After what seemed like a long, long winter the LV County Championship returned and saw some fantastic performances, but who has made the first Deep Extra Cover Team of the Week?
1. Hassan Azad (Leics) 5 and 104*
Others may have scored more runs opening the batting for their counties this week however when you look at the context of Azad’s 104 runs in the second innings vs Worcestershire, he deserves his place for sheer dogged tenacity at the very least. He carried his bat in an innings which lasted 280 balls and no other batter scored more than 16 as the Running Foxes batted out the final day for the draw.
2. Ben Compton (Kent) 129
Yes it may have been a flat track, but when you have stood in the field and watched your opponents make 514 runs and you moved in the winter to get a chance to play and show your worth, again the context behind Ben Compton’s 129 is huge. The pressure on his shoulders to perform, especially when he lost his opening partner after just 7.1 overs would have been huge for the young man, so his 129 runs and one catch secure him his place this week.
3. Steve Eskinazi (Middx) 118 and 5
First game of the season, your side has been hit with some injuries, your skipper loses the toss and you hear the words from the opposition, we’ll field first and then as a number three batter you are in after 19 balls, hardly the ideal start to your season. However, Eskinazi went on to score a calm and chanceless 118 in the first innings, putting on 186 with youngster Josh De Caires and ensuring that Middlesex season got off to a good start.
4. Rob Keogh (Nhants) 113 and 74 – 1-16 and 0-30
On their return to division one Northants found themselves in the mire at 22-3 chasing 223 for first innings parity, when Rob Keogh came to the crease, he then set about amassing 113 valuable runs to not only give his side parity, but a first innings lead of 65. When the second innings came around and Northants were chasing a very tempting 298 for victory, he again arrived with his side in a spot of bother at 80-3. He steadied the ship, and in partnership with first Saif Zaib and then Josh Cobb almost guided his side home.
5. Steven Mullaney (c) (Notts) 192 – 1-14
You’re captaining your side, you win the toss and field, your opponents make 375 and then you find your side 52-4. It’s time for a captain’s innings and that is exactly what Steven Mullaney did. His 192 guided Notts to a first innings total of 534 and a lead of 159m which was ultimately enough to secure them victory, as then bowled out Sussex for 172 in the second innings. Mullaney’s 192 came off 279 balls and included 15 fours and 5 sixes, accelerating at the right time and consolidating at the right time too.
6. Matthew Critchley (Essex) 132 – 4-114
Again, it was a flat track at Chelmsford, but when you’ve moved from your home county to further your career and your premium spinner is away on international duty, the pressure is on you. You wouldn’t have known to watch Critchley, he scored an impressive 132 runs, carrying on from last season’s 1000 runs in the Championship and then took 4 wickets on a flat deck to back up his allrounder status.
7. Ryan Higgins (Glous) 28 and 139 – 4-68 and 3-47
If ever a player deserved to be on the wining side in a drawn game it was Ryan Higgins in this match. His four wickets in the first innings kept Northants in check and his 139 runs in Gloucestershire’s second innings ensured Northants didn’t have a simple run chase as he arrived at the crease with his side at 21-4, still 44 runs adrift of their hosts. Higgins’ knock took them to a position of strength however and then he bowled his heart out in the final innings and nearly took his side to victory.
8. Michael Burgess (Warks) (WK) 178 & 2 dismissals
Not a Winter move, but a recent move non the less and another player who delivered, Burgess scored a monumental 178 runs from 221 balls with 20 fours and 8 sixes, against a much-vaunted bowling attack, even if it did include Rory Burns. When he was last man out having put on 122 with Oliver Hannon-Dalby for the 10th wicket, he had done his job, as had Hannon-Dalby who we will come to later.
9. Liam Patterson-White (Notts) 6-64 and 3-54
Finger spinners don’t take wickets in April, why play them, it has to be mystery spin etc etc, well not if you’re Liam Patterson-White, in the first innings of the game he became the first bowler of the season to take a five wicket haul, three of which were batters 1, 2 and 3. In the second innings as Sussex looked to stave off defeat he again contributed, with his three wickets cleaning up the tail as three of the last four wickets fell to him.
10. Ben Sanderson (Nhants) 4-66 and 5-66
There is often the discussion as to who is the best player to have never played for England, Stevens and Hildreth are often mentioned, Sanderson has to be considered for that unfortunate accolade too. He is consistent, always takes wickets and this match was no different. His nine wickets across both innings pushed his side towards victory as he took wickets at the top, middle and tail of the order. He is a real gem for Northants and their success in Division One this season will depend on his output.
11. Oliver Hannon-Dalby (Warks) – 4-78 and 11*
In an innings of 428, as a bowler you are going to take some damage, but Hannon-Dalby’s figures would not look out of place in a 228 all out innings, his four wickets came for just 78 runs and at an economy rate of just 2.60, with ten maidens from his 30 overs. He also added a vital 122 runs for the last wicket with Michael Burgess, allowing Burgess to reach his century and then some. The belligerence shown in Hannon-Dalby’s batting no better shown by taking 66 balls and 94 minutes to get off the mark, truly batting for his mate at the other end.