Lawrence shines with century to snatch draw against Lancashire

A magnificent fifth first-class century from Essex teenager Dan Lawrence helped to save Essex on the final day of their first game of the season against Lancashire at Chelmsford.

A mini-collapse either side of the new ball put Essex’s rescue operation in doubt, but Lawrence put on 102 runs in 37.4 overs with Ryan ten Doeschate for the sixth wicket to leave Lancashire four wickets short of a win.

The pitch may not have offered a lot of assistance to Lancashire’s seamers, but it was a superb performance from Lawrence against an attack that included one of the best seamers in English cricketing history. He batted throughout the day for a chanceless 141* – the closest Lancashire came to claiming his wicket was when a tight run was called late by Adam Wheater, but the throw failed to trouble the stumps leaving Lawrence free to save his side in impressive style.

Resuming on 89-2 with a mammoth target of 478 to win, a win was out of Essex’s reach especially after losing both of their experienced openers in the evening session on day three. A draw remained within their grasp, however, since Lancashire had dropped Tom Westley twice before he had reached 12.

Jimmy Anderson bowled unchanged for most of the first hour, giving away just nine runs in his eight overs. For all the economy of Anderson’s spell, when Ryan McLaren beat Dan Lawrence with his first ball of the day with a ball that moved away from England under-19 batsman, Anderson might have regretted not forcing the Essex pair to play the ball more often.

After the early morning conditions were negotiated successfully, Lawrence reached his half-century by tucking Stephen Parry into the leg side for a single. It typified the modest accumulation that Essex needed to secure the draw. By contrast, Tom Westley brought up his fifty by driving Jordan Clark past Parry in the extra cover region for four. Fittingly, that shot also saw the pair’s partnership pass 100 runs.

Anderson turned to Liam Livingstone’s leg spin before lunch, but both batsmen ended the morning session unbeaten on 55. After lunch, the pitch remained docile and the bowlers toiled for little reward for half an hour without a sign of a break for Lancashire.

Suddenly, though, a delivery from Stephen Parry came through surprisingly low for Westley. He was lucky to survive it. Perhaps this induced a lapse of concentration, a moment of doubt in Westley’s mind, for the next ball Parry clipped his off stump with a ball that turned away and beat Westley’s uncertain defensive shot. With the new ball almost due, Lancashire were back in business.

Anderson struck Lawrence on the chest in a hostile and pacey first over with the new ball and Lancashire seemed invigorated for the first time in the day. In the next over, Kyle Jarvis extracted enough movement off the pitch to induce a thin edge from Ravi Bopara, who was caught behind for just four. He added his second of the innings in his next over when Adam Wheater punched a booming outswinger low to Haseeb Hameed at cover to leave Lancashire needing only five more wickets to win. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course, but the ball presented no threat to his stumps and Essex had no need of quick runs.

Joined by his captain, the level-headed Ryan ten Doeschate, Lawrence reached his century in confident style, glancing James Anderson for a pair down the leg side. The pair worked well to blunt the increasingly frustrated Lancashire bowlers through to the final hour, when Kyle Jarvis trapped ten Doeschate lbw. Lancashire were unable to breach the defences of new Kolpak signing Simon Harmer, who accompanied Lawrence through to the close with 12 off 36.

Lawrence is still proving himself as a batsman of considerable promise. Unlike his esteemed opponent Hameed, Lawrence is still 19 until July, and has one more first-class century, from fewer matches, at a better average. While he has been plying his trade in division two, he countered Anderson bravely and effectively in this innings and he made a useful 37 out of Essex’s first-innings 159.

If he can rescue Essex from relegation this season with big runs against more Division One attacks, he will have a highly impressive CV to submit to the England selectors should a space become available in the admittedly crowded field of young Test hopefuls.

Gritty Hampshire stun Yorkshire in Championship opener

Costly drops, injuries, inexperience. It was a case of make your own excuse at Headingley as Andrew Gale’s first Championship match in charge ended in a four-wicket defeat, just their eighth defeat in the competition since 2011.

In reality, most of Hampshire’s batsmen deserve the plaudits for a team effort that saw them overhaul the side who have won two of the past three County Championship titles.

Only Sean Ervine was dismissed for under 37, and when Gareth Berg lofted Ben Coad for a magnificent straight six to seal the victory, Yorkshire were left to scratch their heads over how they will recover to challenge for their third title in four seasons.

Both Jimmy Adams and Michael Carberry were dropped in the opening half an hour, and the Yorkshire bowlers continued to elicit encouraging groans from the home crowd by forcing small errors from both batsmen.

The runs kept coming, though, and Carberry looked increasingly comfortable and authoritative, striking the ball with power and timing.

It was Coad again who broke the deadlock. Carberry just failed to get on top of a decent bouncer and Patterson settled comfortably under the catch.

