Bates scores first ever KSL century as Vipers down Lightning

New Zealand opener Suzie Bates destroyed Loughborough Lightning with a magnificent unbeaten 119, the first ever KSL century, with an innings that combined elegance and ruthlessness, aided by some poor bowling and sloppy fielding from the home side.

She followed it up with two wickets and a fine catch in Loughborough Lightning’s chase, to ensure the Vipers extended their winning streak to four games.

After a typically miserly over of leg spin from Kristen Beams, the hallmarks of Bates’ innings were clear from the seventh ball of the match, when teenager Lucy Higham failed to get low enough to stop a powerfully flayed cut shot off the bowling of Beth Langston.

Bates repeated the shot, better, off the next delivery. She punched the fourth ball of the over through Langston’s legs, and top-edged another four from the fifth.

Rebecca Grundy was given similarly disdainful treatment in the fourth over with two assertive sweeps in front of square, and by the time Georgia Elwiss turned to her senior bowler in Ellyse Perry, Bates was settled and in fearless form.

Perry shelled a caught and bowled chance before Bates had scored off her, just failing to close her hand at the right time. Bates made the most out of her second life, smashing two fours and a six off Perry’s final three balls.

Hayley Matthews perished shortly after Bates reached her half-century trying to join in Bates’s fun, skying a well-flighted delivery from Lucy Higham, but Bates was unperturbed by such a minor distraction.

She made light work of the Lightning bowlers despite the relaxed fielding restrictions, threading the narrowest gaps between fielders and lofting even the better balls over the infield with delicious ease.

While there were far too many loose balls from the Lightning attack, and far too many mis-fields, Bates deserves all the credit for putting experienced and talented bowlers like Perry under so much pressure.

She reached 90 off a free hit bowled by Perry, and the next ball was caught off a chest-high full toss. Perry was clearly feeling the pressure, but followed it up with a good wide yorker, which led to Georgia Adams being run out heading to the striker’s end. Bates remained on 90*, one short the Kia Super League record.

She passed Dane van Niekerk’s 91* for the Lightning last year with yet another boundary gifted to her by a mis-field. Her century came off the final ball of Beams’ four-over spell, pivoting on a shorter ball for a single behind square.

The Vipers finished on 180-2, the second highest total in domestic women’s Twenty20 cricket.

The scoreboard pressure told on Loughborough’s top order, and when three wickets fell in the powerplay the game was as good as over. Ellyse Villani felt a little aggrieved at being run out at the non-striker’s end, when Tash Farrant bent to fingertip the ball onto the stumps. Amy Jones followed shortly after, bowled by Hayley Matthews trying to cut a ball with no room to execute the shot, and finally Perry was run out by a direct hit from Georgia Adams.

Georgia Elwiss started a respectable rebuilding phase of the chase, and once Sonia Odedra was stumped for the second time in two games, Thea Brookes joined in with some impressive positive hitting.

The thin and flickering candle of hope was finally extinguished when Bates came on to bowl. She snagged Elwiss with her second ball and added Lucy Higham with a plumb lbw in her second. She also pulled off an outstanding catch on the straight boundary, juggling a clean hit from Langston a couple of times before finishing on her knees with the ball clasped in her right hand.

Loughborough Lightning have now lost their last four games, and the consolation that they passed Bates’ individual total before Grundy was run out by Carla Rudd off the final ball is likely to be cold comfort for the Midlands side, given that finals day seems little more than a dream fading in a pink and purple haze.

Taylor drives Western Storm to victory

Last year’s player of the competition Stafanie Taylor became the first bowler to claim a second four-wicket haul in the Kia Super League, as she turned the Loughborough Lightning innings on its head to deliver a crucial comeback victory for the Western Storm at Taunton.

Amy Jones and Ellyse Perry opened comfortably on a good flat pitch, with Jones in a particularly aggressive mood, striking five boundaries from her first 11 balls. After she struck Freya Davies firmly to mid on, Perry rebuilt the innings with composure and class.

The turning point was a suicidal run from Perry. She hit the ball straight to Taylor, who sprang forward to run out the Australian all-rounder for 25. It was to prove a costly brain fade from the experienced international, whose wicket was especially valuable given the absence of her compatriot Ellyse Villani with a shoulder injury.

An over later, Taylor was brought on to bowl her seemingly innocuous off spin. She is not a big turner of the ball, and with her second delivery she deceived Lightning Captain Georgia Elwiss to trap her lbw for one. Two balls later, Sonia Odedra skipped down the track and was ably stumped by Rachel Priest, who was solid with the gloves throughout.

