By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
In golf tournaments, Day 3 is often called “moving day”, in the County Championship though it is Day 2 that has been moving day in both divisions. Things could change, but it is entirely possible that, in late September, we will look back at today as the day when the Championship was settled and the Division 2 promotion race, that had looked an open and shut case, was thrown wide open. The relegation race – that Pythonesque battle to see who is the slowest – is also getting a good shaking-up: while Lancashire look like being the biggest losers, Hampshire, not playing in this round, seem almost certain to finish tomorrow in the relegation places. Things could be even worse for Hampshire and Lancashire, but it appears that Somerset will do them a favour by seeing-off Worcestershire (a Worcestershire win would take them out of the relegation places, leaving Hampshire bottom and Lancashire in seventh).
Nottinghamshire v Surrey
I would like to be referring to the battle for the Championship. Instead, it looks more like the sort of case of case of cold-blooded murder that Sherlock Holmes would, in his Benedict Cumberbatch incarnation, dismiss as “boring! It was Surrey that did it. Even the ECB can solve that case”. Day 2 has ended, and Nottinghamshire need only another 325 runs to avoid an innings defeat and to bat out close to six sessions to save the match. Barring a display of stone-walling that would make an all-night filibuster in parliament look like a garden party, Surrey will bury their nearest rivals and all but settle the Championship.
Having knocked-over Nottinghamshire in less than two sessions on Day 1, Surrey batted for three balls short of 120 overs at a rate of 5-an-over. Not only did they limit their rivals to just one batting point and seal their own full set of batting points with more than twenty-five overs to spare, but they also made sure that Nottinghamshire failed to get full bowling points. Even if Nottinghamshire somehow saved this match, the bonus points have broken 8-3 to Surrey, and their lead at the top of the table will be reinforced, even with a draw.
Not only was it the magnificent 153 from Rory Burns – leading to loud calls for him to be called up for the Tests against India – and the 86 from Mark Stoneman. After a mid-innings wobble, there was a first century in six years for Rikki Clarke, 70 from Sam Curran and then, when Rikki Clarke was dismissed, the last two wickets added 43 in 37 balls of gay abandon. One hundred and twenty runs were added in the last 51 balls of the innings. In the midst of the devastation, there was some room for levity: there is a tradition that when a player takes (or scores) a career-best, they buy drinks for the whole team: Steve Mullaney will have been delighted to drink the health of Billy Root tonight as put on at the end of the innings, he took his first, First Class wicket and then followed it by wrapping up the tail to finish with 4.3-0-37-3.
Batting again, 382 behind, Nottinghamshire could be forgiven for folding meekly but, instead, saw out the last hour for the loss of Jake Libby. 57-1 at Stumps, needing 325 more to avoid the innings defeat, the writing on the wall says “defeat on the third day”. Surrey will, undoubtedly, finish the day 43 points ahead of their victims, with a game in hand. Nottinghamshire are likely to finish this round of matches in third in the Championship, behind Somerset who will also have a game in hand.
Lancashire v Yorkshire
This match has seen more twists and turns than The Orbit in the Olympic Park in Stratford. It could easily have finished tonight as Yorkshire could have claimed the extra half hour, with Lancashire six wickets down and with Liam Livingstone unable to bat.
If, as seems almost certain, Yorkshire do seal victory, they would push themselves up the table into the fight for prize money and reduce their relegation worries, which dropping their eternal rivals right in the proverbial. Having dismissed Lancashire for 109, to seal a first innings lead of 83, Yorkshire fell to 21-3 and seemed to be letting the Red Rose right back into the match as the old warhorse, Graeme Onions, blew away the top order, while Jimmy Anderson removed Joe Root. Enter Jonny Bairstow. For just under two hours he changed the course of the match with a swashbuckling inning at a pace more attuned to T20 than County Championship. In the 19.3 overs that Harry Brook and Jonny Bairstow were together, they added 133 runs. Both went in quick succession and there followed the expected collapse, but Tim Bresnan and Steve Patterson added 41 for the seventh wicket to ensure that the lead was almost 300 and likely to be well out of Lancashire’s reach.
The target was 323. Lancashire needed someone to score a prominent century: quite likely they needed two centuries. Jennings and Davies got a start and were producing the sort of sensible batting that hinted at a Lancashire miracle. Even when Davies fell, LBW to Bresnan, Keaton Jennings held firm. At 86-1, Lancashire could hope. Seven overs later it was 110-5, and Lancashire were sinking fast. The fact that the match did not end well before the Close was entirely down to Jos Buttler. Buttler came in and played an innings similar to the one that Jonny Bairstow had played. It was more calculating, less violent; his 59 came from 69 balls. Buttler and Bailey added 80 in good time and seemed to be giving Lancashire reason to hope when Joe Root came on for a token over just before the Close and bowled a wicket-maiden, removing Buttler into the bargain. Graeme Onions faced only one of the seven balls remaining before Stumps and Lancashire start again in the morning needing 129 to win, with just Anderson and Parkinson to come.
Worcestershire v Somerset
This game too is turning into a cracker. Somerset desperately need the win to keep alive their halting challenge, even if Runners-Up seems to be the best that they can aspire to barring a Surrey implosion. Having reached 337 and three batting points, Somerset looked to be set to be able to enforce the follow-on as Worcestershire struggled to 166-8; still 22 short of the follow-on. Jamie Overton was bowling fast and furious and was too much for some of the Worcestershire batsmen, who are still short on confidence. Luke Wood, though, 22 years old, came in and batted like a veteran in partnership with Pennington. Together they passed the follow-on, then they brought up a batting point and even a second batting point, with Somerset seeing their first innings lead disappearing apace. Finally, Pennington chopped on to his own stumps to Jamie Overton and Davey knocked-over Magoffin to leave a lead of eighty, far fewer than Somerset had hoped.
When Somerset batted again, Eddie Byrom acted as a limpet, while Marcus Trescothick scored more freely at the other end. Somerset were 47-0 at Stumps, 127 ahead, and will be looking to turn the knife on Day 3 while the wicket deteriorates further to give Jack Leach something to use on the last day. Somerset will be bitterly disappointed if they cannot close this one out.
Today, the Division 2 promotion race has been dynamited. Sussex, in third, have marmalised Glamorgan and, even more significantly, Leicestershire, in fourth have destroyed Kent. If Middlesex had shown a little more staying power, we might have talked about the promotion race being blown wide open as, for much of the day, it looked as if Warwickshire might be facing a tough chase at Lord’s. As of the close of play tonight, it looks as if a Warwickshire win is likely although, Middlesex being Middlesex, the watchword for Day might be “expect the unexpected”: they are worse than Durham for sheer unpredictability in the face of both triumph and defeat.
Let’s imagine that Warwickshire do wrap-up a win against Middlesex. What might the Division 2 table look like tomorrow night?
1. Warwickshire P8 W6 L1 D1 144
2. Sussex P8 W4 L1 D3 121
3. Kent P8 W5 L2 D1 115
4. Leicestershire P8 W4 L2 D2 111
5. Middlesex P8 W2 L4 D2 71
We see that, even though Warwickshire are riding high and dry, the battle for the second promotion spot has become a melange à Trois, with consecutive wins for Sussex and four wins in five matches for Leicestershire changing the panorama. A Middlesex defeat is likely to see them drop to sixth or seventh depending on other results. Any side wishing to come out of the mid-table scrum to be promoted will need to win at least five of their last six matches.
Kent v Leicestershire
What a run Leicestershire are having! Four wins in five matches and just ten points off promotion with six games to play. A ten-wicket annihilation has put a severe check on Kent’s apparently serene progress back into Division 1. Facing a 125 run first innings deficit, Kent needed a big score from someone and, at 109-2, looked as if they might be able to get back into the match. It was, though, just a mirage. After losing Daniel Bell-Drummond fifth ball, Dickson and Kuhn were batting confidently, but Kuhn’s wonder spell when he scored runs for fun has ended. He, Denly and Billings all got into the twenties, but only Dickson pushed on. Had Dickson got 80+ instead of 59; had one of Kuhn, Denly and Billings got 50, Kent might have set a tricky target, but each got in and got out as the Leicestershire bowlers shredded the wickets and made the vital breakthroughs every time that a partnership seemed to be getting threatening. At 133-3, Kent were ahead and still had a chance but, with the fall of Dickson, all resistance crumbled, and wickets fell regularly. Zak Chappell, with 3-39 and Mohammed Abbas, with 4-55 will get the headlines, but it was a team effort, and Kent subsided to 199ao, the last six wickets falling for 66.
Chasing 75, Dearden and Horton saw off the threat of the new ball and strolled to victory, with Dearden scoring 55*. Kent were well beaten, and Leicestershire have put their names in the pot for promotion.
Sussex v Glamorgan
At one point on the first day, Sussex had collapsed from 114-1 to 176-6 and seemed to be in danger of missing out on a vital win. Sussex though had got through a nail-biter with Gloucestershire and, with news of the Kent surrender telling them that a win would put them second, set about rectifying things. The Glamorgan horse had well and truly bolted when they let Sussex reach 327ao. Glamorgan batted this afternoon, not imagining that the match would be over before the floodlights were needed.
Archer and Jordan ripped into the Glamorgan first innings. There was no coming back from 15-5, with four wickets to Jofra Archer, tipped to play for England next season and one for Ollie Robinson and when Archer had to be rested, three wickets for Chris Jordan ripped the heart out of the middle order. Only Chris Cooke and, more briefly, Lukas Carey put up any kind of resistance and, when a run-out finished the innings in just 28.4 overs, there was never any question of the follow-on not being enforced.
Glamorgan had almost to triple their first innings 85ao to make Sussex bat again and did only fractionally better second time around. Again Archer and Robinson blew away the top three – this time it was 15-3 inside ten overs – before Jordan and Wiese joined in the fun. 88ao, with Archer taking 8-46 in the match, Jordan 5-37, Robinson 4-44 and Wiese 2-36. It was a devastating Sussex performance to win by an innings and 154 having scored only 327. Sussex look like a Division 1 side.
Middlesex v Warwickshire
Ah! Middlesex! For much of today, they had Warwickshire on the ropes and groggy, before inevitably offering a glass chin and ending the day looking to be on the verge of a knock-out themselves. Macbeth would have put it thus:
Is this a Middlesex collapse which I see before me,
The wickets toward Kevin Hand’s heart? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, defeat
Looming in my sight?
