County Champions Surrey begin their defence of their title with a home game against the side who denied them unbeaten season last year, Essex.
Essex will have fond memories of playing at the Oval after ending their county campaign last season with a dramatic win over Surrey. With bragging right on the line, a battling last wicket stand between Ryan ten Doeschate and Matt Quinn saw the Eagles over the line to seal a one-wicket success, and in doing so stopping the ‘Rey from ending the season unbeaten, a feat ten Doeschate’s men managed in 2017.
Surrey will surely begin the campaign as bookies favourites again with the ‘Rey’s star-studded line-up is sure to cause plenty of problems this season. Rory Burns, Scott Borthwick, Mark Stoneman, Ollie Pope and Ben Foakes have all enjoyed a stint in the England set up recently and provide a daunting top six. Whilst, Morne Morkel returns to lead the line for Rory Burns’ men, and he will be backed up by Tom Curran, new signing Liam Plunkett and Rikki Clarke in a formidable bowling attack.
Surrey enjoyed a productive pre-season and will be looking to get their defence off to a positive start. Michael Di Venuto’s men drew with the MCC – after dominating for large spells in the Middle East, and poor light saw them also draw with Durham MCCU, but their batsmen look in fine touch with Ollie Pope smashing 251 vs the MCC and Stoneman, Borthwick and Ryan Patel all hitting centuries in the final warm-up game.
Liam Plunkett could make his first-class debut for Surrey following his winter move from Yorkshire, whilst England hopefuls Burns, Foakes, and Pope are all likely to be in the starting XI for the hosts.
Essex, meanwhile, will be looking to bounce-back following a disappointing start at the Ageas Bowl. Anthony McGrath’s men were simply blown away by their South Coast Counterparts eventually succumbing to an innings defeat. There were few positive to take from the match in Southampton but the early season form of Ravi Bopara – who struck a second innings century will give the Eagles hope that it was a mere blip.
In Alastair Cook, they have a man who enjoys batting at the Oval, and he too will have fond memories of the batting in South London. The former England skipper struck one final international century in his final appearance in a Test uniform last Summer. Essex will need him to impress again if they are to right the wrongs of their opening fixture.
Injury to Adam Wheater (out for six weeks with a finger injury) and Michael Pepper (missing following an appendix operation) has seen the Eagles utilise the loan market, bringing young Rob White from Middlesex on a two-month long contract, he will deputise behind the stumps while Wheater and Pepper recover from their respected fitness problems.
Peter Siddle, who jetted into England after winning the Sheffield Shield in his native Australia with Victoria will be a welcome return for ten Doeschate’s men, who struggled for breakthroughs in Hampshire with the big Australian set to return to the side against Surrey.
Joe Root will look to continue his early season form as Yorkshire travel south to the Ageas Bowl to face Hampshire.
The England captain struck an unbeaten 130 to save the game for the Tykes at Trent Bridge in game week one of the 2019 campaign. Root, shared a mammoth unbroken stand with Gary Ballance as Yorkshire batted the entirety of the final day to secure a draw. The 28-year-old will get the opportunity to bat at another test venue as he continues his preparation ahead of a busy summer of cricket for England with the World Cup and then the Ashes.
Duanne Olivier will look to continue his decent start to his new career as a county pro, after giving up his South African test hopes to become a full-time Yorkshire player. He began life with a five-wicket bag to be the pick of the bowlers as Nottinghamshire racked up the runs in the first innings in Nottingham.
Of course, there is still a chance albeit unlikely for Adam Lyth and Gary Ballance to receive a call-up to the Ashes such is the wide-open vacancy in the top order for England, they will both hope that time in and around Root will help keep the duo firmly in the mind of the England selectors and captain.
Hampshire meanwhile are looking to make it four championship wins on the spin following their opening game week smashing of Essex.
Against Essex everything seemed to click in Adrian Birrell’s opening game as coach, after being inserted by the Eagles following an uncontested toss they racked up the runs and then simply blew their counterparts away with the ball with Kyle Abbott and Fidel Edwards’ particularly impressive taking a five-wicket haul each.
Sam Northeast struck an important and simply magnificent 169 to lead Hampshire to a massive 525-8 to take the game away from Anthony McGrath’s Essex. His early season form will be pleasing for Birrell with the former Kent man already well on his way to the 451 runs he amassed last summer.
Aiden Markram completes the South African trio, and he made a promising debut and will look to continue to impress ahead of the World Cup in England this summer. Edwards and Abbott will be given the task of removing Root and if their excellent bowling display against Essex is anything to go by it will be a great test for the England skipper.
Hampshire make one change from the victory over Essex with Lewis McManus replacing the injured Tom Alsop to deputise behind the stumps.
Somerset will hope to make it back-to-back Championship wins to kick off their season with a victory at Trent Bridge in the second round of action in the County Championship.
The Cidermen secured victory inside three-days after seeing the opening day wiped out due to rain against Kent at Taunton. The impressive Lewis Gregory starred in the opening round of fixtures securing a Michelle fivefer to help Somerset dismiss Kent to on the final day to secure a 74-run win in a low-scoring encounter.
James Hildreth will look to improve upon the 29 cumulative runs he scored at Taunton last week as he hopes to finally break into the England set-up after years of pundits clambering for the 34-year-old to receive a call-up. A steady run scorer in the County Championship, Hildreth has yet to break down the door and will hope that early season runs will be enough for an Ashes call-up at the twilight of his career. He will likely have a watching England Selectors eye on him at Trent Bridge particularly with Stuart Broad on display.
In the reverse fixture last season, Hildreth struck a century, so will have fond memories of playing at Trent Bridge as Somerset thrashed the Outlaws by an innings in the final game of the season. Craig Overton starred with the ball in that fixture, and he will be another name on the scouting sheet of the on watching England selectors.
It is Joe Clarke though who is the most likely to receive a big chance this summer in the England Test side as the newly signed number three has continued his fine form from last summer into this year. The 22-year struck a debut century in-front of the watching Joe Root last week and followed that up with an unbeaten 97 in the second innings only to be denied a second century in as many innings by a declaration.
Clarke has been around the England Lions set-up for some time and has age on his side with selectors more favourably selecting future talent over ageing talent. I am sure that Stuart Broad will be in the ears of Root even more in the dressing room should the youngster continue to pile on the runs this summer.
Speaking of Broad, this is another opportunity to find some bowling rhythm ahead of a busy summer. He bowled with hostility against Yorkshire but could only manage three first-innings wickets, and was largely frustrated by Root and Ballance in the second innings as batting became easier on the final day.
Nottinghamshire will want to go one further and secure victory after dominating for large spells of the Yorkshire game; it should be a good game this between two good sides.
The two promoted teams meet at Edgbaston as Kent and Warwickshire look to get their first wins of the new 2019 County Championship season.
Kent, of course, suffered defeat against Somerset on the opening week of the season at Taunton; meanwhile, Warwickshire kick start their season with what they will see as one of their ‘must win’ fixtures.
The Spitfires were let down by their batting after they dismissed Somerset for 171 in the first innings with Mitch Claydon particularly impressive on his first foray in Division One, he bagged 5-46. Young Harry Podmore also enjoyed a promising start taking 2-36. Matt Walker’s men even managed to secure a first-innings lead reaching 209 with Sean Dickson and Zak Crawley and Daniel Bell-Drummond all getting starts but failing to kick on.
That is something they will be hoping to rectify in this fixture; they must turn starts into big scores if they are going to compete in Division One. It is a big step up from Division Two attacks to Division One, and they must settle quickly; otherwise, they face a fight to survive this season. Much will rely on Heino Kuhn and Matthew Renshaw who both largely disappointed against Somerset.
They travel to Birmingham with the same squad hoping to collect their first Championship top-flight win since 2010. Warwickshire won the last fixture last time these two met on what was described as the Division Two title decider in 2018.
Ahead of their season opener, Warwickshire will have been buoyed by the news of a new contract for Jeetan Patel – who has become an ever-present overseas professional for the Bears. The Kiwi spinner has become a huge fan favourite at Edgbaston and will as ever play an important role as he will hope to lead his side to comfortable survival this summer.
Sam Hain, Liam Banks and Henry Brookes represent the Brummie community for hosts as they look to build a young side good enough to compete in the top flight. The Bears are very excited by Brookes who has been tipped for a future England call-up by our very own Charlie Jennings.
Warwickshire were the dominant side in Division Two last year and will be looking to carry on the momentum from last season. You do worry that they lack Division One experience though, with only Tim Ambrose, Jeetan Patel and Dom Sibley with any real experience in the top flight.
They will bring plenty of energy to proceedings though and will hope that they can get off to a positive start in a fixture they will see as winnable. Their form has been solid in pre-season with a 530-run win over Leeds Bradford Uni with runs for Adam Hose (200) and Will Rhodes (92) and wickets for Aaron Thomason (5-6) and Patel (3-12).
Thomason will perhaps feel a little aggrieved to miss out the squad after bagging those fixtures, but Oliver Hannon-Dalby is preferred to the youngster.
The race for a place in the semi-finals of the Royal London One Day cup begins tomorrow as Essex, Kent, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire all seek Play-Off glory.
