By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid
Day Three of this round of Championship matches started with three games that appeared to be heading for comfortable wins – Worcestershire, Hampshire and Somerset had established very strong positions on Day 2 – and one game – Surrey v Lancashire – that was leaning towards the home side, but still very much in the balance. The chasing pack desperately wanted Lancashire to win to keep the Championship race open for another week at least.
What the fans got was an amazing Yorkshire implosion as Moeen swept all before him, while Nottinghamshire hung on desperately and Lancashire and Surrey continued to slug it out like the Claydons and the Earps at the OK Corral. And at Taunton, yet another instalment of “Tales of the Unexpected”, but if Brian Clemens, who produced that wonderful old TV series, had scripted this one, no one would have believed him.
Somerset v Essex
Through Day 2, Somerset established a formidable stranglehold on this game. Having folded themselves in the morning to finish on a disappointing 324ao, Somerset obtained a 133 run first innings lead, with both the seamers and the spinners taking wickets. That lead had been extended to 165 by Stumps, with nine wickets left. Anything over 250 lead looked like being enough to win, with the likelihood that Essex would be batting to save the game sometime in the evening. Essex would need to do something spectacular on Day 3 to pull this one out of the fire. Although before play, Ryan ten Doeschate insisted that Essex would be happy to chase anything under 300, that statement had to be taken cum grano salis… and a mighty big grain of salt at that. Still, seeing the way that the day developed, maybe he was right after all.
Nightwatchman, Dominic Bess, did not last very long, but kept the bowlers out for the first twenty minutes, until caught at slip by Simon Harmer off Sam Cook. Somerset were 33-2 and not exactly panic-stricken to lose that wicket. Even the good news seemed to be bad news for Essex, as Simon Harmer continued to pose problems: with the lead past 250 and only 4 wickets down, to see the opposition spinner doing well would not exactly cause Somerset to tremble with fear, given the fact that they had Leach and Bess lying in wait. With Somerset 127-5 at Lunch, now 260 ahead, Essex knew that they could not afford to concede many more after Lunch. Harmer then added Tom Abell, pouched at Leg Slip by Ravi Bopara, Somerset 143-6 and the lead 276. The score continued to mount and, although wickets continued to fall, with Tom Westley’s occasional off-spin claiming one too, Somerset had passed the Essex first innings score, ensuring that they would need the largest score of the match in the fourth innings to win. When Steve Davies fell to Jamie Porter for 29 to close the innings, Somerset had reached 202, and the Essex target was a towering 336.
Essex though started comfortably, scoring quickly. After just six overs of pace, Leach and Bess were on to attacking fields, but Essex went to Tea at 52-0, having taken a significant bite out of the chase. Jack Leach got the breakthrough after Tea, with Varun Chopra falling LBW for 24 – 58-1 – before Tom Westley had what may just be his best innings since losing his England place, accompanying Nick Browne, 75*, to the Close, on 43* and the score 147-1. Essex still need 189 and Somerset are not making it easy for them: Jack Leach has figures of 16-4-28-1, although Dominic Bess was not at his best at the other end. On a Taunton pitch that is helping the spinner, Essex are threatening to pull off a quite astonishing chase, against all the odds, on the last day.
Hampshire v Nottinghamshire
Hampshire have wrested control of this game on a surface that has not proved easy for the batsmen, thanks to a brilliant century for James Vince. Starting at 253-4, 364 to the good, there is likely to be a declaration sooner rather than later, with Nottinghamshire chasing a huge target or, more realistically, trying to bat around five sessions to save the match: something that should be beyond them.
Hampshire continued to accumulate for the first eighty minutes, taking the lead past 400. Finally, with Tom Alsop just five from his century, Luke Fletcher got the breakthrough by dismissing Rossouw LBW for 36 but, by then the lead was 430 and the only question was “when will the declaration come?” Alsop fell finally for 99, cutting Mark Footitt straight to Backward Point, but the lead was 438 and Hampshire were out of sight, if not out of mind for the suffering Nottinghamshire attack. At Lunch, the score had climbed to 350-7, the lead was 461 and, soon after Lunch, James Vince decided that enough was enough, setting Nottinghamshire a mere 511 to win.
How long would Nottinghamshire resist? They seemed to start well enough, but the Hampshire breakthrough came at 31-1 with a brute of a ball from Kyle Abbott to Jake Libby and, as so often, one wicket became two as Liam Dawson took new batsman, Chris Nash. Nottinghamshire tried to dig in, but when Fidel Edwards bowled a short ball, Samit Patel attempted to pull and just holed-out. Smart cricket from Fidel Edwards, not so smart from Samit Patel. It was then 53-3, and a three-day finish was becoming a real possibility. A quiet spell followed as Nottinghamshire tried to consolidate, but Liam Dawson was getting some help from the pitch and, finally, got his man as Gareth Berg caught Braithwaite from a defensive prod: 85-4 and Hampshire right on top. Nottinghamshire then hung on like a heavyweight on the ropes and got through to Stumps with no further loss, at 128-4. They have given themselves just a little glimmer of hope of a battling draw.
Yorkshire v Worcestershire
Overnight, Worcestershire had placed themselves in a position of total and utter dominance thanks to centuries for Daryl Mitchell (140*) and Moeen Ali (107*). Worcestershire started Day 3 already 94 runs ahead and looking to bat just once, with the assumption that they would aim to declare sometime in the afternoon and challenge Yorkshire to bat out at least four sessions.
Knowing that they needed a big lead, Daryl Mitchell and Moeen Ali just kept batting on and established a new 2nd wicket record for Worcestershire versus Yorkshire, beating the 231 by Glenn Turner and Phil Neale at New Road in 1981. At 361-1, 145 ahead, the writing was already writ large on the wall for the white rose. The 400 and the fifth batting point came up in the 107th over, with Yorkshire still well short of even a first bowling point: Mitchell was then on 176* and Moeen, 155*. Runs were coming at six an over as Worcestershire had one eye on the clock and the limited time to chase any fourth innings target. Their overall second wicket record of 316 by Stephen Moore and Vikram Solanki against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham in 2008, was looming large as the score mounted. Finally, Adam Lyth made the breakthrough, having Mitchell well caught by Tim Bresnan for 178, to end a partnership of 294. This left the bowlers one over to take a third wicket and get a bowling point, however, as direct rivals for relegation, Worcestershire had no intention to gift them an extra point and saw out the over as the attempt to take a third wicket proved to be an impossible task. Yorkshire saw the 110 overs finish with Worcestershire 414-2 and the bonus points in the match split 8-1. By now wickets were anecdotal as their only real value was to slow down the scoring; Lyth took a second wicket on the point of Lunch, as Joe Clarke missed a straight one and fell LBW, but the horse had bolted and was halfway to London by then. Worcestershire 479-3 at Lunch, 263 ahead and facing a delicate declaration decision.
With time becoming a factor, Worcestershire pushed on after Lunch, Moeen going to a superb 200 from 260 balls, with 25x4 and 3x6. The team 500 followed quickly, with the batsmen scoring at 5-an-over and obviously pushing for a declaration. By mid-afternoon, the session was over 350, which Moeen decided was enough: he declared finally at 572-7, 356 ahead.
Yorkshire started well, but today was Moeen Day and who else was going to break the opening stand? Moeen brought himself on and trapped Adam Lyth with just his fourth delivery, LBW for 17: 37-1. In his second over, Moeen took Harry Brook’s wicket, and Yorkshire were 40-2 and slipping. Moeen, at that point, had two wickets for no runs. Yorkshire went into Tea at 43-2 and must have found their fairy cakes a little indigestible. After Tea, things seemed to be stabilising as the fifty partnership came up but, again, it was Moeen who made the breakthrough: Ballance edged, Clarke, took the catch at Second Slip, 92-3. By now, Moeen was getting enough turn to be a real handful (are you watching Ed Smith?) and soon had his fourth wicket as Kohler-Cadmore was LBW for 8; 116-4 and Yorkshire staggering under the kindly attention of the Beard that is Feared. That beard was giving Yorkshire the holy terrors in a way rarely seen since Ian Botham at his best used to jump out and shout “BOOOOO!!!!” at the Australians.
Could Moeen get all ten? Sadly, not, because Wayne Parnell is a spoilsport and had Kane Williamson caught behind for 59. Yorkshire were now 134-5, but not for long, because Parnell then took Tim Bresnan for a duck, caught at Slip, in his next over, to make it 138-6. Three overs remained, and another wicket before the scheduled Close might just have brought the extra half hour. However, the Tykes defended out the last three overs with a determination that would have made Fred Boycott purr – although he would have had a word or two about some of the top-order dismissals – and the match survived into the fourth day.
Surrey v Lancashire
Surrey started the day 197-4, 161 ahead and knew that, if they could see out the first hour in the morning, they would begin to build a position of complete dominance. At the same time, Lancashire knew that they needed quick wickets this morning to get back into the game. A fourth innings target anywhere north of 250 would be very difficult to chase, and 300 should be too many. Surrey would have been thinking of batting well into the afternoon session and then setting their bowling attack to work.
Sam Curran fell early after the start, for 31, caught behind by Dane Vilas off Tom Bailey, to give Lancashire an early boost. However, at 204-5, 168 ahead, Surrey probably felt that they just needed one partnership to seal a winning lead. Lancashire continued to make enough progress to convince themselves that they could win. Wickets for Mennie and Parkinson left Surrey 240-7, 205 ahead and far from safe. The new ball came and immediately brought success for Graeme Onions, with Rikki Clarke bowled for 19: 254-8, 218 ahead and the match back on a knife-edge. At Lunch, Jade Dernbach and Morne Morkel were hanging on at 278-8, the lead 242. After further post-Lunch defiance, Onions and Mennie picked up the last two wickets in quick succession and Surrey were 306ao, leaving a difficult, but not impossible target of 271 for Lancashire to win.
The openers added 45 before Virdi had Davies caught by the substitute fielder, Will Jacks, at Short Leg for 35. Haseeb Hameed has not had a good time for the last two seasons but hung around as Lancashire continued to score at 4-an-over until Morne Morkel added to the astonishing number of LBWs in the day in the grounds around the country: 83-2 and the match could still go either way. Entering the final session of the day, the game could still go either way, with Lancashire 93-2 and fighting hard. Rikki Clarke may never have added to his two England caps, obtained fifteen years ago in Bangladesh, but he is older and wiser now and still a formidable competitor. It was Clarke who pushed the match Surrey’s way as he came out straight after Tea to make the breakthrough and get Dane Vilas LBW: 97-3, the match was swinging back to Surrey. It was to do so even more decisively soon afterwards, as Shivnarine Chanderpaul played at a ball from Amar Virdi that he should have left, edged and it was Rikki Clarke who took a fine, diving catch. Chanderpaul had fallen for 2, it was 104-4, and Surrey were seemly marching to victory. Virdi was weaving his magic, and the red rose was showing no more staying power than the white had earlier in the day. Rob Jones was playing a lone hand, approaching his fifty, but Virdi got him to inside edge onto the pad, on 48 and, again, Will Jacks scooped-up the ball at Short Leg: it seemed to be the decisive blow.
With fifteen overs left in the day, Lancashire passed the halfway mark of the chase, but Surrey were very much on top. In the first innings though, Josh Bohanon had managed a fine fifty, and he still stood in the way. Runs were ticked off from the target until, with two overs to go, the runs to get ticked down under 100. Would this match have a last twist in the fag-end of the day? Croft and Bohanon keep the scoreboard ticking-over by running singles and the day ended with Lancashire on 177-5, 94 more needed and Croft 28*, Bohanon, 22*. Once again, it was tightening up. Could Lancashire squeeze over the line? We will know sometime tomorrow afternoon.
With one game already complete and another that would most likely have finished on the second day had rain not intervened, Division 2’s games are advancing apace. Warwickshire stand proudly at the top of Division 2, 28 points clear of Sussex and 34 clear of Kent. With Durham sure to take the points against Glamorgan and Northants firm favourites to finish off Middlesex, the mid-table positions were set for a shake-up today, as are the promotion places. Leicestershire v Kent was turning into a veritable arm-wrestle, with a result as certain as it is uncertain which way it would fall while, at Sussex-by-the-Sea, today would decide whether or not something could be made of the game or, in contrast, it will have the deadest of final days.
What the fans got was the expected quick win by Durham and a surprising victory by Kent, sweeping to what should have been a challenging target. There was also a fantastic attempt to set up a win by Sussex and a quite extraordinary fightback by Middlesex. Who says that Division Two is boring?
Leicestershire v Kent
The Leicestershire lead overnight was 151, with the hosts 126-5 at Stumps and this match was still wonderfully evenly poised. That there would be a result – barring a lot of rain – was certain, who it would favour, was not. With stalemate threatening at Hove, whoever did emerge dominant from today’s play would, most likely, finish the round as Warwickshire’s closest challenger. Any lead over 200 would be difficult to chase in the fourth innings, meaning that Leicestershire, with runs on the board, probably held a slight advantage at the start, but it seemed likely that it would take just take one inspired spell of bowling, or a batting cameo to upset the balance. What no one imagined was that a double century partnership would see Kent win an easy victory.
Within a quarter of an hour of the start, the balance started to shift again, as Harry Podmore induced Ben Raine, who had been well set overnight, to edge through to Sam Billings: 135-6 and the lead 160. However, Harry Dearden was still there and got solid support from Klein. Even though Parkinson had not help up Kent for long, the 36 added for the eighth wicket were far too many for Kent’s comfort and, when Darren Stevens finally got Dickson for 74, it was already 188-8 and the lead 213, with Kent knowing that they had to end the innings quickly to have a reasonable chase. The last wicket pair pushed the lead past 250 before Lunch and, with it, ensured that Kent would need comfortably the biggest score of the match to win. Joe Denly wrapped up the innings, finishing with 2-10, while Ivan Thomas had 5-91, but 253 to win looked as if it should be far too many for Kent. A low-scoring win for the side in fourth though seemed like the best possible result-match scenario for the top two. Kent though, were determined to have a go at the target, making a confident start, to finish 11-0 at Lunch.
Soon after Lunch though, Kent had slipped to 38-2. Mohammed Abbas got both Bell-Drummond and Stewart in quick succession. At that point, you would not have given much for their chances of an upset win. Dickson and Kuhn though had other ideas, consolidated and then went on the attack. The hundred came up in a blaze of fours and sixes and, once again, the momentum was changing in this remarkable game. Dickson and Kuhn continued, and the hundred partnership and then the team 150 came up with Dickson 66* and Kuhn 61*. At Tea, it was 153-2, the target was just 100 away and Kent, incredibly, were strong favourites. A boundary for Sean Dickson of Mohammed Abbas brought up his century from 131 balls, with 12x4 and 2x6 and brought the target down below 50. The scoring continued apace, with the overwhelmed Leicestershire attack entirely unable to control it. Two from Heino Kuhn took him to 95* and brought the scores level and, rather than go for glory and a century; a single next ball finished it off. Dickson was 134*, Kuhn 96* and a target that had seemed to be far too many to chase had been hunted down with ease.
