Day 2 of the battles at the top and the bottom of the table.
The big talking point of the day was, undoubtedly the goings-on at Canterbury the previous evening. In three of the games in each Division the match was day-night, with a pink ball being used under floodlights. Whereas in Division 1, the Kookaburra ball was used, in Division 2, it was the Duke. At Canterbury, the ball swung so prodigiously that batting seemed near-impossible, with balls taking remarkable curves through the air. Social media were alive with complaints about the farcical conditions and the rank unfairness of batting under lights with a ball that behaved in such a way. In contrast, no such movement were seen with the Kookaburra in Division 1, so the suspicion (and a good part of the opprobrium) were falling in the Duke ball (with another part aimed at the ECB for this experiment). Yet, two other games had twilight play with a Duke with no comparable action was observed. At Derby, Leicestershire navigated through 28 overs of Duke in twilight without losing a wicket against an attack of Olivier, Rampaul, Palladino and Viljoen and, at Chester-le-Street, there was a New Ball burst of 4 wickets for 6 runs, including 3 wickets in 5 balls for Steve Magoffin, but no exaggerated swing and the sixth wicket pair batted calmly to the Close. Did Middlesex simply fall foul of a rogue Duke ball? Was there something different in the conditions at Canterbury that allowed the ball to swing prodigiously there, but not at Derby or Chester-le-Street? Or was it simply a case that the Kent second-string attack picked for this match had a purple patch where everything went right and they got the ball to work for them in a way that might never happen for them again? It is hard to know. It could just be that the key factor was the much earlier sunset at Canterbury and late finish to the day produced perfect conditions for swing and the Kent bowlers having the luck to get it right.
So bizarre though were the events in the Kent-Middlesex game, mainly in the last 10-12 overs, just before and just after sunset, that your correspondent received a request from the BBC to investigate why the ball behaved the way that it did from the point of view of physics. This report was duly sent to the BBC.
However, we need to start our round-up of events atChelmsford, where it is quite possible that we are seeing the staging of a final eliminator in the title race. Essex continued to give the Somerset bowling a fearful cauliflower ear through the second day. Title-hopefuls, Somerset – and after several days of seeing them on the wrong end of some huge scores, we need to remind ourselves that they are still contenders – could only manage a single bowling point and failed to take a wicket in the entire first session. As the score mounted through the first two sessions, the possibility of a Somerset win disappeared rapidly.The first wicket of the day came, finally, when Ravi Boparadeparted for 118, aiming a big swing at Peter Trego and losing his off stump. Bopara and Ryan ten Doeschate had added 294 for the fifth wicket, beating the previous best of 276 against Somerset, but missing-out on the record Essex fifth wicket partnership of 339. For Tom Abell though, it is the second successive game where he has watched his bowlers toil against the opposition when they have batted first. He must feel that his team's chances of a first Championship are slipping away, day by relentless day. That poor decision last week has led to six days of increasing misery and the likelihood that Somerset’s Championship chances have been fatally damaged. Essex declared finally at 517-5 and the Taunton faithful must have been fearing the worst. However, the change of innings brought little relief for the bowlers as Somerset closed on 140-2, losing a wicket to the last ball of the day. 41 from Davies, 42 from Bartlett and an unbeaten 53 for Byrom. This match has all the elements to be a draw unless the bowlers can find something on the third day. For Somerset, a high-scoring draw will be some relief and a victory of sorts.