We’ll start at Trent Bridge as Nottinghamshire and Kent take the starting gun as they get underway at 11 am, three-hours before Essex tackle the White Rose at Chelmsford in front of the sky-live cameras.
Nottinghamshire enters the encounter fresh from their demolition job on Derbyshire to sneak an unlikely home tie. The defending champions weren’t there usual dominant self and indeed had to rely on other results to even reach this stage of the competition. With five wins out of eight enough to see the Outlaws through to another knockout stage, their latest win an eight-wicket stroll against the Falcons boosted their net run-rate enough to set up this enticing looking encounter with a decent looking Kent side blessed with batting talent throughout.
Joe Denly and Heino Kuhn have impressed through the competition leading the run-scoring charts in the competition. Denly, in particular, has looked in imperious form throughout and his and Kuhn’s rare failure at Chelmsford last week is in small part why they have to travel to the Midlands. The Spitfires looked sure bets entering play on the final game week to be lining up in Canterbury but came short against Essex.
It will be a proper battle between Nottinghamshire’s talented bowling attack and Kent’s star-studded batting line-up, and much will decide on that battle as to who goes on to win this match. Jake Ball and Harry Gurney are always a threat, and with Samit Patel’s spin in the middle overs, the Outlaws are a tough side to dominate.
With bat in hand though, they have the players that can quickly blow a side away. Steven Mullaney – who has recently been named Lions skipper for an upcoming tour is full of talent and can hit some lusty blows at the top of the order, Ross Taylor is one of the best one-day players on the planet, and Riki Wessels can hit a ball a long, long way.
For Kent, a lot will depend on the control that Matt Henry offers with the ball, and the ever-reliable Darren Stevens is always a danger on his day. The evergreen all-rounder will want to have one final day in the sun as his career begins to enter its twilight stage and this could well be the time to produce.
This match has the makings of a belter, but if I was a betting man I have Nottinghamshire to just edge it due to their big match experience in recent years. The winners of this encounter will face Worcestershire in the Semi-Finals.
Elsewhere, Essex makes a rare appearance on Sky Sports as they chase another semi-final place with victory over Yorkshire.
The Eagles were dealt an early blow in the lead up to the match following the news that skipper Ryan ten Doeschate will be banned for this match and one other for breaching ECB rules on the field. Handy time eh Colin? It means that Tom Westley will deputise for the Dutchman as he leads his troops to battle against a weakened Yorkshire side. The Tykes will be missing a number of key men with England now in the midst of a pointless One-Day series with Australia.
Still, Yorkshire’s loss is Essex’s gain, as the hosts welcome back England opener Alastair Cook to the ranks – whether the former England skipper will make the side remains to be seen given the excellent form of Varun Chopra and Adam Wheater in recent weeks. Indeed, the openers have played a substantial part in the Eagles unbeaten run to take them to this stage.
Three wins on the spin have taken them from no-hopers to genuine contenders for the title. At the end of their heavy defeat to Surrey at Chelmsford they looked dead and buried but wins against Glamorgan, Sussex and Kent gave them a home tie against Yorkshire.
Ravi Bopara has also found form with both bat and ball in this competition giving a timely reminder to the England selectors that he may well not be a bad shout for a call-up to the national side given the calamitous batting that England have been offering up recently. Though, you suspect his age may well be a factor that means he falls short of adding to his 100+ ODI caps for England. It is not only his batting that has been impressive, but he has also produced vital wickets for Anthony McGrath’s men on route to this Play-off clash.
For the visitors, they were dealt a blow with the news that none of their international stars will be available for this encounter with Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid and David Willey all missing for the Tykes. It does though give the opportunity for the fringe players to make a name for themselves in their absence.
Ben Coad, Jack Brooks and Tim Bresnan have the task of stopping the Eagles batting line-up at tiny Chelmsford. Though, you would think they would have fond memories of the Chelmsford sun having defeated the Eagles in the County Championship earlier this season.
Their batsmen may not though after they were skittled for a pitiful 50 in the same fixture. One man who will be looking forward to striding to the crease is Harry Brook – who made his maiden century in the second innings of that match and will be hoping to repeat the trick again. Tom Kohler-Cadmore is another man the Essex bowlers will be keen to dismiss cheaply as the former Worcestershire man has found some useful form in recent weeks.
You would think given the weakening of the visitors’ side that Essex would be firm favourites for the clash but write the Tykes off at your peril.
The winners of the match will face Hampshire in the semi-finals
By David Bowden
5/16/2018 0 Comments
By harry Hill (@HarryHill96) and Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
All the fun of the white ball cup circus returns to a ground near you as the Royal London Cup begins with five fixtures on Thursday including the Sky live fixture featuring the 2017 Champions Nottinghamshire’s trip to Old Trafford.
But we’ll start at a little outground in Hertfordshire where Middlesex will take on last season’s beaten semi-finalists Essex at Radlett.
Middlesex have a pretty awful record on the Royal London One Day Cup in recent seasons, and there are no great reasons for their fans to be more cheerful in 2018. Dawid Malan is not available for their first game, played at the outground at Radlett, so Steve Finn captains a remodelled side. Hilton Cartwright’s contract has been extended and will play, having already made a significant impact for Middlesex, while Middlesex welcome back Paul Stirling from his debut Test and have included Ravi Patel in the squad instead of Ollie Rayner. For Essex, Neil Wagner, who took 14 wickets in 7 ODC games last season, replaces Peter Siddle for the Eagles. Essex are feeling confident of going deep into the competition this year, having topped their group with seven wins from 8 in 2017 only to lose an epic semi-final to the eventual winners on the final over. Suffice it to say that for Middlesex, to have finished eighth in the same group felt like a degree of progress. Anything other than an Essex win would be a surprise here.
Middlesex squad: Steven Finn (captain), Tom Barber, Hilton Cartwright, Stephen Eskinazi, Nick Gubbins, James Harris, Tom Helm, Max Holden, James Franklin, Eoin Morgan, Ravi Patel, John Simpson (wicket-keeper), Paul Stirling
Essex Eagles squad: Ryan ten Doeschate (27) Captain, James Foster (7) Wicket-keeper, Aaron Beard (14), Ravi Bopara (25), Varun Chopra (6), Sam Cook (16), Simon Harmer (11), Dan Lawrence (28), Jamie Porter (44), Neil Wagner (13), Tom Westley (21), Adam Wheater (31), Ashar Zaidi (99)
Elsewhere, Northamptonshire will look to put their disappointing start to the season behind and press the reset button by entering more familiar ground with white ball in hand at Wantage Road against Leicestershire.
There is hope here though, as Northants won both of their group matches against the Foxes last season. Meanwhile, Leicestershire have enjoyed a decent start to the season under new Head Coach Paul Nixon, a man with significant white ball pedigree at Grace Road as a player. Zak Chappell and Ned Eckersley are returning from injury, whilst Deiter Klein is rested.
Northants (from 13): Josh Cobb, Luke Procter, Richard Levi, Ben Duckett, Alex Wakely, Adam Rossington, Rob Keogh, Steven Crook, Rory Kleinveldt, Graeme White, Brett Hutton, Ben Sanderson, Saif Zaib
Leicestershire (from 13): Michael Carberry, Varun Aaron, Colin Ackermann, Zak Chappell, Mark Cosgrove, Neil Dexter, Ned Eckersley, Gavin Griffiths, Lewis Hill, Paul Horton, Ateeq Javid, Callum Parkinson, Ben Raine
Weather Watch: Clear blue sky, high of 14c.
Match Odds: Northants 4/6, Leicestershire 6/5 (Betfair)
Warwickshire will be hoping to continue their excellent start to the 2018 season when they take on Derbyshire at Edgbaston. The limited overs format has often been the saving grace for the Bears in recent years after flattering to deceive in the longer format. A good start here against the Falcons may see them firing on all cylinders come September.
The hosts have picked a big squad for this one, as Ed Pollock, Liam Banks and Adam Hose have impressed in the 2nd XI so far this season. The champions of 2016 will be looking to continue a fine start to the season, and bounce back from a disappointing campaign last season. Bear skipper Jeetan Patel is full of experience, and his crafty off-spin is ideal for slowing the game down in the middle overs. Derbyshire welcome back Gary Wilson from test duty with Ireland, while Safyaan Sharif will make his Falcons debut if selected. Look out for Ravi Rampaul; the former Surrey man took 18 wickets last season during a brilliant run to the final.
Warwickshire (from 16): Jeetan Patel, Tim Ambrose, Keith Barker, Ian Bell, Henry Brookes, Sam Hain, Adam Hose, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Ed Pollock, Josh Poysdon, Will Rhodes, Dom Sibley, Olly Stone, Alex Thomson, Aaron Thomason, Jonathan Trott
Derbyshire (from 14): Billy Goodleman, Ben Slater, Luis Reece, Wayne Madsen, Alex Hughes, Callum Brodrick, Matt Critchley, Gary Wilson, Daryn Smit, Hardus Viljoen, Ravi Rampaul, Duanne Olivier, Safyaan Sharif, Dan Wheeldon
Weather Watch: Clear blue skies, highs of 16c
Match Odds: Warwickshire 8/13, Derbyshire 5/4 (Betfair)
Perhaps the most exciting contest of the day is taking place at Old Trafford, as Lancashire welcome last season’s champions Notts to Manchester. One suspects that both sets of players are well aware of each other by now, having already faced off twice in the County Championship this season. Joe Mennie returns to the Lancashire squad, whilst Arron Liley and Karl Brown are set to play their first matches of the season. Notts are without last year’s hero in the final, Alex Hales, who is away with Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL. However, in Ross Taylor, they have one of the most formidable one-day players in the world cricket to fill Hales’ void, after an impressive series against England over the winter. With the ball, Jake Ball will be looking to make a statement after missing out on England test selection on Tuesday.
