5/4/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid) and Harry Hill (@HarryHill96)
It is Spring Bank Holiday weekend. The weather is nice. The rain is forgotten. Pakistan take on Ireland in their inaugural Test next week, before facing England. It is time for England’s stars to show that they are up for it and for suitors for the open positions at opener and at #3 to hammer helpless attacks into cringing submission. That at least is the theory. The practice was that the star opener of the day is a sprightly 42-year-old and that the England stars making hay in the Sun were a little in short supply.
We start at Chelmsford. Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Cheteshwar Puajar, Gary Ballance, Dan Lawrence, Tom Westley. Just tell the bowlers to take a couple of Aspirin before plays starts to dull the pain of a cricked neck caused by watching the ball whizzing past at great speed off broad bats. That was the theory. The reality was that the day looked more like a homage to the Marx Brothers’ classic “Duck Soup”. There was even, at one point, the very real possibility that the extra half hour could be requested to finish the game on the first day. Had it not been for Ballance’s 22 from 41 balls, Yorkshire could genuinely have lost in one day. Harry Brook went for the first duck of the day after nine balls of the morning. Adam Lyth, with seven Tests behind him, joined him back in the Pavilion pretty quickly. Joe Root took his cue from this and got a first-baller. None of them had troubled the scorer and Yorkshire were 9-3, all the runs to Pujara. Sam Cook had 3 wickets and the locals were rubbing their eyes. Pujara, who was obviously getting embarrassed by the length of his stay, rapidly joined the queue of batsmen at the door of the Pavilion. 27 balls. 11-4. Jonny Bairstow, who reportedly only had his first net of the season on Monday, also fell cheaply and surprise at the goings on was no longer sufficient: the members had to resort to astonishment. Six overs of – gosh! – sensible batting followed. Were Yorkshire going to dig in and scramble out of the mire? They reached 41-5 before the question was answered. The last five wickets fell in twenty-six balls for just nine runs. Yorkshire 50 all out and much consulting of the record books.
Surely Essex were going to return some equilibrium to the Force? After all, it was Star Wars day. Answer: no! Alastair Cook added his homage to the Marx Brothers (six balls, caught behind off Jack Brooks). Tom Westley may have fond thoughts of getting his England place back, but his innings, like Joe Root’s, was the shortest possible. In no time Essex were 12-3 and that Yorkshire total started to look like a decent score. The only batsman who seemed not to be in a hurry to get back and have a cup of tea and a chat with his teammates was Dan Lawrence, who even threatened to make a fifty. When Lawrence fell, the procession resumed. With more than forty overs of the day remaining, Essex were 93-7 and a result on the first day looked all too possible. Harmer and Siddle pushed the total up to 142. Yorkshire needed 92 to avoid the innings defeat. There were 31 overs left, plus the possibility of an extra 8. Let the fun begin! And it did, but suddenly it was the batsmen who were enjoying themselves. Jonny Bairstow was sent out to open and responded with 6x4 and 1x6 in a 44-ball 50. Harry Brook, demoted to #3, took his cue from that and Yorkshire knocked-off the deficit at quicker than a run-a-ball. We do not know what the batsmen were served at Tea, but it was certainly performance-enhancing. The bottom line is that Yorkshire lead by 62, with 8 wickets left and suddenly and bizarrely are on top. How often a side is dismissed for 50 in just over an hour and can end the day saying that is open to question. Heaven only knows what these two sides have planned for Day 2.
At Old Trafford it was definitely a batting day and what a hero to take advantage. Marcus Trescothick could well decide to call it a day if Somerset do not win the Championship this year but, if he does, he has shown that he still has runs in him. When Banger was an England regular, Jimmy Anderson was just getting established in the team. Today, he appeared on the pitch as a dyed blonde, possibly hoping to dazzle the batsmen into submission. Even if Matt Renshaw failed to score a century, Banger certainly had no intention of missing out. In the company of George Bartlett the batsmen set about the Lancashire attack, which was made to look pedestrian and helpless. What we did not know is that he had broken a bone in his foot in an awkward fall as he approached his century. Trescothick, who was in obvious pain, got those last few runs, before falling almost immediately to the leg-spin of Livingstone and heading straight off to hospital, where the break was confirmed. Hildreth missed out, but Bartlett went on his sweet way to his own century in company with the gloriously revived captain, Tom Abell. Lancashire were watching the overs ticking-down and beginning to wonder if they were going to get any more than the single bowling point that had been obtained by mid-afternoon. Two wickets in the last hour sweetened the medicine a little, but Somerset will certainly be hoping to obtain full batting points still. Oh yes… Jimmy Anderson ended with 0-70 and added his name to the list of England players who did not have the best of days. Somerset are making a fast start to the season and look to be real contenders for that Championship Pennant.
The Oval, in contrast, saw a day of more attritional play. Worcestershire’s start to the season has been dire and Surrey were in no mood to give anything away. with one exception (need one say that it was a candidate to open the batting in the 1st Test?) Rory Burns batted through the day for 137* and will come back tomorrow hungry for more. When anything happened for Worcestershire it was thanks to Barnard, Leach and Cox in differing combinations. Barnard ran out Stoneman for 28 – his second highest innings of the season so far, his best being 29 – Borthwick and Patel must be twins, both falling for 10 to catches by Cox off Leach, but Ben Foakes, one of the few England possibles to be scoring runs for fun, put on 125 with Burns before falling to the Cox/Barnard combo. With Ollie Pope bedding-in, there is a real danger of Worcestershire having to settle for a single bowling point in the morning. Surrey will hope to accelerate against a tiring attack and rub in their advantage. One thing that Worcestershire will not want is to spend five sessions in the field and concede well over 400, but that scenario looks more than likely right now. Worcestershire may be thinking fondly of how much easier life was in Division 2 last season and consoling themselves that another promotion bid lies in store in 2019. Surrey, in contrast, will be thinking of a 22-point win and getting themselves up into the jostling pack at the top of the table.
