Runs continued to dominate the early season matches in the Specsavers County Championship during game week three.
Kumar Sangakkara stole the show at the Oval as he smashed a brilliant 171 to help put Surrey in control of their Division One match against Somerset. The Sri Lankan was dropped twice early on and went on to make the visitors pay in memorable fashion. He struck 24 boundary fours and cleared the ropes four times as he played in typically aggressive fashion to top score for the hosts as they reached 394/5 at close in London. The early loss Arun Harinath (9) who fell leg before to Craig Overton brought the Sri Lankan to the middle and he alongside Rory Burns got the scoreboard moving at pace. The pair shared 187 for the 2nd wicket to put the ‘Rey in a commanding position. The duo played delightful all around the wicket with Sangakkara adding a little bit of Asian flair to proceedings, but only after he survived a huge scare early on as he flashed at a ball from Craig Overton only to see his edge spilled in the slips. Burns fell for an impressive 80 offering a return catch to spinner Roelof van der Merwe. Steven Davies (7) came to the middle and continued to look out of sorts before he became the first of two wickets for Tim Groenewald. Out strolled Jason Roy to the middle and he seemingly thought he was back in India; playing shots all round the wicket as he struck eleven fours on his way to a quick-fire 85. Sangakkara fell first though after sharing 65 for the fourth-wicket with Roy, the Sri Lankan finding the hands of Overton off the bowling of Groenewald with the score on 313/4. Roy continued in an aggressive manner alongside Zafar Ansari (28 not out) but the England man couldn’t see his efforts through to close falling leg before wicket just five balls before the end of play to leave the hosts in a good position on 394/5.
Meanwhile at Chester-Le-Street, Middlesex continued their fine early season form with the bat as the London club enjoyed a solid days play in Durham. The top-seven all contributed against a strong bowling attacking boasting the returning Ben Stokes. Nick Gubbins (60), Dawid Malan (74), and skipper Adam Voges (50) all struck half-centuries as the visitors reached 358/7 at close. It was a less successful match for England hopeful Sam Robson though, who fresh from a memorable week at Lords struck just 26 before becoming the first wicket to fall. Youngster Brydon Carse bowled him with the score on 58. His partner though Nick Gubbins continued to score freely striking an important 60 to get his side off to a decent start at a cold Chester-Le-Street. He struck ten fours in his 80-ball stay before becoming Graham Onions’ first victim of the day, the Middlesex opener fell leg before to the former England man. Nick Compton got a start before falling for a well-made 38, the England hopeful chopped spinner Ryan Pringle on with the score on 177/3. That brought skipper Adam Voges to the crease and the Australian found an ally in Dawid Malan and the pair shared 90 for the fourth wicket, with both making half-centuries before both fell without kicking on for a big score. Malan was the first to fall when Chris Rushworth found his edge to give a catch to Michael Richardson behind the stumps. An over later, Ben Stokes’ had his first victim of the day, having the Australian caught at gully by Scott Borthwick. John Simpson and Paul Stirling then added a vital 61 for the sixth-wicket to push the visitors past 300. Simpson was pinned in front by Onions though to depart for 38 in the fading light, and twenty runs later Stokes has his second wicket trapping James Harris LBW with the final delivery of the day to leave the game evenly poised at close.
At a damp and overcast Edgbaston only 58-overs were possible as Warwickshire and Yorkshire shared the spoils on the opening day of their Division One encounter. The hosts dominated the morning session grabbing three of the top four before Lunch. Openers Alex Lees and Adam Lyth shared 46 for the opening stand, but Lees, who is yet to find his rhythm with the bat this season fell for 19 when had his stumps rearranged by Rikki Clarke. Four runs later, Lyth departed for the same score, the England man attempted a hook shot but could only find Ian Bell at mid-off who took a juggling catch. By now, the hosts had their tails up and they struck again three overs later, Keith Barker found the inside edge of Andrew Gale’s bat and the Yorkshire skipper could only manage to manoeuvre the ball onto his own stumps to leave his side struggling on 56/3. Gary Ballance and Jonny Bairstow briefly led the visitor’s fight-back only for Chris Woakes to produce a beauty to dismiss Bairstow for 20. With the light fading and the rain falling, Jack Leaning and Ballance both struck unbeaten fifties to fully lead the White Rose to the road to recovery as they closed on 177/4.
Meanwhile in Division Two, Leicestershire continued their fine early season form to dominate the opening day at Grace Road despite a century from Kent opener Daniel Bell-Drummond. The host’s controlled the early stages of the match, bowling a solid line and length that put the visitors in all sorts of trouble at 48/4. Their collapse started in bizarre fashion as South-African born opener Sean Dickson was given out for handling the ball. The Kent man, inside edged the ball and as the ball was trickling towards his off-stump the opener leant down to push the ball away from danger, after a consultation between the umpires he was sent his marching orders to leave the visitors on 4/1. Joe Denly and Bell-Drummond recovered from that moment of madness to lead the Canterbury club to 42, but when Denly fell to visitors endured a mini-collapse. Wayne White bowled the former opener for 14. Sam Northeast fell in the next over to Charlie Shreck for four, whilst White struck again in his next over to remove Darren Stevens for a duck in what proved to be a very fruitful 10 minutes of play for the Foxes. That triple salvo left the visitors on 48/4, but with Bell-Drummond still standing at the other end they had hope, and he alongside Alex Blake (26) led the Kent rally. The pair shared 57 for the fifth-wicket, Clint McKay was brought into the attack to break the duo up and the Australian duly delivered removing Blake to leave the score on 105/5. Wicket-keeper Adam Rouse joined opener Bell-Drummond in the middle and pair continued to fight back as the duo took the score past 200 to take the visitors to an unlikely batting point. During the partnership, Bell-Drummond reached triple figures to dominate his team's total; he struck 20 fours in his 190-ball stay. Rouse and Bell-Drummond shared 107 for the sixth-wicket before McKay returned again to dismiss the wicket keeper for 38. With the light closing in, Leicestershire capitalized again to get the crucial wicket of Bell-Drummond who fell leg before to former Kent man Neil Dexter just four overs before the close. The visitors go into day two on 227/7.
