6/27/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Day 3 of the battles at the top and the bottom of the table.
Day 2 ended without anything scandalous happening at Canterbury – at least, nothing that Middlesex fans are not familiar with anyway – and with Yorkshire, Hampshire, Essex and Nottinghamshire firmly on top in their games. This was not great news if you are a Surrey, Lancashire, Somerset, or Worcestershire supporter, but the fact that Yorkshire seemed to be setting themselves up for a tilt for victory against Surrey was music to the ears of the chasing pack in Division 1.
In Division 2, Warwickshire were recovering from defeat at the weekend with some Durham-bashing (although Durham were responding in kind). Kent were well on the way to victory against Middlesex, Northamptonshire were in a good position against Glamorgan and Leicestershire were making up for their last-gasp defeat by Middlesex and, in the Midlands derby, Leicestershire were pushing themselves into a strong position against Derbyshire.
Although a day and a half of chasing leather at Chelmsford had just about ruled out any chance of victory for Somerset, their batsmen had responded confidently, and Somerset had justifiable hopes of taking four batting points and setting-up a high-scoring draw, with its reasonable haul of points. Somerset set about their task with a will and scored steadily. From 140-2 at the start, there was a squelch when Byrom fell in the seventh over of the day, but Hildreth and Abell batted calmly when the fall of another wicket could bring calamity. As 200 and the first batting point were achieved, the pair began to accelerate, as their rate of scoring was only going to bring them three batting points at most. However, runs all the way down the order, led by 78 from James Hildreth saw Somerset safely to four batting points and passing the follow-on mark comfortably. Job done. Draw ensured. Jamie Overton, making a welcome return to the side scored 35 before falling to the occasional off-breaks of Tom Westley. 407ao reduced the deficit to 110 and Somerset had an opening. Alastair Cook was ill, so Westley opened with Browne, and suddenly the match turned on its head. Gregory began with a maiden. Then Josh Davey got Westley LBW with his second ball. Then Lewis Gregory pinned Pepper LBW with the second ball of his second over, and Essex were 1-2 and, if not in trouble, at least in need of a partnership to stabilise the innings. Browne and Bopara got them through to the Close at 17-2 and Somerset will need to strike hard and quickly tomorrow to make a game of this.
Cheteshwar Pujara was asked after play was abandoned at Scarbados if he had ever seen anything like yesterday’s sea fret. Not unexpectedly, he replied that this is not a feature of afternoons in Rajkot. The remarkable thing is that the large crowd were able to follow the action – at times the boundary at the other side of the grown was almost invisible. With so much play being lost, 104 overs had to be bowled on Day 3, and the match hurried on as if planning to use the extra time to get the finish in. Surrey set out at 219-7 knowing that they needed a big day today to get back into the match. Ollie Pope enhanced his burgeoning reputation, receiving solid support from Morne Morkel. The fifty partnership came up in 13.5 overs. Morkel fell to the second over with the new ball and, despite some power hitting from Pope to end on 69*, the innings ended after just twenty new ball deliveries at 267ao, giving Yorkshire a useful lead of 75. Ben Coad was the star with the ball with 5-53, supported by Tim Bresnan with 3-77. When Yorkshire batted, aiming to set up a declaration, things went horribly wrong. Lees and Lyth fell to Morkel in the first five overs, and Yorkshire were trembling on 8-2. He then added Ballance. Rikki Clarke took Brook, Dernbach picked-up Pujara and Yorkshire had staggered to 48-5. Surrey were right back in the game, and when Morkel added Leaning, it was 70-6, the lead was just 145, with Morkel resting on 4-26. Small, but vital contributions from Tattersall, Bresnan, Patterson and Brooks hauled Yorkshire up to the comparative riches of 152 and a lead of 227, but Yorkshire must have known that they had let this one slip away. Burns and Stoneman set about the target and, glory be, today Stoneman got past 30 for the first time in the season as Rory Burns added yet another 50. It was getting awfully one-sided and, as boundary after boundary was added to the total that shining light that the batsmen could see in the distance was the spotlight focussed on the Championship pennant after so many years of modest returns, too many of them in Division Two. Surrey reached Stumps 89-0 and will surely go on to close out the win that will bring an overdue Championship so much closer.
