By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Round 10 of the County Championship started with a bit of a dull squelch, but continued with a bang, as three of the four games had delayed starts due to the rain, but then made up for lost time. Meanwhile, the Essex v Hampshire game at Chelmsford the only non-starter as heavy rain left the bowlers’ run-ups soaked meaning the umpires abandoned play in mid-afternoon. Once again, all eight Division 1 sides had fixtures, with perhaps the stand-out games the one between the bottom two.
Lancashire v Worcestershire
The equation here is simple for both sides: lose and plan for a season in Division 2 next year. With Worcestershire definitely on a rising curve, their situation is less desperate, but having got off the bottom of the table, they can ill-afford to lose to the only side below them in the table. Lancashire, with just three games after this one, all of them away from home, know that a defeat will, quite possibly, be definitive. Both sides made positive noises before the game, but you knew that a draw would not be suitable for either and defeat would be very bad news. While Lancashire played what they hope will be their trump card in the run-in – new signing, Keshav Maharaj – the news that Moeen Ali returns to the England side has robbed the visitors of their talisman. A crowd of 1800 were at Southport to witness the last home game of the season.
This was a day when holding the advantage was rather like an angler struggling to get a slippery fish into his net: every time that you thought that you had the fish under control to biff it on the head, somehow it wriggled away. Worcestershire lost wickets regularly, with Tom Bailey’s 4-41 the star turn for the Red Rose, but 61 from Brett D’Oliviera, supported by thirties from Fell and Clarke, allowed the hosts to reach 222, with 24* from Ed Barnard to marshal the tail, ensuring that his captain’s efforts were rewarded with a batting point. In reply, Lancashire were scarred by Josh Tongue, who reduced them to 4-2 with two wickets in his first over and then 27-3 as Wayne Parnell added Steven Croft. Alex Davies and Dane Vilas initiated a solid-looking recovery, before Davies crashed a drive into Tongue’s boot and on to the stumps, leaving Vilas stranded. Then, just two balls later, Tongue added his third (or fourth) wicket of the day as Davies was adjudged LBW, although the batsman retreated making a meaningful examination of his bat.
Lancashire 96-5 at the Close, 126 behind and this match looks unlikely to go into the last day.
Yorkshire v Somerset
Again, a simple equation for both sides: Somerset need to keep winning and hope that Surrey slip-up; Yorkshire need points increasingly urgently to stave-off the threat of relegation – whisper it softly up North, but there is a real possibility of both Yorkshire and Lancashire going down together at the end of the season.
Somerset have most definitely had the better of the day, which has featured three batsmen reaching 80, with none of them going on to 90. After Somerset crashed to 5-2, thanks to early wickets for Willey and Brooks, Azhar Ali and James Hildreth then put on a merry 137 together and were hammering the attack into submission before Hildreth fell for 81. As Somerset slipped to 229-5, it seemed that the White Rose was hauling itself back into the game. Azhar fell for 89, the top score of the day, but that only brought in Lewis Gregory, who gave the selectors another reminder of his talent with a brutal, 46-ball 65, with 9x4 and 3x6, while Steve Davies accumulated at the other end to the tune of 80. The Yorkshire attack was begging for mercy, seeing the new ball going at around 8-an-over, before Gregory and Davies both fell to Jack Brooks in the same over Brooks has promised the Headingley faithful that his priority in his last five games is helping Yorkshire to stay in Division 1 and seems determined to deliver on that promise. Josh Shaw added Craig Overton just before Stumps, but 374-8 was a pretty good day’s work for the visitors, who will be hoping to squeeze out a fifth batting point in the morning, while Yorkshire will be hoping that Jack Brook’s limp near the end of the day is just a little cramp and not an inhibiting injury.
Surrey v Nottinghamshire
A late start due to the rain means that this game is less advanced than the first two. When Surrey were reduced to 36-3 by Fletcher, Gurney and Wood, the locals must have feared the worst. However, salvation came from an unlikely source, as Mark Stoneman showed that his form is returning slowly. First with Ben Foakes and then with Will Jacks, the innings was stabilised and then made much healthier. Will Jacks must have taken the news that Ollie Pope was on his way from the Ageas Bowl with mixed feelings as Pope will replace him in the XI overnight: had he been on 99* at Stumps, this might have been an awkward situation; fortunately for Pope’s conscience, Milnes bowled Jacks for 48 and so Pope will, presumably, take the field tomorrow, but will not bat until the second innings. At 204-4, it may have looked as if Nottinghamshire were losing the initiative, but two wickets in the last hour have evened the day somewhat, with Surrey indebted to Mark Stoneman, who has fought his way through the day and was 99* at Stumps. At 256-6, Surrey’s priority will be to get to at least the third batting point and to avoid losing the early wickets that might just stop them reaching it. Surrey though are looking at the likelihood of bleeding-off another point or two to Somerset. Whilst, Nottinghamshire will be looking over their shoulder a little nervously wondering if the prospect of a healthy end of season prize-money return could turn into a late relegation scrape with a defeat or two at the back-end of the season.
Essex v Hampshire
With any of the bottom six in the division potentially threatened by relegation, both sides will be looking for points. This game though will be reduced to three days after the first day has been lost. The rain that swept across the country overnight did not clear Chelmsford until after the scheduled start and left the outfield so soaked that, despite multiple inspections, the run-ups were deemed to be unsafe. With better weather promised, this one should get underway tomorrow but will need to play catch-up.
Another full round of matches with all the top five looking at the enticing prospect of Division 1 cricket next season. With Middlesex and Sussex on a roll and Warwickshire winning in the last round, to get their season back on track, Kent and Leicestershire know that they need a win in this round. Here, the stand-out game was undoubtedly the Middlesex v Sussex clash that could help define the season for both teams.
Middlesex v Sussex
The clash between the Middle Saxons and the South Saxons is deliciously set-up by the table. Sussex have come from some way back to gate-crash what looked like a Warwickshire and Kent promotion party, while Middlesex have just produced two extraordinary wins against the odds and are trying desperately to reach the top two. Were Middlesex to win this one and other results to go their way, they would be right in promotion contention. While the day started depressingly badly for the hosts, it took an unexpected late turn and Middlesex will feel that they are, if not favourites, looking at a very surprising, potential, small first innings lead tomorrow.
With heavy cloud overhead, both sides wanted to bowl, so there was no question of a Toss and Sussex took full advantage of the conditions. To the surprise – probably more like, amazement – of patrons, Middlesex have dropped their specialist ‘keeper and given the gloves to Steve Eskinazi, as well as re-calling Ollie Rayner, with the aim of lengthening the batting without reducing the potency of the seam attack. It was easy to reach snap judgements as four of the top five fell in single figures, as the batsmen struggled in the morning session. Nowhere was this more epitomised than by Eoin Morgan’s crawl to 1* from 57 balls. From the relative riches of 99-4, Middlesex subsided to 169 all out, with Max Holden’s 50* holding the innings together: apart from Holden, only Nick Gubbins with 29 and James Fuller with 17 reached double figures. While Archer with 3-34 and Jordan, with 3-26, had the stand-out figures, all the four seamers took at least two wickets.
Middlesex needed a devastating response but, at 87-2, scoring at 5-an-over, Sussex seemed to be setting the basis for a really solid reply. Middlesex though are rarely dull and, in the last forty minutes of play, suddenly roared back into the match. Two wickets for James Fuller and two for James Harris have turned the scoreboard around. Ben Brown and Chris Jordan held on until Stumps but, from 120-6 overnight, will have a big rebuilding job to do in the morning. Middlesex, in contrast, can look forward to the possibility of a small first innings lead or, at worst, only conceding a small one in the morning.
Derbyshire v Kent
The message for Kent is clear: just three times this season they have reached 200 in the first innings, and they have accrued only six batting points – do better or resign yourselves to Division 2 cricket next season. Kent’s response has been to experiment with the batting order – Zak Crawley was moved up to open, and Daniel Bell-Drummond pushed down to the middle order – and the result has been that there is an excellent chance that, in this match, they will almost double their total of batting points for 2018.