It was typical Carberry batting followed by a typical Carberry dismissal. Fans of Hampshire, and cricket in general, will be relieved to see the former England opener back in his old ways after missing most of last season due to cancer treatment.

Either side of lunch, new man James Vince showed some intent, firing up his trademark drive at most opportunities. As the afternoon wore on and the target crept below 175, Vince started to time the ball better.

The second part of his innings showed all the reasons why he was attractive to the England selectors, while the first part had shown all the reasons why his Test career never took off.

It was Azeem Rafiq who brought Yorkshire back into the game, trapping Adams lbw with the first ball of his second spell. While the change of pace worked out for captain Gary Ballance, it is possible that he let Adams and Vince soak up the pressure from the seamers for too long before bringing on his spinner.

Rilee Rossouw and Vince are similar players in many ways: attractive strokemakers with a bit of a reputation for soft dismissals and a lack of consistency against top-quality opposition. Vince’s runs dried up after losing Adams and he pushed a low return catch to Coad.

Rossouw’s early scoring shots were all dazzling boundaries. He was patient and decisive, two qualities that will serve him well on English pitches. He punished Bresnan for dropping too short, unleashing a powerful cut shot towards the empty West Stand to take himself into the twenties.

Sean Ervine, another cricketer who turned his back on an international career to represent Hampshire, was attempting a similar shot off Bresnan with tea in sight, but played it with none of Rossouw’s conviction or flair and was pouched safely by Andrew Hodd.

For all the style of Rossouw’s boundaries, he was tied up by Rafiq and he was not rotating the strike: he managed just one single off his first 52 balls. He resorted to running hard and testing the fielders to take singles.

When the new ball was taken, Rossouw sparked back into life with a confident drive and a dismissive cut shot off the last two shots of Bresnan’s first over, and Dawson joined in by sending Coad’s next two balls to the ropes. An edge fell just short of Adam Lyth at second slip then bounced awkwardly to give Hampshire their 18th run off five balls.

Rossouw remained in the mood to try his luck against the new ball. He survived a thick inside edge that could easily have dislodged his stumps and fell just three short of his fifty, flashing Bresnan to Hodd in a virtual carbon copy of Ervine’s dismissal earlier in the innings. Despite not having a great game with bat or ball, Bresnan suddenly had his sixth of the match. He was to add a seventh in spectacular style.

Dawson thumped a good delivery hard and to Bresnan’s left. He took an athletic tumble and clasped the ball tightly with his wrong hand. At 263-6, Yorkshire must have finally felt that this slippery fixture was nailed down, but Berg and Lewis McManus refused to give way.

The two men batted with a blend of patience and timing, picking off the increasing number of loose deliveries as Ballance was forced to rotate his bowlers.

As the target approached and the result became clear, Yorkshire’s fielding and bowling frayed at the edges and the final 33 runs were polished off in just four overs. Yeah IPL, talk nah.

Yorkshire in good stead after day 2 at Headingley

A final-session cameo from Andrew Hodd backed up some excellent bowling in the morning session to leave Yorkshire in a strong position after day two of their first game of the season against Hampshire.

Nevertheless, Hampshire will be grateful for the exploits of young keeper Lewis McManus and new signing Kyle Abbott, who made effective contributions with bat and ball respectively to give Hampshire a fighting chance on Sunday.

Resuming with figures of 5-18, Ben Coad was tipped at the start of the season as ‘one for the future’. After a superb bowling performance on the second morning of Yorkshire’s opening game of the season, he has proven himself one for the present as well.

Bowling in tandem with Tim Bresnan, who bowled predominantly back of a length during their partnership, Coad secured his sixth wicket of the innings when Kyle Abbott edged a nipping delivery to Jack Leaning at third slip via his towering pads. Tim Bresnan has never taken six wickets in an innings despite having played 168 more first-class matches than his young teammate.

Coad is not an obvious superstar. He doesn’t pitch the ball up with a booming swinger to swipe the batsman’s stumps. He barely bowled a bad ball, though, and Abbott and Dawson had to run hard to turn the scoreboard over. He simply did enough with the ball to tempt impatient spirits.

Coad’s prospective 10-for was spoiled by Tim Bresnan, who ousted England’s Liam Dawson for nine after the man with a higher Test average than Joe Root, Alastair Cook and Len Hutton failed to move his feet to a full-pitched delivery and departed lbw.

Three balls later, Gareth Berg nicked Bresnan tamely to Adam Lyth at second slip. Hampshire are only in division one thanks to the punishment handed down to Durham by the ECB last season, and it showed in their surrender in the first hour.
Lewis McManus and Brad Wheal fought admirably in the second hour of the morning session, but shortly after the restart Bresnan burst through Wheal’s withered defences. 22-year-old keeper McManus played extremely well for his 41, and must have felt a little aggrieved when Fidel Edwards swung his wicket away to give Bresnan his fourth of the day.