With the final ball of the over, Thea Brookes also fell victim to Taylor’s lack of spin, pinned right in front of her stumps. A single followed from Taylor’s second over, and she added Paige Scholfield thanks to a sharp catch from Priest off a thick edge. Her final over yielded three runs to leave her with outstanding figures of 4-5.

Only injured Storm teammate Anya Shrubsole has better innings figures in the KSL (5-23 against the Yorkshire Diamonds at Headingley), but the run-out as well as her 20 dot balls in four overs had a devastating effect on Loughborough Lightning’s progress. They limped to 108-9, far from a par score on a docile wicket.

Lightning had the perfect start to their tight defence, though, when Kristen Beams followed four dot balls with the wicket of Rachel Priest, trying to heave a cut but being bowled. Heather Knight kept the Storm well within striking distance with a steady 24, but she fell victim to a superb piece of fielding from Lucy Higham, who executed an excellent stop and throw to remove the England captain.

The teams were engaged in a standoff and Georgia Hennessy was just starting to look dangerous before she gifted her wicket to Elwiss, caught by Perry for 23. The required run rate continued to hover around six an over, teasing the hopes of Lightning fans, but Taylor batted outstandingly from the moment she came to the crease.

A steady stream of dot balls and singles left the girls in green needing 24 off the final three overs, but Taylor and Luff took Rebecca Grundy’s spin apart at the death. Even though Taylor could not quite finish the job, she had taken her side to within two runs of victory.

Elysse Perry was given the final over and needed a maiden to tie – unfortunately from a Lightning perspective, Sophie Luff took a single off the first ball to secure a reassuring return to form for last year’s runners-up following their thrashing from the Southern Vipers on Thursday.

Despite the defeat, there were some encouraging signs for Loughborough Lightning, particularly in how close they made the match given their low total and the quality of the pitch. They now move on to face the Vipers at Derby on Tuesday – a game they can ill afford to lose in this short, sharp tournament.

Bresnan and Lyth star as Yorkshire take Roses honours

Skipper Tim Bresnan took Yorkshire’s first ever Twenty20 six-wicket haul and effected a run-out in the final over to seal the second leg of the first ever Roses double for Yorkshire at Headingley, the Yorkshire Diamonds having triumphed over Lancashire Thunder earlier in the day.

Young leg spinner Matt Parkinson kept Lancashire in the vital clash with four wickets in just 16 deliveries, but the veteran all-rounder produced the best figures in Yorkshire Twenty20 history under a sponge of rain to give a record-breaking finish to a terrific day of cricket.

Yorkshire’s intent was clear from the beginning, when Tom Kohler-Cadmore belted Steven Croft’s second ball into the stands underneath the pavilion for six.

Lyth joined the party an over later, swinging through his hips to dispatch Junaid Khan over square leg. He crunched the final ball of Khan’s over for a straight six, which teased two converging fielders.

Long-standing fans of Adam Lyth’s were reminded of his superb relay catches with Aaron Finch three years ago. Lancashire came nowhere near to repeating those memorable moments.

The carnage continued for the visiting side, with both Lyth and Kohler-Cadmore clearing and finding the boundary ropes with ease. The highlights came thick and fast, and Lancashire’s prize overseas seamer Ryan McLaren was reduced to a bowling machine as Lyth took him for 20 off the fifth over, including a six over long on that reached the second tier.

A squally rain moved across the ground towards the end of the powerplay, but the Yorkshire fans’ enthusiasm was unabated as Lyth crunched an uppish cut to Junaid Khan to set the welcome pyrotechnics flaring once more.

As Croft skipped through to plan D in his mind, Stephen Parry was welcomed to the bowling attack with a belting six from Kohler-Cadmore.

Lyth reached 50 with a brace off his 31st delivery, but perished in the same over when he failed to clear Liam Livingstone on the boundary edge. Livingstone turned to the Yorkshire supporters behind him and blew them a kiss, acknowledging their jeers for previously sliding on the wet surface.

To avoid further conflict, no doubt, the umpires swiftly ushered the players off the field as the rain grew denser.

The game restarted less than half an hour later. The delay worked to Lancashire’s advantage, as they had time to regroup, and young leg spinner Matt Parkinson (whose first-class average is better than Mason Crane’s, incidentally) had Kohler-Cadmore caught on the straight boundary by his captain, for his second scalp of the evening.

