4/15/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger & Jamie Ramage (@MarkFROMMadrid & @Famousstrauss)
Rain again was the protagonist of the day, but Middlesex beat the on-coming front by a few minutes to go top of the proto-table and make a massive statement of intent to their promotion rivals. Barring something extraordinary tomorrow, they will go into the second round of matches next weekend leading the Championship. Gloucestershire were not so lucky, after an unexpected outbreak of sensible batting delayed the expected end of the match, but will hope to wrap up their match some time tomorrow, to make their best start to a season for seven years.
Kent 64 & 153 (48.3 overs)
Gloucestershire 110-8 and 61-1 (18.5 overs)
Gloucestershire have not won their opening Championship fixture since 2011, the year when they went so close to promotion – and have not won an opening fixture away since 1998. They will be praying that the ground can soak up the heavy rain that has fallen this evening. There was concern that any significant quantity of rain could make the ground unplayable tomorrow, because it will be too sodden after the soaking of recent weeks to dry in time to allow play.
For Gloucestershire, a wash-out due to a wet outfield would be a tragedy. Although Kent made a better fist of their second innings, in particular Daniel Bell-Drummond, one of the outside bets for the vacant England opener spot. Bell-Drummond made 61 out of 75-1, with 10x4 and 1x60. Batting looked easy while he was at the crease and Gloucestershire fans got uneasy as their lead disappeared and Kent started to pull ahead at an alarming pace. However, it was always likely that when he fell, more batsmen would follow him to the pavilion. Middlesex import, Ryan Higgins got Bell-Drummond LBW – once again, the top 3, 5 of the top 6 and 6 of the top 8 Kent batsmen fell this way: a scoreboard showing 75-1, with Gloucestershire beginning to sweat, became one showing 89-6 and the likelihood of a rapid finish. Crawley and Rouse put on 43 and seemed to be steadying the ship, but Worrall got the former and Taylor the latter and Higgins did the rest.
In only his sixth First Class game, Ryan Higgins, an off-break bowler, blew his career-best figures out of the water with 14-4-22-5. The final target was 108, enough to give Kent a real chance if they took early wickets. Gloucestershire captain Chris Dent fell early and his early-season form must be a concern, but Benny Howell, who reminds me of Mark Alleyne in his pomp, set out to hit the bad ball and Darren Stevens was happy to offer them. Whether or not the batsmen knew that the rain was imminent, we do not know, but the batsmen played positively and, with the target so close, the umpires let them continue in increasingly heavy rain until the on-coming storm could no longer be ignored. With Stewart forced off by injury and Darren Stevens going for 22 from his three overs, Kent will need some magic from someone if and when the game re-starts tomorrow.
Gloucestershire are 47 short and would go second in the proto-table with the win. And that would leave many fans of the Shire rubbing their eyes in disbelief. Me, no… I’m enjoying the moment. It may not last.
Middlesex 214 and 159 (38.3 overs)
Northants 71 and 142 (38.2 overs)
Tremble Division 2. Middlesex closed this game out ruthlessly with a side that was missing half of their best XI. To add to the absences of Gubbins, Malan, Morgan and Finn, Steve Eskenazi reported sick before the start of play and Nick Compton is not going to be considered for selection this season. That was the reason for the emergency signing of an overseas player. When – and if – Middlesex can play their best XI, they are really going to be a handful.
At this stage of the season, an Ark-wright is more useful to a side than a Cartwright – especially if a visit to New Road, Worcester is on the agenda – and, with Murtagh and Harris rampaging, his role was moot, although his first innings runs were helpful to Middlesex in setting-up a match-winning score. Yesterday, Tim Murtagh – Tim O’Murtagh to his kinsmen of Erin, the Lambeth Lara to Middlesex fans – took his 700th First Class wicket. It is a salutary reminder that, in his prime, Tich Freeman would take 700 wickets in 3 seasons; such is the reduction in First Class cricket and, particularly in overs bowled each season, that Tim Murtagh has reached the milestone in his 19th First Class season. Set for his Test debut against Pakistan, he is one of the nice guys of the circuit and no one will begrudge him finally obtaining a Test cap. Today, Murtagh and Harris went through the Northants batting with some gusto. There was a time when Newton and Wakely were batting sensibly and scoring at a healthy rate, when Middlesex might just have started to worry a little: enter Toby Roland-Jones, who still looks a little short of a gallop after his back injury, to remove Newton and it was all over bar the shouting… mainly for LBW. Northants are not a poor side and Gleeson looks a fine seamer to partner Bracewell, but they were embarrassingly outclassed.