After the innings break, Edwards’ day got worse when Adam Lyth struck his fifth ball for six over the midwicket boundary. Hampshire were looking twitchily at a long afternoon, and potentially a sizeable chunk of tomorrow, toiling in the field waiting for Ballance to declare. In the eleventh over, Kyle Abbott was rewarded for a patient and disciplined spell with the wickets first of Lyth, then of Handscomb, edging fine deliveries to McManus and Ervine respectively.

Yorkshire just couldn’t kill the game in the afternoon and evening sessions. Captain Ballance rebuilt nicely with Jack Leaning, but Abbott trapped Leaning with a yorker and Tim Bresnan slapped Abbott carelessly to midwicket to complete a rare pair.

Andrew Hodd avoided that fate in style, striking the ball cleanly for a daring 54*. Undeterred by the loss of Ballance for 55 and Rafiq for two, he plundered Hampshire’s wearying attack with an array of impressive aggressive strokes. By the time Kyle Abbott returned to clear up tail (which he did with effortless brilliance to post figures of 7-41), Yorkshire’s lead already topped 300 and the game was theirs to lose.

Michael Carberry and Jimmy Adams saw Hampshire through to the close but only chipped 10 runs off Hampshire’s target. While Coad cannot exactly be expected to repeat his first-innings heroics and Hampshire’s batsmen are unlikely to be as limp and careless as they were on day one, they would need to post the highest innings of the match to win, and on a pitch that has seen the odd ball surprise the batsman, and upon which the Hampshire seamers have created some tempting rough already.

Nottinghamshire Season Preview

The word tragedy is overused these days, especially in sport when the consequences of winning and losing are usually fairly trivial. Nevertheless, 2016 started tragically for Nottinghamshire when James Taylor was forced into a desperately early retirement, just as his remarkable county performances were starting to secure him a place in the national side.

With Alex Hales only making two County Championship appearances, Nottinghamshire’s batting lacked leadership throughout the season. Only Steven Mullaney averaged more than 35 and only Jake Ball (whose performances earned him an England call-up) averaged under 31 with the ball.

As well as the lack of key players, disappointing returns from some of their regular squad members left Nottinghamshire a full 32 points short of safety when the season ended. Had Durham not been relegated by the ECB, the figure would have been 42. One can imagine more than a few Nottinghamshire players have been plagued by nightmares involving white clothing and red balls over the winter.

The season started reasonably well, with a Mullaney-inspired victory over Surrey and two draws against Yorkshire and eventual winners Middlesex in their first four matches. Both draws were affected by rain, but Yorkshire were 257-9 chasing 320 when stumps were called on day four – Nottinghamshire so nearly started their season with two wins from three.

6th place in the Royal London One-Day Cup was disappointing, but unsurprising given their previous reliance on James Taylor’s phenomenal 50-over batting (only three players in history have a higher List A average than him). The one consolation was their destructive run to T20 Finals Day after finishing top of the North Group before an 8-run loss to Northants, perhaps the only county side more in need of a break from the cricketing gods.

Given the calibre of their players, Notts fans will expect a swift return to the top flight in legendary gloveman Chris Read’s final year; a great deal will depend on how often England come calling for their key men.

Ins: Ben Kitt

Outs: Will Gidman (Kent), Sam Wood (released)

Key Player – Samit Patel

Samit Patel is a magnet for criticism. His sparse and often ugly international appearances have all but proven a common belief that he is an unfulfilled talent. Added to public criticism about his fitness from the still-influential Andy Flower and a falling out with ex-England spinner Graeme Swann, it is easy to see why Patel is not considered a darling of English cricket. Nevertheless, on his day he is a destructive batsman who can turn games in all three formats and his bowling has a mesmerising quality that makes it aesthetically delightful if not menacing to top-quality batsmen.

The Leicester-born all-rounder has bumped his salary in recent years with franchise T20 appearances in Bangladesh. His returns with the bat were modest but he was impressive with the ball – his patience and nerve made up for a distinct lack of turn or tricks in his repertoire. The highlight of his BPL tournament was his 3/19 in the qualifying final against the Khulna Titans. Could this big-game experience be what Nottinghamshire need to take them over the line in the decisive white-ball games this year?

Player to Watch – Billy Root

If you are happy to eschew minimum innings qualifications, Billy Root sits atop Nottinghamshire’s Championship batting averages for 2016 after an unbeaten half-century in the second innings of the Midlanders’ hefty defeat to Somerset. At 24, you would not describe him as a young cricketer, but he is a stylish left-handed batsman with more than a few flourishes and mannerisms in common with his older brother.

