By MaRk Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
After the T20 Blast interlude, we are now into the Championship run in. Six of the eight sides have six games left – the exceptions are Nottinghamshire and Lancashire, who have only five. There will be six weeks of concentrated Championship cricket now, on pitches that should have something for the spinners after the early season green-tops.
The Championship title looks to be a two-horse race. As in 2017, we have a runaway leader, and we have a chasing pack, desperately trying to stay in touch. Even with six games left, it would take a Devon Loch moment for Surrey to fail to win, so big is their lead. Thirty-four points clear – more than two wins – of Somerset, you have to suspect that the Cidermen would need to win at least five of their last six matches to put any sort of pressure on the men from south of the river. Nottinghamshire, in third, are 43 points back and, with a game fewer to play, would surely need to win every one to challenge: a tall order at best. Essex, defending Champions, are fourth, a whopping sixty-one points back and surely too far away to mount any serious challenge to defend their title needing to make up more than ten points per game on the leaders.
Realistically, it looks like Surrey to win the title, with the battle for the runners-up spot between Somerset, Essex and Nottinghamshire.
At the bottom of the table, things have closed-up. Realistically, even Essex are not safe, just twenty points clear of the relegation places and would slip into trouble with a couple of defeats. Yorkshire did a lot to ease their relegation worries with a win in the Roses match but will need at least one more win to feel safe. Only twice in two-division history has a side with four wins gone down, but Yorkshire and Essex have accrued only 29 bonus points all season, far fewer than any of the sides below them and Yorkshire’s ten batting points from eight matches is the worst in the Division, which goes a long way to explaining why, with three wins each, neither are out of the relegation woods. Realistically though, relegation looks most likely to be between Hampshire, Lancashire and Worcestershire. Worcestershire are now only fourteen points from safety, having finally got a win in the last round of games and Lancashire, in the relegation places and with a game fewer to play, look to be in real trouble.
Somerset v Essex
This is undoubtedly the stand-out game of the round. If either side is to make Surrey even slightly nervous, it has to win. With both sides desperate for the win-points, do not expect a draw, as there is a strong incentive to make something of the game, even if a stalemate seems to be coming. In the last two seasons, Somerset have been a one-trick pony, their success based on big turners at Taunton in the last few games of the season. This campaign has been marked though by Somerset showing the strength of their seam attack, backed-up by some powerful batting, so it will be interesting to see what type of pitch the Taunton groundsman provides: taking a long-term view of England success, more pitches that encourage spinners would be welcome. Essex’s season is put into context by the fact that Surrey have almost as many batting points (26) as Essex have batting and bowling points combined (29): no side in the division has fewer bowling points than Essex, and only Yorkshire have fewer batting points.
Marcus Trescothick, on his return to Championship action at Taunton, after recuperation and runs in the Somerset 2nd XI, struck four boundaries in Porter's first two overs in an exhilarating start, including consecutive boundaries. He then became becalmed in mid-session and rendered virtually scoreless for an hour, before repeating successive boundaries off Porter again to bring up an excellent, 83-ball half-century as he accelerated again before lunch. With Somerset playing both spinners and with Essex bring Simon Harmer into the attack after just nine overs, all the signs are that Somerset’s seam sojourn has ended and they plan to chase Surrey, who still have to visit Taunton, using Plan A: bat, put up a score of some kind and spin out the opposition.
Marcus Trescothick reached the nineties and seemed to be on the way to a century before Peter Siddle bowled him a short ball, and he picked out Deep Square Leg to fall for 95 although, with Tom Abell managing a fifty of his own, 200-4 at Tea was hardly a disaster. Seventy from Tom Abell, well supported by 45 from Steve Davies ensured that Trescothick’s efforts were not wasted and when they fell, Lewis Gregory got through to Stumps on 42*, leaving Somerset 308-7. With just 18 overs to go to obtain bonus points, Somerset will be looking to hang around and get their fourth batting point and, hopefully, deny Essex a third bowling point before putting Bess and Leach to work.