Lancashire (from 13): Liam Livingstone, Tom Bailey, Karl Brown, Jordon Clark, Steven Croft, Alex Davies, Keaton Jennings, Arron Lilley, Joe Mennie, Graham Onions, Matt Parkinson, Stephen Parry, Dane Vilas
Nottinghamshire (from 14): Jake Libby, Chris Nash, Steven Mullaney, Riki Wessels, Harry Gurney, Matt Milnes, Luke Fletcher, Samit Patel, Tom Moores, Ross Taylor, Jake Ball, Will Fraine, Billy Root, Jake Blatherwick
Weather Watch: Clear blue skies, highs of 16c
Match Odds: Lancashire evens, Notts 4/5 (Betfair)
Lastly, Sussex will hope their explosive batting line-up fires with the likes of Laurie Evans, David Wiese and Luke Wright, and a dangerous bowling pair of Ishant Sharma and young George Garton all sure to cause plenty of problems. Evans, Delroy Rawlins and Abi Sakande are all set to play their first matches of the season after missing out for Championship action. Meanwhile, Kent have enjoyed a good start to the Championship season, with three wins in Division Two, and will fancy a trip along the south coast to Hove. James Tredwell and Grant Stewart are both unavailable with injuries, whilst Darren Stevens is named but faces a late fitness test after a recent groin problem. Kent look to have a solid batting line up, but I suspect might lack the x-factor to go deep in the competition this year.
Sussex (from 14): Ben Brown, Danny Briggs, Michael Burgess, Laurie Evans, Harry Finch, George Garton, Delroy Rawlins, Ollie Robinson, Abi Sakande, Phil Salt, Ishant Sharma, Luke Wells, David Wiese, Luke Wright
Kent (from 14): Joe Denly, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Sean Dickson, Heino Kuhn, Zak Crawley, Alex Blake, Darren Stevens, Calum Haggett, Adam Rouse, Matt Henry, Harry Podmore, Ivan Thomas, Mitch Claydon, Imran Qayyum
Weather Watch: Clear blue skies, highs of 16c
Match Odds: Sussex 4/5, Kent evens (Betfair)
By Mark Kidger (@markfromMadrid)
Incredibly, with this round of matches, we will be almost a quarter of the way through the Division 2 programme (16 of 70 matches played at the end of the round) and the Division 2 table will start to show which sides can expect to be in the promotion scrap at the end of the season and which sides are more likely to be planning on spending another season in Division 2. While it is not a surprise to see Warwickshire top of the table at this stage of the season, the identity of their immediate pursuers – Derbyshire and Glamorgan – was not in anyone’s list of candidates.
Warwickshire v Derbyshire
Warwickshire - WMH Rhodes, DP Sibley, CJC Wright, IR Bell, IJL Trott, SR Hain, MJ Lamb, TR Ambrose†, JS Patel (c), HJH Brookes, RN Sidebottom
Derbyshire - BT Slater, LM Reece, WL Madsen, AL Hughes, BA Godleman (c), GC Wilson†, MJJ Critchley, GC Viljoen, Hamidullah Qadri, D Olivier, MHA Footitt
The joker in the pack because, for reasons best known to the ECB, this game starts one day earlier than the rest of the Division 2 fixtures. Top plays second in the division, which is hardly what people would have expected when they looked at this fixture pre-season. The big news is that Derbyshire, who already have a strong-looking four-man attack, welcome back former England fast-bowling hope, Mark Footitt, initially on loan, but with a view to re-signing him from Nottinghamshire where he has been unable to break into the side. The signing of Footitt shows how serious Derbyshire are about gate-crashing the Warwickshire/Middlesex promotion party. Having already claimed the scalp of Middlesex, this match will show just how seriously their bid will have to be taken. This is an important fixture for Warwickshire given that, after a dull draw with Sussex on a seriously dead pitch, in which Sussex were the only side on the last day that could, just possibly, have forced a win, they gave Northamptonshire their second flogging of the season. A good showing is vital against Derbyshire to show that they are genuine promotion candidates and not simply flattered by their win against Northants. After his extraordinary show in the game against Northants, Ryan Sidebottom keeps his place in the starting XI, but Warwickshire will hope for more runs from their experienced campaigners, Bell and Trott.
Durham v Leicestershire
Durham – Paul Collingwood (c), Aiden Markram, Cameron Steel, Will Smith, Gareth Harte, Graham Clark, Michael Richardson, Stuart Poynter (wk), Nathan Rimmington, James Weighell, Barry McCarthy, Chris Rushworth.
Leicestershire – Carberry (capt), Aaron, Ackermann, Cosgrove, Eckersley, Dexter, Griffiths, Hill, Horton, Klein, Parkinson, Raine
Tenth against seventh. Durham, with one defeat (a heavy one against Kent) and a match abandoned without a ball bowled, are still waiting to start their season properly. The reckoning was that against Kent, with almost no outdoor practice at all, the Durham batsmen were completely underdone. Leicestershire, in contrast, have played out two dull, high-scoring, but slow draws at Grace Road. The fact that neither Leicestershire game would have given a result in six days, let alone “four minus rain”, means that we know very little about their strength, although it is true that Leicestershire did get somewhat the better of the rain-ravaged draw against Derbyshire. Paul Coughlin drops out of the Durham squad from last week’s XII against Northamptonshire, with Gareth Harte coming back into the XII to offer a further batting option, while Cameron Steel is set to return after missing the Kent match through illness, having scored 44 for Durham 2nd XI against Leicestershire’s 2nd XI last week. The interesting item from the Leicestershire side is that their new ball attack of Aaron and Raine were both on Durham’s books in the past and know Chester-le-Street well. Expect a result if the weather cooperates, although the surface for the 2nd XI match last week was a good one. Durham will be keen to kick-start their season but, with so little time in the middle behind the Durham players, Leicestershire may entertain thoughts of ambushing them at home. Durham will want to see more from their South African star, Aiden Markham than he has shown so far.
Glamorgan v Kent
Glamorgan – Hogan ©, Selman, Murphy, Marsh, Carlson, Donald, Cooke, Lloyd, Salter, Carey, de Lange, van der Gugten, Smith
Kent – Joe Denly (c), Daniel Bell-Drummond, Sean Dickson, Heino Kuhn, Zak Crawley, Darren Stevens, Will Gidman, Adam Rouse (wk), Matt Henry, Harry Podmore, Ivan Thomas, Adam Riley.
Glamorgan are third in the table after a hard-fought win against Gloucestershire and, arguably, marginally the better of a rain-sodden draw against Middlesex. Kent were beaten by Gloucestershire and then had a comfortable win against Durham. Glamorgan’s pace attack has been in fine form so far this season, although they have not yet had its depth tested properly, while Shaun Marsh is adding punch to the Glamorgan middle order, as hoped when he was signed. Kent expect to name an unchanged XI. So far the Kent story has been Matt Henry, with his nineteen wickets in the first two matches of the season, but they urgently need more players to step up. In particular, of the potential candidates to open the batting for England this summer, Daniel Bell-Drummond has made by some distance the best start to the season but, with three scores of four or fewer so far in five innings, has hardly made a rock-solid case to be named in the squad for the 1st Test. However, he knows that an opportunity is there, with other candidates stumbling so badly that his scores of 4, 61, 0, 45* and 1 look like manna from heaven.
Sussex v Middlesex
Sussex – Ben Brown (capt./wk), Danny Briggs, Michael Burgess, George Garton, Harry Finch, Ollie Robinson, Abi Sakande, Phil Salt, Stiaan van Zyl, Stuart Whittingham, David Wiese, Luke Wells, Luke Wright
Middlesex – Dawid Malan (captain), Tom Barber, Hilton Cartwright, Stephen Eskinazi, Nick Gubbins, James Harris, Max Holden, Tom Helm, Tim Murtagh, Ollie Rayner, Sam Robson, John Simpson (wicket-keeper), Robbie White.