When Sean Dickson fell in only the third over of the morning, it looked as if the new batting order was not going to work either. However, Crawley and Denly set about the bowlers with a will and the score mounted apace, as they added 170 at 4-an-over. With Crawley just four short of a maiden century, Tony Palladino beat him and won the LBW appeal. This brought in Heino Kuhn to support Joe Denly. Kuhn saw Denly to his century and then brought up his own fifty. With the partnership on 99, Paladino, who today fancied himself as the fun police, removed Kuhn with another successful LBW appeal after a period when both batsmen were becalmed, and Viljoen then added Denly for 106. Although Sam Billings and Harry Podmore also fell before the Close, Kent are 365-6, with Bell-Drummond 41*, being well-supported by Gavin Stewart (14*) and will be very disappointed if they do not reach the fifth batting point in the morning. Kent have built themselves a pretty good position to get their campaign back on track and will be watching events at Lord’s with great interest.
Glamorgan v Warwickshire
Bottom v top and everything seen so far on the first day indicates that Warwickshire will leave Sophia Gardens with another big haul of points and will make the Glamorgan crisis a little deeper. However, Warwickshire have not had everything their own way on the first day and will be looking to Ian Bell to push on to a decent score, having slumped to 43-2 in reply themselves.
At 38-3 – all three wickets catches to Tim Ambrose – Glamorgan must have been fearing the worst. Useful runs from Kiran Carlson and Chris Cooke helped stabilise the innings, though neither could pass the thirties. That Glamorgan reached the comparative riches of 203 and a batting point was all down to Craig Meschade, who shepherded the tail with 53*, while no one else in the Glamorgan bottom five could pass 5. Star turn with the ball for Warwickshire was Ollie Stone’s 4-28. In reply, Dom Sibley fell quickly to Meschade and, when Graeme Wagg added Will Rhodes, there was a chance the Warwickshire would fritter away the advantage. Bell and Trott added 63 before Ruaidhri Smith removed Trott but, at 106-3, Warwickshire still had some work to do. Bell and Chris Wright have taken the score to 116-3 at Stumps, but will look to their batsmen to bring in a decent haul of batting points tomorrow; in particular, they will hope that Ian Bell can move on from 43* to a match-defining score.
Gloucestershire v Leicestershire
Having suffered three depressing defeats in their last three Blast games, to bring the T20 to a disappointing conclusion and been utterly destroyed by Warwickshire in between times in the Championship, the hosts must have looked a tasty morsel for a Leicestershire side that is seeing its promotion bid start to flag badly. Gloucestershire pulled a surprise by playing Jack Taylor in the XI when he had not even been named in the 14-man squad – how much this is due to fan-pressure is uncertain, but the fans had been calling loudly for his recall to an inexperienced middle order that has been crying out for a senior batsman to shepherd it.
The Gloucestershire innings followed a familiar pattern for suffering Gloucestershire fans. Hammond and Dent started with a fifty partnership, scored at a crawl. Of those 50, just thirty-five were scored by the batsmen and Hammond’s share was a mere seven from 60 balls (shout out to Fred Boycott that Miles Hammond is a worthy candidate for the prestigious “Dig-In Trophy”), as the bowlers lent a significant hand in the quest for runs. Then, as has happened a few too many times for the liking of the fans, the fall of Chris Dent after getting a start, led to a house-of-cards collapse. 50-0 became 50-3 in 17 balls as Dent, Hammond and Howell fell in quick and bewildering succession to Gareth Griffiths (Dent) and Mohammad Abbas (Hammond and Howell). At this point, Gloucestershire fans usually pull out the tin hats and hide under the bed. Bobby Bracey and Gareth Roderick, though, batted through past Tea to the tune of a century partnership. At 150-3, the home supporters were emerging from under the bed, blinking with surprise. Even the fall of Gareth Roderick, to give Mohammad Abbas his third wicket, did not bring about an immediate capitulation as Bobby Bracey and Jack Taylor pushed on. With two balls until the new ball, it was 191-4, and home fans were wondering how many bonus points would be attained, not whether any would be. Alas, this is Gloucestershire, and we may expect the unexpected. The fall of Jack Taylor to Colin Ackermann for 21 to the penultimate delivery with the old ball propitiated the most horrific collapse. You feel for Sir Robert Hunt who has to commentate on these events. 191-4 became 202 all out in just 46 balls. James Bracey fell LBW to Mohammad Abbas for 76 as the innings imploded around him. Abbas finished with 5-30 and Ben Raine with 3-43.
In reply, Harry Dearden fell to the first ball of David Payne’s third over. Payne has had a miserable time with the ball recently but is a handy bowler, and one hopes that this does something for his morale. 11-1 in reply, Leicestershire will want to avoid losing early wickets in the morning.
Durham v Northamptonshire
Last and, probably, least, as it is the only game with nothing really to play for, for either side, was the game at the Riverside. Both teams now know that they will be playing their cricket in Division 2 next season. You only had to look at the grim face of Martin Emmerson as he gave his summary of the morning session at lunchtime to know that things had gone pretty badly for the hosts. Subsequent events have cheered him up slightly, but Durham are playing catch-up here.
No one reached thirty as Durham fell to 102-8 at Lunch. It was pretty grim stuff, with the top score Alex Lees with 25. After Lunch, Stuart Poyner added some useful runs with the tail, until Brett Hutton bowled him for 28, but 129 all out did not give much hope to the loyal home fans. The brutal truth was that 5-33 for Luke Procter simply dynamited Durham. Northamptonshire’s batting though has also been fragile for the last two seasons and, although every batsman who has come to the crease has reached double figures, they have closed in 189-6, held together by Alex Wakeley’s 60. The fall of Zaib to the last ball of the day has given Durham some hope that the damage can be limited if they can remove Adam Rossington – 40* overnight – early. However, in a low-scoring game, a lead of 100+ will almost certainly be decisive. If Northants avoid early losses, they know that they can bat Durham entirely out of this game.
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.
7/26/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Only three games were left to be completed last night. All three produced positive results, the most significant of which was Somerset’s win against Worcestershire, although at one point it seemed really to be in danger. Somerset hang on to Surrey’s coattails and will remember fondly that the penultimate round of fixtures will see Surrey visit Taunton. In Division 2, there were wins for Gloucestershire and Derbyshire in games where the advantage ebbed and flowed constantly through the day in five hours of dramatic action.
Yes, the game that no one watches and no one is interested in, produced three epic finishes, each played out in front of an appreciative crowd. It might only by Division Two and two modest sides, but the game at Cheltenham was played in front of crowds of around 3000 every day.
Worcestershire v Somerset
Somerset did, finally, obtain their win and kept up the pressure on Surrey at the top of the table, but briefly and horribly, it looked as if Worcestershire might even threaten to win. When Luke Wood and Dillon Pennington both fell to Jack Leach in the space of three balls, the Pears were 165-9 and appeared to be out of the contest. These, though, are strange days. Alex Milton, playing just his fourth First Class game and Steve Magoffin, batted for almost 40 overs in a tenth wicket partnership of 136. Initially, the partnership was an annoyance, then it became a major irritation and, finally, horrible imaginings started to emerge and, when the target got within 150, there were even thoughts that Worcestershire could even win. All it takes is one magic ball, one error, one loss of concentration and, realistically, there was never any real chance that the home side could win, but you try explaining that to the suffering bowlers who wonder if they are about to make history of the wrong kind. If the truth be told, the attack did not react well to frustration and lost its discipline badly, making the Worcestershire task so much easier.