Hampshire v Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire are, realistically, looking at runners-up spot – and a handy cash prize – at best this season after four wins and four defeats. Hampshire, who have been hanging on to Division One status by their fingertips for the last two seasons, are in another struggle for survival. Having seen the men from Southampton survive at the expense of Durham in 2016, there are plenty of fans north of the Solent who would see karma in a relegation, so it is essential for Hampshire’s image in the game to show that their Division One status is deserved. Defeat for Hampshire in this game would leave them deep in trouble, while a win for Nottinghamshire would keep the pressure on Somerset.
Rain at Southampton caused a late start and, when the players came out, the conditions were tough for batting, but Hampshire got through to Lunch relatively unscathed, with just one wicket down. The post-Lunch session though was a dreadful one for them, as Hampshire slid to 137-7, with Mullaney taking three, before Liam Dawson and Kyle Abbott put on a fifty partnership. The recovery continued after Tea as Liam Dawson went on to a confident fifty. What started as a nuisance to Nottinghamshire became a major annoyance as the partnership went past one hundred and the second batting point loomed, while Nottinghamshire, having sealed two bowling points early, were utterly unable to seal the third, let alone put a stop to the fun. Abbott then reached his own fifty just after the second batting point was brought up and Nottinghamshire was becoming desperate to break the partnership somehow. Dawson fell finally for 72, bowled by Matt Carter, making an almighty heave at a straight ball, having added 133 with Kyle Abbott and reduced Nottinghamshire to distraction. Dale Steyn fell immediately for a duck and Carter had two wickets in an over after several hours of fruitless toil. Fidel Edwards was the last man out, run out for 1: a total of 277ao must have looked like riches to Hampshire from their desperate position halfway through the day.
Things got even worse for Nottinghamshire as Fidel Edwards ripped into them with three, cheap wickets, including both openers and nightwatchman Matt Milnes, for figures of 3-5 at that point. Edwards was well-supported by Gareth Berg, who removed Chris Nash. Nottinghamshire were 25-4, and in disarray with five overs still to come, however, Samit Patel and Steven Mullaney held on to take Nottinghamshire to the Close on 39-4, still in deep trouble in this match and needing a partnership in the morning.
Yorkshire v Worcestershire
Two relegation-threatened sides who need points badly. At the end of May, it seemed that only a miracle could save Worcestershire from the drop after a start that recalled some of the most awful Division One starts of recent seasons (Derbyshire and Northamptonshire come powerfully to mind here). However, a win, combined with the awful form of Hampshire and Lancashire has given Worcestershire some hope. Yorkshire have hauled themselves away from the relegation places and know that defeat in this fixture would put them back in trouble and, worse, leave their rivals in this match breathing down their necks. The announcement of coming, high-profile departures from Leeds have re-opened the spectre of turbulent post-seasons past with their inevitable destabilisation of the run-in, while Worcestershire, the original yo-yo side, would like to have the unusual pleasure of consecutive seasons in the top division.
An excellent first session for the visitors saw Yorkshire reduced to 63-4 before Williamson and Tattershall started a recovery. Williamson was finally dismissed by acting skipper, Moeen for 87, with Daryl Mitchell takes a one-handed diving catch to end a stand of 88, after which they added just 63 runs, 38 of them coming in a whirlwind knock from Jack Brooks in only 20 balls. Brooks and Fisher had added 56 in rapid time. The recovery ended with Brooks caught and bowled by Ed Barnard off a skier for 38, while Dillon Pennington took 4 for 53 in the innings. To have Yorkshire 216ao was an excellent performance for Worcestershire, who started confidently before the rain began to fall and the players went off at 39-0, which proved to be the last action of the day as rain brought a premature finish.
Surrey v Lancashire
A win for Surrey in this game would all but settle two issues: Surrey would be virtually the anointed Champions; while Lancashire, with just four games left, would be confirmed to be in grave danger of spending a season at some of the lesser grounds of England and Wales in 2019. With just four games left, Lancashire would need probably two wins from them to ensure survival. In contrast, at The Oval, after several years of trying all manner of different options to obtain success, Surrey have hit, finally, on what looks to be a winning formula: a mixture of youth and experience, a potent pace attack, backed-up by some excellent spin; all bases are covered, and it is hard to see any real weaknesses in the squad.
