6/22/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
Day 3 of the battles at the top and the bottom of the table. For Somerset though, this was a first defeat of the season and, by an innings and plenty to a title rival. Elsewhere, Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire set enormous targets for their opponents and will feel confident of wrapping up a win on the morrow. The result is that both the top and the bottom of the Division One table have been shaken-up. Surrey are on a roll and are threatening to stretch away from their rivals at the top of the table in much the same way that Essex did last season.
Elsewhere, there was a huge win for Northamptonshire, breaking their duck for the season and a bizarre runout at Grace Road.
Having only just come back from a broken thumb, Jack Leach was unfortunate enough to be hit on the head batting last night against Morne Morkel, has a concussion and has been withdrawn from the game under the concussion protocols. So, after Danny Lamb substituted yesterday for Joe Mennie at Worcester, Max Waller follows him as the second concussion substitute in quick succession. Concussion substitutes can bat *and* bowl so, at 209-9, Max Waller came out to bat, with Somerset still 70 behind and the situation hopeless. His innings was brief and Surrey wrapped-up the most brutal of wins by an innings and 69, moving to the top of the table in the process. Rikki Clarke ended the match with 42, 4-32 and 2-50. For Somerset, only James Hildreth and, to a smaller degree, Lewis Gregory showed the necessary application. As a statement of intent, this was very convincing, all the more so because the normal Surrey wrecking-ball, Amar Virdi, finished with match figures of 0-106. Surrey have been struggling for balance in recent seasons, oscillating at times between having too many veterans and too young a side; Surrey 2018 look like a title-winning side, with the right balance of youth and experience, some exciting batting and a bowling unit that covers all bases. As they stand proudly at the top of Division One tonight, they may reflect that today was the day that set up a surge to the title.
It appears that Ryan Patel’s effort yesterday may well be a new First Class record. Although Pat Pockcock once took seven wickets in 11 balls, that was at the end of a spell; it seems that no bowler has ever taken six wickets with fewer deliveries in an innings and his first five wickets came with his first eleven deliveries of the match.
At Chelmsford, Nottinghamshire challenged Essex to score by far the largest total of the match to win. At 143-7 Essex may have thought that the chase would be kept within bounds, but 87 from Tom Moores pushed Nottinghamshire up to 266ao and the target to 441. Essex need to more than double their first innings score to win and, realistically, someone needs to score a double century if Essex are to chase this down. Whoever was to be the Essex hero, it was not to be Alastair Cook: in a situation where, at his best, he would thrive on the pressure, he went for a second ball duck to get Essex off to the worst of starts. Matt Milnes then added a second wicket, bowling Varun Chopra to leave Essex 15-2 and fighting to see out the day. A fifty partnership between Dan Lawrence and Ravi Bopara for the fourth wicket gave Essex some hope, but Samit Patel had Lawrence caught and bowled with his first delivery and, with it, you think that at 86-4, any hope of victory had gone. Essex managed to get through to the Close with no further loss, 88-4, needing 353 more to win. Ravi Bopara us 33* and in the company of nightwatchman, Jamie Porter. You would not put much money on any result other than a Nottinghamshire win.
At Worcester Day 2 had ended with Worcestershire 361-4 and already way out of sight. Damian D’Oliviera only had to decide when to declare. After batting for 96 overs and scoring at over 5-an-over, he finally called his side in, setting 602 to win. If Worcestershire had expected their opponents to fold tamely again, they were to be disappointed. Jennings and Davies batted calmly against attacking fields and added 126 for the first wicket in good time. Jennings and Haseeb Hameed both debuted in India in 2016: Hameed has only regained his place due to injuries but, despite making his best First Class score of the season today, it was only 20 and his season aggregate is just 64 at an average of 6.4. At the other end though, Jennings made another century and, in the process, went past 6000 First Class runs. Like Hameed, Chanderpaul and Jones got a start, but Keaton Jennings needed someone to stay with him for a long time, and neither threatened to do that. At the Close, Jennings was 135* and showing that he remains in prime form, with Dane Vilas 7*. Lancashire, 269-4, need just 333 more to win on the last day and one fears that even a Jennings double century will not be enough to avoid defeat. However, if Lancashire were to bat out the day tomorrow, they would most likely win.
