottinghamshire 82-7. Hampshire could have made things even better, but Luke Fletcher was dropped in the slips as he decided to go after the bowling. As the eighth wicket pair moved Nottinghamshire up to the follow-on mark, Dale Steyn was forced to go off in the middle of an over, giving Nottinghamshire further breathing space. Finally, though, Luke Fletcher went for one heave too many against Fidel Edwards and gave a catch in the deep: 133-8. A little resistance from the tail and Nottinghamshire’s final total of 166ao gave Hampshire a 111 run lead.
Batting again, Hampshire fell quickly to 24-2, which may not have exactly encouraged Nottinghamshire to believe that they could chase a target in the fourth innings. That though brought James Vince to the wicket, and he set about the business of setting a fourth innings target on his own. As other batsmen struggled, Vince motored on to 72* at Tea, scored out of a total of 110-3. After Tea he continued and reached his century, in 139 balls, out of 160-3; by then, Nottinghamshire were in desperate trouble. Vince fell finally for 147, after a partnership of 177. With Hampshire already 355 ahead, you felt that they already had more than enough. They ended the day on 253-4, 364 on and looking to wrap-up victory on the third day. Nottinghamshire know that their title big is as good as over, barring a remarkable fourth innings chase.
Yorkshire v Worcestershire
Yorkshire’s 216ao had represented a good day’s work already for Worcestershire, who may not have been too unhappy to go off for bad light and rain at 39-0, able to come back today unscathed and make a push to set up a winning position to continue their revival and hopes of eluding relegation.
The openers pushed their partnership to 111 before Jack Brooks finally dismissed Tom Fell for 45. Worcestershire though continued accumulating steadily, taking few risks, knowing that they had plenty of time to turn the screw. The 200 came up with just the one wicket down and, soon, Moeen had his own fifty, continuing to send a message to the England selectors. Daryll Mitchell then brought up a 191 ball century with consecutive fours off Adam Lyth and, to boot, put Worcestershire in the lead. A substantial rain delay came at 235-1 and, on resumption, Moeen drove Poysden immediately over Long On for six, to show that Worcestershire had no intention of hanging around. The new ball came at 284-1, with Mitchell 132* and Moeen 89*. Up came the 300, a third batting point, with Yorkshire still a long way from claiming even one bowling point themselves and then a wide ball from Jack Brooks was carved through the Covers for his own century. Moeen was dropped on 107 before the umpires ended the torture with Worcestershire 314-1, 98 ahead and hoping to twist the knife on the third morning.
Surrey v Lancashire
Lancashire started on 134-6, knowing that their position should have been so much better. While a defeat would not necessarily be catastrophic, if it were combined with wins for their relegation rivals, it would leave them deep in the mire.
Lancashire’s initial progress was serene, as Chanderpaul moved towards his fifty until a mix-up saw him batsmen stranded in the middle of the pitch and unable to apply reverse fast enough, with Rory Burns sprinting in to run out the danger man, leaving Lancashire 176-7. However, Lancashire continued to bat on calmly and went into the lead without further loss. Bohanon went on to a debut fifty as Lancashire started to build a small lead. Lancashire went to Lunch at 241-8, already 30 ahead and with a second batting point in sight. Finally, Amar Virdi removed Bohanen LBW for 52 after Lunch, but the damage was done with Lancashire 242-9 and on the verge of a second batting point and with a small, but useful lead. However, that extra batting point was not to be as Ryan Patel removed last man, Graeme Onions. The final lead was 36, with Lancashire three runs short.
Could Surrey clear the deficit without losing a wicket? Mark Stoneman’s season got no better as he fell to a catch at Deep Square Leg for 16, with Surrey still one behind. Surrey though started to build a lead, but a quiet spell of accumulation was rudely interrupted when Rory Burns and Arun Harinath had a communications breakdown: Harinath runout for 7 and Surrey 73-2, 37 ahead. Graeme Onions returned and, first ball, trapped Aaron Finch LBW for a violent 32 off 34 balls, with 3x4 and 2x6: 114-3 and a lead of 78. As the evening session wore on and Rory Burns and Ben Foakes kept adding to the lead, Lancashire must have started to get a little nervous that the match was moving away from them. Relief came in the form of Bohanon’s maiden First Class wicket, bowling Burns for 70, with eight overs to go and the lead 126. Sam Curran came in and scored at better than a run-a-ball. Surrey ended the day 197-4, 161 ahead and know that, if they can see out the first hour in the morning, will start to build a position of complete dominance.
The Warwickshire juggernaut has moved into high gear again after its brief stall at Lord’s. After a difficult first session, Warwickshire will already be looking to wrap up the game early on Day 3. Of their rivals, Sussex are well placed, after a day in which little went right for Derbyshire, with a player hospitalised and also an emergency call for a replacement wicket-keeper. Leicestershire and Kent are in an almighty battle at Grace Road, with first day honours even and a result looming. At Wantage Road, the Northamptonshire recovery continues at the expense of a Middlesex side that needs to stop kidding itself that is will be back in Division 1 next season and get on with the job of building for a proper tilt at promotion in 2019. And, at Sophia Gardens, Durham’s season continues to look up as they seek to build on an excellent first day, albeit frustrated by the weather.
Leicestershire v Kent
Leicestershire’s 220ao was built mainly around tail-end stubbornness. With Kent 53-3 and starting to re-build at the Close of Day 1, this match was going to turn on whether or not one side or other could take a firm grip on Day 2. Zak Chappell was substituted for Leicestershire yesterday, after being hit on the helmet while batting, retiring hurt on 31, with Dieter Klein drafted into the side under the concussion rule. Chappell though was at the ground on the second morning to support his teammates.
Mohammed Abbas took Sam Billings early, caught behind by Ned Eckersley (does any other player in English cricket have such a wonderful name?) to leave Kent 86-4, the match firmly in the balance and heading for a quick finish. A half-century partnership for the sixth wicket, with Joe Denly holding firm, steadied Kent, but a double-wicket maiden for Ben Raine then left them 157-7 and facing a likely deficit. The Kent tail did not hang around, and 6-48 for Mohammed Abbas and 4-62 for Ben Raine gave Leicestershire a useful lead of 25, with Kent 195ao, in what looks like being a tight, low-scoring match. More critically, it meant no batting bonus points for Kent, while promotion rivals Leicestershire had at least obtained one.
When Leicestershire batted again, set to build on their lead, batting was no easier, with a partnership of 69 for the second wicket between Harry Dearden and Colin Ackermann the only time that bat dominated ball. When Ackermann fell to Ivan Thomas, the bowler quickly added three more victims, and the relative comfort of 82-1 became 106-5 before Ben Raine hung around to keep Dearden company. Dearden finished 61* overnight, with Raine 15* and on the former lie, the Leicestershire hopes of victory. The lead is 151, with the hosts 126-5 at Stumps and this match is still evenly poised.
Sussex v Derbyshire
Some of the gloss was taken off Sussex’s 400-7 by the fact that Derbyshire played two sessions with an emergency wicket-keeper while Daryl Smit made the long journey down to Hove to replace Harvey Hossein in the playing XI and then Ravi Rampaul had hospitalised with severe breathing difficulties but hoping to be released this morning. However, Sussex took advantage of the misfortune of their opponents big time and will have been looking to push on this morning and bowl Derbyshire out twice.
Derbyshire started the second day well by seeing off both not out batsmen in the first half hour, with Jofra Archer and David Wiese both dismissed by Lockie Ferguson: Wiese on 93, agonisingly close to his century. The tenth wicket pair though hung around for a long time until Colin Viljoen ended a partnership of 31, leaving Sussex 440ao and in a very strong position.
The Sussex attack though was extraordinarily lacklustre and inaccurate, as Derbyshire batted and made little impact. Derbyshire brought up the 200 from just 45 overs, with Ben Slater the only casualty, as Wayne Madsen and Billy Godleman both neared a century. Godleman fell finally for 125 and Madsen for 72, to supply some encouragement to the bowlers at last. There was some relief for Sussex in having a strong final session, with 200-1 becoming 315-5 at the Close, as Sean Ervine was run out from the last ball of the day. Alex Hughes was still there on 60* but, if Sussex could get him early on the third morning, they might yet make something of this match.
Warwickshire v Gloucestershire
When you have struggled in the first session on what looks like a superb batting track, you hardly expect to end the day with a handy first innings lead and eight wickets in hand. Welcome to the bizarre world of games against Gloucestershire! To say that the visitors have been erratic this season is to sum it up in a single word. Already at the start of the day, the thoughts were that Warwickshire would bat once, maybe declare in the evening and aim to have the game done and dusted early on the third day. Well, we were most certainly wrong on that one!
Gloucestershire have made a habit of starting horribly in games and then, somehow, extricating themselves. Craig Miles had had a very poor first day, but dispatched Ian Bell rapidly in the morning, bowling him for 2 and, just four balls later, added Jonathon Trott, who had got off the mark with a boundary from the previous ball. Rhodes and Hain seemed to be rubbing in the advantage until Hammond took a fine catch at Point to remove Hain, giving Lintott a second wicket. Then Craig Miles removed Tim Ambrose and Warwickshire were 236-6, twenty minutes before Lunch and seeing that things were not panning-out at all as they had expected before the start of play. Things got even better straight after Lunch as, first George Drissell, the 19-year-old off-spinner, removed Rhodes, bowling him with an arm ball for a magnificent 137 and then Matt Taylor added Jethan Patel. Craig Miles finished the innings with two in two balls and would have been on a hat-trick had Warwickshire batted again, finishing with 5-69 as Warwickshire collapsed from 171-2 to 277ao.
Desperately needing a good start, a brief shower interrupted the Gloucestershire reply after just eight balls. Concentration broken, Hammond fell immediately on the resumption, as Ryan Sidebottom added yet another wicket to his career figures. We then had a collector’s item as Keith Barker ripped out Roderick’s leg and off stump, leaving middle standing proud (the commenters had an explanation for this that ignored the physical laws of scattering beautifully, but what has physics to do with cricket?), his second wicket in the over. Gloucestershire were 27-4 already and sinking fast. Thanks to a combination of rain and slow over-rate, Tea was taken an hour late, with Gloucestershire 84-7, in complete meltdown and the danger looming that Tea could have been delayed even further if another wicket had fallen before the umpires could get the players off to relieve their own parched throats. After a good morning, it was another abject display from Gloucestershire against a relentless Warwickshire. Two wickets fell immediately after the resumption, but there was high comedy as, with rain threatening, Warwickshire attempted to take the tenth wicket: a catch off a no-ball (the first wide or no ball of the match), a drop and all manner of excitement as the batsmen played and missed constantly. In the end, Will Rhodes was brought on and immediately took his maiden First Class wicket to end the fun and games. Warwickshire had won by an innings and 47 and consolidated themselves at the top of Division 2.
Northamptonshire v Middlesex
A Middlesex fightback late in the day had left the scoreboard at the start of play better than might have been expected. At 332-8, Middlesex could expect to wrap up the third bowling point, while, with Hutton and Zaib set at the crease, Northamptonshire were looking at ensuring a fourth batting point and continuing the side’s revival of fortunes. There was though already a suspicion that the Northamptonshire score was over par for this track.
Omens looked poor for Middlesex as, despite lowering skies, the batsmen looked comfortable initially but, just as the number of overs to the end of bonus points started to becoming worryingly small, James Harris produced a corker of a delivery to dismiss Zaib for 27, before ending the innings by bowling Ben Hutton to finish on 7-83 to leave Northants agonisingly short of the fourth batting point, on 346ao. However, Nick Gubbins and Sam Robson came out as if they were batting in a T20 and took 32 from the first four overs of Hutton and Sanderson. For a short while the Middlesex fans could believe that the Northants total was not such a big one, however, that feeling did not last long. Middlesex were soon in familiar trouble as four wickets fell quickly before Lunch, with Rory Kleinveldt removing Sam Robson and England's Dawid Malan with consecutive balls to leave them 76-4. Middlesex needed a good afternoon session but, when Eoin Morgan fell soon after Lunch to leave them 94-5, the arrival of rain came as blessed relief. On the resumption, Holden and White held up the bowlers for a while, but neither could pass the thirties and the tail melted away, leaving Middlesex 187ao and 158 behind. The star turn in the attack was Nathan Buck with 4-51. Unexpectedly, Northamptonshire enforced the follow-on, with lowering skies and 29 overs left to be bowled.
When one follow-on, the last thing that you need is to lose an early wicket. Nick Gubbins, touted for an England debut, supplied it, LBW to Sanderson for 8: 23-1. Middlesex though were delighted when the umpires took a light reading and led the players off at 32-1, without further damage. By then, though, even Kevin Hand was accepting, reluctantly, that Middlesex were not going to be promoted this season. It was no surprise when, after a discrete wait, the umpires called Stumps.
Glamorgan v Durham
Despite the frustration of plenty of time lost to rain and bad light, when you are 75-0 chasing 154, you can feel that it has been a pretty good first day. Durham who, like Northants, looked in complete disarray at the start of the season, are starting to build a platform from which it may not be fantasy to say that they could be back in Division 1 in 2020. In contrast, Glamorgan have had better days, with stalwart, Aneurin Donald, rejecting a new 3-year contract to move to Hampshire.