This match was the joker in the pack, continuing the day/night, pink ball experiment. Surrey welcomed back the Curran brothers, with Sam released by England and Tom back from injury, but were missing Jason Roy, whose fit of pique at getting a golden duck in the Blast literally re-bounded on him: he threw down his bat, and it bounced back and hit him in the face, putting him out of this match. Surrey made a very poor start to the day with Burns and Stoneman falling quickly to leave them 21-2. At Lunch, there was a slight recovery, but 110-5 was a great first session of work for Lancashire and left the title and relegation races interestingly poised. Sam Curran fell soon after Lunch and Surrey were now 130-6 and in some trouble. Morne Morkel and Jade Dernbach hit out to add some respectability and brought up the batting point, before both fell in four balls and Surrey were 211ao, with five wickets for Tom Bailey.
In reply, Jade Dernbach, who is experiencing a great revival in fortunes in the twilight of his career, took Alex Davies with the last ball of the first over, edging to Rikki Clarke at slip. Thereafter Curran and Dernbach bowled tightly and kept Haseen Hameed and Rob Jones almost runless until they broke the shackles with three boundaries in four balls. That though was as good as it got for Lancashire. Morne Morkel took Chris Jones for 10 (34-2), and Haseeb Hameed’s vigil ended when Morkel bowled him for 22 (41-3): Hameed still looks a shadow of the player who made such a wonderful entrance into Test cricket. Matt Parkinson was already getting turn early in the day, suggesting that there could be plenty in the pitch for Amar Virdi so, as the match moved into the evening session, Lancashire started to re-build as captain, Rory Burns turned to Virdi to engineer a breakthrough before the Close, although this time without success.
Dane Vilas and Shivnarine Chanderpaul brought up the fifty stand, before Vilas crashed a ball to the boundary to bring up his own fifty, passing on the way the 43 of Aaron Finch that had been the highest score of the day at the Kia Oval and, at the same time, bringing up the Lancashire 100. With the scoring rate increasing and the batsmen looking increasingly comfortable under the lights, Surrey needed a break-through before the Close. As play moved deep into the last hour, the batsmen were content to score almost exclusively in singles, of which there were a plentiful supply available, and it seemed that Surrey could be facing a significant first-innings deficit. Finally, Vilas started to get ambitious against Sam Curran and, after hitting the first boundary in plenty of overs, tried a booming drive two balls later and only edged through to Ben Foakes, departing in high dudgeon, knowing that he had let Surrey back into the match. What he was not to know is just how the game would turn on that one mistake. Steven Croft came in with just over half an hour to play and got off the mark with consecutive boundaries off Curran: the first a big cover drive, the second an edge past the slips to keep up the momentum. However, Vilas’s folly in opening an end late in the day was illustrated when Steven Croft edged Rikki Clarke to Aaron Finch and, at 129-5, Surrey were looking at perhaps even managing to engineer a small lead first innings lead. Two balls later, nightwatchman Matt Parkinson was LBW to Clarke, who had a double-wicket maiden and 114-3 had become 129-6. Debutant, Josh Bohannon, came in with five and a half overs left. Twenty-five consecutive dot balls were played before Bohannon broke the sequence with a single. Lancashire closed on 134-6 and know that they have let an excellent position slip here.
All the teams in Division Two have six matches left and, having looked as if Warwickshire and Kent were going to run away with the promotion spots, suddenly we have a battle on our hands, as both were defeated in their last game. As a result, the promotion race has concertinaed, with Warwickshire still top, but now Sussex their nearest challengers, Kent in third and, the surprise package, Leicestershire, in fourth are very much in touch. Just seventeen points cover the top four.
For the inveterate fantasists, Middlesex – 34 points behind the promotion spots – and Derbyshire – a further point back – are clinging on to their hopes of promotion and, even Gloucestershire, forty-five points behind Sussex, could still challenge mathematically. However, for any of these three sides to come from so far back will take a minimum of five wins from six.
Leicestershire v Kent
Top billing today has to be for Leicestershire’s home fixture against Kent. With four wins from their last five matches, the Foxes are, suddenly, out of the wooden spoon fight and into the promotion battle. This is very much a “promotion 48-pointer” with the winner pushing its claims to go up at the end of the season. Kent, with just six batting points from eight games, take on a Leicestershire side that has accrued eighteen (only the top two have more), on a Grace Road pitch that has encouraged huge scores and, while other grounds offered matches that were over in two days in early season, was giving us pitches that would have struggled to get a result in even five or six days.