Sussex v Derbyshire
With Derbyshire 315-5 at the Close on Day 2, the match seemed to be heading towards stalemate but, the loss of 4 wickets late in the day, including Sean Ervine to the last ball, gave Sussex some hope. A second factor though at the start of the day was that Sussex had, so far, only sealed one bowling point and needed four more wickets in 33 overs to get the full set: they could ill afford a barren morning session with Warwickshire having won already and either Kent or Leicestershire certain to win too.
Ravi Rampaul was withdrawn definitively from the match in the morning and will be seen by a specialist later in the week as he recovers from his severe breathing difficulties on Day 1. There was some encouragement for Sussex, as Ollie Robinson bowled Mark Critchley half an hour into the morning, still 97 ahead. Robinson then made it two wickets in three balls from his bowling by adding Alex Hughes for 77 at the start of his next over. The lead was still 91, and Sussex’s hopes were growing of being able to finish off the tail and set a target. Derbyshire though were still accumulating and brought up their own fourth batting point to offset the net points gain. Wiese took the last two wickets with consecutive balls (Rampaul, obviously, was absent), half an hour before Lunch, to leave a Sussex lead of 51, but it would need a gigantic effort with just five sessions left to set a target and then bowl out Derbyshire. Sussex though were not daunted and played positively from the off. At Lunch, it was 25-0 and the lead, 76.
After Lunch, Wells and Salt absolutely flayed the Derbyshire attack, scoring at close to 7-an-over as they tried to flog the match into life. After 17 overs the score was 120-0 before Derbyshire started to exert some control and managed, at least partially, to stem the flood of runs. Phil Salt’s own century came from 87 balls, scored out of 179-0. The lead was 250, and the idea was obviously to declare as early as possible in an effort to apply scoreboard pressure on the last day. Tea came at 216-1, a lead of 267 with Salt on a majestic 119* from 105 balls. Whatever tactics Derbyshire used to slow the scoring, Sussex were not going to die wondering; the intention seemed clearly to be to declare before the Close. Salt was one of a string of wickets to fall as batsmen gave away their wickets after Tea, chasing quick runs, but 148 from 138 balls had set the game up for Sussex.
With ten overs of the day remaining, the lead was 390, and Jofra Archer was swinging like crazy. Could they get past the 400 lead and have half a dozen overs at Derbyshire? 30 in 18 balls for Archer, including 2x6, allowed the lead to reach 400 with more than nine overs of the day left. The declaration came at the end of that same over, leaving a target of 405 to win for Derbyshire, with seven overs left to bowl in the day and 103 remaining in the match.
Derbyshire made plain that they had no intention of going for the target by blocking out time to the Close, to end 6-0 from seven overs. An intriguing final day is served.
Northamptonshire v Middlesex
When Middlesex engineered a strong fightback to dismiss Northamptonshire for 346 and then set off as if in the Power Play of a T20, the fans were crowing. Let’s face it; when you are 34-0 after just four overs, and the fifty partnership comes up at five-an-over you feel pretty good to be a Middlesex supporter and dark suggestions that 346 was an over-par total look totally unfounded. However, as this campaign looks more and more like Middlesex’s 2007 campaign – on the field, if not off it – it was no great surprise that soon after Tea, Middlesex had been invited to follow-on, 159 behind. The bad light came as a relief with Nick Gubbins already dismissed second time around. So, the third day started with Middlesex still 127 behind, with nine wickets left and even Kevin Hand, slowly and reluctantly, coming round to thinking that Middlesex may not be promoted this season.
The overnight batsmen survived three-quarters of an hour of constant tension: loud appeals for catches, LBW, … balls that just missed the stumps, balls that flew just safe. It was all happening. Finally, though, Nathan Buck made the breakthrough, pinning Stevie Eskinazi LBW for 20. In came Dawid Malan, on a king pair, no doubt happy to receive two wides to settle his nerves, before finally receiving a legitimate delivery. One wicket soon became two as Rory Kleinveldt produced a wonderful delivery to Malan that nipped back in and clipped the off bail. Malan had avoided a pair, but not by much and must now be further than ever from an England recall. Middlesex were now 84-3, still 75 behind. All through this, Sam Robson, who some still think could be some time the answer to England’s problems at the top of the order (although he is struggling again with the bat this season), was battling through. It was though salutary to remember that the only three Middlesex batsmen averaging 30 in the 2018 season were back in the pavilion already. When Rory Kleinveldt then bowled a big inswinger to Eoin Morgan, one wicket had become three, as he was hit on the back pad, right in front: 70-1 had become 92-4, and Middlesex were struggling to see the match much past Lunch. To finish off the match though, Northamptonshire had to get past Sam Robson who, after a very poor trot with the bat, reached his fifty and was scoring with increasing confidence: even if he was not leading Middlesex to safety, he was at least making life difficult for the opposition. Disaster though, from the last ball before Lunch, as a Leg Gulley was placed carefully and Sam Robson picked him out: Nathan Buck had removed the one batsman who seemed to be a real threat. Sam Robson had made 72, easily his best innings of the season. Even if the Robson had ensured that Middlesex would not lose by an innings, they went into Lunch seemingly with just two chances of escaping defeat: slim and fat.
Brett Hutton picked up Robbie White cheaply soon after Lunch and Middlesex, who five minutes before the break might have been thinking “if we can just eke out a lead of 150”, were now, effectively, 7-6 with only the bowling all-rounders and tail to come. However, Holden and Harris accumulated steadily, and the lead started to grow to the point that hope was just beginning to rise again. This is life as a Middlesex supporter: it is the hope that kills you. With Tea approaching and Ben Duckett possibly unable to bat with his broken finger, could Middlesex’s lower order engineer an extraordinary escape? Things became even more interesting as Vasconcelos went off injured and former Middlesex man, Adam Rossington, came on as substitute wicket-keeper. At Tea it was 262-6, a lead of 103, with Max Holden 73* and James Harris 37*: at least Northamptonshire would have a tricky target to chase.
Finally, after a stand of 121, Max Holden fell to Hutton for 94, agonisingly close to his maiden century. In came James Fuller, with James Harris batting well and past yet another fifty. Fuller reined-in his attacking instincts until he decided to advance down the wicket to Rory Kleinvelt and aimed a massive wah-hoo that was neatly edged through to Adam Rossington, just when Middlesex must have been close to becoming favourites to win. What the dressing room much had thought watching the shot, one dreads to think. Still, though the score kept mounting and Extras got a healthy round of applause from the crowd for their own 50 from 576 balls: yes, it was that kind of day! The Northamptonshire bowlers were increasingly exhausted, and the ball was being chased in the field with ever-decreasing enthusiasm when, at last, Nathan Buck, who looked to be on his knees, got Bamber to edge through to Rossington. Just over four overs were left in the day, and the lead was 208. Tim Murtagh, the Lambeth Lara, held on until the Close and with James Harris 79 not out and the lead 215, Middlesex, 374-9, must be slight favourites going into the last day. You could not make it up.
Glamorgan v Durham
After losing a lot of time to rain and bad light and rain on Day 1, the rain stopped Durham from wrapping up a facile victory in two days. Even with an all-spin attack due to the grimy conditions, Durham still sliced through the Glamorgan batting in the final overs of play like a chainsaw through butter, which made it frustrating for all concerned to have to return on the third morning for the last rites, with Glamorgan starting 79-7, still needing 62 to avoid an innings defeat.
It did not take long for Durham to make the breakthrough, Chris Rushworth trapping Craig Meschade LBW for 8. That wicket just about sealed the innings win, with 46 still needed to make Durham bat again. Rushworth then added Lukas Carey and Durham were set to win in the first half hour of play. The final margin was an innings and 30, as Durham fell to 111ao. Chris Rushworth had added Michael Hogan, to finish with 5-32. A 21-point win does not give Durham any realistic hopes of threatening the top two, but they now can hope to finish the season just behind the leading pack.
Clearly, though, people are unhappy at Cardiff, and Aneurin Donald's decision to leave for Hampshire has not helped at all. Glamorgan Chief Executive Huw Morris even made the slightly unusual step of giving a public statement on his departure in the wake of the defeat, expressing his considerable disappointment at the news.
8/20/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Day Two of this round of Championship matches started with most of the games delicately poised. They say that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Twice on Day 1 Surrey were deep in crisis, but fought their way back. First, when they fell to 28-3 and 155-8 but battled back to post 211 and a batting point. Then, when Lancashire were 114-3, well into the last hour and threatening to post a substantial lead, a Lancashire brain-fade then led to a collapse to 134-6. Who would get the first innings lead and how big would it be? At Scarborough, Worcestershire bundled out the hosts for a modest 216 and were 39-0 when bad light and rain stopped play: could Yorkshire fight back there, or would Worcestershire continue their revival? At Southampton, after Hampshire produced a remarkable recovery from 137-7 to post 277ao, Nottinghamshire collapsed before the Close and were in deep trouble at 39-4: could Nottinghamshire come back, or would this be the end of their faint hopes of the Championship? And, last but not least, how would the pitch behave at Taunton, with Somerset 308-7 overnight and guaranteed to take more batting points than Surrey, allowing them to close the gap to the top, if only slightly.
Somerset v Essex
Somerset started at 308-7, with bonus points available for 18 overs more. For Somerset, the aim had to be the fourth batting point and, if the eighth wicket pair could hang around and deny Essex a third bowling point, that would be a bonus. Add as many as possible before putting Bess and Leach to work on a track where the Essex spinner Harmer had been in action well inside the first hour of play. Before we could see how the pitch would play, there was an enforced change of umpire at Taunton. David Millns, who stood yesterday, reported unwell and was replaced by James Middlebrook. Until he arrived, local umpire John Wheeler stood at square leg, with Ben Debenham standing at both ends.
After a confident start from Lewis Gregory, Peter Siddle gave Essex the boost that they wanted by bowling him in only the second over of the day. Siddle then bowled Jack Leach for 2 to ensure the third bowling point and hole below the waterline Somerset’s quest to add a fourth batting point themselves and thus inconvenience their rivals seriously. Somerset’s slide to 324ao was ultimately a little disappointing. However, Essex were soon in trouble, as Josh Davey took Browne and Lewis Gregory added Chopra LBW to leave Essex 29-2. Westley then departed LBW to Gregory for a duck and, at 29-3, Somerset were well on top. Jamie Overton added Ravi Bopara before Essex started to re-build. A partnership of 52 between Lawrence and ten Doeschate saw Somerset bring on Leach and Bess, twirling away in partnership, but without any outlandish turn in evidence. Leach has had little to celebrate so far this season, but broke the partnership and then added Wheater, while ten Doeschate held firm at the other end, leaving Essex 132-6 and back in deep trouble. Dom Bess then caught and bowled Harmer and, at 137-7, Somerset were well into the tail. Essex, though, continued to resist and it took a wonderful catch from Lewis Gregory to remove Peter Siddle and leave Essex 174-8 off the occasional leg-spin of Azhar Ali. The follow-on was saved, although there was never any possibility that it would have been enforced. Jamie Overton finally got rid of ten Doeschate, LBW for 73 and Essex were 180-9, with Somerset almost through and looking at a huge lead. Jamie Overton then got Jamie Porter caught behind, and Essex were all out for 191, leaving Somerset 133 ahead.
Sadly, batting again, there was no fairy-tale for Marcus Trescothick, LBW to Sam Cook for seven but, with Somerset 146 to the good, it was hardly a disaster for his team. They ended the day 32-1, 165 ahead and well placed to offer a really challenging target on the third day.
Hampshire v Nottinghamshire
Knowing that they need a formidable run of results in the run-in to have any hope of putting pressure in Somerset and Surrey, Nottinghamshire have set out to do things the difficult way. Letting your opponent off the hook from 137-7, to post 277ao, is one thing but, when you then reach the Close on 39-4 – with that score representing something of a recovery – you know that, in a match in which defeat is not an option if you wish to opt for something better than the minor places in the Championship, defeat is staring you full in the face.
Within five deliveries in the morning, the umpires gave the order to switch on the floodlights, indicating just how gloomy conditions were. Fidel Edwards needed no second invitation and rapidly added a fourth wicket, taking Samit Patel LBW in his second over and leaving Nottinghamshire 46-5 and in real danger of failing to avoid the follow-on. It could have been worse as, at 67-5, Rilee Rossouw spilt a low chance in the slips off Riki Wessels that would have been a fifth wicket for Fidel Edwards. It was not expensive miss though, as Kyle Abbott took him LBW for 11 and left Nottinghamshire 78-6. All through this, Steve Mullaney had batted on unperturbably at the other end until Gareth Berg came on and removed him to a catch behind for 38, to leave Nottinghamshire 82-7. Hampshire could have made things even better, but Luke Fletcher was dropped in the slips as he decided to go after the bowling. As the eighth wicket pair moved Nottinghamshire up to the follow-on mark, Dale Steyn was forced to go off in the middle of an over, giving Nottinghamshire further breathing space. Finally, though, Luke Fletcher went for one heave too many against Fidel Edwards and gave a catch in the deep: 133-8. A little resistance from the tail and Nottinghamshire’s final total of 166ao gave Hampshire a 111 run lead.
Batting again, Hampshire fell quickly to 24-2, which may not have exactly encouraged Nottinghamshire to believe that they could chase a target in the fourth innings. That though brought James Vince to the wicket, and he set about the business of setting a fourth innings target on his own. As other batsmen struggled, Vince motored on to 72* at Tea, scored out of a total of 110-3. After Tea he continued and reached his century, in 139 balls, out of 160-3; by then, Nottinghamshire were in desperate trouble. Vince fell finally for 147, after a partnership of 177. With Hampshire already 355 ahead, you felt that they already had more than enough. They ended the day on 253-4, 364 on and looking to wrap-up victory on the third day. Nottinghamshire know that their title big is as good as over, barring a remarkable fourth innings chase.
Yorkshire v Worcestershire
Yorkshire’s 216ao had represented a good day’s work already for Worcestershire, who may not have been too unhappy to go off for bad light and rain at 39-0, able to come back today unscathed and make a push to set up a winning position to continue their revival and hopes of eluding relegation.