He took his third in his third over, and it was another batsman (this time David Willey) hitting overconfidently into the wind and being caught comfortably on the boundary.

Sarfraz Ahmed followed for 3 when Croft sprinted 35 yards from his position on the rope, to take a brilliant diving catch. Parkinson finished with 4-23, excellent returns especially considering the fortunes of his more experienced teammates.

Despite the stuttering middle overs and lacklustre finish, Yorkshire still posted 182-7 thanks to the blazing start from the openers.

Liam Livingstone flickered a candle at the start of the run chase, but Tim Bresnan deceived him and had both Livingstone and Karl Brown caught in his first over. He could have added Aaron Lilley with the final delivery, but Sarfraz Ahmed failed to hold on diving to his right.

Lilley was given another life by Sarfraz on one, when the Pakistan captain failed to complete a fairly simple stumping. In the end, it took a gravity-defying screamer from Jack Leaning on the boundary. Open a new tab and find the video of it now. You’ll thank me.

Go on, I’ll wait.

Ready? Jos Buttler arrived at the crease with his unique blend of humility and swagger, clearing the ropes with his third ball. After he was caught and bowled by Pattrerson, Steven Croft played an admirable lone hand in Lancashire’s chase.

His demise, though, also came in the form of redemption for Sarfraz Ahmed. With Croft on 62, and his team needing 58 off 23 for victory, he was stumped off Adil Rashid and the White Rose fans were settling in for the formalities of a comfortable win.

Tim Bresnan destroyed Ryan McLaren’s off stump in the next over, as a second wave of rain began to drift aesthetically over the stadium. A beer snake broke up in the Western Terrace, voices slurred with beer and victory-induced merriment chanted along to ‘Hey Jude’, and the rain thickened and quickened as the end approached.

Captain Bresnan was tasked with defending 23 off the final over, and he had two batsmen holed out on the boundary, ran out Stephen Parry, and bowled Junaid Khan to keep his team in the running for a quarter-final spot and crucially secure bragging rights at the end of a difficult week for Yorkshire.

Davidson-Richards helps Diamonds to Roses victory

A fine all-round contribution from Alice Davidson-Richards, and the gutsy leg spin of Katie Levick, secured a comfortable win over Lancashire Thunder for Yorkshire Diamonds, in their opening match of the Kia Super League at Headingley.

The difference in the quality of the teams’ fielding, particularly in the catching department, proved decisive after Lea Tahuhu missed an early chance to remove Diamonds captain Lauren Winfield.

Winfield got off the mark with a healthy edge that beat the despairing dive of wide third man. It was Sri Lankan vice-captain Chamari Atapattu, however, who looked more assured early on, guiding Jess Jonassen’s left-arm spin gently but firmly for four in the second over and pulling Lea Tahuhu authoritatively for four through midwicket in the third.

Atapattu is only part of the Yorkshire Diamonds squad because of an injury to Beth Mooney, and rose to prominence by smashing 178* against Australia in the Women’s World Cup. Her love affair with destroying Australian bowling continued as she thumped two consecutive deliveries from Jonassen for four.

When Winfield had just six runs, Tahuhu failed to hold onto a relatively simple return catch at head height. The mistake was punished as Winfield grew in confidence: she emulated her opening partner’s grace with a delightful drive through extra cover that exasperated the boundary fielders, to take her to 17.

Atapattu was herself dropped shortly after the Diamonds reached 64-0, at the halfway stage. A typically confident stroke flew straight to Jess Jonassen, but the ball fell from her grasp to the visible ire of her teammates. After hitting another drive perilously close to the fielder, Atapattu changed her bat.

Her luck ran out a few balls later, though, when she was caught on the boundary by Emma Lamb. Sophie Devine joined Winfield, and deposited Danielle Hazell over the ropes before being caught attempting an identical boundary off the next ball.

Winfield took on the aggressive role when Tahuhu returned, punishing a rank full toss with a clean six, but she perished chasing her half-century when Amy Satterthwaite held on to a terrific blind catch as the ball came sharply over her shoulder. It was a rare moment of brilliance in a fielding performance littered with costly errors.

Katherine Brunt compounded Tahuhu’s tough start to the Super League, bludgeoning 17 off her final over including a marvellous straight six to leave the New Zealand international with figures of 1-42 off her four. Her quickfire 31 along with a highly impressive cameo of 22 off 13 from Alice Davidson-Richards left Thunder needing 163 to win.

