7/25/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
If you are of a certain age, you will remember seeing dark, grainy black and white images with an excited Kenneth Wolstenholme shouting “they think that it’s all over. It is now!” That might be true of the Championship race, with Surrey pulling away from their faltering challengers. However, if you are from south of the river, a look at the carnage in Division 2 will not go amiss: promotion seemed to have been carved up between Warwickshire and Kent and served on toast... it is not any longer.
Lancashire v Yorkshire
A Roses match knows nothing of logic. When Joe Root came on for the penultimate over last night, probably in the hope that his England colleague, Jos Buttler, would relax and do something daft, little could he imagine that he would finish the innings with career-best figures. Lancashire held out for 12.4 overs in the morning, time enough for Joe Root to bowl himself to figures of 7.4-5-5-4.
Having holed Lancashire below the waterline by getting Jos Buttler with his fifth delivery last night, Joe Root compounded the Lancashire misery by getting Graeme Onions to edge through to Jonny Bairstow with the first ball of the morning and, in the process, going on to bowl a second consecutive wicket maiden. Parkinson ruined his figures by taking a single from his third over before Root bowled a third wicket maiden in his fourth. Root though punished Parkinson for his cheek, getting him to give a catch to Lyth, leaving him, at that moment, on 3-2-1-3. In came Jimmy Anderson and, with Liam Livingstone nursing a broken thumb, it was assumed that this would be the last wicket partnership. Anderson held out for 19 balls in the company of Tom Bailey before Steve Patterson removed Bailey LBW. To everyone’s surprise – and not knowing exactly why he was being risked – Livingstone came out with his thumb in a cast but, before he could face a delivery, Jimmy Anderson did the decent thing and allowed Joe Root to castle him.
Yorkshire won by 118 runs and took away 19 points. Lancashire’s misery was complete when they had a point deducted for a slow over rate. Yorkshire are now 14 points ahead of their rivals with a game in hand and 15 clear of relegation. In contrast, Lancashire have a sizeable relegation problem now.
Worcestershire v Somerset
Can anyone stop Surrey? Step forward the Cidermen. Only Moeen Ali stood between Somerset and an easy victory. While the rest of the Worcestershire attack wilted before the assault of Marcus Trescothick and Azhar Ali, Moeen showed the England selectors that he is still “The Beard that is Feared”. Moeen took five of the top six and, while the rest of the attack bowled pies, he seemed to be bowling hand grenades. Sadly, for the romantics, Banger did not get his century: having scored 71 of the first 110, he advanced to Moeen Ali and was stumped smartly by Milton. However, Worcestershire needed quick wickets, and enough players added runs to Azhar Ali’s 125 for the lead to grow rapidly past 300. Finally, Tom Abell had mercy when Azhar Ali was out and declared at 362-9. The target for Worcestershire was a mere 443. More realistically, Worcestershire had to survive 111 overs. Their first task though was to survive the 15 overs to the Close. Josh Davey got Daryll Mitchell for 6, but Head and Moeen seemed to be steering their side to Stumps with no further loss until Moeen had a rush of blood to the last ball of the day and was bowled by Jamie Overton. 50-2, Worcestershire need a miracle. Somerset, in contrast, are eyeing 16 points and leap-frogging into second, 34 points down on Surrey and still, just about in the fight for the Championship, with a game against Surrey to come at Taunton in the penultimate round.
So much for Division 2 being wrapped up. Kent and Warwickshire have looked so much better than the rest of Division that it seemed that everyone else was fighting for third place. If Division 1 has had its Kenneth Wolstenholme moment, Division 2 has seen a repeat of Devon Loch. Or, maybe, the right simile is the 1967 Gran National’s 23rd fence and, somewhere in the pack, there is a Foinavon who will come through unnoticed to win, while everyone else is trying to imitate John Cleese and the Ministry of Silly Walks. As of tonight, probably only Glamorgan of the sides in Division 2 feel, in their heart of hearts, that they are out of the promotion race. Even Northants, who had such a desperate start to the season, will look at the table tonight and think that, if they can wrap up the win, they will have a real chance of “doing a Foinavon”; actually, come to think of it, even Gloucestershire will wonder what might happen if they wrap up a win against Durham.
As of now, the Division 2 table is thus:
1 Warwickshire P8 W5 L2 D1 128
2 Sussex P8 W4 L1 D3 121
3 Kent P8 W5 L2 D1 115
4 Leicestershire P8 W4 L2 D2 111
5 Middlesex P8 W3 L3 D2 87
All four teams below Middlesex could conceivably win tomorrow and cosy-up behind them. The gap between Leicestershire and Middlesex is still 24 points, which is a considerable gulf with just six games left but, as we have seen, strange things can – and do - happen.
Middlesex v Warwickshire
Oh, Middlesex! Totally unreliable. Just about everyone had, sensibly, given up on the game this morning. 183-6 overnight, Middlesex felt that they needed at very least eighty more to have a chance. They did not get them. Not even near. Ollie Rayner hung around for a while, then John Simpson and James Harris added 23, but the lead was still under 200, and the last three wickets fell for six runs in under three overs. The target for the leaders was 203, and one felt that unless wickets fell quickly, Warwickshire would walk this. Who could stop them?
Enter the Lambeth Lara in his guise of a wily old seamer. First ball, Rhodes pushed a single and Warwickshire, it seemed, were off. Two dots to Dom Sibley. Fourth ball, Sibley edges and Ollie Rayner, the original bucket-hands himself, took the catch. Kevin Hand’s scream of delight shook the windows on the media centre. In came Ian Bell. Dot ball and then, last ball of the over, a shattering scream that registered on seismometers around the south of England: off stump uprooted, Warwickshire 1-2, Kevin Hand deliriously happy. Surely Middlesex, 76-7 on Saturday, could not pull off this heist? Warwickshire just needed one partnership.
