A number of England stars took part in week four of the County Championship as they look to find some vital form ahead of the Test Series against Sri Lanka in May.
Joe Root was in action for Yorkshire at Trent Bridge as the Tykes bowled themselves into a commanding position on Day one in Nottinghamshire. Having elected to field under grey skies, Yorkshire found the going tough early on as England Test hopeful Alex Hales and in-form Steven Mullaney smashed a good Yorkshire pace attack all round the park to race to 77 without loss inside 15 overs. After a wayward first spell, Jack Brooks (4-74) returned to the attack and was immediately rewarded as Hales smashed the right-armer to Root in the covers, and the England poster-boy took a smart catch to remove his international teammate. Greg Smith scratched around for 12-balls before becoming Brooks’ second vital as he played on the former Northampton man to leave the hosts on 89-2 after a bright start. Mullaney (78) carried on his fine early season form to strike another half-century, his third of the season but fell just before lunch caught at slip by Alex Lees off the bowling of the evergreen Steve Patterson (1-48). It wasn’t long before Root returned to the action snaffling Riki Wessels (12) with his England teammate Liam Plunkett (1-38) with the wicket. Samit Patel was the next to fall; the Nottinghamshire spinner falling leg before to leggie Adil Rashid (3-29). After a promising start, the Nottinghamshire innings was threatening to dwindle away. Michael Lumb, though, was showing some good gutsy resistance making a well-made 49 before he Brooks’ third victim of the day, the former England man was trapped leg before one short of a deserved half-century. The Outlaw’s captain Chris Read looked out of sorts and fell for an uncharacteristically low score of five when he became Brooks’ fourth and final victim as he attempted to drive a beauty which pitched and seamed away from the right-hander and the wicket-keeper could only find Jonny Bairstow behind the sticks to leave the hosts on 214/7. Stuart Broad added some late runs for his side striking a quick-fire 36 to take Nottinghamshire to a second batting point, but when Rashid struck twice more with his leg spin, Broad then sacrificed himself attempted a second run to get back on strike as the hosts were dismissed for 261. Poor light and a light drizzle then meant the players were unable to return to the field, all eyes will now be on Broad with the ball and Root with the bat on day two at Trent Bridge.
Meanwhile, Surrey made light work of a strong looking bowling attack at the Oval to put themselves in a dominant position in the South London sun. Having won the toss and elected to bat first on a flat looking surface, the hosts closed on 371/7 with three batsman making half-centuries in a solid all-round batting display. Arun Harinath top-scored for the hosts with 96 as his impressive form with the bat continued before Steven Davies (87) and Jason Roy (64) joined him in reaching the half-century landmark. Durham were made to work very hard for their wickets on a surface that rarely offered much for a seam bowling attack that boasted England man Ben Stokes, former international Graham Onions and Lions bowler Chris Rushworth. Indeed, it was a beauty from Stokes that got the ball rolling for Durham, he uprooted Rory Burns’ leg stump to collect the first scalp of the innings. Brydon Carse then had a moment to remember as the youngster removed Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sangakkara for 26. That was as good as it got before Lunch for Durham, and they then had to endure a 135-run 3rd wicket stand between Harinath and Davies as the pair scored quickly to lead their side to 226/2. Rushworth returned to the attack and removed the pair in quick succession, he first got Davies caught by Keaton Jennings, and then he struck to remove Harinath four short of a century caught in the slips by Mark Stoneman. Another century partnership stand took the hosts past 300 with Zafar Ansari providing good assistance to Jason Roy. Roy, with half an eye on a Test call-up, made 64 including eight fours in his 87-ball stay before he fell to Onions as he found the hands of Carse to depart with the score on 345/5. A late rally provided the visitors with some hope going into Day two as Stokes removed Ansari for 41 and Carse had Curran caught behind for a duck. But there is no doubt that the hosts are in control of this encounter after day one.
Michael Carberry rolled back the years to strike a century as Hampshire enjoyed a good day with the bat at the Ageas Bowl against Middlesex. After being put in, Hampshire lost Jimmy Adams and James Vince early to find themselves on 72/2. Tim Murtagh removing Adams (5), and Toby Roland-Jones accounting for Vince (25). Carberry, however, looked untroubled as he carved the ball through the covers to find the boundary with ease time-after-time. He was just lacking a man to stick around with him as the visitors continued to chip away at the hosts’ batting line-up. Will Smith was the next to go, Roland-Jones collecting his second wicket of the day taking a return catch to remove Smith for 24. That brought Liam Dawson to the middle, and the all-rounder finally provided Carberry with some useful assistance as the middle-order man struck a half-century. Carberry meanwhile was continued to find the fence as he reached his maiden century of the summer strike 14 fours in his 211-ball stay. The opener was eventually dismissed for 107, caught and bowled by James Harris with the total on 228/4. Three quick wickets towards the end of play however, have given Middlesex a sniff of wrapping up the Hampshire innings sharpish on Monday morning, as Wheater (25), McLaren (9) and Wood (6) all fell in quick succession all LBW to leave the hosts on 315/7. Dawson is however still there unbeaten on 87, and he will look to push his side to maximum batting points on Day Two.
Steven Croft and Alviro Petersen both struck half-century to lead a recovery for Lancashire at Taunton. After electing to bat first, Lancashire found themselves at 123/3 when opener Luke Proctor became the third man to fall. After a solid start by Karl Brown (47) and Haseeb Hameed (29) both fell in quick succession to leave the visitors on 87/2. Spinner Jack Leach the man with both the openers, he first removed youngster Hameed caught by Tom Abell, he then trapped Brown leg before just three short of a half-century to give the hosts the slight advantage. Proctor was the next man back to the pavilion as Tim Groenewald pinned him in front for 26, suddenly Somerset were in control. But Petersen and Croft had other ideas as the pair shared 125-runs for the fourth wicket to guide the visitors to two batting points by the close of play. Petersen struck eight fours and two sixes in his aggressive 140-ball stay. He fell for 83 with the score on 250 becoming a first victim of the match for Craig Overton. Croft (71 not out) and Alex Davies (32 not out) saw Lancashire through to close with ease and the pair will look to score big runs to put their side firmly in control come lunchtime tomorrow. They closed on 295/4.