Yes, once again the Middlesex fans are threatening to open the MiddlesexBattingCollapse.com website that has been promised for a decade. Middlesex have gone from 152-2, threatening to bat Warwickshire out of the game, to 179-6, leading Warwickshire by just 139. One early wicket on the morrow and we may well see the game finishing soon after Lunch on Day 3. It seems incredible, given that around Tea today, the prospect of a draw seemed to be looming, as Middlesex appeared to be building up a big lead with the pitch apparently flat and dead. Middlesex fans say that no position is safe from a Middlesex collapse and here we had a superb specimen.
This was similar to the first innings, in which Middlesex stumbled from 51-1 to 76-7. It seemed that the recovery, led by the obdurate Holden and the brilliant Fuller might even be enough to give Middlesex a first innings lead, as Warwickshire themselves stumbled today. 152-4 overnight, wickets fell regularly, despite a superb century from Rhodes who added an invaluable 27 for the last wicket, of which Ryan Sidebottom’s contribution was 0*. Middlesex, led by the evergreen Murtagh and by James Harris could even feel disappointed to have conceded a lead as large as 40.
The similarity to the first innings was paralleled in another blazing cameo from Paul Stirling: 18 balls, 16 runs, all in boundaries – and then pocketed by Jonathon Trott at slip off Chris Woakes. Then we had an extended period of sensible batting as Gubbins and Eskenazi put Middlesex ahead and started to build a lead. The pitch looked flat, fans began to speculate with a boring draw, and the last thing that anyone expected was a calamity. Jethan Patel pinned Gubbings for 47, but Dawid Malan came in and batted nicely. It was 152-2, Middlesex were 112 ahead and sitting pretty. Then Jethan Patel got Eskinazi, caught by Hain for 73 and the bottom fell out of the Middlesex innings. Eoin Morgan fell LBW to Patel for 3. Sidebottom caught Holden off Patel for 8 and then, Malan, desperately short of runs, was bowled by Hannon-Dalby for 28. It was 179-6 and, from looking to set a target and declare, Middlesex were praying for more tail-end resistance.
Jethan Patel has 4-38 and seems to hold the key to this match. The lead is 143. Any target under 200 is unlikely to exercise Warwickshire seriously. If a wicket falls quickly in the morning, the match may well not reach Tea. There is no question that after great expectations, the disappointing Championship campaign, followed by poor One Day Cup and T20 results, has led to Middlesex struggling to remember how to win and, sad to see, the fans are kicking them when they are down when, what they most need, is some confidence.
Gloucestershire v Durham
This is not exactly the game where you would expect to find thud and blunder but, low-key or not, between two sides who know that they will be playing in Division 2 next season, there has been fire and some intrigue. As on the first day, the second ends with the match finely balanced. Gloucestershire reached the comparative riches of 362 and four batting points. And, what is more, they did it despite getting the holy terrors every time that Ben Stokes went near the ball. 25-8-52-5 and a batsman sent to hospital suggest that the thought of playing the Indians has put fire in his belly.
When Durham batted, wickets fell regularly. Were it not for Tom Latham’s 120*; they would be in a sorry mess, as the next highest score has been 21. Durham have closed on 219-5 and, if Latham were to fall early, you suspect that Gloucestershire could end up with a decent first innings lead.
The first session tomorrow should tell us whether this match is heading for a dull draw (neither of these teams seems to be good at dull draws) or, instead, Gloucestershire might just make something of the match and put some distance between them and the wooden spoon.
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire
With so much rip-roaring action going on elsewhere, it is easy to forget that this game is on too. After their strong start to the season, Derbyshire are now resigned to another season of Division 2, while Northamptonshire seem to be heading for the sort of mid-table mediocrity that seemed unlikely in the extreme at the end of May. In fact, with mid-table so tight, finishing in the top half is far from impossible for the boys of Wantage Road. If this match, which looks certain to produce a result, falls their way, they may even start to entertain thoughts of finishing higher than that.
A century for Alex Wakely and sixty for Steven Crook saw Northamptonshire to 289ao and a useful lead of 29. Tony Palladino’s 4-33 made certain that the lead would not be larger and Matthew Critchley added 4-88. Derbyshire had barely cleared-off the arrears when Billy Godleman fell, but then fifties for Ben Slater and Wayne Madsen seemed to be putting Derbyshire in a strong position. The fall of Slater to Prasanna at 123-1 hastened a mini-collapse as Hughes and Wheeldon followed quickly. Derbyshire reached Stumps at 147-4, 118 ahead, with Madsen still there on 52* and seemingly the key to this match. If Madsen goes early, Northamptonshire will be confident of finishing this one off. If, in contrast, he can push on, they may find themselves chasing a challenging target on the final day. The big threat is the leg-spinner, Prasanna: the winner of the contest between Madsen and Prasanna will win the match for his side.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
We do not quite have a full round of matches as Essex and Hampshire played a T20 last night and do not play today. At the end of this round, Lancashire and Nottinghamshire will have played nine matches and will be into the final run-in, in which every point counts. All other sides will have played eight matches and will have six left.
Today we have three, classic encounters, headed by the Roses match which, this year, takes on a special significance with Yorkshire in the relegation places and Lancashire one place above them, with a game more played. We also have a face-off between first and second and Somerset against the bottom side, needing a win to get back into Championship contention.
It has been a day of wild swings in the action, of many LBWs and the day that one Championship contender may well have said good-bye to its chances.
Lancashire v Yorkshire
Even though both teams have their England Test players available ahead of England’s series against India and thus Yorkshire can field a full-strength team, they hand a debut to on-loan Warwickshire leg-spinner Josh Poysden on a one-match deal, while Matthew Fisher missed out with a lacerated toe sustained on Lions duty and was replaced in the XII by Josh Shaw. Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow play against England team-mates Jimmy Anderson and Jos Buttler, giving this match excellent quality. The auguries are not great for Lancashire as they have not beaten Yorkshire at Old Trafford since 2000 – their only home win coming during the exile to Aigburgh. Defeat for Lancashire in this game would be catastrophic.
Play was delayed due to the miserable, wet morning conditions at Old Trafford, although the rain relented enough to allow an 1145 start to be contemplated. Yorkshire won the Toss and elected to bat. Yorkshire seemed to be recovering well from the early loss of Harry Brook to Graeme Onions (22-1), with Joe Root looking in prime form, when Jordan Clark came in for his third over. Little did the Yorkshire fans appreciate what was to come when Joe Root eased the second and third balls of the over to the boundary. The last three balls of the over produced a hat-trick. First, he pinned Joe Root LBW for 22 from 19 balls. Kane Williamson came in and went LBW first ball. And Jonny Bairstow got a snorter that he could only edge to Jos Buttler behind the stumps. 59-4 and some disarray in the visitors. Jordan Clark had dismissed the numbers 3, 4 and 16 in the ICC World rankings: Joe Root, Kane Williamson and Jonny Bairstow. It was the first hat-trick in a Roses match at Old Trafford since 1933 and the first in an Ashes match since Ken Higgs took one at Headingley in 1968. At Lunch, Yorkshire were 61-4 and needing Lyth and Ballance to steady the innings. Ballance though did not hang around after Lunch and was bowled by Onions for 9: the fact that he did not offer a shot to the ball did not make it any better. 78-5 and, already, a leading contender for the “Wally of the Day” award. Bresnan then made his bid for the award by running himself out as Lyth drove the ball back at bowler Clark and he deflected it onlto the stumps with Bresnan backing-up too far. Yorkshire were 86-6 and hearing the whisper of relegation threats in their ears.
As Lyth and Patterson battled on, Liam Livingstone dived for a catch in the slips and took the ball on his wrist. Yorkshire had a life and Livingstone had to go off for treatment. Yorkshire could not take advantage of their luck for long as Petterson edged Bailey to Jennings at First Slip for 22 and Lyth fell to Anderson, also to a catch by Jennings. 131-8 and Yorkshire back up against it.
Jack Brooks and Josh Poysden though saw Yorkshire through to Tea with some sensible batting at 166-8 and gave some hope of a batting point. Clark though was not finished with Yorkshire and got Brooks to edge to Hameed, in the covers, straight after the resumption. Enter Ben Coad with a swinging bat. Poysden and Coad added 26 in 23 balls and seemed to be about to lead their side to an unexpected batting point when Coad got a straight one: need you ask who the bowler was? Jordan Clark ended with 5-58 and a run-out: career-best figures and not a bad day’s work!
Lancashire made a slow start with just 3 runs from the first five overs, then Jennings and Davies broke loose with five boundaries in eleven balls. Finally, Tim Bresnan brought the breakthrough. Keaton Jennings smashed the ball towards Joe Root at Mid-Wicket; Root flew through the air and took a brilliant one-handed catch and Yorkshire had their breakthrough: 46-1. Once again, a second wicket fell quickly as Haseeb Hameed’s nightmare season continued as he shouldered arms to a ball from Patterson that thudded into his stumps. Two balls later Dane Vilas fell LBW to Patterson for a duck and Lancashire were 55-3. Jos Buttler came in for a rare Championship innings and survived just four balls before leg-glancing a ball from Bresnan behind, where Jonny Bairstow took a smart catch to make it 66-4: Yorkshire were roaring back into the match.
Davies reached his 50 but fell immediately, edging Coad to Bairstow. Lancashire 92-5 and the match, wide open again. In came Bailey, out went Bailey, bowled second ball by Coad. 92-6 and, incredibly, Yorkshire were right on top. In came Onions and he too fell, second ball, bowled by Coad to give the bowler a rare, triple-wicket maiden. Six overs still remained, with Lancashire struggling to see out the day. Three balls into the next over Jack Brooks got Jordan Clark as Tim Bresnan caught him at Deap Square Leg and Lancashire had collapsed from 46-0 to 92-8: four wickets had fallen in eight balls for no addition. Seven wickets had fallen in ten overs and Liam Livingstone was presumed unfit to bat. Jimmy Anderson and Matt Parkinson managed to get through to the Close at 106-8, but Yorkshire are right on top and looking set for a desperately needed win that would compound Lancashire’s relegation worries.
Nottinghamshire v Surrey
Second plays first. After this match Nottinghamshire will have just five games left. With Nottinghamshire 22 points behind Surrey and only five games left after this one, a Surrey win would almost end Nottinghamshire’s chances of winning the Championship. Surrey play Australian Aaron Finch and recover Sam Curran and Ben Foakes from Lions duty. Nottinghamshire have Stuart Broad back, meaning that both sides can boast a very strong attack.
The Toss was uncontested and Surrey did not hesitate in putting in Nottinghamshire. Their decision was rewarded immediately as Jade Dernbach had Mullaney caught behind by Foakes, second ball, for a duck. 0-1 and Surrey had made an immediate statement. For a while, things seemed to be under control as Nottinghamshire reached 59-1 without further alarm, at which point Morkel took Fraine to catch by Ollie Pope. 50-1 became 60-3 as Morkel then added Jake Libby and then Sam Curran added Samit Patel. Nottinghamshire were 74-4 and in trouble. What Nottinghamshire did not need was for Billy Root to give a second catch to Ollie Pope in the penultimate over of the morning. Nottinghamshire 94-5 at Lunch and seeing the chances of the Championship title disappearing.
