4/10/2017 0 Comments
Some dodgy batting, brilliant bowling, stunning fielding and cracking sunshine welcomed the County Championship season back. We saw five centurions, eight ‘Michelle’ five-fers and three sub one hundred innings scores during a dramatic opening game week.
In Division One, Hampshire stunned bookies favourites Yorkshire by securing a well-deserved four-wicket success. The South Coast county's achievement is all the more impressive given the fact Craig White’s men were 132-runs adrift on the first innings after Ben Coad starred with the ball for the Tykes in taking 6-37 to help dismiss the visitors for just 141. That was after the host made 273 with Gary Ballance top scoring with 120. The game changed on a sixpence when Hampshire’s new arrival Kyle Abbott used all his international experience to collect brilliant figures of 7-41 to give the visitors a genuine sniff of victory as the hosts were skittled out for 187. That left Hampshire with 320 to win with a day and bit to spare, and they got off to the best possible start with Michael Carberry fresh from his successful battle against cancer and Jimmy Adams sharing 91 for the opening stand before Coad removed the former England man for 41. Adams though remained patient and vigilant in his task going on to top score with 72 finding support from skipper James Vince and sharing 69 before falling leg before to Azeem Rafiq. His demise brought to the crease another debutant in Rilee Rossouw who struck eight fours in his 47. He shared just 16 with Vince though who fell to Coad for 44, that wicket gave Yorkshire some hope and that hope turned into belief when Tim Bresnan removed Sean Ervine (8) just five overs later to leave the visitors on 195/4 still 125 behind. England’s Liam Dawson joined Rossouw and the pair went about their work with a mixture of aggression and patience to take the visitors towards the winning line before the South African edged through to Hodd off the bowling of Bresnan with the total on 252. Still requiring a further 69 the visitors knew work was still to be done. Young wicketkeeper Lewis McManus was the man to join the pressure cooker alongside the experienced Dawson. And that pressure went up a notch when Dawson was magnificently caught and bowled by Bresnan for 37. But that was to be the final success for the hosts as Gareth Berg and McManus coolly guided the visitors to victory with an important 58-run stand. Berg sealed the win in style with a six off Coad to secure an unlikely success.
At the Oval, Mark Stoneman enjoyed a memorable Surrey debut as he starred with the bat to help his new club to an innings and one run victory over Warwickshire. The former Durham man struck a stunning century to guide the hosts to 454, hitting 24 fours and a six on his way to 165 to comfortably top score. Rory Burns and Kumar Sangakkara (both 71) also played their part in running the Warwickshire bowling attack ragged. Credit must go to Chris Wright who stuck to his task manfully to grab a five-wicket haul finishing with figures of 5-113. Their tiredness showed when they strode out to bat, losing five batsmen for a duck as they stumbled to an embarrassing 91 all out on a pitch that offered little to the bowlers, or so it seemed. Mark Footitt, who struggled in his maiden season in London, made up for all that disappointment with a stunning six-wicket haul to rip through the Bears top order including the key wickets of Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell both falling without score. To nobodies surprise with a mammoth lead of 363 to their name Surrey asked their visitors to bat again. The Bears were in immediate trouble again in their second innings as they threatened to fold like a pack of cards for a second time falling two down for just 37-runs. That brought two former England men together at the crease and they were determined to make up for lost time after both failing to trouble the scorers in the first innings. They were key to any chances of a miracle for the visitors and they shared a century stand before Ian Bell (64) fell soon after reaching his half-century to a moment of brilliance from that man Stoneman again who produced a stunning slip catch to remove the former England number three. A mini collapse ensued as Jade Dernback removed Sam Hain (3) before Thomas Curran took the wickets of Tim Ambrose (0) and Rikki Clarke (8) in quick succession, but Trott continued on his merry way and completed his century to remind everyone of his class. He, alongside Keith Barker (57) frustrated the Londoners for 42-overs sharing a stand of 124-runs in the process before Barker was trapped leg before by the evergreen Gareth Batty. Curran continued to impress with the ball collecting the wicket of Jeetan Patel (29). But the vital wicket of Trott – who by now had reached a brilliant 151 went to Footitt who had the Warwickshire number three caught by Dom Sibley. They were in sight of making the ‘Rey’ bat again and save themselves the embarrassment of an innings defeat but they fell an agonising one-run short when Wright was bowled by Curran (4-88) for 8 as Surrey wrapped up a comprehensive win before lunch on the final day.