That said, discipline is still a problem in the Durham batting order and, having reached 94-0 and a position of almost total dominance, Durham stuttered to 133-4, losing wickets to loose shots. The procession continued as Ruaidhri Smith took four wickets in the morning session to leave them 175-6 at Lunch. It was a sad waste of a wonderful position for Durham fans, but a spirited comeback from Glamorgan. However, despite themselves and despite a maiden 5-for for Smith, Durham built a lead and accrued batting bonus points. Durham had Axar Patel to thank for re-establishing their strong position, as he added an excellent fifty, bringing up the second batting point and the hundred lead. When Patel found himself eleven short of a century, with only Chris Rushworth left, he whacked a six off Salter, trying to hurry on to the century, but could not engineer the single needed to keep the strike and Chris Rushworth could only survive one delivery of the next over, leaving Patel high and dry on 95*. Durham ended just short of the third batting point on 295ao. Even so, a lead of 141 was more than useful.
Glamorgan made no better fist of it second time around. After an opening stand of 31, two quick wickets for Rushworth and two for McCarthy left Glamorgan 40-4, with Poynter taking three catches behind the stumps. More rain was coming, but it was too late to save Cooke, a fourth catch of the innings for Poynter, to make Axar Patel’s day even better. 54-5 and six balls and two singles later, the umpires took the players off. On the resumption, with an all-spin attack, Cameron Steel took the wicket of Connor Browne with his first delivery, bowling his occasional leg-spin. Glamorgan were then 64-6 and, if the light held, the extra half hour was becoming a real possibility. Steel then added the wicket of Andrew Salter in his second over, to give him – at the time – his best bowling figures in an innings. Unfortunately, it then started to rain, and all hopes of a two-day finish were ended.
By MaRk Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
After the T20 Blast interlude, we are now into the Championship run in. Six of the eight sides have six games left – the exceptions are Nottinghamshire and Lancashire, who have only five. There will be six weeks of concentrated Championship cricket now, on pitches that should have something for the spinners after the early season green-tops.
The Championship title looks to be a two-horse race. As in 2017, we have a runaway leader, and we have a chasing pack, desperately trying to stay in touch. Even with six games left, it would take a Devon Loch moment for Surrey to fail to win, so big is their lead. Thirty-four points clear – more than two wins – of Somerset, you have to suspect that the Cidermen would need to win at least five of their last six matches to put any sort of pressure on the men from south of the river. Nottinghamshire, in third, are 43 points back and, with a game fewer to play, would surely need to win every one to challenge: a tall order at best. Essex, defending Champions, are fourth, a whopping sixty-one points back and surely too far away to mount any serious challenge to defend their title needing to make up more than ten points per game on the leaders.
Realistically, it looks like Surrey to win the title, with the battle for the runners-up spot between Somerset, Essex and Nottinghamshire.
At the bottom of the table, things have closed-up. Realistically, even Essex are not safe, just twenty points clear of the relegation places and would slip into trouble with a couple of defeats. Yorkshire did a lot to ease their relegation worries with a win in the Roses match but will need at least one more win to feel safe. Only twice in two-division history has a side with four wins gone down, but Yorkshire and Essex have accrued only 29 bonus points all season, far fewer than any of the sides below them and Yorkshire’s ten batting points from eight matches is the worst in the Division, which goes a long way to explaining why, with three wins each, neither are out of the relegation woods. Realistically though, relegation looks most likely to be between Hampshire, Lancashire and Worcestershire. Worcestershire are now only fourteen points from safety, having finally got a win in the last round of games and Lancashire, in the relegation places and with a game fewer to play, look to be in real trouble.
Somerset v Essex
This is undoubtedly the stand-out game of the round. If either side is to make Surrey even slightly nervous, it has to win. With both sides desperate for the win-points, do not expect a draw, as there is a strong incentive to make something of the game, even if a stalemate seems to be coming. In the last two seasons, Somerset have been a one-trick pony, their success based on big turners at Taunton in the last few games of the season. This campaign has been marked though by Somerset showing the strength of their seam attack, backed-up by some powerful batting, so it will be interesting to see what type of pitch the Taunton groundsman provides: taking a long-term view of England success, more pitches that encourage spinners would be welcome. Essex’s season is put into context by the fact that Surrey have almost as many batting points (26) as Essex have batting and bowling points combined (29): no side in the division has fewer bowling points than Essex, and only Yorkshire have fewer batting points.
Marcus Trescothick, on his return to Championship action at Taunton, after recuperation and runs in the Somerset 2nd XI, struck four boundaries in Porter's first two overs in an exhilarating start, including consecutive boundaries. He then became becalmed in mid-session and rendered virtually scoreless for an hour, before repeating successive boundaries off Porter again to bring up an excellent, 83-ball half-century as he accelerated again before lunch. With Somerset playing both spinners and with Essex bring Simon Harmer into the attack after just nine overs, all the signs are that Somerset’s seam sojourn has ended and they plan to chase Surrey, who still have to visit Taunton, using Plan A: bat, put up a score of some kind and spin out the opposition.
Marcus Trescothick reached the nineties and seemed to be on the way to a century before Peter Siddle bowled him a short ball, and he picked out Deep Square Leg to fall for 95 although, with Tom Abell managing a fifty of his own, 200-4 at Tea was hardly a disaster. Seventy from Tom Abell, well supported by 45 from Steve Davies ensured that Trescothick’s efforts were not wasted and when they fell, Lewis Gregory got through to Stumps on 42*, leaving Somerset 308-7. With just 18 overs to go to obtain bonus points, Somerset will be looking to hang around and get their fourth batting point and, hopefully, deny Essex a third bowling point before putting Bess and Leach to work.
Hampshire v Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire are, realistically, looking at runners-up spot – and a handy cash prize – at best this season after four wins and four defeats. Hampshire, who have been hanging on to Division One status by their fingertips for the last two seasons, are in another struggle for survival. Having seen the men from Southampton survive at the expense of Durham in 2016, there are plenty of fans north of the Solent who would see karma in a relegation, so it is essential for Hampshire’s image in the game to show that their Division One status is deserved. Defeat for Hampshire in this game would leave them deep in trouble, while a win for Nottinghamshire would keep the pressure on Somerset.
Rain at Southampton caused a late start and, when the players came out, the conditions were tough for batting, but Hampshire got through to Lunch relatively unscathed, with just one wicket down. The post-Lunch session though was a dreadful one for them, as Hampshire slid to 137-7, with Mullaney taking three, before Liam Dawson and Kyle Abbott put on a fifty partnership. The recovery continued after Tea as Liam Dawson went on to a confident fifty. What started as a nuisance to Nottinghamshire became a major annoyance as the partnership went past one hundred and the second batting point loomed, while Nottinghamshire, having sealed two bowling points early, were utterly unable to seal the third, let alone put a stop to the fun. Abbott then reached his own fifty just after the second batting point was brought up and Nottinghamshire was becoming desperate to break the partnership somehow. Dawson fell finally for 72, bowled by Matt Carter, making an almighty heave at a straight ball, having added 133 with Kyle Abbott and reduced Nottinghamshire to distraction. Dale Steyn fell immediately for a duck and Carter had two wickets in an over after several hours of fruitless toil. Fidel Edwards was the last man out, run out for 1: a total of 277ao must have looked like riches to Hampshire from their desperate position halfway through the day.
Things got even worse for Nottinghamshire as Fidel Edwards ripped into them with three, cheap wickets, including both openers and nightwatchman Matt Milnes, for figures of 3-5 at that point. Edwards was well-supported by Gareth Berg, who removed Chris Nash. Nottinghamshire were 25-4, and in disarray with five overs still to come, however, Samit Patel and Steven Mullaney held on to take Nottinghamshire to the Close on 39-4, still in deep trouble in this match and needing a partnership in the morning.
Yorkshire v Worcestershire
Two relegation-threatened sides who need points badly. At the end of May, it seemed that only a miracle could save Worcestershire from the drop after a start that recalled some of the most awful Division One starts of recent seasons (Derbyshire and Northamptonshire come powerfully to mind here). However, a win, combined with the awful form of Hampshire and Lancashire has given Worcestershire some hope. Yorkshire have hauled themselves away from the relegation places and know that defeat in this fixture would put them back in trouble and, worse, leave their rivals in this match breathing down their necks. The announcement of coming, high-profile departures from Leeds have re-opened the spectre of turbulent post-seasons past with their inevitable destabilisation of the run-in, while Worcestershire, the original yo-yo side, would like to have the unusual pleasure of consecutive seasons in the top division.
An excellent first session for the visitors saw Yorkshire reduced to 63-4 before Williamson and Tattershall started a recovery. Williamson was finally dismissed by acting skipper, Moeen for 87, with Daryl Mitchell takes a one-handed diving catch to end a stand of 88, after which they added just 63 runs, 38 of them coming in a whirlwind knock from Jack Brooks in only 20 balls. Brooks and Fisher had added 56 in rapid time. The recovery ended with Brooks caught and bowled by Ed Barnard off a skier for 38, while Dillon Pennington took 4 for 53 in the innings. To have Yorkshire 216ao was an excellent performance for Worcestershire, who started confidently before the rain began to fall and the players went off at 39-0, which proved to be the last action of the day as rain brought a premature finish.
Surrey v Lancashire
A win for Surrey in this game would all but settle two issues: Surrey would be virtually the anointed Champions; while Lancashire, with just four games left, would be confirmed to be in grave danger of spending a season at some of the lesser grounds of England and Wales in 2019. With just four games left, Lancashire would need probably two wins from them to ensure survival. In contrast, at The Oval, after several years of trying all manner of different options to obtain success, Surrey have hit, finally, on what looks to be a winning formula: a mixture of youth and experience, a potent pace attack, backed-up by some excellent spin; all bases are covered, and it is hard to see any real weaknesses in the squad.
This match was the joker in the pack, continuing the day/night, pink ball experiment. Surrey welcomed back the Curran brothers, with Sam released by England and Tom back from injury, but were missing Jason Roy, whose fit of pique at getting a golden duck in the Blast literally re-bounded on him: he threw down his bat, and it bounced back and hit him in the face, putting him out of this match. Surrey made a very poor start to the day with Burns and Stoneman falling quickly to leave them 21-2. At Lunch, there was a slight recovery, but 110-5 was a great first session of work for Lancashire and left the title and relegation races interestingly poised. Sam Curran fell soon after Lunch and Surrey were now 130-6 and in some trouble. Morne Morkel and Jade Dernbach hit out to add some respectability and brought up the batting point, before both fell in four balls and Surrey were 211ao, with five wickets for Tom Bailey.
In reply, Jade Dernbach, who is experiencing a great revival in fortunes in the twilight of his career, took Alex Davies with the last ball of the first over, edging to Rikki Clarke at slip. Thereafter Curran and Dernbach bowled tightly and kept Haseen Hameed and Rob Jones almost runless until they broke the shackles with three boundaries in four balls. That though was as good as it got for Lancashire. Morne Morkel took Chris Jones for 10 (34-2), and Haseeb Hameed’s vigil ended when Morkel bowled him for 22 (41-3): Hameed still looks a shadow of the player who made such a wonderful entrance into Test cricket. Matt Parkinson was already getting turn early in the day, suggesting that there could be plenty in the pitch for Amar Virdi so, as the match moved into the evening session, Lancashire started to re-build as captain, Rory Burns turned to Virdi to engineer a breakthrough before the Close, although this time without success.
Dane Vilas and Shivnarine Chanderpaul brought up the fifty stand, before Vilas crashed a ball to the boundary to bring up his own fifty, passing on the way the 43 of Aaron Finch that had been the highest score of the day at the Kia Oval and, at the same time, bringing up the Lancashire 100. With the scoring rate increasing and the batsmen looking increasingly comfortable under the lights, Surrey needed a break-through before the Close. As play moved deep into the last hour, the batsmen were content to score almost exclusively in singles, of which there were a plentiful supply available, and it seemed that Surrey could be facing a significant first-innings deficit. Finally, Vilas started to get ambitious against Sam Curran and, after hitting the first boundary in plenty of overs, tried a booming drive two balls later and only edged through to Ben Foakes, departing in high dudgeon, knowing that he had let Surrey back into the match. What he was not to know is just how the game would turn on that one mistake. Steven Croft came in with just over half an hour to play and got off the mark with consecutive boundaries off Curran: the first a big cover drive, the second an edge past the slips to keep up the momentum. However, Vilas’s folly in opening an end late in the day was illustrated when Steven Croft edged Rikki Clarke to Aaron Finch and, at 129-5, Surrey were looking at perhaps even managing to engineer a small lead first innings lead. Two balls later, nightwatchman Matt Parkinson was LBW to Clarke, who had a double-wicket maiden and 114-3 had become 129-6. Debutant, Josh Bohannon, came in with five and a half overs left. Twenty-five consecutive dot balls were played before Bohannon broke the sequence with a single. Lancashire closed on 134-6 and know that they have let an excellent position slip here.
All the teams in Division Two have six matches left and, having looked as if Warwickshire and Kent were going to run away with the promotion spots, suddenly we have a battle on our hands, as both were defeated in their last game. As a result, the promotion race has concertinaed, with Warwickshire still top, but now Sussex their nearest challengers, Kent in third and, the surprise package, Leicestershire, in fourth are very much in touch. Just seventeen points cover the top four.
For the inveterate fantasists, Middlesex – 34 points behind the promotion spots – and Derbyshire – a further point back – are clinging on to their hopes of promotion and, even Gloucestershire, forty-five points behind Sussex, could still challenge mathematically. However, for any of these three sides to come from so far back will take a minimum of five wins from six.