Two of the sides who were expected to challenge for promotion but, whom, for different reasons, have had a stalled start to their campaign and are currently mid-table. Sussex have played out three draws: two of them on flat pitches that probably would not have produced a result even given a fifth day (and, in the case of the Grace Road pitch, even a sixth day did not look likely to produce a result), while the game against Gloucestershire was finely poised when the last day was washed-out, with both sides hopeful of the win. Middlesex have had an erratic start to the season. After swamping Northamptonshire in their opening game, they were well-beaten by Derbyshire and struggled against Glamorgan. For the long-suffering Middlesex fans, the batting difficulties bring back awful memories of the stuttering 2017 campaign. Sussex, without a win so far, are very keen to win this one against a promotion rival, while this is a game that Middlesex cannot afford to lose: one suspects that both sides would be happy to settle for a draw, while hoping to make a big statement with a win. Middlesex welcome back Nick Gubbins who has proved his fitness in the 2nd XI and James Harris, recovered from his side soreness, but lose Paul Stirling, who experienced calf soreness and has returned home to Ireland to recover for his Test debut v Pakistan. Steve Finn bowled in the 2nd XI fixture against Gloucestershire 2nd XI this week, but was carefully handled, delivering just ten overs and did not take a wicket, so is still not ready for his return. Likewise, Sussex have a mixed bag of good and bad news. Inshant Sharma is recovering from his nasty shoulder injury against Gloucestershire, but George Garton and Abi Sakande are included for the first time this season after overcoming knee and side injuries respectively, but Will Beer is still recovering from his side injury.
5/3/2018 0 Comments
By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
With the weather set fair, international star aplenty, it would be rude to not spend your Bank Holiday weekend at the cricket.
We’ll start at Chelmsford where perhaps the most intriguing battle of the game week will take place. Former England Captain Alastair Cook takes on his successor Joe Root as Essex take on Yorkshire at the Cloud FM County Ground. Root will be joined by fellow England internationals Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance to give the White Rose battling line-up a much-needed boost. The Tykes fell to a humbling defeat at Taunton last week with the batting desperately letting the visitors down so seeing the current England captain at the crease will be a welcome sight for the Yorkshire faithful.
Despite their 118-run defeat in the West Country in Game week three there were still some positives to take from their encounter, Ben Coad continued his fine form and another impressive display in the East of England will further boost his chances of gain a place in the England Test side, particularly after the news of Toby Roland-Jones season-ending injury. Indeed, he will be involved in the second interesting little battle that’ll take place in this fascinating clash. With Root, Cook, Bairstow, and Ballance on show in the same match you can be sure that new England selector Ed Smith will be in attendance and that gives both Coad and fellow England hopeful Jamie Porter the potential stage to shine on.
Cook impressive in Essex’s limited game-time in Southampton looking back to the sort of form we are used to seeing. The England opener struck a fluent 84 in the Eagles one-innings bonus point shootout draw with Hampshire. He will be keen to feel some sun on his back and continue to enjoy some time in the middle ahead of the summer tour starting this month. After seeing a complete washout in the reverse fixture both sides will be keen to avenge wasted time as they look to pinch vital points off each other and separate themselves from the bottom end of the league.
Essex remain unchanged with Porter, Harmer, Sam Cook and Peter Siddle tasked with upsetting the Yorkshire party, whilst Alastair Cook, Nick Browne, Tom Westley and Dan Lawrence will all be hoping to impress to watching England selectors.
For Yorkshire, as previously mentioned Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow come in to replace Alex Lees and Andrew Hodd.
Team News in full:
Essex: Ten Doeschate ©, Foster w/k, Beard, Bopara, Browne, Chopra, A.Cook, S.Cook, Harmer, Lawrence, Porter, Siddle, and Westley
Yorkshire: Ballance ©, Bairstow, Bresnan, Brook, Brooks, Carver, Coad, Leaning, Lyth, Patterson, Pujara, Root and Shaw
Weather watch: Largely sunny with highs of 23.
Where to follow: Live streaming service provided by Essex Cricket TV with Commentary from BBC Essex.
Elsewhere, perhaps the surprise package of the division, Somerset travel to Old Trafford looking to make it three wins on the spin. Many tipped the West Country boys to struggle but some shrewd arrivals have made all the difference early on in the season. The signing of Matthew Renshaw, in particular, appears to be inspired, the Australian, who was a late replacement for Cameron Bancroft has looked in great touch in early season and his magnificent pre-lunch century on the opening day against Yorkshire all but led the way to victory in tricky batting conditions. He, again will prove important for the visitors who’s batting has improved of late with Tom Abell and James Hildreth amongst the runs too. The bowling speaks for itself with the spin twins Dom Bess and Jack Leach always likely to cause problems even in these early season conditions being well backed up by some more than useful pacemen in the Overton brothers and Lewis Gregory.
Their hosts, however, have enjoyed a less than stellar start to the season, but they began to show signs of life during game week three, they finally remembered how to bat with half-centuries for Liam Livingstone, Shiv Chanderpaul, Steven Croft, Jordan Clark, Tom Bailey and Joe Meenie in their mammoth score of 439-9 declared against Surrey last week. There is still the worry that the top three (all tipped for relatively bright England futures) still struggling to make any serious runs but if they do start to fire there are signs that they can be the dangerous side everyone thought they would be. There bowling is probably their strong suit and it fired against a very strong Surrey batting line-up at Old Trafford failing an agonizing four-wickets short of victory as time caught up with them. The Red Rose bowling attack will be boosted further by the appearance of England bowling superstar James Anderson, the Lancashire faithful will be hoping the extra class of the Burnley express will help turn the frustrating draw against Surrey into a fabulous win against Somerset.
Team News in full:
Lancashire: Livingstone ©, Anderson, Bailey, Chanderpaul, Clark, Croft, Davies (w/k), Haseeb Hameed, Jennings, Mennie, Onions, Parry, Parkinson, Vilas
Somerset: Abell ©, Bartlett, Bess, Davies (w/k), Gregory, Groenewald, Hildreth, Leach, Overton, Renshaw, Trescothick, van Meekeren, van der Merwe
Weather watch: Largely sunny with highs of 22.
Where to follow: A live stream will be available with BBC Lancashire commentary.
Table toppers Nottinghamshire will be looking to stretch away from their visitors to Trent Bridge during game week four by collecting their third success of the summer when they face Hampshire. It is their first time on home soil this season and they will be hoping to prove that Don Topley’s comments about them being ‘lucky’ is a load of cobblers. Topley tweeted in the week that Nottinghamshire have been fortunate that the fixture gods were smiling on them having played away from home during their opening three games. Of course, there is some logic behind it, it has given them the opportunity to insert their opposition in every encounter in favourable April conditions but Topley’s comments were disrespectful nonetheless.
The Outlaws have adapted very well following their promotion back to the top flight and with players like Jake Ball and Harry Gurney in fine form, it is little surprise to see them sitting pretty at the top of the Championship after winning two from their first three games. They need more from their batting line-up though to help their talented bowling attack as they cannot keep relying on being ‘got out of jail’ by the likes of Ball, Gurney and Fletcher.
It will be interesting to see how they fair back in familiar surrounding and how they will react to being asked to bat first against a very talented Hampshire bowling attack.
For Hampshire, they will just be hoping for some sunshine after freezing during their weather-affected encounter with Essex last week. Images circulated around Social Media of a very cold looking Hashim Amla donning a woolly hat and about 18 sweaters.
They have enjoyed an indifferent season with one win, a loss and a draw from their opening three fixtures of the season. They will be without Sam Northeast again who is continuing his recovery from a broken finger suffered whilst practising slip catching prior to their match last week.
In the cricket that was played in their one-innings bonus point frenzy against the Eagles, they looked decent. Runs from Amla, Jimmy Adams and Kyle Abbott propelled them to 351/7 against what is thought to be one of the stronger bowling attacks in the division. They also enjoyed some success with the ball before Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara stemmed the momentum the hosts had built up when they had reduced Essex to 61/3.
It is widely expected that Hampshire will start this encounter in the Midlands with an unchanged team, whilst Nottinghamshire have Stuart Broad still available in a team that will also likely to be unchanged from their stunning 5 session success over struggling Worcestershire.
Team News in full:
Nottinghamshire: Jake Libby, Chris Nash, Steven Mullaney (c), Stuart Broad, Riki Wessels, Harry Gurney, Matt Milnes, Luke Fletcher, Samit Patel, Tom Moores (w/k), Ross Taylor, Jake Ball, Billy Root.
Hampshire: Adams, Wood, Dawson, Vince, McManus, Weatherley, Amla, Rossouw, Abbott, Edwards, Wheal, Berg and Sole
Weather watch: Largely sunny with highs of 22.
Where to follow: A live stream with BBC radio commentary will be available through TrentBridge.co.uk
Lastly, Worcestershire travel to London looking to show they are worthy to be in the top flight after a woeful start to their season.
Following promotion from the Second Division the Pears have suffered a defeat in five sessions to Nottinghamshire, and two heavy defeats to Somerset and Hampshire respectively. It is safe to say this isn’t the dream return the Midlanders had hoped for. Just when they would have been looking for some kind of respite they travel to the Oval to face a Surrey side sure to be on the buzz after the news broke of Virat Kohli’s impending arrival in June. Kohli will add to an already stacked side that will be sure to cause Worcestershire all sorts of bother. A bowling attack that will be keen to make amends following a disappointing display by their high standards last week against Lancashire. The batting is more than solid with Ben Foakes in the form of his life as he eyes an England call-up and young Ollie Pope also impressing with the willow.
Perhaps the most exciting prospect coming out of Surrey at the minute though is Amar Virdi. England have been crying out for a genuine turner of the ball and in Virdi they hope they have found their man. The right-arm off break bowler is currently the ‘Reys top wicket-taker with 8 and has already been likened to Monty Panesar thanks to his elaborate celebrations. He is another man that Worcestershire’s fragile batting line-up will have to look out for.
