6/20/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@Markfrommadrid) & Harry Hill (@Harryhill96)
The story so far:
For half of the sides, this is now the seventh round of matches – the halfway point in the season; for the other half, the sixth. Forget the wishful talk that “there is a long way to go” because there is not any longer. Somerset and Surrey, not exactly the two sides that most people had in their Championship predictions, have a game in hand, sat proudly at the top of the table, unbeaten and, by a trick of mischievous fortune, play each other in this round. At the other end of the table, one suspects that defeat for Worcestershire would, even now, almost seal their fate, although the scheduling of the Championship assures that if so, they are condemned to a slow death.
The fixtures have worked out nicely in that the top four play each other and the bottom four play each other, which will add some clarity to the top and the bottom of the table. There is though only one place to start and that is at Guildford, where top side visits the side in second. This is a 48-pointer and will also pit the finest spinners in the country against each other: an enticing prospect.
Surrey v Somerset
Surrey Squad: Burns (C), Batty, Borthwick, Clarke, De Bruyn, Dernbach, Harinath, Jacks, Morkel, Patel, Pope (WK), Stoneman, Virdi.
Somerset Squad: Abell (C), Bartlett, Bess, Byrom, Davey, Davies, Gregory, Groenewald, Hildreth, Leach, Overton, Renshaw, van der Merwe.
What a game to open the 80th Guildford Cricket Festival. The two stand-out sides of the season play each other with the leadership of the Championship at stake and the chance to go for the jugular. The winner – if there is one – will open up a significant gap at the top, with a game in hand on most of the chasing pack. Both sides have played some wonderful cricket so far this season and come into this fixture unbeaten. Surrey are missing four of their biggest stars: the two Currans, Ben Foakes and Jason Roy are all playing for England, or for the Lions, so new signing, Theunis de Bruyn, on the Surrey books for just two matches, will almost certainly debut. Somerset have no such issues and welcome back Jack Leach from injury and have Dominic Bess back now that the Tests have finished for a while. Both sides have spin-heavy squads, with Somerset including Leach, Bess and van de Merwe, while Surrey have Batty and new sensation Virdi. The spin battle between Virdi and the Somerset tweakers will be an early indication about who is likely to be in pole position to go to Sri Lanka this winter. For Surrey, a concern must be the form of Mark Stoneman: how long can they persist with him at the top of the order? He has still not reached 30 this season. Somerset’s pace attack will undoubtedly give him a searching examination while Morkel, Dernbach and Clarke will provide a searching test for the Somerset top order. A wonderful heavyweight battle is on the cards here. Somerset want that first Championship pennant in their history and will sense a wonderful opportunity here against a weakened rival to push their claim.
Essex v Nottinghamshire
Essex squad: 21 Tom Westley (C), 31 Adam Wheater (WK), 25 Ravi Bopara, 6 Varun Chopra, 1 Matt Coles, 26 Alastair Cook, 11 Simon Harmer, 28 Dan Lawrence, 19 Michael Pepper, 44 Jamie Porter, 94 Matt Quinn, 13 Neil Wagner
Nottinghamshire squad: Jake Libby, Chris Nash (c), Mark Footitt, Riki Wessels, Harry Gurney, Luke Wood, Matt Milnes, Luke Fletcher, Matt Carter, Samit Patel, Tom Moores (wkt), Ross Taylor, Billy Root.
Essex and Nottinghamshire lead the chasing pack, but with a game more played. There is a huge incentive for positive cricket as the winner would maintain a strong challenge, while a draw would probably do little for the chances of either side. Tom Westley leads Essex in the absence of the banned Ryan ten Doeschate. The hosts are challenging despite a batting line-up that has managed just six batting points in six matches: for them, the good news is that, with England engaged in an ODI series, Alastair Cook is back and Tom Westley is starting to show signs of a return to the form that brought him an England cap. Of the bowlers, Jamie Porter, with 23 wickets, is coming into the sort of form that propelled Essex to the title last season. Nottinghamshire are without Steve Mullaney, who captains the Lions in the tri-series against India A and West Indies A. Chris Nash takes over as captain and Harry Gurney returns from injury. Like Essex, Nottinghamshire have struggled for first innings runs and without their leading run scorer, will hope that other members of the side step up to replace him.