The openers pushed their partnership to 111 before Jack Brooks finally dismissed Tom Fell for 45. Worcestershire though continued accumulating steadily, taking few risks, knowing that they had plenty of time to turn the screw. The 200 came up with just the one wicket down and, soon, Moeen had his own fifty, continuing to send a message to the England selectors. Daryll Mitchell then brought up a 191 ball century with consecutive fours off Adam Lyth and, to boot, put Worcestershire in the lead. A substantial rain delay came at 235-1 and, on resumption, Moeen drove Poysden immediately over Long On for six, to show that Worcestershire had no intention of hanging around. The new ball came at 284-1, with Mitchell 132* and Moeen 89*. Up came the 300, a third batting point, with Yorkshire still a long way from claiming even one bowling point themselves and then a wide ball from Jack Brooks was carved through the Covers for his own century. Moeen was dropped on 107 before the umpires ended the torture with Worcestershire 314-1, 98 ahead and hoping to twist the knife on the third morning.
Surrey v Lancashire
Lancashire started on 134-6, knowing that their position should have been so much better. While a defeat would not necessarily be catastrophic, if it were combined with wins for their relegation rivals, it would leave them deep in the mire.
Lancashire’s initial progress was serene, as Chanderpaul moved towards his fifty until a mix-up saw him batsmen stranded in the middle of the pitch and unable to apply reverse fast enough, with Rory Burns sprinting in to run out the danger man, leaving Lancashire 176-7. However, Lancashire continued to bat on calmly and went into the lead without further loss. Bohanon went on to a debut fifty as Lancashire started to build a small lead. Lancashire went to Lunch at 241-8, already 30 ahead and with a second batting point in sight. Finally, Amar Virdi removed Bohanen LBW for 52 after Lunch, but the damage was done with Lancashire 242-9 and on the verge of a second batting point and with a small, but useful lead. However, that extra batting point was not to be as Ryan Patel removed last man, Graeme Onions. The final lead was 36, with Lancashire three runs short.
Could Surrey clear the deficit without losing a wicket? Mark Stoneman’s season got no better as he fell to a catch at Deep Square Leg for 16, with Surrey still one behind. Surrey though started to build a lead, but a quiet spell of accumulation was rudely interrupted when Rory Burns and Arun Harinath had a communications breakdown: Harinath runout for 7 and Surrey 73-2, 37 ahead. Graeme Onions returned and, first ball, trapped Aaron Finch LBW for a violent 32 off 34 balls, with 3x4 and 2x6: 114-3 and a lead of 78. As the evening session wore on and Rory Burns and Ben Foakes kept adding to the lead, Lancashire must have started to get a little nervous that the match was moving away from them. Relief came in the form of Bohanon’s maiden First Class wicket, bowling Burns for 70, with eight overs to go and the lead 126. Sam Curran came in and scored at better than a run-a-ball. Surrey ended the day 197-4, 161 ahead and know that, if they can see out the first hour in the morning, will start to build a position of complete dominance.
The Warwickshire juggernaut has moved into high gear again after its brief stall at Lord’s. After a difficult first session, Warwickshire will already be looking to wrap up the game early on Day 3. Of their rivals, Sussex are well placed, after a day in which little went right for Derbyshire, with a player hospitalised and also an emergency call for a replacement wicket-keeper. Leicestershire and Kent are in an almighty battle at Grace Road, with first day honours even and a result looming. At Wantage Road, the Northamptonshire recovery continues at the expense of a Middlesex side that needs to stop kidding itself that is will be back in Division 1 next season and get on with the job of building for a proper tilt at promotion in 2019. And, at Sophia Gardens, Durham’s season continues to look up as they seek to build on an excellent first day, albeit frustrated by the weather.
Leicestershire v Kent
Leicestershire’s 220ao was built mainly around tail-end stubbornness. With Kent 53-3 and starting to re-build at the Close of Day 1, this match was going to turn on whether or not one side or other could take a firm grip on Day 2. Zak Chappell was substituted for Leicestershire yesterday, after being hit on the helmet while batting, retiring hurt on 31, with Dieter Klein drafted into the side under the concussion rule. Chappell though was at the ground on the second morning to support his teammates.
Mohammed Abbas took Sam Billings early, caught behind by Ned Eckersley (does any other player in English cricket have such a wonderful name?) to leave Kent 86-4, the match firmly in the balance and heading for a quick finish. A half-century partnership for the sixth wicket, with Joe Denly holding firm, steadied Kent, but a double-wicket maiden for Ben Raine then left them 157-7 and facing a likely deficit. The Kent tail did not hang around, and 6-48 for Mohammed Abbas and 4-62 for Ben Raine gave Leicestershire a useful lead of 25, with Kent 195ao, in what looks like being a tight, low-scoring match. More critically, it meant no batting bonus points for Kent, while promotion rivals Leicestershire had at least obtained one.
When Leicestershire batted again, set to build on their lead, batting was no easier, with a partnership of 69 for the second wicket between Harry Dearden and Colin Ackermann the only time that bat dominated ball. When Ackermann fell to Ivan Thomas, the bowler quickly added three more victims, and the relative comfort of 82-1 became 106-5 before Ben Raine hung around to keep Dearden company. Dearden finished 61* overnight, with Raine 15* and on the former lie, the Leicestershire hopes of victory. The lead is 151, with the hosts 126-5 at Stumps and this match is still evenly poised.
Sussex v Derbyshire
Some of the gloss was taken off Sussex’s 400-7 by the fact that Derbyshire played two sessions with an emergency wicket-keeper while Daryl Smit made the long journey down to Hove to replace Harvey Hossein in the playing XI and then Ravi Rampaul had hospitalised with severe breathing difficulties but hoping to be released this morning. However, Sussex took advantage of the misfortune of their opponents big time and will have been looking to push on this morning and bowl Derbyshire out twice.
Derbyshire started the second day well by seeing off both not out batsmen in the first half hour, with Jofra Archer and David Wiese both dismissed by Lockie Ferguson: Wiese on 93, agonisingly close to his century. The tenth wicket pair though hung around for a long time until Colin Viljoen ended a partnership of 31, leaving Sussex 440ao and in a very strong position.
The Sussex attack though was extraordinarily lacklustre and inaccurate, as Derbyshire batted and made little impact. Derbyshire brought up the 200 from just 45 overs, with Ben Slater the only casualty, as Wayne Madsen and Billy Godleman both neared a century. Godleman fell finally for 125 and Madsen for 72, to supply some encouragement to the bowlers at last. There was some relief for Sussex in having a strong final session, with 200-1 becoming 315-5 at the Close, as Sean Ervine was run out from the last ball of the day. Alex Hughes was still there on 60* but, if Sussex could get him early on the third morning, they might yet make something of this match.
Warwickshire v Gloucestershire
When you have struggled in the first session on what looks like a superb batting track, you hardly expect to end the day with a handy first innings lead and eight wickets in hand. Welcome to the bizarre world of games against Gloucestershire! To say that the visitors have been erratic this season is to sum it up in a single word. Already at the start of the day, the thoughts were that Warwickshire would bat once, maybe declare in the evening and aim to have the game done and dusted early on the third day. Well, we were most certainly wrong on that one!
Gloucestershire have made a habit of starting horribly in games and then, somehow, extricating themselves. Craig Miles had had a very poor first day, but dispatched Ian Bell rapidly in the morning, bowling him for 2 and, just four balls later, added Jonathon Trott, who had got off the mark with a boundary from the previous ball. Rhodes and Hain seemed to be rubbing in the advantage until Hammond took a fine catch at Point to remove Hain, giving Lintott a second wicket. Then Craig Miles removed Tim Ambrose and Warwickshire were 236-6, twenty minutes before Lunch and seeing that things were not panning-out at all as they had expected before the start of play. Things got even better straight after Lunch as, first George Drissell, the 19-year-old off-spinner, removed Rhodes, bowling him with an arm ball for a magnificent 137 and then Matt Taylor added Jethan Patel. Craig Miles finished the innings with two in two balls and would have been on a hat-trick had Warwickshire batted again, finishing with 5-69 as Warwickshire collapsed from 171-2 to 277ao.
Desperately needing a good start, a brief shower interrupted the Gloucestershire reply after just eight balls. Concentration broken, Hammond fell immediately on the resumption, as Ryan Sidebottom added yet another wicket to his career figures. We then had a collector’s item as Keith Barker ripped out Roderick’s leg and off stump, leaving middle standing proud (the commenters had an explanation for this that ignored the physical laws of scattering beautifully, but what has physics to do with cricket?), his second wicket in the over. Gloucestershire were 27-4 already and sinking fast. Thanks to a combination of rain and slow over-rate, Tea was taken an hour late, with Gloucestershire 84-7, in complete meltdown and the danger looming that Tea could have been delayed even further if another wicket had fallen before the umpires could get the players off to relieve their own parched throats. After a good morning, it was another abject display from Gloucestershire against a relentless Warwickshire. Two wickets fell immediately after the resumption, but there was high comedy as, with rain threatening, Warwickshire attempted to take the tenth wicket: a catch off a no-ball (the first wide or no ball of the match), a drop and all manner of excitement as the batsmen played and missed constantly. In the end, Will Rhodes was brought on and immediately took his maiden First Class wicket to end the fun and games. Warwickshire had won by an innings and 47 and consolidated themselves at the top of Division 2.
Northamptonshire v Middlesex
A Middlesex fightback late in the day had left the scoreboard at the start of play better than might have been expected. At 332-8, Middlesex could expect to wrap up the third bowling point, while, with Hutton and Zaib set at the crease, Northamptonshire were looking at ensuring a fourth batting point and continuing the side’s revival of fortunes. There was though already a suspicion that the Northamptonshire score was over par for this track.
Omens looked poor for Middlesex as, despite lowering skies, the batsmen looked comfortable initially but, just as the number of overs to the end of bonus points started to becoming worryingly small, James Harris produced a corker of a delivery to dismiss Zaib for 27, before ending the innings by bowling Ben Hutton to finish on 7-83 to leave Northants agonisingly short of the fourth batting point, on 346ao. However, Nick Gubbins and Sam Robson came out as if they were batting in a T20 and took 32 from the first four overs of Hutton and Sanderson. For a short while the Middlesex fans could believe that the Northants total was not such a big one, however, that feeling did not last long. Middlesex were soon in familiar trouble as four wickets fell quickly before Lunch, with Rory Kleinveldt removing Sam Robson and England's Dawid Malan with consecutive balls to leave them 76-4. Middlesex needed a good afternoon session but, when Eoin Morgan fell soon after Lunch to leave them 94-5, the arrival of rain came as blessed relief. On the resumption, Holden and White held up the bowlers for a while, but neither could pass the thirties and the tail melted away, leaving Middlesex 187ao and 158 behind. The star turn in the attack was Nathan Buck with 4-51. Unexpectedly, Northamptonshire enforced the follow-on, with lowering skies and 29 overs left to be bowled.
When one follow-on, the last thing that you need is to lose an early wicket. Nick Gubbins, touted for an England debut, supplied it, LBW to Sanderson for 8: 23-1. Middlesex though were delighted when the umpires took a light reading and led the players off at 32-1, without further damage. By then, though, even Kevin Hand was accepting, reluctantly, that Middlesex were not going to be promoted this season. It was no surprise when, after a discrete wait, the umpires called Stumps.
Glamorgan v Durham
Despite the frustration of plenty of time lost to rain and bad light, when you are 75-0 chasing 154, you can feel that it has been a pretty good first day. Durham who, like Northants, looked in complete disarray at the start of the season, are starting to build a platform from which it may not be fantasy to say that they could be back in Division 1 in 2020. In contrast, Glamorgan have had better days, with stalwart, Aneurin Donald, rejecting a new 3-year contract to move to Hampshire.
That said, discipline is still a problem in the Durham batting order and, having reached 94-0 and a position of almost total dominance, Durham stuttered to 133-4, losing wickets to loose shots. The procession continued as Ruaidhri Smith took four wickets in the morning session to leave them 175-6 at Lunch. It was a sad waste of a wonderful position for Durham fans, but a spirited comeback from Glamorgan. However, despite themselves and despite a maiden 5-for for Smith, Durham built a lead and accrued batting bonus points. Durham had Axar Patel to thank for re-establishing their strong position, as he added an excellent fifty, bringing up the second batting point and the hundred lead. When Patel found himself eleven short of a century, with only Chris Rushworth left, he whacked a six off Salter, trying to hurry on to the century, but could not engineer the single needed to keep the strike and Chris Rushworth could only survive one delivery of the next over, leaving Patel high and dry on 95*. Durham ended just short of the third batting point on 295ao. Even so, a lead of 141 was more than useful.
Glamorgan made no better fist of it second time around. After an opening stand of 31, two quick wickets for Rushworth and two for McCarthy left Glamorgan 40-4, with Poynter taking three catches behind the stumps. More rain was coming, but it was too late to save Cooke, a fourth catch of the innings for Poynter, to make Axar Patel’s day even better. 54-5 and six balls and two singles later, the umpires took the players off. On the resumption, with an all-spin attack, Cameron Steel took the wicket of Connor Browne with his first delivery, bowling his occasional leg-spin. Glamorgan were then 64-6 and, if the light held, the extra half hour was becoming a real possibility. Steel then added the wicket of Andrew Salter in his second over, to give him – at the time – his best bowling figures in an innings. Unfortunately, it then started to rain, and all hopes of a two-day finish were ended.
By MaRk Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
After the T20 Blast interlude, we are now into the Championship run in. Six of the eight sides have six games left – the exceptions are Nottinghamshire and Lancashire, who have only five. There will be six weeks of concentrated Championship cricket now, on pitches that should have something for the spinners after the early season green-tops.
The Championship title looks to be a two-horse race. As in 2017, we have a runaway leader, and we have a chasing pack, desperately trying to stay in touch. Even with six games left, it would take a Devon Loch moment for Surrey to fail to win, so big is their lead. Thirty-four points clear – more than two wins – of Somerset, you have to suspect that the Cidermen would need to win at least five of their last six matches to put any sort of pressure on the men from south of the river. Nottinghamshire, in third, are 43 points back and, with a game fewer to play, would surely need to win every one to challenge: a tall order at best. Essex, defending Champions, are fourth, a whopping sixty-one points back and surely too far away to mount any serious challenge to defend their title needing to make up more than ten points per game on the leaders.
Realistically, it looks like Surrey to win the title, with the battle for the runners-up spot between Somerset, Essex and Nottinghamshire.
At the bottom of the table, things have closed-up. Realistically, even Essex are not safe, just twenty points clear of the relegation places and would slip into trouble with a couple of defeats. Yorkshire did a lot to ease their relegation worries with a win in the Roses match but will need at least one more win to feel safe. Only twice in two-division history has a side with four wins gone down, but Yorkshire and Essex have accrued only 29 bonus points all season, far fewer than any of the sides below them and Yorkshire’s ten batting points from eight matches is the worst in the Division, which goes a long way to explaining why, with three wins each, neither are out of the relegation woods. Realistically though, relegation looks most likely to be between Hampshire, Lancashire and Worcestershire. Worcestershire are now only fourteen points from safety, having finally got a win in the last round of games and Lancashire, in the relegation places and with a game fewer to play, look to be in real trouble.