The Pears much break the 250 mark at the bare minimum as they have far too frequently been blown away by sides, to give themselves any hope of victory in this one they will have to hope they bowl out Surrey cheaply and capitalise on one of the best batting tracks in the country. This is the opportunity Joe Clarke has been crying out for as he looks to stake a claim for a chance in the England set-up.
Team news in full:
Surrey: Burns, Batty, Borthwick, Clarke, Curran, S. Dernbach, Foakes, Mckerr, Meaker, Patel, Pope, Stoneman and Virdi
Worcestershire: Mitchell, D’Oliveira, Fell, Clarke, Head, Cox (w), Barnard, Leach ©, Tongue, Morris, Magoffin and Twohig
Weather watch: Largely sunny with highs of 25.
Where to follow: Live stream on the Surrey cricket website with live BBC London radio commentary.
4/26/2018 0 Comments
By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu), Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid) & Harry Hill (@HarryHill96)
Game week three sees the start of the introduction of the England Test players returning to the County fold looking to find some vital form ahead of the English Test summer.
Alastair Cook in particular needs to find something, anything, to get him going ahead of potentially his last English Test Summer. The former England skipper looked woefully out of touch in the winter and will be hoping some time back with his beloved Eagles will rejuvenate him and offer him some vital time in the middle. Last summer, he was fantastic for the Champions contributing with nearly every innings in an Essex shirt and Anthony McGrath will hope the legendary left-hander can find that form again to help aid the Eagles to their second success of the season in Southampton.
It won’t be easy for Cook though, Hampshire are blessed with one of the best bowling attacks in the division with the likes of Kyle Abbott, Fidel Edwards and Gareth Berg already well amongst the wickets. That, of course, doesn’t even mention Liam Dawson and Chris Wood who are also always a danger with the ball in hand.
The Chef though will just want to go about his work, free of the pressure of holding up an end for England as the doubts continue to linger about his future and the batting order around him. A few early season runs will do Cook the world of good you would expect, and you could also argue he needs them to keep his place in the Test side.
The returning ‘little Chef,’ Sam Cook, who burst on the scene at the back end of last season for the Champions, will join ‘big Chef ‘in the squad. I was lucky enough to witness Sam Cook’s finest hour in his early career in an Essex shirt as he ripped through the Hampshire line-up at the Ageas Bowl last September. How he would love to repeat that trick again in Southampton to prove it wasn’t just a fluke.
A three-pronged pace attack of Cook, Jamie Porter and Peter Siddle, with the spin option of Simon Harmer, is one certainly to challenge the strength Hampshire have and you suspect the performance of those two attacks will go a long way to deciding the outcome of this encounter.
There is still no place in the side for former Hampshire man Matt Coles who is seemingly being saved for Essex’s one-day side.
For Hampshire, they remain unchanged as they look to bounce back from their defeat at the Oval. They would have been pleased to see Sam Northeast amongst the runs, as they look for more stability in the middle order. Essex will know all about Hashim Amla, who previously spent a stint in Chelmsford. The form of the South African will be key to ensure Hampshire get runs on the board as you suspect the visitors will put Hampshire in on the opening morning. It is sure to be an exciting encounter with plenty of international stars past and present on show in Southampton, and who will come out on top is anyones guess, much will rely on Cook and Amla as these two bowling attacks have the ability to blow any batting line-up away.
How they line up:
Hampshire: Adams, Wood, Dawson, Berg, Vince ©, Amla, Northeast, McManus (w/k), Rossouw, Weatherley, Wheal, Edwards, Abbott and Sole
Essex: ten Doeschate ©, Foster (w/k), Beard, Bopara, Browne, Chopra, A. Cook, S. Cook, Harmer, Lawrence, Porter, Siddle and Westley
Day one: Heavy rain – little chance of play
Day Two: Cloudy
Day three: Cloudy – with a chance of afternoon showers
Day Four: Morning rain – clearing in the afternoon
Meanwhile, at Old Trafford, the Lancastrian faithful will be hoping and praying that they can get their season up and running.
It has been a surprisingly testing start to the campaign for Glen Chapple’s men with defeats to Nottinghamshire and Essex leaving them rock bottom of the Championship. They were many people picks for the Championship, a strong looking bowling attack coupled with a decent looking top order meant some of the esteemed View From the Outfield writers fancied them to lift the Division One trophy come September.
However, with a tricky looking game against Surrey now on the horizon, they must now start to look to get their season moving as they are at risk of being cast adrift even this early in the season.
The Red Rose have been forced to wait for the arrival of James Anderson back to their side, but they do still have an impressive attack with Joe Meenie settling in well to County cricket and the evergreen Graham Onions still look dangerous after his switch to Old Trafford from Chester-Le-Street. They do have plenty of potential run-makers in Hameed, Livingstone and Jennings at the top of the order, in theory, all the ingredients are there to make a title-winning team, for one reason or another it just hasn’t quite clicked yet for the Lanky boys.
Glen Chapple has made just the one change to the squad that lost in Chelmsford with promising pace bowler Saqib Mahmood coming into the 14 replacing all-rounder Danny Lamb.
For Surrey, they tasted the sweet taste of success at the first time of trying thrashing Hampshire at the Oval in game week two. The ‘Reys squad looks well balanced and is a threat to any side. The mystery of Amar Virdi adds a different dimension to their team, whilst Sam Curran is another year older and stronger and Jade Dernbach looks to have finally worked out how to stop leaking runs.
With the bat, they have runs throughout the batting line-up as was proved last week with Ollie Pope striking his first century of the season. Mark Stoneman is an England international and in Ben Foakes they have one of the best wicket-keeper batsmen in England. It is hardly surprising they nullified the threat of Hampshire with such ease and grace last week.
Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that ‘moneybags’ Surrey have named no fewer than nine Surrey academy graduates in their 13-man squad travelling to Manchester. Ravi Patel – who has been impressing in the 2XI and Stuart Meaker join the eleven men who played in their opening games success over Hampshire. Clearly, the Rey are expecting some seam movement at Old Trafford as they pack their squad with talented seamers.
If they can dodge the weather the visitors will fancy their chances of making it two-out-of-two at Old Trafford.
How they line-up:
Lancashire: Liam Livingstone (C), Tom Bailey, Shiv Chanderpaul, Jordan Clark, Steven Croft, Alex Davies, Haseeb Hameed, Keaton Jennings, Saqib Mahmood, Joe Mennie, Graham Onions, Stephen Parry, Matt Parkinson, Dane Vilas
Surrey: Rory Burns (C), Mark Stoneman, Scott Borthwick, Dean Elgar, Ollie Pope, Ben Foakes, Sam Curran, Rikki Clarke, Jade Dernbach, Matthew Dunn, Amar Virdi, Ryan Patel, Stuart Meaker
Day One: Light Rain – expect little play
Day Two: Light clouds
Day Three: Light Clouds
Day Four: Rain in the morning clearing throughout the day
Worcestershire v Nottinghamshire
Worcestershire 13-man squad: Daryl Mitchell, Brett D’Oliveira, Tom Fell, Joe Clarke, Travis Head, George Rhodes, Ben Cox, Ed Barnard, Joe Leach, Josh Tongue, Charlie Morris, Ben Twohig, Ross Whiteley.
Nottinghamshire 12-man squad: Jake Libby, Chris Nash, Steven Mullaney, Stuart Broad, Riki Wessels, Harry Gurney, Luke Fletcher, Samit Patel, Tom Moores, Ross Taylor, Jake Ball, Billy Root.
Ross Whiteley comes into the Worcestershire squad as a replacement for Steve Magoffin, who is rested after suffering a tight hamstring against Somerset last week. Young legspinner Ben Twohig could make his first-class debut if selected. Ed Barnard will be looking to continue his fine form, after taking 11-89 in the defeat at Taunton last week. For Notts, Stuart Broad returns after being rested for his first match of the season, whilst Tom Moores will be looking to take some more stunning catches behind the stumps, that attracted the attention of Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea during the week. Notts will know that they need to improve their batting from defeat at Headingley last week, after relying on Jake Ball’s 44* in the first innings.
Weather Watch: Rain forecast for Friday and Saturday, before dry spells on Sunday and Monday. Highs of around 10c.
Match Odds: Worcestershire 7/4, Nottinghamshire 4/9. (Betfair).
Somerset v Yorkshire
Somerset – Tom Abell (c), Tom Banton, George Bartlett, Dom Bess, Josh Davey, Steve Davies, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Matt Renshaw, Marcus Trescothick and Paul van Meekeren.
