By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid
Day Three of this round of Championship matches started with three games that appeared to be heading for comfortable wins – Worcestershire, Hampshire and Somerset had established very strong positions on Day 2 – and one game – Surrey v Lancashire – that was leaning towards the home side, but still very much in the balance. The chasing pack desperately wanted Lancashire to win to keep the Championship race open for another week at least.
What the fans got was an amazing Yorkshire implosion as Moeen swept all before him, while Nottinghamshire hung on desperately and Lancashire and Surrey continued to slug it out like the Claydons and the Earps at the OK Corral. And at Taunton, yet another instalment of “Tales of the Unexpected”, but if Brian Clemens, who produced that wonderful old TV series, had scripted this one, no one would have believed him.
Somerset v Essex
Through Day 2, Somerset established a formidable stranglehold on this game. Having folded themselves in the morning to finish on a disappointing 324ao, Somerset obtained a 133 run first innings lead, with both the seamers and the spinners taking wickets. That lead had been extended to 165 by Stumps, with nine wickets left. Anything over 250 lead looked like being enough to win, with the likelihood that Essex would be batting to save the game sometime in the evening. Essex would need to do something spectacular on Day 3 to pull this one out of the fire. Although before play, Ryan ten Doeschate insisted that Essex would be happy to chase anything under 300, that statement had to be taken cum grano salis… and a mighty big grain of salt at that. Still, seeing the way that the day developed, maybe he was right after all.
Nightwatchman, Dominic Bess, did not last very long, but kept the bowlers out for the first twenty minutes, until caught at slip by Simon Harmer off Sam Cook. Somerset were 33-2 and not exactly panic-stricken to lose that wicket. Even the good news seemed to be bad news for Essex, as Simon Harmer continued to pose problems: with the lead past 250 and only 4 wickets down, to see the opposition spinner doing well would not exactly cause Somerset to tremble with fear, given the fact that they had Leach and Bess lying in wait. With Somerset 127-5 at Lunch, now 260 ahead, Essex knew that they could not afford to concede many more after Lunch. Harmer then added Tom Abell, pouched at Leg Slip by Ravi Bopara, Somerset 143-6 and the lead 276. The score continued to mount and, although wickets continued to fall, with Tom Westley’s occasional off-spin claiming one too, Somerset had passed the Essex first innings score, ensuring that they would need the largest score of the match in the fourth innings to win. When Steve Davies fell to Jamie Porter for 29 to close the innings, Somerset had reached 202, and the Essex target was a towering 336.
Essex though started comfortably, scoring quickly. After just six overs of pace, Leach and Bess were on to attacking fields, but Essex went to Tea at 52-0, having taken a significant bite out of the chase. Jack Leach got the breakthrough after Tea, with Varun Chopra falling LBW for 24 – 58-1 – before Tom Westley had what may just be his best innings since losing his England place, accompanying Nick Browne, 75*, to the Close, on 43* and the score 147-1. Essex still need 189 and Somerset are not making it easy for them: Jack Leach has figures of 16-4-28-1, although Dominic Bess was not at his best at the other end. On a Taunton pitch that is helping the spinner, Essex are threatening to pull off a quite astonishing chase, against all the odds, on the last day.
Hampshire v Nottinghamshire
Hampshire have wrested control of this game on a surface that has not proved easy for the batsmen, thanks to a brilliant century for James Vince. Starting at 253-4, 364 to the good, there is likely to be a declaration sooner rather than later, with Nottinghamshire chasing a huge target or, more realistically, trying to bat around five sessions to save the match: something that should be beyond them.
Hampshire continued to accumulate for the first eighty minutes, taking the lead past 400. Finally, with Tom Alsop just five from his century, Luke Fletcher got the breakthrough by dismissing Rossouw LBW for 36 but, by then the lead was 430 and the only question was “when will the declaration come?” Alsop fell finally for 99, cutting Mark Footitt straight to Backward Point, but the lead was 438 and Hampshire were out of sight, if not out of mind for the suffering Nottinghamshire attack. At Lunch, the score had climbed to 350-7, the lead was 461 and, soon after Lunch, James Vince decided that enough was enough, setting Nottinghamshire a mere 511 to win.