When Yorkshire and Surrey locked horns again at Scarborough, Steve Patterson and Jack Brooks started on 299-8 and motored to the third batting point, threatening to add a fourth in quick time. Eventually, both fell in the space of 2 balls to Dernbach, to leave Yorkshire 337ao. That total was re-adjusted though to 442ao, as 5 penalty runs were added for two Surrey disciplinary offences – including Mark Stoneman's later reaction to being given out. Jade Dernbach finished with the Fidel Edwards-esquefigures of 4-104 at 4.2 runs per over, while Morne Morkel and Rikki Clarke combined for 4-115 from double the number of overs. When Surrey batted, they were soon in trouble, as Mark Stoneman fell to a catch behind off Ben Coad for 9, making them 9-1. Stoneman was clearly extremely unhappy with the dismissal and indicated that he had not hit the ball. Given that he has still not reached 30 in any game this season and saw a flat pitch that offered him a real chance of breaking that sequence, his sfrustration was as understandable as his dissent was unacceptable. Rory Burns though was in excellent form and reached his fifty just after Scott Borthwick was caught behind off Tim Bresnan. The curiosity of the day was the way that the sea fret appeared and disappeared through the day. There was a real threat that play could not start on time and, in mid-afternoon, the fog was bad, getting to be worse than ever and becoming a real inconvenience. By Tea, the far side of the ground was almost invisible from the commentary box and identifying the players in the middle required sharp eyesight and some imagination, but the umpires decided that conditions, though marginal, were just about suitable to continue. When the players did finally come off, it actually appeared that the visibility had improved somewhat. As far as the action in the middle could be discerned, wickets fell regularly to the Yorkshire bowlers, with only Rory Burns making his start count. In the middle order, Borthwick, Patel and de Bruyn (in his second and final game for Surrey), all reached 20, but none of them could reach 40. Jacks and Clarake then fell quickly and, when play was abandoned for the day, Surrey were 219-7 and a long way behind. Ollie Pope is still there on 34* and was getting sensible support from Morne Morkel and, on them, lie Surrey’s hopes of getting the deficit down to something manageable.Yorkshire will be eying the win that would pull them away from the bottom two and perhaps get them into the fringes of the title race.
At Old Trafford, Hampshire moved on steadily from their 302-6 at the start, reaching 398-8 at Lunch. Ollie Rayner fell in the second over of the morning, but Rossouw received solid support from Gareth Berg, adding 86 for the eighth wicket and securing the fourth batting point. Berg fell for 49, with Rilee Rossouwgoing to Lunch on 95*, leaving Hampshire well on top.Rossouw duly moved on to his century soon after Lunch and received solid support from Kyle Abbott, while Fidel Edwards also hung around with Rossouw, leaving him 120*, as Hampshire totalled 451. There were strange events at Old Trafford too, but for a whole, different reason to those at Canterbury. After the BBC’s Gary Linekar received permission to present Match of the Day in his underpants should Leicester City win the Premiership in 2016, Graeme Onions made a similar rash promise to bowl in his underpants if Panama finished their game against England in the (football) World Cup without a single player sent off. Today, he has taken to the field in some very colourful underwear – but no trousers – to comply with his promise and, simultaneously, to raise awareness of testicular cancer (and, maybe, to distract the batsman at the same time – damned cunning, these bowlers). Tactically, the decision was a failure, as Graeme Onions failed to add to his five wickets on the first day and ended up with 5-96. Lancashire started poorly, as Jennings fell on 7, with a largely strokeless Hameed still struggling for 1st XI runs, Lancashire were 54-2 and then 70-3 as Jones failed, but Davies was scoring freely at the other end, reaching Stumps on 78*, well-supported by Vilas on 37*. Lancashire are 140-3 and will need a good first session on Day 3 if they are to get close to parity.
At Trent Bridge, Nottinghamshire fell just short of the fifth batting point, needing a six from the last ball of the 110 overs to reach 400, but continued to make Brett D’Oliviera wonder why he had put them in. After Tom Moores fell for 56, Rikki Wesselsand Stuart Broad added exactly 50, at a good pace, before the interval. With a declaration coming, Wessels and Fletcher then started to enjoy themselves hugely (Fletcher’s innings was short and sweet). The “see ball, hit ball” approach continued until Nottinghamshire finally pulled out at 499-9, leaving Wessels75*. Worcestershire used eight bowlers in a Canute-like effort to hold back the tide of runs, six of whom took wickets. In reply, Martin Guptill set off at a rate of knots, with a run-a-ball 28, before falling to Harry Gurney. The pattern of manic Worcestershire batting continued to the Close: they have scored at almost 4-an-over but, five batsmen were dismissed for scores between 18 and 25, Whiteley being 25* at Stumps and the exception, Clarke, only reached 40. No one had the patience to make a significant contribution. It was as if the gains of the previous match had been lost in transit. Worcestershire finished 215-7, 284 behind and are unlikely to get close to the follow on mark.
