6/25/2018 0 Comments
Written by Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid
Day 1 of a new round of battles at the top and the bottom of the table.
After its pause for the Royal London One Day Cup, the frenetic action in the County Championship continued, with another back-to-back round of matches featuring some more fascinating clashes in both divisions.
This was a peculiar round of matches, with just two clashes, one in each division, featuring the traditional 11 am start. The game at Old Trafford started at 12, the one at Derby, at 1:30 pm, with the others at 2 pm.
In Division 1, with a full round of matches, the top clash is, without question, the Essex v Somerset clash: fourth against third. Both sides lost in the previous round, and both desperately need the win to keep in touch with the top of the table. While neither team could afford a defeat, a draw would be of little use to either save as a holding operation, particularly as Nottinghamshire, reinforced by the return of Stuart Broad, would play the bottom side, Worcestershire. Surrey, in contrast, have the tougher job with an away game against Yorkshire at Scarborough.
In Division 2, where Sussex and Gloucestershire are without a game in this round, two interesting clashes stand out. At Canterbury, Kent entertain a Middlesex side who won an extraordinary match against Leicestershire in the previous round. That win has re-awoken their interest in promotion. With Warwickshire’s slip in the last round, Kent suddenly have the top of Division 2 in reach. Defeat for the visitors would undo all the excellent work that Middlesex did at Grace Road and advance Kent’s promotion chances a lot while, a win for the visitors would put them right back into the centre of the promotion battle, so this one really has a lot hanging on it. The other clash that will impact the top of the table is at lovely Chester-le-Street, where Durham entertain Warwickshire – both sides losers in the previous round. A win would put Durham right into the promotion race, whereas Warwickshire need a win to re-affirm their promotion bid. Here too, defeat for either side would severely dent their promotion ambitions, possibly fatally in the case of Durham.
The place to start is, without doubt, Chelmsford, where Essex and Somerset both wanted to close the gap on the leaders with a win. As in almost all the games, both sides wanted to bat, but it was Essex who won the Toss, and Somerset suffered for it. Missing chances did not help. Nick Browne and Alastair Cook put on 151 for the first wicket before Groenewald run out Browne for 66. Cook though carried on and looked set for one of those daddy hundreds that have been his mark when on song: it was a big surprise when Dom Bess bowled him very full delivery which, instead of hitting for the boundary that would have brought him his century, missed it and was LBW. When Tom Westley drove loosely at Jack Gregory, captain Tom Abell took an excellent catch at Extra Cover, the score had slipped from 151-0 to 204-3, and a little of the gloss had come off the day for the hosts. When Dominic Bess bowled the splendidly named Michael-Kyle Pepper, making his First Class debut after playing for Cambridgeshire and Essex 2nd XI this season, it was 212-4, and Somerset were clawing their way back into the day. It could have been even better. At 245-4, Somerset skipper Tom Abell failed to hang on to a sharp caught and bowled chance from the Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate. That was a costly mistake, as Essex reached the Close on 298-4. Ryan ten Doeschate 46* and Ravi Bopara 37* had added an unbeaten 86 by the Close. Josh Davey had a huge should for LBW against ten Doeschate from the last ball of the day, but it was not to be Somerset's day in the end.
