By the View from the outfield team
The official hashtag on Twitter for County Championship cricket is #ProperCricket, and today we saw plenty of that in the Saturday sun.
Of the nine Championship games over the two division, we saw one concluded in five sessions, although there were plenty of twists and turns in those sessions. All four Division One encounters are delicately poised although again one suspects if you fancy a trip to the cricket on Monday you may be hard pushed.
We'll start in Chelmsford where Lancashire will require 320 to win in two-days as Essex enjoyed the better of the second day at Chelmsford. In a game where the ball has often dominated the bat, the Eagles showed that it wasn't the minefield that everyone previously had made it seem. The day started perfectly for the hosts who wasted no time in wrapping up the Red Rose’s innings with Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer picking up a wicket apiece to both collect their first five-wicket hauls of the season.
That all meant that Essex had squeaked a lead of six on first innings, that small lead seemed to give Anthony McGrath’s men the momentum and they looked to capitalise with some attack minded batting against the new ball. Varun Chopra, who was presented his county cap during the lunch interval, in particular, took the mentality of see ball hit ball; he raced to 32 before having his stumps rearranged by the impressive Graham Onions. That brought Tom Westley to the crease, the Essex number three still harbours genuine hopes of a future England berth if he can impress again this season and he looked in good touch at the County Ground as he patiently made his way to 49. Nick Browne fell for 17 edging Australian Joe Meenie to Dane Vilas in the slips, whilst Dan Lawrence was the only man to not really get a start for the hosts as he also edged through to the slips off the bowling of Meenie. Westley finally found a partner in crime in Ravi Bopara and the pair began to show the wicket wasn’t as bad it had seemed. The pair added 57 for the fourth wicket before ‘The Big Bopper’ as he is affectionately known as in Chelmsford drove to Livingstone in the slips to give Tom Bailey his first wicket of the innings. Westley and Ryan ten Doeschate continued to build the lead playing with some renewed freedom with the Essex skipper taking a particular liking to young Lancashire Leggie Matthew Parkinson swatting him for a big leg-side six on his way to 25. But it was to be Westley who would be the next to fall. The Essex vice-captain going for his 50th run drove a long hop from Parkinson to Keaton Jennings in the covers and he whacked his bat against his pad in disgust as he walked off knowing that that is another start that he has failed to cash in on. And when ten Doeschate departed with Essex’s lead on just 180, Lancashire began to sniff a chance of victory, and whilst Paul Walter looked all at sea against the Red Rose pace men he provided able support to James Foster albeit by playing and missing an awful lot against the luckless Onions. Walter took the Eagles through to Tea alongside Foster stretching the host’s lead to 214 before finally running out of luck edging Meenie through to the keeper.
Foster was left begging for a partner to add to Essex’s lead with and he found the perfect right-hand man in Simon Harmer, fresh from receiving his County cap he looked like a man on a mission. The pair totally nullified the Lancashire attack playing in a patient yet assured manner waiting for the right ball to slap away to the boundary rope. The duo hit 15 boundaries between them as the long day in the sun seemed to begin to take its toll on the visitors. They shared a potential match-winning 103 for the 8th wicket taking Essex’s lead beyond 300 in the process. But then cruelty struck as Harmer, approaching a well-deserved 50 feathered an edge through to Davies with just five-overs remaining in the day. But he had done his job helping to guide Foster through to his fifty during the partnership. Siddle, whose first innings score of 33 is proving vital came and went for a duck as the effects of the new ball began to show, and with the last ball of the day Foster was adjudged LBW to give Bailey his third wicket. That left the visitors with 320 to get for victory in this clash of potential champions in two days in what is sure to be a fascinating climax to this match.
Surrey took a hulk like grip on their game against south coast rivals Hampshire at the Oval on Saturday. In a contest that looked evenly poised at the start of the day after Surrey could only manage a disappointing 211 in their first innings and Hampshire getting a quarter of the way to that total by the close of day one. But early wickets soon turned the game on its head as the momentum shifted across to the Rey in dramatic fashion. It took just two balls for the pendulum to start swinging the host's way with the experienced Rikki Clarke removing James Vince leg before. Sam Northeast, still yet to find his feet in a Hampshire shirt was soon joining Vince in the dressing room as he pushed forward to a delivery from young Sam Curran only to find the gloves of Ben Foakes behind the stumps to leave the visitors well and truly wobbling on 63/5. Another man struggling for runs is Rilee Rossouw, his disappointing start to the season continued as Tom Dunn, another Surrey youngster pinned him in front to leave Hampshire staring down the barrel on 79/6. If Hampshire were to get anywhere near Surrey’s first innings score everything rested on the shoulders of Hashim Amla, who clearly saw a different wicket to those around him as he serenely went on to his half-century. He shared a mini-revival partnership of 37 with Liam Dawson as Hampshire chipped away at the Surrey total but Dawson’s departure was another untimely blow for the visitors with Jade Dernbach finding the edge of his bat. Perhaps the surprise of the ‘summer’ so far for Hampshire is the batting form of Kyle Abbott, and he again played a steady hand sharing a decent stand of 31 with Amla before two quick wickets from Sam Curran (4-39) put the Rey back in the driving seat. The very next over Amla departed to give Clarke his fourth and spookily gave him the exact same figures as Curran in the process and Surrey had a lead of 64.
