By Harry Hill (@HarryHill96) and Mark Kidger (@markFromMadrid)
The ECB has tried a novelty today: after two days with just a single One Day Cup match, all the other teams played their matches the same day; yes, it was an outbreak of sensible scheduling. It also threw up a series of games that, even at this early stage of the competition, were getting critical for the progress of sides. The North Group continues to be a mess but has thrown up one definitive conclusion: Durham’s post-ECB nightmare continues – barring a mathematical miracle, they are out of contention for the knock-out stages with five games left, but Surrey have avoided following them. Meanwhile, Nottinghamshire have made a serious statement of intent and Leicestershire will not have thanked them for it.
Let’s start at Grace Road. While batsmen, especially openers, have been having a tough time so far this season, team psychologists have generally recommended a spell of R&R at Grace Road to get over the trauma. The immortal Martin Emmerson summed it up “Fancy scoring more than 300 at home and still losing by 93 runs!” If Taunton is “the beach”, Grace Road is “THE Road”: wickets may have been falling like Autumn leaves elsewhere but, up Leicester way, they are an endangered species. It comes to something when, as an opener, you score an excellent 50 at almost a run-a-ball and end up being the anchorman. Chris Nash suffered that indignity as his 56 at a strike rate of 90 made him the tortoise that was slowing down the scoring. A century for Samit Patel in 63 balls, 76 for Riki Wessels in 44 balls and 56 boundaries between 4’s and 6’s had David Bracegirdle in serious medical risk (latest reports are that he has not managed to calm his excitement yet, several hours after the game finished). 409-7 and the Leicestershire bowlers were left licking their wounds, apart from the wise old “Fireball” Dexter, who always seemed under bowled at Middlesex but came out of the carnage with credible figures of 10-0-50-2. The only way that Leicestershire were ever going to get close was if they made a tearaway start: 13-2 from 17 balls… game over. By the time that they had slipped to 93-5, Dave Bracegirdle must have been thinking of starting his celebratory pint early, but the Leicestershire lower middle order made sure that the overs were batted out and the margin of defeat was reduced to something less humiliating than had seemed likely a couple of hours earlier. Notts are the holders, and they are serious about hanging on to the title: they are now second in the North Group with a positive NRR.
Martin Emmerson was forced to venture into the frozen south with a road trip to Derby, knowing that defeat would all but mathematically end his beloved Durham’s interest in the Royal London ODC. Suffice it to say that he is not a happy bunny tonight. Durham showed a lot of spirit and took the match deep into the last over, but needed to separate Gary Wilson and Alex Hughes, but failed to do so until the scores were level. A total of 272-8 was disappointing from 137-2 in the 27th over, and when Godleman and Reece added 125 at a good pace for the second Derbyshire wicket, Durham were always likely to be short of a defendable total. The result leaves Derbyshire third in the North Group and in contention, while Durham are anchored to the foot of the table with (un)easily the worst NRR of the eighteen teams.
Down in London, Surrey knew that they faced Durham’s fate if there was a repeat of the 2015 Royal London Final. Despite the fact that there is a slight difference in bank balance between the two sides (Surrey’s chequebook arrives at the ground on a 10-ton lorry, a pair of butterflies carries Gloucestershire's), there is a healthy rivalry and some history between the two sides. Commentator Mark Church (Surrey) got in an early mention of Surrey’s record 50-over score (496-4, made against Gloucestershire), while Bob Hunt (Forest Green and Gloucestershire) may have mentioned a few times the Surrey collapse in the 2015 Final. A win for Gloucestershire would have put them on three wins from three and Surrey on three defeats – the one well on the way to the knock-out stages, the other preparing sadly for the 2019 tournament. To the delight of a noisy crowd, Surrey chose this game to awaken, and Gloucestershire chose it to have an off-day. Batsman after batsman of the Shire were convicted of dangerous driving on a pitch that did not permit too many liberties. Every time that a partnership started to get the innings on an even keel, a wicket fell, and Rory Burns used Scott Borthwick skilfully in mid-innings and, with Rikki Clarke, the scoring rate was strangled in the middle overs. At 131-5 in the twenty-ninth over, there was a real danger that a target under 200 would be set. Once again though, Ryan Higgins (Oh Middlesex! What have you done in letting him go?) And Jack Taylor pushed the total far beyond anything that seemed likely (the pundits in the box were suggesting 250 maximum) and Tom Smith added some late biff. 282-6 on a pitch that was not entirely simple to score on quickly looked like a pretty decent effort. No one though reckoned with 19-year-old Will Jacks. Playing just his third 1st XI game for Surrey, he left his previous best of 28 far behind. A superlative 121 in 112 balls set Surrey on the way to an easy win. Elgar, Burns and Foakes gave him solid support and, despite a tremendous effort from Benny Howell, who bowled his ten overs for 1-32 to add to 60 with the bat, Surrey won at a canter and live to fight another day. Gloucestershire are one of four sides in the South Division with two wins and one defeat, chasing leaders Hampshire.