Leicestershire v Kent
Top billing today has to be for Leicestershire’s home fixture against Kent. With four wins from their last five matches, the Foxes are, suddenly, out of the wooden spoon fight and into the promotion battle. This is very much a “promotion 48-pointer” with the winner pushing its claims to go up at the end of the season. Kent, with just six batting points from eight games, take on a Leicestershire side that has accrued eighteen (only the top two have more), on a Grace Road pitch that has encouraged huge scores and, while other grounds offered matches that were over in two days in early season, was giving us pitches that would have struggled to get a result in even five or six days.
This pitch though was certainly more lively as Leicestershire struggled in the morning session. Things were no better after Lunch as Leicestershire staggered drunkenly to 114-6. There was some tail-end stubbornness as Leicestershire moved on to 170-8 and then 216-9, with Dieter Klein batting as a concussion replacement for the injured Zak Chappell, but Harry Podmore’s three wickets and three more from Ivan Thomas had put Kent into a good position, despite the recovery.
When Kent batted, Dickson fell to Raine for 15 to make it 24-1. Mohammed Abbas then removed Bell-Drummond and Kuhn and, at 45-3, the match had taken a sharp turn back towards Leicestershire. Soon after the umpires decided that the light was too bad to continue and Kent, no doubt, at 51-3, fell some relief at being able to go off and re-group. The light did not improve, and the umpires called Stumps for the day. Kent cannot afford to concede a lead and will look at add to their meagre supply of batting points tomorrow: if they cannot do so, their promotion push will start to stall badly.
Sussex v Derbyshire
Sussex’s season has come alive since Jofra Archer, and Chris Jordan returned to the attack. Not unreasonably described as an almost Test-standard attack, they are the team with most batting points in the division (20) and have muscled into the promotion party as a formidable batting line-up has been backed-up by its bowlers. Derbyshire, whose season started so well before tailing-off, have the third highest number of batting points in the division (18) and, were they to win this one, they might just start swapping thoughts of another season trudging round Cardiff, Bristol and Leicester, for more exotic locations, if not climes, next season.
Drama before the game started, as Derbyshire keeper, Harvey Hosein dislocated a finger in the warm-up. He was replaced behind the stumps by Wayne Madsen, while Derbyshire awaited the arrival of Daryn Smit, who finally reached Hove around Tea after a rapid drive. Then, Derbyshire’s problems increased as Ravi Rampaul started to experience such severe breathing difficulties that he was hospitalised, although latest reports are that he is feeling much better. Despite everything, Sussex were reduced to 65-3, before recovering and, by the time that Smit could take the field, had climbed to a much more satisfactory 271-5 at Tea, taking firm control, helped by 82 from Harry Finch. Ben Brown though then took on the mantle of leading the way and pushed his side past the 300, finally reaching his century from 155 balls, after a seemingly endless time waiting on 99*. After his period of self-denial, he then added twelve from the next six balls bowled, powering Sussex past the 350 and a fourth batting point. Brown finally fell LBW to Callum Ferguson for 116. Sussex ended the day 400-7, bringing up the fifth batting point with the final ball of the day, with Wiese 89* and Archer 13* and in an excellent position to bat Derbyshire out of the game in the morning.
Warwickshire v Gloucestershire
Warwickshire’s seeming royal progress back to Division 1 has been rudely interrupted by defeat to Middlesex in their previous match. Still favourites to go up, a win is desperately needed to get the season back on track after the disappointment of missing out on the T20 Quarter-Finals and the disappointing Championship defeat in the last round. In front, they have a Gloucestershire side that seemed to be in terminal decline after a highly competitive start to the season. Victory in the last round of the Championship and a scrambled progress through to the T20 Quarter-Finals has restored some hope to the Bristol faithful, who were looking at another season of struggle to avoid the wooden spoon, but two miserable defeats in their last two T20 fixtures have brought back the shadows.
After a late scare, when David Payne reported sick, having fallen ill overnight, requiring a late call-up for Chris Liddle, with Kieron Noema-Barnett already ruled out by his injury in the Blast, there was an interesting first session saw Gloucestershire’s openers put on a rare fifty partnership. Skipper Chris Dent, who has been playing in the 2nd XI to get some middle time, was looking in better nick than recently. Unfortunately, every time that Gloucestershire seemed to be getting on top, with everyone getting a start, a wicket fell. All the top four all looked well set and then, disappointingly, got out: with a long tail to come due to the late changes in the side; it did not bode well. However, any suggestion that Gloucestershire would come as sacrificial victims to get the home campaign back on track seemed confounded by the first two hours of play as the visitors reached 101-2. Unfortunately, a wicket just before Lunch was followed by three immediately after and Gloucestershire were soon back in their familiar position: on the ropes and hanging on for dear life at 113-6, with only a long tail to come! The procession continued as batsman after batsman gave his wicket away against some excellent bowling from Wright and Barker. Chris Wright, heading to Leicestershire next season, produced a spell of 5-9 after Lunch and Gloucestershire were 127ao. In the end, the top five had all got a start, but no one else passed 2. The last eight wickets fell for twenty-six. It was a wretched performance.
When Warwickshire batted, they were as gloriously untroubled as Gloucestershire had been initially. The difference was that Warwickshire continued to bat on, with the collusion of the fielders. At 80-0, Will Rhodes produced a big skier, Matt Taylor ran in, got to it and shelled a simple chance, even as Rhodes started to walk off: it was a good summary of the last three days of abject cricket played by the Shire. The century came up with fifties for both batsmen and no extras at all and was only the sixth Warwickshire partnership of the season for any wicket and the first that Rhodes and Sibley have managed all season. Warwickshire were already ahead when Chris Dent put down a second, sharp chance off Matt Taylor and everything continued to break their way. Finally, the opening stand was broken on 161 as Bracey caught Sibley for 65 off Ryan Higgins, at which point, with nine overs to go, Chris Wright was sent in as nightwatchman!! The early nightwatchman policy backfired when Chris Liddle got Wright LBW, and Ian Bell had to come in anyway before the Close, accompanying Will Rhodes to his century. Warwickshire will look to bat long and bowl Gloucestershire out a second time for an innings win, to obtain maximum points here.
Northamptonshire v Middlesex
After winning their opening Championship fixture at a canter, the more radical Middlesex fans were talking about winning all fourteen games. What has happened since has been a severe reality check: Middlesex are mired in mid-table obscurity, did a little better than in previous seasons in the One Day Cup, without ever looking to get to the knock-out stages, and finished bottom of the South Group in the Blast. Middlesex insist that they are still alive in the promotion stakes, although they need a formidable run in to get into the top two. In front, they have a Northamptonshire side who had a horrific start to the season, having missed out on promotion in 2017 only due to an over-rate penalty, but who have recovered with two wins and are off the bottom of the table. Realistically, if Middlesex lose this match, their season is over, with just pride left to play for, while a win will allow them to continue hoping.
Middlesex though did not have a particularly good start, with wickets refusing to fall, despite Duckett falling for 6 to make it 16-1. Northants were 234-4 by Tea, with Ricardo Vasconcelos past his century, well-supported by Richard Levy with 41. Vasconcelos, the only centurion of the day, finally fell for 140, bowled by Middlesex debutant, nineteen-year-old Ethan Bamber. At 301-5, it looked like being a long day in the field for Middlesex, but even James Harris must have been surprised to find himself on a hat-trick as the visitors fought back late in the day. Without Harris’s five-for, Middlesex would have been in a sorry state. Saif Zaib and Brett Hutton added an unbroken 20 for the ninth wicket and Northamptonshire were 332-8 at Stumps and in a good position to add a fourth batting point in the morning.
Glamorgan v Durham
A bottom of the table clash, between two sides that know that they will spend 2019 in Division Two and who now have little more to play for than avoiding the wooden spoon and reaching mid-table mediocrity. Durham though can approach the end of the season with more optimism now that, having spent two seasons losing start players hand over fist in the ECB-inspired meltdown, are now starting to make some high-profile acquisitions. While Durham can feel, with some justification, that they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, Glamorgan’s season has been one with few high points to take pride in and already suggests another season of struggle in 2019.
Rain at Cardiff meant a very late start and, when it did come, Glamorgan made a poor start, losing three wickets cheaply and going into Lunch 29-3. Carlson and Lloyd added 51 to add some respectability before there was another clatter of wickets to 91-7. Salter and Smith then added another fifty partnership, before again wickets fell quickly. It cannot be often that a total of 154ao has contained two fifty partnerships, as the Durham bowlers exploited favourable conditions to roll the batsmen with great ease around those two stands. Seamers Chris Rushworth and Matt Salisbury led the way with three wickets apiece, while spinner Axar Patel claimed the last two wickets of the innings on his debut.
Durham responded confidently, and the fifty came up in just the thirteenth over, with Alex Lees 38* from only 36 balls. Stumps were drawn at 75-0, with Lees, bringing up his fifty in the final over of the day, 53* and Cameron Steele 22*, as the revival in Durham fortunes continues after a difficult early season. A good morning session and Durham will be looking at a win that will push them up to a comfortable and respectable mid-table position.
7/26/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Only three games were left to be completed last night. All three produced positive results, the most significant of which was Somerset’s win against Worcestershire, although at one point it seemed really to be in danger. Somerset hang on to Surrey’s coattails and will remember fondly that the penultimate round of fixtures will see Surrey visit Taunton. In Division 2, there were wins for Gloucestershire and Derbyshire in games where the advantage ebbed and flowed constantly through the day in five hours of dramatic action.
Yes, the game that no one watches and no one is interested in, produced three epic finishes, each played out in front of an appreciative crowd. It might only by Division Two and two modest sides, but the game at Cheltenham was played in front of crowds of around 3000 every day.
Worcestershire v Somerset
Somerset did, finally, obtain their win and kept up the pressure on Surrey at the top of the table, but briefly and horribly, it looked as if Worcestershire might even threaten to win. When Luke Wood and Dillon Pennington both fell to Jack Leach in the space of three balls, the Pears were 165-9 and appeared to be out of the contest. These, though, are strange days. Alex Milton, playing just his fourth First Class game and Steve Magoffin, batted for almost 40 overs in a tenth wicket partnership of 136. Initially, the partnership was an annoyance, then it became a major irritation and, finally, horrible imaginings started to emerge and, when the target got within 150, there were even thoughts that Worcestershire could even win. All it takes is one magic ball, one error, one loss of concentration and, realistically, there was never any real chance that the home side could win, but you try explaining that to the suffering bowlers who wonder if they are about to make history of the wrong kind. If the truth be told, the attack did not react well to frustration and lost its discipline badly, making the Worcestershire task so much easier.
During the morning session it all looked so simple. Worcestershire started the day 50-2, needing two big innings from somewhere. What they got instead was a rapid and horrific collapse. It started in just the third over of the morning after a misleading blizzard of early runs. Josh Davey, who ended with 3-43 from 19 miserly overs, bowled Joe Clarke. Four balls later Jamie Overton removed the dangerous Travis Head to a catch behind and, next ball, Ed Barnard, edged to Marcus Trescothick at slip. Alex Milton survived the hat-trick ball, but Worcestershire were 65-5. Brett D’Oliviera then gave Davey his third wicket: 71-6 after just five overs of the morning. If, at that point in play, you had taken a bet that Worcestershire would still be batting after Tea, you could have earned a fair sum. Whiteley and Milton delayed the inevitable with the sort of partnership that their side had needed a few wickets earlier but, after seeing out 21 overs and exactly doubling the score, the fall of Whiteley, caught behind off Jamie Overton for 39 precipitated another collapse from the relative riches of 142-6 to 165-9.
Magoffin accompanied Milton to a magnificent century. Somerset tried Trego. They tried Azhar Ali, but nothing worked and Jack Leach was not getting the same, lethal turn that Moeen had the previous day. The new ball came, but still nothing shifted the batsmen. Magoffin, who has six First Class fifties, was nearing a seventh when, finally, Craig Overton got him to play a false shot and Josh Davey held the catch. The tenth wicket partnership had lasted 39.2 overs and added 136 runs.
Somerset are 34 points behind Surrey with six to play and are the only realistic challengers to Surrey. Nottinghamshire, in third, are 43 points behind, with a game fewer to play and Essex, in fourth, are 61 points down: for either to challenge for the title, the two sides can afford no more than one draw in what is left of the season and must win the rest of their games with good hauls of bonus points.
The concertina effect has continued at the top. Middlesex, in fifth, definitely feel that they are back in the promotion race, although they would need a spectacular run of form to be promoted. Derbyshire are now just a point back from them, in sixth and, by the same logic, must also be in the promotion race. Gloucestershire, in seventh, will reflect how fine is the dividing line between success and failure: twice this season a potential win against Sussex disappeared, once to a rain-sodden draw, the other time to a narrow loss; had those results fallen Gloucestershire’s way, they would have been on 101 points and in fourth place, just ahead of Sussex (given some of the awful cricket played by Gloucestershire this season another matter would be whether or not they deserved to have been luckier).
Gloucestershire v Durham
The equation at the start was simple. Durham needed to chase 340 to win and required 305 from 96 overs, with ten wickets in hand. Through the day, the advantage ebbed and flowed. Early in the afternoon a Durham win looked to be the most likely result but, after Tea, after a period when the odds on Gloucestershire winning had shortened spectacularly, the draw started to become a distinct possibility and, at a late stage, Durham even started to block out deliberately, looking to play out the last hour.
Yes, it was a roller-coaster day in front of another bumper crowd.