Yorkshire – Gary Ballance ©, Tim Bresnan, Harry Brook, Jack Brooks, Karl Carver, Ben Coad, Andrew Hodd (WK), Jack Leaning, Alex Lees, Adam Lyth, Cheteshwar Pujara, Josh Shaw, Matthew Waite
Top of the table Yorkshire visit Taunton. The Yorkshire faithful see their good start as evidence that Yorkshire will be Championship contenders, after being well off the pace in 2017. Somerset fans will hope that their side can follow up the win last week and get the fast start that will allow them to play their trump card of Leach and Bess successfully during the Championship run-in. For Somerset, Eddie Bryom dislocated a shoulder in the field against Worcestershire and Jamie Overton has a side strain, although it is minor and he is expected to be back quickly. Paul van Meekeren replaces the latter, while Tom Banton and George Bartlett are added to replace the former. Yorkshire have a long list of absences: apart from Adil Rashid, taking a red-ball sabbatical, Steve Patterson (broken finger), Matthew Fisher (torn side), Liam Plunkett and David Willey (both IPL), Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow are unavailable. Root and Bairstow will be netting at Headingley and should be available for the trip to Essex, although Bairstow will not start preparation until Monday. Yorkshire have won more than half of the 175 games between the two sides (91 wins to Somerset’s 24), but things have been far more even in recent seasons and this game could turn out to be finely balanced. Ben Coad has been flying again this season for the Yorkies and it must be a worry that he may get into the England squad this summer to add to the drain on resources. Jack Brooks is also having a good start to the season. For Somerset, there is quiet optimism, particularly as the quicks proved so potent against Worcestershire, meaning that they will be just as happy if the Taunton pitch has something in it for the seamers as they will be if it is a turner.
Middlesex v Glamorgan
Middlesex – Dawid Malan (captain), Tom Barber, Hilton Cartwright, Stephen Eskinazi, James Franklin, Tom Helm, Max Holden, Tim Murtagh, Ollie Rayner, Sam Robson, George Scott, John Simpson (wicket-keeper), Paul Stirling.
Glamorgan – Hogan ©, Selman, Murphy, Marsh, Carlson, Donald, Cooke, Lloyd, Salter, Carey, de Lange, van der Gugten, Smith
This is one of the most interesting games of this round, matching 2nd v 3rd in the table. Despite their late scare, Glamorgan looked very good against Gloucestershire, while Middlesex have shown the frustrating Jekyll and Hyde inconsistency of 2017 in their first two games. Glamorgan pick the XII who went to Bristol but add Ruaidhri Smith to give them an extra pace option. The Middlesex dressing room, in contrast, resembles a plot line from a popular BBC series when I was a (young) kid, called “Emergency Ward Ten”. While Middlesex welcome back Dawid Malan after his enforced rest for the first two rounds of Championship cricket and Steve Eskinazi (after missing two games with a virus), there is still too much bad news for comfort. After missing the end of the season and the England tour through injury, Toby Roland-Jones has been found to have a recurrence of the stress fracture of his back and will miss the rest of the season. “Toblerone” made such an impact for England on his debut last season and his injury is a tragedy both for Middlesex and for England: he seems fated not to add to his Test caps. Toblerone joins a lengthy injury list of James Harris (side), Steve Finn (knee), Nick Gubbins (not yet quite ready to come back) and Eoin Morgan (broken thumb). Tim Murtagh has recovered from his back spasm and is in the squad, although one suspects that the coach will watch him closely in the pre-match warm-up as Middlesex can ill-afford another bowler to breakdown mid-match, having lost Roland-Jones, Harris and Murtagh at different moments against Derbyshire. While Middlesex’s squad depth is such that they can still field six internationals, one wonders if the fates are against them in their promotion push. This game already looks like a “must not lose” for the Londoners, while Glamorgan are looking forward to their first game at Lord’s for nine years and travel with great optimism that they have a real chance to back up last week’s impressive win, with a big scalp.
Sussex v Gloucestershire
Sussex – Ben Brown (c/wk), Danny Briggs, Michael Burgess, Harry Finch, Ollie Robinson, Phil Salt, Ishant Sharma, Stiaan van Zyl, Stuart Whittingham, David Wiese, Luke Wells, Luke Wright
Gloucestershire – Dent (c), Howell, Roderick, Bracey, J.Taylor, van Buuren, Higgins, Noema-Barnett, Miles, Worrall, M.Taylor, Liddle, Hankins
Gloucestershire travel to Sussex-by-the-Sea having followed a fine win against Kent, with three days of abject cricket against Glamorgan that left them just too much to do to salvage the draw. Sussex have been unfortunate to play their first two matches on absolutely dead surfaces that would not have produced a result in five days and, the pitch at Grace Road, probably not even in six. Both sides want the win to keep up the pressure on the sides at the top of the table. Sussex replace Will Beer, who has a sore side after a long bowl on the pitiless Grace Road pitch, with Danny Briggs, who has recovered fitness after a knee operation and has been playing for the 2nd XI to get match fit. Many people see Sussex as a good outside bet for promotion and it is certainly true that they have impressed in the two draws. Gloucestershire go back to the team that beat Kent. Giant Liam Norwell, who came out batting on one leg to try and save the game against Glamorgan, misses the game with a hamstring injury. After perhaps unwisely being left out against Glamorgan, Craig Miles will expect to be in the final XI. Both sides will hope that the pitch offers something but, if it does, an opening attack of Worrall and Taylor will be a handful, with Miles as first change. Sussex will undoubtedly play the same XI save for the aforementioned enforced change of spinner. Gloucestershire will be delighted by the form of Ryan Higgins and the return to form of Bobby Bracey, but captain Chris Dent is struggling for runs and putting too much pressure on Benny Howell and Gareth Roderick at the top of the order.
Northamptonshire v Durham
Northamptonshire 13-man squad: Alex Wakely, Luke Procter, Richard Levi, Adam Rossington, Josh Cobb, Rob Keogh, Ben Duckett, Steven Crook, Doug Bracewell, Brett Hutton, Richard Gleeson, Ben Sanderson, Rob Newton.
Durham 12-man squad: Paul Collingwood, Aiden Markram, Cameron Steel, Will Smith, Graham Clark, Michael Richardson, Stuart Poynter, Nathan Rimmington, James Weighell, Chris Rushworth, Barry McCarthy, Josh Coughlin.
Both teams will be looking to bounce back from less than ideal starts to the season after Northants have lost both matches inside three days, whilst Durham were taken part by Kent in just two. Northants will be keen to occupy the crease better, starting at the top of the order with Rob Newton and Ben Duckett. Meanwhile, for Durham, Cameron Steel returns to the squad after missing last week’s fixture with illness, as Gareth Harte misses out. Aiden Markram will be looking to put a difficult match last week behind him, after becoming the first player to make a pair on their first day of the County Championship.
Weather Watch: Rain Friday and Saturday afternoon, cloud on Sunday before more rain forecast for Monday. Highs of around 9c.
Match Odds: Northamptonshire 8/11, Durham 11/10 (Betfair).
Leicestershire v Derbyshire
Leicestershire 12-man squad: Michael Carberry, Varun Aaron, Colin Ackermann, Mark Cosgrove, Ned Eckersley, Neil Dexter, Gavin Griffiths, Lewis Hill, Paul Horton, Dieter Klein, Callum Parkinson, Ben Raine.
Derbyshire 14-man squad: Billy Godleman, Ben Slater, Luis Reece, Wayne Madsen, Alex Hughes, Matt Critchley, Callum Brodrick, Gary Wilson, Tony Palladino, Ravi Rampaul, Hardus Viljoen, Duanne Olivier, Will Davis, Hamidullah Qadri.
Paceman Varun Aaron could make his Leicestershire debut for this East Midlands clash in place of Mohammed Abbas who joins up with Pakistan training squad in preparation for the test matches with England next month. Ned Eckersley returns to the squad after a groin injury kept him out of last week’s draw with Sussex. Harry Dearden and Richard Jones are both ruled out through injury. Derbyshire will be high on confidence after a rare home victory against Middlesex last week. The same 11 from that match remain in the squad, with the additions of Will Davis, Hamidullah Qadri and Callum Brodrick.
Rain on Friday, dry and overcast conditions on Saturday and Sunday with the risk of further rain on Monday. Highs of around 10c.
Leicestershire 11/10, Derbyshire 8/11 (Betfair).
By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
Beers in the coolbox? Check. Cheese and pickle sandwiches? Check. Water? Check. Sun cream? Check. The summer has finally arrived with game week two set to be played in scorching April conditions.
After last weeks rain ruled the opening fixtures, spectators, umpires, players and pitches alike will all be grateful for some springtime sunshine. Particularly in Yorkshire eh Colin Graves?
Talking of Yorkshire, they will hope to put their rather farcical start to the season behind them when they host Nottinghamshire at Headingley on Friday. Against Essex, they were left frustrated by ‘unprescedented levels of rain’ in the north of England seeing all four days wiped out. They do welcome back Ben Coad to the squad after the impressive young seamer missed out on sitting in the sun watching umpires traipsed in and out the pavilion to inspect the outfield. Coad will be a welcome returnee to the squad after racking up the wickets last season for the White Rose. The Tykes will have to wait to have England Skipper Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow for another week or two but I am sure their presence around the place will play a big role.
Ahead of the clash Yorkshire bowler, Jack Brooks seemed in confident mood, the former Northants seamer stated that despite the strength of the Nottinghamshire side he remains confident his side will come out on top.
“We’ve got a good recent record against Notts, and we tend to play some pretty good cricket at home. We know how to play to these conditions. He told the Yorkshire official site.