Somerset v Essex
This is undoubtedly the stand-out game of the round. If either side is to make Surrey even slightly nervous, it has to win. With both sides desperate for the win-points, do not expect a draw, as there is a strong incentive to make something of the game, even if a stalemate seems to be coming. In the last two seasons, Somerset have been a one-trick pony, their success based on big turners at Taunton in the last few games of the season. This campaign has been marked though by Somerset showing the strength of their seam attack, backed-up by some powerful batting, so it will be interesting to see what type of pitch the Taunton groundsman provides: taking a long-term view of England success, more pitches that encourage spinners would be welcome. Essex’s season is put into context by the fact that Surrey have almost as many batting points (26) as Essex have batting and bowling points combined (29): no side in the division has fewer bowling points than Essex, and only Yorkshire have fewer batting points.
Marcus Trescothick, on his return to Championship action at Taunton, after recuperation and runs in the Somerset 2nd XI, struck four boundaries in Porter's first two overs in an exhilarating start, including consecutive boundaries. He then became becalmed in mid-session and rendered virtually scoreless for an hour, before repeating successive boundaries off Porter again to bring up an excellent, 83-ball half-century as he accelerated again before lunch. With Somerset playing both spinners and with Essex bring Simon Harmer into the attack after just nine overs, all the signs are that Somerset’s seam sojourn has ended and they plan to chase Surrey, who still have to visit Taunton, using Plan A: bat, put up a score of some kind and spin out the opposition.
Marcus Trescothick reached the nineties and seemed to be on the way to a century before Peter Siddle bowled him a short ball, and he picked out Deep Square Leg to fall for 95 although, with Tom Abell managing a fifty of his own, 200-4 at Tea was hardly a disaster. Seventy from Tom Abell, well supported by 45 from Steve Davies ensured that Trescothick’s efforts were not wasted and when they fell, Lewis Gregory got through to Stumps on 42*, leaving Somerset 308-7. With just 18 overs to go to obtain bonus points, Somerset will be looking to hang around and get their fourth batting point and, hopefully, deny Essex a third bowling point before putting Bess and Leach to work.
Hampshire v Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire are, realistically, looking at runners-up spot – and a handy cash prize – at best this season after four wins and four defeats. Hampshire, who have been hanging on to Division One status by their fingertips for the last two seasons, are in another struggle for survival. Having seen the men from Southampton survive at the expense of Durham in 2016, there are plenty of fans north of the Solent who would see karma in a relegation, so it is essential for Hampshire’s image in the game to show that their Division One status is deserved. Defeat for Hampshire in this game would leave them deep in trouble, while a win for Nottinghamshire would keep the pressure on Somerset.
Rain at Southampton caused a late start and, when the players came out, the conditions were tough for batting, but Hampshire got through to Lunch relatively unscathed, with just one wicket down. The post-Lunch session though was a dreadful one for them, as Hampshire slid to 137-7, with Mullaney taking three, before Liam Dawson and Kyle Abbott put on a fifty partnership. The recovery continued after Tea as Liam Dawson went on to a confident fifty. What started as a nuisance to Nottinghamshire became a major annoyance as the partnership went past one hundred and the second batting point loomed, while Nottinghamshire, having sealed two bowling points early, were utterly unable to seal the third, let alone put a stop to the fun. Abbott then reached his own fifty just after the second batting point was brought up and Nottinghamshire was becoming desperate to break the partnership somehow. Dawson fell finally for 72, bowled by Matt Carter, making an almighty heave at a straight ball, having added 133 with Kyle Abbott and reduced Nottinghamshire to distraction. Dale Steyn fell immediately for a duck and Carter had two wickets in an over after several hours of fruitless toil. Fidel Edwards was the last man out, run out for 1: a total of 277ao must have looked like riches to Hampshire from their desperate position halfway through the day.
Things got even worse for Nottinghamshire as Fidel Edwards ripped into them with three, cheap wickets, including both openers and nightwatchman Matt Milnes, for figures of 3-5 at that point. Edwards was well-supported by Gareth Berg, who removed Chris Nash. Nottinghamshire were 25-4, and in disarray with five overs still to come, however, Samit Patel and Steven Mullaney held on to take Nottinghamshire to the Close on 39-4, still in deep trouble in this match and needing a partnership in the morning.
Yorkshire v Worcestershire
Two relegation-threatened sides who need points badly. At the end of May, it seemed that only a miracle could save Worcestershire from the drop after a start that recalled some of the most awful Division One starts of recent seasons (Derbyshire and Northamptonshire come powerfully to mind here). However, a win, combined with the awful form of Hampshire and Lancashire has given Worcestershire some hope. Yorkshire have hauled themselves away from the relegation places and know that defeat in this fixture would put them back in trouble and, worse, leave their rivals in this match breathing down their necks. The announcement of coming, high-profile departures from Leeds have re-opened the spectre of turbulent post-seasons past with their inevitable destabilisation of the run-in, while Worcestershire, the original yo-yo side, would like to have the unusual pleasure of consecutive seasons in the top division.
An excellent first session for the visitors saw Yorkshire reduced to 63-4 before Williamson and Tattershall started a recovery. Williamson was finally dismissed by acting skipper, Moeen for 87, with Daryl Mitchell takes a one-handed diving catch to end a stand of 88, after which they added just 63 runs, 38 of them coming in a whirlwind knock from Jack Brooks in only 20 balls. Brooks and Fisher had added 56 in rapid time. The recovery ended with Brooks caught and bowled by Ed Barnard off a skier for 38, while Dillon Pennington took 4 for 53 in the innings. To have Yorkshire 216ao was an excellent performance for Worcestershire, who started confidently before the rain began to fall and the players went off at 39-0, which proved to be the last action of the day as rain brought a premature finish.
Surrey v Lancashire
A win for Surrey in this game would all but settle two issues: Surrey would be virtually the anointed Champions; while Lancashire, with just four games left, would be confirmed to be in grave danger of spending a season at some of the lesser grounds of England and Wales in 2019. With just four games left, Lancashire would need probably two wins from them to ensure survival. In contrast, at The Oval, after several years of trying all manner of different options to obtain success, Surrey have hit, finally, on what looks to be a winning formula: a mixture of youth and experience, a potent pace attack, backed-up by some excellent spin; all bases are covered, and it is hard to see any real weaknesses in the squad.
This match was the joker in the pack, continuing the day/night, pink ball experiment. Surrey welcomed back the Curran brothers, with Sam released by England and Tom back from injury, but were missing Jason Roy, whose fit of pique at getting a golden duck in the Blast literally re-bounded on him: he threw down his bat, and it bounced back and hit him in the face, putting him out of this match. Surrey made a very poor start to the day with Burns and Stoneman falling quickly to leave them 21-2. At Lunch, there was a slight recovery, but 110-5 was a great first session of work for Lancashire and left the title and relegation races interestingly poised. Sam Curran fell soon after Lunch and Surrey were now 130-6 and in some trouble. Morne Morkel and Jade Dernbach hit out to add some respectability and brought up the batting point, before both fell in four balls and Surrey were 211ao, with five wickets for Tom Bailey.
In reply, Jade Dernbach, who is experiencing a great revival in fortunes in the twilight of his career, took Alex Davies with the last ball of the first over, edging to Rikki Clarke at slip. Thereafter Curran and Dernbach bowled tightly and kept Haseen Hameed and Rob Jones almost runless until they broke the shackles with three boundaries in four balls. That though was as good as it got for Lancashire. Morne Morkel took Chris Jones for 10 (34-2), and Haseeb Hameed’s vigil ended when Morkel bowled him for 22 (41-3): Hameed still looks a shadow of the player who made such a wonderful entrance into Test cricket. Matt Parkinson was already getting turn early in the day, suggesting that there could be plenty in the pitch for Amar Virdi so, as the match moved into the evening session, Lancashire started to re-build as captain, Rory Burns turned to Virdi to engineer a breakthrough before the Close, although this time without success.
Dane Vilas and Shivnarine Chanderpaul brought up the fifty stand, before Vilas crashed a ball to the boundary to bring up his own fifty, passing on the way the 43 of Aaron Finch that had been the highest score of the day at the Kia Oval and, at the same time, bringing up the Lancashire 100. With the scoring rate increasing and the batsmen looking increasingly comfortable under the lights, Surrey needed a break-through before the Close. As play moved deep into the last hour, the batsmen were content to score almost exclusively in singles, of which there were a plentiful supply available, and it seemed that Surrey could be facing a significant first-innings deficit. Finally, Vilas started to get ambitious against Sam Curran and, after hitting the first boundary in plenty of overs, tried a booming drive two balls later and only edged through to Ben Foakes, departing in high dudgeon, knowing that he had let Surrey back into the match. What he was not to know is just how the game would turn on that one mistake. Steven Croft came in with just over half an hour to play and got off the mark with consecutive boundaries off Curran: the first a big cover drive, the second an edge past the slips to keep up the momentum. However, Vilas’s folly in opening an end late in the day was illustrated when Steven Croft edged Rikki Clarke to Aaron Finch and, at 129-5, Surrey were looking at perhaps even managing to engineer a small lead first innings lead. Two balls later, nightwatchman Matt Parkinson was LBW to Clarke, who had a double-wicket maiden and 114-3 had become 129-6. Debutant, Josh Bohannon, came in with five and a half overs left. Twenty-five consecutive dot balls were played before Bohannon broke the sequence with a single. Lancashire closed on 134-6 and know that they have let an excellent position slip here.
All the teams in Division Two have six matches left and, having looked as if Warwickshire and Kent were going to run away with the promotion spots, suddenly we have a battle on our hands, as both were defeated in their last game. As a result, the promotion race has concertinaed, with Warwickshire still top, but now Sussex their nearest challengers, Kent in third and, the surprise package, Leicestershire, in fourth are very much in touch. Just seventeen points cover the top four.
For the inveterate fantasists, Middlesex – 34 points behind the promotion spots – and Derbyshire – a further point back – are clinging on to their hopes of promotion and, even Gloucestershire, forty-five points behind Sussex, could still challenge mathematically. However, for any of these three sides to come from so far back will take a minimum of five wins from six.
Leicestershire v Kent
Top billing today has to be for Leicestershire’s home fixture against Kent. With four wins from their last five matches, the Foxes are, suddenly, out of the wooden spoon fight and into the promotion battle. This is very much a “promotion 48-pointer” with the winner pushing its claims to go up at the end of the season. Kent, with just six batting points from eight games, take on a Leicestershire side that has accrued eighteen (only the top two have more), on a Grace Road pitch that has encouraged huge scores and, while other grounds offered matches that were over in two days in early season, was giving us pitches that would have struggled to get a result in even five or six days.
This pitch though was certainly more lively as Leicestershire struggled in the morning session. Things were no better after Lunch as Leicestershire staggered drunkenly to 114-6. There was some tail-end stubbornness as Leicestershire moved on to 170-8 and then 216-9, with Dieter Klein batting as a concussion replacement for the injured Zak Chappell, but Harry Podmore’s three wickets and three more from Ivan Thomas had put Kent into a good position, despite the recovery.
When Kent batted, Dickson fell to Raine for 15 to make it 24-1. Mohammed Abbas then removed Bell-Drummond and Kuhn and, at 45-3, the match had taken a sharp turn back towards Leicestershire. Soon after the umpires decided that the light was too bad to continue and Kent, no doubt, at 51-3, fell some relief at being able to go off and re-group. The light did not improve, and the umpires called Stumps for the day. Kent cannot afford to concede a lead and will look at add to their meagre supply of batting points tomorrow: if they cannot do so, their promotion push will start to stall badly.
Sussex v Derbyshire
Sussex’s season has come alive since Jofra Archer, and Chris Jordan returned to the attack. Not unreasonably described as an almost Test-standard attack, they are the team with most batting points in the division (20) and have muscled into the promotion party as a formidable batting line-up has been backed-up by its bowlers. Derbyshire, whose season started so well before tailing-off, have the third highest number of batting points in the division (18) and, were they to win this one, they might just start swapping thoughts of another season trudging round Cardiff, Bristol and Leicester, for more exotic locations, if not climes, next season.
Drama before the game started, as Derbyshire keeper, Harvey Hosein dislocated a finger in the warm-up. He was replaced behind the stumps by Wayne Madsen, while Derbyshire awaited the arrival of Daryn Smit, who finally reached Hove around Tea after a rapid drive. Then, Derbyshire’s problems increased as Ravi Rampaul started to experience such severe breathing difficulties that he was hospitalised, although latest reports are that he is feeling much better. Despite everything, Sussex were reduced to 65-3, before recovering and, by the time that Smit could take the field, had climbed to a much more satisfactory 271-5 at Tea, taking firm control, helped by 82 from Harry Finch. Ben Brown though then took on the mantle of leading the way and pushed his side past the 300, finally reaching his century from 155 balls, after a seemingly endless time waiting on 99*. After his period of self-denial, he then added twelve from the next six balls bowled, powering Sussex past the 350 and a fourth batting point. Brown finally fell LBW to Callum Ferguson for 116. Sussex ended the day 400-7, bringing up the fifth batting point with the final ball of the day, with Wiese 89* and Archer 13* and in an excellent position to bat Derbyshire out of the game in the morning.
Warwickshire v Gloucestershire
Warwickshire’s seeming royal progress back to Division 1 has been rudely interrupted by defeat to Middlesex in their previous match. Still favourites to go up, a win is desperately needed to get the season back on track after the disappointment of missing out on the T20 Quarter-Finals and the disappointing Championship defeat in the last round. In front, they have a Gloucestershire side that seemed to be in terminal decline after a highly competitive start to the season. Victory in the last round of the Championship and a scrambled progress through to the T20 Quarter-Finals has restored some hope to the Bristol faithful, who were looking at another season of struggle to avoid the wooden spoon, but two miserable defeats in their last two T20 fixtures have brought back the shadows.
After a late scare, when David Payne reported sick, having fallen ill overnight, requiring a late call-up for Chris Liddle, with Kieron Noema-Barnett already ruled out by his injury in the Blast, there was an interesting first session saw Gloucestershire’s openers put on a rare fifty partnership. Skipper Chris Dent, who has been playing in the 2nd XI to get some middle time, was looking in better nick than recently. Unfortunately, every time that Gloucestershire seemed to be getting on top, with everyone getting a start, a wicket fell. All the top four all looked well set and then, disappointingly, got out: with a long tail to come due to the late changes in the side; it did not bode well. However, any suggestion that Gloucestershire would come as sacrificial victims to get the home campaign back on track seemed confounded by the first two hours of play as the visitors reached 101-2. Unfortunately, a wicket just before Lunch was followed by three immediately after and Gloucestershire were soon back in their familiar position: on the ropes and hanging on for dear life at 113-6, with only a long tail to come! The procession continued as batsman after batsman gave his wicket away against some excellent bowling from Wright and Barker. Chris Wright, heading to Leicestershire next season, produced a spell of 5-9 after Lunch and Gloucestershire were 127ao. In the end, the top five had all got a start, but no one else passed 2. The last eight wickets fell for twenty-six. It was a wretched performance.