Finally, to Sophia Gardens for the heart-stopping finish of the day in the televised game. Fifties for Gubbins, Morgan and Franklin and 49 for Eskinazi pushed Middlesex up to 304-6, which should have been a winning total. This though is Middlesex, a side that still finds it easier to read Linear B than to read a limited overs game. They were 185-2 and scoring at will, looking set for a total in the 340-360 range, before one of those inexplicable collapses that has made MiddlesexBattingCollapse.com a fan favourite: losing 3-16 in 20 balls left the lower order to re-build and made reaching 300 an achievement. This was not a run chase for the nervous. Glamorgan got away like a train, adding 86 in 95 balls. Depression among the Middlesex fans, elation among the Welsh. Glamorgan then lost 3-10 in 18 balls. Euphoria among the Sea Axes, depression by the Taff. A partnership of 126 between Lloyd and Ingram, with the run-rate accelerating smoothly: surely Glamorgan have it in the bag? 227-5 with just 61 balls left? Tipping back to Middlesex. The final act was pure comedy as if both teams were determined to lose (yet, it was like that infamous badminton match at the London Olympics): Glamorgan collapsed horribly when it seemed easier to win. 289-9 with just five balls left. 16 needed to win. All over, right? You could hear Jon Patrick MacEnroe screaming “you cannot be serious!”
The last 5 balls went like this:
49.2 – Helm to Carey. Dot ball. 16 needed from 4.
49.3 – Helm to Carey. Boundary. 12 needed from 3.
49.4 – Helm to Carey. Boundary. 8 needed from 2.
49.5 – Helm to Carey. Quick single.
Six to tie. New batsman van der Gugten on strike.
49.6 – WHACK! But it is only a boundary four.
Somehow Middlesex have scrambled a win by two runs when they could somehow have managed to contrive to lose. In his nightmares tonight, Tom Helm will see that last ball heading over the rope for six and will wake up in a cold sweat. Middlesex. This is Middlesex. Anything is possible in a limited overs game!
Yorkshire v Worcestershire
Worcestershire 350-6, Yorkshire 346-9
There was a thrilling contest at Headingley, where whoever came out with defeat will inevitably fell that a vital win was well within their grasp. Perhaps curiously, Yorkshire invited Worcestershire to bat first although Daryl Mitchell fell early for 11 LBW from Ben Coad, England hopeful Joe Clarke and Australian sensation Travis Head put on a good partnership of 108. A familiar problem for Yorkshire was the absence of key players, particularly with the ball, with Liam Plunkett and David Willey unavailable. Tim Bresnan in was unable to cause problems to the Pears batsman, with figures of 0-78. As the innings progressed, Steve Patterson managed to control the rate, with his skilful variations, but the Worcestershire batsmen took a liking to leg-spinner Adil Rashid, who despite his two wickets, went for 86 runs from his ten overs. Yorkshire will be disappointed to have conceded 122 runs from the final ten overs, and that was ultimately the difference between the two teams, with the last over going for 20 runs, thanks to Ross Whiteley, who finished on 66* from just 41 balls.
