By Mark Kidger (@MarkfromMadrid)
There were plenty of remarkable events in Division 1 today. While one game – that at New Road – registered its second consecutive wash-out (with further bad weather forecasted for Monday too) and the game at Southampton barely got started, there was a pretty extraordinary day in the other two games. Let’s start at Taunton. If you had said at the start of the day that Yorkshire would end it battling to avoid the follow-on, you would probably have been locked-up as crazy, especially when Matt Renshaw was hitting the ball to all parts and Somerset were 145-1. The fall of George Bartlett for 39 led to the most extraordinary crash of wickets as, first, Somerset lost 9 wickets for 71 and then Yorkshire, requiring 67 to avoid the follow-on, collapsed from 51-2 to 64-8 and in real danger of allowing Somerset a Route One win. With rain forecast for Monday and thoughts that the final day will be washed-out, it needed something extraordinary to allow even the possibility of a result after the first day was lost but, after the early fall of Trescothick, Renshaw and Bartlett batted sublimely, adding 140 in just 25 overs, as the Yorkshire bowling was put to the sword. Jack Brooks – with 5-57 – and Ben Coad – with 3-67 – seemed to have upset the cider waggon and, when the previously expensive Tim Bresnan knocked over the last two wickets, the value of Renshaw’s 112 became obvious: without it, Somerset would have been hard-pressed to reach 100. Yorkshire’s start could hardly be worse as Adam Lyth was run out by Bartlett to the twelfth ball of the innings after eleven dot balls. Pujara has not exactly enhanced his reputation so far this season. He may average 50.5 in Tests, but has 2, 18 and now 7 for the Tykes and is finding April in England a slightly more daunting prospect than November in Mumbai. However, Brook and Ballance seemed to be setting a decent base before the young Somerset attack caused all kinds of panic. First Groenewald and then Gregory were on a hat-trick and Yorkshire, incredibly, needed three runs to avoid the embarrassment of the follow-on. Their plight would have been far worse had Tim Bresnan not hung on for more than an hour to eke out some runs from the tail. 96ao though was pretty bad and Somerset batted again before the Close, seeing out 2 overs and extending their lead to 126. They have an interesting decision to take tomorrow: with bad weather forecast for Monday, Somerset have the chance to chase quick runs and try to declare perhaps 300 ahead, hoping to force a result between tomorrow afternoon and any bonus play on Monday.
At Old Trafford, there was something equally remarkable: Lancashire, who have lost both games so far this season, will not lose this one. This was not something that you would have predicted after just over half an hour in the morning, with Lancashire 23-3 and Hameed, Jennings and Davies all back in the pavilion. Whatever else happens this summer, neither Hameed nor Jennings will enter England’s plans unless one of them has an extraordinary change in form and fortune. Their loss though was Liam Livingstone’s gain. He helped Shivnarine Chanderpaul to stabilise the innings and was unfortunate to fall LBW to Jade Dernbach with a 50 there for the taking: Livingstone looks the most likely of the three to play a Test this summer. This provoked another mini-collapse and, at 128-5, Lancashire were looking unlikely to break their season’s batting bonus point duck. However, there were then runs all down the order and 50s from Chanderpaul, Croft and Clark. A fourth batting point was attained comfortably and, in theory, with 48 needed from 36 balls and Meenie on 35*, you cannot quite rule out a fifth batting point. For Surrey, who many felt would be strong contenders for the pennant this season, it was a chastening experience. A draw looks almost certain, but Surrey will need to make sure that they get past the follow-on target, whatever it turns out to be. For Surrey, the high point of the day was, again, Amar Virdi’s bowling. He got flight and turn and ended up with 3-64. What was remarkable though was that his first wicket, Chanderpaul, was of a man who had made his Test debut four years before Virdi was even born! That Somerset v Surrey game at Taunton in September is looking more and more like a shoot-out for the title of the most lethal twirler in the country.
In the other game, at the Rose Bowl, Hants moved on to 154-2 before bad light ended play. New National Selector, Ed Smith, was there to see James Vince and reportedly liked what he saw. Vince though respected tradition by reaching 47 and looking like a million dollars before edging Harmer to Foster behind the stumps. With just 60 overs possible in the first two days, this one looks like it will be just a contest for first innings points. Essex still need a wicket to get their first bowling point, while Hants will be hoping for 3 or, or they really get a move on, just possibly 4, before setting to work on the Essex batsmen. However, with overs running out, it may well be that neither gets the full haul of bonus points in this innings. The spotlight will then, at some point tomorrow, focus on Alastair Cook, who desperately needs some runs.
At New Road, the groundsman has done an extraordinary job to get an outfield that was under water several feet deep in places just two weeks ago ready for Championship cricket, but more heavy rain has defeated him. Two days. Two wash-outs. The best that Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire can hope for is to make a start at some time tomorrow.
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