Worcestershire v Lancashire
Worcestershire squad: Mitchell, Guptill, Fell, Clarke, D’Oliveira ©, Cox (w), Barnard, Twohig, Magoffin, Morris, Brown, Whiteley
Lancashire squad: Dane Vilas (c), Tom Bailey, Shiv Chanderpaul, Jordan Clark, Steven Croft, Alex Davies, Haseeb Hameed, Keaton Jennings, Rob Jones, Toby Lester, Joe Mennie, Graham Onions, Stephen Parry
Neither side can afford to lose this match. Worcestershire have lost four of their five matches so far: a fifth defeat would surely condemn them to relegation. While a side can make up ground in the second half of the season, five defeats in the first six games is usually too much to recover from and even more so now that there are two fewer matches. The visitors, Lancashire, are only six points clear of relegation and will see this as an opportunity to put some daylight between them and other sides in the bottom half of the table. Despite some fine individual performances, life in Division One has not been kind to a Worcestershire side, who sprinted so imperiously past Nottinghamshire last season to win Division Two; in fact, these performances have even been a handicap, as Joe Clarke has been called-up by the Lions, weakening the batting, which has struggled to cope with Division One attacks. Captain Joe Leach is out for the rest of the season with a stress fracture of the back. His replacement as captain is Damian D’Oliviera, while Steve Magoffin is fit again and Martin Guptill debuts. Similarly, Lancashire lose Matt Parkinson and Liam Livingstone to the Lions, with Rob Jones and Toby Lester replacing them. Dane Vilas has been named Captain. Keaton Jennings is back, but the suspicion is that his fine run of form has slipped back a little, although he might wish to show otherwise. Similarly, Haseeb Hameed seems to be regaining his form and will hope to demonstrate it.
Hampshire v Yorkshire
Hampshire squad: Jimmy Adams (4), Lewis McManus (18), Sam Northeast (17), Rilee Rossouw (30), Tom Alsop (9), Joe Weatherley (5), Gareth Berg (13), Ryan Stevenson (47), James Vince (14) Captain, Fidel Edwards (20), Dale Steyn (2), Kyle Abbott (51), Ollie Rayner (--), Ian Holland (22
Yorkshire squad: Gary Ballance, Tim Bresnan, Harry Brook, Jack Brooks, Karl Carver, Ben Coad, Jack Leaning, Alex Lees, Adam Lyth, Steven Patterson ©, Cheteshwar Pujara, Jonny Tattersall (WK), Jordan Thompson
A day-night, pink-ball fixture, with both sides too close to comfort to the relegation zone to want to lose. Hampshire are fresh from marmalising Yorkshire in their ODC Semi-Final on Monday. Yorkshire miss, not just their five England players, missing from that defeat, but also now, two further players to the Lions: Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, David Willey, Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett, Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Matthew Fisher are all unavailable for this game. With spinners Mason Crane and Brad Taylor both absent due to injury and all-rounder Liam Dawson with the Lions, Hampshire have signed Ollie Rayner, out of favour this season at Lord's, on loan as a stop-gap, Middlesex fans wonder if he will return to Lord’s. Sam Northeast and Tom Alsop are available to Hampshire after injury. Yorkshire give a debut to Jonny Tattersall who did so well in the ODC defeat and thank their lucky stars that they have such incredible squad depth, however, the suspicion is that this is a catch-weight contest. A Hampshire pace attack of Edwards, Steyn and Abbott should have too much for an inexperienced Yorkshire side: a win for the locals would ease some of the growing relegation worries at the Ageas Bowl, although it would leave Yorkshire in a delicate position.
Glamorgan v Derbyshire
Glamorgan 12-man squad: Hogan, Lloyd, Selman, Khawaja, Murphy, Carlson, Morgan, Salter, Cooke, Carey, Sisidiya, Lawlor
Derbyshire 14-man squad: Godleman, Slater, Madsen, Hughes, Brodrick, Critchley, Hosein, Wilson, Viljoen, Rampaul, Olivier, Qadri, Palladino, Gleadall
Preview: Glamorgan welcome back Michael Hogan to captain the side, whilst Kiran Carlson joins after finishing university for the year. Furthermore, 19-year old Prem Sisodiya will debut if selected, adding to the sense of renewal following a sluggish start to the CC this season. Meanwhile, Gary Wilson returns to the Derbyshire side after his time with Ireland in their tri-series with Scotland and Netherlands. Derbyshire will, however, be without Luis Reece, following a recent operation.