After Lunch Surrey seemed to struggle to maintain the intensity, but then they only needed one wicket to have Nottinghamshire wobbling again: Jade Dernbach duly took it by removing Riki Wessels for 23; 121-6. Morkel then got Stuart Broad caught by Sam Curran for 3 and Nottinghamshire were a very unhappy 128-7. Luke Fletcher and Tom Moores worked hard to push Nottinghamshire towards a batting point, but their stand was cut short at 36 when Rikki Clarke got Tom Moores LBW. As so often happens, one wicket brought two as Luke Fletcher was bowled by Morkel for 21: 165-9. Harry Gurney and last man, Jake Ball, hung around and took Nottinghamshire to a batting point that they would scarcely have expected a while before, swinging the bat merrily. In the end, Sam Curran launched a straight one at Jake Ball and sent the middle stump cartwheeling: 210ao, but it could have been so much worse.
The Nottinghamshire innings though was put into sharp contrast as Surrey set off in pursuit at a frantic pace. Mark Stoneman decided that the best way to get some form back was to attack and he did so with gusto. After just ten overs Surrey were 61-0 with Stoneman 43* and starting to enjoy batting again. The next three overs then went for 26. Stoneman’s first fifty of the summer took just 40 balls of carnage as Surrey continued to score at faster than a run-a-ball. The hundred partnership came up in one ball under sixteen overs. Stoneman fell finally to Jake Ball to a catch behind for 86, Surrey were 147-1, but the damage had been done to Nottinghamshire’s title hopes.
Surrey reached Stumps at 223-1, with Rory Burns on 97* and 19*, already 13 ahead and looking to eliminate Nottinghamshire as a title rival on Day 2.
Worcestershire v Somerset
After a win in their last fixture, Worcestershire can now see light at the end of the tunnel. Another win in this game would end Somereset’s title hopes and boost their own chances of survival. The big news for Somerset is that Marcus Trescothick is available after his successful 2nd XI return from what many feared was a career-ending injury whilst Jack Leach and Dom Bess are also available again after returning from England Lions duty. Matt Renshaw though has been forced to end his season through injury and Somerset are still without Tim Groenewald (groin), although Azhar Ali was available to make his debut. For Worcestershire, wicket-keeper batsman Alex Milton makes his Specsavers County Championship debut: captain of Cardiff MCCU this summer, he replaces Ben Cox who is ruled out with cracked ribs suffered in the Championship game versus Nottinghamshire. Incredibly, despite his injury, Cox has continued to play in the Blast but the injury has now become too painful for him to be able to play a four-day match: a sore (literally) loss for Worcestershire.
Both sides wanted to bat, but it was Worcestershire who won the Toss and elected to field, no doubt hoping to reduce the influence of Leach and Bess. The Somerset start was awful as Byrom was given caught behind to Magoffin for 5 (11-1) and Marcus Trescothick’s return was brief as he fell LBW, four balls later, to Wood for 6 (11-2). Another wicket would have been serious but, as so often this season, James Hildreath applied his calm head to the situation and, ably supported by Azar Ali, re-built the innings and even went on the attack, with 20 coming off the last two overs before Lunch, which was taken with Somerset at 95-2 and in a much happier place than they had been an hour and a half before. It did not last as Azar Ali edged Pennington behind for 37 from the bowling of Pennington, but 110-3 was a lot healthier than 11-2. In his next over, Pennington bowled Hildreath for 57 to a ball that the batsman was trying to leave (!!) and Somerset were 115-4, with two new batsmen at the crease and back in danger.
However, Steven Davies and Tom Abell were still there for Somerset and they had added 95 by Tea, leaving Somerset 214-4 and the happier of the two sides. Davies on 50, Abell on 49. Moeen Ali, having his first bowl of the season for Worcestershire, had caused problems, without having any luck but, after Tea, he finally got his reward. Steven Davies played back to a ball which turned from the Beard that is Feared, got a nick and ‘keeper Milton did the necessary. Davies out for 72 and Somerset 241-5. Then Moeen added Peter Trego LBW for 1 and Somerset were 251-6, with Tom Abell still there, although not for long, as Steve Magoffin got him LBW for 70: Somerset 266-7 and in danger of falling short of 300. The Overtons though had no intention of letting slip the match position and started to hit out, taking Somerset past the 300. 53 runs came in 7 overs. Finally, Craig Overton edged Moeen to slip for 31 and, soon after, Jamie Overton fell LBW to Ed Barnard for 28, making it 323-9. Stumps were drawn at 324-9, with Leach and Davey holding out, the former undoubtedly looking with interest at the turn that Moeen Ali was obtaining on Day 1.
The highlight of this round was undoubtedly Kent entertaining Leicestershire: 2nd v 4th, with Leicestershire knowing that a win would shake up the promotion race. Elsewhere, Sussex have the chance to keep their chances of promotion very much alive with a win against Glamorgan.
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire
The Derbyshire decision to bat looked pretty dubious when they fell to 21-3 and Northamptonshire had their first bowling point in little more than a quarter of an hour of play. Things got no better as Nathan Buck bowled Hughes to leave Derbyshire 53-4. It looked though as if Hossein and Critchley were weathering the storm until Nathan Buck got one through Critchley and sent the sides to a premature Lunch at 113-5. After Lunch, the Northamptonshire bowlers worked their way through the Derbyshire middle order and, at 183-8, things did not look good for the home side, but Gary Wilson was still there and got some solid support from Dan Wheeldon, adding vital runs and taking Derbyshire to 222-8 at Tea.
Still Derbyshire batted on and even when Wilson fell, bowled by Nathan Buck for 66, Wheeldon and Qadri took them to the second batting point. The fun ended finally on 260 when Prasanna bowled Qadri.
Northamptonshire got off to an excellent start in reply, Luke Procter and Ben Duckett adding 53 at better than 4-an-over. However, the fall of Duckett for 29 led to a mid-collapse as Vasconcelos fell two balls later for a duck – two in three balls to Tony Palladino. Three overs later Luke Procter fell LBW to Viljoen for 30 and Northamptonshire were 59-3 and Derbyshire were back in the game. Buck and Wakeley took Northamptonshire through to the Close at 74-3, with the game well balanced.
Gloucestershire v Durham
Gloucestershire brought in the recovered Benny Howell for the disappointing Graeme van Buuren and elected to bat. After his success against Sussex, Miles Hammond kept the opening spot, with Benny Howell slotting-in down the order. For Durham, Ben Stokes got a rare County Championship outing. Solid starts have not been a feature of the Gloucestershire batting this season but Dent and Hammond were giving the home team one of their better starts before Ben Stokes got Chris Dent LBW for 19: 40-1 and Chris Dent’s disappointing season continues. Stokes then hit James Bracey a heavy blow on the arm and forced him to retire hurt. Benny Howell came in at #4 to replace him. Whatever concerns there might have been about Ben Stokes’ ability to bowl his full share of overs in a Test, were dissipated further as he got Howell to nick it through to Cameron Steel: 48-2 and the Gloucestershire fans thinking “here we go again…” Miles Hammond though has a good head on his shoulders and, in partnership with Gareth Roderick, took Gloucestershire through to Lunch at 88-2.
Miles Hammond duly went through to his 50, confirming that in Bracey and Hammond, Gloucestershire have two young batsmen to watch. Sadly, though, just as he had against Sussex, where he seemed to lose concentration on reaching his century and get out immediately, he was dismissed immediately after reaching his fifty, when Chris Rushworth flattened his off stump for 51. With Bobby Bracey unable to return and in hospital with a suspected broken arm, Ryan Higgins came in and accompanied Gareth Roderick to a fine fifty and a fifty-partnership. Higgins then went on to his third fifty of the season. As Higgins reached his fifty, Ben Stokes started rubbing is left knee and went off for a time at the end of the over before coming back just before Tea. Roderick and Higgins went on to the century partnership. Gloucestershire 218-3 at Tea and Higgins just short of his highest First Class score.
Roderick fell LBW to Salisbury, second ball after Tea, for 67 and James Bracey came back bravely, arm well strapped. Higgins roared past his highest ever First Class score, supported by the valiant Bracey, until the new ball did for Bracey, LBW to Chris Rushworth for 38; 283-5 after a partnership of 64. Rushworth then bowled Noema-Barnett for 7 before Higgins hit consecutive boundaries off Salisbury, the second, a hook to the Fine Leg boundary to reach his first First Class century and bring up the Gloucestershire 300. Ryan Higgins fell finally to Ben Stokes for 105 and Stumps were called at 315-7: Stokes can be satisfied with a fine day’s work, as can Ryan Higgins, with honours even on the day.
Kent v Leicestershire
A year ago, any county seeing Leicestershire as visitors on their fixture list would have licked their lips and anticipated slaughter. This season though, Leicestershire have suddenly come alive and consecutive wins have left them in with a realistic chance of promotion. This thus became the original “promotion 48-pointer”: not something that many would have predicted back in April. Leicestershire elected to bowl at Canterbury and saw their decision justified rapidly as two wickets from Ben Raine in his fourth over shook-up the Kent batsmen. Raine dismissed Bell-Drummond and Kuhn with consecutive balls, leaving Kent 25-2. From there, things just got worse as Zak Chappell came on as first change and scythed through the Middlesex middle order with three wickets for very little, supported by the dismissal of Sam Dickson by Gareth Griffiths. At Lunch Kent were 73-6 and in desperate need of both Live Aid and Band Aid from the old rocker, Darren Stevens.
Things though got no better after Lunch as “Fireball” Dexter bowled a double-wicket maiden, getting both Harry Podmore and Gavin Stewart and leaving Kent 78-8. In a match that that Kent could not afford to lose, their promotion bid seemed to be running out of oxygen with the summit in clear view. A third wicket for Raine and a wicket for Mohammed Abbas and Kent were 104ao and in desperate trouble, not half way through the first day. A quick response was needed and Harry Podmore took just two balls to clean-up Harry Dearden: 0-1 and this game was not making plans to go into a fourth day.
Darren Stevens added Ackerman and, at that point, had the extraordinary figures of 5.1-4-1-1, with Leicestershire 17-2 and struggling in turn. Paul Horton edged Thomas through to Sam Billings and it was 47-3. Mark Cosgrove fell LBW to Gavin Stewart: 51-4 and Kent right back in the match. Leicestershire though had Fireball Dexter and Ned Eckersley together: they put on 70 and got Leicestershire into the lead before Ivan Thomas bowled Dexter for 41: 121-5. Joe Denly came on late in the day and produced an expensive first over before getting Raine with the last ball of the day. Leicestershire have ended the day 149-6 and Kent can still hope to keep their first innings deficit under control.