Leicestershire continued to impress in the early season as they dismissed pre-season favourites Sussex for just 163 at Hove. The Foxes have started the season like a house on first sitting pretty in second place, and a fine batting display post tea meant they are firmly in control of this encounter as well. After winning the toss and electing to bat, the hosts endured a capitulation after a solid start saw them reach 130/3. Ben Raine (4-30) was the pick of the bowlers for the visitors and he struck early twice to put in Foxes on top from the very start. He removed both Chris Nash and Matthew Machan (both 4) to leave the hosts wobbling at 23/2. The experienced duo of Ed Joyce (56) and Ross Taylor (35) led a recovery of sorts before the New Zealander nicked behind off the bowling of Charlie Shreck. Luke Wells and Joyce continued the recovery leading the hosts to 130 before Wells became the fourth man to fall; he found the hands of Wayne White off the bowling of Clint McKay to depart for 23. From then on, it became a procession; Sussex lost their way and were soon all out losing their final six wickets for 33 runs. Wayne White collected a three-wicket bag claiming the crucial wicket of Ed Joyce in the process. Raine finished off proceedings to collect his four-wicket haul as Leicestershire simply blew the Sussex tail away. Despite losing a wicket early, Gus Robson for one (bowled by Magoffin) the visitors eased their way to 140/2 at close, with experienced opener Paul Horton unbeaten on 71. The Foxes will now look to build a mammoth first innings lead and wrap up yet another win.
Shiv Thakor and Tony Palladino shared a vital century stand to rescue some pride back for Derbyshire in their match against Northamptonshire. After winning the toss and electing to bat first the visitors looked in good shape at 117/3 as all three top-order batsmen contributed without really going on to make a meaningful score. Chesney Hughes (39), Billy Godleman (32) and Hamish Rutherford (35) all made starts before falling. Ben Sanderson, fresh from his maiden five-wicket haul last week, collected both opening batsmen to put the hosts on the front foot. Adam Rossington involved in both dismissals, he first took a routine catch behind the wicket to remove Godleman, and then he produced a very smart stumping to dismiss Hughes. It then turned into the Rory Kleinveldt show as the opening bowler took three wickets in nine-balls to rip the heart out of the middle order. He first got rid of the dangerous Rutherford, then the paunchy looking paceman removed Neil Broom (4) and Wes Durston for a duck. Wayne Madsen (11) and Tom Poynton (10) then both fell to Azharullah to leave Thakor and Palladino the task of leading the recovery. And the pair did just that sharing 105 for the eighth wicket with Thakor (60 not out) reaching a well deserved unbeaten half-century and Palladino falling just short on 49 before he fell to Graeme White. The duos efforts did at least guide the visitors to two batting points as they closed on 275/8.
Glamorgan’s miserable early season form continued as Kent dominated Day one of their Specsavers Division Two clash. Mitchell Claydon (4-59) and Matt Coles (3-26) ripped through the Welsh counties top order as the visitors could only manage a below-par 260 all out. Coles struck with the fourth ball of the day to remove James Kettleborough for a duck. Glamorgan’s slow start continued as they became bogged down at Canterbury and they lost their second wicket with the score on 22 after 14 overs of play, in-form Will Bragg was the man to depart as he had his timber disturbed by Claydon. Chris Cooke attempted to release the shackles striking a breezy 45 off just 40 balls, but he lost his partner in Jacques Rudolph with the score on 44. Claydon the man ending the South African’s torturous 54-ball stay for just 4 runs as he could only edge behind to Adam Rouse. Cooke and Donald attempted to revive the Welshmen stuttering start, but when Cooke fell the wickets started to tumble. He thrashed outside off stump to edge through to Rouse off the bowling of Coles, who was later removed from the attack with a minor foot injury. He did though have time to remove youngster David Lloyd before limping off, he trapped the 23-year-old LBW for four. An aggressive over and a bit later saw the demise of Aneurin Donald who picked out Sean Dickson in the deep to give Hugh Bernard his first ever first-class wicket. Graham Wagg (40), Craig Meschede (63) and Andrew Salter (25) at least restored some pride for the visitors as they guided their side past 250. But when Claydon returned to finish off the tail, the Welshmen were all out for a disappointing 260. Daniel Bell-Drummond (62 not out) and debutant New Zealander Tom Latham (48 not out) then went on to show just how below par the visitors total was taking the hosts to 124 without loss at close.
Alastair Cook and Tom Westley continued their fine early season form in a rain-affected first day at New Road. After winning the toss and electing the bat first the visitors lost Nick Browne (15). The left-hander edged New Zealand quick behind to Ben Cox. That was to be the only joy for Worcestershire on a gloomy and drizzly day in Worcester. They did, of course, lose a whole match to the weather in their opening fixture against Kent, and they could only manage the 40-overs today. That was enough time for the in-from Westley, who looked in imperious form again to strike his third half-century of the summer and for Cook to continue his fine form as he prepares for the Sri Lankans. Westley was the aggressor during the unbroken stand of 128 with the England captain striking eleven fours and a six in his unbeaten 70, whilst Cook was he calm and composed self, reaching his 50 off 112-balls. He did though strike a rare six off England teammate Moeen Ali before the weather closed in with the score on 144/1.
Reports by David Bowden
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