Last, but by no means least, the current leaders of Division 1, Nottinghamshire, can reflect on a thoroughly satisfactory day. At 27-3 in the seventh over, they would have settled gratefully for 302ao and three batting points. Their total was based on solid contributions from Ross Taylor (47), Samit Patel (73), Rikki Wessels (54), Tom Moores (29) and Stuart Broad (33), although it took one of those tenth wicket partnerships that drive opposing teams to distraction to add the third batting point, as Harry Gurney and Jake Ball added 27. What was remarkable is that the runs were scored at a fast rate and left Nottinghamshire plenty of time to go at Hampshire with the ball in the evening. While most of the England team and the possibles are having a fairly torrid time, Stuart Broad seems to be reborn. His form has definitely been the exception to the rule and he looks to be raring to go. 3-28, 38 & 1-17 v Worcestershire. Now, 33 with the bat and a fine new ball spell to put the skids under Hampshire and leave them 17-2. Broad has ended the day with figures of 7-3-19-2 and is currently averaging under 11 with the ball and 35 with the bat this season. Those figures won’t last, but the Stuart Broad of a few years ago seems to be back and loving playing cricket. We know how Stuart Broad saves his best for Pakistan and, yes, they are the first Test opponents that he will face. Luke Fletcher supported him well at the other end and, needless to say, another England hopeful, James Vince, his hapless victim. Scores of 75, 12, 6, 33, 47 & 5 make him one of the form England batsmen this season – arguably the only one and will probably earn him a place in the squad for the 1st Test, but today was definitely not his day with the bat. Amla and Rossouw have steadied the innings and taken the score from 23-3 at the fall of Vince, to 70-3 at the Close, but Nottinghamshire know that an early wicket will open-up an end with Liam Dawson at #6 and a long-looking tail. While the late partnership has evened things up, you cannot help thinking that, with the pace that this game is progressing, the win is there for Nottinghamshire if they want it.
Glamorgan V Kent
Allow me to briefly set the scene in Cardiff this morning, everything was calm, Nick Selman and Jack Murphy enjoyed a solid start with a 57 run partnership during the morning session, but the supporters in attendance at Sophia Gardens were unsuspecting of the drama that was about to unfold. After the lunch break, Kent stalwart Darren Stevens was a man possessed and on a mission, aided well by Matt Henry, 8 wickets fell in the first hour. Opening batsman Murphy was left stranded on 39 as Glamorgan fell to 94 all out. In overcast conditions, the Glamorgan batsman couldn’t read the movement that 42-year old Stevens achieved, as he finished on very impressive figures of 6-26. Without being too cheeky, one might wonder whether the Glamorgan batsman got a bit confused and thought the T20 Blast campaign started, falling inside just 15.3 overs after lunch. Perhaps with the surprise of getting out to bat so early in the day, the Kent batsman got off to a shaky start thanks to a good opening spell of bowling from Timm van der Gugten. Nevertheless, Kent skipper Joe Denly steadied the ship in a way the Glamorgan batsman failed to earlier in the day, sharing an important 78 run partnership with rising-star Zak Crawley. Not to be downhearted, van der Gugten soon got back to work, adding Stevens, Rouse and Henry to his scalps, finishing the day with 6-40. Harry Podmore offered some late resistance and is still at the crease with Ivan Thomas, with the spitfires closing on 163-9, 69 runs ahead of their hosts.
Durham v Leicestershire
A huge clash is taking place at Chester-Le-Street as last years’ bottom sides are looking for vital points to kick-start their respective seasons. Leicestershire’s opening batsman, Michael Carberry and Paul Horton got the Foxes off to a fantastic start with an opening partnership of 146, with the level of dogged resistance rarely seen this season. Durham skipper Paul Collingwood must have expected better from the likes of Chris Rushworth and Nathan Rimmington, who were unable to offer much threat with the new ball. Runs continued to flow after lunch with the introduction of Barry McCarthy and James Weighall into the attack. Carberry and Horton went on to make fifties alongside Mark Cosgrove, who were very patient in their attention of the Durham attack. In the final overs of the day, Durham were unable to find a 5th wicket that might open the match-up on day 2, as Mark Cosgrove returns to the crease with Lewis Hill on 66*. Leicestershire reached 301-4 at the close, with more Durham toiling in the field expected tomorrow.
Sussex v Middlesex
Middlesex’s blushes were sparred on the south coast today thanks to a fluent 84* from young Max Holden, who seemed to be the only batsman capable of facing Ollie Robinson in the form that he showed today. More top order woes will be a concern for Dawid Malan’s men, with Gubbins, Robson, the skipper himself and Cartwright all falling short of meaningful contributions. Despite this, full credit should go to Ollie Robinson, achieving career-best figures of 7-58 on a lively pitch at Hove. It could have been worse for Middlesex, had Sussex not dropped the three chances they created, although Stevie Eskinazi and Hilton Cartwright will be disappointed to have not punished such mistakes. At 169-8, and looking like missing out on any batting bonus points, Tim Murtagh added some useful late runs with Holden, as Middlesex finished on 230 all out. However, with the bat, Sussex were unable to capitalise on Robinson’s good work, thanks to some very tight bowling from Tim Murtagh in particular, who picked up the wickets of the opening pair of Luke Wells and Philip Salt. In honesty, it was difficult to see what Middlesex could achieve in the tricky 21 overs left in the day, but the Londoners will be delighted with the wicket of the dangerous Luke Wright towards the close. Sussex will return in the morning 60-4, with Harry Finch set on 26*, 170 runs behind.
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