After a significant amount of rain had fallen around the country in the days leading up to the start of round two of the County Championship, it was a credit to the grounds staff around the country that any play was possible on day one. Unfortunately, in Bristol, continued rain led to the game between Gloucestershire and Yorkshire being abandoned on the second day without a ball bowled. Elsewhere play was eventually able to get under way and a number of positive results were achieved.
In Division One, last week’s winners each struggled to double up, Hampshire going down to Surrey and Kent succumbing to Warwickshire, while Essex held on for a draw against Lancashire.
At the Oval, Hampshire elected to bat first posting 254 thanks to 95 from Ben Brown. 20-year-old Surrey seamer, Tom Lawes took 4/58, his fourth four-wicket haul in eight starts. In reply Surrey gained a 16-run first innings lead, thanks to 91 from Ollie Pope. Mohammed Abbas followed up his nine wicket haul last week with 6/64. Dan Worrall then helped keep the Hampshire second innings total down to 258, taking 5/40, Nick Gubbins (84) the only Hampshire batter to pass fifty. The target of 243 was reached for the loss of just one wicket, Ollie Pope finishing on 122 not out and Dom Sibley 79 not out.
Northamptonshire inflicted a second defeat on Middlesex, the Middlesex top order again failing to contribute. They were bowled out for 149 and 167, Chris Tremain taking 6/75 in the match. Tremain has now taken 13 wickets this season, but will be returning to Australia after the next round of matches as his countryman, Lance Morris comes in for the next three games. Morris regularly bowls at over 90 mph and is reported to be in consideration for the Ashes squad. Having made 198 in their first innings, Northamptonshire required just 119 when they batted again and reached the target for the loss of three wickets, Northamptonshire’s other Australian overseas signing, Sam Whiteman making 60 not out. The Middlesex batters will need to start scoring runs soon and are unlikely to find it any easier against the Nottinghamshire pace attack they will face in the next round of matches. The trio of Stuart Broad, Brett Hutton and Dane Patterson made short work of the Somerset batting this week, dismissing them for 173 and 129. Hutton took nine wickets and Patterson eight in the match. Nottinghamshire were asked to bat first and reached 256 thanks to an opening stand of 125 between Ben Duckett (75) and Haseeb Hammed (65). Lewis Gregory took 7/84 and again was the main threat with the ball in the Nottinghamshire second innings total of 211, taking 4/64. However, it was enough to secure a 165 run win.
At Edgbaston, Kent will have rued asking Warwickshire to bat first, as by the end of day one they had reached 367/3. Day two was washed out and on day three Warwickshire declared on 453/4, Rob Yates having made 128, Sam Hain 165 not out and Dan Mousley 94 from just 93 balls. Kent were then skittled out for 158, the wickets shared amongst the Warwickshire bowlers. They ended day three on 27/1 needing to bat out the final day. At 99/7 they looked finished, but a century stand between Ben Compton and Joey Evison kept the Kent hopes alive. Conor McKerr then helped Evison see out another 29.3 overs, but resistance finally ended as Evison fell for 99, with 6.3 overs left in the day’s play, Warwickshire winning by an innings and 14 runs.
The remaining Division One fixture saw Essex taking on Lancashire at Chelmsford. Lancashire chose to bat first and struggled against a pace attack led by Sam Cook, who finished with 5/42. Lancashire had been reduced to 86/6, before 20-year-old George Bell (60) marshalled the tail and saw them through to a final total of 207. The Essex innings saw the match-up between Sir Alastair Cook and James Anderson and it was the latter who came out on top, trapping the ex-England captain lbw for 16. Anderson finished with 4/70 as Matt Critchley (78) helped Essex to a 12 run first innings lead. Batting became easier second time around as Lancashire declared on 351/7, Keaton Jennings falling just short of a century. Essex were left with a target of 340 from 68 overs and Anderson again got the better of Cook, trapping him lbw for 0. However, they were able to hold out for the draw, finishing on 128/4.
Only two matches started in Division Two. At Chester-le-Street some aggressive declarations allowed the game to reach a positive conclusion, with the home side coming out on top. Durham were inserted and declared on 425/9, David Bedingham making 118. In reply, Worcestershire declared on 366/5, 59 runs behind, Jack Haynes finishing on 134 not out. Durham then scored at a run-a-ball, declaring on 254/4, Scott Borthwick making an undefeated 108. This left Worcestershire with a target of 314 from 70 overs. Two quick wickets immediately put them on the back foot and 5/35 from Matt Kuhnemann meant that the final wicket fell with 5.2 overs of the day’s play remaining, with Worcestershire still 121 runs behind. Matty Potts finished with six wickets in the match.
Leicestershire hosted Derbyshire in a game severely impacted upon by the weather. The game finished late on the final day only because the teams were still chasing first innings bonus points. Leicestershire’s confident start to the season continued as, despite being inserted, they amassed a first innings total of 451/ 9 declared, gaining maximum batting bonus points. Lewis Hill finished on 162 not out and Colin Ackermann made 114, as they shared a 193 third wicket partnership. Derbyshire did not get to start their first innings until just before tea on the final day and finished on 254/7, Brooke Guest making 92 and Chris Wright taking 4/38.
With each team having played two matches in Division One it is all very even, with seven of the counties having notched up a win. In Division Two, Leicestershire, Durham, Worcestershire and Sussex each have a win to their name, and it is last year’s basement team, the Foxes, who are on top. Fortunately, the weather looks set fair for the coming week, and we look forward to some uninterrupted play in the next round of matches.