With three England hopefuls and a South African run machine in the top five that deficit already looked ominous for Hampshire, and it was only going to get worse as the afternoon wore on in the London sun. Abbott gave them some brief early respite taking the wickets of Rory Burns (10) and England’s Mark Stoneman (24) but Borthwick, Elgar, Foakes and Pope all played decent hands to stretch the hosts lead into a winnable position. Borthwick is the current top scoring hitting eight fours and a six in his total of 74, but with the ever impressive Foakes currently unbeaten on 50. You fear it could be a long day tomorrow for Hampshire unless they can go ‘bang, bang’ in the morning session.
You have to make Surrey firm favourites for this one now with a lead of 281 and six-wickets in hand.
In these days of the super-reduced Championship, three wins give a side a good chance of surviving the drop and four seals the deal. Somerset have been many peoples’ tip for relegation for the last two seasons but will hope to seal the first of those wins tomorrow. Having started the day 49 ahead, but with two Worcestershire wickets left, the first order of business was to knock over the rabbits, breaking the annoying ninth wicket stand. Barnard and Tongue added 20 more before Tongue fell to Gregory and Overton then finished off the innings by dismissing Barnard, but not before he had reached a valuable 50. Somerset must have been heartily sick of Barnard by the end of the day, as he added 5-37 in the second innings to his 5-52 in the first innings and 50 with the bat. However, one man, however brilliant, cannot make up for the inadequacies of the other ten and Worcestershire, beaten once already this season, look to be heading straight back down to Division 2. With a lead of just 23, far fewer than they had hoped for, the last thing that Somerset needed was to lose two quick wickets, one of them Matt Renshaw. However, Marcus Trescothick was still there and, with James Hildreth, steadied the ship. Although Hildreth has Lions caps, he has never had an England call-up and now, 34 in September, never will receive a call from the selectors, despite a First Class average of 43 and, today, making his 42nd First Class century. Hildreth ended the 2017 season with 41 and 109 against Middlesex, which sent the Londoners down, here he has added 48 and 111* on a similarly crabby pitch: one cannot but wonder if he might not have done better than some of the sacrificial lambs sent on recent England tours. When Trescothick fell for 43, Hildreth received useful support from captain Tom Abell; together, they seemed to be batting Worcestershire out of the game. Somerset though, seem to like to get from A to B by the scenic route: 145-3, a lead of 168 – very nice! 153-6… three quick wickets to Beastly Barnard – not so clever! Despite the wobble, Somerset have been battle-hardened by the struggles over the last two seasons and their young lions are starting to show why they might not be a bad outside bet for a top-three finish this season. Rather than folding, the tail gave sensible support to James Hildreth and, despite no one making a big score, the runs were accumulated: 53 added with Overton, 17 with Davey, 16 with Leach and, so far, 16 with Groenewald. It all adds up and, in the case of Worcestershire, adds up to a substantial chase tomorrow. The lead is now 278, Hildreth has only let Groenewald face three balls so far and every additional run added on the third morning will be a further nail in the Worcestershire coffin. Somerset will feel confident of finishing this one off and not a rake, or even a delivery from Jack Leach in sight.