Brunt’s belligerence continued into the Thunder innings: her bowling was disciplined and hostile, and kept the openers from dominating during the powerplay.

The required rate kept climbing despite a relatively comfortable start for the Thunder openers, but the difference between the sides became clear when Sophie Devine clung on to a superb catch to dismiss Emma Lamb.

The energy and purpose the Diamonds showed in the field had been sorely lacking for the Thunder, and it was a huge factor in the outcome of the match.

Thunder remained within touching distance of the Diamonds until Winfield threw the ball to Davidson-Richards for the tenth over. With her first ball, she clattered Eve Jones’s stumps to pile even more pressure on the visiting side. In her second over, she also removed Jess Jonassen as Atapattu claimed a high, spiralling catch.

Jonassen did not play in the World Cup match, in which Atapattu destroyed her compatriots’ bowling attack, but she is unlikely to be joining the Sri Lankan’s fan club after being tormented by her in both innings at Headingley.

Yorkshire’s tenacious ability to hold on to their chances came to the fore again when Satterthwaite holed out to long off, to give leg spinner Katie Levick her second wicket. She claimed her third when Danielle Hazell danced down the wicket and was cheerily stumped by Anna Nicholls.

Levick and Davidson-Richards finished with 3-30 and 3-20 respectively, proving definitively that there is far more to this year’s Kia Super League than the chance to bask in the glory of England’s World Cup stars.

T20 Blast Preview: Yorkshire v Lancashire

Yorkshire supporters gathering at Headingley on Friday night will be pinning their hopes on the NatWest T20 Blast for any chance of silverware this season. They lie just outside the qualification spaces for the knockouts, did not bring home the One-Day Cup, and are well off the top of the division one table.

The word ‘relegation’ has been mentioned, although thus far only in the negative; however, you can’t spell ‘nobody’s talking about relegation yet’ without ‘relegation’.

Lancashire may yet chase down Essex in the Championship (although it does look unlikely), but they are in a virtually identical position to their rivals in the Blast. Same points, same results.

They tied at Old Trafford. Yorkshire are ahead only on net run rate. At this stage of the competition, win and you are nipping at the heels of the top four. Lose, and you are almost certainly out of the shortest format for another season.

Neither of these sides has produced dominant cricket consistently for the past couple of years. They are historical superpowers, but it is for the good of the game that all competitions, especially the marquee events, have unpredictable results.

Importantly this year, the Roses clash follows a Kia Super League clash between the Yorkshire Diamonds and the Lancashire Thunder teams. As one Twenty20 competition nears its end, another begins. Unlike in the men’s game, all the World Cup-winning England stars have been made available for the Super League and will be on show in the afternoon.

It is not just a double dosage of transpennine bragging rights at stake on Friday, but these two encounters will have a significant impact on the 2017 fortunes of four popular and fiercely supported sides.

Key Men

In the absence of the White Rose’s Test stars, it falls to David Willey to bring international class to the home side at Headingley. He has been in stonking form with the bat, relishing the freedom of his top-order hitting role in memorable fashion. He offers firepower with the ball as well, but Yorkshire have realised (and perhaps England should take note) that Willey the batsman is a T20 match winner in the top three.

Jos Buttler is only playing at Headingley because the brilliance and consistency of Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow is keeping the Somerset-born keeper out of the Test side. He may not be part of the Test team, but he feels and looks like an England player in virtually everything he does. He is one of the world’s best T20 batsmen and has happy memories of playing a starring role in Red Rose victories in enemy territory. The words ‘Key Man’ could have been invented for Jos Buttler.

Team News

Gary Ballance is nearing full fitness after a broken thumb kept him out of the last two South Africa Tests, and Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root are resting ahead of the West Indies series.

Yorkshire squad: Tim Bresnan (c), Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Karl Carver, Matthew Fisher, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Jack Leaning, Adam Lyth, Shaun Marsh, Steven Patterson, Liam Plunkett, Azeem Rafiq, Adil Rashid, David Willey

Lancashire squad: Steven Croft (C), Tom Bailey, Jos Buttler (wk), Karl Brown, Jordan Clark, Kyle Jarvis, Rob Jones, Junaid Khan, Arron Lilley, Liam Livingstone, Ryan McLaren, Matthew Parkinson, Stephen Parry, Dane Vilas

Form

Yorkshire: LLLAW
Lancashire: WLLAW

Weather and conditions

Warm but some chance of showers throughout the afternoon/evening.