At Old Trafford, Lancashire’s aspirations were limited to getting close to parity and thus ensuring a draw. 115 for Davies, 134 for Dane Vilas, a partnership of 138 for the fourth wicket and Lancashire were well on the way to their target. Vilas and Clark added another 112 and eliminated the follow on from the equation. By mid-afternoon, the draw was looming larger over the ground than the usual Manchester cloud. By the time that Clark was run out by James Vince for 82, Lancashire were well past 400, and the draw was almost inevitable. 411ao left Hampshire a lead of 40 and less than four sessions remaining and no real option of winning. Lancashire knew that a quick clatter of wickets could just give them a chance of a surprise victory. Onions took Adams LBW to make it 12-1 and then Tom Bailey got James Vince to edge through to the ‘keeper to leave Hampshire 47-2, 87 ahead and in need of a little caution. Another wicket might well have got Lancashire interested, but Sam Northeast and Joe Weatherley got the visitors through to the Close, 66-2 and 106 ahead. Unless a lot of wickets fall in the first hour tomorrow the afternoon session of this one is going to be tedious.
At Trent Bridge, Worcestershire started at 215-7, 284 behind and made a brave attempt to avoid the follow-on. After Pennington fell for 16, at 234-8, Whiteley went after the bowling and, in partnership with Morris, added 53, to which Morris’s contribution was just 9. Chris Nash was brought on with his occasional off-spin in an attempt to end the fun and duly knocked over the last two wickets in his third over. Unsurprisingly, with a lead of 212 and 75 overs remaining in the day, Nottinghamshire did not enforce the follow-on, hoping to add quick runs. They did not have the best of starts as Dillon Pennington trapped Chris Nash LBW for his maiden first-class wicket with just the eighth ball of the innings. Jake Libby and Samit Patel then added 121 for the second wicket at 4-an-over and Nottinghamshire were on their way. Patel, Ross Taylor and Billy Root all fell in quick succession, but that just brought in Rikki Wessels to support Jake Libby. With the lead 380 with 30 overs left in the day, it was just a matter of how many Chris Nash wanted to add and how many overs he wished to give his bowlers in the evening. Finally, he declared at 249-4, when Jake Libby reached his century, setting Worcestershire a mere 462 to win, with 17 overs to survive, plus the 96 on Day 4. Worcestershire survived to Stumps, 43-0, with the challenge to survive the last day, albeit with all wickets intact.
At Canterbury, Middlesex started 22-2, chasing 467 and looked a defeated side. The batsmen handled bright sunshine no better than twilight and, by the end of the first hour, it was 68-7, with Podmore on 5-28 and a refreshed Grant Stewart with 2-36 having bowled all but one of the 25 overs. It was pretty ghastly to watch, and the implication was that Middlesex will be playing their cricket in Division 2 in 2019. Although weakened, the Middlesex side was not as weak as might be thought looking at the scorecard and Kent were missing their two best bowlers. For Middlesex the problems mount. Max Holden is finding the step up to 1st XI cricket quite hard work (although he has had some decent performances), Sam Robson has stated that he wants his England place back, but has only reached 20 once in his last six Championship matches (31 v Leics) and Hylton Cartwright is about to leave, having managed a match-winning innings against Leicestershire, but little more, while Dawid Malan is in pretty grizzly form. Podmore, who hardly got a game for the 1st XI while at Lord’s, soon added John Simpson to his personal score and it looked likely that the game would end in the first session. In came the Lambeth Lara himself at 80-9, decided to enjoy himself. The last wicket partnership lasted 37 balls and added 44, of which Tim Murtagh’s contribution was 40 from 21 balls. The next highest Middlesex score in the match were Stevie Eskinazi’s 25 in the first innings: no one else scored more than 13. This was not the pitch. It was not the Duke ball. It was diabolically bad Middlesex batting. The final margin was 342 runs, and Middlesex were lucky to get that close. RIP any remote hope of promotion for the Middlesex Machines. Kent, in contrast, will be confident that Division One cricket is returning to Canterbury and not before time.