It comes to something when Sir Robert Hunt gets so excited that his yelp of “he’s out!” scares the wits out of listeners and threatens to break the microphone. It was a day when you were glad that there were just two voices on the commentary (Sir Robert’s cellist scorer, Julian, rarely utters a sound, despite being bombarded with constant questions) and they were two of the best. Bob Hunt and Martin Emmerson live (and die) the success and failure of their respective teams and both ran the whole gamut of emotions as Durham started so well that they seemed certain to pull off what would have been their third largest chase and their first away win against Gloucestershire since 1999. It was good just to have the familiar home and away voice and no pseudo-neutral distractions.
Tom Latham and Cameron Steel batted with great solidity almost until Lunch when, finally, Matt Taylor got Latham to give a catch behind. Their opening partnership of 94 was just the foundation that the Wearsiders needed. At Lunch, Cameron Steel and Will Smith were bedding-in and the match was heading Durham’s way. Approaching mid-afternoon, the score was 168-2 and the situation was getting desperate for the Shire. On commentary, you could see Martin Emmerson’s smile, while Sir Robert was sinking into good-loser mode. What was needed was for one of the Gloucestershire bowlers to put on the Superman cape: astute followers of the Shire will know that there is one man that the captain turns to in such cases. Ryan Higgins bowled a super delivery that Graham Clark could only nick behind. That was the good news. The bad news was that this brought in Ben Stokes, who had had an excellent game with the ball and entered determined to score some runs too. Stokes could have been out half a dozen times as he charged the bowler, but rode his luck for a time. The turning point came when Will Smith and Ben Stokes fell in successive overs: Higgins, inevitably, got Smith and then Matt Taylor compensated for an anaemic first innings display with an, at times, devastating second innings performance, castling Stokes to the explosive joy of Sir Robert. Another jaffa from Taylor re-arranged the stumps of Stuart Poynter as, like various of his colleagues, he played back instead of forwards and, for the first time, Gloucestershire were favourite. 201-6 and that target of 340 was starting to recede into the distance.
Richardson and Wood came together and, again, the match changed direction. Wood has yet another foot injury – he is not so much “injury-prone” as “injury-plagued”, but he batted bravely, clearly seriously hampered. Together, they whittled down the target to 80 and, again, the home side was on the verge of panic. Then came the second turning point of the day. A couple of chances had gone begging in the field but, now, in his first over with the new ball, having just seen Mark Wood take 17 from him in an over, Craig Miles produced a ball that seemed to lift awkwardly from a good length. Richardson played back, the ball thudded into his pads and, despite looking suspiciously high, the umpire drew out his fickle finger of fate, while something suspiciously like dissent, pronounced in broad Geordie tones, went into the microphone in the commentary box. In his next over, Sailisbury played back instead of getting forward and Miles re-arranged his stumps too and you felt that, now, the fat lady was warming up her vocal cords. Wood continued to attack, but lost Harding to a catch by Bracey off Matt Taylor.
As the match entered the last hour, all four results were possible. Durham needed around 50 at just over 3-an-over, but Wood and Rushworth shut up shop, presumably trying to bat out the hour. It was though, only fitting, that Ryan Higgins, who had turned the match on its head earlier in the day, got the last wicket as Rushworth edged a catch behind. Matt Taylor will probably get the headlines for his 4-31, but Ryan Higgins had the splendid match figures of 6-85, taking him to 30 wickets at 19.9.
Gloucestershire will, most certainly, not be promoted, but at least see the threat of the wooden spoon recede and can still hope for the top-six finish that would represent success.
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire
Another game that ebbed and flowed through the day. During the morning it seemed that Northamptonshire were heading to a win that would allow them to dream of being in the promotion shake-up. Instead though, we had yet another epic finish, as Derbyshire held their nerve to close out a narrow win that had seemed unlikely a couple of hours earlier.
The visitors started the day 174-3, with two set batsmen, the chase of 314 seemingly well in hand. Derbyshire needed quick wickets. 140 to get with two set batsmen and seven wickets in hand is usually a position that favours the batting side nine times out of ten. This though, was the tenth time and it turned on two, young spinners. Qadri and Critchley bowled most of the overs in the day and took nine of the ten Northamptonshire wickets. Levi, Crook and Prasanna all got past twenty, but none could make the fifty that would surely have won the match. Once Wakeley fell to the wiles of Qadri for 68, the Northamptonshire slide was as inevitable as someone hanging on to a ledge by their fingertips until, inevitably, losing their grip and falling.
Critchley scythed through the middle order with his leg-spin, taking career best innings and match figures: not bad for a 21-year-old bowler who averages 61 with the ball. At 265-7, with just 49 needed, the odds were stacked heavily in favour of Northamptonshire still. Prasanna was batting well and seemed to be guiding his team to victory, but Critchley got one through him and bowled him. With Prasanna in the hutch, the last two wickets fell quickly: Hutton and Buck lasted just thirteen more balls, as Critchley and Qadri divided them between themselves. The final margin was 39 runs but, as they say, the winner was cricket.
7/25/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
If you are of a certain age, you will remember seeing dark, grainy black and white images with an excited Kenneth Wolstenholme shouting “they think that it’s all over. It is now!” That might be true of the Championship race, with Surrey pulling away from their faltering challengers. However, if you are from south of the river, a look at the carnage in Division 2 will not go amiss: promotion seemed to have been carved up between Warwickshire and Kent and served on toast... it is not any longer.
Lancashire v Yorkshire
A Roses match knows nothing of logic. When Joe Root came on for the penultimate over last night, probably in the hope that his England colleague, Jos Buttler, would relax and do something daft, little could he imagine that he would finish the innings with career-best figures. Lancashire held out for 12.4 overs in the morning, time enough for Joe Root to bowl himself to figures of 7.4-5-5-4.
Having holed Lancashire below the waterline by getting Jos Buttler with his fifth delivery last night, Joe Root compounded the Lancashire misery by getting Graeme Onions to edge through to Jonny Bairstow with the first ball of the morning and, in the process, going on to bowl a second consecutive wicket maiden. Parkinson ruined his figures by taking a single from his third over before Root bowled a third wicket maiden in his fourth. Root though punished Parkinson for his cheek, getting him to give a catch to Lyth, leaving him, at that moment, on 3-2-1-3. In came Jimmy Anderson and, with Liam Livingstone nursing a broken thumb, it was assumed that this would be the last wicket partnership. Anderson held out for 19 balls in the company of Tom Bailey before Steve Patterson removed Bailey LBW. To everyone’s surprise – and not knowing exactly why he was being risked – Livingstone came out with his thumb in a cast but, before he could face a delivery, Jimmy Anderson did the decent thing and allowed Joe Root to castle him.
Yorkshire won by 118 runs and took away 19 points. Lancashire’s misery was complete when they had a point deducted for a slow over rate. Yorkshire are now 14 points ahead of their rivals with a game in hand and 15 clear of relegation. In contrast, Lancashire have a sizeable relegation problem now.
Worcestershire v Somerset
Can anyone stop Surrey? Step forward the Cidermen. Only Moeen Ali stood between Somerset and an easy victory. While the rest of the Worcestershire attack wilted before the assault of Marcus Trescothick and Azhar Ali, Moeen showed the England selectors that he is still “The Beard that is Feared”. Moeen took five of the top six and, while the rest of the attack bowled pies, he seemed to be bowling hand grenades. Sadly, for the romantics, Banger did not get his century: having scored 71 of the first 110, he advanced to Moeen Ali and was stumped smartly by Milton. However, Worcestershire needed quick wickets, and enough players added runs to Azhar Ali’s 125 for the lead to grow rapidly past 300. Finally, Tom Abell had mercy when Azhar Ali was out and declared at 362-9. The target for Worcestershire was a mere 443. More realistically, Worcestershire had to survive 111 overs. Their first task though was to survive the 15 overs to the Close. Josh Davey got Daryll Mitchell for 6, but Head and Moeen seemed to be steering their side to Stumps with no further loss until Moeen had a rush of blood to the last ball of the day and was bowled by Jamie Overton. 50-2, Worcestershire need a miracle. Somerset, in contrast, are eyeing 16 points and leap-frogging into second, 34 points down on Surrey and still, just about in the fight for the Championship, with a game against Surrey to come at Taunton in the penultimate round.
So much for Division 2 being wrapped up. Kent and Warwickshire have looked so much better than the rest of Division that it seemed that everyone else was fighting for third place. If Division 1 has had its Kenneth Wolstenholme moment, Division 2 has seen a repeat of Devon Loch. Or, maybe, the right simile is the 1967 Gran National’s 23rd fence and, somewhere in the pack, there is a Foinavon who will come through unnoticed to win, while everyone else is trying to imitate John Cleese and the Ministry of Silly Walks. As of tonight, probably only Glamorgan of the sides in Division 2 feel, in their heart of hearts, that they are out of the promotion race. Even Northants, who had such a desperate start to the season, will look at the table tonight and think that, if they can wrap up the win, they will have a real chance of “doing a Foinavon”; actually, come to think of it, even Gloucestershire will wonder what might happen if they wrap up a win against Durham.
As of now, the Division 2 table is thus:
1 Warwickshire P8 W5 L2 D1 128
2 Sussex P8 W4 L1 D3 121
3 Kent P8 W5 L2 D1 115
4 Leicestershire P8 W4 L2 D2 111
5 Middlesex P8 W3 L3 D2 87
All four teams below Middlesex could conceivably win tomorrow and cosy-up behind them. The gap between Leicestershire and Middlesex is still 24 points, which is a considerable gulf with just six games left but, as we have seen, strange things can – and do - happen.
Middlesex v Warwickshire
Oh, Middlesex! Totally unreliable. Just about everyone had, sensibly, given up on the game this morning. 183-6 overnight, Middlesex felt that they needed at very least eighty more to have a chance. They did not get them. Not even near. Ollie Rayner hung around for a while, then John Simpson and James Harris added 23, but the lead was still under 200, and the last three wickets fell for six runs in under three overs. The target for the leaders was 203, and one felt that unless wickets fell quickly, Warwickshire would walk this. Who could stop them?
Enter the Lambeth Lara in his guise of a wily old seamer. First ball, Rhodes pushed a single and Warwickshire, it seemed, were off. Two dots to Dom Sibley. Fourth ball, Sibley edges and Ollie Rayner, the original bucket-hands himself, took the catch. Kevin Hand’s scream of delight shook the windows on the media centre. In came Ian Bell. Dot ball and then, last ball of the over, a shattering scream that registered on seismometers around the south of England: off stump uprooted, Warwickshire 1-2, Kevin Hand deliriously happy. Surely Middlesex, 76-7 on Saturday, could not pull off this heist? Warwickshire just needed one partnership.
Then James Harris bowled first-innings centurion, Rhodes. 21-3 and Warwickshire were trembling. For seven overs Trott and Hain threatened to put together the winning partnership that was needed. 36 runs came in rapid time. Murtagh bowling to Trott. Hit on the pad… GIVEN!!! Warwickshire though, like Middlesex, bat long. In came Chris Woakes; Ollie Rayner gained an LBW decision against him: 64-5. Now, the match situation shifted again. Sam Hain and Tim Ambrose were at the crease and knocked-off the runs steadily. Middlesex needed a wicket desperately, and James Harris provided it: 108-6. Again, two batsmen seemed to be guiding Warwickshire to victory as Tim Ambrose, and Jethan Patel combined in a crucial partnership that got the runs wanted down to 52. Had they stayed together for just another half a dozen overs they might well have ensured victory. Again, Middlesex were desperate to get a wicket and, this time, it was James Fuller, who had saved their first innings, who produced the magic ball and, again, bucket-hands Rayner did the necessary. In the very next over, Murtagh got Jethan Patel too and, for the first time, Middlesex were firm favourites to win. Hannon-Dalby did not last long: caught behind off Fuller; but Wright and Sidebottom inched towards the target in singles. Thirteen overs produced twenty-two runs: twenty singles and a two. The tension ratcheted-up with every run. Was there a hero? Finally, after seventeen consecutive dot balls, James Fuller re-adjusted Wright’s stumps and the delirium was complete. Middlesex had given their promotion campaign a lifeline and had blown apart the entire promotion race.
As I said, last night, they are totally unreliable. You cannot trust Middlesex with any match situation.
Gloucestershire v Durham
Durham’s season started so poorly that even the stoic Martin Emmerson was speechless. A side that has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous ECB decisions finished in the top half of Division 1, but was relegated and has seen most of its star players leave. Most around the club had given up promotion as a lost cause again but, with the events elsewhere in the last two days, suddenly a glimmer of hope has returned. If they could somehow get a win from this game, they would move onto 84 points, just three behind Middlesex. At the same time, Gloucestershire, who must have thought that their season was over when, for the second time this season, a winning position against Sussex went begging, will add 16 points mentally and see that suddenly they would enter the fringes of the promotion race on 76 points.
Tomorrow, there will almost certainly be a result, as the draw is possibly the least likely of the possible outcomes. Durham need to chase 340 to win and will require 305 from 96 overs with ten wickets in hand. Make no mistake; this is a dogfight. Bob Hunt, Sir Robert himself, felt that anything over 300 would take a lot of getting, but neither side is giving an inch.
Durham started the day 219-5, with Tom Latham, the danger man. Durham, undoubtedly, hoped for parity, or close to parity but, when Craig Miles bowled Poynter in the fifth over of the morning, there was very little more support on offer. Ryan Higgins got two, Wood was run out, and then Latham was the last man out, caught by Howell off the economical Payne. The Gloucestershire lead was 87, and it was obvious that they were going to set a target of some kind.
