4/8/2019 0 Comments
By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
The County Championship Season is underway, and with the stars on display as players look to get some much needed practise in before the Ashes - there were plenty of talking points from the opening game week of 2019.
In Division One, Joe Root faced up against England team-mate Stuart Broad in arguably the biggest game of the opening set of fixtures. The England Test Captain struck an unbeaten 130 to help salvage a draw for the White Rose at Trent Bridge after making 73 in the first innings to find some welcome form ahead of a big summer for English Cricket.
Root would no doubt be impressed by Joe Clarke as he watched on from slip as the former Worcestershire man struck a century in the first innings and ended 97 not out in the second as the Outlaws looked to force a win by declaring overnight. Clarke, who has toured with the Lions has been a name on the radar for the selectors and making runs in front of the on watching England skipper will have done his chances of an Ashes call-up the world of good.
Broad, meanwhile struck three times in the first innings as Yorkshire found themselves 117-runs behind on first innings. Half-centuries from Ben Duckett (61), Chris Nash (75), Steven Mullaney (57) and Clarkes brilliant unbeaten 97 meant the visitors were set an unlikely 446 runs to win on the final day.
Jake Ball (2-73) struck twice early to leave the Tykes wobbling a little on 24-2 but Root and Gary Ballance steadied the ship despite some hostile bowling from Broad to share an unbroken 253-run third wicket partnership to guide the visitors to a hard-fought draw.
Root finished with an unbeaten 130, striking 18-fours in his 189-ball stay at the crease whilst Ballance struck 17-fours and a six during his 224-ball innings.
Elsewhere, Hampshire thumped Essex at the Ageas Bowl by an innings and 87-runs to get Adrian Birrell's coaching regime off to a dream start.
After an uncontested toss, Hampshire racked up the runs on a pitch that offered surprisingly little on the opening day with Jamie Porter and Sam Cook particularly struggling to offer a threat. James Vince, looking to get his season off to a bright start opened the innings for the Hawks hoping to make an impression at the top of the order to force his way back into the England reckoning.
He made a typically stylish 40 before falling to the final ball before lunch on the opening day trapped leg before falling across his stumps off the bowling of Ravi Bopara. Aiden Markram, a late overseas arrival struck a half-century on debut sharing a 75-run stand with the impressive Sam Northeast - who finally started to show the Hampshire faithful his true potential with a magnificent 169.
The former Kent man shared solid partnerships with Markram and Rilee Rossouw before becoming the fifth man to fall in the innings, smashing 23-fours and a six during 255-ball inning. The Eagles continued to toil away in the Southampton sun as Liam Dawson (64), Gareth Berg (33) and Keith Barker (31 not out) took the Hampshire total up to a mammoth 525-8.
Essex lost wicketkeeper Adam Wheater, who damaged his thumb standing up to Sam Cook's medium fast to injury for the match leaving the visitors with just nine wickets to play with in both innings. The former Hampshire gloveman is expected to be missing for six weeks after undergoing surgery during the match.
Buoyed by having runs on the board, Hampshire ripped through the depleted Essex batting line-up to dismiss the Eagles for a disappointing 164 with Alastair Cook (50) top scoring for the visitors. Fidel Edwards, 5-51, was the pick of the bowlers for the hosts.
Predictably with a lead of 361 on first innings Hampshire asked Essex to have another go at reaching their first innings total. Browne (7), Cook (8) and Lawrence (6) all fell cheaply to give Hampshire a dream start in their pursuit of victory. Tom Westley and Bopara briefly offer respite for Anthony McGrath's men sharing a 67-run stand for the fourth wicket before Edwards enticed Westley to feather an edge through to substitute keeper Lewis McManus to leave the Eagles in trouble on 94-4.
No further wickets fell on the third day, but Essex knew the writing was probably already on the wall, particularly knowing they were a batter light, they were praying for a miracle, that or a deluge of rain overnight and throughout the morning.
The rain didn't come, and it was down to Bopara and skipper Ryan ten Doeschate to attempt to get the visitors out of the woods. The pair added 26-runs to the overnight total of 132-4 before ten Doeschate became Edward's second victim of the innings, edging to McManus behind the wicket.
Bopara was turning into the key man, having survived the carnage of the first innings finishing on an unbeaten 37. He was seemingly playing on a different pitch to the rest of his teammates, seldom looking in any trouble as he began to build a partnership with the last recognised batsmen, and even Simon Harmer himself would admit to being a bowling all-rounder at best.
But alongside Bopara, the South African showed great resolve and battle to frustrate the hosts as the pair shared 111 for the sixth wicket, with Bopara reaching his well-deserved century during that century stand.
When Bopara fell though to Kyle Abbott for 107, the Essex hopes of stealing a draw dissipated. Harmer, who reached 62 fell two runs later to Edwards, and the Essex tail soon folded like a pack of cards struggling to resist Edwards and Abbott's new ball prowess.
Abbott bowled Sam Cook for 3 to collect his five-wicket haul and finish Essex off once and for all to seal an emphatic opening game victory with plenty of time to spare.
The final game in the top flight saw Somerset defeat newly promoted Kent by 74-runs.
After the first day's play was washed out, Somerset batted on the second day following the uncontested toss. The hosts could only manage 171 with Tom Abell (49) top scoring for the West Countrymen; Mitch Claydon bagged figures of 5-46 to impress on his first venture into Division One cricket.
Sean Dickson (43), Zak Crawley (37) and Daniel Bell-Drummond (33) helped Kent to a first innings lead and a batting point reaching 209 all out. Lewis Gregory finishing with figures of 3-26 to be the pick of the bowling for the hosts.
In this low-scoring affair, Somerset were hoping to set the Spitfires a challenging final day score to chase, and thanks to young George Bartlett's 63, they set Kent a tricky looking 205 for victory.
Unfortunately for Kent, their chase got off to the worst possible start losing Dickson to the first ball of the innings, caught by Craig Overton off the bowling of the ever-impressive Lewis Gregory. Worry not, thought the Kent faithful overseas star Matthew Renshaw, formerly of the Taunton Parish, will come to the rescue.
Renshaw, fell for a 6-ball duck to shoot fear through the Kent dressing room as Somerset new boy Jack Brooks removed the Aussie. Bell-Drummond, Kuhn and Crawley all soon followed to leave the visitors staring down the barrel on 41-5. Alex Blake and Darren Stevens threaten to take the game deep, with the veteran Stevens hitting an unbeaten 43.
Once Blake fell though for 20, with the score on 82-7, Somerset hurried to victory with Gregory bagging his fifth wicket when removing Matthew Milnes. Josh Davey finished things off for the hosts when he had Claydon removed caught by Hildreth to get Somerset off to a winning start.
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