At the Ageas Bowl, Hampshire were 245-3 overnight. The game has continued in slow motion and as the second session of the day progressed and first innings lead was still not decided, the draw became more and more likely. Hampshire were finally bowled out for 443 and a lead of 93, with Jack Brooks taking 5-125, but the slow pace of play – Hampshire only just, barely scraped a third batting point and Yorkshire only managed one bowling point – means that a draw was always going to be favorite. With just four sessions left, Yorkshire should be able to bat out time for a draw, although they need to bat through to Tea tomorrow to make the game totally safe. After a solid start from Lees and Lyth, the introduction of Ollie Rayner suddenly livened things up. Two years ago Rayner should have gone to India, now he has been declared surplus to requirements at Lord’s as Ravi Patel, who has barely played in the last three years, has become the first choice. Rayner came on at 46-0 and made an immediate impact, taking Lyth for 17, caught at the wicket, to make the score 49-1 and then adding Lees, pinned in front for 39. Ollie Rayner has rarely been appreciated as much as he should be, often being used in a purely defensive, holding capacity at Lord’s, but he would be an excellent acquisition for a Division One team that needs a decent spinner, even if he knows that his chances of a Test call are now over (although he could yet play international cricket for Germany, the nation of his birth in the lower echelons of the World Cricket League). At 58-2, suddenly Yorkshire could not afford any more accidents. This left Pujara and Ballance together with a re-building job to do. Pujara has blown hot and cold this season, but has had one truly wonderful spell of form and Gary Ballance has shown consistent run-scoring this season, without making a really big score: this would be a great moment for them to stand tall. With Kyle Abbott and Dale Steyn running in at them in the twilight, this was a pretty good test of the batsmens’ nerve, especially with the still pretty nippy Fidel Edwards to take over when either of them needed a rest. It is also a challenge in another sense given Gary Ballance’s eyesight issue that makes it difficult for his to pick up the pink ball under lights. Fred Boycott would have approved of the way that the two experienced internationals dropped anchor as the Close neared. Even so, life is rarely boring when Fidel Edwards as the ball and, in the penultimate over of the day, Pujara guided a high full toss for six no balls, bringing Yorkshire almost to parity – one is not so convinced that Fred Boycott would have approved of such frivolity with just eight balls of the day remaining: Yorkshire though were happy to take any runs that were offered, however they were offered. Ollie Rayner bowled the last over. Ballance took a single from the first ball and then Pujara blocked out the remaining five, leaving Rayner with the quite unusual figures of 7-3-5-2, Yorkshire 2 runs behind and a critical first hour to come tomorrow afternoon. All results are still possible, with the draw favourite, followed by a Hampshire win, but there is plenty of cricket left in this one.
In Division Two, Northamptonshire finished off the hapless Gloucestershire team in quick order. It took just 17 balls to end the Gloucestershire innings. Miles and Taylor took their partnership to 78, but both needed to score big centuries to extricate Gloucestershire from Brett Hutton’s net. He took both wickets, ending with 8-57 and, chasing 31, Ben Duckett knocked off the runs in 32 balls after Luke Procter had played a maiden to Matt Taylor. Duckett finished 32* and Procter 0*, with no extras.