Much of the focus was on Stuart Broad, who plays so few county matches for Nottinghamshire and it was evident that he was very much enjoying himself with a decent innings as Nottinghamshire aimed for a declaration, followed by 11-2-34-2with the ball. Nottinghamshire will very much want the win points and, if possible, the extra day off, but may have a difficult decision as to whether or not to enforce the follow on, if they can. So far, only Harry Gurney has bowled more than 11 overs but, if the last three Worcestershire batsmen hang around, Nottinghamshire could be facing a long day in the field and see a tiring attack struggle to finish-off the task in hand. The alternative may be to bat for two sessions and give the bowlers a rest.
At Canterbury, it was very much a case of “the afternoon after the night before”. The Middlesex headache was a hangover from too much Duke ball the previous evening, having seen their team fall from 44-3 to 54-9 in 11 overs of wildly swinging pink balls. The aim of these day/night games has been to give spectators the entertainment that they demand – big crowds at some of the grounds and the photos suggest “BIG” in block capitals – hint that gimmicks are not necessary if the product is good, which it has been in the Championship for at least ten seasons now. As Stewart, Podmore, Haggett and Thomas carried out a twilight massacre of a Middlesex batting line-up that was short of several first-choice batsmen, you thought of the scene in the film Gladiator in which a miffed Russell Crowe runs through the opposition batting in the amphitheatre before shouting a challenge to the public. You could almost imagine him taking the place of Grant Stewart and, as he took his fifth wicket, turning to Kevin Hand, who was spluttering in disbelief in the commentary box and yelling at him “are you not entertained?”
The net result of 22 overs of entertainment was that Middlesex, 54-9, required 92 – that is, 38 more – to avoid the follow on with James Fuller and the Lambeth Lara himself, Tim Murtagh, the last pair. One safe bet was that Kent had no intention of enforcing the follow on, even if available to them. Their aim would be to bat again, score 200-250 more and then put Middlesex back in at twilight. Would this nefarious play work? Read on…
The first stage of the plan duly worked. Fuller and Murtaghsurvived just eleven balls before Grant Stewart got Murtagh, first ball, with the twelfth delivery of the day. Just two singles had been added by Fuller, Stewart finishing with the remarkable figures of 10-2-22-6. Middlesex were left well short of the follow on mark, while the last ten overs of the Middlesex innings had produced 6 wickets for 5 runs (two of those runs in the morning to the last pair). Kent, not unexpectedly, did not enforce the follow on, despite a lead of 185. The second part of the plan went swimmingly too as Kent accumulated runs and lost wickets steadily as the day advanced. Only Kuhn, with 59, reached 30 but, then, Middlesex needed to bowl Kent for well under 100 to get back into the game. Kuhn showed strong dissent at his dismissal and it would have been no surprise hadthere been penalty runs to come later, although it seems that no such punishment has been meted-out. The lead duly passed 350, with Kent on course to set Middlesex batting in the post-dinner session. Kent 170-8 at dinner, 355 ahead and the plan coming together nicely for Kent. Then, the final insult: Grant Stewart came in and flayed the bowling to all parts. A century partnership for the last wicket with Ivan Thomas 1* from 36 balls. His fifty came in 36 balls and then, with his eye in, he changed gear and accelerated until Tim Murtagh came back. Even so, his century came from 71 balls, before falling three balls later to Ravi Patel for 103. However, Tim Murtagh’s spell and the wish to let Stewart get his century, delayed the declaration and Kent only allowed themselves eleven overs of twilight to set about the nervous batsmen.
Would the new, pink Duke move? Let’s hear it from Kevin Hand:
“First ball from Podmore beats the edge. Second ball edged just short of third slip. Third ball edged to keeper. Middx 0-1. Holden out. New Dukes pink ball darting about again under lights and with dew! The ball was 79 overs old by end of Kent 2nd innings.”
However, from that low point, it was not as bad as feared. The Kent bowlers did not quite hit the lines of yesterday. Stewart was evidently tired after is batting efforts and not quite on song and, although Eskinazi fell for 5, 22-2 was nowhere like as bat as had been feared. Another undoubted factor is that play ended much earlier than on the first evening, before the dusk had set in so far and that conditions were not quite as favourable for the prodigious swing of the previous night. Maybe it was just that the Kent bowlers exploited the conditions perfectly on that first evening. Certainly now, we have had two evenings of play with a pink Duke and, only at Canterbury have we seen anything untoward.