This could well be a make-or-break season for the younger Root: there should be more opportunities for him in first-class cricket and he would be batting in division two away from the most skilful bowlers on the circuit, but if he can’t break into the First XI in 2017 he might struggle to forge a great professional career.

Root’s main challenge will be consistency. He strikes the ball cleanly and attractively and has shown the ability to score big hundreds in the seconds and in MCCU cricket, but he has never made an unanswerable case for a long run in championship cricket with consistent contributions on the lower rungs of the county circuit.

Overseas Signings

In a second big blow to Notts in 2016, Australian pacer Peter Siddle was sidelined for the whole year. The same has happened in 2017, and the club is yet to confirm his replacement although James Pattinson is said to be a prime target. Whether their replacement will also remain injury-free could have an impact on their success in 2017 across all formats.

In the T20, Dan Christian has been re-signed along with New Zealander Ish Sodhi, who will presumably fill the role that Imran Tahir did so well in 2016. Dan Christian helped the team to Finals Day in the T20s last year and is capable of blistering hundreds while not demanding a sky-high fee for his services.

Ish Sodhi might not scream T20 superstar to most casual fans, but he turned heads and the occasional leg break in Australia during the BBL, ending as Adelaide Strikers’ joint top wicket-taker despite only making three appearances. If he gets anywhere close to the average of 7.77 or the economy rate of 6.08 on his first foray into county cricket, he and his club will be charging into the knockout stages once again.

How they’ll fare

If Ball, Pattinson and Hales play a reasonable amount this season, Nottinghamshire should be well-placed to return to the top flight. Their bowling will have experience, pace and talent while their batting will have strong leaders a long way into the middle order. Of course the contributions of Riki Wessels, Michael Lumb and Chris Read (all experienced batters who all but disappeared in 2016 with twenty-something averages) will be important too, but perhaps the days when any one of those could destroy an attack singlehandedly the way Hales can have come and gone.

The availability of Stuart Broad at the start of the season is another big boost.

Nottinghamshire should go straight back up into the first division, perhaps alongside Sussex, but there are no easy games even in division two these days. Their cause is further helped though by the fact that one of the best sides in the division, Durham, will start with a hefty points deduction.

White ball cricket, usually a big strength of Nottinghamshire’s, might be more challenging this year. The loss of Taylor (and Tahir and Russell from 2016), combined with the fact that more counties cottoning on to the potential of T20 to increase revenues and profile, will almost certainly mean that the Outlaws will need to shoot straight to come away with the loot this time around.

Opening Fixture

v Leicestershire, Friday 7th April at Grace Road

Season Odds

LV County Championship Division 2: 13/8
Royal London One-Day Cup: 12/1
Natwest Twenty20 Blast: 8/1

Bresnan fight back in vain, as Surrey book spot at Lord’s

A century from Steven Davies and three key wickets from Stuart Meaker was enough to earn Surrey a place in the Royal London One-Day Cup final despite a late fightback led by the indomitable Tim Bresnan, whose late-career transformation into a Jacques Kallis tribute act is a welcome consolation for home fans.

Alex Lees won the toss and fielded, then the early wicket of Dom Sibley to a very dubious lbw call from umpire Peter Hartley brought Kumar Sangakkara to the middle.

The Sri Lankan star looked imperious when square driving his second ball for four, but unfortunately for Surrey the emperor he most resembled after that was Galba, who ruled Rome for just three months in 69 AD: a loose drive was easily held by Azeem Rafiq at cover to leave the visitors 8-2.

No-one could begrudge Sangakkara a single one of his 594 international caps, but on today’s evidence it seems unfair that Steven Davies has only thirteen to his name. He kept the Southerners in the running during the powerplay with impeccable placement and shot selection, while being ably supported in the running by Rory Burns.

Davies and Foakes rebuilt for Surrey in a confident and comfortable manner that called into question Alex Lees’s decision to bowl first. When Davies lofted Azeem Rafiq effortlessly for six to bring his total to 87 in the 33rd over and Foakes flicked Brooks for two to reach his 50 in the next, Surrey became narrowly the happier side.

Davies reached his well-deserved century off his 112th delivery, but threw it away in a deeply frustrating manner. Matthew Waite bowled a slow full toss which Davies deposited in the grateful hands of Will Rhodes on the boundary rope. It was something of an atonement for Waite, who had dropped a caught and bowled chance when Davies was on 43.

Sam Curran provided some entertainment in a brief cameo that included two good ramp shots and one fatal bad one. Foakes recorded his highest-ever List A score but fell short of his maiden hundred, tamely scooping Bresnan to Jack Brooks. Surrey posted a respectable 255-7 in the end – far more than they could have hoped for from 8-2, but all of the dismissals were soft and quite a few players made decent starts.