Weather Watch: Cloudy day one, with a risk of an afternoon shower, greater sunny spells later in the week, with an average of 18c
Match Odds: Glamorgan 6/5, Derbyshire 4/6 (Betfair)
Kent v Warwickshire
Kent 12-man squad: Denly, Bell-Drummond, Dickson, Crawley, Kuhn, Stevens, Rouse, Podmore, Henry, Stewart, Riley, Thomas
Warwickshire’s 14-man squad: Patel, Ambrose, Barker, Bell, Brookes, Hannon-Dalby, Hose, Lamb, Poysden, Rhodes, Sibley, Sidebottom, Trott, Wright
Preview: The two sides battling out at the top of the CC Division Two meet at Tunbridge Wells, as the Spitfires look to claw away at the Bears’ 24-point lead. Kent are without Callum Haggett, Mitch Claydon and James Tredwell, whilst Warwickshire’s absentees include Sam Hain, Aaron Thomason and Olly Stone. Fresh from booking a Lord’s final, Hino Kuhn has proven himself to be an astute signing. In the week he got overtaken as England’s leading ODI runs-scorer, Ian Bell continues to pile on the runs in the CC with 454 so far this campaign.
Weather Watch: Sunny intervals, average 19c
Match Odds: Kent Evens, Warwickshire 4/5 (Betfair)
Leicestershire v Middlesex
Leicestershire 13-man squad: Horton, Abbas, Ackermann, Chapppell, Cosgrove, Dearden, Dexter, Javid, Jones, Hill, Parkinson, Raine, Griffiths
Middlesex 13-man squad: Malan, Barber, Cartwright, Eskinazi, Finn, Harris, Holden, Murtagh, Patel, Robson, Scott, Simpson, Stirling
Preview: Leicestershire can be pleased with their progress under Paul Nixon in the CC with wins over Northants and Glamorgan and draws against Derbyshire and highly-fancied Sussex. Muhammad Abbas is back at Grace Road with the red ball, following his Man of the Series award for Pakistan in the Tests against England. Middlesex are without two key men from their squad this season as Nick Gubbins and Tom Helm are with the England Lions, while Eoin Morgan, back playing red-ball cricket, is away captaining England to an ODI series victory over Australia.
Weather Watch: Sunny spells, average temperature of around 19c
Match Odds: Leicestershire 6/5, Middlesex 4/6 (Betfair)
Northamptonshire v Gloucestershire
Northamptonshire: Unannounced at time of publishing
Gloucestershire: Dent, Howell, Roderick, Bracey, Hankins, van Buuren, Noema-Barnett, Higgins, Miles, Drissell, M. Taylor, Liddle
Preview: After last years 3rd place finish in the CC Division Two, Northants have very much struggled with the unfamiliar tag of being the hunted as opposed to the hunters. Without a red-ball win yet, Northants’ faults have started at the top of the order, reaching 250 just once in eight innings, with the likes of Ben Duckett, Richard Levi and Rob Newton unable to replicate the form of recent years. Gloucestershire’s bowling stocks are somewhat weakened as David Payne and Liam Norwell are unavailable for the trip to Wantage Road.
Weather Watch: Sunny intervals, with average of around 20c
Match Odds: Northamptonshire Evens, Gloucestershire 4/5 (Betfair)
Sussex v Durham
Sussex: Unannounced at time of publishing
Durham: Unannounced at time of publishing
Preview: Only two points separate these two in the CC Division Two, as Durham have found a previously thought improbable return to winning ways thanks to home victories against Leicestershire and Derbyshire. Paul Collingwood is expected to return from injury for the north-east outfit, whilst Sussex are expected to name the trio of Jofra Archer, Chris Jordan and Laurie Evans.
Weather Watch: Cloudy on day one, with greater sunny intervals later in the week, average of 20c
Match Odds: Sussex 8/15, Durham 6/4 (Betfair)
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