Within three overs Gloucestershire were in danger of losing the initiative. Rushworth removed Hammond and the still-bandaged Bracey. Gloucestershire were 15-2. Chris Dent and Benny Howell combined to steady the innings but, just as it looked as if things were under control, three wickets fell in nine balls, and Durham were right back in the match: 86-5 and the lead 173. Higgins and Noema-Barnett, once again, brought the innings out of intensive care and pushed the lead past 250. Higgins fell caught and bowled by Will Smith when nearing his fifty. The lead was useful, but more was needed, and Kieron Noema-Barnett supplied them. He batted steadily to 69*, guiding the tail. This time, not even Ben Stokes could stem the tide. The lead was 307 when the ninth wicket fell, and then Noema-Barnett and Drissell added 32 crucial runs for the last wicket before Will Smith came back and had Drissell caught, inevitably, by that man Stokes. Durham were severely handicapped in the field because Mark Wood was injured and unable to bowl and probably suffered for it in that last wicket stand.
Durham had to survive 12 overs before Stumps and did so quite comfortably. Gloucestershire need an early breakthrough in the morning. 340 should be too many to chase for Durham, but there again, they, like Middlesex are totally unreliable, as both their wins have come from positions in which they should have lost.
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire
Again, two sides in the bottom half of the table who can do arithmetic, add sixteen to their current points and like what they see. It is quite ludicrous to suggest that, having lost four of their first five games, Northamptonshire could be promoted but, were they to win this match, it would be far from impossible, with the sides above them taking wins off each other.
Derbyshire started the day 147-4, 118 ahead and thanks to a century from Wayne Madsen and fifty from Matt Critchley, reached 291-5, threatening to bat Northants out of the game. The key contest of the day was always going to be Madsen v Prasanna; Madsen won it but, when he was out, the innings subsided. 342ao left Northamptonshire a tricky target of 314 with more than four sessions to play so, one way or another; there was going to be a positive result.
When Wheeldon got Duckett LBW for 16 and Qadri added Vasconcelos for 10, Northamptonshire were 48-2 and wobbling. Luke Procter’s 68 steadied the innings and Wakely and Levi have put on an unbroken fifty for the fourth wicket. Northamptonshire need 140 in 96 overs to win on the last day with seven wickets in hand: if these two can stay together for an hour in the morning they will tip the balance irrevocably towards the visitors and Northamptonshire will start to dream of Division 1.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
In golf tournaments, Day 3 is often called “moving day”, in the County Championship though it is Day 2 that has been moving day in both divisions. Things could change, but it is entirely possible that, in late September, we will look back at today as the day when the Championship was settled and the Division 2 promotion race, that had looked an open and shut case, was thrown wide open. The relegation race – that Pythonesque battle to see who is the slowest – is also getting a good shaking-up: while Lancashire look like being the biggest losers, Hampshire, not playing in this round, seem almost certain to finish tomorrow in the relegation places. Things could be even worse for Hampshire and Lancashire, but it appears that Somerset will do them a favour by seeing-off Worcestershire (a Worcestershire win would take them out of the relegation places, leaving Hampshire bottom and Lancashire in seventh).
Nottinghamshire v Surrey
I would like to be referring to the battle for the Championship. Instead, it looks more like the sort of case of case of cold-blooded murder that Sherlock Holmes would, in his Benedict Cumberbatch incarnation, dismiss as “boring! It was Surrey that did it. Even the ECB can solve that case”. Day 2 has ended, and Nottinghamshire need only another 325 runs to avoid an innings defeat and to bat out close to six sessions to save the match. Barring a display of stone-walling that would make an all-night filibuster in parliament look like a garden party, Surrey will bury their nearest rivals and all but settle the Championship.
Having knocked-over Nottinghamshire in less than two sessions on Day 1, Surrey batted for three balls short of 120 overs at a rate of 5-an-over. Not only did they limit their rivals to just one batting point and seal their own full set of batting points with more than twenty-five overs to spare, but they also made sure that Nottinghamshire failed to get full bowling points. Even if Nottinghamshire somehow saved this match, the bonus points have broken 8-3 to Surrey, and their lead at the top of the table will be reinforced, even with a draw.
Not only was it the magnificent 153 from Rory Burns – leading to loud calls for him to be called up for the Tests against India – and the 86 from Mark Stoneman. After a mid-innings wobble, there was a first century in six years for Rikki Clarke, 70 from Sam Curran and then, when Rikki Clarke was dismissed, the last two wickets added 43 in 37 balls of gay abandon. One hundred and twenty runs were added in the last 51 balls of the innings. In the midst of the devastation, there was some room for levity: there is a tradition that when a player takes (or scores) a career-best, they buy drinks for the whole team: Steve Mullaney will have been delighted to drink the health of Billy Root tonight as put on at the end of the innings, he took his first, First Class wicket and then followed it by wrapping up the tail to finish with 4.3-0-37-3.
Batting again, 382 behind, Nottinghamshire could be forgiven for folding meekly but, instead, saw out the last hour for the loss of Jake Libby. 57-1 at Stumps, needing 325 more to avoid the innings defeat, the writing on the wall says “defeat on the third day”. Surrey will, undoubtedly, finish the day 43 points ahead of their victims, with a game in hand. Nottinghamshire are likely to finish this round of matches in third in the Championship, behind Somerset who will also have a game in hand.
Lancashire v Yorkshire
This match has seen more twists and turns than The Orbit in the Olympic Park in Stratford. It could easily have finished tonight as Yorkshire could have claimed the extra half hour, with Lancashire six wickets down and with Liam Livingstone unable to bat.
If, as seems almost certain, Yorkshire do seal victory, they would push themselves up the table into the fight for prize money and reduce their relegation worries, which dropping their eternal rivals right in the proverbial. Having dismissed Lancashire for 109, to seal a first innings lead of 83, Yorkshire fell to 21-3 and seemed to be letting the Red Rose right back into the match as the old warhorse, Graeme Onions, blew away the top order, while Jimmy Anderson removed Joe Root. Enter Jonny Bairstow. For just under two hours he changed the course of the match with a swashbuckling inning at a pace more attuned to T20 than County Championship. In the 19.3 overs that Harry Brook and Jonny Bairstow were together, they added 133 runs. Both went in quick succession and there followed the expected collapse, but Tim Bresnan and Steve Patterson added 41 for the seventh wicket to ensure that the lead was almost 300 and likely to be well out of Lancashire’s reach.
The target was 323. Lancashire needed someone to score a prominent century: quite likely they needed two centuries. Jennings and Davies got a start and were producing the sort of sensible batting that hinted at a Lancashire miracle. Even when Davies fell, LBW to Bresnan, Keaton Jennings held firm. At 86-1, Lancashire could hope. Seven overs later it was 110-5, and Lancashire were sinking fast. The fact that the match did not end well before the Close was entirely down to Jos Buttler. Buttler came in and played an innings similar to the one that Jonny Bairstow had played. It was more calculating, less violent; his 59 came from 69 balls. Buttler and Bailey added 80 in good time and seemed to be giving Lancashire reason to hope when Joe Root came on for a token over just before the Close and bowled a wicket-maiden, removing Buttler into the bargain. Graeme Onions faced only one of the seven balls remaining before Stumps and Lancashire start again in the morning needing 129 to win, with just Anderson and Parkinson to come.
Worcestershire v Somerset
This game too is turning into a cracker. Somerset desperately need the win to keep alive their halting challenge, even if Runners-Up seems to be the best that they can aspire to barring a Surrey implosion. Having reached 337 and three batting points, Somerset looked to be set to be able to enforce the follow-on as Worcestershire struggled to 166-8; still 22 short of the follow-on. Jamie Overton was bowling fast and furious and was too much for some of the Worcestershire batsmen, who are still short on confidence. Luke Wood, though, 22 years old, came in and batted like a veteran in partnership with Pennington. Together they passed the follow-on, then they brought up a batting point and even a second batting point, with Somerset seeing their first innings lead disappearing apace. Finally, Pennington chopped on to his own stumps to Jamie Overton and Davey knocked-over Magoffin to leave a lead of eighty, far fewer than Somerset had hoped.
When Somerset batted again, Eddie Byrom acted as a limpet, while Marcus Trescothick scored more freely at the other end. Somerset were 47-0 at Stumps, 127 ahead, and will be looking to turn the knife on Day 3 while the wicket deteriorates further to give Jack Leach something to use on the last day. Somerset will be bitterly disappointed if they cannot close this one out.
Today, the Division 2 promotion race has been dynamited. Sussex, in third, have marmalised Glamorgan and, even more significantly, Leicestershire, in fourth have destroyed Kent. If Middlesex had shown a little more staying power, we might have talked about the promotion race being blown wide open as, for much of the day, it looked as if Warwickshire might be facing a tough chase at Lord’s. As of the close of play tonight, it looks as if a Warwickshire win is likely although, Middlesex being Middlesex, the watchword for Day might be “expect the unexpected”: they are worse than Durham for sheer unpredictability in the face of both triumph and defeat.
Let’s imagine that Warwickshire do wrap-up a win against Middlesex. What might the Division 2 table look like tomorrow night?
1. Warwickshire P8 W6 L1 D1 144
2. Sussex P8 W4 L1 D3 121
3. Kent P8 W5 L2 D1 115
4. Leicestershire P8 W4 L2 D2 111
5. Middlesex P8 W2 L4 D2 71
We see that, even though Warwickshire are riding high and dry, the battle for the second promotion spot has become a melange à Trois, with consecutive wins for Sussex and four wins in five matches for Leicestershire changing the panorama. A Middlesex defeat is likely to see them drop to sixth or seventh depending on other results. Any side wishing to come out of the mid-table scrum to be promoted will need to win at least five of their last six matches.
Kent v Leicestershire
What a run Leicestershire are having! Four wins in five matches and just ten points off promotion with six games to play. A ten-wicket annihilation has put a severe check on Kent’s apparently serene progress back into Division 1. Facing a 125 run first innings deficit, Kent needed a big score from someone and, at 109-2, looked as if they might be able to get back into the match. It was, though, just a mirage. After losing Daniel Bell-Drummond fifth ball, Dickson and Kuhn were batting confidently, but Kuhn’s wonder spell when he scored runs for fun has ended. He, Denly and Billings all got into the twenties, but only Dickson pushed on. Had Dickson got 80+ instead of 59; had one of Kuhn, Denly and Billings got 50, Kent might have set a tricky target, but each got in and got out as the Leicestershire bowlers shredded the wickets and made the vital breakthroughs every time that a partnership seemed to be getting threatening. At 133-3, Kent were ahead and still had a chance but, with the fall of Dickson, all resistance crumbled, and wickets fell regularly. Zak Chappell, with 3-39 and Mohammed Abbas, with 4-55 will get the headlines, but it was a team effort, and Kent subsided to 199ao, the last six wickets falling for 66.
Chasing 75, Dearden and Horton saw off the threat of the new ball and strolled to victory, with Dearden scoring 55*. Kent were well beaten, and Leicestershire have put their names in the pot for promotion.
Sussex v Glamorgan
At one point on the first day, Sussex had collapsed from 114-1 to 176-6 and seemed to be in danger of missing out on a vital win. Sussex though had got through a nail-biter with Gloucestershire and, with news of the Kent surrender telling them that a win would put them second, set about rectifying things. The Glamorgan horse had well and truly bolted when they let Sussex reach 327ao. Glamorgan batted this afternoon, not imagining that the match would be over before the floodlights were needed.
Archer and Jordan ripped into the Glamorgan first innings. There was no coming back from 15-5, with four wickets to Jofra Archer, tipped to play for England next season and one for Ollie Robinson and when Archer had to be rested, three wickets for Chris Jordan ripped the heart out of the middle order. Only Chris Cooke and, more briefly, Lukas Carey put up any kind of resistance and, when a run-out finished the innings in just 28.4 overs, there was never any question of the follow-on not being enforced.
Glamorgan had almost to triple their first innings 85ao to make Sussex bat again and did only fractionally better second time around. Again Archer and Robinson blew away the top three – this time it was 15-3 inside ten overs – before Jordan and Wiese joined in the fun. 88ao, with Archer taking 8-46 in the match, Jordan 5-37, Robinson 4-44 and Wiese 2-36. It was a devastating Sussex performance to win by an innings and 154 having scored only 327. Sussex look like a Division 1 side.
Middlesex v Warwickshire
Ah! Middlesex! For much of today, they had Warwickshire on the ropes and groggy, before inevitably offering a glass chin and ending the day looking to be on the verge of a knock-out themselves. Macbeth would have put it thus:
Is this a Middlesex collapse which I see before me,
The wickets toward Kevin Hand’s heart? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, defeat
Looming in my sight?
Yes, once again the Middlesex fans are threatening to open the MiddlesexBattingCollapse.com website that has been promised for a decade. Middlesex have gone from 152-2, threatening to bat Warwickshire out of the game, to 179-6, leading Warwickshire by just 139. One early wicket on the morrow and we may well see the game finishing soon after Lunch on Day 3. It seems incredible, given that around Tea today, the prospect of a draw seemed to be looming, as Middlesex appeared to be building up a big lead with the pitch apparently flat and dead. Middlesex fans say that no position is safe from a Middlesex collapse and here we had a superb specimen.