When Warwickshire batted, they were as gloriously untroubled as Gloucestershire had been initially. The difference was that Warwickshire continued to bat on, with the collusion of the fielders. At 80-0, Will Rhodes produced a big skier, Matt Taylor ran in, got to it and shelled a simple chance, even as Rhodes started to walk off: it was a good summary of the last three days of abject cricket played by the Shire. The century came up with fifties for both batsmen and no extras at all and was only the sixth Warwickshire partnership of the season for any wicket and the first that Rhodes and Sibley have managed all season. Warwickshire were already ahead when Chris Dent put down a second, sharp chance off Matt Taylor and everything continued to break their way. Finally, the opening stand was broken on 161 as Bracey caught Sibley for 65 off Ryan Higgins, at which point, with nine overs to go, Chris Wright was sent in as nightwatchman!! The early nightwatchman policy backfired when Chris Liddle got Wright LBW, and Ian Bell had to come in anyway before the Close, accompanying Will Rhodes to his century. Warwickshire will look to bat long and bowl Gloucestershire out a second time for an innings win, to obtain maximum points here.
Northamptonshire v Middlesex
After winning their opening Championship fixture at a canter, the more radical Middlesex fans were talking about winning all fourteen games. What has happened since has been a severe reality check: Middlesex are mired in mid-table obscurity, did a little better than in previous seasons in the One Day Cup, without ever looking to get to the knock-out stages, and finished bottom of the South Group in the Blast. Middlesex insist that they are still alive in the promotion stakes, although they need a formidable run in to get into the top two. In front, they have a Northamptonshire side who had a horrific start to the season, having missed out on promotion in 2017 only due to an over-rate penalty, but who have recovered with two wins and are off the bottom of the table. Realistically, if Middlesex lose this match, their season is over, with just pride left to play for, while a win will allow them to continue hoping.
Middlesex though did not have a particularly good start, with wickets refusing to fall, despite Duckett falling for 6 to make it 16-1. Northants were 234-4 by Tea, with Ricardo Vasconcelos past his century, well-supported by Richard Levy with 41. Vasconcelos, the only centurion of the day, finally fell for 140, bowled by Middlesex debutant, nineteen-year-old Ethan Bamber. At 301-5, it looked like being a long day in the field for Middlesex, but even James Harris must have been surprised to find himself on a hat-trick as the visitors fought back late in the day. Without Harris’s five-for, Middlesex would have been in a sorry state. Saif Zaib and Brett Hutton added an unbroken 20 for the ninth wicket and Northamptonshire were 332-8 at Stumps and in a good position to add a fourth batting point in the morning.
Glamorgan v Durham
A bottom of the table clash, between two sides that know that they will spend 2019 in Division Two and who now have little more to play for than avoiding the wooden spoon and reaching mid-table mediocrity. Durham though can approach the end of the season with more optimism now that, having spent two seasons losing start players hand over fist in the ECB-inspired meltdown, are now starting to make some high-profile acquisitions. While Durham can feel, with some justification, that they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, Glamorgan’s season has been one with few high points to take pride in and already suggests another season of struggle in 2019.
Rain at Cardiff meant a very late start and, when it did come, Glamorgan made a poor start, losing three wickets cheaply and going into Lunch 29-3. Carlson and Lloyd added 51 to add some respectability before there was another clatter of wickets to 91-7. Salter and Smith then added another fifty partnership, before again wickets fell quickly. It cannot be often that a total of 154ao has contained two fifty partnerships, as the Durham bowlers exploited favourable conditions to roll the batsmen with great ease around those two stands. Seamers Chris Rushworth and Matt Salisbury led the way with three wickets apiece, while spinner Axar Patel claimed the last two wickets of the innings on his debut.
Durham responded confidently, and the fifty came up in just the thirteenth over, with Alex Lees 38* from only 36 balls. Stumps were drawn at 75-0, with Lees, bringing up his fifty in the final over of the day, 53* and Cameron Steele 22*, as the revival in Durham fortunes continues after a difficult early season. A good morning session and Durham will be looking at a win that will push them up to a comfortable and respectable mid-table position.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
In golf tournaments, Day 3 is often called “moving day”, in the County Championship though it is Day 2 that has been moving day in both divisions. Things could change, but it is entirely possible that, in late September, we will look back at today as the day when the Championship was settled and the Division 2 promotion race, that had looked an open and shut case, was thrown wide open. The relegation race – that Pythonesque battle to see who is the slowest – is also getting a good shaking-up: while Lancashire look like being the biggest losers, Hampshire, not playing in this round, seem almost certain to finish tomorrow in the relegation places. Things could be even worse for Hampshire and Lancashire, but it appears that Somerset will do them a favour by seeing-off Worcestershire (a Worcestershire win would take them out of the relegation places, leaving Hampshire bottom and Lancashire in seventh).
Nottinghamshire v Surrey
I would like to be referring to the battle for the Championship. Instead, it looks more like the sort of case of case of cold-blooded murder that Sherlock Holmes would, in his Benedict Cumberbatch incarnation, dismiss as “boring! It was Surrey that did it. Even the ECB can solve that case”. Day 2 has ended, and Nottinghamshire need only another 325 runs to avoid an innings defeat and to bat out close to six sessions to save the match. Barring a display of stone-walling that would make an all-night filibuster in parliament look like a garden party, Surrey will bury their nearest rivals and all but settle the Championship.
Having knocked-over Nottinghamshire in less than two sessions on Day 1, Surrey batted for three balls short of 120 overs at a rate of 5-an-over. Not only did they limit their rivals to just one batting point and seal their own full set of batting points with more than twenty-five overs to spare, but they also made sure that Nottinghamshire failed to get full bowling points. Even if Nottinghamshire somehow saved this match, the bonus points have broken 8-3 to Surrey, and their lead at the top of the table will be reinforced, even with a draw.
Not only was it the magnificent 153 from Rory Burns – leading to loud calls for him to be called up for the Tests against India – and the 86 from Mark Stoneman. After a mid-innings wobble, there was a first century in six years for Rikki Clarke, 70 from Sam Curran and then, when Rikki Clarke was dismissed, the last two wickets added 43 in 37 balls of gay abandon. One hundred and twenty runs were added in the last 51 balls of the innings. In the midst of the devastation, there was some room for levity: there is a tradition that when a player takes (or scores) a career-best, they buy drinks for the whole team: Steve Mullaney will have been delighted to drink the health of Billy Root tonight as put on at the end of the innings, he took his first, First Class wicket and then followed it by wrapping up the tail to finish with 4.3-0-37-3.
Batting again, 382 behind, Nottinghamshire could be forgiven for folding meekly but, instead, saw out the last hour for the loss of Jake Libby. 57-1 at Stumps, needing 325 more to avoid the innings defeat, the writing on the wall says “defeat on the third day”. Surrey will, undoubtedly, finish the day 43 points ahead of their victims, with a game in hand. Nottinghamshire are likely to finish this round of matches in third in the Championship, behind Somerset who will also have a game in hand.
Lancashire v Yorkshire
This match has seen more twists and turns than The Orbit in the Olympic Park in Stratford. It could easily have finished tonight as Yorkshire could have claimed the extra half hour, with Lancashire six wickets down and with Liam Livingstone unable to bat.
If, as seems almost certain, Yorkshire do seal victory, they would push themselves up the table into the fight for prize money and reduce their relegation worries, which dropping their eternal rivals right in the proverbial. Having dismissed Lancashire for 109, to seal a first innings lead of 83, Yorkshire fell to 21-3 and seemed to be letting the Red Rose right back into the match as the old warhorse, Graeme Onions, blew away the top order, while Jimmy Anderson removed Joe Root. Enter Jonny Bairstow. For just under two hours he changed the course of the match with a swashbuckling inning at a pace more attuned to T20 than County Championship. In the 19.3 overs that Harry Brook and Jonny Bairstow were together, they added 133 runs. Both went in quick succession and there followed the expected collapse, but Tim Bresnan and Steve Patterson added 41 for the seventh wicket to ensure that the lead was almost 300 and likely to be well out of Lancashire’s reach.
The target was 323. Lancashire needed someone to score a prominent century: quite likely they needed two centuries. Jennings and Davies got a start and were producing the sort of sensible batting that hinted at a Lancashire miracle. Even when Davies fell, LBW to Bresnan, Keaton Jennings held firm. At 86-1, Lancashire could hope. Seven overs later it was 110-5, and Lancashire were sinking fast. The fact that the match did not end well before the Close was entirely down to Jos Buttler. Buttler came in and played an innings similar to the one that Jonny Bairstow had played. It was more calculating, less violent; his 59 came from 69 balls. Buttler and Bailey added 80 in good time and seemed to be giving Lancashire reason to hope when Joe Root came on for a token over just before the Close and bowled a wicket-maiden, removing Buttler into the bargain. Graeme Onions faced only one of the seven balls remaining before Stumps and Lancashire start again in the morning needing 129 to win, with just Anderson and Parkinson to come.
Worcestershire v Somerset
This game too is turning into a cracker. Somerset desperately need the win to keep alive their halting challenge, even if Runners-Up seems to be the best that they can aspire to barring a Surrey implosion. Having reached 337 and three batting points, Somerset looked to be set to be able to enforce the follow-on as Worcestershire struggled to 166-8; still 22 short of the follow-on. Jamie Overton was bowling fast and furious and was too much for some of the Worcestershire batsmen, who are still short on confidence. Luke Wood, though, 22 years old, came in and batted like a veteran in partnership with Pennington. Together they passed the follow-on, then they brought up a batting point and even a second batting point, with Somerset seeing their first innings lead disappearing apace. Finally, Pennington chopped on to his own stumps to Jamie Overton and Davey knocked-over Magoffin to leave a lead of eighty, far fewer than Somerset had hoped.
When Somerset batted again, Eddie Byrom acted as a limpet, while Marcus Trescothick scored more freely at the other end. Somerset were 47-0 at Stumps, 127 ahead, and will be looking to turn the knife on Day 3 while the wicket deteriorates further to give Jack Leach something to use on the last day. Somerset will be bitterly disappointed if they cannot close this one out.
Today, the Division 2 promotion race has been dynamited. Sussex, in third, have marmalised Glamorgan and, even more significantly, Leicestershire, in fourth have destroyed Kent. If Middlesex had shown a little more staying power, we might have talked about the promotion race being blown wide open as, for much of the day, it looked as if Warwickshire might be facing a tough chase at Lord’s. As of the close of play tonight, it looks as if a Warwickshire win is likely although, Middlesex being Middlesex, the watchword for Day might be “expect the unexpected”: they are worse than Durham for sheer unpredictability in the face of both triumph and defeat.
Let’s imagine that Warwickshire do wrap-up a win against Middlesex. What might the Division 2 table look like tomorrow night?
1. Warwickshire P8 W6 L1 D1 144
2. Sussex P8 W4 L1 D3 121
3. Kent P8 W5 L2 D1 115
4. Leicestershire P8 W4 L2 D2 111
5. Middlesex P8 W2 L4 D2 71
We see that, even though Warwickshire are riding high and dry, the battle for the second promotion spot has become a melange à Trois, with consecutive wins for Sussex and four wins in five matches for Leicestershire changing the panorama. A Middlesex defeat is likely to see them drop to sixth or seventh depending on other results. Any side wishing to come out of the mid-table scrum to be promoted will need to win at least five of their last six matches.
Kent v Leicestershire
What a run Leicestershire are having! Four wins in five matches and just ten points off promotion with six games to play. A ten-wicket annihilation has put a severe check on Kent’s apparently serene progress back into Division 1. Facing a 125 run first innings deficit, Kent needed a big score from someone and, at 109-2, looked as if they might be able to get back into the match. It was, though, just a mirage. After losing Daniel Bell-Drummond fifth ball, Dickson and Kuhn were batting confidently, but Kuhn’s wonder spell when he scored runs for fun has ended. He, Denly and Billings all got into the twenties, but only Dickson pushed on. Had Dickson got 80+ instead of 59; had one of Kuhn, Denly and Billings got 50, Kent might have set a tricky target, but each got in and got out as the Leicestershire bowlers shredded the wickets and made the vital breakthroughs every time that a partnership seemed to be getting threatening. At 133-3, Kent were ahead and still had a chance but, with the fall of Dickson, all resistance crumbled, and wickets fell regularly. Zak Chappell, with 3-39 and Mohammed Abbas, with 4-55 will get the headlines, but it was a team effort, and Kent subsided to 199ao, the last six wickets falling for 66.
Chasing 75, Dearden and Horton saw off the threat of the new ball and strolled to victory, with Dearden scoring 55*. Kent were well beaten, and Leicestershire have put their names in the pot for promotion.
Sussex v Glamorgan
At one point on the first day, Sussex had collapsed from 114-1 to 176-6 and seemed to be in danger of missing out on a vital win. Sussex though had got through a nail-biter with Gloucestershire and, with news of the Kent surrender telling them that a win would put them second, set about rectifying things. The Glamorgan horse had well and truly bolted when they let Sussex reach 327ao. Glamorgan batted this afternoon, not imagining that the match would be over before the floodlights were needed.
Archer and Jordan ripped into the Glamorgan first innings. There was no coming back from 15-5, with four wickets to Jofra Archer, tipped to play for England next season and one for Ollie Robinson and when Archer had to be rested, three wickets for Chris Jordan ripped the heart out of the middle order. Only Chris Cooke and, more briefly, Lukas Carey put up any kind of resistance and, when a run-out finished the innings in just 28.4 overs, there was never any question of the follow-on not being enforced.
Glamorgan had almost to triple their first innings 85ao to make Sussex bat again and did only fractionally better second time around. Again Archer and Robinson blew away the top three – this time it was 15-3 inside ten overs – before Jordan and Wiese joined in the fun. 88ao, with Archer taking 8-46 in the match, Jordan 5-37, Robinson 4-44 and Wiese 2-36. It was a devastating Sussex performance to win by an innings and 154 having scored only 327. Sussex look like a Division 1 side.
Middlesex v Warwickshire
Ah! Middlesex! For much of today, they had Warwickshire on the ropes and groggy, before inevitably offering a glass chin and ending the day looking to be on the verge of a knock-out themselves. Macbeth would have put it thus:
Is this a Middlesex collapse which I see before me,
The wickets toward Kevin Hand’s heart? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, defeat
Looming in my sight?