Surrey welcomed back Mark Stoneman on a hot day at Scarborough, with a large and noisy crowd watching. Somerset were without the luckless Jack Leach, who was confirmed to have mild concussion, after being hit on the head batting at the weekend and is rested under the concussion protocols. In the commentary box, Jamie Reid made his debut, sitting in the seat occupied for so many years by the sadly missed Dave Callaghan: his opening shots were secure as he introduced “the legend that is Mark Church” (you could see Churchie’s blush, even on the radio). The pitch looked superb, and both sides wanted to bat, but Yorkshire won the Toss. Even so, Dernbach and Morkel extracted life from the pitch and Lees did not last long, giving a return catch to a lively Dernbach at the end of the first over. For someone rather unkindly labelled “the tattooed trundler” in his ODI days, Dernbach looked pretty sharp. There was a real curiosity in the first hour in that after 13.1 overs, Yorkshire were 27-1, with all 27 runs to Adam Lyth: shades of Ben Duckett last week, with Pujara still scoreless after 25 balls and Lees facing six balls for his duck. The sequence was finally broken when a leg bye was run to the 80th ball of the morning. Pujara finally broke his duck with a boundary from his forty-second ball, all runs in the first 18 overs falling to Lyth, or as extras. Such profligacy could not last, and divine retribution came in the form of Lyth’s dismissal for 42, to a catch in the slips in the next over. Yorkshire got to Lunch 76-2, with honours reasonably even. The afternoon session was all Surrey, with wickets falling at regular intervals. Without Balance’s 54, Yorkshire would have been in dire straits. As it was, they slumped to 166-6 and were in danger of throwing away the advantage of the first use of the pitch. Enter Jack Tattersall, the hero of the Royal London One Day Cup Semi-Final defeat and a partnership of exactly 100 with Tim Bresnan, whose batting seems to get better and better as his career advances. Bresnan fell finally for 48 and Tattersall followed soon after for 70, but Steve Patterson and Jack Brooks took Yorkshire through to the Close and 299-8, with the third batting point almost assured.
At Trent Bridge, Stuart Broad returned to the side after England duty, as he is not involved in the T20s. Worcestershire are without batting all-rounder Ed Barnard, on Lions duty: a significant loss for them given his performance against Lancashire, while fast-bowler Dillon Pennington came into the side for his Championship debut and Ben Twohig replaced of Pat Brown. Nottinghamshire would keep the pressure on Surrey with a win, while Worcestershire know that they cannot afford to lose many more if they wish to stay in Division 1. On the day when fan favourite who is Jack Shantry (son of Brian Shantry of Gloucestershire and brother of Adam (Northants, Warwickshire and Glamorgan), was forced to retire with a back injury, Worcestershire suffered one of their worst days of the season – and they have had a few. A century for Chris Nash, finally trapped LBW by Martin Guptill for 139, 88 for Jake Libby and a 50 for Samit Patel. It was 306-1, and you started to hope for rain or a plague of locusts or anything that would save Worcestershire from taking more punishment. Suddenly, the situation had changed radically. D'Oliviera took the new ball, and Steve Magoffin took three wickets in five balls, without conceding a run as Patel and Billy Root went to consecutive balls. Ross Taylor went for a 12-ball duck as he edged to slip, and Notts had gone from 306-1 to 312-5 just a few overs. Moores and Wessels added 24* to take Nottinghamshire to 336-5 at the Close: still definitely their day, with a fourth batting point close and a fifth possible, but not as one-sided as it had seemed to be.
Similarly, both sides wanted to bat at Old Trafford, but it was Hampshire who won the Toss. Onions took Weatherley for a duck to a catch behind but, after that, it was reasonably steady progress for the visitors. Everyone got a start and, with 103 for James Vince, Hampshire reached 302-6 at the Close and are approaching a very solid position. Lancashire were indebted to Graeme Onions and his 4-64. However, in this bargain basement clash, it was definitely the visitors who will sleep happier tonight, with runs and three batting points in the bank and a real chance of a fourth that should ensure them against a damaging defeat that may prove costly to Lancashire should it come to pass.