This pitch though was certainly more lively as Leicestershire struggled in the morning session. Things were no better after Lunch as Leicestershire staggered drunkenly to 114-6. There was some tail-end stubbornness as Leicestershire moved on to 170-8 and then 216-9, with Dieter Klein batting as a concussion replacement for the injured Zak Chappell, but Harry Podmore’s three wickets and three more from Ivan Thomas had put Kent into a good position, despite the recovery.
When Kent batted, Dickson fell to Raine for 15 to make it 24-1. Mohammed Abbas then removed Bell-Drummond and Kuhn and, at 45-3, the match had taken a sharp turn back towards Leicestershire. Soon after the umpires decided that the light was too bad to continue and Kent, no doubt, at 51-3, fell some relief at being able to go off and re-group. The light did not improve, and the umpires called Stumps for the day. Kent cannot afford to concede a lead and will look at add to their meagre supply of batting points tomorrow: if they cannot do so, their promotion push will start to stall badly.
Sussex v Derbyshire
Sussex’s season has come alive since Jofra Archer, and Chris Jordan returned to the attack. Not unreasonably described as an almost Test-standard attack, they are the team with most batting points in the division (20) and have muscled into the promotion party as a formidable batting line-up has been backed-up by its bowlers. Derbyshire, whose season started so well before tailing-off, have the third highest number of batting points in the division (18) and, were they to win this one, they might just start swapping thoughts of another season trudging round Cardiff, Bristol and Leicester, for more exotic locations, if not climes, next season.
Drama before the game started, as Derbyshire keeper, Harvey Hosein dislocated a finger in the warm-up. He was replaced behind the stumps by Wayne Madsen, while Derbyshire awaited the arrival of Daryn Smit, who finally reached Hove around Tea after a rapid drive. Then, Derbyshire’s problems increased as Ravi Rampaul started to experience such severe breathing difficulties that he was hospitalised, although latest reports are that he is feeling much better. Despite everything, Sussex were reduced to 65-3, before recovering and, by the time that Smit could take the field, had climbed to a much more satisfactory 271-5 at Tea, taking firm control, helped by 82 from Harry Finch. Ben Brown though then took on the mantle of leading the way and pushed his side past the 300, finally reaching his century from 155 balls, after a seemingly endless time waiting on 99*. After his period of self-denial, he then added twelve from the next six balls bowled, powering Sussex past the 350 and a fourth batting point. Brown finally fell LBW to Callum Ferguson for 116. Sussex ended the day 400-7, bringing up the fifth batting point with the final ball of the day, with Wiese 89* and Archer 13* and in an excellent position to bat Derbyshire out of the game in the morning.
Warwickshire v Gloucestershire
Warwickshire’s seeming royal progress back to Division 1 has been rudely interrupted by defeat to Middlesex in their previous match. Still favourites to go up, a win is desperately needed to get the season back on track after the disappointment of missing out on the T20 Quarter-Finals and the disappointing Championship defeat in the last round. In front, they have a Gloucestershire side that seemed to be in terminal decline after a highly competitive start to the season. Victory in the last round of the Championship and a scrambled progress through to the T20 Quarter-Finals has restored some hope to the Bristol faithful, who were looking at another season of struggle to avoid the wooden spoon, but two miserable defeats in their last two T20 fixtures have brought back the shadows.
After a late scare, when David Payne reported sick, having fallen ill overnight, requiring a late call-up for Chris Liddle, with Kieron Noema-Barnett already ruled out by his injury in the Blast, there was an interesting first session saw Gloucestershire’s openers put on a rare fifty partnership. Skipper Chris Dent, who has been playing in the 2nd XI to get some middle time, was looking in better nick than recently. Unfortunately, every time that Gloucestershire seemed to be getting on top, with everyone getting a start, a wicket fell. All the top four all looked well set and then, disappointingly, got out: with a long tail to come due to the late changes in the side; it did not bode well. However, any suggestion that Gloucestershire would come as sacrificial victims to get the home campaign back on track seemed confounded by the first two hours of play as the visitors reached 101-2. Unfortunately, a wicket just before Lunch was followed by three immediately after and Gloucestershire were soon back in their familiar position: on the ropes and hanging on for dear life at 113-6, with only a long tail to come! The procession continued as batsman after batsman gave his wicket away against some excellent bowling from Wright and Barker. Chris Wright, heading to Leicestershire next season, produced a spell of 5-9 after Lunch and Gloucestershire were 127ao. In the end, the top five had all got a start, but no one else passed 2. The last eight wickets fell for twenty-six. It was a wretched performance.