Middlesex v Warwickshire
Middlesex won the Toss and batted in a must-win match on a track that looked full of runs. With pre-season expectations set so high: promotion and the knock-out phases of at least one of the Cups, as a minimum, this was a last chance for Middlesex to set down a real marker, as Gus Fraser indicates that there will be a major re-think about the playing staff this winter. Chris Woakes and Ryan Sidebottom returned for Warwickshire to give the home side’s batting a serious test, with Woakes immediately promoted from recovery in the 2nd XI to new ball duty. For Warwickshire, a win would leave them with one foot in Division One and just requiring a steady run-in to get promoted. For Middlesex, Sam Robson was out with a broken finger. Middlesex featured a new 1st XI coach whose influence was reflected in the choice of Stirling to open with Gubbins, with Holden dropped back #6. Stirling immediately launched into Woakes, who produced one jaffa and two very slightly short balls that were hammered to the boundary, suggesting that the batsmen may still have been in T20 mode. In the commentary box, Kevin Hand made an immediate check of the colour or the clothing and the ball on the field, concluding that this was, genuinely a County Championship match: given Middlesex’s lack of success in T20, one wondered if it was a sound strategy to use T20 techniques. Stirling whacked four boundaries in the first two overs before edging behind to the last ball of the second over. With Stirling’s dismissal, the game started to look more like four-day cricket again. Hannon-Dalby then game on and bowled a ball that snorted back in and castled Nick Gubbins. Chris Wright then removed Eskinazi to a catch by Jonathon Trott at First Slip. Middlesex were 53-3 and already in some difficulty.
Things rapidly got worse and the riches of 51-1 soon became 76-6 as Malan, Morgan, Simpson and Harris departed in swift succession. The good news for Middlesex though was that this brought in James Fuller, whose form for Middlesex 2nd XI and, latterly, for the 1st XI, should see him awarded a Superman cape rather than a County Cap. Although he was lucky to see Tim Ambrose drop him on 29, Fuller and Max Holden decided to take the attack to the bowlers and score runs while they were available. The result was a quick fifty-partnership and a switch in the balance. Finally, Max Holder tried one hit too many at Jeethan Patel and was LBW for 48 after a partnership of 86. Fuller though kept on his merry way going on to a 50 with 5x4 and 1x6. With Ollie Rayner back from loan and back in favour, batting at #10, Fuller found a solid partner in a ninth wicket partnership that earned the first batting point. As Fuller took a rest and let the Brighton Bradman, Ollie Rayner, take the lead, the fifty partnership came up in good time, before Rayner was adjudged caught behind off Wright for 28 and very unhappy with the decision.
Rayner’s dismissal brought in the Lambeth Lara and Tim Murtagh set off to show just why the fans call him that by joining Fuller in some swinging to push Middlesex towards what would have been a totally implausible second batting point. Finally, Fuller got a straight one from Hannon-Dalby and departed for a brilliant 71. Middlesex 236ao.
There were a few scares for Warwickshire when they batted but, in general, Middlesex bowled a little too short. James Harris though bowled a straight one at Sibley and pinned him to make it 20-1 and give the bowlers a lift. Ian Bell came in, hit two gorgeous fours and the Murtagh got him LBW with a ball that swung a little. 30-2 and game on! Rhodes and Trott – playing his last game at Lord’s? – batted solidly to the tune of an 88 run partnership before Rayner who, a fortnight earlier looked to have played his last game for Middlesex, pinned Trott LBW for 47. A second wicket came for Tim Murtagh when he got Tim Hain LBW for 16: yet another LBW on a day when there was an incredible quantity of LBWs around the country.
Warwickshire reached Stumps at 152-4, with the match in the balance.
Sussex v Glamorgan
This was the joker in the pack. With Sussex having got their promotion bid back on track, they played host to Glamorgan in a day-night match, knowing that Kent’s innings was in tatters before they started. Sussex won the Toss and batted. Salt and Wells added 73 for the first wicket, before Salt edged Hogan to ‘keeper, Cooke. Tom Haines came in and kept Luke Wells company, with Sussex going to Lunch at 114-1, Wells 48* and looking to make their decision to bat count.
The afternoon session, though, was a bad one for Sussex. From the riches of the lunchtime score they slipped to 171-6, squandering the opportunity to turn the screw. The rot started immediately after Lunch when Lukas Carey dismissed Haines for 18, without addition to the score. Harry Finch came in and acted as sleeping partner for Luke Wells: his contribution to a stand of 25 was a single. Hogan got him to another catch behind to wicket-keeper Cooke: 139-3 and some of the shine was going off the scorecard. Luke Wells was next to go, in Hogan’s next over, for 71 and Sussex had slipped to 140-4. Burgess was joined by captain Ben Brown, needing a partnership to steady the innings, but the former became the first of two victims for young Jeremy Lawlor, promoted from Glamorgan 2nd XI after some solid all-round performances and playing just his seventh First Class match. Burgess became the third catch for wicket-keeper, Cooke. In his next over, the same combination accounted for David Wiese for 2 and Sussex were 171-6 and sinking.
Ben Brown though was still there and Chris Jordan has considerable talent with the bat, even if he does not always use it. Together, they added 83 and brought up two batting points, with Jordan reining-in his attacking tendencies. The pair were turning around the day again, when Ben Brown fell to the off-spinner Andrew Salter for 49, giving Cooke his fifth catch of the day. Jordan, on 46, was joined by the hero of the Sussex win against Gloucestershire: Jofra Archer. Just four balls later, Jordan fell too, bowled by Hogan for 46 and 254-6 and dreams of 300+ had become 254-8. Hogan had 4-29 and, as so often this season, was holding together the Glamorgan attack with another heroic bowling performance, taking him to 28 wickets at 20.2 for the season. Ollie Robinson joined Joffra Archer with nearly 20 overs of the day remaining and Sussex struggling to see out the day.
Glamorgan took the new ball, hoping to finish off the innings quickly. It took Timm van ter Gugten just three balls to break though, dismissing Ollie Robinson for 6. With only Danny Briggs left, Archer was a model of self-denial, scoring off just 3 of his first 29 balls (and 5 of his first 47, although four of those scoring-shots were boundaries) as Danny Briggs cracked-on at the other end towards the third batting point. A boundary from Archer off Hogan brought up the 300 and three batting points: Sussex cannot afford to leave bonus points behind and were grateful for this unexpected last wicket stand. As the tenth wicket partnership pushed on towards fifty, Glamorgan were probably happy to keep the batsmen quiet rather than have to come out to bat for a few overs under lights, although there was no hint of the extreme behaviour of the ball that the Kent bowlers had found a few weeks earlier against Middlesex. Consecutive boundaries to Danny Briggs off Lukas Carey took Briggs to 40 and brought up the fifty partnership in what was no longer a nuisance stand and was becoming a major annoyance, with even a fourth batting point looming into view.
With two overs of the day remaining, Glamorgan were guaranteed not to have to bat, even if the last wicket fell and the major question became whether or not Briggs, scoring at better than a run-a-ball, could reach his fifty before Stumps. Archer played out a maiden to Hogan and the last over started, with Briggs on 46*. Sadly, for Briggs, he fell, first ball, to Lawlor – yet another LBW – and Sussex were all out for 327: fewer than they would have expected at Lunch, many more than seemed likely at Tea. Glamorgan will bat in the morning against a strong Sussex attack: this will be one of the decisive days of the Sussex season if they are to exploit Kent’s difficulties.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Sussex won in a dramatic finish as Gloucestershire fell just short of the line, despite James “Bobby” Bracey’s 87. And for the fourth consecutive day, Cheltenham had a large and appreciative crowd that enjoyed a tense day’s cricket as the pattern of clusters of wickets, and large partnerships were repeated.
The inevitable result of the Gloucestershire double-night-watchman policy was that they were likely to find themselves a traumatic 40-4 early on the fourth morning. In fact, the reality was even worse: 38-4, as Archer and Robinson divvied-up the freebie night-watchmen. Ollie Robinson was the first to tuck-in, taking Matt Taylor for 3 (36-3) and then Jofra Archer got George Drissell for 5 (38-4) – all four wickets caught behind by Ben Brown.
At this point, the Sussex fans were sporting big grins and thinking of the 20-point win that would see them leapfrog Leicestershire in third in Division 2, while the Gloucestershire fans were hiding behind the sofa and wondering about 60 all out. One, presumably Sussex fan said, before play, that Gloucestershire would make “150 tops”. In the fan poll overnight, of 18 votes, 14 went for the Sussex win, 3 for a Gloucestershire win and 1 for the tie. It was hard to disagree that Sussex had to be favourites, but one somewhat expected a few twists and turns on the way.
This game has featured big partnerships and clusters of wickets, and there was a strong likelihood that there would be at least one significant partnership as the most in-form batsmen were yet to come. That was, indeed, what happened. Bobby Bracey and Gareth Roderick stabilised the patient and, slowly, whittled down the target. First, the batsmen got past halfway in the chase. Then Bobby Bracey passed 50 for the third time this season. Then Gareth Roderick reached his own 50 – his third of the season, although Bracey had converted the previous two into centuries. The Sussex body language started to deteriorate. There were some horrible miss-fields. Suddenly the desperation for a wicket started to show. Then Roderick took a sudden liking to Wiese, and consecutive balls went for 4 and then a towering six over Luke Wright’s head on the boundary edge. Incredibly, although Sussex had to be favourites still, Gloucestershire were back in the game.
The target reached 100. Bracey and Roderick were batting like a million dollars. It seemed too good to be true for the Gloucestershire fans, now starting to peak over the back of the sofa. Then, disaster. Luke Wright pulled-off a brilliant, diving stop; a frustrated Roderick then tried to hit Danny Briggs and was castled. Suddenly the energy was back in the Sussex team, and Jofra Archer was champing at the bit, but Ben Brown, possibly wrongly, kept him away from the ball. Given that Graeme van Buuren has averaged just 22 this season and looked vulnerable, it seemed a strange decision although, in the end, it turned out not to matter. The bowlers were quick, they were putting in a lot of effort but maybe did not make the batsmen play enough. It was tense again, but the threat seemed to be missing, but there was a feeling that if one wicket were to fall, several would fall quickly and that is how it turned out.