As required, the Yorkshire reply got off to a solid start as Adam Lyth, and Tom Kohler-Kadmore saw off the new ball with a 72 run opening partnership. Kohler-Kadmore continued to play nicely even after the loss of Lyth for 29 caught behind, with a 101 run partnership with Cheteshwar Pujara. However, Kohler-Kadmore unable to reach his ton, at being caught on the boundary off a D’Oliveira leggy. The wickets soon started to tumble, as Wainmann lasted just two balls and Brook fell for only 5 runs. Leaning, Bresnan and Rashid then got off to a start but lacked the resilience shown by Kohler-Kadmore and Pujara towards the end of the innings. As the wickets continued to fall, and the tension began to rise at Headingley, Joe Leach kept his nerve as the penultimate over went for just five runs, leaving Yorkshire requiring an unlikely 16 from the last over, with only the one wicket remaining. Yorkshire, managed 11 from the last over, losing by four runs.
Northamptonshire v Lancashire
Lancashire 279-8, Northamptonshire 282-8
In a day of enthralling drama across the RLODC, Northants came out on top in a cracking game thanks to a vital 43* runs from Luke Procter. Lancashire elected to bat first after winning the toss, which looked a good decision on Liam Livingstone’s part as in-form Keaton Jennings and Alex Davies achieved a 105 run opening partnership. It was, however, a hard-fought and attritional partnership on a slow pitch, taking 18 overs to reach 100. Credit to the Northants bowlers, who were tight and offered few boundary opportunities, particularly Graeme White, who despite failing to get a wicket, went for just 45 runs from his ten overs. Dane Vilas was the only Lancashire batsman to play with any real fluency, making 83* from 68 balls at the end of the innings to set a competitive score for Northants to chase.
An equally impressive opening partnership was the order of the day for Northants, as Josh Cobb and Richard Levi got 113 runs before Cobb fell to Stephen Parry. Levi would have been disappointed not to reach his ton, as he played nicely with eight fours and 1 six for his 90 runs. Perhaps looking at the success of White from the first innings, Lancashire turned to the off-spin from Matt Parkinson, and Liam Livingstone, who both went for less than 4 runs an over. As the game got tight, Adam Rossington and Luke Procter kept the score moving, despite the late wickets of Crook, White and Hutton. A Nathan Buck maximum of the last ball of the 49th over meant that Northants required just four runs from the final over. Perhaps fittingly it was Luke Procter that saw Northants over the line with a boundary on the last ball.
Hampshire v Essex
Essex 303-6, Hampshire 304-4
Rilee Rossouw backed up his 90 against Surrey on Monday with a superb 111 to see Hampshire take the points against Essex at the Ageas Bowl. Hants skipper James Vince won the toss and elected to bowl; however, this was without immediate success as Varun Chopra and Adam Wheater got the Eagles off to a flying start with a 67-run opening partnership. Tom Westley then entered the match and looked good to repeat his performance at Radlett last Thursday, before being clean bowled by Brad Taylor for 66. Ravi Bopara and Ashar Zaidi continued to pile on the runs for the Eagles later in the innings, pushing the total beyond 300, finishing on 303-6. Perhaps the Hampshire bowlers lacked variations with just the five bowlers bowling ten overs each.
After the innings break, the South African opening pair of Hashim Amla and Rilee Rossouw were looking to get the South Coast outfit off to a good start, but young Sam Cook bowled well and with hostility in just his third RLODC match, taking the wicket of Amla. However, Essex were left to toil in the Southampton sun and failed to land a glove on the Hants batsman as Rossouw and Vince’s 126 runs partnership took the game away from Essex. In comparison to Hampshire’s five bowlers, Essex used seven bowlers, desperate for a breakthrough. In the end, it was the medium-pace of Ravi Bopara who took the much-needed wickets of Vince, Joe Weatherley and latterly Rossouw. Always ahead of the rate, it was the calm head of club stalwart Jimmy Adams, with the support of Brad Taylor who took Hampshire over the line with 16 balls remaining.
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