Yorkshire lost Adam Lyth early on, checking a drive off Dernbach, and after some reconstruction work Alex Lees was bowled by Gareth Batty. Jonny Bairstow started to show signs of the quality that has made him a mainstay of England’s Test side over the last 18 months, but he too perished too cheaply to a checked drive, this time off Meaker.

Gary Ballance was content to play an anchoring role, but it was part of a high-risk game plan that failed to pay off. Stuart Meaker produced some extra bounce to catch Ballance’s bat which had been obligingly held out. Meaker’s pace undid Jack Leaning a few balls later to give him figures of 3-4.

The fightback from Tim Bresnan and Matthew Waite showed admirable patience and temperament, but they never threatened the Surrey total. The required rate rose slowly but surely and after it passed seven, the pressure told on Waite as he chipped Sam Curran to Gareth Batty.

Yorkshire refused to bow out quietly, but the rate became ever more demanding and their batting resources looked ever thinner. Robbie Williams’ “Rock DJ” washed over a disappointing (4,836 is on the low side for such a big game), and disappointed, Yorkshire crowd, whose imaginative chant of “Yorkshire, Yorkshire” struck an ever more mournful note as the game eluded the home side’s grip.

The crowd started to believe once more when Bresnan thumped Meaker over long on and the equation for Yorkshire returned to the realms of possibility.

Ultimately, though, Tim Bresnan’s gutsy innings was futile and he holed out in the penultimate over to leave a clear season objective for Yorkshire: secure their third consecutive County Championship.

KSL report: Yorkshire Diamonds v Loughborough Lighting

If there were any concerns about the quality of the cricket in the Kia Super League, Ellyse Perry’s magnificent straight drive off Shabnam Ismael dismissed them.

If there were any concerns about the competitive spirit of the matches, the sight of Hollie Armitage and Jenny Gunn pointing at their bats in disbelief after being given out lbw, or Katherine Brunt exchanging sharp words with the Lightning fielders after being bowled, dismissed those.

The Yorkshire Diamonds raged against the dying of the light, but after Barnsley-born Brunt was gone, the game was clearly up for the hosts.

It was not the curtain-raiser Brunt had hoped to star in.

Just after 2.30pm, Brunt took the first wicket of the Kia Super League with her very first delivery. She found enough outswing to clip the edge of Dane van Niekerk’s bat and present an easy catch for Hollie Armitage at slip. She backed up the breakthrough with five perfectly placed dot balls, and her international quality was clear for all to see.

Just after the powerplay finished, Loughborough skipper Georgia Elwiss threw her wicket away by dancing down the track to Danielle Hazell, who pushed the ball out wider for an easy stumping. It was to become a theme of the Lightning’s innings.
Before that, however, the partnership of Sophie Devine and Ellyse Perry was a fine display of skill and nous. They stole singles to the fielders in the ring who were ever-so-slightly too deep, and Devine helped herself to boundaries off the weaker bowlers once Brunt and Ismael had been taken out of the attack.

There was a moment of minor dispute when Devine pushed Hazell to the third man boundary for four. The fielder chasing, Kent’s Alice Davidson-Richards, slipped, touched the rope, and returned the ball. An unimpressed Sophie Devine responded immediately with a boundary.

Shot of the day went to Ellyse Perry, who played a sumptuous straight drive to destroy a well-directed Ismael yorker. The combination of patience and power brought the Antipodean pairing a 50 partnership, and Loughborough were firmly on top.

That was until Ellyse Perry charged for a single that wasn’t there and was run out by some sharp work from wicketkeeper Beth Mooney. Amy Jones was gone before she had opened her eyes after a smart delivery from Hazell trapped her in front.

Sonia Odedra raced to 9 with two identical sweeps off Levick, but was superbly caught and bowled by Jenny Gunn when she smashed a quicker ball to the England medium pacer’s left. Devine perished in the next over, misjudging a big shot that was again well-held by Gunn, this time in the deep. Thea Brookes was run out, completing a dramatic collapse of 5-12.

Set a below-par 128 to win after a modest late-order recovery from Loughborough, Yorkshire hopes were further boosted when Amy Jones put down a relatively straightforward catch off Lauren Winfield.

Despite losing her partner to Perry’s first delivery, Winfield put her stamp on the match with five authoritative boundaries to take the hosts to 37-1.

A horrid mix-up ended her fabulous innings in the cruellest of fashions. After a seeming obstruction, she was well run-out despite a tumbling dive. Her 23 had come off just 13 balls, and her fury at her dismissal was evident as she lingered at the crease before throwing her bat and pads away in the dugout.