The elephant in the stable was the new ball. It would be available at around Tea and Gloucestershire desperately needed to conserve wickets, and to knock-off, the majority of the runs before the new cherry got into the lethal Mr Archer’s hands. Van Buuren took a boundary off Chris Jordan thanks to a horrible miss-field from Jofra Archer but offered a catch next ball which Harry Finch pouched nervously. 79 to win. Just four wickets left. Ryan Higgin in and only Kieron Noema-Barnett of the recognised batsmen to come to support Bobby Bracey, who was still there on 64*.
Ryan Higgins has been the go-to bowler for Gloucestershire this season and has also scored some useful runs. Today he needed to put on his Superman cape again if Gloucestershire were to get close. Higgins started confidently, with three boundaries, before feathering a catch behind to Ben Brown off Jofra Archer. Five catches to Ben Brown and this one, probably the most vital. It was noticeable though how many of the Gloucestershire batsmen were caught that way down the leg side And, that was Jofra Archer’s one hundredth First Class wicket at an excellent average of 25.2. 61 to win. Bracey 70* and the legend that is Kieron Noema-Barnett the last hope for Gloucestershire. Archer with figures of 15.3-6-23-4. Surely now Gloucestershire would die quietly. Sussex though were not making the batsmen play, and the target crept below 50. Then below 40, helped by a wild delivery from Archer that flew way over KNB’s head, over Ben Brown’s head and flew to the boundary for four byes.
With Tea approaching and the new ball due three overs after, Ollie Robinson bowled one down the leg side to KNB. KNB got a tickle – yet another leg-side strangle. Ben Brown took his sixth catch of the innings (equalling the Sussex record) and confusion reigned as players and umpires tried to work out if it was Tea, while there was also a suggestion that the dismissal was off a no-ball that had not been called and it seemed as if Noema-Barnett was told by the umpires not to walk. The dismissal was confirmed. 34 to win. Bracey 86*, but only Miles and Payne to come. Miles has 5x50, averages 17.6 and has a best score in First Class cricket of 62*, but does not like quick bowling at all and even less, short fast bowling. Miles against the new ball would be a catch-weight contest: what would James Bracey do on the resumption? Unfortunately, the decision was taken out of his hands as Craig Miles pinched the strike twice with singles before being given out LBW to Ollie Robinson with 32 still needed. Miles was evidently unhappy with the dismissal, swishing his bat angrily and showing obvious dissent.
The new ball was taken immediately. David Payne took a single, second ball and then James Bracey, who had to go for quick runs, went for a big hit and Danny Briggs took a brilliant low catch at Deep Square Leg. Bracey was out for 87. Sussex won by 28 runs, and a distraught Bracey left the field to a standing ovation from the fielders and a large and appreciative crowd: it was the first time this season that he has reached 50 and not converted. The heroes of the day though were Jofra Archer with 21-8-29-4 and Ollie Robinson, with 22.3-3-49-4 and, of course, Ben Brown with his six catches.
Sussex move onto 99 points, 13 behind Kent and leapfrog Leicestershire into third in Division 2, while the consolation prize for Gloucestershire, who got closer to the win than anyone dared to hope, was to edge ahead of Glamorgan in the battle for the wooden spoon.
7/18/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
"Championship Cricket is dying" is the word from the big wigs at the ECB, well tell that to the close to three-thousand fans who have attended each day of this Division Two game at Cheltenham: an encounter hosted by one of the lesser supported sides in the Division.
Day 2 was a bit of a curate’s egg. Gloucestershire’s top order has been in pretty desperate form and with the experienced Benny Howell being replaced for this game by the very inexperienced Miles Hammond – who boasts a high score in First Class cricket of 30 – you feared that the lower-middle order might have its usual repair job to do from a pretty desperate position. In contrast, on this occasion it was entirely the opposite: the top order ground Gloucestershire into a position of near impregnability against some very hostile fast bowling, before a late collapse changed the momentum of the match entirely. Forty minutes before Stumps, there was a genuine prospect that Sussex might manage but a single bowling point. At the Close, they were on the verge of obtaining all three and limiting the deficit to under 30.
While the day ended much better for Sussex than might have seemed possible, it was still a deeply disappointing day in the sense that, having left three batting bonus points out on the field on Day 1, Sussex can scarcely afford to leave bowling points out there too. They can get promoted with seven wins, *if* they make sure that there is a big haul of bonus points in every game and that means, making 300+ every game and, with such a powerful bowling line-up, ensuring all three bowling points. As it is, they had 19 balls to remove either David Payne or Gareth Roderick and get that third bowling point.
When a side is 295-3, already ahead and has two, set batsmen, with nine overs left to search for bonus points, you would normally reckon that the batting side has a 50-50 shot at its fourth batting point and the bowling side is going to end up with just one. That though is not the Gloucestershire way. How did we get here, you might ask?
Hammond and Dent came out against a hostile attack, and it was hostile. Jofra Archer clanged Miles Hammond a solid blow on the helmet in the morning session. Hammond took a short time out to be checked-out by the physio before continuing, while Jofra Archer seemed genuinely upset because the ball had been delivered with no malice but just took off. All the bowlers put in plenty of effort, and much of the bowling was genuinely quick but achieved scant reward. Had Chris Dent not been put down, early, from a dolly of a catch to Second Slip, things might have turned out differently but, as it was, the batsmen had few real scares and the score mounted, if only slowly. Landmarks were reached one after another: a boundary from Hammond and he passed his best First Class score and brought up the 50 partnership, and a boundary and a two from consecutive balls off Wiese took Hammond to fifty with Dent still only on 25. The century partnership was brought up with a bizarre six No Balls, as Archer let one go that beat everything; Dent was on 48 for 4 agonising overs before he hit Robinson for the boundary to bring up just his third fifty of the season and push his average over 25; another single to Hammond to bring up the 150.
Finally, just as Sussex must have wondered where they would find a wicket, Danny Briggs brought an end to the captain’s stone-walling innings. It was a record first wicket partnership – 182 – against Sussex. Hammond tip-toed through the nineties: 93 when Dent fell, he finally reached his maiden century with a boundary of Wiese, with 80 of his 103 runs coming in boundaries. Did Wiese notice that he had relaxed on reaching the landmark? Two balls later he got an edge through to ‘keeper, Ben Brown, and Wiese had a deserved wicket.
If Sussex thought that their travails were over, they were wrong. Bobby Bracey and Gareth Roderick avoided any further loss and bedded-in nicely. The new ball came and went, and Sussex were still a wicket away from that vital, first bowling point. There were few easy runs available – just look at Chris Jordan’s figures for the day of 21-6-39-1 – runs had to be sweated out, but that is just what Gloucestershire have not done all season. Up came the second batting point – unheard of riches!!! – And the question was: just how big would the lead be? Chris Jordan finally got a ball through Bracey, and he departed for 34. 259-3.
100 overs gone. 294-3. Third batting point a formality. Fourth a distinct possibility. Sussex being batted out of the game. Wiese to van Buuren. Bowled him! Little could the Sussex bowlers imagine what was about to happen. In came Drissell and four overs produced just three singles. Two overs to Stumps.
Archer with his final over of the day. He started it with 0-59 and bowled a triple-wicket maiden.
Drissell went second ball of the over after an 18-ball stay that produced just a single. Cleaned bowled.
In came Ryan Higgins. Also, clean bowled. Archer on a hat-trick.
Hat-trick ball. Noema-Barnett survives … only to edge through to Ben Brown next ball.
Gloucestershire fans on social media were tearing their hair out, those that had any to start with anyway.
In came Craig Miles to accompany a bewildered Gareth Roderick at the other end. Perhaps unwisely, Roderick took a single to the first ball of the last over despite the well-known fact that, as Lance Corporal Jones would tell you (in a parade ground whisper) that “he doesn’t like it up him”. A fired-up Ollie Robinson against a nervous Craig Miles was always likely to be on the level of Christians v Lions on a minefield at the Coliseum Oval. It took four balls for Robinson to produce a straight one on a good length and end the day’s play, one ball early.
So, we got to Day 3, 303-8. The lead 17. Sussex with 19 balls left to get that bowling bonus point and complete the humiliation.
It was brief, and it was embarrassing. Three singles. Seventeen balls. Gloucestershire 306ao. The lead 20. And the Shire had lost seven wickets for just 12 runs in 53 balls. 4-62 for Jofra Archer. 2-67 for Ollie Robinson who, when they started their spell, had 0-59 and 0-61 respectively.
Sussex batted again and really wanted to get the lead without losing a wicket. A measure of Ryan Higgins’ rise in status since arriving was that in the first game against Kent, Ryan Higgins started as fifth seamer playing only a very minor bit part but, now, is usually opening the bowling ahead of the express-pace Taylor and Craig Miles who has gone on an England Performance Tour. It was he who made the breakthrough, bowling Salt for 9: 16-1. Next over, David Payne had Luke Wells edging through to Roderick: 22-2, just two ahead, and Sussex in deep trouble again, as if the Gloucestershire collapse had never happened. However, Harry Finch and Luke Wright came out with all guns blazing, first putting a severe dent in the figures of Ryan Higgins – he conceded as many in the eighth and final over of his spell as he had in his first seven and then tucking into Taylor, Miles and Drissell with a boundary almost every over.
At Lunch, it was 103-2. The lead was 83, and Luke Wright was on 48 from just 53 balls. The resemblance to the Sussex first innings cavalry charge was considerable. Against the second ball after Lunch, before getting his eye back in, Wright went after Payne and could only send the ball straight to a grateful Ryan Higgins. 103-3 and the match was back in the balance. Four overs later, David Payne bowled an absolute pearler of a delivery at new batsman, Michael Burgess and bowled him. Payne now had 3-28, and the lead was merely 99. The direction of the match was giving another lurch.
Once again though, a cluster of wickets was followed by a partnership as Ben Brown and Harry Finch dug in, although the positivity in the batting made it obvious that Sussex did not plan to die wondering: win or lose, they had no plans to get a draw that would not be too much use to them. The partnership reached 61 and Gloucestershire were, again, under the cosh, with the bat dominating, when Matt Taylor got one through Brown and won an LBW decision. Again, a partnership started to build between Finch and Wiese. Finch was set for a wonderful, possibly match-winning century, when he edged the rather expensive Craig Miles through to ‘keeper Roderick, two short. Then Wiese, who gave Gloucestershire no end of problems in the early season fixture at Hove, came together with Chris Jordan and pushed the lead past 200 and towards 250 before Miles pulled-off what has been described as the catch of the season to remove Wiese off the bowling of Higgins. Then, soon after, Payne castled Archer, the match was swinging back to Gloucestershire, but only if they could finish off the tail.