Date: 11th August 2017
Time: 6.30pm
Ground: Headingley
Odds (SkyBet): Yorkshire 4/5, Lancashire Evens

 

Bates stars as Southern Vipers wipe out Western Storm

It may not be part of any Women’s World Cup highlights reels, but Anya Shrubsole’s crucial bowling spell at Lord’s in late July started with an over that included three wides as she struggled to find her line with a swinging ball.

So, when Tash Farrant’s first two balls elicited the familiar double-arm raise from the umpire, perhaps we should have seen what was coming.

Farrant, who has not featured for England for three years, provided a timely reminder in front of England coach Mark Robinson that she is, at 21, very much a part of the future of the international side.

Her spell of 2-10 off her four overs set the tone for a dominant Vipers performance in the field. It started in her second over when Rachel Priest chased an out-swinger and edged behind to Carla Rudd, who was outstanding behind the stumps throughout the Storm innings.

Anya Shrubsole is part of the Storm attack this season, but was ruled out of this encounter with a side strain. Even if she had been fit, this game may have been beyond even her considerable powers, as regular wickets prevented last year’s runners-up from getting anywhere near a competitive total to exact revenge for the 2016 final at Chelmsford.

Shortly after Priest’s departure, England captain Heather Knight tried to punish Linsey Smith for dropping short and bowling slowly, but was through her pull shot far too quickly and under-edged onto her stumps.

Georgia Hennessy rebuilt in the company of the West Indies’ Stafanie Taylor, even crunching a free hit off veteran Arran Brindle to the ropes for four in an over that saw two fours and one six.

Those three were the only boundaries in the entire Storm innings, however, and when she got her legs in a muddle and was trapped lbw to Suzie Bates’ second ball, her team collapsed in an ugly green heap.

Tash Farrant returned to remove Taylor who was caught at mid off by Charlotte Edwards after a nervous juggle. There were no nerves from the former England skipper in the next over, when she nailed a direct hit to run out Sophie Luff for a duck.

Fran Wilson was dropped off Suzie Bates’ third over, but Bates reacted perfectly by catching Alice Macleod the very next ball. Wilson, the second member of the Storm side present in England’s World Cup-winning team, was caught behind shortly after by Carla Rudd, again chasing an outswinging delivery.

The West Indies’ Hayley Matthews chipped in by bowling Clare Nicholas, and the rout was completed when Freya Davies was run out.

Chasing just 71 to win, the formidable Vipers batting line-up made a confident start, with Suzie Bates middling the first delivery along the ground to mid-on. She survived a close run-out in the opening over, but along with Hayley Matthews she provided a classy display of how to bat on a wicket that isn’t offering much pace.

The centrepiece of Bates’ innings was the fourth over. She produced a couple of beautiful shots to tear up the confidence of her New Zealand team mate, Holly Huddlestone.

In the second half of the over, Huddlestone simply couldn’t keep her heel behind the no-ball line: a tough over became a disaster as ball after ball was punished, first by Bates and then by the umpire.

By the time Bates punted a single into the leg side, Huddlestone had bowled ten deliveries and conceded 33 runs, almost half of the Storm total.

There can’t have been too many times a chasing side has scored 47.9% of their target in an over. Taylor claimed a consolation wicket, but the Vipers won with an enormous 11 overs remaining.

Their title defence is underway, while the Storm will need the wind to change direction rapidly if they are to make a second consecutive appearance at KSL finals day.

 

RLODC Quarter-final Preview: Yorkshire v Surrey

It is a measure of Yorkshire’s success in first-class cricket in recent years that their coaches and players have expressed frustration with their white-ball record.

In 2016, they reached the semi-finals of both the NatWest T20 Blast and the Royal London One-Day Cup. For a side that has acknowledged their focus on County Championship success and has occasionally seemed to let their limited-overs seasons fall by the wayside, this is not a bad record at all. They have, however, not claimed a one-day trophy since 2002.

Considering the resources available to Surrey, especially in recent seasons, it may come as a surprise that they have only emerged triumphant in one white-ball tournament since 2003: the 2011 CB40. For five years, they have been tipped for further honours consistently by pundits and fans, only to disappoint in the final reckoning.

This quarter-final is a replay of last year’s semi, which also took place at Headingley. In that game, Steven Davies anchored Surrey with a brilliant century before Stuart Meaker ripped out Yorkshire’s middle-order and book the south London club a trip north of the river.

The key question then becomes which side is more motivated for this game: will Yorkshire have the impetus, focus and manpower to avenge last season’s defeat, or will Surrey be aching for another chance to dazzle at the home of their local rivals?