Tight bowling and regular wickets helped the Lightning claw their way back into the game, leaving Yorkshire’s fortunes in the hands of Katherine Brunt and Jenny Gunn.
The partnership between Brunt and Gunn was broken when Brunt missed a straight one from Georgia Elwiss, and Gunn followed when she failed to read a floaty full ball from Dane van Niekerk. Both players appeared to exchange warm words with the opposition, and Gunn appeared to address the umpire in less than cordial fashion.

The final coup de grace was delivered fittingly by the half-centurion Sophie Devine, who had Hazell caught at extra cover by Lightning’s captain Georgia Elwiss to end the hosts’ innings on 85. Yorkshire need to turn their fortunes around quickly if they are to finish in the top three, but Loughborough have pulled off a thoroughly deserved win with some high-quality cricket.

Worcestershire stroll to Riverside win over Durham

An insipid effort from Durham’s batsmen in a rain-reduced match at the Emirates ICG was ruthlessly punished by Worcestershire, who lost wickets but still looked comfortable in their pursuit of 91 target to win by 7 wickets with almost 3 overs to spare.

Four and a half hours after play was supposed to start, some cricketers emerged from the pavilion. Covers had been flapping on and off all day. Jack Shantry bowled, and Mark Stoneman pushed it for one. A 22-overs per side game was underway.

Durham had the best of the early exchanges, with Stoneman lofting an excellent shot into the leg side for four. Stoneman’s partner Phil Mustard struggled in the opening stages and after a cleanly struck drive behind the bowler, Mustard hared his way to the non-striker’s end; Stoneman was unmoved, and Mustard was gone.

Both batsmen were at the same end as Ben Cox leisurely knocked off the bails.

Cox then took a magnificent diving catch off Shantry to remove Graham Clark, and he was forced to take evasive action to avoid being hit by Stoneman’s bails when Ed Barnard bowled the Durham opener beautifully for 29.

The hosts slipped further into chaos when Keaton Jennings lofted a tame shot to Rhodes at mid-off, finally bringing Scott Borthwick to the crease at number six.

The man widely tipped to replace Nick Compton at three in the England Test side lasted only five balls, chopping on to his stumps for one off Chris Russell’s first delivery. The England selectors may have already made their minds up about the line-up for the first Pakistan Test, but Borthwick will no doubt rue missing an opportunity to restate his claim with Compton’s latest dismissal fresh in the memory.

Pringle and Collingwood held out for a while, until the former chipped an easy return catch to Brett D’Oliveira’s second ball. MacLeod whacked Chris Russell high up into the air for the seventh wicket, and Paul Coughlin was caught behind for a career-best 3 for the eighth.

When Collingwood chipped Leach up in the air, he was already halfway back to the pavilion by the time Russell took the catch: a further sign, if any was needed, that Worcestershire had put together such a slick and professional performance in the field that there was no chance of a drop.

Brett D’Oliveira finished the rout by aiming a delivery vaguely at Rushworth’s stumps, and it wasn’t long before the Pears openers were back out for the chase.

They lost Tom Kohler-Cadmore early on, shuffling across his stumps with an eye on smashing Rushworth over mid-on, and Joe Leach was bowled after edging the same bowler for four to the fine leg boundary (seconds after the fielder had been brought in).

After the second wicket, Worcestershire treated the bowling with more respect, but it did not prevent Joe Clarke losing his stumps to Rushworth, who picked up his third in the match.

The valour of Durham’s seamers was strikingly at odds with the frightened-rabbit-esque display from their batsmen.

A miraculous recovery was not to be, however, as a loose over from Usman Arshad released some pressure, and the Pears were ably steered to victory by D’Oliveira and Alexei Kervezee. The pair of Pears were impressively unflappable in their 60-run partnership for the fourth wicket, after Rushworth ran out of overs.

Durham are now one from three in the One-Day Cup, while Worcestershire fans can start thinking seriously about a place in the quarter finals.

RLODC Preview: Durham Jets v Worcestershire Rapids

The North Group of the Royal London One-Day Cup seems somewhat topsy-turvy. While reigning County Champions Yorkshire and most recent non-Yorkshire winners Durham find themselves in the lower reaches of the table, in this admittedly early stage of the 50-over competition, it is Division Two side Derbyshire setting the early pace. Recently-relegated Worcestershire rose to third after a convincing win over Yorkshire.

The conquering Pears continue their journey north with a visit to Chester-le-Street, hoping to cause another top county’s batsmen to capitulate in white-ball cricket.

They humbled Yorkshire at Headingley earlier in the week with a comfortable seven-wicket win – after bowling out their hosts for a pitiful 170 where Gary Ballance top-scored with just 30. It was a splendid team effort from Worcestershire’s bowlers, with Joe Leach and Jack Shantry leading the way with 2-30 and 2-10 respectively.

The fact that Durham scored a barely more respectable 216 in their own seven-wicket defeat to Derbyshire was thanks to a sparkling 125 from Ryan Pringle, batting at number eight. Skipper Mark Stoneman, the next highest scorer, made just 22.