When Warwickshire batted, they were as gloriously untroubled as Gloucestershire had been initially. The difference was that Warwickshire continued to bat on, with the collusion of the fielders. At 80-0, Will Rhodes produced a big skier, Matt Taylor ran in, got to it and shelled a simple chance, even as Rhodes started to walk off: it was a good summary of the last three days of abject cricket played by the Shire. The century came up with fifties for both batsmen and no extras at all and was only the sixth Warwickshire partnership of the season for any wicket and the first that Rhodes and Sibley have managed all season. Warwickshire were already ahead when Chris Dent put down a second, sharp chance off Matt Taylor and everything continued to break their way. Finally, the opening stand was broken on 161 as Bracey caught Sibley for 65 off Ryan Higgins, at which point, with nine overs to go, Chris Wright was sent in as nightwatchman!! The early nightwatchman policy backfired when Chris Liddle got Wright LBW, and Ian Bell had to come in anyway before the Close, accompanying Will Rhodes to his century. Warwickshire will look to bat long and bowl Gloucestershire out a second time for an innings win, to obtain maximum points here.
Northamptonshire v Middlesex
After winning their opening Championship fixture at a canter, the more radical Middlesex fans were talking about winning all fourteen games. What has happened since has been a severe reality check: Middlesex are mired in mid-table obscurity, did a little better than in previous seasons in the One Day Cup, without ever looking to get to the knock-out stages, and finished bottom of the South Group in the Blast. Middlesex insist that they are still alive in the promotion stakes, although they need a formidable run in to get into the top two. In front, they have a Northamptonshire side who had a horrific start to the season, having missed out on promotion in 2017 only due to an over-rate penalty, but who have recovered with two wins and are off the bottom of the table. Realistically, if Middlesex lose this match, their season is over, with just pride left to play for, while a win will allow them to continue hoping.
Middlesex though did not have a particularly good start, with wickets refusing to fall, despite Duckett falling for 6 to make it 16-1. Northants were 234-4 by Tea, with Ricardo Vasconcelos past his century, well-supported by Richard Levy with 41. Vasconcelos, the only centurion of the day, finally fell for 140, bowled by Middlesex debutant, nineteen-year-old Ethan Bamber. At 301-5, it looked like being a long day in the field for Middlesex, but even James Harris must have been surprised to find himself on a hat-trick as the visitors fought back late in the day. Without Harris’s five-for, Middlesex would have been in a sorry state. Saif Zaib and Brett Hutton added an unbroken 20 for the ninth wicket and Northamptonshire were 332-8 at Stumps and in a good position to add a fourth batting point in the morning.
Glamorgan v Durham
A bottom of the table clash, between two sides that know that they will spend 2019 in Division Two and who now have little more to play for than avoiding the wooden spoon and reaching mid-table mediocrity. Durham though can approach the end of the season with more optimism now that, having spent two seasons losing start players hand over fist in the ECB-inspired meltdown, are now starting to make some high-profile acquisitions. While Durham can feel, with some justification, that they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, Glamorgan’s season has been one with few high points to take pride in and already suggests another season of struggle in 2019.
Rain at Cardiff meant a very late start and, when it did come, Glamorgan made a poor start, losing three wickets cheaply and going into Lunch 29-3. Carlson and Lloyd added 51 to add some respectability before there was another clatter of wickets to 91-7. Salter and Smith then added another fifty partnership, before again wickets fell quickly. It cannot be often that a total of 154ao has contained two fifty partnerships, as the Durham bowlers exploited favourable conditions to roll the batsmen with great ease around those two stands. Seamers Chris Rushworth and Matt Salisbury led the way with three wickets apiece, while spinner Axar Patel claimed the last two wickets of the innings on his debut.