How long would Nottinghamshire resist? They seemed to start well enough, but the Hampshire breakthrough came at 31-1 with a brute of a ball from Kyle Abbott to Jake Libby and, as so often, one wicket became two as Liam Dawson took new batsman, Chris Nash. Nottinghamshire tried to dig in, but when Fidel Edwards bowled a short ball, Samit Patel attempted to pull and just holed-out. Smart cricket from Fidel Edwards, not so smart from Samit Patel. It was then 53-3, and a three-day finish was becoming a real possibility. A quiet spell followed as Nottinghamshire tried to consolidate, but Liam Dawson was getting some help from the pitch and, finally, got his man as Gareth Berg caught Braithwaite from a defensive prod: 85-4 and Hampshire right on top. Nottinghamshire then hung on like a heavyweight on the ropes and got through to Stumps with no further loss, at 128-4. They have given themselves just a little glimmer of hope of a battling draw.
Yorkshire v Worcestershire
Overnight, Worcestershire had placed themselves in a position of total and utter dominance thanks to centuries for Daryl Mitchell (140*) and Moeen Ali (107*). Worcestershire started Day 3 already 94 runs ahead and looking to bat just once, with the assumption that they would aim to declare sometime in the afternoon and challenge Yorkshire to bat out at least four sessions.
Knowing that they needed a big lead, Daryl Mitchell and Moeen Ali just kept batting on and established a new 2nd wicket record for Worcestershire versus Yorkshire, beating the 231 by Glenn Turner and Phil Neale at New Road in 1981. At 361-1, 145 ahead, the writing was already writ large on the wall for the white rose. The 400 and the fifth batting point came up in the 107th over, with Yorkshire still well short of even a first bowling point: Mitchell was then on 176* and Moeen, 155*. Runs were coming at six an over as Worcestershire had one eye on the clock and the limited time to chase any fourth innings target. Their overall second wicket record of 316 by Stephen Moore and Vikram Solanki against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham in 2008, was looming large as the score mounted. Finally, Adam Lyth made the breakthrough, having Mitchell well caught by Tim Bresnan for 178, to end a partnership of 294. This left the bowlers one over to take a third wicket and get a bowling point, however, as direct rivals for relegation, Worcestershire had no intention to gift them an extra point and saw out the over as the attempt to take a third wicket proved to be an impossible task. Yorkshire saw the 110 overs finish with Worcestershire 414-2 and the bonus points in the match split 8-1. By now wickets were anecdotal as their only real value was to slow down the scoring; Lyth took a second wicket on the point of Lunch, as Joe Clarke missed a straight one and fell LBW, but the horse had bolted and was halfway to London by then. Worcestershire 479-3 at Lunch, 263 ahead and facing a delicate declaration decision.
With time becoming a factor, Worcestershire pushed on after Lunch, Moeen going to a superb 200 from 260 balls, with 25x4 and 3x6. The team 500 followed quickly, with the batsmen scoring at 5-an-over and obviously pushing for a declaration. By mid-afternoon, the session was over 350, which Moeen decided was enough: he declared finally at 572-7, 356 ahead.
Yorkshire started well, but today was Moeen Day and who else was going to break the opening stand? Moeen brought himself on and trapped Adam Lyth with just his fourth delivery, LBW for 17: 37-1. In his second over, Moeen took Harry Brook’s wicket, and Yorkshire were 40-2 and slipping. Moeen, at that point, had two wickets for no runs. Yorkshire went into Tea at 43-2 and must have found their fairy cakes a little indigestible. After Tea, things seemed to be stabilising as the fifty partnership came up but, again, it was Moeen who made the breakthrough: Ballance edged, Clarke, took the catch at Second Slip, 92-3. By now, Moeen was getting enough turn to be a real handful (are you watching Ed Smith?) and soon had his fourth wicket as Kohler-Cadmore was LBW for 8; 116-4 and Yorkshire staggering under the kindly attention of the Beard that is Feared. That beard was giving Yorkshire the holy terrors in a way rarely seen since Ian Botham at his best used to jump out and shout “BOOOOO!!!!” at the Australians.