During the morning session it all looked so simple. Worcestershire started the day 50-2, needing two big innings from somewhere. What they got instead was a rapid and horrific collapse. It started in just the third over of the morning after a misleading blizzard of early runs. Josh Davey, who ended with 3-43 from 19 miserly overs, bowled Joe Clarke. Four balls later Jamie Overton removed the dangerous Travis Head to a catch behind and, next ball, Ed Barnard, edged to Marcus Trescothick at slip. Alex Milton survived the hat-trick ball, but Worcestershire were 65-5. Brett D’Oliviera then gave Davey his third wicket: 71-6 after just five overs of the morning. If, at that point in play, you had taken a bet that Worcestershire would still be batting after Tea, you could have earned a fair sum. Whiteley and Milton delayed the inevitable with the sort of partnership that their side had needed a few wickets earlier but, after seeing out 21 overs and exactly doubling the score, the fall of Whiteley, caught behind off Jamie Overton for 39 precipitated another collapse from the relative riches of 142-6 to 165-9.
Magoffin accompanied Milton to a magnificent century. Somerset tried Trego. They tried Azhar Ali, but nothing worked and Jack Leach was not getting the same, lethal turn that Moeen had the previous day. The new ball came, but still nothing shifted the batsmen. Magoffin, who has six First Class fifties, was nearing a seventh when, finally, Craig Overton got him to play a false shot and Josh Davey held the catch. The tenth wicket partnership had lasted 39.2 overs and added 136 runs.
Somerset are 34 points behind Surrey with six to play and are the only realistic challengers to Surrey. Nottinghamshire, in third, are 43 points behind, with a game fewer to play and Essex, in fourth, are 61 points down: for either to challenge for the title, the two sides can afford no more than one draw in what is left of the season and must win the rest of their games with good hauls of bonus points.
The concertina effect has continued at the top. Middlesex, in fifth, definitely feel that they are back in the promotion race, although they would need a spectacular run of form to be promoted. Derbyshire are now just a point back from them, in sixth and, by the same logic, must also be in the promotion race. Gloucestershire, in seventh, will reflect how fine is the dividing line between success and failure: twice this season a potential win against Sussex disappeared, once to a rain-sodden draw, the other time to a narrow loss; had those results fallen Gloucestershire’s way, they would have been on 101 points and in fourth place, just ahead of Sussex (given some of the awful cricket played by Gloucestershire this season another matter would be whether or not they deserved to have been luckier).
Gloucestershire v Durham
The equation at the start was simple. Durham needed to chase 340 to win and required 305 from 96 overs, with ten wickets in hand. Through the day, the advantage ebbed and flowed. Early in the afternoon a Durham win looked to be the most likely result but, after Tea, after a period when the odds on Gloucestershire winning had shortened spectacularly, the draw started to become a distinct possibility and, at a late stage, Durham even started to block out deliberately, looking to play out the last hour.
Yes, it was a roller-coaster day in front of another bumper crowd.
It comes to something when Sir Robert Hunt gets so excited that his yelp of “he’s out!” scares the wits out of listeners and threatens to break the microphone. It was a day when you were glad that there were just two voices on the commentary (Sir Robert’s cellist scorer, Julian, rarely utters a sound, despite being bombarded with constant questions) and they were two of the best. Bob Hunt and Martin Emmerson live (and die) the success and failure of their respective teams and both ran the whole gamut of emotions as Durham started so well that they seemed certain to pull off what would have been their third largest chase and their first away win against Gloucestershire since 1999. It was good just to have the familiar home and away voice and no pseudo-neutral distractions.
Tom Latham and Cameron Steel batted with great solidity almost until Lunch when, finally, Matt Taylor got Latham to give a catch behind. Their opening partnership of 94 was just the foundation that the Wearsiders needed. At Lunch, Cameron Steel and Will Smith were bedding-in and the match was heading Durham’s way. Approaching mid-afternoon, the score was 168-2 and the situation was getting desperate for the Shire. On commentary, you could see Martin Emmerson’s smile, while Sir Robert was sinking into good-loser mode. What was needed was for one of the Gloucestershire bowlers to put on the Superman cape: astute followers of the Shire will know that there is one man that the captain turns to in such cases. Ryan Higgins bowled a super delivery that Graham Clark could only nick behind. That was the good news. The bad news was that this brought in Ben Stokes, who had had an excellent game with the ball and entered determined to score some runs too. Stokes could have been out half a dozen times as he charged the bowler, but rode his luck for a time. The turning point came when Will Smith and Ben Stokes fell in successive overs: Higgins, inevitably, got Smith and then Matt Taylor compensated for an anaemic first innings display with an, at times, devastating second innings performance, castling Stokes to the explosive joy of Sir Robert. Another jaffa from Taylor re-arranged the stumps of Stuart Poynter as, like various of his colleagues, he played back instead of forwards and, for the first time, Gloucestershire were favourite. 201-6 and that target of 340 was starting to recede into the distance.
Richardson and Wood came together and, again, the match changed direction. Wood has yet another foot injury – he is not so much “injury-prone” as “injury-plagued”, but he batted bravely, clearly seriously hampered. Together, they whittled down the target to 80 and, again, the home side was on the verge of panic. Then came the second turning point of the day. A couple of chances had gone begging in the field but, now, in his first over with the new ball, having just seen Mark Wood take 17 from him in an over, Craig Miles produced a ball that seemed to lift awkwardly from a good length. Richardson played back, the ball thudded into his pads and, despite looking suspiciously high, the umpire drew out his fickle finger of fate, while something suspiciously like dissent, pronounced in broad Geordie tones, went into the microphone in the commentary box. In his next over, Sailisbury played back instead of getting forward and Miles re-arranged his stumps too and you felt that, now, the fat lady was warming up her vocal cords. Wood continued to attack, but lost Harding to a catch by Bracey off Matt Taylor.
As the match entered the last hour, all four results were possible. Durham needed around 50 at just over 3-an-over, but Wood and Rushworth shut up shop, presumably trying to bat out the hour. It was though, only fitting, that Ryan Higgins, who had turned the match on its head earlier in the day, got the last wicket as Rushworth edged a catch behind. Matt Taylor will probably get the headlines for his 4-31, but Ryan Higgins had the splendid match figures of 6-85, taking him to 30 wickets at 19.9.
Gloucestershire will, most certainly, not be promoted, but at least see the threat of the wooden spoon recede and can still hope for the top-six finish that would represent success.
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire
Another game that ebbed and flowed through the day. During the morning it seemed that Northamptonshire were heading to a win that would allow them to dream of being in the promotion shake-up. Instead though, we had yet another epic finish, as Derbyshire held their nerve to close out a narrow win that had seemed unlikely a couple of hours earlier.
The visitors started the day 174-3, with two set batsmen, the chase of 314 seemingly well in hand. Derbyshire needed quick wickets. 140 to get with two set batsmen and seven wickets in hand is usually a position that favours the batting side nine times out of ten. This though, was the tenth time and it turned on two, young spinners. Qadri and Critchley bowled most of the overs in the day and took nine of the ten Northamptonshire wickets. Levi, Crook and Prasanna all got past twenty, but none could make the fifty that would surely have won the match. Once Wakeley fell to the wiles of Qadri for 68, the Northamptonshire slide was as inevitable as someone hanging on to a ledge by their fingertips until, inevitably, losing their grip and falling.
Critchley scythed through the middle order with his leg-spin, taking career best innings and match figures: not bad for a 21-year-old bowler who averages 61 with the ball. At 265-7, with just 49 needed, the odds were stacked heavily in favour of Northamptonshire still. Prasanna was batting well and seemed to be guiding his team to victory, but Critchley got one through him and bowled him. With Prasanna in the hutch, the last two wickets fell quickly: Hutton and Buck lasted just thirteen more balls, as Critchley and Qadri divided them between themselves. The final margin was 39 runs but, as they say, the winner was cricket.