This was “Operation Winkle” – the battle between the will of the batsmen to survive and the won’t let them build a lead of the bowlers. As the lead grew, Sussex were obviously thinking of getting 300 ahead and declaring to allow themselves a bite at the openers before the Close. The stand between Jordan and Robinson was getting alarming when Craig Miles got Jordan to nick behind and then, in the next over; Matt Taylor got Robinson. The lead was 275, and that was probably the best thing that could happen. Gloucestershire had 15 overs to survive and a tempting target. Sussex had 111 overs to take ten wickets of a Gloucestershire that, this season, has shown all the stability of a blancmange.
Dent and Hammond set out confidently against Robinson and Archer. Ben Brown brought Chris Jordan into the attack early, and the change paid dividends as Archer took two quick wickets. First Chris Dent edged through to Ben Brown and then, in Archer’s next over, first innings hero, Hammond fell the same way. Gloucestershire were 27-2 and in deep trouble. Here, Gloucestershire did something that left one blinking with surprise. Having seen the tail blown away on the second evening, Drissell and Taylor were sent out as a double night-watchman, presumably in the pious hope that they would do better at the second attempt. Unbelievably, David Payne was padded-up to bat if either fell, in an unprecedented TRIPLE night-watchman policy. Gloucestershire fans were speechless.
Payne was not needed. Drissell and Taylor saw out the remaining overs and, at 30-2, the match has leant towards Sussex again.
With scores of 286, 306 & 295 and wickets falling in clusters, you would expect a large partnership at some point and a tight finish. We will see tomorrow if we get it. Hats off to Sussex who have turned this game on its head in the last three and a half sessions.
7/16/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkfromMadrid)
Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival has produced an excellent day of cricket with a series of twists and turns on the way. There was mayhem in the corresponding game last year when Glamorgan were the guests: 25 wickets fell on the first day, the highest innings total of the match was 158 and the game ended long before the end of the second day.
Not unexpectedly, Sussex went with a seam-based attack, supported by Danny Briggs: Will Beer missed out. Gloucestershire gave George Drissell, a nineteen-year-old off-spinner, just his third First Class start and still without a wicket, to back their own five seamers. Comparing the two sides on paper, you wondered how many of the host’s XI would get into the opposition team – the betting was that it would be one or two at most.
Seeing a hard, dry surface that seemed full of runs, both sides wanted to bat. Sussex won the Toss and set off at a furious pace. Those who know the Shire well looked at the home attack and started to hide behind the sofa: this sort of opening is usually the prelude to a massive total by the opposition, followed by a Gloucestershire collapse and a follow-on 300+ behind. Matt Taylor’s third over went for 14, and the good work of David Payne at one end (4-2-5-0) was being brutally counterbalanced by Taylor’s 3-0-25-0. There was only one thing to do and, as has been Gloucestershire’s won't increasingly this season, the cry went out from the captain for Ryan Higgins. The immediate result was to slow the flow of runs – four of Higgins’ first seven overs were maidens and, although no wicket fell, pressure and frustration started to increase in the batsmen. Craig Miles relieved David Payne and, although he gave the batsmen something to hit, he also made the breakthrough as Luke Wells gave a catch to Graeme van Buuren. The opening stand was 74 and beginning to look really threatening and that wicket desperately needed. After a nightmare 2017, Craig Miles, so highly rated beforehand, has 17 wickets at 27.7 as of the Close today and is bowling so much better again; today he had one of his best days for two years.
In his very next over, Miles bowled Phil Salt for 57 from 54 balls: both openers had fallen in just ten deliveries, and the scoreboard looked so much better. It was to get better still. On came the popular Kieron Noema-Barnett – incredibly, top of the Gloucestershire batting averages this season – to bowl a tight first over. Craig Miles got six balls at Luke Wright, slightly surprisingly retained despite modest returns this season. The first ball of the over was hammered to the boundary but, after four dots, Wright obligingly chipped to Bobby Bracey, and Miles was guarding figures of 7-1-31-3. When you win the Toss and bat, losing three wickets in the morning means that you have probably lost the session, but things were to get worse: last over before Lunch, the legend that is Kieron Noema-Barnett trundled in. The moment brilliantly described by Sir Robert Hunt in person:
“Optimistic shout from Noema-Barnett. That will never be given.
[Two beat pause] Oh! [Voice rising almost to hysteria] He’s given it!”
Thank you, Sir Robert. When we are looking for an umpire for the elite panel, we’ll give you a call!
Lunch called at 97-4, and a bewildering turnaround had taken place. In one ball fewer than seven overs, Sussex had slid from a comfortable 74-0 to a somewhat precarious position. However, as Adrian Harms pointed out from the Sussex end of the commentary box, only Jofra Archer of the Sussex XI was missing a First Class century. In other words, he warned Bob Hunt to: “fear men of Hove, even when they offer easy wickets”.
For close to two hours, Adrian Harms’ words seemed to presage the recurring Gloucestershire nightmare of getting rid of the top order and then not being able to finish the job; that nightmare seemed to be coming back to haunt them once again. Chris Dent tried Ryan Higgins. He tried Kieron Noema-Barnett. The stand between Finch and Brown, presumably using kryptonite-encrusted bats, grew and grew. The ball was old and soft, and the two spinners had not bowled a ball. Did Chris Dent remember that George Drissell was on the field? Had Graeme van Buuren refused to pass him the ketchup over lunch and thus been consigned to Purgatory? Or was it that the inviting, short leg-side boundary just scared the life out of him? Finally, possibly by accident, the ball was passed to the former. First over: two singles and not a leg-side six to be seen. Tight over from Kieron Noema-Barnett: just a leg-bye and a single. Maiden from Drissell. A loose ball from KNB, slapped to the boundary before the strait-jacket was tightened again. Captain Ben Brown decided that enough was enough and tried to launch Drissell into orbit but only lifted the ball as far as Ryan Higgins at Mid-On. Higgins had to be involved somewhere although, long after, the identity of the fielder who took the catch – Higgins or van Buuren – was still being debated! A partnership of 113 was ended, and Gloucestershire had an opening. Sussex though still had Finch, Wiese, Jordan and Archer and had the platform for a total in the range 350 to 400… if they batted with care.
Cricket though knows no logic. There is a feeling that there are few things more embarrassing than giving your wicket to Kieron Noema-Barnett, but it was KNB, a worthy successor to David Shepherd as Gloucestershire anti-athlete, who twisted the knife. In he trundled. Wiese, who had possibly just got bored waiting for the ball to arrive from the bowlers hand, missed it and KNB had his second LBW. He must have imagined that the batsmen thought that it was his birthday! [Note to Sussex batsmen: his birthday was on June 4th, but he would like to point out that further, late gifts will not be refused].
In came Chris Jordan. “Jordan will fancy Drissell” opined Sir Robert Hunt on commentary. Six balls later Jordan was caught by Noema-Barnett off Drissell for a duck! Let’s just say that neither commentator covered himself with glory with his punditry today, while the “third voice”, only known by his initials of “DT”, limited his efforts on the mic to sound effects, by munching on a packet of crisps right behind Mssrs Harms and Hunt! Yes, it was one of those days when the commentary was fun and the cricket, at times, plain daft to accompany it. This is Division 2 at its best: enjoying the more relaxed pace and being competitive, but not taking itself too seriously.
Back came Matt Taylor, whose first six overs had gone for 44. Life is rarely dull when Matt Taylor has the ball. Sussex’s hopes of 300+ lay with Harry Finch. Finch hit the ball straight back at Taylor, Taylor pouched it gratefully and, from being 210-4 and things looking pretty grim for the Shire, suddenly it was 236-8, and the grim was with Sussex. What is more, Matt Taylor, having started with 6-0-44-0, had returned with 8-4-16-1: the buffet at the Taylor end was, most definitely, closed.
Not for nothing though do Sussex bat down to #11. Archer and Robinson got their eye in and then decided to cash in. Drissell, who had been guarding the remarkable figures of 7-1-15-2, came in for some punishment. The second batting point came, and a third seemed to be approaching at express pace. Drissell was relieved, his last three overs costing 23 and Miles and Payne brought back. Even if it was Craig Miles who bowled the ball, today there was, but one man who could make the breakthrough as the Sussex tail sought to right the ship: Jofra Archer went for one hit too many and dear old Kieron Noema-Barnett pouched the catch. Out went Archer for 21 and, with him, remaining hopes of reaching 300. Payne bowled a straight one at Danny Briggs, pinned him, and the innings was over for 286 when, one suspects, Sussex were thinking of 450+ as their target batting first.
The day though still had ample opportunity to go pear-shaped for Gloucestershire. Of the batsmen playing today, only Kieron Noema-Barnett (who else?), Bobby Bracey and (just) Ryan Higgins average over 25 in the Championship this season. And, in front of them, Jofra Archer – widely regarded as the hottest property in County cricket – Ollie Robinson and Chris Jordan. Eleven overs to survive and the script stated that Gloucs could well end the day 18-5 and struggling to avoid the follow-on. Miles Hammond, playing only his fourth First Class innings in his fourth match, had the job of opening with captain Chris Dent, without exactly a sparkling 2nd XI record this season to back him up. At the Close though, he was approaching his highest First Class score and had given his county a solid start, at 42-0, backed-up by Chris Dent’s solid imitation of a limpet.
Sussex have left three batting points behind and desperately need a big day tomorrow to keep their promotion hopes on track. If they fail to win this game, their chances will depend on combining a remarkable second half of the season with one of Kent and Warwickshire imploding horribly. Gloucestershire are facing the unpleasant prospect of the wooden spoon writ large ahead unless their batsmen can start to grind-out some scores. Both sides have plenty to play for. Tomorrow may determine how each side views the second half of the season.
7/15/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
We have a single, orphan County Championship game this week in the middle of a block of T20 Blast. Given the fact that players have had problems in the past with the sudden T20 – Championship – T20 switch, the best advice is to expect the unexpected in this game. The reason for this scheduling is the Cheltenham Festival, with its traditional Championship fixture and two T20 Blast games.
Gloucestershire host Sussex, with both sides having played a game fewer than the rest of the sides in Division 2. This fixture then marks the exact halfway point of the Division 2 season, with all teams having played seven games when it ends.
The two teams arrive in very different states of mind. After winning their opening fixture against Kent and then seeing the final day of the game against Sussex abandoned when both sides thought that they could win, Gloucestershire have suffered a nosedive in form, due in no small measure to the loss of almost their entire first-choice seam attack to injury: for a team with a small playing staff, this has been a grievous loss. Add the non-availability of Michael Klinger as his wife battled – it seems, at this moment, successfully – cancer and it is no surprise that Gloucestershire have suffered. Bottom of the Championship and with a top-order that has struggled for runs all season, the only bright light at the end of the tunnel has come in the form of three consecutive Blast wins, in which the calm captaincy of Michael Klinger has been vital. In contrast, Sussex, after a slow start, have wins in two of their last three Championship fixtures and are hovering in fourth place in Division 2, 34 points behind Kent and at the fringes of the promotion race. In the Blast, Sussex are second in the South Group with three wins from 4 and a healthy NRR.