This was similar to the first innings, in which Middlesex stumbled from 51-1 to 76-7. It seemed that the recovery, led by the obdurate Holden and the brilliant Fuller might even be enough to give Middlesex a first innings lead, as Warwickshire themselves stumbled today. 152-4 overnight, wickets fell regularly, despite a superb century from Rhodes who added an invaluable 27 for the last wicket, of which Ryan Sidebottom’s contribution was 0*. Middlesex, led by the evergreen Murtagh and by James Harris could even feel disappointed to have conceded a lead as large as 40.
The similarity to the first innings was paralleled in another blazing cameo from Paul Stirling: 18 balls, 16 runs, all in boundaries – and then pocketed by Jonathon Trott at slip off Chris Woakes. Then we had an extended period of sensible batting as Gubbins and Eskenazi put Middlesex ahead and started to build a lead. The pitch looked flat, fans began to speculate with a boring draw, and the last thing that anyone expected was a calamity. Jethan Patel pinned Gubbings for 47, but Dawid Malan came in and batted nicely. It was 152-2, Middlesex were 112 ahead and sitting pretty. Then Jethan Patel got Eskinazi, caught by Hain for 73 and the bottom fell out of the Middlesex innings. Eoin Morgan fell LBW to Patel for 3. Sidebottom caught Holden off Patel for 8 and then, Malan, desperately short of runs, was bowled by Hannon-Dalby for 28. It was 179-6 and, from looking to set a target and declare, Middlesex were praying for more tail-end resistance.
Jethan Patel has 4-38 and seems to hold the key to this match. The lead is 143. Any target under 200 is unlikely to exercise Warwickshire seriously. If a wicket falls quickly in the morning, the match may well not reach Tea. There is no question that after great expectations, the disappointing Championship campaign, followed by poor One Day Cup and T20 results, has led to Middlesex struggling to remember how to win and, sad to see, the fans are kicking them when they are down when, what they most need, is some confidence.
Gloucestershire v Durham
This is not exactly the game where you would expect to find thud and blunder but, low-key or not, between two sides who know that they will be playing in Division 2 next season, there has been fire and some intrigue. As on the first day, the second ends with the match finely balanced. Gloucestershire reached the comparative riches of 362 and four batting points. And, what is more, they did it despite getting the holy terrors every time that Ben Stokes went near the ball. 25-8-52-5 and a batsman sent to hospital suggest that the thought of playing the Indians has put fire in his belly.
When Durham batted, wickets fell regularly. Were it not for Tom Latham’s 120*; they would be in a sorry mess, as the next highest score has been 21. Durham have closed on 219-5 and, if Latham were to fall early, you suspect that Gloucestershire could end up with a decent first innings lead.
The first session tomorrow should tell us whether this match is heading for a dull draw (neither of these teams seems to be good at dull draws) or, instead, Gloucestershire might just make something of the match and put some distance between them and the wooden spoon.
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire
With so much rip-roaring action going on elsewhere, it is easy to forget that this game is on too. After their strong start to the season, Derbyshire are now resigned to another season of Division 2, while Northamptonshire seem to be heading for the sort of mid-table mediocrity that seemed unlikely in the extreme at the end of May. In fact, with mid-table so tight, finishing in the top half is far from impossible for the boys of Wantage Road. If this match, which looks certain to produce a result, falls their way, they may even start to entertain thoughts of finishing higher than that.
A century for Alex Wakely and sixty for Steven Crook saw Northamptonshire to 289ao and a useful lead of 29. Tony Palladino’s 4-33 made certain that the lead would not be larger and Matthew Critchley added 4-88. Derbyshire had barely cleared-off the arrears when Billy Godleman fell, but then fifties for Ben Slater and Wayne Madsen seemed to be putting Derbyshire in a strong position. The fall of Slater to Prasanna at 123-1 hastened a mini-collapse as Hughes and Wheeldon followed quickly. Derbyshire reached Stumps at 147-4, 118 ahead, with Madsen still there on 52* and seemingly the key to this match. If Madsen goes early, Northamptonshire will be confident of finishing this one off. If, in contrast, he can push on, they may find themselves chasing a challenging target on the final day. The big threat is the leg-spinner, Prasanna: the winner of the contest between Madsen and Prasanna will win the match for his side.
7/16/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkfromMadrid)
Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival has produced an excellent day of cricket with a series of twists and turns on the way. There was mayhem in the corresponding game last year when Glamorgan were the guests: 25 wickets fell on the first day, the highest innings total of the match was 158 and the game ended long before the end of the second day.
Not unexpectedly, Sussex went with a seam-based attack, supported by Danny Briggs: Will Beer missed out. Gloucestershire gave George Drissell, a nineteen-year-old off-spinner, just his third First Class start and still without a wicket, to back their own five seamers. Comparing the two sides on paper, you wondered how many of the host’s XI would get into the opposition team – the betting was that it would be one or two at most.
Seeing a hard, dry surface that seemed full of runs, both sides wanted to bat. Sussex won the Toss and set off at a furious pace. Those who know the Shire well looked at the home attack and started to hide behind the sofa: this sort of opening is usually the prelude to a massive total by the opposition, followed by a Gloucestershire collapse and a follow-on 300+ behind. Matt Taylor’s third over went for 14, and the good work of David Payne at one end (4-2-5-0) was being brutally counterbalanced by Taylor’s 3-0-25-0. There was only one thing to do and, as has been Gloucestershire’s won't increasingly this season, the cry went out from the captain for Ryan Higgins. The immediate result was to slow the flow of runs – four of Higgins’ first seven overs were maidens and, although no wicket fell, pressure and frustration started to increase in the batsmen. Craig Miles relieved David Payne and, although he gave the batsmen something to hit, he also made the breakthrough as Luke Wells gave a catch to Graeme van Buuren. The opening stand was 74 and beginning to look really threatening and that wicket desperately needed. After a nightmare 2017, Craig Miles, so highly rated beforehand, has 17 wickets at 27.7 as of the Close today and is bowling so much better again; today he had one of his best days for two years.
In his very next over, Miles bowled Phil Salt for 57 from 54 balls: both openers had fallen in just ten deliveries, and the scoreboard looked so much better. It was to get better still. On came the popular Kieron Noema-Barnett – incredibly, top of the Gloucestershire batting averages this season – to bowl a tight first over. Craig Miles got six balls at Luke Wright, slightly surprisingly retained despite modest returns this season. The first ball of the over was hammered to the boundary but, after four dots, Wright obligingly chipped to Bobby Bracey, and Miles was guarding figures of 7-1-31-3. When you win the Toss and bat, losing three wickets in the morning means that you have probably lost the session, but things were to get worse: last over before Lunch, the legend that is Kieron Noema-Barnett trundled in. The moment brilliantly described by Sir Robert Hunt in person:
“Optimistic shout from Noema-Barnett. That will never be given.
[Two beat pause] Oh! [Voice rising almost to hysteria] He’s given it!”
Thank you, Sir Robert. When we are looking for an umpire for the elite panel, we’ll give you a call!
Lunch called at 97-4, and a bewildering turnaround had taken place. In one ball fewer than seven overs, Sussex had slid from a comfortable 74-0 to a somewhat precarious position. However, as Adrian Harms pointed out from the Sussex end of the commentary box, only Jofra Archer of the Sussex XI was missing a First Class century. In other words, he warned Bob Hunt to: “fear men of Hove, even when they offer easy wickets”.
For close to two hours, Adrian Harms’ words seemed to presage the recurring Gloucestershire nightmare of getting rid of the top order and then not being able to finish the job; that nightmare seemed to be coming back to haunt them once again. Chris Dent tried Ryan Higgins. He tried Kieron Noema-Barnett. The stand between Finch and Brown, presumably using kryptonite-encrusted bats, grew and grew. The ball was old and soft, and the two spinners had not bowled a ball. Did Chris Dent remember that George Drissell was on the field? Had Graeme van Buuren refused to pass him the ketchup over lunch and thus been consigned to Purgatory? Or was it that the inviting, short leg-side boundary just scared the life out of him? Finally, possibly by accident, the ball was passed to the former. First over: two singles and not a leg-side six to be seen. Tight over from Kieron Noema-Barnett: just a leg-bye and a single. Maiden from Drissell. A loose ball from KNB, slapped to the boundary before the strait-jacket was tightened again. Captain Ben Brown decided that enough was enough and tried to launch Drissell into orbit but only lifted the ball as far as Ryan Higgins at Mid-On. Higgins had to be involved somewhere although, long after, the identity of the fielder who took the catch – Higgins or van Buuren – was still being debated! A partnership of 113 was ended, and Gloucestershire had an opening. Sussex though still had Finch, Wiese, Jordan and Archer and had the platform for a total in the range 350 to 400… if they batted with care.
Cricket though knows no logic. There is a feeling that there are few things more embarrassing than giving your wicket to Kieron Noema-Barnett, but it was KNB, a worthy successor to David Shepherd as Gloucestershire anti-athlete, who twisted the knife. In he trundled. Wiese, who had possibly just got bored waiting for the ball to arrive from the bowlers hand, missed it and KNB had his second LBW. He must have imagined that the batsmen thought that it was his birthday! [Note to Sussex batsmen: his birthday was on June 4th, but he would like to point out that further, late gifts will not be refused].
In came Chris Jordan. “Jordan will fancy Drissell” opined Sir Robert Hunt on commentary. Six balls later Jordan was caught by Noema-Barnett off Drissell for a duck! Let’s just say that neither commentator covered himself with glory with his punditry today, while the “third voice”, only known by his initials of “DT”, limited his efforts on the mic to sound effects, by munching on a packet of crisps right behind Mssrs Harms and Hunt! Yes, it was one of those days when the commentary was fun and the cricket, at times, plain daft to accompany it. This is Division 2 at its best: enjoying the more relaxed pace and being competitive, but not taking itself too seriously.
Back came Matt Taylor, whose first six overs had gone for 44. Life is rarely dull when Matt Taylor has the ball. Sussex’s hopes of 300+ lay with Harry Finch. Finch hit the ball straight back at Taylor, Taylor pouched it gratefully and, from being 210-4 and things looking pretty grim for the Shire, suddenly it was 236-8, and the grim was with Sussex. What is more, Matt Taylor, having started with 6-0-44-0, had returned with 8-4-16-1: the buffet at the Taylor end was, most definitely, closed.
Not for nothing though do Sussex bat down to #11. Archer and Robinson got their eye in and then decided to cash in. Drissell, who had been guarding the remarkable figures of 7-1-15-2, came in for some punishment. The second batting point came, and a third seemed to be approaching at express pace. Drissell was relieved, his last three overs costing 23 and Miles and Payne brought back. Even if it was Craig Miles who bowled the ball, today there was, but one man who could make the breakthrough as the Sussex tail sought to right the ship: Jofra Archer went for one hit too many and dear old Kieron Noema-Barnett pouched the catch. Out went Archer for 21 and, with him, remaining hopes of reaching 300. Payne bowled a straight one at Danny Briggs, pinned him, and the innings was over for 286 when, one suspects, Sussex were thinking of 450+ as their target batting first.
The day though still had ample opportunity to go pear-shaped for Gloucestershire. Of the batsmen playing today, only Kieron Noema-Barnett (who else?), Bobby Bracey and (just) Ryan Higgins average over 25 in the Championship this season. And, in front of them, Jofra Archer – widely regarded as the hottest property in County cricket – Ollie Robinson and Chris Jordan. Eleven overs to survive and the script stated that Gloucs could well end the day 18-5 and struggling to avoid the follow-on. Miles Hammond, playing only his fourth First Class innings in his fourth match, had the job of opening with captain Chris Dent, without exactly a sparkling 2nd XI record this season to back him up. At the Close though, he was approaching his highest First Class score and had given his county a solid start, at 42-0, backed-up by Chris Dent’s solid imitation of a limpet.
Sussex have left three batting points behind and desperately need a big day tomorrow to keep their promotion hopes on track. If they fail to win this game, their chances will depend on combining a remarkable second half of the season with one of Kent and Warwickshire imploding horribly. Gloucestershire are facing the unpleasant prospect of the wooden spoon writ large ahead unless their batsmen can start to grind-out some scores. Both sides have plenty to play for. Tomorrow may determine how each side views the second half of the season.
6/27/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Day 3 of the battles at the top and the bottom of the table.
Day 2 ended without anything scandalous happening at Canterbury – at least, nothing that Middlesex fans are not familiar with anyway – and with Yorkshire, Hampshire, Essex and Nottinghamshire firmly on top in their games. This was not great news if you are a Surrey, Lancashire, Somerset, or Worcestershire supporter, but the fact that Yorkshire seemed to be setting themselves up for a tilt for victory against Surrey was music to the ears of the chasing pack in Division 1.
In Division 2, Warwickshire were recovering from defeat at the weekend with some Durham-bashing (although Durham were responding in kind). Kent were well on the way to victory against Middlesex, Northamptonshire were in a good position against Glamorgan and Leicestershire were making up for their last-gasp defeat by Middlesex and, in the Midlands derby, Leicestershire were pushing themselves into a strong position against Derbyshire.
