The second round of the County Championship has seen some excellent cricket, with five of the seven matches going in to the fourth day, a fact that clearly makes a mockery of suggestions that it should revert to a three day format. The disappointment has been that there has not been a full diary of fixtures, with two teams from each division missing out each week. While the provision of recovery time is to be applauded, it would seem sensible to have it when there is something to recover from. The four counties who have been provided by a week off in the gap between the first block of Championship games and the Vitality Blast appear to be the best served by this arrangement. They will have the additional benefit of being able to make use of second XI T20 fixtures which start during that week, to get players better prepared for the change in format.
Two games were completed in three days, both in Division One. In conditions that favoured the bowlers Essex scraped home by one wicket at Taunton, with Craig Overton, who captured 13 wickets in the game, nearly pulling off a miracle fight back. Essex reached their target of 84 primarily due to the efforts of new recruit Adam Rossington, who finished on 29 not out. Having been beaten by an innings in round one, Somerset’s batsmen need to turn things around quickly if they are not come adrift at the bottom of Division One. Meanwhile Essex seem to have recovered from the hiccough of the 2021 season and look set to stake a claim for the title. Sir Alastair Cook certainly does not seem to be tiring, having scored 188 runs at 63 so far this season.
Meanwhile Somerset’s conquerors in round one were on the receiving end of an innings defeat this week at the hands of Surrey. Ollie Pope scored a century in Surrey’s total of 467. Hampshire were then bowled out for 223 and only managed 227 in their second innings having been asked to follow on. Jamie Overton took eight wickets in the game and this was a strong effort from the Surrey seamers as Kemar Roach was only able to bowl six overs in the first innings, due to injury.
In the other Division One games Lancashire, who missed round one, enjoyed a decisive win over Kent and Yorkshire overcame Gloucestershire in a tighter affair. Lancashire posted a formidable first innings total of 506 thanks to centuries from Dane Vilas and red rose stalwart, Steven Croft. This was despite six wickets from young off-spinner, Hamidullah Qadri. Professional drinks carrier for England, Matt Parkinson took 4/66 as Kent were dismissed for 260, a score based primarily on an undefeated 104 from Ben Compton. Following on, Compton was last out having scored 115 off 340 balls and Qadri also contributed with the bat, making 77 off 177 balls. Despite this rearguard action, Lancashire required just 34 to complete the win, which they reached without losing a wicket and with 11 overs to spare.
Gloucestershire put up stout resistance against Yorkshire having conceded a first innings lead of 149, in spite of a century from Marcus Harris. It was a game featuring strong performances from a number of players who have recently worn the three lions. Matthew Fisher took four wickets in the Gloucestershire first innings and Harry Brook scored a century in Yorkshire’s first innings total of 376. Then James Bracey batted for 7¾ hours, amassing 177 and allowing Gloucestershire to set a target of 211 from a minimum of 60 overs. It was not a straightforward exercise, It was not a straightforward exercise but half centuries from Dawid Malan and Harry Brook saw them home.
At Derby the home side looked to be on top when they made Sussex follow on with a first innings lead of an imposing 331. Derbyshire had their Pakistani overseas player, Shan Masood to thank for a significant proportion of that lead, scoring 239, while Wayne Madsen, now in his 13th year with the county, also scored a century They finished on 505/8 declared. Wickets in the Sussex first innings were shared around, but special mention should be made of 19-year-old Derbyshire seamer, Nick Potts who took 3/43 on debut. Following on, Sussex made a better fist of their second attempt, led by their young captain Tom Haines, who put on 351 for the third wicket with Cheteshwar Pujara. Haines scored 243 and when Pujara reached his double century the teams shook hands. The Derbyshire bowlers will want to put their feet up for a couple of days before their trip to Leicester having bowled 232 overs on the trot.
At Chester-le-Street, as last week, Durham were in command of the game for most of the four days but were unable to force a win. After being inserted, centuries from Sean Dickson, opening in the absence of Alex Lees and David Bedingham, who fell just short of a double century allowed Durham to reach 428. Matthew Potts then did the damage in the Leicestershire first innings taking 6/58 and despite 81 runs from Colin Ackerman and another good effort from Hassan Azad, who made 66, they were left trailing by 155. Durham batted again and set Leicestershire a target of 395 from 96 overs, declaring at the end of day three. However, by day four the pitch had flattened out and there were early handshakes with points shared as Leicestershire finished on 183/2. Sam Evans finished on 77 not out.
The major upset of round two occurred at Trent Bridge, where Nottingham, considered by many as favourites to win Division Two, were inserted by Glamorgan. With both teams bolstered by the first appearances of their four overseas stars, it was Nottingham who started the better, reaching 258/4. Ben Duckett, who has a habit of scoring runs against Glamorgan, end up making 122, but it was the medium pace of Marnus Labuschagne (not something I thought I would be talking about) that ended his resistance and the last six wickets fell for just 44 runs. It was then David Lloyd (76) and Sam Northeast (85) who made the main contributions in Glamorgan’s first innings and James Pattinson will rue overstepping when he had Lloyd caught in the slips in his first over. However at 248/8 Glamorgan faced a significant first innings deficit. However Timm van der Gugten (62) and James Weighell (45) had other ideas and when van der Gugten was last out Glamorgan had a crucial lead of 77. It was then van der Gugten who inflicted the damage in Nottinghamshire’s second innings with a spell of 4/9 and despite another score from Duckett (95), Glamorgan were left with a target of just 166 from a minimum of 84 overs. This was achieved for the loss of three wickets, Labuschagne reaching 50.
With a number of teams only having played one game, the tables do not reflect the true potential of teams. In the First Division, Surrey and Essex have made strong starts while Lancashire, Yorkshire and Warwickshire cannot be discounted. At the top of Division Two Glamorgan will be happy having taken 23 points from what they would have considered to be their toughest fixture. Despite the loss, Nottinghamshire will still be confident of promotion. Excellent batting displays from both England-qualified and overseas players this week have shown that getting the 20 wickets needed for a win may be tougher than expected.