Either way, both teams can boast the batting stars of the season: if either or both Gary Ballance or Kumar Sangakkara can fire, these two grand old clubs could witness another battle for the ages.

Key Men

The George Osborne and Ed Balls of this year’s County Championship are undoubtedly Kumar Sangakkara and Gary Ballance. They completely outstrip everyone else in the scoring charts, and both have notched up some impressive contributions in coloured clothing as well.

Both have had fans clamouring for an international return: while Sangakkara is clearly enjoying life post-Sri Lanka, with all of the travel and responsibilities that international stardom entails, Ballance has made no secret that he is desperately working towards an international comeback.

What better way to make the England selectors sit up and watch than by leading your county to the One-Day Cup final?

Team News

Yorkshire are without their five Champions Trophy squad members, and Surrey are bereft of Jason Roy, who is also with England. Jade Dernbach and Tom Curran both return to Surrey after injury and rest respectively.

Yorkshire squad: Gary Ballance (c), Tim Bresnan, Jack Brooks, Karl Carver, Ben Coad, Matthew Fisher, Peter Handscomb (wk), Jack Leaning, Alex Lees, Adam Lyth, Steven Patterson, Azeem Rafiq, Will Rhodes, Matthew Waite.

Surrey squad: Gareth Batty (c), Scott Borthwick, Rory Burns, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Jade Dernbach, Ben Foakes (wk), Mark Footitt, Stuart Meaker, Ollie Pope, Ravi Rampaul, Kumar Sangakkara, Dom Sibley, Mark Stoneman

Form:

Yorkshire: WLWWL
Surrey: AWWLW

Weather and conditions

Some rain early on but there will be enough of a breeze to carry it through quickly and a fine dry afternoon is expected thereafter.

Date: 13th June 2017
Time: 2pm
Ground: Headingley
Odds (SkyBet): Yorkshire 8/11, Surrey 11/10

Yorkshire put Lancashire in a spin to cruise to Roses victory

 

Two Yorkshire partnerships – Gary Ballance and Peter Handscomb with the bat, and Azeem Rafiq and Adil Rashid with the ball – gave Yorkshire a convincing win against fierce rivals Lancashire at Headingley to continue their fine start in the Royal London One-Day Cup and condemn Lancashire to a second frustrating defeat within a week.

Even though Yorkshire lost the toss under overcast skies, fans of modern ODI cricket might have been surprised to see Yorkshire with just 23 runs seven overs into the innings. Conventional wisdom holds that in 50-over cricket, you need an explosive opening pair to exploit the powerplay. Adam Lyth and Jonny Bairstow, however, knew that it is important to read conditions carefully on this pitch. One ought not to explode on a cloudy morning at Headingley.

It fell to Ryan McLaren, who read the conditions perfectly, to dismiss both openers. Bairstow threw his hands at McLaren’s first delivery only to snick a thin but unmistakable inside edge to the keeper. A few overs later, seam off the pitch also saw off Adam Lyth, who nicked off playing a half-hearted defensive shot.

Joe Root starred in Yorkshire’s opening game of the Royal London One-Day Cup. Within a few balls of his first home innings since being named England captain, Root had his home fans purring with two delectable boundaries. First, he opened the face of his bat to shovel a wide delivery uppishly through the covers and then stepped gorgeously into a cover drive. It was another uppish cut that proved his downfall on just 21.

Yorkshire were indebted to the aesthetically unconventional pair of Ballance and Handscomb for a magnificent 143-run partnership which turned the game in their favour.

The lack of swing meant that Lancashire’s seamers were forced to drop shorter and try to extract some seam movement. There was no spin worth speaking of. Ballance and Handscomb cut and pulled effectively, finding gaps and negating Anderson’s straight, tight line with admirable composure and working the harried spinners with the effortless nature of two men completely comfortable with their own unconventional games.

When Handscomb took the aerial route, Lancashire’s disciplined fielding started to fray at the edges. As the second powerplay was ending, he plundered 18 runs from the first four balls of Luke Procter’s second over before holing out to James Anderson.

What followed was a disappointing collapse of 6-52. Tim Bresnan and David Willey threw their wickets away with vertical slogs in consecutive overs. Gary Ballance was dropped attempting a reverse sweep off Parry – who bowled superbly in the circumstances – and was promptly trapped lbw trying to repeat the shot.