Durham responded confidently, and the fifty came up in just the thirteenth over, with Alex Lees 38* from only 36 balls. Stumps were drawn at 75-0, with Lees, bringing up his fifty in the final over of the day, 53* and Cameron Steele 22*, as the revival in Durham fortunes continues after a difficult early season. A good morning session and Durham will be looking at a win that will push them up to a comfortable and respectable mid-table position.
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.
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)
6/25/2018 0 Comments
Written by Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid
Day 1 of a new round of battles at the top and the bottom of the table.
After its pause for the Royal London One Day Cup, the frenetic action in the County Championship continued, with another back-to-back round of matches featuring some more fascinating clashes in both divisions.
This was a peculiar round of matches, with just two clashes, one in each division, featuring the traditional 11 am start. The game at Old Trafford started at 12, the one at Derby, at 1:30 pm, with the others at 2 pm.
In Division 1, with a full round of matches, the top clash is, without question, the Essex v Somerset clash: fourth against third. Both sides lost in the previous round, and both desperately need the win to keep in touch with the top of the table. While neither team could afford a defeat, a draw would be of little use to either save as a holding operation, particularly as Nottinghamshire, reinforced by the return of Stuart Broad, would play the bottom side, Worcestershire. Surrey, in contrast, have the tougher job with an away game against Yorkshire at Scarborough.
In Division 2, where Sussex and Gloucestershire are without a game in this round, two interesting clashes stand out. At Canterbury, Kent entertain a Middlesex side who won an extraordinary match against Leicestershire in the previous round. That win has re-awoken their interest in promotion. With Warwickshire’s slip in the last round, Kent suddenly have the top of Division 2 in reach. Defeat for the visitors would undo all the excellent work that Middlesex did at Grace Road and advance Kent’s promotion chances a lot while, a win for the visitors would put them right back into the centre of the promotion battle, so this one really has a lot hanging on it. The other clash that will impact the top of the table is at lovely Chester-le-Street, where Durham entertain Warwickshire – both sides losers in the previous round. A win would put Durham right into the promotion race, whereas Warwickshire need a win to re-affirm their promotion bid. Here too, defeat for either side would severely dent their promotion ambitions, possibly fatally in the case of Durham.
The place to start is, without doubt, Chelmsford, where Essex and Somerset both wanted to close the gap on the leaders with a win. As in almost all the games, both sides wanted to bat, but it was Essex who won the Toss, and Somerset suffered for it. Missing chances did not help. Nick Browne and Alastair Cook put on 151 for the first wicket before Groenewald run out Browne for 66. Cook though carried on and looked set for one of those daddy hundreds that have been his mark when on song: it was a big surprise when Dom Bess bowled him very full delivery which, instead of hitting for the boundary that would have brought him his century, missed it and was LBW. When Tom Westley drove loosely at Jack Gregory, captain Tom Abell took an excellent catch at Extra Cover, the score had slipped from 151-0 to 204-3, and a little of the gloss had come off the day for the hosts. When Dominic Bess bowled the splendidly named Michael-Kyle Pepper, making his First Class debut after playing for Cambridgeshire and Essex 2nd XI this season, it was 212-4, and Somerset were clawing their way back into the day. It could have been even better. At 245-4, Somerset skipper Tom Abell failed to hang on to a sharp caught and bowled chance from the Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate. That was a costly mistake, as Essex reached the Close on 298-4. Ryan ten Doeschate 46* and Ravi Bopara 37* had added an unbeaten 86 by the Close. Josh Davey had a huge should for LBW against ten Doeschate from the last ball of the day, but it was not to be Somerset's day in the end.
