5/5/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
This is a warning to readers: some normal, sensible cricket has happened today and some England players are beginning to show signs of returning form and confidence. Do not adjust your reading glasses!
Starting at Chelmsford, there has been a very severe outbreak of tough, competitive cricket. The bare facts are that after their jet-propelled start last night, Yorkshire stuttered a little, but still set Essex 238 to win. This has left statisticians consulting record books to find out if any side has ever scored as few as fifty in their first innings and won. In truth, Yorkshire should have put this match out of sight, having reached 276-3, with Joe Root and Harry Brook batting beautifully. That they did not was down, in the first place to Ravi Bopara, one of the forgotten men of English cricket and then to a fine spell from Jamie Porter. The day though, belonged to Harry Brook, with a highest score of 38 before this match; the youngster scored his maiden First-Class fifty and then converted it into a maiden ton. First, Pujara, with 41 kept him company and then Joe Root, with 35 although, of the last six, only Leaning with 29 reached double figures. Essex must have been mighty pleased not to be chasing 350 and set off well in pursuit of their target. Alastair Cook, who has not repeated his extraordinary batting for Essex of 2017, looked in decent form, seeing off Coad and Brooks. The introduction of Steve Patterson shook things up, with Cook and the luckless Westley, who has hardly scored a runs since being dropped by England last summer, both fell in the same over and when he repeated the trick by taking Browne and Bopara in the sixteenth over it looked like a quick finish might be in order. Lawrence and ten Doeschate took the score from 55-4 to 97-4 at the Close and left the match in the balance. If they can bat on for an hour in the morning without alarms, this game will be heading for a heart-stopping finish. Patterson, with 4-21, will be planning to derail the Essex bid for a successful chase.
Off to Old Trafford and a game that looks to be heading for a bore draw. If yesterday belonged to Marcus Trescothick – although there are fears that his injury may be career ending – today has belonged to Tom Abell and to Keaton Jennings. Abell fell agonisingly short of his own century, falling for 99 dismissed, appropriately, by Mennie. After his batting struggles since taking on the captaincy, Abell is finally getting rewards, both personal and with the team. Somerset’s 429 though was put into context by the Lancashire batsmen who, after a shaky start, shook off their stupor and were lifted from 48-2 to 217-2 by Keaton Jennings and Dane Vilas. Jennings, with 91* is threatening to be the first serious candidate for the England opening spot to score a century this season, while Vilas is 83*. While the match is seemingly heading for a bore-draw, no one will want to see Keaton Jennings fail to add those extra nine runs tomorrow morning. Spare a thought though for poor Haseeb Hameed, who has lost his England place to injury and to Keaton Jennings and now has lost his place in the Lancashire side.
Another bore draw threatens at The Oval. Surrey’s 434 was built around Rory Burns’ monumental 193. Charlie Morris finally got him when it looked as if the first double century of the season was his for the taking. However, after taking 144 overs to score their 434, they needed wickets to hurry the match along. Worcestershire’s batsmen have struggled horribly so far this season, but look as if they should avoid a fourth consecutive defeat here. So far only Brett D’Oliviera has fallen, LBW to Rikki Clarke for 23. Worcestershire have closed on 135-1 and, with their shaky batting and confidence, it is not impossible that they could lose quick wickets in the morning and end up struggling to avoid the follow-on, but this one looks like a draw unless Virdi can extract something from the pitch.
There should be a finish at Trent Bridge, but it may have to wait until Monday. There is every chance that Nottinghamshire will increase their lead at the top of Division 1 with a third win. Although 69 from Amla and 66 from McManus reduced the Hampshire arrears to something more respectable than seemed likely, 79 put Nottinghamshire in the driving seat unless their batsmen did something stupid. Mullaney and Libby have both reached their fifty. Nottinghamshire are 136-0, 215 ahead and will be looking to turn the screw in the morning. Hampshire will be chasing 350 or more.
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