Elsewhere, at Leeds, there was not a pair of water wings in sight in the outfield and the only sharks had a hard, red ball in their hands. Starting 53-4 in reply to Yorkshire’s 256, Nottinghamshire were desperately in need of someone to help Ross Taylor after his first four partners managed just ten runs between them. Rikki Wessels applied for the job and even started to make a go of it, although a tip to Nottinghamshire in their pursuit of First Division success is that finding yourself 6-3 on a regular basis is not the best place to begin. A second tip might be: if you have found yourself 6-3, try to avoid a new collapse just as you are starting to get out of trouble. At 100-4, things were beginning to look up, Ross Taylor was past his 50 and starting to look good and Rikki Wessels was giving a nice imitation of a limpet mine at the other end. Ten balls later it was 102-6 and the outlook was decidedly less rosy. Half an hour later, it was 130-8 and things were looking decidedly grim. Had it not been for Jake Ball, who was so impressive with the… err… balls… against Lancashire, who showed that he can also handle a bat, scoring 44* from 36 balls, Nottinghamshire would have been in an even sorrier plight. Ben Coad was the chief wrecker with 4-49 and is following on from last season’s success. Coad can expect to play for the Lions soon and a trip with the England side in the winter cannot be out of the question. This is only his sixteenth First Class match, but he is averaging around 22 with admirable economy and a strike rate of 48. A lead of 68 was less than the White Rose may have wanted, but still handy, although they made a ropey start in a quest for a winning lead. Like Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire seems to like repeating a good collapse and, in their case, they repeated their first innings slump to 37-3 [this is a nice one for the statisticians – if Nottinghamshire fall to 6-3 for a third consecutive inning it will start to get positively spooky]. In the first innings, it was Lyth and Brook who started to pull things around from 37-3, this time it was Ballance and Brook: different names, similar result: a fifty stand and then a wicket. The difference though was that this time Ballance and Leaning followed through and are closing on a century stand for the fifth wicket. Yorkshire are now 257 ahead and Nottinghamshire have the sort of headache that not even two double-strength Tylenol is going to clear. If the lead gets past 300 – and, surely it will – the writing will be on the wall and Nottinghamshire will be reading something along the lines of “defeat is coming”. With two days to go, they are getting into the sort of bind that would have taxed the powers of Harry Houdini.
Wickets continued to tumble across the grounds on day 2 in Division Two, and there was even a result within 5 sessions at Chester-Le-Street as Kent cruised to the 93 runs required; losing just the one wicket in the process. The day started with Durham 13-1, 65 runs behind Kent, and the day played out as many would have expected, with Matt Henry taking a highly impressive 12 wickets for 73 runs in the match. Only James Weighell and Nathan Rimmington offered some resistance to the Kent attack as Durham added 131 runs for the final three wickets, with Durham recovering from 39-7 to finish 170 all out. Paul Collingwood’s men will need to improve drastically as they head to Wantage Road next Friday to face Northamptonshire.
Meanwhile, at Derby, Middlesex's struggles continued, reaching just 157 all out in reply to Derbyshire’s 265 from day 1. Six Middlesex batsmen made double figures, but no one was able to make a meaningful score as John Simpson top scored with 32. South African Duanne Olivier was the pick of the Derbyshire bowlers on debut, with a probing spell, finishing with 4-26. The Middlesex batsmen may be well advised to re-check their guard, as half of the wickets fell LBW. After lunch, Derbyshire were out to look to extend the first innings lead of 108, with Ben Slater and the highly rated Luis Reece getting off to the good start before rain disrupted proceedings at 56-0. Play resumed after a lengthy delay, as Middlesex were left to toil to no avail as both Slater and Reece pilled on the runs. Derbyshire settled with 118-0 at the close, surely delighted with a very handy 228 run lead.
Across the county border from Derbyshire, at Leicestershire, Sussex bucked the trend of weak batting performances across the country as they extended their total to 438, thanks to a free-flowing 101* Michael Burgess before Sussex skipper Ben Brown called them in with a declaration halfway through the afternoon session. The rain immediately disrupted Leicestershire’s reply meaning an early tea interval. Ishant Sharma got an early breakthrough after the break, as Paul Horton played across a straight one, out LBW. However, Colin Akermann was solid in the face of adversity against a talented Sussex attack and made it to the close on 62*, as Leicestershire reach 112-2, trailing by 326.
Elsewhere, Warwickshire added to Northamptonshire’s early-season woes at Wantage Road. Tim Ambrose shared a 116 run 9th wicket partnership with young Henry Brookes. Ambrose managed a fine 103, and Brookes made 70 in only his 2nd first-class match. Northants had no answers with the ball and will do well to make Warwickshire even bat again, with a 266 first innings deficit. Northants then faced a tricky 10 overs to see out before the close, which Rob Newton and Ben Duckett negotiated well, closing on 41-0, requiring another 225 avoid an innings defeat.
Finally, to Bristol, as a classy 111 from Shaun Marsh has left Glamorgan in control against Gloucestershire. Marsh was well supported by the other batsmen, with 40s from Jack Murphy and Kiran Carlson. With the ball, Ryan Higgins offered the biggest test for the Glamorgan batsmen, with 2-43. This is likely to be the most exciting matches in the next two days, and with a few early wickets tomorrow, all three outcomes remain possible. Glamorgan finished on 296-5, 60 runs ahead.
Written by David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu), Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid), and Harry Hill (@HarryHill96)
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