It was a poor decision to go for the reverse sweep again, especially with the fielder in place, but replays suggested that the ball brushed Ballance’s glove on the way through. His 85 off 77 balls had achieved a great deal, though. It had continued his excellent start to the season, being his sixth score above 50 in eight innings including two centuries and a double ton, while also proving he is more than a first-class nurdler. Most importantly, it put the White Rose firmly in the ascendancy.

The white rose wilted to leave Lancashire a target of 297 to win. After Luke Procter chopped on to Tim Bresnan for 10, the Red Rose batsmen showed some flashes of colour and style, but from the outset Yorkshire dominated the chase.

The only real highlight for Lancashire fans was the battle between Liam Livingstone and Plunkett. Plunkett bowled with pace and aggression but Livingstone showed great anticipation and creativity to scoop the England quick for several boundaries and force him out of the attack.

Unfortunately for Lancashire, this only brought them the choking spin threat of Rashid and Rafiq. Rashid had caused Livingstone to come to the wicket when Alex Davies failed to read the googly and was trapped lbw, and when the Lancashire captain had 32, he too succumbed to Rashid, bowled off the inside edge.

Rafiq picked up Karl Brown, Clark, McLaren and finally Parry to give Yorkshire’s spinners combined figures of 6-81 off 19.2 overs. 14 of those runs came in Rafiq’s final over when the game was virtually beyond Lancashire, so the importance of their partnership in killing off Lancashire’s chances was even greater than their figures suggest.

Lancashire’s batsmen simply could not read the spinners and it was fitting that, in the end, it was Rashid who held onto the final catch to give Rafiq figures of 4-47. If you count under-19 cricket, all eleven of Yorkshire’s players have international experience.

SSCC Preview: Warwickshire v Surrey

Following two innings defeats in their first two games of the season, Warwickshire Sport Director Ashley Giles warned that more pain was ahead for the Edgbaston club. Perhaps this game was in the back of his mind, as the team that inflicted the first of those nightmares on Warwickshire return for a second match.

The Bears are in a chaotic state. They were destroyed by Surrey at the Oval by Mark Stoneman and Mark Footitt, while Ben Coad was their nemesis as Yorkshire romped to victory at Edgbaston in their second match. Their batting looks fragile, and bowling largely ineffective. Warwickshire’s senior players are struggling to make an impact on games while their young guns (only three of their first XI are under 30) are struggling to prove that they are worth their place in a Division One team. The prospect of revenge, along with a few changes of personnel, may yet bring a swift reversal to Warwickshire’s fortunes.

Surrey were widely tipped by those in the know as outside candidates for a title bid. They have recruited well over the winter, pinching Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick from Durham. Footitt, their big signing of the 2015 season, has started the year in destructive fashion. However, their progress was halted by Lancashire, who produced a fine batting display to put a second consecutive victory beyond the wealthy London club’s grasp.

The visitors are clear favourites for this encounter. They are stronger on paper in every department and have been stronger on the pitch so far this season. However, Warwickshire are a proud club with many players who have, at one point or another, shown the capacity to produce match-winning contributions. If they lose again, their red-ball season might be as good as over before April has even finished.

 

Key Men

Jeetan Patel and Keith Barker have done a huge amount of work to save Warwickshire’s blushes at the start of the season. Barker has scored two half-centuries while Jeetan Patel’s 49* was all that protected Warwickshire from a risibly pathetic total in their second innings against Yorkshire. Both – Barker especially – have claims to being genuine all-rounders, and given that Warwickshire need all-round improvement, both will be key against Surrey this time around.

Mark Footitt’s booming inswingers and outswingers are likely to have plagued the sleep of Warwickshire’s batsmen over the past couple of weeks. If he has any sort of assistance from the conditions, he could be deadly again in the grudge match. Even if he doesn’t, the memory of his devastation at the Oval could still put doubt in the mind of a few of Warwickshire’s line-up; a moment’s hesitation could be enough to secure another wicket to add to Footitt’s England claims and Surrey’s title bid.

 

Team News

Warwickshire have opted to leave out Sam Hain, the youngest member of the XI who were wiped out by Surrey and Yorkshire, for 34-year-old former Bears skipper Ian Westwood. 25-year-old Alex Mellor may well be the youngest player to feature for Warwickshire in their final XI, as he survives the cut. The only other change is that Sunny Singh misses out for Matt Lamb.

Warwickshire squad: Ian Bell (c), Tim Ambrose (wk), Keith Barker, Rikki Clarke, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Matt Lamb, Alex Mellor, Jeetan Patel, William Porterfield, Grant Thornton, Jonathan Trott, Ian Westwood, Chris Wright

No surprises in the Surrey squad. Everyone is fit and firing and they are prepared to face Warwickshire with an unchanged team.