Surrey welcomed back Mark Stoneman on a hot day at Scarborough, with a large and noisy crowd watching. Somerset were without the luckless Jack Leach, who was confirmed to have mild concussion, after being hit on the head batting at the weekend and is rested under the concussion protocols. In the commentary box, Jamie Reid made his debut, sitting in the seat occupied for so many years by the sadly missed Dave Callaghan: his opening shots were secure as he introduced “the legend that is Mark Church” (you could see Churchie’s blush, even on the radio). The pitch looked superb, and both sides wanted to bat, but Yorkshire won the Toss. Even so, Dernbach and Morkel extracted life from the pitch and Lees did not last long, giving a return catch to a lively Dernbach at the end of the first over. For someone rather unkindly labelled “the tattooed trundler” in his ODI days, Dernbach looked pretty sharp. There was a real curiosity in the first hour in that after 13.1 overs, Yorkshire were 27-1, with all 27 runs to Adam Lyth: shades of Ben Duckett last week, with Pujara still scoreless after 25 balls and Lees facing six balls for his duck. The sequence was finally broken when a leg bye was run to the 80th ball of the morning. Pujara finally broke his duck with a boundary from his forty-second ball, all runs in the first 18 overs falling to Lyth, or as extras. Such profligacy could not last, and divine retribution came in the form of Lyth’s dismissal for 42, to a catch in the slips in the next over. Yorkshire got to Lunch 76-2, with honours reasonably even. The afternoon session was all Surrey, with wickets falling at regular intervals. Without Balance’s 54, Yorkshire would have been in dire straits. As it was, they slumped to 166-6 and were in danger of throwing away the advantage of the first use of the pitch. Enter Jack Tattersall, the hero of the Royal London One Day Cup Semi-Final defeat and a partnership of exactly 100 with Tim Bresnan, whose batting seems to get better and better as his career advances. Bresnan fell finally for 48 and Tattersall followed soon after for 70, but Steve Patterson and Jack Brooks took Yorkshire through to the Close and 299-8, with the third batting point almost assured.
At Trent Bridge, Stuart Broad returned to the side after England duty, as he is not involved in the T20s. Worcestershire are without batting all-rounder Ed Barnard, on Lions duty: a significant loss for them given his performance against Lancashire, while fast-bowler Dillon Pennington came into the side for his Championship debut and Ben Twohig replaced of Pat Brown. Nottinghamshire would keep the pressure on Surrey with a win, while Worcestershire know that they cannot afford to lose many more if they wish to stay in Division 1. On the day when fan favourite who is Jack Shantry (son of Brian Shantry of Gloucestershire and brother of Adam (Northants, Warwickshire and Glamorgan), was forced to retire with a back injury, Worcestershire suffered one of their worst days of the season – and they have had a few. A century for Chris Nash, finally trapped LBW by Martin Guptill for 139, 88 for Jake Libby and a 50 for Samit Patel. It was 306-1, and you started to hope for rain or a plague of locusts or anything that would save Worcestershire from taking more punishment. Suddenly, the situation had changed radically. D'Oliviera took the new ball, and Steve Magoffin took three wickets in five balls, without conceding a run as Patel and Billy Root went to consecutive balls. Ross Taylor went for a 12-ball duck as he edged to slip, and Notts had gone from 306-1 to 312-5 just a few overs. Moores and Wessels added 24* to take Nottinghamshire to 336-5 at the Close: still definitely their day, with a fourth batting point close and a fifth possible, but not as one-sided as it had seemed to be.
Similarly, both sides wanted to bat at Old Trafford, but it was Hampshire who won the Toss. Onions took Weatherley for a duck to a catch behind but, after that, it was reasonably steady progress for the visitors. Everyone got a start and, with 103 for James Vince, Hampshire reached 302-6 at the Close and are approaching a very solid position. Lancashire were indebted to Graeme Onions and his 4-64. However, in this bargain basement clash, it was definitely the visitors who will sleep happier tonight, with runs and three batting points in the bank and a real chance of a fourth that should ensure them against a damaging defeat that may prove costly to Lancashire should it come to pass.
