6/24/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid
Day 4 of the battles at the top and the bottom of the table.
The end result of all the action has been a closing of the gaps between the trailing pack and the bottom in Division One. Surrey are clear out in front, with a lead of 13 points over Nottinghamshire and a game in hand. Somerset are third, eight points further back, with Essex now 27 points behind Surrey, also having played a game more. Just two points cover Yorkshire, in fifth and Lancashire, in seventh, with Worcestershire still bottom, but only 17 points from salvation.
In Division Two, Kent’s win has closed the gap to Warwickshire to just 8 points. The chasing pack is led now by Sussex, 14 points behind Kent, with Leicestershire, Middlesex, Derbyshire and Durham all with some chance of promotion if they can string several wins together, although Durham, in seventh, are a full 33 points behind Kent. Northants win does not lift them off the bottom, but the gap to Gloucestershire and Glamorgan above them is just seven points.
At Chelmsford, where Nottinghamshire had challenged Essex to score by far the largest total of the match to win, Essex surrendered pretty meekly to 139ao giving Nottinghamshire their first win at Chelmsford since 1984. Essex lost wickets regularly through the session and, despite a spirited 10th wicket stand, that held out for more than eleven, largely scoreless overs, could not quick get the game to Lunch. When Ravi Bopara fell in just the third over of the morning that, realistically, was that and so it proved. The wickets were shared around between five bowlers with 3-23 from Matthew Quinn the stand-out performance. Essex were totally outplayed and surely their attempt to defend their County Championship title is over. For Nottinghamshire, a big win, 23 points and they leapfrog Somerset into second, albeit with a game more than both Surrey and Somerset. Nottinghamshire are on to repeat the Essex feat of promotion and the Pennant in successive seasons.
At Worcester Day 3 had ended with Lancashire chasing 602 to win and Keaton Jennings in sublime batting form. As Jennings and Vilas piled on the runs there must have been a tremor of concern in the chest of Damien D’Oliviera, but the fall of Dane Vilas opened an end and, when Jennings finally fell for 176, on the stroke of Lunch, having received a grubber from Ben Brown that he could not keep out, Lancashire were 359-6 and their slim hopes of a miraculous chase had ended. Clark and Lamb dug in hard after Lunch, but it was just a matter of time and Whiteley put a stake through the still-beating Lancashire heart by taking Clark, to end a partnership of 39 and, with it, any remaining Lancashire hopes. Jordan Clark and Stephen Parry fell quickly afterwards and it was down to the last rites. Tom Bailey fell too to Ed Barnard, who had a superb game – that was his eighth wicket of the match – and three wickets had fallen for one run in eleven balls. It was only fitting that, after a series of dot balls, Ed Barnard should clean up Graeme Onions for his ninth wicket. Lancashire, 399ao, having been 359-5 and 398-6. Worcestershire obtained their first win of the season by a mere 202 runs but, for a good part of the day, Lancashire were able to dream. Victory though keeps alive Worcestershire’s hopes of avoiding relegation.
At the Ageas Bowl, Yorkshire started the day knowing that they needed to bat out the best part of two sessions to ensure the draw. Ollie Rayner added a third wicket to his two before the Close on the third evening, when Gary Balance feathered an edge to the ‘keeper, Tom Alsop. When, in the next over, Ian Holland bowled a big inswinger that went through Cheteshwar Pujara, Yorkshire were just 19 ahead, with 4 wickets down. However, Leaning and Brooks stonewalled to great effect and the game died, although the slow pace of scoring kept Hampshire in with a mathematical chance of setting up a chase until well past the Dinner interval. It was a perfect demonstration of battling for a draw. The match was heading to the quietest of draws, with Leaning and Brooks hanging in there, without offering Hampshire a chance to open the game back up. At this stage, Hampshire desperately needed two quick wickets to give themselves a chance of setting-up the chase. They got one when Brook was unlucky to find himself run out for 68 as Jack Leaning drove, bowler Gareth Berg dived and touched the ball onto the stumps with Brook out of his ground. Suddenly, with that dismissal, Hampshire had a chance again. 220-5. 127 ahead. 44 overs to go. From then it was Operation Block: over after over of strokelessness with the only aim of survival. Ollie Rayner finally bowled Tattersall for 22 but, by then, the draw was sealed and the captains shook on it soon after. Yorkshire finished at 263-6d.