Although a day and a half of chasing leather at Chelmsford had just about ruled out any chance of victory for Somerset, their batsmen had responded confidently, and Somerset had justifiable hopes of taking four batting points and setting-up a high-scoring draw, with its reasonable haul of points. Somerset set about their task with a will and scored steadily. From 140-2 at the start, there was a squelch when Byrom fell in the seventh over of the day, but Hildreth and Abell batted calmly when the fall of another wicket could bring calamity. As 200 and the first batting point were achieved, the pair began to accelerate, as their rate of scoring was only going to bring them three batting points at most. However, runs all the way down the order, led by 78 from James Hildreth saw Somerset safely to four batting points and passing the follow-on mark comfortably. Job done. Draw ensured. Jamie Overton, making a welcome return to the side scored 35 before falling to the occasional off-breaks of Tom Westley. 407ao reduced the deficit to 110 and Somerset had an opening. Alastair Cook was ill, so Westley opened with Browne, and suddenly the match turned on its head. Gregory began with a maiden. Then Josh Davey got Westley LBW with his second ball. Then Lewis Gregory pinned Pepper LBW with the second ball of his second over, and Essex were 1-2 and, if not in trouble, at least in need of a partnership to stabilise the innings. Browne and Bopara got them through to the Close at 17-2 and Somerset will need to strike hard and quickly tomorrow to make a game of this.
Cheteshwar Pujara was asked after play was abandoned at Scarbados if he had ever seen anything like yesterday’s sea fret. Not unexpectedly, he replied that this is not a feature of afternoons in Rajkot. The remarkable thing is that the large crowd were able to follow the action – at times the boundary at the other side of the grown was almost invisible. With so much play being lost, 104 overs had to be bowled on Day 3, and the match hurried on as if planning to use the extra time to get the finish in. Surrey set out at 219-7 knowing that they needed a big day today to get back into the match. Ollie Pope enhanced his burgeoning reputation, receiving solid support from Morne Morkel. The fifty partnership came up in 13.5 overs. Morkel fell to the second over with the new ball and, despite some power hitting from Pope to end on 69*, the innings ended after just twenty new ball deliveries at 267ao, giving Yorkshire a useful lead of 75. Ben Coad was the star with the ball with 5-53, supported by Tim Bresnan with 3-77. When Yorkshire batted, aiming to set up a declaration, things went horribly wrong. Lees and Lyth fell to Morkel in the first five overs, and Yorkshire were trembling on 8-2. He then added Ballance. Rikki Clarke took Brook, Dernbach picked-up Pujara and Yorkshire had staggered to 48-5. Surrey were right back in the game, and when Morkel added Leaning, it was 70-6, the lead was just 145, with Morkel resting on 4-26. Small, but vital contributions from Tattersall, Bresnan, Patterson and Brooks hauled Yorkshire up to the comparative riches of 152 and a lead of 227, but Yorkshire must have known that they had let this one slip away. Burns and Stoneman set about the target and, glory be, today Stoneman got past 30 for the first time in the season as Rory Burns added yet another 50. It was getting awfully one-sided and, as boundary after boundary was added to the total that shining light that the batsmen could see in the distance was the spotlight focussed on the Championship pennant after so many years of modest returns, too many of them in Division Two. Surrey reached Stumps 89-0 and will surely go on to close out the win that will bring an overdue Championship so much closer.
At Old Trafford, Lancashire’s aspirations were limited to getting close to parity and thus ensuring a draw. 115 for Davies, 134 for Dane Vilas, a partnership of 138 for the fourth wicket and Lancashire were well on the way to their target. Vilas and Clark added another 112 and eliminated the follow on from the equation. By mid-afternoon, the draw was looming larger over the ground than the usual Manchester cloud. By the time that Clark was run out by James Vince for 82, Lancashire were well past 400, and the draw was almost inevitable. 411ao left Hampshire a lead of 40 and less than four sessions remaining and no real option of winning. Lancashire knew that a quick clatter of wickets could just give them a chance of a surprise victory. Onions took Adams LBW to make it 12-1 and then Tom Bailey got James Vince to edge through to the ‘keeper to leave Hampshire 47-2, 87 ahead and in need of a little caution. Another wicket might well have got Lancashire interested, but Sam Northeast and Joe Weatherley got the visitors through to the Close, 66-2 and 106 ahead. Unless a lot of wickets fall in the first hour tomorrow the afternoon session of this one is going to be tedious.
At Trent Bridge, Worcestershire started at 215-7, 284 behind and made a brave attempt to avoid the follow-on. After Pennington fell for 16, at 234-8, Whiteley went after the bowling and, in partnership with Morris, added 53, to which Morris’s contribution was just 9. Chris Nash was brought on with his occasional off-spin in an attempt to end the fun and duly knocked over the last two wickets in his third over. Unsurprisingly, with a lead of 212 and 75 overs remaining in the day, Nottinghamshire did not enforce the follow-on, hoping to add quick runs. They did not have the best of starts as Dillon Pennington trapped Chris Nash LBW for his maiden first-class wicket with just the eighth ball of the innings. Jake Libby and Samit Patel then added 121 for the second wicket at 4-an-over and Nottinghamshire were on their way. Patel, Ross Taylor and Billy Root all fell in quick succession, but that just brought in Rikki Wessels to support Jake Libby. With the lead 380 with 30 overs left in the day, it was just a matter of how many Chris Nash wanted to add and how many overs he wished to give his bowlers in the evening. Finally, he declared at 249-4, when Jake Libby reached his century, setting Worcestershire a mere 462 to win, with 17 overs to survive, plus the 96 on Day 4. Worcestershire survived to Stumps, 43-0, with the challenge to survive the last day, albeit with all wickets intact.
At Canterbury, Middlesex started 22-2, chasing 467 and looked a defeated side. The batsmen handled bright sunshine no better than twilight and, by the end of the first hour, it was 68-7, with Podmore on 5-28 and a refreshed Grant Stewart with 2-36 having bowled all but one of the 25 overs. It was pretty ghastly to watch, and the implication was that Middlesex will be playing their cricket in Division 2 in 2019. Although weakened, the Middlesex side was not as weak as might be thought looking at the scorecard and Kent were missing their two best bowlers. For Middlesex the problems mount. Max Holden is finding the step up to 1st XI cricket quite hard work (although he has had some decent performances), Sam Robson has stated that he wants his England place back, but has only reached 20 once in his last six Championship matches (31 v Leics) and Hylton Cartwright is about to leave, having managed a match-winning innings against Leicestershire, but little more, while Dawid Malan is in pretty grizzly form. Podmore, who hardly got a game for the 1st XI while at Lord’s, soon added John Simpson to his personal score and it looked likely that the game would end in the first session. In came the Lambeth Lara himself at 80-9, decided to enjoy himself. The last wicket partnership lasted 37 balls and added 44, of which Tim Murtagh’s contribution was 40 from 21 balls. The next highest Middlesex score in the match were Stevie Eskinazi’s 25 in the first innings: no one else scored more than 13. This was not the pitch. It was not the Duke ball. It was diabolically bad Middlesex batting. The final margin was 342 runs, and Middlesex were lucky to get that close. RIP any remote hope of promotion for the Middlesex Machines. Kent, in contrast, will be confident that Division One cricket is returning to Canterbury and not before time.
At Chester-le-Street, Day 3 started with the hosts at 138-2 and hopeful of piling-up a big reply to Warwickshire’s 424. Steel fell quickly for 51 on them, and no one had the sticktoitiveness to stay out there. 139-2 became 175-6 as a familiar, sinking feeling fell over the local supporters. However, not for the first time, Gareth Harte stood firm: he is the sort of batsman that you would have liked to have you defending the perimeter at Dunkirk… nothing seems to get past him if he can help it! Ryan Pringle gave him solid support and Durham could hope to avoid the follow-on and, with it, the biggest danger of defeat. Harte and Pringle added 48 together, then Rimmington came in and gave Harte more solid support, adding 54 and going past the follow-on mark. When Harte was finally out for 45, caught behind of Chris Wright, Rushworth and Salisbury added 13 more from 11 balls to edge Durham closer to safety. Warwickshire batted again with 46 overs of the day remaining, 127 ahead and needing to add a lot of runs very quickly to set up any chase. What Warwickshire did not count with was a fine bowling display from the hosts. 38-3 quickly, Warwickshire were indebted to Jonathon Trott for his 53 but, when he fell, Warwickshire were 119-5, 248 ahead and Durham were hanging on to their hopes of chasing something under 300. Salisbury, who finished the day with 3-48 and Rimmington (1-40) strove for the breakthrough, but Ambrose and Barker saw Warwickshire through to stumps, 152-5. The lead is 279. The question is: do Warwickshire settle for the draw, or do they go for quick runs in the morning and set up a chase? Their best chance of victory might be to be bowled out inside the first hour.
At Derby, the hosts started 43-3, still nine behind and were soon in even deeper trouble. Had it not been for the 86 of Matt Critchley the game might well have ended in the second session of the day. His only significant support was 30 from Alex Hughes. Critchley was the last man to fall, desperately trying to add to the meagre Derbyshire lead. The Leicestershire hero was, unquestionably, Mohammad Abbas, with 6-54, which wrecked the Derbyshire innings as he and Ben Raine bowled 45 of the 60 overs. Facing a target of 133 for their third win in four games, Leicestershire only needed to avoid early disaster. The fall of concussion substitute, Sam Evans, to Viljoen in the second over may have caused some nerves in the visitor dressing room, but captain Paul Horton and Colin Ackermann set about their task with gusto and set Leicestershire on their way to a big win. Ackermann fell finally for 58 but, with the score already 100-2, only an utter disaster would stop Leicestershire winning. Paul Horten though stayed around until the target was almost reached and Leicestershire duly won by six wickets and shoot up the Division 2 table.
In the final game of this round, at Cardiff, Ben Duckett was 111* at the start and Northants were 169-0, 196 ahead. Duckett went on to 133, with the opening partnership 208 before Northants suffered one of the collapses that blighted last season and has blighted this. 208-0 became 246-6 as Smith and van ter Gugten suddenly reined them back. Enter Steven Crook to partner Vasconcelos who was still there, almost forgotten and, suddenly, the leather started to fly. Crook is no mean batsman and showed it with a blistering 73. Crook and Vasconcelos added 147 and Northamptonshire were out of sight. Wakeley declared at 406-9, scored at better than 4-an-over and set Glamorgan 434 to win or, more likely, 129 overs to survive. Glamorgan made a sound start, but the fall of Selman to Procter, followed by Murphy to Buck had Glamorgan 54-2 and Northamptonshire looking at finishing the match of quickly. A stand of 57 from Morgan and Khawaja had Glamorgan hoping again but, again, both fell quickly. At 118-4, it seems to be just a matter of when Northamptonshire win. Carlson and van ter Gugten saw out the last eight balls with no further loss, but they need to bat well past Lunch tomorrow if Glamorgan are to make a fight of it. Glamorgan fans will not be holding their breath.
Day 2 of the battles at the top and the bottom of the table.
The big talking point of the day was, undoubtedly the goings-on at Canterbury the previous evening. In three of the games in each Division the match was day-night, with a pink ball being used under floodlights. Whereas in Division 1, the Kookaburra ball was used, in Division 2, it was the Duke. At Canterbury, the ball swung so prodigiously that batting seemed near-impossible, with balls taking remarkable curves through the air. Social media were alive with complaints about the farcical conditions and the rank unfairness of batting under lights with a ball that behaved in such a way. In contrast, no such movement were seen with the Kookaburra in Division 1, so the suspicion (and a good part of the opprobrium) were falling in the Duke ball (with another part aimed at the ECB for this experiment). Yet, two other games had twilight play with a Duke with no comparable action was observed. At Derby, Leicestershire navigated through 28 overs of Duke in twilight without losing a wicket against an attack of Olivier, Rampaul, Palladino and Viljoen and, at Chester-le-Street, there was a New Ball burst of 4 wickets for 6 runs, including 3 wickets in 5 balls for Steve Magoffin, but no exaggerated swing and the sixth wicket pair batted calmly to the Close. Did Middlesex simply fall foul of a rogue Duke ball? Was there something different in the conditions at Canterbury that allowed the ball to swing prodigiously there, but not at Derby or Chester-le-Street? Or was it simply a case that the Kent second-string attack picked for this match had a purple patch where everything went right and they got the ball to work for them in a way that might never happen for them again? It is hard to know. It could just be that the key factor was the much earlier sunset at Canterbury and late finish to the day produced perfect conditions for swing and the Kent bowlers having the luck to get it right.
So bizarre though were the events in the Kent-Middlesex game, mainly in the last 10-12 overs, just before and just after sunset, that your correspondent received a request from the BBC to investigate why the ball behaved the way that it did from the point of view of physics. This report was duly sent to the BBC.
However, we need to start our round-up of events atChelmsford, where it is quite possible that we are seeing the staging of a final eliminator in the title race. Essex continued to give the Somerset bowling a fearful cauliflower ear through the second day. Title-hopefuls, Somerset – and after several days of seeing them on the wrong end of some huge scores, we need to remind ourselves that they are still contenders – could only manage a single bowling point and failed to take a wicket in the entire first session. As the score mounted through the first two sessions, the possibility of a Somerset win disappeared rapidly.The first wicket of the day came, finally, when Ravi Boparadeparted for 118, aiming a big swing at Peter Trego and losing his off stump. Bopara and Ryan ten Doeschate had added 294 for the fifth wicket, beating the previous best of 276 against Somerset, but missing-out on the record Essex fifth wicket partnership of 339. For Tom Abell though, it is the second successive game where he has watched his bowlers toil against the opposition when they have batted first. He must feel that his team's chances of a first Championship are slipping away, day by relentless day. That poor decision last week has led to six days of increasing misery and the likelihood that Somerset’s Championship chances have been fatally damaged. Essex declared finally at 517-5 and the Taunton faithful must have been fearing the worst. However, the change of innings brought little relief for the bowlers as Somerset closed on 140-2, losing a wicket to the last ball of the day. 41 from Davies, 42 from Bartlett and an unbeaten 53 for Byrom. This match has all the elements to be a draw unless the bowlers can find something on the third day. For Somerset, a high-scoring draw will be some relief and a victory of sorts.