Finally, at Chelmsford, Dan Lawrence struck a match-saving 141 not out to guide Essex to an unlikely opening game draw on their return to Division One against Lancashire. In a topsy-turvy game in sunny Essex, the hosts enjoyed a positive start on their opening day back into the top flight as they had their Red Rose counterparts in a spot of bother on 160/6 with Jamie Porter (2-64) and Aaron Beard (3-47) impressing on their maiden forage into Division One cricket. Porter got the ball rolling post-lunch with the key wicket of England hopeful Haseeb Hameed who had looked untroubled until the fair-haired seamer knocked back his stumps to leave the visitors on 118/3. Skipper Steven Croft who had shared 68-runs with Hameed soon fell after for 48 giving Simon Harmer his first scalp in an Eagles shirt. And when Ryan McLaren fell first ball Essex would’ve been dreaming of removing the visitors for a below-par score after losing the toss and being asked to bowl on a flat looking Chelmsford wicket. But debutant Dane Vilas (74) frustrated the Eagles alongside Jordan Clark (24) and Steven Parry (19) before becoming the ninth man to fall with the score on 268. Essex were left to rue a last wicket stand of 51 between James Anderson and Kyle Jarvis who guided the Red Rose beyond 300. Jarvis (28) was the last to fall caught by Chopra off the bowling of Neil Wagner (3-100) but by then the visitors had reached a respectable total of 319 a total that proved too hot to handle for the hosts who suffered a baptism of fire on their batting return to the top-flight being dismissed for just 159 with only really Dan Lawrence (37) and Ravi Bopara (46) threatening to trouble a decent Lancashire bowling attack. Lancashire declined the opportunity to put Essex in again, and that proved to be a wise call with Alex Davies (140 not out) and Vilas (92) putting Essex to the sword once more to leave the hosts with little chance of victory. Croft’s men declared just before tea on the third day in the hunt for some late wickets before having a real go on the final day. They did snare two with Chopra (29) and Nick Browne (18) falling before close. The hosts knew they faced an uphill battle on the final day, but they enjoyed a promising start to the final day with academy pair Dan Lawrence and Tom Westley both reaching half-centuries to guide Essex through to lunch unscathed. Westley, who harbours England hopes looked assured and didn’t offer a chance before being bowled by Parry for a well-made 61. But it was 19-year-old Lawrence who was really stealing the show at the other end as he showed maturity beyond his years to bat with great grit and determination to thwart everything thrown at him by a skilful Lancashire attack that included Jimmy Anderson and Kyle Jarvis. Despite wickets falling around him with Bopara and Wheater falling cheaply the youngster remained calm at the crease and completed a magnificent century coming off 216-balls. The late loss of skipper Ryan ten Doeschate threatened to throw a late spanner in the works but Lawrence - who by now had been at the crease for eight-hours, ensured Essex grabbed a vital opening day draw with some gritty resistance from partner Harmer. Essex finished on 316/6 with the 19-year-old unbeaten on 141.
In Division Two, no game reached the final day as Northampton breezed past Glamorgan by an innings and 22 runs inside three days, Kent thrashed Gloucestershire by 334-runs and Nottinghamshire made a statement on their return to the second tier with a routine 10-wicket success.
Northampton took just two days to defeat their Welsh visitors with Rory Kleinveldt starring with both bat and ball to ease his side to a comprehensive success. The South-African born all-rounder took 3-35 as the Steelbacks dismissed Glamorgan for just 101 after the visitors had won the toss and elected to bat. Kleinveldt wasn't finished there though and with the hosts struggling on 170/6 the experienced Northamptonshire stalwart top scored with 86 to guide his side to a useful 310, a lead of 209. That proved to be more than enough as Glamorgan’s batting frailties reared their ugly head again as Ben Sanderson (4-31) and the brilliant Kleinveldt (3-54) combined again to do the damage as the Welshmen struggled their way to 187 all out, 22-runs short of the Steelback’s first innings total.
Red-hot promotion favourites Nottinghamshire flexed their muscles to secure a comfortable ten-wicket success over Leicestershire. James Pattinson, fresh from getting off the plane from Australian showed no signs of jet lag as he produced a cracking all-round display to ensure Nottinghamshire would ease to success. Pattinson took 3-55 as Leicestershire were dismissed for 251 in their first innings with Ben Raine (55*) and Mark Cosgrove (57) in the runs for the Foxes. The Australian then showed that he is no mug with the bat either sharing a 122-run eighth wicket partnership with England’s Stuart Broad (52). Pattinson ended the innings unbeaten on 89 to top score for the visitors who were dismissed for 329. Honours just about even you would think, but Pattinson and Luke Fletcher (4-35) had other ideas as the duo combined to blow the Leicestershire batting line-up away. The hosts were dismissed for a paltry 81 with the impressive Pattinson finishing with figures of 5-29. That left Nottinghamshire with the simple task of getting three runs. A task emphatically finished off by Greg Smith who thwacked the winning runs for six to give the Outlaws a winning start in Divison two whilst defeat further compounds the Foxes' misery following their 16-point deduction.
Finally, at Canterbury, Kent secured a comfortable win over Gloucestershire after dramatic post-lunch day three session brought a quickened end to the game. The Bristol-based club’s batting frailties let the visitors down in both innings as the hosts eased to a mammoth 334-run success. Joe Denly struck a half-century in both innings to help the hosts to respectable scores of 298 in the first innings and 246 in the second. Liam Norwell was the pick of the Gloucestershire attack in both innings taking match figures of 8-105, but he was badly let down by his batsmen. Indeed, the visitors fell straight behind the eight-ball by being dismissed for just 149 in their first effort of the season with the bat Chris Dent the only man to offer any sort of resistance top scoring with 67. That below-par score left the visitors chasing an unlikely 396 to win. Then utter madness occurred after lunch on day three as the evergreen Darren Stevens (6-22) and Kent new boy James Harris (3-26) tore through the Gloucestershire line-up to dismiss the visitors for just 61 to give Kent a massive opening game win.
Reports by David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu on twitter)
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