5/5/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
If I were a betting man, I would put my money on three of the four games ending tomorrow.
Starting at the top of Division 2, Warwickshire’s game could easily have ended tonight. Derbyshire could not build a partnership, despite several pairs getting starts. Only when Madsen and Hughes were together did they look to threaten Warwickshire’s comfortable march to 23 points and stretching their lead in Division 2. Derbyshire were finally all out for a very under par 209 and left just 89 to win. With 16 overs available if Warwickshire had chosen to take the extra half hour the game could easily have finished today but will go into its final day, if only for an hour or so. The early loss of Rhodes to Duanne Olivier should not derail the chase at all: Warwickshire closed on 19-1 and look set to extend their lead.
The fly in the Warwickshire ointment is Sussex-by-the-Sea, with Sussex looking to keep up the pressure behind them with a win of their own. Looking at the fixture list, the Sussex v Middlesex game looked like a title eliminator between two heavyweights. After two days though, the referee has already given Middlesex a standing count and has asked the ringside doctor to take a look. This was not the way things were meant to be after Northants were destroyed so efficiently in the first match of the season. If you looked though a little deeper at the injury list, at the players who would not be available, at the ones who had moved to other counties and at the hints that not all was well in the dressing room, caution was advisable and Middlesex are getting a severe dose of reality. Today was meant to be the fightback. Sussex had missed at least six, relatively easy chances, by some counts, seven and started the day 60-4. Although Danny Briggs hung on, when he and Ben Brown went it was 127-6 and Middlesex were looking at a likely useful first innings lead. Sadly, another of the problems from 2017 has come back to haunt them: not being able to knock over a tail. At 242-8 the least should have been kept to no more than thirty. In the end, though, the last two wickets added 81 and the lead was 93, a number made to look huge as Sam Robson and Steve Eskinazi fell in quick succession. Even the local fans started to get unruly as a Sussex-supporting seagull first attacked the effects microphone during the innings break, before heckling into it with what sounded like uncontrollable laughter as Middlesex lost wickets, almost drowning out the commentators. Gubbins and Malan have steadied the ship but, at 64-2, Middlesex are still 29 behind and know that they can ill-afford to lose an early wicket in the morning.
At Sophia Gardens the game has returned to a more normal pace but, this one too is likely to end tomorrow. Glamorgan were threatening to head for safety late in the day. At 260-6, the lead was 180 and the likely Kent target 250+, which would have been a fair trial for a Kent side that has no batting form at all. However, two late wickets for Matt Henry and one for one of the players who Middlesex, perhaps foolishly, let go, Harry Podmore, have left Glamorgan 273-9 and only 193 ahead. Of course, for Kent a chase of 200 this season is like setting other sides 400, but they must feel confident that they can finish this one off: if they cannot, the blow to the side’s morale is going to be truly earth-shattering.
It seemed that there would be no such luck at the Riverside, probably the loveliest ground on the county circuit as Leicestershire defied my genial editor’s challenge to prove that they are not boring. It is fortunate that Martin Emmerson in the commentary box makes Henry Bloefeld’s interest in buses look positively marginal. Four Leicestershire batsmen reached 70 (but none passed 75) as Leicestershire ground out 440ao in 150.4 hours of not very thrilling cricket. Marty though will identify each commercial aircraft as it flies over the ground using his mobile app, will commentate on the shipping passing through the Roker Riviera… anything to distract listeners from the fact that it is boring out in the middle. Sadly, things ceased to be boring when Durham batted. Aiden Markram may be #8 in the ICC Test rankings, but his first match for Durham was marked by two ducks in a day (including a golden) and today he added a third, this time, a fourth-baller. Steel and Collingwood added their ducks to the collection and Durham trembled at 14-4 and then 51-6. If Graham Clark, who has stood firm with 50* falls early, this game may not see out the day. Durham are 142-7 starting the third day and need another 148 to avoid the follow-on. At this rate, it is going to be another season of intense pain for the many Durham fans around the country who have seen a county that has produced so many players for England, totally hobbled by the ECB.
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