In Division Two, Grace Road was the scene of a dramatic and traumatic day of action, as Middlesex sealed a win by one wicket to keep their promotion hopes alive. Ravi Patel had held up the hosts for almost an hour before finally losing patience and taking a swing outside off with leaden feet. Paul Stirling came in and, you felt, that with Eskinazi battling hard at the other end and approaching his century, that it was last-chance saloon for the team fondly known as “The Machines” by many of their fans. Stirling survived a drop almost immediately, but did not hang around, as Griffiths removed him quickly. However, the morning session also featured a remarkable non-dismissal that almost certainly turned the match, as Middlesex struggled in the second hour of the morning. Gavin Griffiths bowled a corker of a delivery at Hilton Cartwight wo had not yet scored, Cartwright prodded and seemed to have got an edge, as there was a loud noise and an appeal. For a moment it was uncertain whether the batsman was caught, or LBW until the replay showed that the noise had been the ball crashing into off stump… but somehow without removing a bail. With Cartwright coming in on an average of 7 and looking utterly at sea, things did not look good for Middlesex, but that piece of luck was a portent of what was to come. Remarkably, Cartwright survived through to Lunch and it was Stevie Eskinazi who fell first, three short of his century, run out by Ben Raine. Stranger still was the fact that, having started to misbehave badly last night, this now fifth day pitch started to play better and better as the day progressed. Despite looking like a genuine #11 when he came out to bat, Hylton Cartwright rode his luck for 50, ably supported by John Simpson and, with Tea approaching, Leicestershire needed desperately to find a wicket from somewhere with the new ball. Half chances where missed. Edges flashed through vacant positons in the slips. Middlesex rode their luck and the tension rose and rose and rose. At Tea, the Machines needed 105 to win, with Cartwright 59* and Simpson 35*. Simpson went soon after Tea, but Cartwright kept going to the tune of 80 before Ben Raine trapped him LBW. Leicestershire missed chance after chance, at least seven in the match and James Harris, no mean batsman, played a brilliant innings. Middlesex crept closer and closer. The target was under 20 as Steve Finn broke his duck. Then Finn played a whip off his hip for a boundary. 14 needed. Two wickets left. Fifty for James Harris. 10 needed. Finn hoiks the ball high in the air, but just over the infield: 8 to win. 7 needed to win. Finn edges Abbas down the legside to the ‘keeper. Out goes Steve Finn, the Watford Wall. In comes Tim Murtagh, the Lambeth Lara, now though more and more a genuine #11, having arrived from Surrey a decade earlier as an all-rounder. Single to Murtagh. Six to win. Harris gropes outside off… tickle? No! Hands on heads! Single to Murtagh. Five to win. Single to Harris. Four to win. Field all on the boundary. Harris takes a single from the first ball. Bouncer. Murtagh hooks with head down, not watching and somehow makes contact to send the ball out to Deep Square Leg. Ball down legside. Harris clips it. BOUNDARY!!! Middlesex win. Their promotion hopes stay alive. What an extraordinary chase.
At Swansea, the game seemed to be heading to a sleepy draw. Glamorgan batted on, helped by 126 from Khawaja and 152 by 20-year-old Kiran Carlson, who put on 289 together. Despite his name, Carlson was born in Wales and has already represented them, albeit in the form of Wales Minor County. He was, in 2016, the youngest ever First Class century maker for Glamorgan. David Lloyd (another who has represent Wales Minor County) added 43*. Glamorgan declared at 403-7, leaving Derbyshire a nominal target of 325. Any thoughts that Derbyshire might have had of making a dip at it were ended when both openers fell with just 18 on the board: Ben Hogan and Andre Salter – the spinner have been thrown the hard ball very early – taking one of them each. Derbyshire’s efforts to survive never really got going. Only Wayne Madsen, with 55, made a significant contribution. Wickets fell regularly and Glamorgan were in a race against time to take all ten before the overs ran out. With 17 overs to go, Derbyshire were 125-7 and flailing. Then Hogan took Qadri. 128-8 and Glamorgan were favourites, with 14.3 overs to survive. However, no one had told Tony Paladino that Glamorgan were going to win and, in the company of Duanne Olivier, the overs were chalked-off. Four overs to go: Paladino, 25*, Olivier, 5*. Last over: 146-8, the pair had put on 18 in 13.3 overs and scored just 9 runs from the last ten (including an isolated boundary), with Paladino 30*. Somehow, Derbyshire had hung on and, with one ball left to bowl and two wickets to take, the game ended in a tense draw.
At Tunbridge Wells the match was finely balanced until Kent, finally, made the critical breakthrough and then surged to a victory that puts them right in the promotion hunt. Warwickshire saw out the first hour comfortably, as Ian Bell and Dom Sibley piled on the runs. Sibley fell finally to Harry Podmore for 104, just when it looked as if Warwickshire could get through to Lunch and were becoming the favourites to win. However, Jonathon Trott then followed quickly, also to Podmore, for a duck and, suddenly, the momentum had changed. That said, 322-3 at Lunch, with Ian Bell still there on 160*, the chase of 519 was still very much on. However, Bell fell LBW to Ivan Thomas after Lunch for 172 and, when Tim Ambrose followed quickly, it was 355-5. The magic had broken and the chase, while still on, looked unlikely again. Even at that stage though, it is fair to say that both sides thought that they could still win. 392-5, Warwickshire slight favourites again. Podmore gets Keith Barker to edge to second slip for 16. 392-6 and the match swings back to Kent. As had happened at Worcester, one wicket brought a second and Jethan Patel fell cheaply: 405-7. There was a curious symmetry with the game at Grace Road as, in both games, the side chasing needed 105 to win at Tea. Warwickshire were still, just about alive, with Adam Hose 50* and Chris Wright 4*. The rot though had set in and, as it had been for Lancashire earlier in the afternoon, the end was rather quick after Tea as Wright, Hose and Hannon-Dalby all fell in eleven balls for five runs. Warwickshire were 441ao and lost by 73 runs, having got closer than anyone would have dared to hope. They still lead Division Two and are well-placed to be promoted, but this is not quite the royal progress that it had seemed to be a week earlier.
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