“They’ve got some decent internationals and a good solid overseas batsman in Ross Taylor. I’d imagine they are still on a high after the summer they had last year, winning a couple of trophies.
“They did well against Lancashire and will be a tough test.” He added.
Nottinghamshire meanwhile managed to dodge the rain to claim a good win against hotly fancied Lancashire at Old Trafford in game week one. In a low-scoring affair, their bowling strength shone through with the likes of Jake Ball and Harry Gurney starring for the Outlaws. The pace duo will once again play a key role in this encounter with the Headingley wicket sure to offer plenty of seam movement early on in the encounter.
Ross Taylor will look to improve on what was a pretty disappointing opening match for the Outlaws. Taylor could only muster nine runs in the match including a golden duck during the shakey chase of just 10.
Jake Libby though is keen to show that their Lancashire success wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
“It’s a long winter and there were a few questions thrown at us with regards to our signing and us going back into Division One and no-one knew how we were going to get on,’ Libby told Trentbridge.co.uk.
“So it’s nice to get that first win to settle us down and show our intentions of finishing at the top end of the table.’ He added.
Yorkshire will be chomping at the bit to get underway and forget the disappointment of last weeks embarrassing episode and they will want to prove a point and make up for potentially lost ground. They’ve got a decent side on paper and will be hoping that they can catch a complacent Nottinghamshire team.
How the line up:
Yorkshire: Ballance ©, Bresnan, Brook, Brooks, Coad, Hodd (w/k), Leaning, Lees, Lyth, Pujara, Shaw and Waite
Nottinghamshire: Mullaney ©, Libby, Nash, Footitt, Wessels, Gurney, Wood, Milnes, Fletcher, Patel, Moores (w/k), Taylor, Ball and Root
Day One: Sunny with highs of 19.
Day Two: light rain with highs of 19.
Day Three: Cloudy with highs of 15.
Day Four: Cloudy with highs of 13.
Essex vs Lancashire:
Elsewhere, two of the early season title favourites meet at Chelmsford with reigning Champions Essex looking to finally get their season underway against Lancashire. The Eagles were left frustrated by the weather last week at Leeds, but have come home to Essex basked in sunshine ready for their home opener.
Peter Siddle will make his long-awaited debut for the club after being made to wait a week by the English weather and will join up with the ever-impressive young seam attack of Jamie Porter, Sam Cook and Paul Walter. Sam’s namesake Alastair will be missing though as he has been made to wait a further week by the England selectors. There is also no place in the side for winter signing Matt Coles, who despite impressing for the second still seems to struggle to break his way into the four-day side. One man who will be pleased to see the baking sun basking down to the wicket is Simon Harmer. The South African spinner impressed in his maiden season and will be hoping to show it wasn’t just a fluke. As for the batsmen, they will hope an extra week in the nets will mean they will be fresh and ready for anything bowled down to them from a strong looking Lancashire attack. Nick Browne entered the season in decent touch having hit a century in the university clash against Oxford and a fifty in the MCC Champions tour match. The opener will act as the anchor whilst others will look to score their runs a little quicker. The Champions will look to get off to a winning home start after only picking up the five points thanks to the Yorkshire weather last week as they bid to retain their title.
Lancashire meanwhile, will be looking to bounce back from their opening game defeat to prove their title backers right. Much will rely on their talented looking bowling unit to utilize Essex’s main weakness. In Graham Onions, Joe Mennie and Tom Bailey they have a terrifying trio of bowlers that will dent even the strongest of batting line-ups. If they can get some early wickets on day one and skittle Essex out cheaply they will back their batsmen to fair far better than they did last week against Nottinghamshire. The likes of Hameed, Livingstone and Jennings all have a point to prove and will hope to make use of a usually very good batting track at Chelmsford.
How they line up:
Essex: Ten Doeschate ©, Foster (w/k), Bopara, Browne, Chopra, S. Cook, Harmer, Lawrence, Siddle, Porter, Walter, Westley and Wheater
Lancashire: Liam Livingstone (C), Tom Bailey, Shiv Chanderpaul, Jordan Clark, Steven Croft, Alex Davies, Haseeb Hameed, Keaton Jennings, Danny Lamb, Joe Mennie, Graham Onions, Stephen Parry, Matt Parkinson, Dane Vilas
Day One: Sunny intervals with highs of 25
Day Two: Sunny intervals with highs of 20
Day Three: Sunny intervals with highs of 20
Day Four: Cloudy with highs of 15.
Somerset vs Worcestershire:
At Taunton, two teams tipped for the drop meet at Somerset meet Worcestershire. The Pears suffered a baptism of fire on their return to the top flight having been smashed by Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl last week. It was their batting that let them down badly as they fell to a 196-run defeat in Southampton, indeed only Ben Cox, Travis Head and Ed Barnard offered any real resistance to a talented looking Hampshire attack. Their bowling, however, showed promise with Joe Leach, Steve Magoffin and Josh Tongue all showing they can be a danger in the top flight.
They do add two names to the squad though ahead of the trip west with Ben Twohig and Charlie Morris coming into the matchday thirteen.
Ahead of the clash, head coach Kevin Sharp told WCCC.co.uk that his side learnt a lot from their defeat on the south coast.
“There were a couple of things in the game that we will really learn from. There was one point in the game where we go back in it from a batting perspective.
“We made 200-7 (in reply to 290) and it looked as though we might nearly get up to their score. But they set the short ball trap and we fell into it a little bit which was a little naïve from out perspective. “ Sharp said.
Somerset enter their season opener a little cold after their university tour game against Oxford completely washed out. Matthew Renshaw becomes the latest Australian to join the West Countrymen replacing Chris Rogers as their overseas player for the season. He will add some vital stability to the batting line-up after Tom Abell and Eddie Byrom endured a difficult time of things last summer. Their skill is with the ball though, with Lewis Gregory, the Overton twins and the spin duo of Dom Bess and Jack Leach offering a mean looking fivesome. I predict they will be too much for Worcestershire, and it is vital they pick up points against their potential relegation rivals early on.
How they line up:
Somerset: Trescothick, Byrom, Renshaw, Hildreth, Abell ©, Davies, Gregory, Davey, C.Overton, J.Overton, Bess, Leach and Groenewald
Worcestershire: Mitchell ©, D’Oliveira, Fell, Clarke, Head, Rhodes, Cox, Barnard, Leach, Magoffin, Tongue, Twohig, Morris
Day One: Sunshine with highs of 19.
Day Two: Sunshine with a threat of thunderstorms with highs of 20
Day three: Cloudy with highs of 15
Day four: Cloudy with highs of 14.
Surrey vs Hampshire:
Lastly, the two southern powerhouses clash at the Oval as the South Coast derby takes place in South London. Excitement is high around the Oval as a number of high profile players have once again come through the revolving door. Dean Elgar – who has impressed during the winter for South Africa has the rather big shoes of Kumar Sangakkara to fill whilst Morne Morkel has signed a two-year kolpak contract with the Rey. Mercifully for Hampshire, Morkel misses out this particular encounter through injury but there will be a first start for Elgar. Perhaps the most intriguing name on the Surrey team sheet is Amir Virdi. The young Englishman was one of the only bright sparks in an otherwise disappointing with the Lions tour in the Caribbean this winter and will hope to flourish on a wicket that usually turns in this, his breakthrough season. Of course, you have the magic stardust of Sam Curran and the wise old heads of Rikki Clarke and Gareth Batty. It is an attack to be feared and that is without mentioning the missing Tom Curran (on IPL duty) and the box of tricks that is Jade Dernbach. England’s Mark Stoneman, keeper Ben Foakes, Scott Borthwick and skipper Rory Burns make up a formidable batting line-up bolstered by the aforementioned Dean Elgar. It is a team that, should it click has every chance to mount a title charge come September.
Hampshire will look to build on an impressive start to their season by bagging back-to-back wins during the course of the match in London. They also boast a decent looking bowling line-up with the likes of Kyle Abbott, Fidel Edwards, Brad Wheal and the evergreen Gareth Berg all amongst the wickets last week. The Southampton based club will also add another South African to their ranks in Dale Steyn soon too. Chris Sole, Chris Wood and Joe Weatherley add the youthful local look to the matchday squad whilst they also have England class in James Vince and Liam Dawson. But it is their overseas signing Hashim Amla who surely holds the key in this encounter; I witnessed an Amla masterclass a number of years ago as South Africa battered England at the Oval. He will have very fond memories of playing in South London and will want to repay the faith Hampshire have shown in him.
It will be a tight intriguing encounter packed full of internationals on display if you have a spare day over the next four, and you are in the proximity this would be one game I’d urge you to get down and watch it has the potential to be a real humdinger.