At Canterbury, it was almost easier to say who *was* available for Middlesex, with Steve Finn joining the walking wounded with sore knees, to add to all the England, England Lions and Ireland calls, as well as the list of injured. It meant a rare 1st XI appearance for James Fuller. Kent rested Darren Stevens and Matt Henry: Henry who has had a massive load this season, while Darren Stevens took a bad blow to the head in the pink-ball game last season and was not risked ahead of the Royal London One Day Cup Final on Saturday. The Kent innings never really got going: they have struggled to get batting points this season, despite what looks like a power-packed line-up. There were no fifty stands until Rouse and Podmore added 51 for the 8th wicket. At that point, it was 185-8, and there was every chance that Kent were not doing add to their minimal season’s haul of batting bonus points. Podmore and Grant Stewart added 43, to assure at least one batting point for the hosts. The fall of Rouse, though, ensured that there would not be a second and Middlesex finished them off for 241, with James Fuller taking 4-84 from 15.2 action-filled overs. In reply, Stewart got Sam Robson quickly, and Middlesex were 7-1 after just 11 balls. Then Grant Stewart bowled Holden, Middlesex were 19-2, had lost both openers and were in a mess and needing runs from the out-of-form Dawid Malan. Earlier there had been a bizarre hold-up as the setting Sun reflected off windows in the pavilion, briefly leading to “Sun stopped play”, an old favourite in day-night games. Malan was not able to comply with his team’s needs, providing a third wicket for Stewart just three balls later: 19-3 and Middlesex sinking, with 16 overs still to play. It was not pretty against a side that was missing its two best bowlers and who the visitors had hoped to make pay for resting them. Grant Stewart was getting the ball to hoop around corners and Middlesex were not enjoying it. When Stewart had Eskinazi caught by Sam Billings for 25, it was 44-4, and Kevin Hand was praying for the Close. Unfortunately, his prayers were not answered because Middlesex reject Harry Podmore then added Saturday’s hero, Hylton Cartwright and it was 44-5. It got no better: Scott fell to Stewart for 3, and it was 50-6, and Grant Stewart had 7.5-1-20-5. Enough? Not on your life! Thomas bowled Harris and Haggett induced an edge behind from Simpson, and it was 54-8. Thomas bowled Ravi Patel for only the second duck of the innings, and it was 54-9 and Stumps. Yes, Middlesex fans and commentator were not happy with the amount of help that the pink Duke’s balls were giving the bowlers in twilight – however, this was not so much the case in the other games where there was no twilight crash of wickets.
Division 2 also threw up a clash of the bottom two at Sophia Gardens, with Northants knowing that they could shift off the bottom of the table if they dominated the match. The visitors won the Toss and decided to bat, but made a far from convincing start. Ben Duckett fell early to Tom Hogan and, when Luke Procter fell to Rhuaidhri Smith, both openers had gone with just 36 on the board. However, from then it started to turn around. Fifties for Vasconcelos, Wakely and Levi left Northants well-placed at 223-3, with captain Wakely seeming heading inexorably for a century. Just when it appeared that Glamorgan were in for a really tough day, there was an astonishing collapse by Northants, starting with the fall of Wakely for 82, losing 7-58 in 17.4 overs, to be bowled out for 281. After a partial recovery, with a stand of 44 between Levi and Crook, the final five wickets for just six runs in three overs. Tim van der Gugten finished with 5-45. It was hard to believe the turnaround after Glamorgan spent so much of this afternoon toiling to make any progress. Faced with a tricky seven overs before the Close, Glamorgan survived without loss, to start the second day on 21-0.
What about Warwickshire? Was their promotion juggernaut really de-railed? When the top three all got starts, but all fell without pushing on, including Ian Bell, it looked as if Warwickshire might have another off-colour day. Then Hose also got a start and got out, giving Salisbury his third wicket and leaving the visitors 130-4: there was a real danger that Durham could knock them over cheaply. A century from Jonathon Trott, who has re-captured his form batting alongside Ian Bell and 67 for Tim Ambrose, added 135 for the fifth wicket. 297-5 at Stumps, with Trott 119* and Barker 9*: this good Warwickshire position definitely was “hashtag Trott’s fault”! Warwickshire will feel most definitely that they have had the better of the day and that they can push on to 400.
There were no such shenanigans at Derby. Three of Leicestershire’s six completed fixtures have featured heart-stopping finishes. Will we have a repeat here? It seems not if the first day is any guide. Leicestershire put Derbyshire in and, at 93-1, it did not look like the wisest decision. However, three wickets then fell in seven balls for no addition and despite a partnership of 62 for the fifth wicket between Madsen and Critchley, the Derbyshire innings never really got back to cruising altitude. 245ao with four ducks was not quite what they had hoped for after a decent start. In reply, Leicestershire are 82-0, although with Dearden retired hurt on 9. Paul Horten is 48* and Leicestershire will look to push on tomorrow.
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