At Chester-le-Street, Day 3 started with the hosts at 138-2 and hopeful of piling-up a big reply to Warwickshire’s 424. Steel fell quickly for 51 on them, and no one had the sticktoitiveness to stay out there. 139-2 became 175-6 as a familiar, sinking feeling fell over the local supporters. However, not for the first time, Gareth Harte stood firm: he is the sort of batsman that you would have liked to have you defending the perimeter at Dunkirk… nothing seems to get past him if he can help it! Ryan Pringle gave him solid support and Durham could hope to avoid the follow-on and, with it, the biggest danger of defeat. Harte and Pringle added 48 together, then Rimmington came in and gave Harte more solid support, adding 54 and going past the follow-on mark. When Harte was finally out for 45, caught behind of Chris Wright, Rushworth and Salisbury added 13 more from 11 balls to edge Durham closer to safety. Warwickshire batted again with 46 overs of the day remaining, 127 ahead and needing to add a lot of runs very quickly to set up any chase. What Warwickshire did not count with was a fine bowling display from the hosts. 38-3 quickly, Warwickshire were indebted to Jonathon Trott for his 53 but, when he fell, Warwickshire were 119-5, 248 ahead and Durham were hanging on to their hopes of chasing something under 300. Salisbury, who finished the day with 3-48 and Rimmington (1-40) strove for the breakthrough, but Ambrose and Barker saw Warwickshire through to stumps, 152-5. The lead is 279. The question is: do Warwickshire settle for the draw, or do they go for quick runs in the morning and set up a chase? Their best chance of victory might be to be bowled out inside the first hour.
At Derby, the hosts started 43-3, still nine behind and were soon in even deeper trouble. Had it not been for the 86 of Matt Critchley the game might well have ended in the second session of the day. His only significant support was 30 from Alex Hughes. Critchley was the last man to fall, desperately trying to add to the meagre Derbyshire lead. The Leicestershire hero was, unquestionably, Mohammad Abbas, with 6-54, which wrecked the Derbyshire innings as he and Ben Raine bowled 45 of the 60 overs. Facing a target of 133 for their third win in four games, Leicestershire only needed to avoid early disaster. The fall of concussion substitute, Sam Evans, to Viljoen in the second over may have caused some nerves in the visitor dressing room, but captain Paul Horton and Colin Ackermann set about their task with gusto and set Leicestershire on their way to a big win. Ackermann fell finally for 58 but, with the score already 100-2, only an utter disaster would stop Leicestershire winning. Paul Horten though stayed around until the target was almost reached and Leicestershire duly won by six wickets and shoot up the Division 2 table.
In the final game of this round, at Cardiff, Ben Duckett was 111* at the start and Northants were 169-0, 196 ahead. Duckett went on to 133, with the opening partnership 208 before Northants suffered one of the collapses that blighted last season and has blighted this. 208-0 became 246-6 as Smith and van ter Gugten suddenly reined them back. Enter Steven Crook to partner Vasconcelos who was still there, almost forgotten and, suddenly, the leather started to fly. Crook is no mean batsman and showed it with a blistering 73. Crook and Vasconcelos added 147 and Northamptonshire were out of sight. Wakeley declared at 406-9, scored at better than 4-an-over and set Glamorgan 434 to win or, more likely, 129 overs to survive. Glamorgan made a sound start, but the fall of Selman to Procter, followed by Murphy to Buck had Glamorgan 54-2 and Northamptonshire looking at finishing the match of quickly. A stand of 57 from Morgan and Khawaja had Glamorgan hoping again but, again, both fell quickly. At 118-4, it seems to be just a matter of when Northamptonshire win. Carlson and van ter Gugten saw out the last eight balls with no further loss, but they need to bat well past Lunch tomorrow if Glamorgan are to make a fight of it. Glamorgan fans will not be holding their breath.
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