7/25/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
If you are of a certain age, you will remember seeing dark, grainy black and white images with an excited Kenneth Wolstenholme shouting “they think that it’s all over. It is now!” That might be true of the Championship race, with Surrey pulling away from their faltering challengers. However, if you are from south of the river, a look at the carnage in Division 2 will not go amiss: promotion seemed to have been carved up between Warwickshire and Kent and served on toast... it is not any longer.
Lancashire v Yorkshire
A Roses match knows nothing of logic. When Joe Root came on for the penultimate over last night, probably in the hope that his England colleague, Jos Buttler, would relax and do something daft, little could he imagine that he would finish the innings with career-best figures. Lancashire held out for 12.4 overs in the morning, time enough for Joe Root to bowl himself to figures of 7.4-5-5-4.
Having holed Lancashire below the waterline by getting Jos Buttler with his fifth delivery last night, Joe Root compounded the Lancashire misery by getting Graeme Onions to edge through to Jonny Bairstow with the first ball of the morning and, in the process, going on to bowl a second consecutive wicket maiden. Parkinson ruined his figures by taking a single from his third over before Root bowled a third wicket maiden in his fourth. Root though punished Parkinson for his cheek, getting him to give a catch to Lyth, leaving him, at that moment, on 3-2-1-3. In came Jimmy Anderson and, with Liam Livingstone nursing a broken thumb, it was assumed that this would be the last wicket partnership. Anderson held out for 19 balls in the company of Tom Bailey before Steve Patterson removed Bailey LBW. To everyone’s surprise – and not knowing exactly why he was being risked – Livingstone came out with his thumb in a cast but, before he could face a delivery, Jimmy Anderson did the decent thing and allowed Joe Root to castle him.
Yorkshire won by 118 runs and took away 19 points. Lancashire’s misery was complete when they had a point deducted for a slow over rate. Yorkshire are now 14 points ahead of their rivals with a game in hand and 15 clear of relegation. In contrast, Lancashire have a sizeable relegation problem now.
Worcestershire v Somerset
Can anyone stop Surrey? Step forward the Cidermen. Only Moeen Ali stood between Somerset and an easy victory. While the rest of the Worcestershire attack wilted before the assault of Marcus Trescothick and Azhar Ali, Moeen showed the England selectors that he is still “The Beard that is Feared”. Moeen took five of the top six and, while the rest of the attack bowled pies, he seemed to be bowling hand grenades. Sadly, for the romantics, Banger did not get his century: having scored 71 of the first 110, he advanced to Moeen Ali and was stumped smartly by Milton. However, Worcestershire needed quick wickets, and enough players added runs to Azhar Ali’s 125 for the lead to grow rapidly past 300. Finally, Tom Abell had mercy when Azhar Ali was out and declared at 362-9. The target for Worcestershire was a mere 443. More realistically, Worcestershire had to survive 111 overs. Their first task though was to survive the 15 overs to the Close. Josh Davey got Daryll Mitchell for 6, but Head and Moeen seemed to be steering their side to Stumps with no further loss until Moeen had a rush of blood to the last ball of the day and was bowled by Jamie Overton. 50-2, Worcestershire need a miracle. Somerset, in contrast, are eyeing 16 points and leap-frogging into second, 34 points down on Surrey and still, just about in the fight for the Championship, with a game against Surrey to come at Taunton in the penultimate round.
So much for Division 2 being wrapped up. Kent and Warwickshire have looked so much better than the rest of Division that it seemed that everyone else was fighting for third place. If Division 1 has had its Kenneth Wolstenholme moment, Division 2 has seen a repeat of Devon Loch. Or, maybe, the right simile is the 1967 Gran National’s 23rd fence and, somewhere in the pack, there is a Foinavon who will come through unnoticed to win, while everyone else is trying to imitate John Cleese and the Ministry of Silly Walks. As of tonight, probably only Glamorgan of the sides in Division 2 feel, in their heart of hearts, that they are out of the promotion race. Even Northants, who had such a desperate start to the season, will look at the table tonight and think that, if they can wrap up the win, they will have a real chance of “doing a Foinavon”; actually, come to think of it, even Gloucestershire will wonder what might happen if they wrap up a win against Durham.
As of now, the Division 2 table is thus:
1 Warwickshire P8 W5 L2 D1 128
2 Sussex P8 W4 L1 D3 121
3 Kent P8 W5 L2 D1 115
4 Leicestershire P8 W4 L2 D2 111
5 Middlesex P8 W3 L3 D2 87
All four teams below Middlesex could conceivably win tomorrow and cosy-up behind them. The gap between Leicestershire and Middlesex is still 24 points, which is a considerable gulf with just six games left but, as we have seen, strange things can – and do - happen.
Middlesex v Warwickshire
Oh, Middlesex! Totally unreliable. Just about everyone had, sensibly, given up on the game this morning. 183-6 overnight, Middlesex felt that they needed at very least eighty more to have a chance. They did not get them. Not even near. Ollie Rayner hung around for a while, then John Simpson and James Harris added 23, but the lead was still under 200, and the last three wickets fell for six runs in under three overs. The target for the leaders was 203, and one felt that unless wickets fell quickly, Warwickshire would walk this. Who could stop them?
Enter the Lambeth Lara in his guise of a wily old seamer. First ball, Rhodes pushed a single and Warwickshire, it seemed, were off. Two dots to Dom Sibley. Fourth ball, Sibley edges and Ollie Rayner, the original bucket-hands himself, took the catch. Kevin Hand’s scream of delight shook the windows on the media centre. In came Ian Bell. Dot ball and then, last ball of the over, a shattering scream that registered on seismometers around the south of England: off stump uprooted, Warwickshire 1-2, Kevin Hand deliriously happy. Surely Middlesex, 76-7 on Saturday, could not pull off this heist? Warwickshire just needed one partnership.
Then James Harris bowled first-innings centurion, Rhodes. 21-3 and Warwickshire were trembling. For seven overs Trott and Hain threatened to put together the winning partnership that was needed. 36 runs came in rapid time. Murtagh bowling to Trott. Hit on the pad… GIVEN!!! Warwickshire though, like Middlesex, bat long. In came Chris Woakes; Ollie Rayner gained an LBW decision against him: 64-5. Now, the match situation shifted again. Sam Hain and Tim Ambrose were at the crease and knocked-off the runs steadily. Middlesex needed a wicket desperately, and James Harris provided it: 108-6. Again, two batsmen seemed to be guiding Warwickshire to victory as Tim Ambrose, and Jethan Patel combined in a crucial partnership that got the runs wanted down to 52. Had they stayed together for just another half a dozen overs they might well have ensured victory. Again, Middlesex were desperate to get a wicket and, this time, it was James Fuller, who had saved their first innings, who produced the magic ball and, again, bucket-hands Rayner did the necessary. In the very next over, Murtagh got Jethan Patel too and, for the first time, Middlesex were firm favourites to win. Hannon-Dalby did not last long: caught behind off Fuller; but Wright and Sidebottom inched towards the target in singles. Thirteen overs produced twenty-two runs: twenty singles and a two. The tension ratcheted-up with every run. Was there a hero? Finally, after seventeen consecutive dot balls, James Fuller re-adjusted Wright’s stumps and the delirium was complete. Middlesex had given their promotion campaign a lifeline and had blown apart the entire promotion race.
As I said, last night, they are totally unreliable. You cannot trust Middlesex with any match situation.
Gloucestershire v Durham
Durham’s season started so poorly that even the stoic Martin Emmerson was speechless. A side that has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous ECB decisions finished in the top half of Division 1, but was relegated and has seen most of its star players leave. Most around the club had given up promotion as a lost cause again but, with the events elsewhere in the last two days, suddenly a glimmer of hope has returned. If they could somehow get a win from this game, they would move onto 84 points, just three behind Middlesex. At the same time, Gloucestershire, who must have thought that their season was over when, for the second time this season, a winning position against Sussex went begging, will add 16 points mentally and see that suddenly they would enter the fringes of the promotion race on 76 points.