Their two points in this year’s RLODC came from a nervy 11-run win over Leicestershire, who currently lie between Durham and Yorkshire at the foot of the table.

A few more eyes than usual for a county match up north may well be cast at Scott Borthwick, who is widely tipped to make a return to the England Test side after the recent struggles of Middlesex’s Nick Compton in the international arena.

Initially picked during the farcical 2013/14 Ashes as a leg-spinning replacement for Graeme Swann, a strong contribution from Borthwick in this game would only strengthen the calls for his inclusion. The colour of the ball and the clothing may be different, but runs on the board are important in every hue.

Key Men

Durham fans who are more concerned about the fortunes of their county than their country may be nervous at the prospect of losing the prolific Scott Borthwick to the England set-up. They have not seen much of Mark Wood or Ben Stokes lately (although they arguably saw too much of the latter after he was seen applauding Alastair Cook’s 10,000th Test run in his pants). Borthwick would be another big pair of shoes to fill.

Jack Shantry is something of a cult figure in county circles for his ungainly bowling action and the #shantryfacts phenomenon. Since the first appearance of the hashtag, he has emerged as a huge part of Worcestershire’s recent successes (it was his first-class century that secured their most recent County Championship promotion, for example). However, Worcestershire will be looking to his moderately-paced economical swing bowling to put them in charge of this game, where conditions should help him.

Team News

Durham have no Wood, Stokes or Graham Onions for this match due to injury.

Durham squad: Mark Stoneman (c), Usman Arshad, Scott Borthwick, Graham Clark, Paul Collingwood, Paul Coughlin, James Harrison, Keaton Jennings, Calum MacLeod, Barry McCarthy, Phil Mustard, Ryan Pringle, Michael Richardson, Chris Rushworth

Worcestershire’s captain Daryl Mitchell missed their last match against Northamptonshire in the T20 Blast through injury, but at time of writing they were yet to announce their squad.

Worcestershire squad: TBA

Form (including last season):

Durham: LWLWW
Worcestershire: WLLWL

Weather and Conditions

A cloudy day is forecast with some light rain. Temperatures of around 12-13 degrees are anticipated. Bring a brolly but expect a result.

Date: Sunday 12th June 2016
Time: 11:00 am
Ground: Emirates ICG
Umpires: Graham Lloyd & Martin Saggers
Odds (SkyBet): Durham 4/5, Worcestershire evens

Jennings fights back to give Durham opening day honours

A mature century from Durham opener Keaton Jennings held Somerset’s seamers at bay on a curious first day of the season at the Emirates ICG, before key wickets from their stalwart seamers late on to leave Somerset in a fair amount of trouble at the end of day one.

Despite the unusually pleasant overhead conditions, Chris Rogers elected to bowl first to exploit the early morning conditions. It was Durham who started stronger, however, with Jennings and England hopeful Mark Stoneman taking advantage of anything that drifted too close to their pads.

Lewis Gregory was the more expensive of the opening bowlers and was taken off after three overs so Groenewald could change ends. It yielded immediate results as Stoneman popped a leading edge to Tom Abell at point.

Rogers’ proactive captaincy came to the fore shortly after to end Scott Borthwick’s stay at the crease as well. After Jim Allenby was taken for 12 runs off the 10th over, Rogers brought Gregory back into the attack and he pinned Borthwick lbw with a ball that stayed low.

Jennings steadied the ship in the company of teenager Jack Burnham, who showed admirable patience and resolve in the face of some disciplined bowling from Peter Trego and Josh Davey. He was rewarded in the form of two consecutive wide deliveries from Allenby shortly before lunch which he crunched to the boundary.

Jennings and Burnham consolidated Durham’s strong start with a sedate afternoon session. The former brought up his 50 from 130 balls flicking the spin of Roelof van der Merwe through the off-side field for two.

Burnham once again showed his promise with a sweetly timed off-drive for four off Davey, but was bowled by a beautiful inswinger three balls later to give the Scotland international his first Championship wicket.

Jennings was judicious in his shot-selection after lunch: He committed fully to his strokes and was usually rewarded with a loud crack from his bat and four runs on the scoreboard.

The game roared back to life when Gregory found enough movement to trap Michael Richardson lbw and then produced a stunning Yorker to dispatch Paul Collingwood for a golden duck. Durham’s recovery was further jeopardised when Ryan Pringle chipped tamely to Davey at cover.

As it became clear that Jennings needed someone to stick around with him rather than score flashy runs (Durham’s bottom three don’t inspire much confidence on paper), Usman Arshad cheerfully obliged to allow the 23-year-old to bring up his sixth first-class ton shortly after tea.