At Grace Road, a spirited bowling effort from Middlesex had them briefly speculating with a comeback but, in truth, they needed to dismiss Leicestershire for around 80 to feel that they had some chance. Not for the first time, Middlesex struggled to knock over the tail, and the target crept up past 350. This may not seem so many but, when Steve Finn dug one very short to Callum Parkinson, the ball barely bounced at all. The pitch is getting more and more difficult, and the feeling was that even 250 would be a tough chase. In the end, Leicestershire were 186ao, setting Middlesex 381 to win. The afternoon session featured one of the oddest dismissals of the season so far: Fireball Dexter was batting his former county out of the match when he squeezed out a ball from Tim Murtagh on the leg side. He then wandered absently out of his crease, not realising that the ball had reached ‘keeper John Simpson. Had any other fielder picked up the ball, he would have been safe as he was not attempting a run, Simpson though, aware that the recent rule-change to stop unsavoury runouts when the batsman has wandered out of his crease, gardening, or has taken avoiding action, did not affect wicket-keepers, rolled the ball onto the stumps and Dexter was given out, stumped. The last thing that Middlesex needed was to lose Max Holden for a duck in the first over as Ben Raine bowled him a tremendous delivery that was edged through to the ‘keeper. However, increasingly balls that were dropped short were grubbing though, and Sam Robson showed great skill to keep them out, even if the weakness outside off stump that terminated his Test career seems still to be present and problematic on pitches with more bounce. Robson was dealing with the variable bounce well until a ball from Gavin Griffiths almost rolled after pitching and trapped him LBW for 31. Middlesex desperately needed to reach the Close with no further loss, but Dawid Malan, whose form is becoming a concern, fell to Raine at the end of the day and, at 82-3, you feel that it may not last much past Lunch tomorrow.
At Arundel, the game took a sudden an unexpected twist in the morning. Going into the day 202-4, you felt that Durham just needed to bat until mid-afternoon, pick up the three or four bonus points that seemed to be coming their way and, even if they failed to reach the follow-on mark of 403, there would not be enough time for Sussex to force a result. What happened was a carnage so unexpected that the later batsmen got caught in the panic. Will Smith fell to the fifth ball of the morning. Poynter, Coughlin and Rimmington fell for ducks and 202-4 became 211ao. As collapses go, this one was extraordinary and entirely inexplicable. Batting again, Durham lost wickets at frequent intervals. Three of the top four got to 20, but no one could make 50 and act as the foundation for a fightback until, at 189-7, Poynter and Rimmington came together and added 79. Thoughts of the recent wins against the odds came back, but it was too little, too late. Once the stand was broken, there was little more to come. Durham fell to 277ao and lost by an innings and 64.
At Swansea, the game seems to be heading to a sleepy draw. Derbyshire were 207-3 overnight and pushed on to 362, and a handy lead of 79. 103 from Alex Hughes and 54 from Matt Critchley gave them a chance to push for the win if they could take early wickets. Glamorgan though have not read the script and, despite falling to 48-3 and being in desperate trouble, seem to be batting their way to a solid draw. Khawaja is 79*, Carlson 69* and the fourth wicket stand is now 153. Unless there is a huge rattle of wickets in the morning, this match should be a reasonably dreary draw.
At Tunbridge Wells the match has taken an extraordinary turn. Neither side managed to reach 200 in the first innings but that changed suddenly on Day 2, with Kent closing at 359-6 and, apparently, batting the runaway leaders of Division 2 out of the match. Kent continued for 22 overs in the morning before Joe Denly called the batsmen back in, leaving Warwickshire’s openers a tricky spell to face before Lunch. 446-8d and a lead of 518 looked like overkill, but the sudden runglut has continued unabated. Rhodes and Dom Sibley could only put on 44 for the first wicket, with Harry Podmore showing once more what a brilliant acquisition he has been for Kent. However, the arrival of Ian Bell saw the batsmen take total command again. Ian Bell knows that he is not going to get his England place back, but he is taking diabolical revenge on Division Two bowlers. He and Sibley have put on 185 so far; Bell reached his century three overs before the Close, while Sibley is on 82* and Warwickshire have reached 229-1, needing 290 more to win, with both batsmen scoring freely and runs coming uncomfortably fast for Kent’s liking. While all logic says that Kent must win this, were Bell and Sibley to get to Lunch unbeaten, Warwickshire might just fancy their chances. With 96 overs to bowl, the required run rate is under 3 and, if a side bats through the day, they would expect to get the runs. Kent though know that a wicket in the first hour should put the skids in the Warwickshire challenge: this could be a wonderful last day.
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