Yes, once again the Middlesex fans are threatening to open the MiddlesexBattingCollapse.com website that has been promised for a decade. Middlesex have gone from 152-2, threatening to bat Warwickshire out of the game, to 179-6, leading Warwickshire by just 139. One early wicket on the morrow and we may well see the game finishing soon after Lunch on Day 3. It seems incredible, given that around Tea today, the prospect of a draw seemed to be looming, as Middlesex appeared to be building up a big lead with the pitch apparently flat and dead. Middlesex fans say that no position is safe from a Middlesex collapse and here we had a superb specimen.
This was similar to the first innings, in which Middlesex stumbled from 51-1 to 76-7. It seemed that the recovery, led by the obdurate Holden and the brilliant Fuller might even be enough to give Middlesex a first innings lead, as Warwickshire themselves stumbled today. 152-4 overnight, wickets fell regularly, despite a superb century from Rhodes who added an invaluable 27 for the last wicket, of which Ryan Sidebottom’s contribution was 0*. Middlesex, led by the evergreen Murtagh and by James Harris could even feel disappointed to have conceded a lead as large as 40.
The similarity to the first innings was paralleled in another blazing cameo from Paul Stirling: 18 balls, 16 runs, all in boundaries – and then pocketed by Jonathon Trott at slip off Chris Woakes. Then we had an extended period of sensible batting as Gubbins and Eskenazi put Middlesex ahead and started to build a lead. The pitch looked flat, fans began to speculate with a boring draw, and the last thing that anyone expected was a calamity. Jethan Patel pinned Gubbings for 47, but Dawid Malan came in and batted nicely. It was 152-2, Middlesex were 112 ahead and sitting pretty. Then Jethan Patel got Eskinazi, caught by Hain for 73 and the bottom fell out of the Middlesex innings. Eoin Morgan fell LBW to Patel for 3. Sidebottom caught Holden off Patel for 8 and then, Malan, desperately short of runs, was bowled by Hannon-Dalby for 28. It was 179-6 and, from looking to set a target and declare, Middlesex were praying for more tail-end resistance.
Jethan Patel has 4-38 and seems to hold the key to this match. The lead is 143. Any target under 200 is unlikely to exercise Warwickshire seriously. If a wicket falls quickly in the morning, the match may well not reach Tea. There is no question that after great expectations, the disappointing Championship campaign, followed by poor One Day Cup and T20 results, has led to Middlesex struggling to remember how to win and, sad to see, the fans are kicking them when they are down when, what they most need, is some confidence.
Gloucestershire v Durham
This is not exactly the game where you would expect to find thud and blunder but, low-key or not, between two sides who know that they will be playing in Division 2 next season, there has been fire and some intrigue. As on the first day, the second ends with the match finely balanced. Gloucestershire reached the comparative riches of 362 and four batting points. And, what is more, they did it despite getting the holy terrors every time that Ben Stokes went near the ball. 25-8-52-5 and a batsman sent to hospital suggest that the thought of playing the Indians has put fire in his belly.
When Durham batted, wickets fell regularly. Were it not for Tom Latham’s 120*; they would be in a sorry mess, as the next highest score has been 21. Durham have closed on 219-5 and, if Latham were to fall early, you suspect that Gloucestershire could end up with a decent first innings lead.
The first session tomorrow should tell us whether this match is heading for a dull draw (neither of these teams seems to be good at dull draws) or, instead, Gloucestershire might just make something of the match and put some distance between them and the wooden spoon.
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire
With so much rip-roaring action going on elsewhere, it is easy to forget that this game is on too. After their strong start to the season, Derbyshire are now resigned to another season of Division 2, while Northamptonshire seem to be heading for the sort of mid-table mediocrity that seemed unlikely in the extreme at the end of May. In fact, with mid-table so tight, finishing in the top half is far from impossible for the boys of Wantage Road. If this match, which looks certain to produce a result, falls their way, they may even start to entertain thoughts of finishing higher than that.
A century for Alex Wakely and sixty for Steven Crook saw Northamptonshire to 289ao and a useful lead of 29. Tony Palladino’s 4-33 made certain that the lead would not be larger and Matthew Critchley added 4-88. Derbyshire had barely cleared-off the arrears when Billy Godleman fell, but then fifties for Ben Slater and Wayne Madsen seemed to be putting Derbyshire in a strong position. The fall of Slater to Prasanna at 123-1 hastened a mini-collapse as Hughes and Wheeldon followed quickly. Derbyshire reached Stumps at 147-4, 118 ahead, with Madsen still there on 52* and seemingly the key to this match. If Madsen goes early, Northamptonshire will be confident of finishing this one off. If, in contrast, he can push on, they may find themselves chasing a challenging target on the final day. The big threat is the leg-spinner, Prasanna: the winner of the contest between Madsen and Prasanna will win the match for his side.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
We do not quite have a full round of matches as Essex and Hampshire played a T20 last night and do not play today. At the end of this round, Lancashire and Nottinghamshire will have played nine matches and will be into the final run-in, in which every point counts. All other sides will have played eight matches and will have six left.
Today we have three, classic encounters, headed by the Roses match which, this year, takes on a special significance with Yorkshire in the relegation places and Lancashire one place above them, with a game more played. We also have a face-off between first and second and Somerset against the bottom side, needing a win to get back into Championship contention.
It has been a day of wild swings in the action, of many LBWs and the day that one Championship contender may well have said good-bye to its chances.
Lancashire v Yorkshire
Even though both teams have their England Test players available ahead of England’s series against India and thus Yorkshire can field a full-strength team, they hand a debut to on-loan Warwickshire leg-spinner Josh Poysden on a one-match deal, while Matthew Fisher missed out with a lacerated toe sustained on Lions duty and was replaced in the XII by Josh Shaw. Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow play against England team-mates Jimmy Anderson and Jos Buttler, giving this match excellent quality. The auguries are not great for Lancashire as they have not beaten Yorkshire at Old Trafford since 2000 – their only home win coming during the exile to Aigburgh. Defeat for Lancashire in this game would be catastrophic.
Play was delayed due to the miserable, wet morning conditions at Old Trafford, although the rain relented enough to allow an 1145 start to be contemplated. Yorkshire won the Toss and elected to bat. Yorkshire seemed to be recovering well from the early loss of Harry Brook to Graeme Onions (22-1), with Joe Root looking in prime form, when Jordan Clark came in for his third over. Little did the Yorkshire fans appreciate what was to come when Joe Root eased the second and third balls of the over to the boundary. The last three balls of the over produced a hat-trick. First, he pinned Joe Root LBW for 22 from 19 balls. Kane Williamson came in and went LBW first ball. And Jonny Bairstow got a snorter that he could only edge to Jos Buttler behind the stumps. 59-4 and some disarray in the visitors. Jordan Clark had dismissed the numbers 3, 4 and 16 in the ICC World rankings: Joe Root, Kane Williamson and Jonny Bairstow. It was the first hat-trick in a Roses match at Old Trafford since 1933 and the first in an Ashes match since Ken Higgs took one at Headingley in 1968. At Lunch, Yorkshire were 61-4 and needing Lyth and Ballance to steady the innings. Ballance though did not hang around after Lunch and was bowled by Onions for 9: the fact that he did not offer a shot to the ball did not make it any better. 78-5 and, already, a leading contender for the “Wally of the Day” award. Bresnan then made his bid for the award by running himself out as Lyth drove the ball back at bowler Clark and he deflected it onlto the stumps with Bresnan backing-up too far. Yorkshire were 86-6 and hearing the whisper of relegation threats in their ears.
As Lyth and Patterson battled on, Liam Livingstone dived for a catch in the slips and took the ball on his wrist. Yorkshire had a life and Livingstone had to go off for treatment. Yorkshire could not take advantage of their luck for long as Petterson edged Bailey to Jennings at First Slip for 22 and Lyth fell to Anderson, also to a catch by Jennings. 131-8 and Yorkshire back up against it.
Jack Brooks and Josh Poysden though saw Yorkshire through to Tea with some sensible batting at 166-8 and gave some hope of a batting point. Clark though was not finished with Yorkshire and got Brooks to edge to Hameed, in the covers, straight after the resumption. Enter Ben Coad with a swinging bat. Poysden and Coad added 26 in 23 balls and seemed to be about to lead their side to an unexpected batting point when Coad got a straight one: need you ask who the bowler was? Jordan Clark ended with 5-58 and a run-out: career-best figures and not a bad day’s work!
Lancashire made a slow start with just 3 runs from the first five overs, then Jennings and Davies broke loose with five boundaries in eleven balls. Finally, Tim Bresnan brought the breakthrough. Keaton Jennings smashed the ball towards Joe Root at Mid-Wicket; Root flew through the air and took a brilliant one-handed catch and Yorkshire had their breakthrough: 46-1. Once again, a second wicket fell quickly as Haseeb Hameed’s nightmare season continued as he shouldered arms to a ball from Patterson that thudded into his stumps. Two balls later Dane Vilas fell LBW to Patterson for a duck and Lancashire were 55-3. Jos Buttler came in for a rare Championship innings and survived just four balls before leg-glancing a ball from Bresnan behind, where Jonny Bairstow took a smart catch to make it 66-4: Yorkshire were roaring back into the match.
Davies reached his 50 but fell immediately, edging Coad to Bairstow. Lancashire 92-5 and the match, wide open again. In came Bailey, out went Bailey, bowled second ball by Coad. 92-6 and, incredibly, Yorkshire were right on top. In came Onions and he too fell, second ball, bowled by Coad to give the bowler a rare, triple-wicket maiden. Six overs still remained, with Lancashire struggling to see out the day. Three balls into the next over Jack Brooks got Jordan Clark as Tim Bresnan caught him at Deap Square Leg and Lancashire had collapsed from 46-0 to 92-8: four wickets had fallen in eight balls for no addition. Seven wickets had fallen in ten overs and Liam Livingstone was presumed unfit to bat. Jimmy Anderson and Matt Parkinson managed to get through to the Close at 106-8, but Yorkshire are right on top and looking set for a desperately needed win that would compound Lancashire’s relegation worries.
Nottinghamshire v Surrey
Second plays first. After this match Nottinghamshire will have just five games left. With Nottinghamshire 22 points behind Surrey and only five games left after this one, a Surrey win would almost end Nottinghamshire’s chances of winning the Championship. Surrey play Australian Aaron Finch and recover Sam Curran and Ben Foakes from Lions duty. Nottinghamshire have Stuart Broad back, meaning that both sides can boast a very strong attack.
The Toss was uncontested and Surrey did not hesitate in putting in Nottinghamshire. Their decision was rewarded immediately as Jade Dernbach had Mullaney caught behind by Foakes, second ball, for a duck. 0-1 and Surrey had made an immediate statement. For a while, things seemed to be under control as Nottinghamshire reached 59-1 without further alarm, at which point Morkel took Fraine to catch by Ollie Pope. 50-1 became 60-3 as Morkel then added Jake Libby and then Sam Curran added Samit Patel. Nottinghamshire were 74-4 and in trouble. What Nottinghamshire did not need was for Billy Root to give a second catch to Ollie Pope in the penultimate over of the morning. Nottinghamshire 94-5 at Lunch and seeing the chances of the Championship title disappearing.
After Lunch Surrey seemed to struggle to maintain the intensity, but then they only needed one wicket to have Nottinghamshire wobbling again: Jade Dernbach duly took it by removing Riki Wessels for 23; 121-6. Morkel then got Stuart Broad caught by Sam Curran for 3 and Nottinghamshire were a very unhappy 128-7. Luke Fletcher and Tom Moores worked hard to push Nottinghamshire towards a batting point, but their stand was cut short at 36 when Rikki Clarke got Tom Moores LBW. As so often happens, one wicket brought two as Luke Fletcher was bowled by Morkel for 21: 165-9. Harry Gurney and last man, Jake Ball, hung around and took Nottinghamshire to a batting point that they would scarcely have expected a while before, swinging the bat merrily. In the end, Sam Curran launched a straight one at Jake Ball and sent the middle stump cartwheeling: 210ao, but it could have been so much worse.
The Nottinghamshire innings though was put into sharp contrast as Surrey set off in pursuit at a frantic pace. Mark Stoneman decided that the best way to get some form back was to attack and he did so with gusto. After just ten overs Surrey were 61-0 with Stoneman 43* and starting to enjoy batting again. The next three overs then went for 26. Stoneman’s first fifty of the summer took just 40 balls of carnage as Surrey continued to score at faster than a run-a-ball. The hundred partnership came up in one ball under sixteen overs. Stoneman fell finally to Jake Ball to a catch behind for 86, Surrey were 147-1, but the damage had been done to Nottinghamshire’s title hopes.
Surrey reached Stumps at 223-1, with Rory Burns on 97* and 19*, already 13 ahead and looking to eliminate Nottinghamshire as a title rival on Day 2.
Worcestershire v Somerset
After a win in their last fixture, Worcestershire can now see light at the end of the tunnel. Another win in this game would end Somereset’s title hopes and boost their own chances of survival. The big news for Somerset is that Marcus Trescothick is available after his successful 2nd XI return from what many feared was a career-ending injury whilst Jack Leach and Dom Bess are also available again after returning from England Lions duty. Matt Renshaw though has been forced to end his season through injury and Somerset are still without Tim Groenewald (groin), although Azhar Ali was available to make his debut. For Worcestershire, wicket-keeper batsman Alex Milton makes his Specsavers County Championship debut: captain of Cardiff MCCU this summer, he replaces Ben Cox who is ruled out with cracked ribs suffered in the Championship game versus Nottinghamshire. Incredibly, despite his injury, Cox has continued to play in the Blast but the injury has now become too painful for him to be able to play a four-day match: a sore (literally) loss for Worcestershire.
Both sides wanted to bat, but it was Worcestershire who won the Toss and elected to field, no doubt hoping to reduce the influence of Leach and Bess. The Somerset start was awful as Byrom was given caught behind to Magoffin for 5 (11-1) and Marcus Trescothick’s return was brief as he fell LBW, four balls later, to Wood for 6 (11-2). Another wicket would have been serious but, as so often this season, James Hildreath applied his calm head to the situation and, ably supported by Azar Ali, re-built the innings and even went on the attack, with 20 coming off the last two overs before Lunch, which was taken with Somerset at 95-2 and in a much happier place than they had been an hour and a half before. It did not last as Azar Ali edged Pennington behind for 37 from the bowling of Pennington, but 110-3 was a lot healthier than 11-2. In his next over, Pennington bowled Hildreath for 57 to a ball that the batsman was trying to leave (!!) and Somerset were 115-4, with two new batsmen at the crease and back in danger.