His innings could hardly be described as gritty – more than 50 of his first hundred runs came in boundaries, and many of them were aesthetically pleasing shots – but it was a feat of application and nerve that kept his team from an unnerving early-season catastrophe of the kind often seen at this time of year on this ground.

It was also a first century since 2014 for Jennings, showing the form that had led to whispers of international recognition before a lean 2015 held him back.

Arshad, playing just his 13th County Championship game since his 2013 debut, started to play a few strokes of his own as he grew in confidence until Jennings edged Davey over Marcus Trescothick’s shoulder at second slip and was comfortably caught.

Somerset’s fortunes brightened again a few balls later when debutant Brydon Carse missed a straight delivery from van der Merwe to depart lbw for 0.

Tim Groenewald added the wicket of Arshad at the end of the next over with his second consecutive lbw appeal, and Allenby took a superb one-handed catch after Trego parried a chance to end Durham’s innings on a roughly par 256.

Chris Rushworth opened his 2016 account with an inswinger that defeated Abell lbw before nightwatchman Davey misjudged the line of another ball to bring an unwilling Rogers to the crease. Graham Onions yorked Trescothick late on to leave Durham firmly in control after the first day’s play, still trailing by 226 runs.

SSCC Preview: Durham v Somerset

Durham have only been playing first-class cricket since 1992, and yet they have won the County Championship three times. Somerset joined the County Championship more than 100 years before that in 1891, and they have never lifted the trophy. As the April morning rises over another County Championship season, both sides will be looking for an early victory in a year when neither have been widely tipped for the top prize.

Durham’s success in recent years has been built on a foundation of strong home performances and the excellent bowling of Chris Rushworth and Graham Onions in swing-friendly conditions at the Emirates Riverside.

This year, the new toss rule is likely to mean that Paul Collingwood’s men are going to find themselves batting first at home more often than not. Sides with strong seam attacks could prove deadly to Durham’s title hopes if they can exploit the conditions effectively.

If Somerset’s new captain has decided to bowl first, he will no doubt be mulling over his reduced bowling options for this encounter – both Craig and Jamie Overton are unavailable for different reasons. He has instead a blend of youth (in uncapped Josh Davey and teenager Ben Green) and experience (Trego, Allenby and Groenewald) to wile out the Durham attack.

The southwest side have, in Chris Rogers himself, found at least a temporary replacement for the sturdy Nick Compton as well, whose move to Middlesex appears to have paid the dividends he hoped for in the form of an England Test recall.

The signing of Allenby and Dutch star Tom Cooper did not yield the desired results for Matt Maynard in Championship cricket, but Rogers is an undisputed master of batting in England – and he has particularly happy memories of the Emirates, having scored his first Test ton here in the 2013 Ashes.

Key Players

England’s quest for a consistent and reliable opening partner for Alastair Cook still appears far from a resolution. Mark Stoneman has been touted by quite a few pundits as a possible replacement for the stylish Nottinghamshire batsman, and there is no better way to set out your stall for an England spot than by early-season runs in tough conditions. He is likely to face the first ball of the season at the Emirates: what kind of message will he send to the selectors?

Somerset’s openers have nothing to prove to their respective national selectors, as both are enjoying their retirement in the southwest. Before they ride off into the western sunset, of course, the performances of Marcus Trescothick will be key to his county’s fortunes this year. His run-scoring feats in 2015 proved that he still has a lot to offer the club and it remains an outside possibility that maybe, just maybe, a County Championship winner’s medal is still within his reach.

Team News

Durham are without Mark Wood and Ben Stokes through injury and England recovery respectively. South Africa-born Brydon Carse made his first-class debut against the MCCU this month and has done enough to earn himself a spot in the squad.

Durham squad: Paul Collingwood (captain), Usman Arshad, Scott Borthwick, Jack Burnham, Brydon Carse, Keaton Jennings, Gordon Muchall, Graham Onions, Ryan Pringle, Michael Richardson (wk), Chris Rushworth, Mark Stoneman

For Somerset, an injury to Jamie Overton has added to their bowling problems as his twin brother also serves the last match of his suspension for an alleged racist outburst directed at Ashar Zaidi last season. Scotland’s Josh Davey and teenager Ben Green are making the journey to the Emirates instead.

Somerset squad: Chris Rogers (c), Tom Abell, Jim Allenby, Josh Davey, Alex Davies (wk), Ben Green, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Peter Trego, Marcus Trescothick, Roelef van der Merwe.

Form:

Durham: WLLLD
Somerset: WDDLD

Weather and conditions

Showers are predicted from Monday onwards.

Date: 10th – 13th April 2016
Time: 11:00am
Ground: Emirates Riverside
Umpires: Rob Bailey & Nigel Cowley
Odds (SkyBet): Durham 4/6, Somerset 11/10