Tomorrow, there will almost certainly be a result, as the draw is possibly the least likely of the possible outcomes. Durham need to chase 340 to win and will require 305 from 96 overs with ten wickets in hand. Make no mistake; this is a dogfight. Bob Hunt, Sir Robert himself, felt that anything over 300 would take a lot of getting, but neither side is giving an inch.
Durham started the day 219-5, with Tom Latham, the danger man. Durham, undoubtedly, hoped for parity, or close to parity but, when Craig Miles bowled Poynter in the fifth over of the morning, there was very little more support on offer. Ryan Higgins got two, Wood was run out, and then Latham was the last man out, caught by Howell off the economical Payne. The Gloucestershire lead was 87, and it was obvious that they were going to set a target of some kind.
Within three overs Gloucestershire were in danger of losing the initiative. Rushworth removed Hammond and the still-bandaged Bracey. Gloucestershire were 15-2. Chris Dent and Benny Howell combined to steady the innings but, just as it looked as if things were under control, three wickets fell in nine balls, and Durham were right back in the match: 86-5 and the lead 173. Higgins and Noema-Barnett, once again, brought the innings out of intensive care and pushed the lead past 250. Higgins fell caught and bowled by Will Smith when nearing his fifty. The lead was useful, but more was needed, and Kieron Noema-Barnett supplied them. He batted steadily to 69*, guiding the tail. This time, not even Ben Stokes could stem the tide. The lead was 307 when the ninth wicket fell, and then Noema-Barnett and Drissell added 32 crucial runs for the last wicket before Will Smith came back and had Drissell caught, inevitably, by that man Stokes. Durham were severely handicapped in the field because Mark Wood was injured and unable to bowl and probably suffered for it in that last wicket stand.
Durham had to survive 12 overs before Stumps and did so quite comfortably. Gloucestershire need an early breakthrough in the morning. 340 should be too many to chase for Durham, but there again, they, like Middlesex are totally unreliable, as both their wins have come from positions in which they should have lost.
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire
Again, two sides in the bottom half of the table who can do arithmetic, add sixteen to their current points and like what they see. It is quite ludicrous to suggest that, having lost four of their first five games, Northamptonshire could be promoted but, were they to win this match, it would be far from impossible, with the sides above them taking wins off each other.
Derbyshire started the day 147-4, 118 ahead and thanks to a century from Wayne Madsen and fifty from Matt Critchley, reached 291-5, threatening to bat Northants out of the game. The key contest of the day was always going to be Madsen v Prasanna; Madsen won it but, when he was out, the innings subsided. 342ao left Northamptonshire a tricky target of 314 with more than four sessions to play so, one way or another; there was going to be a positive result.
When Wheeldon got Duckett LBW for 16 and Qadri added Vasconcelos for 10, Northamptonshire were 48-2 and wobbling. Luke Procter’s 68 steadied the innings and Wakely and Levi have put on an unbroken fifty for the fourth wicket. Northamptonshire need 140 in 96 overs to win on the last day with seven wickets in hand: if these two can stay together for an hour in the morning they will tip the balance irrevocably towards the visitors and Northamptonshire will start to dream of Division 1.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
In golf tournaments, Day 3 is often called “moving day”, in the County Championship though it is Day 2 that has been moving day in both divisions. Things could change, but it is entirely possible that, in late September, we will look back at today as the day when the Championship was settled and the Division 2 promotion race, that had looked an open and shut case, was thrown wide open. The relegation race – that Pythonesque battle to see who is the slowest – is also getting a good shaking-up: while Lancashire look like being the biggest losers, Hampshire, not playing in this round, seem almost certain to finish tomorrow in the relegation places. Things could be even worse for Hampshire and Lancashire, but it appears that Somerset will do them a favour by seeing-off Worcestershire (a Worcestershire win would take them out of the relegation places, leaving Hampshire bottom and Lancashire in seventh).
Nottinghamshire v Surrey
I would like to be referring to the battle for the Championship. Instead, it looks more like the sort of case of case of cold-blooded murder that Sherlock Holmes would, in his Benedict Cumberbatch incarnation, dismiss as “boring! It was Surrey that did it. Even the ECB can solve that case”. Day 2 has ended, and Nottinghamshire need only another 325 runs to avoid an innings defeat and to bat out close to six sessions to save the match. Barring a display of stone-walling that would make an all-night filibuster in parliament look like a garden party, Surrey will bury their nearest rivals and all but settle the Championship.
Having knocked-over Nottinghamshire in less than two sessions on Day 1, Surrey batted for three balls short of 120 overs at a rate of 5-an-over. Not only did they limit their rivals to just one batting point and seal their own full set of batting points with more than twenty-five overs to spare, but they also made sure that Nottinghamshire failed to get full bowling points. Even if Nottinghamshire somehow saved this match, the bonus points have broken 8-3 to Surrey, and their lead at the top of the table will be reinforced, even with a draw.
Not only was it the magnificent 153 from Rory Burns – leading to loud calls for him to be called up for the Tests against India – and the 86 from Mark Stoneman. After a mid-innings wobble, there was a first century in six years for Rikki Clarke, 70 from Sam Curran and then, when Rikki Clarke was dismissed, the last two wickets added 43 in 37 balls of gay abandon. One hundred and twenty runs were added in the last 51 balls of the innings. In the midst of the devastation, there was some room for levity: there is a tradition that when a player takes (or scores) a career-best, they buy drinks for the whole team: Steve Mullaney will have been delighted to drink the health of Billy Root tonight as put on at the end of the innings, he took his first, First Class wicket and then followed it by wrapping up the tail to finish with 4.3-0-37-3.
Batting again, 382 behind, Nottinghamshire could be forgiven for folding meekly but, instead, saw out the last hour for the loss of Jake Libby. 57-1 at Stumps, needing 325 more to avoid the innings defeat, the writing on the wall says “defeat on the third day”. Surrey will, undoubtedly, finish the day 43 points ahead of their victims, with a game in hand. Nottinghamshire are likely to finish this round of matches in third in the Championship, behind Somerset who will also have a game in hand.
Lancashire v Yorkshire
This match has seen more twists and turns than The Orbit in the Olympic Park in Stratford. It could easily have finished tonight as Yorkshire could have claimed the extra half hour, with Lancashire six wickets down and with Liam Livingstone unable to bat.
If, as seems almost certain, Yorkshire do seal victory, they would push themselves up the table into the fight for prize money and reduce their relegation worries, which dropping their eternal rivals right in the proverbial. Having dismissed Lancashire for 109, to seal a first innings lead of 83, Yorkshire fell to 21-3 and seemed to be letting the Red Rose right back into the match as the old warhorse, Graeme Onions, blew away the top order, while Jimmy Anderson removed Joe Root. Enter Jonny Bairstow. For just under two hours he changed the course of the match with a swashbuckling inning at a pace more attuned to T20 than County Championship. In the 19.3 overs that Harry Brook and Jonny Bairstow were together, they added 133 runs. Both went in quick succession and there followed the expected collapse, but Tim Bresnan and Steve Patterson added 41 for the seventh wicket to ensure that the lead was almost 300 and likely to be well out of Lancashire’s reach.
The target was 323. Lancashire needed someone to score a prominent century: quite likely they needed two centuries. Jennings and Davies got a start and were producing the sort of sensible batting that hinted at a Lancashire miracle. Even when Davies fell, LBW to Bresnan, Keaton Jennings held firm. At 86-1, Lancashire could hope. Seven overs later it was 110-5, and Lancashire were sinking fast. The fact that the match did not end well before the Close was entirely down to Jos Buttler. Buttler came in and played an innings similar to the one that Jonny Bairstow had played. It was more calculating, less violent; his 59 came from 69 balls. Buttler and Bailey added 80 in good time and seemed to be giving Lancashire reason to hope when Joe Root came on for a token over just before the Close and bowled a wicket-maiden, removing Buttler into the bargain. Graeme Onions faced only one of the seven balls remaining before Stumps and Lancashire start again in the morning needing 129 to win, with just Anderson and Parkinson to come.