Could Moeen get all ten? Sadly, not, because Wayne Parnell is a spoilsport and had Kane Williamson caught behind for 59. Yorkshire were now 134-5, but not for long, because Parnell then took Tim Bresnan for a duck, caught at Slip, in his next over, to make it 138-6. Three overs remained, and another wicket before the scheduled Close might just have brought the extra half hour. However, the Tykes defended out the last three overs with a determination that would have made Fred Boycott purr – although he would have had a word or two about some of the top-order dismissals – and the match survived into the fourth day.
Surrey v Lancashire
Surrey started the day 197-4, 161 ahead and knew that, if they could see out the first hour in the morning, they would begin to build a position of complete dominance. At the same time, Lancashire knew that they needed quick wickets this morning to get back into the game. A fourth innings target anywhere north of 250 would be very difficult to chase, and 300 should be too many. Surrey would have been thinking of batting well into the afternoon session and then setting their bowling attack to work.
Sam Curran fell early after the start, for 31, caught behind by Dane Vilas off Tom Bailey, to give Lancashire an early boost. However, at 204-5, 168 ahead, Surrey probably felt that they just needed one partnership to seal a winning lead. Lancashire continued to make enough progress to convince themselves that they could win. Wickets for Mennie and Parkinson left Surrey 240-7, 205 ahead and far from safe. The new ball came and immediately brought success for Graeme Onions, with Rikki Clarke bowled for 19: 254-8, 218 ahead and the match back on a knife-edge. At Lunch, Jade Dernbach and Morne Morkel were hanging on at 278-8, the lead 242. After further post-Lunch defiance, Onions and Mennie picked up the last two wickets in quick succession and Surrey were 306ao, leaving a difficult, but not impossible target of 271 for Lancashire to win.
The openers added 45 before Virdi had Davies caught by the substitute fielder, Will Jacks, at Short Leg for 35. Haseeb Hameed has not had a good time for the last two seasons but hung around as Lancashire continued to score at 4-an-over until Morne Morkel added to the astonishing number of LBWs in the day in the grounds around the country: 83-2 and the match could still go either way. Entering the final session of the day, the game could still go either way, with Lancashire 93-2 and fighting hard. Rikki Clarke may never have added to his two England caps, obtained fifteen years ago in Bangladesh, but he is older and wiser now and still a formidable competitor. It was Clarke who pushed the match Surrey’s way as he came out straight after Tea to make the breakthrough and get Dane Vilas LBW: 97-3, the match was swinging back to Surrey. It was to do so even more decisively soon afterwards, as Shivnarine Chanderpaul played at a ball from Amar Virdi that he should have left, edged and it was Rikki Clarke who took a fine, diving catch. Chanderpaul had fallen for 2, it was 104-4, and Surrey were seemly marching to victory. Virdi was weaving his magic, and the red rose was showing no more staying power than the white had earlier in the day. Rob Jones was playing a lone hand, approaching his fifty, but Virdi got him to inside edge onto the pad, on 48 and, again, Will Jacks scooped-up the ball at Short Leg: it seemed to be the decisive blow.
With fifteen overs left in the day, Lancashire passed the halfway mark of the chase, but Surrey were very much on top. In the first innings though, Josh Bohanon had managed a fine fifty, and he still stood in the way. Runs were ticked off from the target until, with two overs to go, the runs to get ticked down under 100. Would this match have a last twist in the fag-end of the day? Croft and Bohanon keep the scoreboard ticking-over by running singles and the day ended with Lancashire on 177-5, 94 more needed and Croft 28*, Bohanon, 22*. Once again, it was tightening up. Could Lancashire squeeze over the line? We will know sometime tomorrow afternoon.
