Centuries in April. Seems just about as unlikely as a whole English cricket season going without a drop of rain but, alas, there were hundreds aplenty to whet the Specsavers County Championship’s appetite.
Twin tons to ‘daddy’ knocks and a weather-ruining triple chance all feature in our week one Team of the Week, but do you agree with our selections?
Tweet @deepextra_cover to berate, debate and castrate our decisions, but do please excuse the rather unbalanced batting line-up.
1: Steven Mullaney (NOTTINGHAMSHIRE v Surrey) 113 and 42 – Mullaney took the honour of the season’s first century, making the most of a slow Surrey start to notch three figures from just 102 balls at Trent Bridge. It was a chanceless knock from Mullaney, only shifted to an opener a couple of years ago, setting up a big score and opening win for Nottinghamshire.
2: Alastair Cook (ESSEX v Gloucestershire) 105 and 35* – A rare appearance in county cricket for Cook, but he certainly made the most of it. The England skipper notched his 52nd first-class ton before guiding fellow opener Nick Browne and Essex to an impressive ten-wicket victory at Chelmsford.
3: Tom Westley (ESSEX v Gloucestershire) 121 and DNB – Billed as a man to join Cook in the England ranks one day, Westley began his season imperiously with a big century, his second of the season already. In a partnership of 222 with the England captain, Westley gave arguably the division’s strongest batting line-up a perfect start with his 121.
4: Ben Duckett (NORTHANTS v Sussex) 282* and DNB – A record-breaking knock is not a bad way to start your season. Duckett’s 282 was the fifth-biggest score in Northants history, robbed of more by the weather, giving him a fifth first-class century in nine innings spanning to the end of last season. It even got acclaim from captain David Murphy, labelling the innings as “one of the best [I’ve] ever seen”
5: Ian Bell (Hampshire v WARWICKSHIRE) 174 and DNB – Having been dropped from England’s plans, there was no better fightback from Bell than to notch a big century. Travelling to Great Escapees Hampshire, the 34-year-old celebrated his birthday with a mammoth 174, just 28 short of Hampshire’s first innings total, a pertinent nudge to the selectors ahead of the summer Tests.
6: Keaton Jennings (DURHAM v Somerset) 116 and 105* – You’ll have to allow for creative licence for Jennings’ position at six after hitting twin tons at the top of Durham’s order. The opener made centuries in both innings at the supposedly bowler-friendly Emirates Riverside, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact they were his first three-figure scores since 2014.
7: Gareth Roderick (Essex v GLOUCESTERSHIRE) 88* and 58, two catches – Again, not an entirely accurate position as Roderick batted three for Gloucestershire, but wicket-keepers should always bat seven, right? Twin half-centuries defied the rest of his side’s batting line-up as the captain looked to lead back, while he also took two catches for his efforts.
8: Ryan McLaren (HAMPSHIRE v Warwickshire) 85 and DNB, 2-70 and DNB – Hampshire may have brought in South African McLaren primarily for his wickets, but it was his run-scoring ability which saved his side against Warwickshire. Struggling at 87-7, McLaren somehow led his team to a batting point as they escaped the Ageas Bowl with a rain-impacted draw.
9: Keith Barker (Hampshire v WARWICKSHIRE) 5-53 and 2-33 – The fact Hampshire were in that position was largely down to one man. Barker was probably not many people’s first choice for the opening five-fer of the season, but the 29-year-old had his 12th haul before lunch on the first day of the season. Not bad going, with the quick man later taking two more in the second innings.
10: Jake Ball (NOTTINGHAMSHIRE v Surrey) 1-45 and 5-98 – Following a breakthrough 2015, this year started in much the same vain for Ball, taking a five-fer instrumental to Nottinghamshire’s win. The paceman dismissed Kumar Sangakkara after a stubborn second-wicket second-innings partnership, while Steven Davies followed in the same over to give Ball a second career five-wicket haul. As if that wasn’t enough, the lower-order batsman also clipped the winning runs for his side.
11: Jamie Porter (ESSEX v Gloucestershire) 4-59 and 3-53 – Amidst the wealth of experience Essex boast, it was the pace duo of Porter and Matt Dixon in the wickets at Chelmsford. Porter dismantled the Gloucestershire middle-order in the first innings, before the duo reduced the visitors to 8-3 second time around. Seven wickets marks a promising beginning for the 22-year-old, who notched 50 scalps over the 2015 campaign.
Division One results
Emirates Riverside: Durham 256 (Jennings 116; Gregory 4-58) and 223-4 (Jennings 105*) drew with Somerset 179 (Onions 4-62). Points: Durham 10, Somerset 8.
Ageas Bowl: Hampshire 202 (McLaren 85; Barker 5-53) and 185-5 (Dawson 50*) drew with Warwickshire 360 (Bell 174, Woakes 66). Points: Hampshire 9 (deducted a point for a slow over rate), Warwickshire 12.
Trent Bridge: Nottinghamshire 446 (Mullaney 113, Patel 85; Rampaul 5-93) and 172-7 (Smith 54; T Curran 4-58) beat Surrey 225 (Bird 4-56) and 389 following-on (Harinath 137; Ball 5-98) by three wickets. Points: Nottinghamshire 24, Surrey 4.
Division Two results
Chelmsford: Essex 385 (Westley 121, Cook 105; Shaw 4-118) and 94-0 beat Gloucestershire 262 (Roderick 88*; Porter 4-59) and 218 (J Taylor 74). Points: Essex 23, Gloucestershire 4.
Wantage Road: Northants 481-7 (Duckett 282*) drew with Sussex. Points: Northants 9, Sussex 6.
New Road: Worcestershire v Kent, match abandoned without a ball bowled. Points: Worcestershire 5, Kent 5.