How they line-up:
Surrey: Burns ©, Batty, Borthwick, Clarke, Curran S, Dernbach, Dunn, Elgar, Foakes, Pope, Stoneman, Virdi
Hampshire: Adams, Wood, Dawson, Berg, Vince ©, Amla, Northeast, McManus (w.k) Roussouw, Weatherley, Wheal, Edwards, Abbot, Sole
Day One: Sunshine – highs of 26c
Day Two: Sunny intervals – highs of 23c
Day three: Sunny intervals – highs of 20c
Day Four: Cloudy with highs of 16c
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Hampshire welcome Yorkshire to the Ageas Bowl looking to continue their fine early season form which has seen them secure a win (against Yorkshire on the opening weekend) and a draw in a game which they dominated against a strong Middlesex side. Craig White’s men will take great heart into this encounter with this strong White Rose side having beaten their upcoming visitors by four-wickets just two weeks ago. You would suspect it to be a very different challenge however in Southampton with the Tykes welcoming back the likes of England skipper Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow as well as David Willey who impressed on his return to the side last week. Root will be keen to continue the fine form he showed in the winter as he warms up for the summer Tests, whilst Bairstow will be looking to cement his place in the England set-up with a good display in this match having missed out earlier in the season.
Yorkshire Coach Andrew Gale is determined to see his side make amends for their earlier season disappointment.
‘Chalky’s [Craig White] right, we were wounded about what happened given we drove the vast majority of the game, we’re going down there to win, that’s for sure.’ Gale told the Yorkshire official site.
In Ben Coad, Yorkshire have one of the most in-from seamers in the country right now and the youngster has described his shot to fame as a ‘bit mental’.
‘It’s been a bit mental, but I am loving every minute’ he told the Yorkshire official site after penning a new deal at the club.
For Hampshire, it is a case of carrying on as they been playing in their opening weeks, but they will have to play without key been Rilee Rossouw (finger) and Fidel Edwards (hamstring) with former Essex left-arm bowler Reece Topley returning to the squad alongside youngster Tom Alsop.
And it is safe to say that Hampshire are proud of their season's efforts thus far with skipper James Vince explaining that the Southampton based club would have snapped your hands off for this start.
‘Had we been offered the start that we’ve had at the start of the year we would have taken it with both hands.
‘Yorkshire had a good win (against Warwickshire) and they’ll be gunning for us after the result at Headingley so we’ll have a couple of days’ good rest and prepare to make sure we’re ready for another tough game on Friday.’ He told the Hampshire official site.
Team News in full:
Hampshire: Adams, Vince ©, Topley, Carberry, Ervine, McManus (w/k), Dawson, Crane, Alsop, Wheal, Berg, Abbott
Yorkshire: Ballance ©, Bairstow (w/k), Bresnan, Coad, Fisher, Handscomb, Lees, Lyth, Patterson, Rafiq, Rashid, Root, Willey
Weather Watch: Friday: Cloudy with highs of 15c, Saturday: cloudy with highs of 14c, Sunday: Sunny intervals with highs of 12, and the final day with played under fluffy white clouds with highs of 12c.
Match Odds: Hampshire 11/8, Draw 0/1, Yorkshire 4/6
Somerset travel to Lancashire looking to bounce back from their surprise defeat to Essex at Taunton last week. They will need to do something they couldn’t manage last season and beat Lancashire after the teams drew both games last summer but the West Country boys will be looking to improve with the bat after disappointing against the Eagles. They only managed an aggregate of 383 runs over both innings against Essex, which was eventually too few as their visitors inspired by Alastair Cook eased home on Day Three. Director of Cricket Matt Maynard believes in his squad however and the are expected to select the same squad.
‘We selected what we believed to be our strongest team for the game with Essex so that 11 stays along with Tim Groenewald who was twelfth man and Josh Davey who has been pretty close to selection this year after really impressing in the Seconds.” He told the Somerset official site.
For Lancashire it has been the total opposite runs haven’t been the issue, finishing teams off has been. They have been twice frustrated firstly at Chelmsford and then at the Oval as they found themselves in winning positions in both games but Glen Chapple’s men were forced to settle for a draw in both matches. They will though be boosted by the return of James Anderson who returns to the squad after being forced to sit out their encounter at the Oval. They are still without skipper Steven Croft though so Liam Livingstone will continue to skipper the side.
Team News in full:
Lancashire: Liam Livingstone (Captain), James Anderson, Tom Bailey, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jordan Clark, Alex Davies, Haseeb Hameed, Kyle Jarvis, Simon Kerrigan, Ryan McLaren, Stephen Parry, Luke Procter, Rob Jones, Dane Vilas.
Somerset: Marcus Trescothick, Dean Elgar, Tom Abell (capt), James Hildreth, Steve Davies (wkt), Pete Trego, Lewis Gregory, Roelof van der Merwe, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Jack Leach, Tim Groenewald and Josh Davey.
Weather Watch: Friday: Dark clouds 13c, Saturday: Sunshine 12c, Sunday: cloudy with highs of 11c, and the final days play will be played under sunny skies with highs of 9c.
Match Odds: Lancashire 10/11, Draw 0/1, Somerset 11/10
Essex make the short trip to the Home of Cricket to face reigning Champions Middlesex hoping to spring another surprise. They stunned Somerset last week at Taunton with an eight-wicket win despite having to chase the highest score of the game on a wearing pitch. They were, of course, indebted to Alastair Cook who struck a fifty in the first innings and backed that up with a stunning century in the second to help his side to victory. They have the services of the former England skipper again at Lords as he looks to continue to build up for a busy summer with his nation. Essex coach Chris Silverwood believes his side has sent out a clear message during their two displays upon their return to the top flight.
‘It shows what character we do have within the group and I think it sends out a strong message that we are here in Division One to make our presence felt. You can see the confidence in the squad and in individual players plus the good thing is that there is genuine competition for places in the starting line-up.’ Silverwood told the Essex official site.
Middlesex meanwhile are looking to return to winning ways having struggled against Hampshire last week scraping a draw after being under the cosh for most of the encounter. But on home turf the champions are strong and their squad will be keen to bounce back in a match they would have pinpointed when the fixtures were released as an 'easy win'. Much will rely on the pace duo of Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones as the pair represent quite the step up from what Essex would’ve experienced in Division Two last summer. They also have a brilliant spinner in Ollie Rayner who will be sure to cause Essex some trouble.
View From the Outfield will be broadcasting live from Lords on Friday and Sunday so be sure to check out our social feeds for updates.
Team news wise Essex welcome back Matt Quinn to the side whilst Ashar Zaidi – who impressed last week misses out.
Team news in full:
Middlesex: Franklin ©, Eskinazi, Finn, Gubbins, Helm, Higgins, Malan, Murtagh, Patel, Rayner, Robson, Roland-Jones, Simpson (w/k) and Voges
Essex: ten Doeschate ©, Wheater (w/k), Chopra, Browne, Harmer, Wagner, Beard, Westley, Bopara, Cook, Lawrence, Porter and Quinn
Weather watch: Friday: Dark clouds 16c, Saturday: white clouds 13c, Sunday: White clouds 14c and the final day will be played under white clouds with highs of 13c.
Match odds: Middlesex 8/13, draw 0/1, Essex 7/5
And finally, in division One, Surrey travel to Birmingham to face Warwickshire look for a repeat performance of the comfortable success they enjoyed when these two met two weeks ago at the Oval. In that match, Mark Stoneman and Mark Footitt dominated Warwickshire who fell to a narrow innings defeat. Stoneman struck a maiden century whilst Footitt claimed a six-wicket haul and took the key wickets of Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott to seal an opening game week win. Surrey backed that success up with a battling draw against Lancashire but this will be their first venture away from London and they will be hoping to perform as well on the road as they have been at home. The squad cuts a similar look with the same squad selected from their last fixture. Warwickshire will be wary of the qualities held by Kumar Sangakkara and Mark Stoneman and will look to remove the pair cheaply as they look to exert some revenge and right the wrongs of their season so far. The Bears have struggled desperately falling to back-to-back inning defeats, nothing has gone to plan for the Midland-club with the bowlers never have enough to play with as their batsmen failing frequently apart from one brilliant knock from Trott in that second innings against Surrey.
After a poor start, coach Jim Troughton is fully expecting a reaction after severe words were had after their latest defeat to Yorkshire.
‘Our cricket in the first two games just hasn't been good enough and it has come as a shock to the system because nobody expects to lose their first two games like that.
"As a coaching team, we are looking for a big reaction. We have spoken about the start we have made and aired some home truths and now we have just got to stay strong, stay together as a group and show the quality we have.’ Troughton told the Bears official site.
Warwickshire will look to finally rack some runs up in their first innings having been bowled out for a pitiful 91 and 178 in their two first innings efforts, in an attempt to add runs they have included youngster Matt Lamb as they continue to invest in youth in an attempt to rectify their issues. Ian Westwood also returns to the team.
Team news in full:
Warwickshire: Bell (©, Ambrose (Wicket-Keeper), Barker, Clarke, Hannon-Dalby. Lamb, Mellor (Wicket-Keeper), Patel, Porterfield, Thornton, Trott, Westwood and Wright
Surrey: Batty (c), Ansari, Borthwick, Burns, S. Curran, T. Curran, Dernbach, Foakes, Footitt, Meaker, Sangakkara, Sibley, Stoneman
Weather watch: Friday: Dark clouds 14c, Saturday: white clouds 12c, Sunday: white clouds 13c and the final day will be played under white clouds with highs of 10c.
Match Odds: Warwickshire 7/4, Draw 0/1, Surrey 8/13
Previews by David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
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