However, Steven Davies and Tom Abell were still there for Somerset and they had added 95 by Tea, leaving Somerset 214-4 and the happier of the two sides. Davies on 50, Abell on 49. Moeen Ali, having his first bowl of the season for Worcestershire, had caused problems, without having any luck but, after Tea, he finally got his reward. Steven Davies played back to a ball which turned from the Beard that is Feared, got a nick and ‘keeper Milton did the necessary. Davies out for 72 and Somerset 241-5. Then Moeen added Peter Trego LBW for 1 and Somerset were 251-6, with Tom Abell still there, although not for long, as Steve Magoffin got him LBW for 70: Somerset 266-7 and in danger of falling short of 300. The Overtons though had no intention of letting slip the match position and started to hit out, taking Somerset past the 300. 53 runs came in 7 overs. Finally, Craig Overton edged Moeen to slip for 31 and, soon after, Jamie Overton fell LBW to Ed Barnard for 28, making it 323-9. Stumps were drawn at 324-9, with Leach and Davey holding out, the former undoubtedly looking with interest at the turn that Moeen Ali was obtaining on Day 1.
The highlight of this round was undoubtedly Kent entertaining Leicestershire: 2nd v 4th, with Leicestershire knowing that a win would shake up the promotion race. Elsewhere, Sussex have the chance to keep their chances of promotion very much alive with a win against Glamorgan.
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire
The Derbyshire decision to bat looked pretty dubious when they fell to 21-3 and Northamptonshire had their first bowling point in little more than a quarter of an hour of play. Things got no better as Nathan Buck bowled Hughes to leave Derbyshire 53-4. It looked though as if Hossein and Critchley were weathering the storm until Nathan Buck got one through Critchley and sent the sides to a premature Lunch at 113-5. After Lunch, the Northamptonshire bowlers worked their way through the Derbyshire middle order and, at 183-8, things did not look good for the home side, but Gary Wilson was still there and got some solid support from Dan Wheeldon, adding vital runs and taking Derbyshire to 222-8 at Tea.
Still Derbyshire batted on and even when Wilson fell, bowled by Nathan Buck for 66, Wheeldon and Qadri took them to the second batting point. The fun ended finally on 260 when Prasanna bowled Qadri.
Northamptonshire got off to an excellent start in reply, Luke Procter and Ben Duckett adding 53 at better than 4-an-over. However, the fall of Duckett for 29 led to a mid-collapse as Vasconcelos fell two balls later for a duck – two in three balls to Tony Palladino. Three overs later Luke Procter fell LBW to Viljoen for 30 and Northamptonshire were 59-3 and Derbyshire were back in the game. Buck and Wakeley took Northamptonshire through to the Close at 74-3, with the game well balanced.
Gloucestershire v Durham
Gloucestershire brought in the recovered Benny Howell for the disappointing Graeme van Buuren and elected to bat. After his success against Sussex, Miles Hammond kept the opening spot, with Benny Howell slotting-in down the order. For Durham, Ben Stokes got a rare County Championship outing. Solid starts have not been a feature of the Gloucestershire batting this season but Dent and Hammond were giving the home team one of their better starts before Ben Stokes got Chris Dent LBW for 19: 40-1 and Chris Dent’s disappointing season continues. Stokes then hit James Bracey a heavy blow on the arm and forced him to retire hurt. Benny Howell came in at #4 to replace him. Whatever concerns there might have been about Ben Stokes’ ability to bowl his full share of overs in a Test, were dissipated further as he got Howell to nick it through to Cameron Steel: 48-2 and the Gloucestershire fans thinking “here we go again…” Miles Hammond though has a good head on his shoulders and, in partnership with Gareth Roderick, took Gloucestershire through to Lunch at 88-2.
Miles Hammond duly went through to his 50, confirming that in Bracey and Hammond, Gloucestershire have two young batsmen to watch. Sadly, though, just as he had against Sussex, where he seemed to lose concentration on reaching his century and get out immediately, he was dismissed immediately after reaching his fifty, when Chris Rushworth flattened his off stump for 51. With Bobby Bracey unable to return and in hospital with a suspected broken arm, Ryan Higgins came in and accompanied Gareth Roderick to a fine fifty and a fifty-partnership. Higgins then went on to his third fifty of the season. As Higgins reached his fifty, Ben Stokes started rubbing is left knee and went off for a time at the end of the over before coming back just before Tea. Roderick and Higgins went on to the century partnership. Gloucestershire 218-3 at Tea and Higgins just short of his highest First Class score.
Roderick fell LBW to Salisbury, second ball after Tea, for 67 and James Bracey came back bravely, arm well strapped. Higgins roared past his highest ever First Class score, supported by the valiant Bracey, until the new ball did for Bracey, LBW to Chris Rushworth for 38; 283-5 after a partnership of 64. Rushworth then bowled Noema-Barnett for 7 before Higgins hit consecutive boundaries off Salisbury, the second, a hook to the Fine Leg boundary to reach his first First Class century and bring up the Gloucestershire 300. Ryan Higgins fell finally to Ben Stokes for 105 and Stumps were called at 315-7: Stokes can be satisfied with a fine day’s work, as can Ryan Higgins, with honours even on the day.
Kent v Leicestershire
A year ago, any county seeing Leicestershire as visitors on their fixture list would have licked their lips and anticipated slaughter. This season though, Leicestershire have suddenly come alive and consecutive wins have left them in with a realistic chance of promotion. This thus became the original “promotion 48-pointer”: not something that many would have predicted back in April. Leicestershire elected to bowl at Canterbury and saw their decision justified rapidly as two wickets from Ben Raine in his fourth over shook-up the Kent batsmen. Raine dismissed Bell-Drummond and Kuhn with consecutive balls, leaving Kent 25-2. From there, things just got worse as Zak Chappell came on as first change and scythed through the Middlesex middle order with three wickets for very little, supported by the dismissal of Sam Dickson by Gareth Griffiths. At Lunch Kent were 73-6 and in desperate need of both Live Aid and Band Aid from the old rocker, Darren Stevens.
Things though got no better after Lunch as “Fireball” Dexter bowled a double-wicket maiden, getting both Harry Podmore and Gavin Stewart and leaving Kent 78-8. In a match that that Kent could not afford to lose, their promotion bid seemed to be running out of oxygen with the summit in clear view. A third wicket for Raine and a wicket for Mohammed Abbas and Kent were 104ao and in desperate trouble, not half way through the first day. A quick response was needed and Harry Podmore took just two balls to clean-up Harry Dearden: 0-1 and this game was not making plans to go into a fourth day.
Darren Stevens added Ackerman and, at that point, had the extraordinary figures of 5.1-4-1-1, with Leicestershire 17-2 and struggling in turn. Paul Horton edged Thomas through to Sam Billings and it was 47-3. Mark Cosgrove fell LBW to Gavin Stewart: 51-4 and Kent right back in the match. Leicestershire though had Fireball Dexter and Ned Eckersley together: they put on 70 and got Leicestershire into the lead before Ivan Thomas bowled Dexter for 41: 121-5. Joe Denly came on late in the day and produced an expensive first over before getting Raine with the last ball of the day. Leicestershire have ended the day 149-6 and Kent can still hope to keep their first innings deficit under control.
Middlesex v Warwickshire
Middlesex won the Toss and batted in a must-win match on a track that looked full of runs. With pre-season expectations set so high: promotion and the knock-out phases of at least one of the Cups, as a minimum, this was a last chance for Middlesex to set down a real marker, as Gus Fraser indicates that there will be a major re-think about the playing staff this winter. Chris Woakes and Ryan Sidebottom returned for Warwickshire to give the home side’s batting a serious test, with Woakes immediately promoted from recovery in the 2nd XI to new ball duty. For Warwickshire, a win would leave them with one foot in Division One and just requiring a steady run-in to get promoted. For Middlesex, Sam Robson was out with a broken finger. Middlesex featured a new 1st XI coach whose influence was reflected in the choice of Stirling to open with Gubbins, with Holden dropped back #6. Stirling immediately launched into Woakes, who produced one jaffa and two very slightly short balls that were hammered to the boundary, suggesting that the batsmen may still have been in T20 mode. In the commentary box, Kevin Hand made an immediate check of the colour or the clothing and the ball on the field, concluding that this was, genuinely a County Championship match: given Middlesex’s lack of success in T20, one wondered if it was a sound strategy to use T20 techniques. Stirling whacked four boundaries in the first two overs before edging behind to the last ball of the second over. With Stirling’s dismissal, the game started to look more like four-day cricket again. Hannon-Dalby then game on and bowled a ball that snorted back in and castled Nick Gubbins. Chris Wright then removed Eskinazi to a catch by Jonathon Trott at First Slip. Middlesex were 53-3 and already in some difficulty.
Things rapidly got worse and the riches of 51-1 soon became 76-6 as Malan, Morgan, Simpson and Harris departed in swift succession. The good news for Middlesex though was that this brought in James Fuller, whose form for Middlesex 2nd XI and, latterly, for the 1st XI, should see him awarded a Superman cape rather than a County Cap. Although he was lucky to see Tim Ambrose drop him on 29, Fuller and Max Holden decided to take the attack to the bowlers and score runs while they were available. The result was a quick fifty-partnership and a switch in the balance. Finally, Max Holder tried one hit too many at Jeethan Patel and was LBW for 48 after a partnership of 86. Fuller though kept on his merry way going on to a 50 with 5x4 and 1x6. With Ollie Rayner back from loan and back in favour, batting at #10, Fuller found a solid partner in a ninth wicket partnership that earned the first batting point. As Fuller took a rest and let the Brighton Bradman, Ollie Rayner, take the lead, the fifty partnership came up in good time, before Rayner was adjudged caught behind off Wright for 28 and very unhappy with the decision.
Rayner’s dismissal brought in the Lambeth Lara and Tim Murtagh set off to show just why the fans call him that by joining Fuller in some swinging to push Middlesex towards what would have been a totally implausible second batting point. Finally, Fuller got a straight one from Hannon-Dalby and departed for a brilliant 71. Middlesex 236ao.
There were a few scares for Warwickshire when they batted but, in general, Middlesex bowled a little too short. James Harris though bowled a straight one at Sibley and pinned him to make it 20-1 and give the bowlers a lift. Ian Bell came in, hit two gorgeous fours and the Murtagh got him LBW with a ball that swung a little. 30-2 and game on! Rhodes and Trott – playing his last game at Lord’s? – batted solidly to the tune of an 88 run partnership before Rayner who, a fortnight earlier looked to have played his last game for Middlesex, pinned Trott LBW for 47. A second wicket came for Tim Murtagh when he got Tim Hain LBW for 16: yet another LBW on a day when there was an incredible quantity of LBWs around the country.
Warwickshire reached Stumps at 152-4, with the match in the balance.
Sussex v Glamorgan
This was the joker in the pack. With Sussex having got their promotion bid back on track, they played host to Glamorgan in a day-night match, knowing that Kent’s innings was in tatters before they started. Sussex won the Toss and batted. Salt and Wells added 73 for the first wicket, before Salt edged Hogan to ‘keeper, Cooke. Tom Haines came in and kept Luke Wells company, with Sussex going to Lunch at 114-1, Wells 48* and looking to make their decision to bat count.
The afternoon session, though, was a bad one for Sussex. From the riches of the lunchtime score they slipped to 171-6, squandering the opportunity to turn the screw. The rot started immediately after Lunch when Lukas Carey dismissed Haines for 18, without addition to the score. Harry Finch came in and acted as sleeping partner for Luke Wells: his contribution to a stand of 25 was a single. Hogan got him to another catch behind to wicket-keeper Cooke: 139-3 and some of the shine was going off the scorecard. Luke Wells was next to go, in Hogan’s next over, for 71 and Sussex had slipped to 140-4. Burgess was joined by captain Ben Brown, needing a partnership to steady the innings, but the former became the first of two victims for young Jeremy Lawlor, promoted from Glamorgan 2nd XI after some solid all-round performances and playing just his seventh First Class match. Burgess became the third catch for wicket-keeper, Cooke. In his next over, the same combination accounted for David Wiese for 2 and Sussex were 171-6 and sinking.
Ben Brown though was still there and Chris Jordan has considerable talent with the bat, even if he does not always use it. Together, they added 83 and brought up two batting points, with Jordan reining-in his attacking tendencies. The pair were turning around the day again, when Ben Brown fell to the off-spinner Andrew Salter for 49, giving Cooke his fifth catch of the day. Jordan, on 46, was joined by the hero of the Sussex win against Gloucestershire: Jofra Archer. Just four balls later, Jordan fell too, bowled by Hogan for 46 and 254-6 and dreams of 300+ had become 254-8. Hogan had 4-29 and, as so often this season, was holding together the Glamorgan attack with another heroic bowling performance, taking him to 28 wickets at 20.2 for the season. Ollie Robinson joined Joffra Archer with nearly 20 overs of the day remaining and Sussex struggling to see out the day.
Glamorgan took the new ball, hoping to finish off the innings quickly. It took Timm van ter Gugten just three balls to break though, dismissing Ollie Robinson for 6. With only Danny Briggs left, Archer was a model of self-denial, scoring off just 3 of his first 29 balls (and 5 of his first 47, although four of those scoring-shots were boundaries) as Danny Briggs cracked-on at the other end towards the third batting point. A boundary from Archer off Hogan brought up the 300 and three batting points: Sussex cannot afford to leave bonus points behind and were grateful for this unexpected last wicket stand. As the tenth wicket partnership pushed on towards fifty, Glamorgan were probably happy to keep the batsmen quiet rather than have to come out to bat for a few overs under lights, although there was no hint of the extreme behaviour of the ball that the Kent bowlers had found a few weeks earlier against Middlesex. Consecutive boundaries to Danny Briggs off Lukas Carey took Briggs to 40 and brought up the fifty partnership in what was no longer a nuisance stand and was becoming a major annoyance, with even a fourth batting point looming into view.
With two overs of the day remaining, Glamorgan were guaranteed not to have to bat, even if the last wicket fell and the major question became whether or not Briggs, scoring at better than a run-a-ball, could reach his fifty before Stumps. Archer played out a maiden to Hogan and the last over started, with Briggs on 46*. Sadly, for Briggs, he fell, first ball, to Lawlor – yet another LBW – and Sussex were all out for 327: fewer than they would have expected at Lunch, many more than seemed likely at Tea. Glamorgan will bat in the morning against a strong Sussex attack: this will be one of the decisive days of the Sussex season if they are to exploit Kent’s difficulties.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Sussex won in a dramatic finish as Gloucestershire fell just short of the line, despite James “Bobby” Bracey’s 87. And for the fourth consecutive day, Cheltenham had a large and appreciative crowd that enjoyed a tense day’s cricket as the pattern of clusters of wickets, and large partnerships were repeated.