Worcestershire v Somerset
This game too is turning into a cracker. Somerset desperately need the win to keep alive their halting challenge, even if Runners-Up seems to be the best that they can aspire to barring a Surrey implosion. Having reached 337 and three batting points, Somerset looked to be set to be able to enforce the follow-on as Worcestershire struggled to 166-8; still 22 short of the follow-on. Jamie Overton was bowling fast and furious and was too much for some of the Worcestershire batsmen, who are still short on confidence. Luke Wood, though, 22 years old, came in and batted like a veteran in partnership with Pennington. Together they passed the follow-on, then they brought up a batting point and even a second batting point, with Somerset seeing their first innings lead disappearing apace. Finally, Pennington chopped on to his own stumps to Jamie Overton and Davey knocked-over Magoffin to leave a lead of eighty, far fewer than Somerset had hoped.
When Somerset batted again, Eddie Byrom acted as a limpet, while Marcus Trescothick scored more freely at the other end. Somerset were 47-0 at Stumps, 127 ahead, and will be looking to turn the knife on Day 3 while the wicket deteriorates further to give Jack Leach something to use on the last day. Somerset will be bitterly disappointed if they cannot close this one out.
Today, the Division 2 promotion race has been dynamited. Sussex, in third, have marmalised Glamorgan and, even more significantly, Leicestershire, in fourth have destroyed Kent. If Middlesex had shown a little more staying power, we might have talked about the promotion race being blown wide open as, for much of the day, it looked as if Warwickshire might be facing a tough chase at Lord’s. As of the close of play tonight, it looks as if a Warwickshire win is likely although, Middlesex being Middlesex, the watchword for Day might be “expect the unexpected”: they are worse than Durham for sheer unpredictability in the face of both triumph and defeat.
Let’s imagine that Warwickshire do wrap-up a win against Middlesex. What might the Division 2 table look like tomorrow night?
1. Warwickshire P8 W6 L1 D1 144
2. Sussex P8 W4 L1 D3 121
3. Kent P8 W5 L2 D1 115
4. Leicestershire P8 W4 L2 D2 111
5. Middlesex P8 W2 L4 D2 71
We see that, even though Warwickshire are riding high and dry, the battle for the second promotion spot has become a melange à Trois, with consecutive wins for Sussex and four wins in five matches for Leicestershire changing the panorama. A Middlesex defeat is likely to see them drop to sixth or seventh depending on other results. Any side wishing to come out of the mid-table scrum to be promoted will need to win at least five of their last six matches.
Kent v Leicestershire
What a run Leicestershire are having! Four wins in five matches and just ten points off promotion with six games to play. A ten-wicket annihilation has put a severe check on Kent’s apparently serene progress back into Division 1. Facing a 125 run first innings deficit, Kent needed a big score from someone and, at 109-2, looked as if they might be able to get back into the match. It was, though, just a mirage. After losing Daniel Bell-Drummond fifth ball, Dickson and Kuhn were batting confidently, but Kuhn’s wonder spell when he scored runs for fun has ended. He, Denly and Billings all got into the twenties, but only Dickson pushed on. Had Dickson got 80+ instead of 59; had one of Kuhn, Denly and Billings got 50, Kent might have set a tricky target, but each got in and got out as the Leicestershire bowlers shredded the wickets and made the vital breakthroughs every time that a partnership seemed to be getting threatening. At 133-3, Kent were ahead and still had a chance but, with the fall of Dickson, all resistance crumbled, and wickets fell regularly. Zak Chappell, with 3-39 and Mohammed Abbas, with 4-55 will get the headlines, but it was a team effort, and Kent subsided to 199ao, the last six wickets falling for 66.
Chasing 75, Dearden and Horton saw off the threat of the new ball and strolled to victory, with Dearden scoring 55*. Kent were well beaten, and Leicestershire have put their names in the pot for promotion.
Sussex v Glamorgan
At one point on the first day, Sussex had collapsed from 114-1 to 176-6 and seemed to be in danger of missing out on a vital win. Sussex though had got through a nail-biter with Gloucestershire and, with news of the Kent surrender telling them that a win would put them second, set about rectifying things. The Glamorgan horse had well and truly bolted when they let Sussex reach 327ao. Glamorgan batted this afternoon, not imagining that the match would be over before the floodlights were needed.
Archer and Jordan ripped into the Glamorgan first innings. There was no coming back from 15-5, with four wickets to Jofra Archer, tipped to play for England next season and one for Ollie Robinson and when Archer had to be rested, three wickets for Chris Jordan ripped the heart out of the middle order. Only Chris Cooke and, more briefly, Lukas Carey put up any kind of resistance and, when a run-out finished the innings in just 28.4 overs, there was never any question of the follow-on not being enforced.
Glamorgan had almost to triple their first innings 85ao to make Sussex bat again and did only fractionally better second time around. Again Archer and Robinson blew away the top three – this time it was 15-3 inside ten overs – before Jordan and Wiese joined in the fun. 88ao, with Archer taking 8-46 in the match, Jordan 5-37, Robinson 4-44 and Wiese 2-36. It was a devastating Sussex performance to win by an innings and 154 having scored only 327. Sussex look like a Division 1 side.
Middlesex v Warwickshire
Ah! Middlesex! For much of today, they had Warwickshire on the ropes and groggy, before inevitably offering a glass chin and ending the day looking to be on the verge of a knock-out themselves. Macbeth would have put it thus:
Is this a Middlesex collapse which I see before me,
The wickets toward Kevin Hand’s heart? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, defeat
Looming in my sight?
Yes, once again the Middlesex fans are threatening to open the MiddlesexBattingCollapse.com website that has been promised for a decade. Middlesex have gone from 152-2, threatening to bat Warwickshire out of the game, to 179-6, leading Warwickshire by just 139. One early wicket on the morrow and we may well see the game finishing soon after Lunch on Day 3. It seems incredible, given that around Tea today, the prospect of a draw seemed to be looming, as Middlesex appeared to be building up a big lead with the pitch apparently flat and dead. Middlesex fans say that no position is safe from a Middlesex collapse and here we had a superb specimen.
This was similar to the first innings, in which Middlesex stumbled from 51-1 to 76-7. It seemed that the recovery, led by the obdurate Holden and the brilliant Fuller might even be enough to give Middlesex a first innings lead, as Warwickshire themselves stumbled today. 152-4 overnight, wickets fell regularly, despite a superb century from Rhodes who added an invaluable 27 for the last wicket, of which Ryan Sidebottom’s contribution was 0*. Middlesex, led by the evergreen Murtagh and by James Harris could even feel disappointed to have conceded a lead as large as 40.
The similarity to the first innings was paralleled in another blazing cameo from Paul Stirling: 18 balls, 16 runs, all in boundaries – and then pocketed by Jonathon Trott at slip off Chris Woakes. Then we had an extended period of sensible batting as Gubbins and Eskenazi put Middlesex ahead and started to build a lead. The pitch looked flat, fans began to speculate with a boring draw, and the last thing that anyone expected was a calamity. Jethan Patel pinned Gubbings for 47, but Dawid Malan came in and batted nicely. It was 152-2, Middlesex were 112 ahead and sitting pretty. Then Jethan Patel got Eskinazi, caught by Hain for 73 and the bottom fell out of the Middlesex innings. Eoin Morgan fell LBW to Patel for 3. Sidebottom caught Holden off Patel for 8 and then, Malan, desperately short of runs, was bowled by Hannon-Dalby for 28. It was 179-6 and, from looking to set a target and declare, Middlesex were praying for more tail-end resistance.