With one game already complete and another that would most likely have finished on the second day had rain not intervened, Division 2’s games are advancing apace. Warwickshire stand proudly at the top of Division 2, 28 points clear of Sussex and 34 clear of Kent. With Durham sure to take the points against Glamorgan and Northants firm favourites to finish off Middlesex, the mid-table positions were set for a shake-up today, as are the promotion places. Leicestershire v Kent was turning into a veritable arm-wrestle, with a result as certain as it is uncertain which way it would fall while, at Sussex-by-the-Sea, today would decide whether or not something could be made of the game or, in contrast, it will have the deadest of final days.
What the fans got was the expected quick win by Durham and a surprising victory by Kent, sweeping to what should have been a challenging target. There was also a fantastic attempt to set up a win by Sussex and a quite extraordinary fightback by Middlesex. Who says that Division Two is boring?
Leicestershire v Kent
The Leicestershire lead overnight was 151, with the hosts 126-5 at Stumps and this match was still wonderfully evenly poised. That there would be a result – barring a lot of rain – was certain, who it would favour, was not. With stalemate threatening at Hove, whoever did emerge dominant from today’s play would, most likely, finish the round as Warwickshire’s closest challenger. Any lead over 200 would be difficult to chase in the fourth innings, meaning that Leicestershire, with runs on the board, probably held a slight advantage at the start, but it seemed likely that it would take just take one inspired spell of bowling, or a batting cameo to upset the balance. What no one imagined was that a double century partnership would see Kent win an easy victory.
Within a quarter of an hour of the start, the balance started to shift again, as Harry Podmore induced Ben Raine, who had been well set overnight, to edge through to Sam Billings: 135-6 and the lead 160. However, Harry Dearden was still there and got solid support from Klein. Even though Parkinson had not help up Kent for long, the 36 added for the eighth wicket were far too many for Kent’s comfort and, when Darren Stevens finally got Dickson for 74, it was already 188-8 and the lead 213, with Kent knowing that they had to end the innings quickly to have a reasonable chase. The last wicket pair pushed the lead past 250 before Lunch and, with it, ensured that Kent would need comfortably the biggest score of the match to win. Joe Denly wrapped up the innings, finishing with 2-10, while Ivan Thomas had 5-91, but 253 to win looked as if it should be far too many for Kent. A low-scoring win for the side in fourth though seemed like the best possible result-match scenario for the top two. Kent though, were determined to have a go at the target, making a confident start, to finish 11-0 at Lunch.
Soon after Lunch though, Kent had slipped to 38-2. Mohammed Abbas got both Bell-Drummond and Stewart in quick succession. At that point, you would not have given much for their chances of an upset win. Dickson and Kuhn though had other ideas, consolidated and then went on the attack. The hundred came up in a blaze of fours and sixes and, once again, the momentum was changing in this remarkable game. Dickson and Kuhn continued, and the hundred partnership and then the team 150 came up with Dickson 66* and Kuhn 61*. At Tea, it was 153-2, the target was just 100 away and Kent, incredibly, were strong favourites. A boundary for Sean Dickson of Mohammed Abbas brought up his century from 131 balls, with 12x4 and 2x6 and brought the target down below 50. The scoring continued apace, with the overwhelmed Leicestershire attack entirely unable to control it. Two from Heino Kuhn took him to 95* and brought the scores level and, rather than go for glory and a century; a single next ball finished it off. Dickson was 134*, Kuhn 96* and a target that had seemed to be far too many to chase had been hunted down with ease.
Sussex v Derbyshire
With Derbyshire 315-5 at the Close on Day 2, the match seemed to be heading towards stalemate but, the loss of 4 wickets late in the day, including Sean Ervine to the last ball, gave Sussex some hope. A second factor though at the start of the day was that Sussex had, so far, only sealed one bowling point and needed four more wickets in 33 overs to get the full set: they could ill afford a barren morning session with Warwickshire having won already and either Kent or Leicestershire certain to win too.