There were four half-centuries at Chelmsford as Essex dominated the opening day at the ECG against Northampton. Nick Browne (60), Alastair Cook (64), Tom Westley (65) and Ravi Bopara (57*) all contributed as the Eagles took up a commanding position at a cold Chelmsford. The hosts were inserted after Northants decided against having a toss, and they were left to rue missed opportunities as Essex cruised along in the morning session. First, Alastair Cook was dropped on three off the bowling of Azharullah in the slips. And the England captain made them regret that as he serenely went on his way to fifty to continue his fine early season form. He was slightly overshadowed by his opening partner Browne, who looked more fluent throughout playing delightfully through the covers and through square. Browne was the first man to fall however just after lunch as he edged the ball through to Richard Levi in the slips off the bowling of Ben Sanderson for a well-crafted 60. That brought the in-from Tom Westley to the crease and the Essex number three continued where Browne left off carving the ball through the covers at ease. He, alongside Cook shared 80 as the hosts continued to look untroubled before the England captain nicked Richard Gleeson behind to wicket-keeper Adam Rossington for 64. Just when the visitors thought they had a sniff of a chance they turned round to see a former England number three walk to the middle in the form of Bopara. The Essex limited-overs captain accompanied Westley through to a fifty as the England hopeful eased his way to his third half-century of the summer. He fell, though, for 65 to become the third Essex man to fall in the sixties. He had his off-stump knocked back by Sanderson - who finished with figures of 2-79. With the light fading, Bopara and Dan Lawrence saw their side to close, Bopara even found time after a small break in play to come back out to reach his half-century as the Eagles closed on 335/3.
Hamish Marshall guided Gloucestershire to respectability after the hosts were briefly in trouble against Worcestershire. After choosing not to have a toss and electing the field first Worcestershire enjoyed a dream start. The Pears struck three times in quick succession to leave the hosts wobbling on 57/3. Firstly, overseas star Matt Henry ran out Cameron Bancroft for 15, then Ed Barnard got to work, trapping Ian Cockbain LBW for 5, then an over later Jack Shantry picked up his first wicket of the season by getting Gareth Roderick caught in the slips for 1. Chris Dent (59) and Hamish Marshall then begin to lead the recovery for the hosts, the pair shared 76 for the fourth-wicket before Dent fell after making a well-made half-century, he found the hands of Tom Kohler-Cadmore off the bowling of Barnard (2-67). George Hankins (on debut) reached 18 before he became the first victim of the summer of New Zealander Henry who had the youngster caught by Ross Whiteley. Suddenly the hosts were wobbling again on 157-5, but Keiran Noema-Barnett and Marshall calmed the nerves of the Bristol crowd by sharing a nerveless unbroken 179-run stand. The former New Zealand international reached 123 not out by close striking 15 fours in the process to help put the hosts in a good position going into day two. Noema-Barnett, meanwhile, struck an aggressive 84 to help steady the ship; he struck 15 fours and a six during his 132-ball stay. Gloucestershire closed on 336/5.
Finally, Will Bragg struck a century as Glamorgan reached 308/6 at close on day one of their Specsavers County Championship Division Two clash against Derbyshire. Tony Palladino struck three times for Derbyshire as the hosts shared the spoils with their Welsh counterparts in Derby. Indeed, the former Essex man took the first three wickets to fall for the hosts including the dangerous Jacques Rudolph for 35. First, the seamer removed James Kettleborough for 22, bowling the young opener to leave the visitors on 58/1 after Rudolph and Kettleborough had survived the opening hour. Fourteen runs later he struck again to remove the South African for 35; Palladino induced the edge to give wicket-keeper Tom Poynton a routine catch behind the stumps. Bragg and Chris Cooke then looked to wrestle back the initiative for the visitors and the pair shared 113 for the third-wicket before that man Palladino struck again to remove Cooke on 40. Bragg continued on his merry way though alongside our future star Aneurin Donald who was once again in the runs. Bragg continued to dominate proceedings however and went through to a deserved century off 171-balls. Donald, who celebrated the century of his teammate, struck 45 before becoming the first of two quick wickets for Andy Carter. Carter had Donald caught behind, he then trapped David Lloyd leg before first ball to swing the tide back into the hosts favour. Bragg became the last man to fall of the day when he was trapped leg before by Wes Durston on a career-best score of 129. The visitors closed on 308/6 with it all still to play for on day two.
Reports by David Bowden
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