Sussex know that they cannot afford to lose any more ground to the top two in the Division who are racing away from the rest. For Sussex, this is a “must-win” and, preferably, a “must win big” game as even a maximum points draw would leave them in fourth and with a substantial gap to bridge to the promotion places. Last season, Northants missed-out on promotion with eight wins, suggesting that Sussex need, most likely, six wins from eight games to go up.
The following hypothetical situation illustrates Sussex's problems to link up with the front units of the promotion train: a maximum points win for Gloucestershire would move them from bottom up to 5th; a maximum points win for Sussex would move them only above Leicestershire, into 3rd, still ten points and two wins behind Kent.
It is a measure of how out of place this fixture is that the Blast completely dominates this stage of the season that the Gloucestershire webpage and Social Media are still dominated by news of Friday’s win against Somerset: barely a hint that there will be a Championship game tomorrow.
Dent (c), Hammond, Bracey, Roderick, van Buuren, Higgins, Noema-Barnett, Miles, Payne, M.Taylor, Drissell
26. Ben Brown (capt. & wk), 22. Jofra Archer, 18. Will Beer, 21. Danny Briggs, 5. Michael Burgess, 6. Harry Finch, 8. Chris Jordan, 9. Delray Rawlins, 25. Ollie Robinson, 28. Phil Salt, 31. Luke Wells, 96. David Wiese, 10. Luke Wright
The big news for Sussex is that they can play Jofra Archer and Chris Jordan together for the first time this season, adding potency to their attack. Laurie Evans pulled a hamstring in Friday’s Blast defeat v Surrey, and Tom Haines received a blow to the head in training and has not been considered. The Sussex XIII covers all bases with two spinners, although I suspect that Will Beer and Luke Wright will miss out, with Sussex going for a potent pace attack, supported by Danny Briggs.
For Gloucestershire, David “Sid” Payne has been bowling in the Blast and seems completely recovered from the injury that required an ankle operation pre-season, but although Liam Norwell is getting close to a return to 1st XI action, but still not ready to return. Payne plays his first First Class match of the season and, for a side with such limited resources, this is good news. Various of the 1st XI have been getting a reviving run-transfusion in the 2nd XI this week, although captain, Chris Dent’s, form is a concern, although he scored runs against Lancashire 2nd XI, as did several more of the batsmen, although the shadow attack conceded over 600. With Benny Howell still injured, Miles Hammond comes into the XI and will open in his place. George Hankins has a “knee problem” and misses out, while Craig Miles replaces Chris Liddle in the squad, giving an attack which still looks much less threatening than the Sussex line-up, but has a distinctly less pop-gun appearance.
The Cheltenham wicket tends to have pace and bounce for the bowlers and it as well to remember that when Glamorgan played there last season, 25 wickets fell in a day, suggesting that it could be a low-scoring, result encounter.
7/1/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
The Royal London One Day Cup is, as Sir Humphrey Appleby would have put it, “in the propinquity of its ultimate and regrettable termination”. A September One Day Cup Final at Lord’s was the highlight of the season for decades, with counties and their supporters desperate to reach the Final. It has seen multiple formats, including starting as a 65 over competition with a maximum of 15 overs per bowler, followed by many years of 60 overs. It has also seen the unexpected (who now would believe that, for many years, it was a blistering innings by Geoff Boycott that produced the record score in a Lord’s Final?) Now, the old and popular knock-out format long abandoned (I wonder just how much fans regret, like me, that we no longer see the Minor Counties and the recreational cricketers of the County Boards fighting through various rounds for a place in the last 16 and the chance to carry out a giant-killing – games such as Devon v Somerset, or Durham County Board XI v Durham were the lifeblood of the competition). Now, the Royal London One Day Cup has become a hybrid version of the old Benson and Hedges Cup, with its 55 over format, league + knock-out structure and mid-season Final. The old B&H was always the ugly sister of the one-day competitions, never taken quite as seriously by the counties, although the silverware was always welcome, especially when one of the less-fashionable teams won. However, next year will see the final Lord’s Final. Like John Cleese’s parrot, it will be no more; it will cease to be. No longer does the Lord’s Final see noisy sell-out crowds, with tickets all-but-impossible to obtain but, still, more than twenty thousand fans were in Lord’s, undoubtedly helped by the fact that one of the counties that makes up the Greater London area was a finalist.
Both teams came from the tight and hard-fought South Group. Hampshire had topped that group with a 5-2 record, while Kent had just squeaked into third place with a 5-3 record. While Hampshire had overwhelmed a Yorkshire 2nd XI in the Semi-Final, thanks to a brutal James Vince century, Kent had to defeat holders Nottinghamshire in the eliminator and then North Group winners Worcestershire in the Semi-Final: in both cases, Kent had won on the back of a devastating Heino Kuhn century. The trouble with such runs of form is that they have a nasty habit of running out just when you need them most. Before the Final Kuhn had had a modest run of scores in the competition of 36*, 117, 113, 4, 124* & 127, the “4” against Essex was just to prove that he is human after all.
Before the Final, Reece Topley had expressed a fear that the Topley family curse would hit him. His father was Twelfth Man four times for Lord’s Finals and never did make it into the playing XI; now back from injury, Reece Topley made it five-out-of-five for the Topleys as Hampshire opted to play leg-spinner Mason Crane instead of left-arm seamer Reece Topley in this Final. The word from the Hampshire camp was that Crane had received a pain-killing injection to allow him to play and that it will be last time he plays for his county for the rest of the season.
On the Kent side, a devastating century and a lot of wickets against Middlesex was obviously no preparation for a 50-over Final, so Grant Stewart missed out, but Darren Stevens and Matt Henry were back in the XI.
Sam Billings won the Toss and decided to chase on a warm and sunny morning, with what appeared to be a pretty good pitch beckoning, with the sides lining up:
Kent: Bell-Drummond, Kuhn, Denly, Dickson, Billings, Blake, Stevens, Haggett, Podmore, Henry, Qayyum.
Hampshire: Rossouw, Alsop, Vince, Northeast, Weatherley, Dawson, McManus, Berg, Wood, Steyn, Crane.
Despite the danger that the Kent attack of Harry Podmore and Matt Henry could be hard to cope early on, with a slightly green pitch that had not yet dried out in the sun and might be expected to get better and better through the day, James Vince admitted that he had wanted to bat first, so Sam Billings’s invitation suited him nicely.
One always felt that Kent needed early wickets, but Hampshire made a solid start. 25-0 from 5 overs. 58-0 from 10, with Callum Haggett’s opening over going for 18. By then a sinking feeling may have been growing in the pit of Sam Billings’ stomach that he had made the wrong call. On came Darren Stevens, up came Sam Billings to the stumps: it was lovely to see a wicket-keeper standing-up to a seamer. 15 overs, 90-0 and Hampshire scoring comfortably at a run-a-ball with few alarms. The writing was on the wall that Hampshire could run up a huge score.
With Callum Haggett bowling with all the control of a faulty paint spray, it was Joe Denly’s turn to come on and try his luck. It is hard to recall that Denly was an integral part of the England limited-overs sides in 2009/10 and was a promising leg-spinner to boot. This season, Denly’s bowling has been dusted-off, and he has had some success, particularly in the red-ball game. Initially, it seemed that he was giving Rilee Rossouw some problems, but Rossouw got through them, and the breakthrough refused to come. 20 overs, 126-0 and Hampshire were starting to accelerate, even if they were treating Darren Stevens with respect still.
Finally, on came Imran Qayyum and out went Tom Alsop for 72: flighted delivery, two or three steps down the wicket, miss and Sam Billings whips off the bails. Kent needed the wicket, but 136-1 from 22.2 overs was not the greatest of starts, and the bad news was that it brought in James Vince, who had a point to make to Ed Smith. At the 30-over mark, it was 193-1, Vince was getting into his stride, Rossouw was playing with increasing freedom and Kent seemed set to be chasing a massive total: 380-400 looked all too possible.
From there, it did not go quite as Hampshire had wanted. Vice lofted Qayyum to Joe Denly at long-on, falling for 23. 193-2. However, Rossouw was still there and duly reached his century in the thirty-fifth over, and Kent still had a sizeable problem. Sam Northeast and Rossouw continued to accumulate runs. After 40 overs Hampshire were 262-2 and always looking set for a score in the 360-380 range. That fortieth over featured a straight drive from Rossouw, aimed straight at the umpire, that had him diving for cover, as self-preservation took over from dignity. However, to the first ball of the forty-second over he lashed out at Joe Denly and was caught at mid-wicket for 125. 270-3. Two overs later, Liam Dawson chipped a catch to cover point and Denly had another. Sam Northeast has his fifty, but wickets kept falling at the other end as Kent clawed things back. Lewis McManus hit Denly high into the Lord’s sky, and Sean Dickson dived forward to reach it: 297-5 with just over four overs to go and Kent were clawing their way back as Hampshire imploded somewhat. Then Weatherly missed his second ball and Denly had a fourth wicket. 297-6 with just 24 balls left. Thirty-three came from those last four overs as Hampshire finished on a record score for a Lord’s Final of 330-7, although it should have been a lot more as they only managed 68-5 in their last ten overs. However, with such a brilliant start, it was always likely that Hampshire would struggle to keep up the momentum in the slog overs as batsmen came in and tried to play shots with little or no reconnaissance. In truth, it was a massive score for a Lord’s Final and just reflected how well Hampshire have batted in the competition.
For Kent, it looked like a case of Kuhn or bust. For Hampshire, Chris Wood and Dale Steyn with the new, white ball. For two overs things seemed pretty good: 16-0, with Kuhn, looked in pretty good form – and well he should. The next two overs produced just two singles, as Hampshire showed that 331 would take some getting. Still, after nine overs it was 55-0, and Kent were going nicely at just better than a run-a-ball, well up with the asking rate. Had Daniel Bell-Drummond and Heino Kuhn been able to keep this up for 20 overs, they would have put the Hampshire fourth and fifth bowlers under terrific pressure. Unfortunately for Kent, the last over of the Power Play saw Kuhn run out as Gareth Berg dived and threw at the stumps from close range, with just one stump to aim at as Kuhn tried to run a suicidal single. 55-1 and Kent could not afford another quick wicket. That though is what they got. The scoring rate had dipped significantly with the fall of Kuhn, Kent were little above 5-an-over and needed some momentum. Joe Denly went after Gareth Berg and only lobbed a catch to James Vince. 17 overs, 83-2 and Hampshire, were on top.