The inevitable result of the Gloucestershire double-night-watchman policy was that they were likely to find themselves a traumatic 40-4 early on the fourth morning. In fact, the reality was even worse: 38-4, as Archer and Robinson divvied-up the freebie night-watchmen. Ollie Robinson was the first to tuck-in, taking Matt Taylor for 3 (36-3) and then Jofra Archer got George Drissell for 5 (38-4) – all four wickets caught behind by Ben Brown.
At this point, the Sussex fans were sporting big grins and thinking of the 20-point win that would see them leapfrog Leicestershire in third in Division 2, while the Gloucestershire fans were hiding behind the sofa and wondering about 60 all out. One, presumably Sussex fan said, before play, that Gloucestershire would make “150 tops”. In the fan poll overnight, of 18 votes, 14 went for the Sussex win, 3 for a Gloucestershire win and 1 for the tie. It was hard to disagree that Sussex had to be favourites, but one somewhat expected a few twists and turns on the way.
This game has featured big partnerships and clusters of wickets, and there was a strong likelihood that there would be at least one significant partnership as the most in-form batsmen were yet to come. That was, indeed, what happened. Bobby Bracey and Gareth Roderick stabilised the patient and, slowly, whittled down the target. First, the batsmen got past halfway in the chase. Then Bobby Bracey passed 50 for the third time this season. Then Gareth Roderick reached his own 50 – his third of the season, although Bracey had converted the previous two into centuries. The Sussex body language started to deteriorate. There were some horrible miss-fields. Suddenly the desperation for a wicket started to show. Then Roderick took a sudden liking to Wiese, and consecutive balls went for 4 and then a towering six over Luke Wright’s head on the boundary edge. Incredibly, although Sussex had to be favourites still, Gloucestershire were back in the game.
The target reached 100. Bracey and Roderick were batting like a million dollars. It seemed too good to be true for the Gloucestershire fans, now starting to peak over the back of the sofa. Then, disaster. Luke Wright pulled-off a brilliant, diving stop; a frustrated Roderick then tried to hit Danny Briggs and was castled. Suddenly the energy was back in the Sussex team, and Jofra Archer was champing at the bit, but Ben Brown, possibly wrongly, kept him away from the ball. Given that Graeme van Buuren has averaged just 22 this season and looked vulnerable, it seemed a strange decision although, in the end, it turned out not to matter. The bowlers were quick, they were putting in a lot of effort but maybe did not make the batsmen play enough. It was tense again, but the threat seemed to be missing, but there was a feeling that if one wicket were to fall, several would fall quickly and that is how it turned out.
The elephant in the stable was the new ball. It would be available at around Tea and Gloucestershire desperately needed to conserve wickets, and to knock-off, the majority of the runs before the new cherry got into the lethal Mr Archer’s hands. Van Buuren took a boundary off Chris Jordan thanks to a horrible miss-field from Jofra Archer but offered a catch next ball which Harry Finch pouched nervously. 79 to win. Just four wickets left. Ryan Higgin in and only Kieron Noema-Barnett of the recognised batsmen to come to support Bobby Bracey, who was still there on 64*.
Ryan Higgins has been the go-to bowler for Gloucestershire this season and has also scored some useful runs. Today he needed to put on his Superman cape again if Gloucestershire were to get close. Higgins started confidently, with three boundaries, before feathering a catch behind to Ben Brown off Jofra Archer. Five catches to Ben Brown and this one, probably the most vital. It was noticeable though how many of the Gloucestershire batsmen were caught that way down the leg side And, that was Jofra Archer’s one hundredth First Class wicket at an excellent average of 25.2. 61 to win. Bracey 70* and the legend that is Kieron Noema-Barnett the last hope for Gloucestershire. Archer with figures of 15.3-6-23-4. Surely now Gloucestershire would die quietly. Sussex though were not making the batsmen play, and the target crept below 50. Then below 40, helped by a wild delivery from Archer that flew way over KNB’s head, over Ben Brown’s head and flew to the boundary for four byes.
With Tea approaching and the new ball due three overs after, Ollie Robinson bowled one down the leg side to KNB. KNB got a tickle – yet another leg-side strangle. Ben Brown took his sixth catch of the innings (equalling the Sussex record) and confusion reigned as players and umpires tried to work out if it was Tea, while there was also a suggestion that the dismissal was off a no-ball that had not been called and it seemed as if Noema-Barnett was told by the umpires not to walk. The dismissal was confirmed. 34 to win. Bracey 86*, but only Miles and Payne to come. Miles has 5x50, averages 17.6 and has a best score in First Class cricket of 62*, but does not like quick bowling at all and even less, short fast bowling. Miles against the new ball would be a catch-weight contest: what would James Bracey do on the resumption? Unfortunately, the decision was taken out of his hands as Craig Miles pinched the strike twice with singles before being given out LBW to Ollie Robinson with 32 still needed. Miles was evidently unhappy with the dismissal, swishing his bat angrily and showing obvious dissent.
The new ball was taken immediately. David Payne took a single, second ball and then James Bracey, who had to go for quick runs, went for a big hit and Danny Briggs took a brilliant low catch at Deep Square Leg. Bracey was out for 87. Sussex won by 28 runs, and a distraught Bracey left the field to a standing ovation from the fielders and a large and appreciative crowd: it was the first time this season that he has reached 50 and not converted. The heroes of the day though were Jofra Archer with 21-8-29-4 and Ollie Robinson, with 22.3-3-49-4 and, of course, Ben Brown with his six catches.
Sussex move onto 99 points, 13 behind Kent and leapfrog Leicestershire into third in Division 2, while the consolation prize for Gloucestershire, who got closer to the win than anyone dared to hope, was to edge ahead of Glamorgan in the battle for the wooden spoon.
7/18/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
"Championship Cricket is dying" is the word from the big wigs at the ECB, well tell that to the close to three-thousand fans who have attended each day of this Division Two game at Cheltenham: an encounter hosted by one of the lesser supported sides in the Division.
Day 2 was a bit of a curate’s egg. Gloucestershire’s top order has been in pretty desperate form and with the experienced Benny Howell being replaced for this game by the very inexperienced Miles Hammond – who boasts a high score in First Class cricket of 30 – you feared that the lower-middle order might have its usual repair job to do from a pretty desperate position. In contrast, on this occasion it was entirely the opposite: the top order ground Gloucestershire into a position of near impregnability against some very hostile fast bowling, before a late collapse changed the momentum of the match entirely. Forty minutes before Stumps, there was a genuine prospect that Sussex might manage but a single bowling point. At the Close, they were on the verge of obtaining all three and limiting the deficit to under 30.
While the day ended much better for Sussex than might have seemed possible, it was still a deeply disappointing day in the sense that, having left three batting bonus points out on the field on Day 1, Sussex can scarcely afford to leave bowling points out there too. They can get promoted with seven wins, *if* they make sure that there is a big haul of bonus points in every game and that means, making 300+ every game and, with such a powerful bowling line-up, ensuring all three bowling points. As it is, they had 19 balls to remove either David Payne or Gareth Roderick and get that third bowling point.
When a side is 295-3, already ahead and has two, set batsmen, with nine overs left to search for bonus points, you would normally reckon that the batting side has a 50-50 shot at its fourth batting point and the bowling side is going to end up with just one. That though is not the Gloucestershire way. How did we get here, you might ask?
Hammond and Dent came out against a hostile attack, and it was hostile. Jofra Archer clanged Miles Hammond a solid blow on the helmet in the morning session. Hammond took a short time out to be checked-out by the physio before continuing, while Jofra Archer seemed genuinely upset because the ball had been delivered with no malice but just took off. All the bowlers put in plenty of effort, and much of the bowling was genuinely quick but achieved scant reward. Had Chris Dent not been put down, early, from a dolly of a catch to Second Slip, things might have turned out differently but, as it was, the batsmen had few real scares and the score mounted, if only slowly. Landmarks were reached one after another: a boundary from Hammond and he passed his best First Class score and brought up the 50 partnership, and a boundary and a two from consecutive balls off Wiese took Hammond to fifty with Dent still only on 25. The century partnership was brought up with a bizarre six No Balls, as Archer let one go that beat everything; Dent was on 48 for 4 agonising overs before he hit Robinson for the boundary to bring up just his third fifty of the season and push his average over 25; another single to Hammond to bring up the 150.
Finally, just as Sussex must have wondered where they would find a wicket, Danny Briggs brought an end to the captain’s stone-walling innings. It was a record first wicket partnership – 182 – against Sussex. Hammond tip-toed through the nineties: 93 when Dent fell, he finally reached his maiden century with a boundary of Wiese, with 80 of his 103 runs coming in boundaries. Did Wiese notice that he had relaxed on reaching the landmark? Two balls later he got an edge through to ‘keeper, Ben Brown, and Wiese had a deserved wicket.
If Sussex thought that their travails were over, they were wrong. Bobby Bracey and Gareth Roderick avoided any further loss and bedded-in nicely. The new ball came and went, and Sussex were still a wicket away from that vital, first bowling point. There were few easy runs available – just look at Chris Jordan’s figures for the day of 21-6-39-1 – runs had to be sweated out, but that is just what Gloucestershire have not done all season. Up came the second batting point – unheard of riches!!! – And the question was: just how big would the lead be? Chris Jordan finally got a ball through Bracey, and he departed for 34. 259-3.
100 overs gone. 294-3. Third batting point a formality. Fourth a distinct possibility. Sussex being batted out of the game. Wiese to van Buuren. Bowled him! Little could the Sussex bowlers imagine what was about to happen. In came Drissell and four overs produced just three singles. Two overs to Stumps.
Archer with his final over of the day. He started it with 0-59 and bowled a triple-wicket maiden.
Drissell went second ball of the over after an 18-ball stay that produced just a single. Cleaned bowled.
In came Ryan Higgins. Also, clean bowled. Archer on a hat-trick.
Hat-trick ball. Noema-Barnett survives … only to edge through to Ben Brown next ball.
Gloucestershire fans on social media were tearing their hair out, those that had any to start with anyway.
In came Craig Miles to accompany a bewildered Gareth Roderick at the other end. Perhaps unwisely, Roderick took a single to the first ball of the last over despite the well-known fact that, as Lance Corporal Jones would tell you (in a parade ground whisper) that “he doesn’t like it up him”. A fired-up Ollie Robinson against a nervous Craig Miles was always likely to be on the level of Christians v Lions on a minefield at the Coliseum Oval. It took four balls for Robinson to produce a straight one on a good length and end the day’s play, one ball early.
So, we got to Day 3, 303-8. The lead 17. Sussex with 19 balls left to get that bowling bonus point and complete the humiliation.
It was brief, and it was embarrassing. Three singles. Seventeen balls. Gloucestershire 306ao. The lead 20. And the Shire had lost seven wickets for just 12 runs in 53 balls. 4-62 for Jofra Archer. 2-67 for Ollie Robinson who, when they started their spell, had 0-59 and 0-61 respectively.
Sussex batted again and really wanted to get the lead without losing a wicket. A measure of Ryan Higgins’ rise in status since arriving was that in the first game against Kent, Ryan Higgins started as fifth seamer playing only a very minor bit part but, now, is usually opening the bowling ahead of the express-pace Taylor and Craig Miles who has gone on an England Performance Tour. It was he who made the breakthrough, bowling Salt for 9: 16-1. Next over, David Payne had Luke Wells edging through to Roderick: 22-2, just two ahead, and Sussex in deep trouble again, as if the Gloucestershire collapse had never happened. However, Harry Finch and Luke Wright came out with all guns blazing, first putting a severe dent in the figures of Ryan Higgins – he conceded as many in the eighth and final over of his spell as he had in his first seven and then tucking into Taylor, Miles and Drissell with a boundary almost every over.
At Lunch, it was 103-2. The lead was 83, and Luke Wright was on 48 from just 53 balls. The resemblance to the Sussex first innings cavalry charge was considerable. Against the second ball after Lunch, before getting his eye back in, Wright went after Payne and could only send the ball straight to a grateful Ryan Higgins. 103-3 and the match was back in the balance. Four overs later, David Payne bowled an absolute pearler of a delivery at new batsman, Michael Burgess and bowled him. Payne now had 3-28, and the lead was merely 99. The direction of the match was giving another lurch.
Once again though, a cluster of wickets was followed by a partnership as Ben Brown and Harry Finch dug in, although the positivity in the batting made it obvious that Sussex did not plan to die wondering: win or lose, they had no plans to get a draw that would not be too much use to them. The partnership reached 61 and Gloucestershire were, again, under the cosh, with the bat dominating, when Matt Taylor got one through Brown and won an LBW decision. Again, a partnership started to build between Finch and Wiese. Finch was set for a wonderful, possibly match-winning century, when he edged the rather expensive Craig Miles through to ‘keeper Roderick, two short. Then Wiese, who gave Gloucestershire no end of problems in the early season fixture at Hove, came together with Chris Jordan and pushed the lead past 200 and towards 250 before Miles pulled-off what has been described as the catch of the season to remove Wiese off the bowling of Higgins. Then, soon after, Payne castled Archer, the match was swinging back to Gloucestershire, but only if they could finish off the tail.
This was “Operation Winkle” – the battle between the will of the batsmen to survive and the won’t let them build a lead of the bowlers. As the lead grew, Sussex were obviously thinking of getting 300 ahead and declaring to allow themselves a bite at the openers before the Close. The stand between Jordan and Robinson was getting alarming when Craig Miles got Jordan to nick behind and then, in the next over; Matt Taylor got Robinson. The lead was 275, and that was probably the best thing that could happen. Gloucestershire had 15 overs to survive and a tempting target. Sussex had 111 overs to take ten wickets of a Gloucestershire that, this season, has shown all the stability of a blancmange.
Dent and Hammond set out confidently against Robinson and Archer. Ben Brown brought Chris Jordan into the attack early, and the change paid dividends as Archer took two quick wickets. First Chris Dent edged through to Ben Brown and then, in Archer’s next over, first innings hero, Hammond fell the same way. Gloucestershire were 27-2 and in deep trouble. Here, Gloucestershire did something that left one blinking with surprise. Having seen the tail blown away on the second evening, Drissell and Taylor were sent out as a double night-watchman, presumably in the pious hope that they would do better at the second attempt. Unbelievably, David Payne was padded-up to bat if either fell, in an unprecedented TRIPLE night-watchman policy. Gloucestershire fans were speechless.
Payne was not needed. Drissell and Taylor saw out the remaining overs and, at 30-2, the match has leant towards Sussex again.
With scores of 286, 306 & 295 and wickets falling in clusters, you would expect a large partnership at some point and a tight finish. We will see tomorrow if we get it. Hats off to Sussex who have turned this game on its head in the last three and a half sessions.
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