Last season James Harris was so far from being a first choice that he was sent out for loan. After a wonderful season in 2015, two poor seasons followed. In this game he scored runs and took a small matter of 9-48. This was the sort of form that had sixteen of the eighteen First Class counties trying to sign him when he left Glamorgan (guess which county, based in Bristol was the exception). The weather might have been an act of god but in this game Northants found themselves totally unable to deal with acts of Harris. Add O’Murtagh’s 8-63 and Middlesex’s attack was just an overwhelming force.
Northamptonshire ended up a mere 160 short and, with Middlesex likely to field a stronger XI next week, against one of the weaker sides in Division 2, you would not bet much against them making it two wins from two. Middlesex fans though are cautious because inconsistency was their watchword last season and rumour has it that the pitch in Derby may well not be ready to host cricket, even with several days of warmer and drier weather before the game. The early signs though are that Middlesex may be as dominant in Division 2 this season as Nottinghamshire were, last.
Many a carthorse has found a living in county cricket and there aren’t many that will pull such a bandwagon as the one that Olly Stone will have started today. The winter woes of England have sparked a search for a player with pace that can unsettle players of quality with genuine pace.
There is no doubting that Stone has pace and if he can stay fit then Warwickshire have at their exposal. Signed from Northamptonshire for the start of season injury restricted the Norwich born bowler to one championship appearance, away at Old Trafford.
Today was the Edgbaston faithful’s first glimpse of right-arm quick in red-ball cricket, and he proved just what he can do. Warwickshire were able to continue their first innings in pursuit of batting points. The first day having been washed out and with the forecast for showers today a win for either side looked slim.
On what looked a good wicket, albeit with some assistance for the bowlers. The Sussex opening batsmen Luke Well and Phil Salt looked comfortable. That was until the introduction of Stone.
In an opening stand 30, Salt had scored 29 of those runs. It was Stone however with just his second ball of his opening spell that accounted for Salt looking to steer through leg only to find the edge.
It sparked a spell that Sussex fell to a mixture of loose shots and an aggressive bouncer that Luke Wright could not get out of the way.
Stiaan Van Zyl chased a wide ball that bounced more than expected although for a player of his ability should have left it. Wells edged behind, and the following ball Wright followed to leave the visitors on 77 for 4.
That soon became 88 for 5 as Harry Finch attempting to pull Stone could only lob it straight up in the air to give Sam Hain an easy catch.
As has become a Sussex habit over the past few years the lower order was required to dig Sussex out of a crisis. Ben Brown and Ben Burgess were the men tasked with that task and did so with relative ease.
There is a touch of class in the way that Burgess bats, a player that likes to play through the off-side and score quickly. His innings of 48 contained 9 fours, a few from edges off the unlucky Will Rhodes who conceded 20 runs in just three overs.
The sixth wicket had added 78 to the Sussex score and were starting to look to gain parity with the Warwickshire first-innings total. Burgess, however, became Stone’s sixth victim of the day as he was caught behind by Tim Ambrose.
50 overs of the days play were seen off by bad light and rain in what could marginally have been a game Warwickshire could still have won. Sussex finished the day on 194 for 6 still 105 runs adrift of the home side.
Stone may just be starting up his own bandwagon, but he has done so just at the right time, and with an injury free season there is no reason he can’t getting going as fast as his bowling.
This game should end with a draw but there will no doubt people who will remember it for that spell from Stone who ends the day with figures of 6 for 52.
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