Surrey squad: Gareth Batty (c), Zafar Ansari, Scott Borthwick, Rory Burns, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Jade Dernbach, Ben Foakes (wk), Mark Footitt, Stuart Meaker, Kumar Sangakkara, Dom Sibley, Mark Stoneman

 

Form

Warwickshire: LLWLD

Surrey: DWLDW

 

Weather and conditions

If Warwickshire make it to Monday, there is a fair chance of scattered showers. The first three days of the game will be mild and cloudy with some sunny spells. Last season, Surrey emerged with a 226-run victory thanks to an excellent bowling effort from Sam Curran.

Date: 21st – 24th April 2017

Time: 11am

Ground: Edgbaston

Umpires: Russell Evans and Michael Gough

Odds (SkyBet): Warwickshire 6/4, Surrey 8/15

SSCC Preview: Middlesex v Essex

The reigning champions return to the site of their triumph in September with high hopes that they can kick-start their title defence with a win over newly-promoted Essex.

Essex have, however, started the season brightly, with a win and a draw in their first two matches.

Middlesex were frustrated by Hampshire’s batsmen in their opening fixture of the season. Angus Fraser and his side have the hunger and the resources to defend their first County Championship title this century, but will be keenly aware that their opponents will do everything they can to thwart that ambition. While Middlesex are a difficult team to beat outright – it did not happen at all in 2016 – if enough teams can hold them to draws, Middlesex could be knocked off the top spot.

If these are the tactics teams will employ to blunt the champions, then Essex have a good chance of executing them effectively. They batted out the final day of their first match against Lancashire to salvage five points against an attack included James Anderson. Essex will also have one of the greatest defensive batsmen England has ever produced in the form of Alastair Cook.

While the stakes on this encounter are not as high as their dramatic final-day win over Yorkshire last September, Middlesex may well see this first home game of the season as a key test of their title credentials. If they once again struggle to bowl out a weaker team cheaply and quickly, other teams will feel more optimistic about their own title chances. As we are constantly reminded these days, strange things happen all the time – could Essex even emerge as a surprise participant in the title race?

Key Men

Toby Roland-Jones delivered Middlesex their title with a hat-trick last September, and the ability of their opening bowlers to make in-roads into enemy top orders will be key to their chances this season. Roland-Jones is one of the cluster of seam bowlers who are on the fringes of the England team and, at 29, needs to take every opportunity he can to press his case over the rising stars of the Overton twins and the blistering form of Surrey’s Mark Footitt.

How can you look past Alastair Cook? The man who started both his England career and his England captaincy with memorable centuries began life after skipperhood with a match-winning 110 (along with 52 in the first innings) against Somerset. It is no criticism of Essex to say that he stands head and shoulders above their other batsmen. Some members of the Essex middle order have looked out of form in the past couple of games, though, so it will be very important for the promoted side that their key man makes his two innings count.

Team News

Middlesex have named a 14-man squad for the game at Lord’s. There is still no place for the injured Nick Compton, but spinner Ravi Patel has been added to the squad from the group who travelled to the Ageas Bowl.

Middlesex squad: James Franklin (c), Stephen Eskinazi, Steven Finn, Nick Gubbins, Tom Helm, Ryan Higgins, Dawid Malan, Tim Murtagh, Ravi Patel, Ollie Rayner, Sam Robson, Toby Roland-Jones, John Simpson (wk), Adam Voges

Still no place for James Foster in the Essex team despite Adam Wheater’s third consecutive single-figure score. There has been no pressure on Chris Silverwood to change the team because Essex have had a good start to life in the top division.

Essex squad: Ryan ten Doeschate (c), Aaron Beard, Ravi Bopara, Nick Browne, Varun Chopra, Alastair Cook, Simon Harmer, Dan Lawrence, Jamie Porter, Matt Quinn, Neil Wagner, Adam Wheater (wk)

Form

Middlesex: DWWDW

Essex: WDDLW

 

Weather and conditions

Clouds, sun, warmth, some breeze. It will be a mixture, but with nothing falling from the sky, we can expect a match uninterrupted by adverse weather.

Date: 21st – 24th April 2017

Time: 11am

Ground: Lord’s

Umpires: Ian Gould and Paul Baldwin

Odds (SkyBet): Middlesex 4/7, Essex 11/8