When Yorkshire and Surrey locked horns again at Scarborough, Steve Patterson and Jack Brooks started on 299-8 and motored to the third batting point, threatening to add a fourth in quick time. Eventually, both fell in the space of 2 balls to Dernbach, to leave Yorkshire 337ao. That total was re-adjusted though to 442ao, as 5 penalty runs were added for two Surrey disciplinary offences – including Mark Stoneman's later reaction to being given out. Jade Dernbach finished with the Fidel Edwards-esquefigures of 4-104 at 4.2 runs per over, while Morne Morkel and Rikki Clarke combined for 4-115 from double the number of overs. When Surrey batted, they were soon in trouble, as Mark Stoneman fell to a catch behind off Ben Coad for 9, making them 9-1. Stoneman was clearly extremely unhappy with the dismissal and indicated that he had not hit the ball. Given that he has still not reached 30 in any game this season and saw a flat pitch that offered him a real chance of breaking that sequence, his sfrustration was as understandable as his dissent was unacceptable. Rory Burns though was in excellent form and reached his fifty just after Scott Borthwick was caught behind off Tim Bresnan. The curiosity of the day was the way that the sea fret appeared and disappeared through the day. There was a real threat that play could not start on time and, in mid-afternoon, the fog was bad, getting to be worse than ever and becoming a real inconvenience. By Tea, the far side of the ground was almost invisible from the commentary box and identifying the players in the middle required sharp eyesight and some imagination, but the umpires decided that conditions, though marginal, were just about suitable to continue. When the players did finally come off, it actually appeared that the visibility had improved somewhat. As far as the action in the middle could be discerned, wickets fell regularly to the Yorkshire bowlers, with only Rory Burns making his start count. In the middle order, Borthwick, Patel and de Bruyn (in his second and final game for Surrey), all reached 20, but none of them could reach 40. Jacks and Clarake then fell quickly and, when play was abandoned for the day, Surrey were 219-7 and a long way behind. Ollie Pope is still there on 34* and was getting sensible support from Morne Morkel and, on them, lie Surrey’s hopes of getting the deficit down to something manageable.Yorkshire will be eying the win that would pull them away from the bottom two and perhaps get them into the fringes of the title race.
At Old Trafford, Hampshire moved on steadily from their 302-6 at the start, reaching 398-8 at Lunch. Ollie Rayner fell in the second over of the morning, but Rossouw received solid support from Gareth Berg, adding 86 for the eighth wicket and securing the fourth batting point. Berg fell for 49, with Rilee Rossouwgoing to Lunch on 95*, leaving Hampshire well on top.Rossouw duly moved on to his century soon after Lunch and received solid support from Kyle Abbott, while Fidel Edwards also hung around with Rossouw, leaving him 120*, as Hampshire totalled 451. There were strange events at Old Trafford too, but for a whole, different reason to those at Canterbury. After the BBC’s Gary Linekar received permission to present Match of the Day in his underpants should Leicester City win the Premiership in 2016, Graeme Onions made a similar rash promise to bowl in his underpants if Panama finished their game against England in the (football) World Cup without a single player sent off. Today, he has taken to the field in some very colourful underwear – but no trousers – to comply with his promise and, simultaneously, to raise awareness of testicular cancer (and, maybe, to distract the batsman at the same time – damned cunning, these bowlers). Tactically, the decision was a failure, as Graeme Onions failed to add to his five wickets on the first day and ended up with 5-96. Lancashire started poorly, as Jennings fell on 7, with a largely strokeless Hameed still struggling for 1st XI runs, Lancashire were 54-2 and then 70-3 as Jones failed, but Davies was scoring freely at the other end, reaching Stumps on 78*, well-supported by Vilas on 37*. Lancashire are 140-3 and will need a good first session on Day 3 if they are to get close to parity.
At Trent Bridge, Nottinghamshire fell just short of the fifth batting point, needing a six from the last ball of the 110 overs to reach 400, but continued to make Brett D’Oliviera wonder why he had put them in. After Tom Moores fell for 56, Rikki Wesselsand Stuart Broad added exactly 50, at a good pace, before the interval. With a declaration coming, Wessels and Fletcher then started to enjoy themselves hugely (Fletcher’s innings was short and sweet). The “see ball, hit ball” approach continued until Nottinghamshire finally pulled out at 499-9, leaving Wessels75*. Worcestershire used eight bowlers in a Canute-like effort to hold back the tide of runs, six of whom took wickets. In reply, Martin Guptill set off at a rate of knots, with a run-a-ball 28, before falling to Harry Gurney. The pattern of manic Worcestershire batting continued to the Close: they have scored at almost 4-an-over but, five batsmen were dismissed for scores between 18 and 25, Whiteley being 25* at Stumps and the exception, Clarke, only reached 40. No one had the patience to make a significant contribution. It was as if the gains of the previous match had been lost in transit. Worcestershire finished 215-7, 284 behind and are unlikely to get close to the follow on mark.
Much of the focus was on Stuart Broad, who plays so few county matches for Nottinghamshire and it was evident that he was very much enjoying himself with a decent innings as Nottinghamshire aimed for a declaration, followed by 11-2-34-2with the ball. Nottinghamshire will very much want the win points and, if possible, the extra day off, but may have a difficult decision as to whether or not to enforce the follow on, if they can. So far, only Harry Gurney has bowled more than 11 overs but, if the last three Worcestershire batsmen hang around, Nottinghamshire could be facing a long day in the field and see a tiring attack struggle to finish-off the task in hand. The alternative may be to bat for two sessions and give the bowlers a rest.
At Canterbury, it was very much a case of “the afternoon after the night before”. The Middlesex headache was a hangover from too much Duke ball the previous evening, having seen their team fall from 44-3 to 54-9 in 11 overs of wildly swinging pink balls. The aim of these day/night games has been to give spectators the entertainment that they demand – big crowds at some of the grounds and the photos suggest “BIG” in block capitals – hint that gimmicks are not necessary if the product is good, which it has been in the Championship for at least ten seasons now. As Stewart, Podmore, Haggett and Thomas carried out a twilight massacre of a Middlesex batting line-up that was short of several first-choice batsmen, you thought of the scene in the film Gladiator in which a miffed Russell Crowe runs through the opposition batting in the amphitheatre before shouting a challenge to the public. You could almost imagine him taking the place of Grant Stewart and, as he took his fifth wicket, turning to Kevin Hand, who was spluttering in disbelief in the commentary box and yelling at him “are you not entertained?”
The net result of 22 overs of entertainment was that Middlesex, 54-9, required 92 – that is, 38 more – to avoid the follow on with James Fuller and the Lambeth Lara himself, Tim Murtagh, the last pair. One safe bet was that Kent had no intention of enforcing the follow on, even if available to them. Their aim would be to bat again, score 200-250 more and then put Middlesex back in at twilight. Would this nefarious play work? Read on…
The first stage of the plan duly worked. Fuller and Murtaghsurvived just eleven balls before Grant Stewart got Murtagh, first ball, with the twelfth delivery of the day. Just two singles had been added by Fuller, Stewart finishing with the remarkable figures of 10-2-22-6. Middlesex were left well short of the follow on mark, while the last ten overs of the Middlesex innings had produced 6 wickets for 5 runs (two of those runs in the morning to the last pair). Kent, not unexpectedly, did not enforce the follow on, despite a lead of 185. The second part of the plan went swimmingly too as Kent accumulated runs and lost wickets steadily as the day advanced. Only Kuhn, with 59, reached 30 but, then, Middlesex needed to bowl Kent for well under 100 to get back into the game. Kuhn showed strong dissent at his dismissal and it would have been no surprise hadthere been penalty runs to come later, although it seems that no such punishment has been meted-out. The lead duly passed 350, with Kent on course to set Middlesex batting in the post-dinner session. Kent 170-8 at dinner, 355 ahead and the plan coming together nicely for Kent. Then, the final insult: Grant Stewart came in and flayed the bowling to all parts. A century partnership for the last wicket with Ivan Thomas 1* from 36 balls. His fifty came in 36 balls and then, with his eye in, he changed gear and accelerated until Tim Murtagh came back. Even so, his century came from 71 balls, before falling three balls later to Ravi Patel for 103. However, Tim Murtagh’s spell and the wish to let Stewart get his century, delayed the declaration and Kent only allowed themselves eleven overs of twilight to set about the nervous batsmen.
Would the new, pink Duke move? Let’s hear it from Kevin Hand:
“First ball from Podmore beats the edge. Second ball edged just short of third slip. Third ball edged to keeper. Middx 0-1. Holden out. New Dukes pink ball darting about again under lights and with dew! The ball was 79 overs old by end of Kent 2nd innings.”
However, from that low point, it was not as bad as feared. The Kent bowlers did not quite hit the lines of yesterday. Stewart was evidently tired after is batting efforts and not quite on song and, although Eskinazi fell for 5, 22-2 was nowhere like as bat as had been feared. Another undoubted factor is that play ended much earlier than on the first evening, before the dusk had set in so far and that conditions were not quite as favourable for the prodigious swing of the previous night. Maybe it was just that the Kent bowlers exploited the conditions perfectly on that first evening. Certainly now, we have had two evenings of play with a pink Duke and, only at Canterbury have we seen anything untoward.
At Chester-le-Street, life continued to be hard-going for the Durham bowlers as Jonathon Trott accumulated through the first session, passing his 150 with comfort. The Warwickshire top ten and extras all reached double figures as the fourth batting point was obtained with some comfort and Warwickshire passed 400.The sequence was broken as last man, Ryan Sidebottom, fell LBW to Rimmington for 6, but Warwickshire’s 424ao was imposing enough. Durham’s bowling effort fell heavily on the shoulders of Rushworth, who bowled 38 overs for 4-101 and Salisbury, who bowled 35 overs for 4-111. As these two bowled 73 overs between them, the other five bowlers used by Paul Collingwood bowled a total of just 61. Responding, Durham obtained the solid start that they required to settle nerves. Latham and Steel both scored fifties, adding 96 for the first wicket before Hannon-Dalby had Tom Latham caught behind by Tim Ambrose. This mode of dismissal was repeated in his next over as Will Smith fell quickly, leaving Durham 98-2 and in danger of losing the initiative. However, Graham Clark gave Cameron Steel (born in California and previously on the Somerset books) solid support and Durham reached Stumps at 138-2. Durham are not out of the woods yet in this game, but have at least found a forest path. With six sessions left and first innings lead unlikely to be settled before the second session today, the draw starts to look favourite here if Durham bat anything like they can in the first two sessions.
At Derby, where Harry Dearden had retired hurt on 9 after a blow to the head, Sam Evans was brought in as a concussion replacement. Dearden’s symptoms improved overnight, but he was unable to play any further part in the game. Evans came in at the fall of Colin Ackermann for 32, LBW to Tony Palladino, adding a new level of complication to the business of scoring, as Leicestershire made slow, but serene progress. There were runs all the way down the order, but only Paul Horton, with 88, was able to pass 35 as the Derbyshire bowlers and, particularly Viljoen and Palladino harassed the Leicestershire batting.Leicestershire will be disappointed though that, despite a brave attempt from the last pair, they fell just short of 300 and the third batting point. The first innings lead of 52 was, however, a very useful one, particularly as the bowlers made important inroads immediately. Mohammad Abbas tore into the Derbyshire top order and removed Slater and Hosein quickly, supported by Ben Raine taking Wayne Madsen. Within ten over Derbyshire were 17-3 and in some disarray. Alex Hughes and Billy Godlemanstarted a re-building job and at least were able to take their side to the Close but, at 43-3, still 9 behind, Derbyshire are in trouble here and can ill-afford to lose an early wicket on Day 3. If Leicestershire were thwarted by the last pair for Middlesex in winning three consecutive matches, they can at least see their way clear to winning three from four if they have a good first session of the third day.
The final game of this round, as Cardiff is providing another odd-looking scorecard. Glamorgan started the second day on 21-0 and made steady, but not spectacular progress to reach 115-3 at Lunch. All the top three reached twenty, but none of them got to thirty, with Luke Procter picking up two, cheap wickets. Usman Khawaja though, has made Glamorgan history by being the first player ever to hit centuries in his first three Championship matches for them. His 103 out of 254 was a remarkable achievement, as he was on 71 when last man Michael Hogan came in. The next highest contribution to the total was the 30 from extras, while no fewer than five batsmen were dismissed for scores between 19 and 29. Northants obtained a first innings lead of 27, with the wickets shared around between Sanderson and Buck (three each) and Hutton and Procter (two each), with the standout analysis the 16-6-30-3 of former Yorkshire player, Ben Sanderson. Glamorgan will regret their decline from 156-3 to 254ao, with no one outside the top 4 reaching 20. Instead of obtaining a useful lead, they were facing a deficit of 27 and Northants set about increasing it quickly. Ben Duckett continued his destructive form, racing to a century. By the Close, Northants were 169-0, 196 ahead, with Duckett 111* and Procter 50*. Undoubtedly Northants will be looking to set up a declaration and a final day chase for Glamorgan. There will be an interesting first session of the third day as Glamorgan will want to slow down the headlong Northants charge, while Northants may well be looking to accelerate still further.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
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.
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