Then James Harris bowled first-innings centurion, Rhodes. 21-3 and Warwickshire were trembling. For seven overs Trott and Hain threatened to put together the winning partnership that was needed. 36 runs came in rapid time. Murtagh bowling to Trott. Hit on the pad… GIVEN!!! Warwickshire though, like Middlesex, bat long. In came Chris Woakes; Ollie Rayner gained an LBW decision against him: 64-5. Now, the match situation shifted again. Sam Hain and Tim Ambrose were at the crease and knocked-off the runs steadily. Middlesex needed a wicket desperately, and James Harris provided it: 108-6. Again, two batsmen seemed to be guiding Warwickshire to victory as Tim Ambrose, and Jethan Patel combined in a crucial partnership that got the runs wanted down to 52. Had they stayed together for just another half a dozen overs they might well have ensured victory. Again, Middlesex were desperate to get a wicket and, this time, it was James Fuller, who had saved their first innings, who produced the magic ball and, again, bucket-hands Rayner did the necessary. In the very next over, Murtagh got Jethan Patel too and, for the first time, Middlesex were firm favourites to win. Hannon-Dalby did not last long: caught behind off Fuller; but Wright and Sidebottom inched towards the target in singles. Thirteen overs produced twenty-two runs: twenty singles and a two. The tension ratcheted-up with every run. Was there a hero? Finally, after seventeen consecutive dot balls, James Fuller re-adjusted Wright’s stumps and the delirium was complete. Middlesex had given their promotion campaign a lifeline and had blown apart the entire promotion race.
As I said, last night, they are totally unreliable. You cannot trust Middlesex with any match situation.
Gloucestershire v Durham
Durham’s season started so poorly that even the stoic Martin Emmerson was speechless. A side that has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous ECB decisions finished in the top half of Division 1, but was relegated and has seen most of its star players leave. Most around the club had given up promotion as a lost cause again but, with the events elsewhere in the last two days, suddenly a glimmer of hope has returned. If they could somehow get a win from this game, they would move onto 84 points, just three behind Middlesex. At the same time, Gloucestershire, who must have thought that their season was over when, for the second time this season, a winning position against Sussex went begging, will add 16 points mentally and see that suddenly they would enter the fringes of the promotion race on 76 points.
Tomorrow, there will almost certainly be a result, as the draw is possibly the least likely of the possible outcomes. Durham need to chase 340 to win and will require 305 from 96 overs with ten wickets in hand. Make no mistake; this is a dogfight. Bob Hunt, Sir Robert himself, felt that anything over 300 would take a lot of getting, but neither side is giving an inch.
Durham started the day 219-5, with Tom Latham, the danger man. Durham, undoubtedly, hoped for parity, or close to parity but, when Craig Miles bowled Poynter in the fifth over of the morning, there was very little more support on offer. Ryan Higgins got two, Wood was run out, and then Latham was the last man out, caught by Howell off the economical Payne. The Gloucestershire lead was 87, and it was obvious that they were going to set a target of some kind.
Within three overs Gloucestershire were in danger of losing the initiative. Rushworth removed Hammond and the still-bandaged Bracey. Gloucestershire were 15-2. Chris Dent and Benny Howell combined to steady the innings but, just as it looked as if things were under control, three wickets fell in nine balls, and Durham were right back in the match: 86-5 and the lead 173. Higgins and Noema-Barnett, once again, brought the innings out of intensive care and pushed the lead past 250. Higgins fell caught and bowled by Will Smith when nearing his fifty. The lead was useful, but more was needed, and Kieron Noema-Barnett supplied them. He batted steadily to 69*, guiding the tail. This time, not even Ben Stokes could stem the tide. The lead was 307 when the ninth wicket fell, and then Noema-Barnett and Drissell added 32 crucial runs for the last wicket before Will Smith came back and had Drissell caught, inevitably, by that man Stokes. Durham were severely handicapped in the field because Mark Wood was injured and unable to bowl and probably suffered for it in that last wicket stand.
Durham had to survive 12 overs before Stumps and did so quite comfortably. Gloucestershire need an early breakthrough in the morning. 340 should be too many to chase for Durham, but there again, they, like Middlesex are totally unreliable, as both their wins have come from positions in which they should have lost.
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire
Again, two sides in the bottom half of the table who can do arithmetic, add sixteen to their current points and like what they see. It is quite ludicrous to suggest that, having lost four of their first five games, Northamptonshire could be promoted but, were they to win this match, it would be far from impossible, with the sides above them taking wins off each other.
Derbyshire started the day 147-4, 118 ahead and thanks to a century from Wayne Madsen and fifty from Matt Critchley, reached 291-5, threatening to bat Northants out of the game. The key contest of the day was always going to be Madsen v Prasanna; Madsen won it but, when he was out, the innings subsided. 342ao left Northamptonshire a tricky target of 314 with more than four sessions to play so, one way or another; there was going to be a positive result.
When Wheeldon got Duckett LBW for 16 and Qadri added Vasconcelos for 10, Northamptonshire were 48-2 and wobbling. Luke Procter’s 68 steadied the innings and Wakely and Levi have put on an unbroken fifty for the fourth wicket. Northamptonshire need 140 in 96 overs to win on the last day with seven wickets in hand: if these two can stay together for an hour in the morning they will tip the balance irrevocably towards the visitors and Northamptonshire will start to dream of Division 1.
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