Jethan Patel has 4-38 and seems to hold the key to this match. The lead is 143. Any target under 200 is unlikely to exercise Warwickshire seriously. If a wicket falls quickly in the morning, the match may well not reach Tea. There is no question that after great expectations, the disappointing Championship campaign, followed by poor One Day Cup and T20 results, has led to Middlesex struggling to remember how to win and, sad to see, the fans are kicking them when they are down when, what they most need, is some confidence.
Gloucestershire v Durham
This is not exactly the game where you would expect to find thud and blunder but, low-key or not, between two sides who know that they will be playing in Division 2 next season, there has been fire and some intrigue. As on the first day, the second ends with the match finely balanced. Gloucestershire reached the comparative riches of 362 and four batting points. And, what is more, they did it despite getting the holy terrors every time that Ben Stokes went near the ball. 25-8-52-5 and a batsman sent to hospital suggest that the thought of playing the Indians has put fire in his belly.
When Durham batted, wickets fell regularly. Were it not for Tom Latham’s 120*; they would be in a sorry mess, as the next highest score has been 21. Durham have closed on 219-5 and, if Latham were to fall early, you suspect that Gloucestershire could end up with a decent first innings lead.
The first session tomorrow should tell us whether this match is heading for a dull draw (neither of these teams seems to be good at dull draws) or, instead, Gloucestershire might just make something of the match and put some distance between them and the wooden spoon.
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire
With so much rip-roaring action going on elsewhere, it is easy to forget that this game is on too. After their strong start to the season, Derbyshire are now resigned to another season of Division 2, while Northamptonshire seem to be heading for the sort of mid-table mediocrity that seemed unlikely in the extreme at the end of May. In fact, with mid-table so tight, finishing in the top half is far from impossible for the boys of Wantage Road. If this match, which looks certain to produce a result, falls their way, they may even start to entertain thoughts of finishing higher than that.
A century for Alex Wakely and sixty for Steven Crook saw Northamptonshire to 289ao and a useful lead of 29. Tony Palladino’s 4-33 made certain that the lead would not be larger and Matthew Critchley added 4-88. Derbyshire had barely cleared-off the arrears when Billy Godleman fell, but then fifties for Ben Slater and Wayne Madsen seemed to be putting Derbyshire in a strong position. The fall of Slater to Prasanna at 123-1 hastened a mini-collapse as Hughes and Wheeldon followed quickly. Derbyshire reached Stumps at 147-4, 118 ahead, with Madsen still there on 52* and seemingly the key to this match. If Madsen goes early, Northamptonshire will be confident of finishing this one off. If, in contrast, he can push on, they may find themselves chasing a challenging target on the final day. The big threat is the leg-spinner, Prasanna: the winner of the contest between Madsen and Prasanna will win the match for his side.
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.
7/5/2018 0 Comments
How do you solve a problem like Ian Bell? Last season he seemed like a player on the decline, with little chance of playing for England. Today there were echoes of the old bell. It may be a phantom ring that you get out at sea of villages long lost to mother nature.
This fixture was a replay of last season’s final which Nottinghamshire won on that occasion. Today they were mainly second best to Birmingham Bears (Warwickshire).
Chris Nash didn’t enjoy his finest day at the office as the was dismissed third ball, and then when fielding, he seemed to land awkwardly on his shoulder going for a catch.
Nottinghamshire lost a cluster of wickets, Samit Patel went first ball caught and bowled by Colin de Grandhomme. Dan Christian didn’t last much longer as Nottinghamshire started to become desperate.
Riki Wessels struck 41 from 29 balls to add impetus to the innings. The innings then began to falter and Billy Root while ticking over the strike could only score singles. It put pressure on the batsman at the other end. Stephen Mullaney with a brisk 22 from 12 balls, he fell for the unwritten rule of six and out.
Luke Fletcher with three sixes in one Jeetan Patel over gave Nottinghamshire some hope late on. It wasn’t until the final over that Root scored a boundary, as a four followed his maximum. It was enough to power Nottinghamshire over the 150 mark and to 155 for 7.
It soon looked far from enough as Ed Pollock hit two sixes in the first over. It was a brief show from Pollock but allowed Bell to settle in for the day.
Adam Hose also came and went for 17. In stepped Sam Hain and along with Bell set about the target with relish. Both traded in fours, Hain the heir apparent to the Bell throne. There were the trademark cover drives on show.
Bell finished with 82 from 57 balls and threatened to overshadow the young pretender Hain. If both had opened this game could have been over much sooner. Hain took only thirty balls to reach 45 not out and if anything deserved a fifty along with Bell.
It will for Birmingham ring out a warning that they can go far in this competition.
Elsewhere, Sussex’s dynamic bowling attack proved far too strong for a weak looking Essex side. Debutant Rashid Khan had the Eagles batsmen's heads spinning as he collected excellent figures of 2-25 to put the brakes of the host’s pursuit of 181.
Earlier in the day, Sussex recovered nicely from 32/3 thanks to fifties from Laurie Evans and the impressive Michael Burgess, who struck a rapid 56 from 23 balls in just his second T20 game of his first-class career.
It was a curious display from the Eagles who picked four spinners but only bowled five overs of spin during the visitors' innings. Three of which came from new overseas signing Adam Zampa, who despite bagging a wicket in his first over, was comfortably outshone by his Afghan counterpart.
Burgess and Evans’ show alongside late hitting from Jofra Archer propelled the visitors total beyond 180, a decent total on a pitch that offered spin and swing for the bowlers. And so it proved as Essex struggled to get going throughout and the anchor that was Khan weighed them down even further. South African David Weise took five-wickets as he took advantage of the scoreboard pressure that was building on the hosts throughout as the Eagles strutted and stalled.
Only Varun Chopra threatened to take Essex close to their target with the former Warwickshire man striking 64 off 48-balls before he fell victim to Khan in the Afghans final over. That triggered the collapse with the hosts capitulating in spectacular style losing their final five wickets for just one run to fall to a 36-run defeat on opening night at ‘Fortress Chelmsford’.
There was plenty of excitement at Wantage Road though as over 440 runs were scored as Leicestershire’s excellent season continued with an opening night success over Northamptonshire.
Leicestershire won the toss and inserted their hosts clearly with half an eye on a chase later in the evening. But they didn’t account for the hitting of Ben Duckett, Josh Cobb and Alex Wakely who all helped themselves to fifties as the Steelbacks raced to 218/3 from their 20 overs.
Duckett, in particular, looked in fine form smashing 12 fours and three maximums on his way to 96, before he holed out to Neil Dexter off the bowling of Ben Raine. But the clean hitting of Alex Wakely ensured Duckett’s efforts wouldn’t go to waste as the hosts set a testing total for the Foxes to chase down.
But this Leicestershire side is a different animal to that of a few years ago; they have grit and steel under their new coach Paul Nixon. And they needed it to chase this total down, what will be please for Nixon and his coaching staff is the fact that everyone mucked in during this innings. With only really Tom Wells failing with the bat.
Colin Ackermann acted as the glue as he held the innings together with an excellent 66 from 31 balls, striking at well over 200. He smashed four sixes and five fours to guide the visitors’ home.
Whisper it quietly, but the Foxes could well be the dark horses from the north group.
Reports by Jamie Ramage (@famousstrauss) and David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
6/28/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Day 3 ended with all four games in Division One still in play. Only at Scarborough is a result certain: barring a spectacular clatter of wickets, Surrey seem destined to win that one, to re-affirm their title credentials and to put Yorkshire in some difficulty around the relegation places. Nottinghamshire will be confident of bowling out Worcestershire, but the hosts may yet hold out for a draw. The games at Chelmsford and at Old Trafford look like draws, although quick wickets for the visitors in either might just revive the prospect of a run chase.
In Division Two, two of the four matches ended on Day 3, with big wins for Leicestershire (currently third in the table) and Kent (who have snatched, at least temporarily, the top spot from Warwickshire), while Middlesex are now in fifth, 40 points behind the second promotion spot. Both remaining games look likely to produce results: Northamptonshire will feel that they can wrap up the game at Cardiff, while all results are still possible in the match at Chester-le-Street, although it was leaning towards Warwickshire.