At Chester-le-Street, life continued to be hard-going for the Durham bowlers as Jonathon Trott accumulated through the first session, passing his 150 with comfort. The Warwickshire top ten and extras all reached double figures as the fourth batting point was obtained with some comfort and Warwickshire passed 400.The sequence was broken as last man, Ryan Sidebottom, fell LBW to Rimmington for 6, but Warwickshire’s 424ao was imposing enough. Durham’s bowling effort fell heavily on the shoulders of Rushworth, who bowled 38 overs for 4-101 and Salisbury, who bowled 35 overs for 4-111. As these two bowled 73 overs between them, the other five bowlers used by Paul Collingwood bowled a total of just 61. Responding, Durham obtained the solid start that they required to settle nerves. Latham and Steel both scored fifties, adding 96 for the first wicket before Hannon-Dalby had Tom Latham caught behind by Tim Ambrose. This mode of dismissal was repeated in his next over as Will Smith fell quickly, leaving Durham 98-2 and in danger of losing the initiative. However, Graham Clark gave Cameron Steel (born in California and previously on the Somerset books) solid support and Durham reached Stumps at 138-2. Durham are not out of the woods yet in this game, but have at least found a forest path. With six sessions left and first innings lead unlikely to be settled before the second session today, the draw starts to look favourite here if Durham bat anything like they can in the first two sessions.
At Derby, where Harry Dearden had retired hurt on 9 after a blow to the head, Sam Evans was brought in as a concussion replacement. Dearden’s symptoms improved overnight, but he was unable to play any further part in the game. Evans came in at the fall of Colin Ackermann for 32, LBW to Tony Palladino, adding a new level of complication to the business of scoring, as Leicestershire made slow, but serene progress. There were runs all the way down the order, but only Paul Horton, with 88, was able to pass 35 as the Derbyshire bowlers and, particularly Viljoen and Palladino harassed the Leicestershire batting.Leicestershire will be disappointed though that, despite a brave attempt from the last pair, they fell just short of 300 and the third batting point. The first innings lead of 52 was, however, a very useful one, particularly as the bowlers made important inroads immediately. Mohammad Abbas tore into the Derbyshire top order and removed Slater and Hosein quickly, supported by Ben Raine taking Wayne Madsen. Within ten over Derbyshire were 17-3 and in some disarray. Alex Hughes and Billy Godlemanstarted a re-building job and at least were able to take their side to the Close but, at 43-3, still 9 behind, Derbyshire are in trouble here and can ill-afford to lose an early wicket on Day 3. If Leicestershire were thwarted by the last pair for Middlesex in winning three consecutive matches, they can at least see their way clear to winning three from four if they have a good first session of the third day.
The final game of this round, as Cardiff is providing another odd-looking scorecard. Glamorgan started the second day on 21-0 and made steady, but not spectacular progress to reach 115-3 at Lunch. All the top three reached twenty, but none of them got to thirty, with Luke Procter picking up two, cheap wickets. Usman Khawaja though, has made Glamorgan history by being the first player ever to hit centuries in his first three Championship matches for them. His 103 out of 254 was a remarkable achievement, as he was on 71 when last man Michael Hogan came in. The next highest contribution to the total was the 30 from extras, while no fewer than five batsmen were dismissed for scores between 19 and 29. Northants obtained a first innings lead of 27, with the wickets shared around between Sanderson and Buck (three each) and Hutton and Procter (two each), with the standout analysis the 16-6-30-3 of former Yorkshire player, Ben Sanderson. Glamorgan will regret their decline from 156-3 to 254ao, with no one outside the top 4 reaching 20. Instead of obtaining a useful lead, they were facing a deficit of 27 and Northants set about increasing it quickly. Ben Duckett continued his destructive form, racing to a century. By the Close, Northants were 169-0, 196 ahead, with Duckett 111* and Procter 50*. Undoubtedly Northants will be looking to set up a declaration and a final day chase for Glamorgan. There will be an interesting first session of the third day as Glamorgan will want to slow down the headlong Northants charge, while Northants may well be looking to accelerate still further.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
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