At Canterbury, it was almost easier to say who *was* available for Middlesex, with Steve Finn joining the walking wounded with sore knees, to add to all the England, England Lions and Ireland calls, as well as the list of injured. It meant a rare 1st XI appearance for James Fuller. Kent rested Darren Stevens and Matt Henry: Henry who has had a massive load this season, while Darren Stevens took a bad blow to the head in the pink-ball game last season and was not risked ahead of the Royal London One Day Cup Final on Saturday. The Kent innings never really got going: they have struggled to get batting points this season, despite what looks like a power-packed line-up. There were no fifty stands until Rouse and Podmore added 51 for the 8th wicket. At that point, it was 185-8, and there was every chance that Kent were not doing add to their minimal season’s haul of batting bonus points. Podmore and Grant Stewart added 43, to assure at least one batting point for the hosts. The fall of Rouse, though, ensured that there would not be a second and Middlesex finished them off for 241, with James Fuller taking 4-84 from 15.2 action-filled overs. In reply, Stewart got Sam Robson quickly, and Middlesex were 7-1 after just 11 balls. Then Grant Stewart bowled Holden, Middlesex were 19-2, had lost both openers and were in a mess and needing runs from the out-of-form Dawid Malan. Earlier there had been a bizarre hold-up as the setting Sun reflected off windows in the pavilion, briefly leading to “Sun stopped play”, an old favourite in day-night games. Malan was not able to comply with his team’s needs, providing a third wicket for Stewart just three balls later: 19-3 and Middlesex sinking, with 16 overs still to play. It was not pretty against a side that was missing its two best bowlers and who the visitors had hoped to make pay for resting them. Grant Stewart was getting the ball to hoop around corners and Middlesex were not enjoying it. When Stewart had Eskinazi caught by Sam Billings for 25, it was 44-4, and Kevin Hand was praying for the Close. Unfortunately, his prayers were not answered because Middlesex reject Harry Podmore then added Saturday’s hero, Hylton Cartwright and it was 44-5. It got no better: Scott fell to Stewart for 3, and it was 50-6, and Grant Stewart had 7.5-1-20-5. Enough? Not on your life! Thomas bowled Harris and Haggett induced an edge behind from Simpson, and it was 54-8. Thomas bowled Ravi Patel for only the second duck of the innings, and it was 54-9 and Stumps. Yes, Middlesex fans and commentator were not happy with the amount of help that the pink Duke’s balls were giving the bowlers in twilight – however, this was not so much the case in the other games where there was no twilight crash of wickets.
Division 2 also threw up a clash of the bottom two at Sophia Gardens, with Northants knowing that they could shift off the bottom of the table if they dominated the match. The visitors won the Toss and decided to bat, but made a far from convincing start. Ben Duckett fell early to Tom Hogan and, when Luke Procter fell to Rhuaidhri Smith, both openers had gone with just 36 on the board. However, from then it started to turn around. Fifties for Vasconcelos, Wakely and Levi left Northants well-placed at 223-3, with captain Wakely seeming heading inexorably for a century. Just when it appeared that Glamorgan were in for a really tough day, there was an astonishing collapse by Northants, starting with the fall of Wakely for 82, losing 7-58 in 17.4 overs, to be bowled out for 281. After a partial recovery, with a stand of 44 between Levi and Crook, the final five wickets for just six runs in three overs. Tim van der Gugten finished with 5-45. It was hard to believe the turnaround after Glamorgan spent so much of this afternoon toiling to make any progress. Faced with a tricky seven overs before the Close, Glamorgan survived without loss, to start the second day on 21-0.
What about Warwickshire? Was their promotion juggernaut really de-railed? When the top three all got starts, but all fell without pushing on, including Ian Bell, it looked as if Warwickshire might have another off-colour day. Then Hose also got a start and got out, giving Salisbury his third wicket and leaving the visitors 130-4: there was a real danger that Durham could knock them over cheaply. A century from Jonathon Trott, who has re-captured his form batting alongside Ian Bell and 67 for Tim Ambrose, added 135 for the fifth wicket. 297-5 at Stumps, with Trott 119* and Barker 9*: this good Warwickshire position definitely was “hashtag Trott’s fault”! Warwickshire will feel most definitely that they have had the better of the day and that they can push on to 400.
There were no such shenanigans at Derby. Three of Leicestershire’s six completed fixtures have featured heart-stopping finishes. Will we have a repeat here? It seems not if the first day is any guide. Leicestershire put Derbyshire in and, at 93-1, it did not look like the wisest decision. However, three wickets then fell in seven balls for no addition and despite a partnership of 62 for the fifth wicket between Madsen and Critchley, the Derbyshire innings never really got back to cruising altitude. 245ao with four ducks was not quite what they had hoped for after a decent start. In reply, Leicestershire are 82-0, although with Dearden retired hurt on 9. Paul Horten is 48* and Leicestershire will look to push on tomorrow.
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