Did it pan out this way? Read on!
We start at Chelmsford, where Browne and Bopara had got Essex through to the Close at 17-2, recovering from 1-2. Essex started 127 ahead and in the knowledge that they could ill-afford a quick wicket that would leave Somerset pushing for an unlikely win. In reality, the equation was simple: if Essex were still batting halfway through the second session, the game would be a draw; if Somerset had them 7 or 8 down in the first session, there would, most likely, be a run chase. With Nick Browne acting as sheet-anchor at one end and Ravi Bopara with a fifty at the other, the game was dying a death until Dominic Bess had Bopara caught at slip for 58 and then, three balls later, bowled ten Doeschate. The lead was 218 at that point, with 69 overs left, so the game was still, just about alive, although Essex knew that Alastair Cook would be available to bat at #7 having recovered from illness, so they would not be batting a man short. At Lunch, Essex were 125-4, 235 ahead with 65 overs to go after a potential change of innings and Somerset knew that they needed an improbable three or four quick wickets to keep their slim victory hopes alive. The wickets came in an extremely unexpected manner after Lunch. Essex came out swinging and, even though Wheater, Cook and Browne fell in quick succession, 60 runs came from 10 overs. With both sides needing the win to stay in touch with the leaders, Essex declared, challenging Somerset to score 319 to win in 50 overs. Somerset set off at the necessary 6-an-over, but once Byrom was run out by ten Doeschate, wickets started to fall, and Somerset had to think of survival. Essex used Simon Harmer and Tom Westley in tandem, with very attacking fields, but Tom Abell and Lewis Gregory showed the sort of mastery of the forward defensive that would have made Fred Boycott drool. Essex kept going until the bitter end, only giving up when they required five wickets from the final over. If there was music playing over the public address during the last hour of inaction, it could only have been Te Deum.
Surrey had reached Stumps on 89-0 with Mark Stoneman past 30 for the first time in the season: would this be the day when he re-discovered his hunger for runs? Sadly, not! He fell, LBW to Ben Coad, without adding to his overnight 32. Rory Burns though continued to lead the charge to victory until he picked out the fielder on the rope when looking for the boundary to take him to his century, giving Tim Bresnan an unexpected wicket. Scott Borthwick though picked up the torch in partnership with Ryan Patel. He fell to Jack Leaning, for 62, with victory in sight, but Surrey won soon afterwards by seven wickets and go back to the top of Division One. The way that Surrey turned this game around will send a warning to their rivals, while Yorkshire know that this season they could be too close to comfort to the relegation places during the run in.
At Old Trafford, Hampshire started 66-2 and 106 ahead. Lancashire needed quick wickets to make something of the game. Although Sam Northeast fell early, Tom Alsop combined with Joe Weatherley in a 75 run stand that appeared to have killed the match. However, when Stephen Parry bowled Alsop and, immediately afterwards, Clark pinned Roussow, the lead was only 204 and another wicket would have made things very interesting. Unfortunately, that was as exciting as it got and, with no further wickets falling by Tea, there was some pretty blatant time-wasting to reduce the number of overs that would be bowled before the 4:50 pm handshake. Weatherley went on to 126* against some less than challenging new ball bowling, with Holland 26* and the score 237-5 when the declaration and handshake came.
At Trent Bridge, Worcestershire started at 43-0, with the challenge to survive the last day, albeit with all wickets intact. Daryl Mitchell and Martin Guptill ticked-off the overs, seemingly without great alarm, but it really needed one batsman to stay there for much of the day and let the rest of the batting take their lead from that. There was the rub. What you might define as sticktoitiveness has not been a defining characteristic of the Worcestershire season, with the county getting into promising positions and then finding ways to lose. Wickets fell just often enough to keep Nottinghamshire interested. After an opening stand of 62, Mitchell and Guptill fell in quick succession. Fell and Clark added 63, and then Fell gave a catch to stand-in wicket-keeper Rikki Wessels. At Lunch, it was 151-3, there were at least 67 overs to go, and the smart money was, just about, on Nottinghamshire, particularly as, if everything panned-out as Nottinghamshire hoped, the tail would be batting in the difficult twilight conditions at the end of the day. This time though, Worcestershire refused to fold. Led by a century from Joe Clark who, fortunately for the Pears, did show the necessary application. But Nottinghamshire made just enough progress to be kept interested as none of his partners wanted to stick around for long enough to make the game completely safe, seven of them got into double figures, but none passed 35. Nottinghamshire knew that if Clark went, they would win. However, Joe Clark also knew this and refused to budge. His 150 came up in the company of Ben Twohig, and Nottinghamshire must have known that the game was up. Twohig fell finally, bowled by Luke Fletcher for 35 but, by then, there were just 24 balls left, and Clark was certainly not going to give anything away. Pennington fell with 12 balls left and the last over started with Nottinghamshire two wickets short and with Luke Fletcher bowling at #10, Charlie Morris. Morris survived and sealed the draw, with Clark 177* at the non-striker’s end.
With Surrey the only winners, the table looks very good from South of the River Thames. Surrey are 22 points clear of Nottinghamshire and have played a game fewer. Somerset are 10 points behind Nottinghamshire and Essex 5 points further back, while Yorkshire have fallen into the bottom two and face a relegation battle in the second half of the season.
Back in Division Two, the game at Chester-le-Street, Day 4 started with the visitors at 152-5. Durham needed an almighty clatter of wickets for something to be set up. Initially, Warwickshire appeared to be sailing calmly to a token declaration; they reached 179-5 and then, suddenly, all hell broke loose. Ryan Pringle took three wickets in four balls, then, with the third ball of the next over, Chris Rushworth added Hannon-Dalby. Warwickshire were 182-9 and only 309 ahead, with a potential 89 overs to play after the change of innings. The match was alive, and Durham needed that last wicket as quickly as possible. Keith Barker survived the hat-trick ball. Warwickshire then declared on 185-9, setting-up a chase of 313 in 88 overs. This was exactly what the match needed. All four results were possible. Despite the early loss of Cameron Steel, Will Smith and Tom Latham batted sensibly and kept the required run rate under control. At Lunch, the game was intriguingly poised, with Durham 60-1, needing 253 more runs in 68 overs, but knowing that the low, slow nature of the pitch would make acceleration difficult, so they could not let the required run rate rise much more if they were to reach their target. The fall of Will Smith, soon after Lunch led to a full-scale collapse and, at 148-8, it seemed that Warwickshire would win with time to spare. Rimmington and Salisbury put on 31 for the ninth wicket before Rimmington decided that, with the situation hopeless, he would at least have some fun. The last wicket pair had added 47 and had the runs required down to 87 when Rimmington made one heave too many against Samit Patel and was castled for 61.
Leg spinner, Seekkuge Prasanna gave Northamptonshire the perfect start to day three at Cardiff, by taking his 3rd wicket of the innings when he trapped van der Gugten LBW, leaving Glamorgan 126-5 chasing 434. From there it was just a matter of time as batsman after batsman got in and then got out: seven got into double figures, but there was no score higher than Khawaja’s 38. With the captain, Michael Hogan, unable to bat, the only sustained resistance was the ten and a bit overs when Carlson and Cooke were together. When Hutton got Carlson caught behind for 32, the end came swiftly and was sealed when Prasanna took his fourth wicket, finishing with 4-49 in a straightforward win by 233 runs that lifts Northamptonshire off the foot of the Division 2 table.
Warwickshire return to the top of Division 2, 11 points clear of Kent, with Leicestershire 21 points behind Kent. Sussex are 34 points behind Kent with a game in hand but Middlesex, in fifth, are 45 points from the promotion places and would need an extraordinary run of results to get into contention, with only seven games left.
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