Ravi Rampaul was withdrawn definitively from the match in the morning and will be seen by a specialist later in the week as he recovers from his severe breathing difficulties on Day 1. There was some encouragement for Sussex, as Ollie Robinson bowled Mark Critchley half an hour into the morning, still 97 ahead. Robinson then made it two wickets in three balls from his bowling by adding Alex Hughes for 77 at the start of his next over. The lead was still 91, and Sussex’s hopes were growing of being able to finish off the tail and set a target. Derbyshire though were still accumulating and brought up their own fourth batting point to offset the net points gain. Wiese took the last two wickets with consecutive balls (Rampaul, obviously, was absent), half an hour before Lunch, to leave a Sussex lead of 51, but it would need a gigantic effort with just five sessions left to set a target and then bowl out Derbyshire. Sussex though were not daunted and played positively from the off. At Lunch, it was 25-0 and the lead, 76.
After Lunch, Wells and Salt absolutely flayed the Derbyshire attack, scoring at close to 7-an-over as they tried to flog the match into life. After 17 overs the score was 120-0 before Derbyshire started to exert some control and managed, at least partially, to stem the flood of runs. Phil Salt’s own century came from 87 balls, scored out of 179-0. The lead was 250, and the idea was obviously to declare as early as possible in an effort to apply scoreboard pressure on the last day. Tea came at 216-1, a lead of 267 with Salt on a majestic 119* from 105 balls. Whatever tactics Derbyshire used to slow the scoring, Sussex were not going to die wondering; the intention seemed clearly to be to declare before the Close. Salt was one of a string of wickets to fall as batsmen gave away their wickets after Tea, chasing quick runs, but 148 from 138 balls had set the game up for Sussex.
With ten overs of the day remaining, the lead was 390, and Jofra Archer was swinging like crazy. Could they get past the 400 lead and have half a dozen overs at Derbyshire? 30 in 18 balls for Archer, including 2x6, allowed the lead to reach 400 with more than nine overs of the day left. The declaration came at the end of that same over, leaving a target of 405 to win for Derbyshire, with seven overs left to bowl in the day and 103 remaining in the match.
Derbyshire made plain that they had no intention of going for the target by blocking out time to the Close, to end 6-0 from seven overs. An intriguing final day is served.
Northamptonshire v Middlesex
When Middlesex engineered a strong fightback to dismiss Northamptonshire for 346 and then set off as if in the Power Play of a T20, the fans were crowing. Let’s face it; when you are 34-0 after just four overs, and the fifty partnership comes up at five-an-over you feel pretty good to be a Middlesex supporter and dark suggestions that 346 was an over-par total look totally unfounded. However, as this campaign looks more and more like Middlesex’s 2007 campaign – on the field, if not off it – it was no great surprise that soon after Tea, Middlesex had been invited to follow-on, 159 behind. The bad light came as a relief with Nick Gubbins already dismissed second time around. So, the third day started with Middlesex still 127 behind, with nine wickets left and even Kevin Hand, slowly and reluctantly, coming round to thinking that Middlesex may not be promoted this season.