James Vince introduced an all-spin attack with contrasting fortunes: Liam Dawson bowled his first 4 for 14 runs and kept a tight lid on the scoring; Mason Crane’s first three went for 29. The Crane gamble was failing, and so Vince brought himself on and reined-in the scoring at the other end. Denly and Dickson were scoring as many singles as they wanted, but the boundaries needed to stop the required run rate from rising stubbornly refused to come. Crane came back, and Dickson swiped at him and lifted a catch to Rossouw.
30 overs: Kent 158-3, Hampshire 193-1.
Kent desperately needed someone to score, score big and score quickly.
33 overs. 168-3 and the RRR now over 9. The match was slipping away from Kent.
Daniel Bell-Drummond was still there, but he was struggling to raise his tempo up to a run-a-ball when Kent needed significantly better than that to get back into the game. Finally, in the thirty-fifth over, the killer blow: Chris Wood bowled Bell-Drummond for 86. 179-4 after 35 overs. From there on it was just a matter of how large the margin of defeat would be as Hampshire’s bowlers and fielders hung on to their prey like an angry bulldog as the usual crazy mix of run outs and dismissals to wild slogs sunk the chase without a trace. 40 overs, 217-6 and Dale Steyn back into the attack: not a bad change to be able to make for the last ten. Sam Billings was still there, but the best score from the Kent bottom six was the 12 of Darren Stevens. Berg finished it off by having Sam Billings caught by Dale Steyn for 75.
Kent were 269ao and lost by 61 runs, with 2.5 overs left to bowl but, in reality, it was not even as close as that rather large margin suggests. To a degree, it was self-inflicted, because there were no fewer than four runouts in the Kent innings, but run outs are an operational hazard when you are chasing a big total and falling behind the run rate against a side as professional and clinical as Hampshire have been in the knock-out phase. The Hampshire fielders backed-up their bowlers brilliantly and, as a side, were just too good for Kent on the day. Unquestionably, the better team won, although the losers can console themselves that they are doing enough to suggest that they may be a force to reckon with next season in both red and white ball cricket.
6/28/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Day 3 ended with all four games in Division One still in play. Only at Scarborough is a result certain: barring a spectacular clatter of wickets, Surrey seem destined to win that one, to re-affirm their title credentials and to put Yorkshire in some difficulty around the relegation places. Nottinghamshire will be confident of bowling out Worcestershire, but the hosts may yet hold out for a draw. The games at Chelmsford and at Old Trafford look like draws, although quick wickets for the visitors in either might just revive the prospect of a run chase.
In Division Two, two of the four matches ended on Day 3, with big wins for Leicestershire (currently third in the table) and Kent (who have snatched, at least temporarily, the top spot from Warwickshire), while Middlesex are now in fifth, 40 points behind the second promotion spot. Both remaining games look likely to produce results: Northamptonshire will feel that they can wrap up the game at Cardiff, while all results are still possible in the match at Chester-le-Street, although it was leaning towards Warwickshire.
Did it pan out this way? Read on!
We start at Chelmsford, where Browne and Bopara had got Essex through to the Close at 17-2, recovering from 1-2. Essex started 127 ahead and in the knowledge that they could ill-afford a quick wicket that would leave Somerset pushing for an unlikely win. In reality, the equation was simple: if Essex were still batting halfway through the second session, the game would be a draw; if Somerset had them 7 or 8 down in the first session, there would, most likely, be a run chase. With Nick Browne acting as sheet-anchor at one end and Ravi Bopara with a fifty at the other, the game was dying a death until Dominic Bess had Bopara caught at slip for 58 and then, three balls later, bowled ten Doeschate. The lead was 218 at that point, with 69 overs left, so the game was still, just about alive, although Essex knew that Alastair Cook would be available to bat at #7 having recovered from illness, so they would not be batting a man short. At Lunch, Essex were 125-4, 235 ahead with 65 overs to go after a potential change of innings and Somerset knew that they needed an improbable three or four quick wickets to keep their slim victory hopes alive. The wickets came in an extremely unexpected manner after Lunch. Essex came out swinging and, even though Wheater, Cook and Browne fell in quick succession, 60 runs came from 10 overs. With both sides needing the win to stay in touch with the leaders, Essex declared, challenging Somerset to score 319 to win in 50 overs. Somerset set off at the necessary 6-an-over, but once Byrom was run out by ten Doeschate, wickets started to fall, and Somerset had to think of survival. Essex used Simon Harmer and Tom Westley in tandem, with very attacking fields, but Tom Abell and Lewis Gregory showed the sort of mastery of the forward defensive that would have made Fred Boycott drool. Essex kept going until the bitter end, only giving up when they required five wickets from the final over. If there was music playing over the public address during the last hour of inaction, it could only have been Te Deum.
Surrey had reached Stumps on 89-0 with Mark Stoneman past 30 for the first time in the season: would this be the day when he re-discovered his hunger for runs? Sadly, not! He fell, LBW to Ben Coad, without adding to his overnight 32. Rory Burns though continued to lead the charge to victory until he picked out the fielder on the rope when looking for the boundary to take him to his century, giving Tim Bresnan an unexpected wicket. Scott Borthwick though picked up the torch in partnership with Ryan Patel. He fell to Jack Leaning, for 62, with victory in sight, but Surrey won soon afterwards by seven wickets and go back to the top of Division One. The way that Surrey turned this game around will send a warning to their rivals, while Yorkshire know that this season they could be too close to comfort to the relegation places during the run in.
At Old Trafford, Hampshire started 66-2 and 106 ahead. Lancashire needed quick wickets to make something of the game. Although Sam Northeast fell early, Tom Alsop combined with Joe Weatherley in a 75 run stand that appeared to have killed the match. However, when Stephen Parry bowled Alsop and, immediately afterwards, Clark pinned Roussow, the lead was only 204 and another wicket would have made things very interesting. Unfortunately, that was as exciting as it got and, with no further wickets falling by Tea, there was some pretty blatant time-wasting to reduce the number of overs that would be bowled before the 4:50 pm handshake. Weatherley went on to 126* against some less than challenging new ball bowling, with Holland 26* and the score 237-5 when the declaration and handshake came.
At Trent Bridge, Worcestershire started at 43-0, with the challenge to survive the last day, albeit with all wickets intact. Daryl Mitchell and Martin Guptill ticked-off the overs, seemingly without great alarm, but it really needed one batsman to stay there for much of the day and let the rest of the batting take their lead from that. There was the rub. What you might define as sticktoitiveness has not been a defining characteristic of the Worcestershire season, with the county getting into promising positions and then finding ways to lose. Wickets fell just often enough to keep Nottinghamshire interested. After an opening stand of 62, Mitchell and Guptill fell in quick succession. Fell and Clark added 63, and then Fell gave a catch to stand-in wicket-keeper Rikki Wessels. At Lunch, it was 151-3, there were at least 67 overs to go, and the smart money was, just about, on Nottinghamshire, particularly as, if everything panned-out as Nottinghamshire hoped, the tail would be batting in the difficult twilight conditions at the end of the day. This time though, Worcestershire refused to fold. Led by a century from Joe Clark who, fortunately for the Pears, did show the necessary application. But Nottinghamshire made just enough progress to be kept interested as none of his partners wanted to stick around for long enough to make the game completely safe, seven of them got into double figures, but none passed 35. Nottinghamshire knew that if Clark went, they would win. However, Joe Clark also knew this and refused to budge. His 150 came up in the company of Ben Twohig, and Nottinghamshire must have known that the game was up. Twohig fell finally, bowled by Luke Fletcher for 35 but, by then, there were just 24 balls left, and Clark was certainly not going to give anything away. Pennington fell with 12 balls left and the last over started with Nottinghamshire two wickets short and with Luke Fletcher bowling at #10, Charlie Morris. Morris survived and sealed the draw, with Clark 177* at the non-striker’s end.
With Surrey the only winners, the table looks very good from South of the River Thames. Surrey are 22 points clear of Nottinghamshire and have played a game fewer. Somerset are 10 points behind Nottinghamshire and Essex 5 points further back, while Yorkshire have fallen into the bottom two and face a relegation battle in the second half of the season.
Back in Division Two, the game at Chester-le-Street, Day 4 started with the visitors at 152-5. Durham needed an almighty clatter of wickets for something to be set up. Initially, Warwickshire appeared to be sailing calmly to a token declaration; they reached 179-5 and then, suddenly, all hell broke loose. Ryan Pringle took three wickets in four balls, then, with the third ball of the next over, Chris Rushworth added Hannon-Dalby. Warwickshire were 182-9 and only 309 ahead, with a potential 89 overs to play after the change of innings. The match was alive, and Durham needed that last wicket as quickly as possible. Keith Barker survived the hat-trick ball. Warwickshire then declared on 185-9, setting-up a chase of 313 in 88 overs. This was exactly what the match needed. All four results were possible. Despite the early loss of Cameron Steel, Will Smith and Tom Latham batted sensibly and kept the required run rate under control. At Lunch, the game was intriguingly poised, with Durham 60-1, needing 253 more runs in 68 overs, but knowing that the low, slow nature of the pitch would make acceleration difficult, so they could not let the required run rate rise much more if they were to reach their target. The fall of Will Smith, soon after Lunch led to a full-scale collapse and, at 148-8, it seemed that Warwickshire would win with time to spare. Rimmington and Salisbury put on 31 for the ninth wicket before Rimmington decided that, with the situation hopeless, he would at least have some fun. The last wicket pair had added 47 and had the runs required down to 87 when Rimmington made one heave too many against Samit Patel and was castled for 61.
Leg spinner, Seekkuge Prasanna gave Northamptonshire the perfect start to day three at Cardiff, by taking his 3rd wicket of the innings when he trapped van der Gugten LBW, leaving Glamorgan 126-5 chasing 434. From there it was just a matter of time as batsman after batsman got in and then got out: seven got into double figures, but there was no score higher than Khawaja’s 38. With the captain, Michael Hogan, unable to bat, the only sustained resistance was the ten and a bit overs when Carlson and Cooke were together. When Hutton got Carlson caught behind for 32, the end came swiftly and was sealed when Prasanna took his fourth wicket, finishing with 4-49 in a straightforward win by 233 runs that lifts Northamptonshire off the foot of the Division 2 table.
Warwickshire return to the top of Division 2, 11 points clear of Kent, with Leicestershire 21 points behind Kent. Sussex are 34 points behind Kent with a game in hand but Middlesex, in fifth, are 45 points from the promotion places and would need an extraordinary run of results to get into contention, with only seven games left.
6/27/2018 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)
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