The overnight batsmen survived three-quarters of an hour of constant tension: loud appeals for catches, LBW, … balls that just missed the stumps, balls that flew just safe. It was all happening. Finally, though, Nathan Buck made the breakthrough, pinning Stevie Eskinazi LBW for 20. In came Dawid Malan, on a king pair, no doubt happy to receive two wides to settle his nerves, before finally receiving a legitimate delivery. One wicket soon became two as Rory Kleinveldt produced a wonderful delivery to Malan that nipped back in and clipped the off bail. Malan had avoided a pair, but not by much and must now be further than ever from an England recall. Middlesex were now 84-3, still 75 behind. All through this, Sam Robson, who some still think could be some time the answer to England’s problems at the top of the order (although he is struggling again with the bat this season), was battling through. It was though salutary to remember that the only three Middlesex batsmen averaging 30 in the 2018 season were back in the pavilion already. When Rory Kleinveldt then bowled a big inswinger to Eoin Morgan, one wicket had become three, as he was hit on the back pad, right in front: 70-1 had become 92-4, and Middlesex were struggling to see the match much past Lunch. To finish off the match though, Northamptonshire had to get past Sam Robson who, after a very poor trot with the bat, reached his fifty and was scoring with increasing confidence: even if he was not leading Middlesex to safety, he was at least making life difficult for the opposition. Disaster though, from the last ball before Lunch, as a Leg Gulley was placed carefully and Sam Robson picked him out: Nathan Buck had removed the one batsman who seemed to be a real threat. Sam Robson had made 72, easily his best innings of the season. Even if the Robson had ensured that Middlesex would not lose by an innings, they went into Lunch seemingly with just two chances of escaping defeat: slim and fat.
Brett Hutton picked up Robbie White cheaply soon after Lunch and Middlesex, who five minutes before the break might have been thinking “if we can just eke out a lead of 150”, were now, effectively, 7-6 with only the bowling all-rounders and tail to come. However, Holden and Harris accumulated steadily, and the lead started to grow to the point that hope was just beginning to rise again. This is life as a Middlesex supporter: it is the hope that kills you. With Tea approaching and Ben Duckett possibly unable to bat with his broken finger, could Middlesex’s lower order engineer an extraordinary escape? Things became even more interesting as Vasconcelos went off injured and former Middlesex man, Adam Rossington, came on as substitute wicket-keeper. At Tea it was 262-6, a lead of 103, with Max Holden 73* and James Harris 37*: at least Northamptonshire would have a tricky target to chase.
Finally, after a stand of 121, Max Holden fell to Hutton for 94, agonisingly close to his maiden century. In came James Fuller, with James Harris batting well and past yet another fifty. Fuller reined-in his attacking instincts until he decided to advance down the wicket to Rory Kleinvelt and aimed a massive wah-hoo that was neatly edged through to Adam Rossington, just when Middlesex must have been close to becoming favourites to win. What the dressing room much had thought watching the shot, one dreads to think. Still, though the score kept mounting and Extras got a healthy round of applause from the crowd for their own 50 from 576 balls: yes, it was that kind of day! The Northamptonshire bowlers were increasingly exhausted, and the ball was being chased in the field with ever-decreasing enthusiasm when, at last, Nathan Buck, who looked to be on his knees, got Bamber to edge through to Rossington. Just over four overs were left in the day, and the lead was 208. Tim Murtagh, the Lambeth Lara, held on until the Close and with James Harris 79 not out and the lead 215, Middlesex, 374-9, must be slight favourites going into the last day. You could not make it up.
Glamorgan v Durham
After losing a lot of time to rain and bad light and rain on Day 1, the rain stopped Durham from wrapping up a facile victory in two days. Even with an all-spin attack due to the grimy conditions, Durham still sliced through the Glamorgan batting in the final overs of play like a chainsaw through butter, which made it frustrating for all concerned to have to return on the third morning for the last rites, with Glamorgan starting 79-7, still needing 62 to avoid an innings defeat.
It did not take long for Durham to make the breakthrough, Chris Rushworth trapping Craig Meschade LBW for 8. That wicket just about sealed the innings win, with 46 still needed to make Durham bat again. Rushworth then added Lukas Carey and Durham were set to win in the first half hour of play. The final margin was an innings and 30, as Durham fell to 111ao. Chris Rushworth had added Michael Hogan, to finish with 5-32. A 21-point win does not give Durham any realistic hopes of threatening the top two, but they now can hope to finish the season just behind the leading pack.
Clearly, though, people are unhappy at Cardiff, and Aneurin Donald's decision to leave for Hampshire has not helped at all. Glamorgan Chief Executive Huw Morris even made the slightly unusual step of giving a public statement on his departure in the wake of the defeat, expressing his considerable disappointment at the news.
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