Due to the vagaries of the county scheduling not all teams have played the same number of matches as the first batch of Championship fixtures is concluded, but there is no doubt about the front runners in the two divisions.
Surrey claimed their fourth win of the season, dispatching Kent by 10 wickets. Three wickets a piece for Dan Worrall, Jordan Clark and Tom Lawes restricted Kent to 278, after they had been put into bat. They were indebted to Joey Evison (77 not out) and Michael Hogan (43), who put on 82 for the final wicket. In reply Surrey made 362, debutant Arafat Bhuiyan, a graduate of the South Asian Cricket Academy (SACA), taking 4/65. Surrey also relied on runs from their lower order, Sean Abbott making 78 and Gus Atkinson 55 not out. Kent then collapsed to 141 all out, Lawes taking 5/22 and Surrey reached the target of 57 without incident.
Hampshire also enjoyed a comfortable win inside three days against struggling Northamptonshire. 95 from James Vince and 63 from Liam Dawson saw Hampshire to 367, Jack White taking 4/80. Northamptonshire were then skittled out for just 56, Keith Barker taking 4/13 and when asked to follow on, 6/61 from Dawson meant they only managed 176 and were unable to make Hampshire bat again. The Northamptonshire batters will need to find some form if they are to avoid relegation as they currently have just one batting bonus point from six games. Meanwhile Hampshire have joined Warwickshire on 79 points, although they have played a game more and both are now 25 points behind Surrey.
Somerset had their first win of the season, defeating Middlesex by an innings and 13 runs at Lord’s. A century from George Bartlett took Somerset to a first innings total of 404, before Matt Henry’s 5/45 helped dismiss Middlesex for 175. Following on, Middlesex made 216, Craig Overton taking 5/46. Middlesex’s batting frailties seem to have reappeared as they drop into the relegation battle in Division One and they added to their woes with the loss of a bonus point due to a slow over rate.
In the remaining Division One match Nottinghamshire and Essex met at Trent Bridge. Having been asked to bat first, half centuries from Sir Alastair Cook and Tom Westley saw Essex to 298, the wickets shared between Brett Hutton, Stuart Broad and Dane Paterson. 177 from the bat of Matthew Montgomery helped Nottinghamshire to 442 and Essex will rue dropping him on 0 and 4. With 159 overs left in the game, on a good pitch, a tame draw looked the most likely outcome as runs from Cook (99), Westley (95) and Dan Lawrence (52) took Essex to relative safety at 362/8 by tea on day four. However, Westley threw the gauntlet down to Nottinghamshire and declared leaving a target of 219 from a minimum of 39 overs. Despite Essex’s strong bowling attack, this looked very gettable, and it was difficult to see how Essex could hope to take ten wickets. However, the bowlers rose to the challenge and Sam Cook had removed both openers with the score on 12. Nottinghamshire were never able to get going, but despite two wickets from Simon Harmer the captains shook hands with five overs remaining, Nottinghamshire finishing on 97/4. They took 11 points from the game to Essex’s seven, the two teams sitting in the middle of the table.
In Division Two, Worcester bounced back from their poor performance in Cardiff last week by defeating Leicestershire. Leicestershire batted first and made 173 thanks to a half century from captain Colin Ackerman. In reply, 5/32 from Chris Wright helped dismiss Worcestershire for just 83, but the Pears fought back by bowling Leicestershire out for 180, Joe Leach taking 5/41. Worcestershire still needed 271, but half centuries from Adam Hose and Gareth Roderick saw them home. While this is Leicestershire’s first defeat of the season, they have struggled over recent weeks and will be glad of the break for the T20s.
At Bristol, Durham were made to work by a Gloucestershire side that has yet to register a win in Division Two, but the visitors eventually won by 125 runs. Durham made 445 having chosen to bat first, Graham Clark scoring 100 and Bas de Leede 65. Half centuries from Marcus Harris and Ben Charlesworth then saw Gloucestershire to 292, Ajaz Patel taking 5/113. As they have done all season, Durham then chose the aggressive option and raced to 272/4 from just 48 overs, Michael Jones making 121 off 148 balls. They declared at tea on day three and proceeded to bowl Gloucestershire out for 300, despite Harris carrying his bat for 122. Patel took his second fifer of the match, while Potts’ six wickets are a timely reminder to the England selectors, especially given the injury concerns to James Anderson and Ollie Robinson.
The final match between Sussex and Glamorgan ended in a draw as Glamorgan set club records to hold out in spite of a 358 run first innings deficit. Life was a made easier for them when Ollie Robinson left the field an hour into day three with an ankle injury which ended his participation in the game. Glamorgan were inserted on the first morning and the Sussex seamers took full advantage of some bowler-friendly conditions to bowl them out for 123. Robison took 4/29 and Aristides Karvelas 3/30. Sussex then posted 481 thanks to a maiden first class century from the bat of James Coles and 89 from Steve Smith, in his only home game of the season for Sussex. Glamorgan began their second innings after tea on day two, by which time batting had become easier. Stand in opener Zain ul Hassan, another product of the SACA, put on 91 with Eddie Byrom for the first wicket, but Glamorgan were on the back foot when he and Sam Northeast were out to successive deliveries from Jack Carson. That brought Kiran Carlson out to join Marnus Labuschagne and Sussex will rue dropping him on 3. They put on 288 for the fourth wicket before Labuschagne was out for 138. By the end of day three Glamorgan had reached 499/5, a lead of 141, Carlson not out on 187. He was only able to add a further five runs on the final day, but the Glamorgan lower order saw them to safety, led by Michael Neser who was last man out for 123. Glamorgan eventually posted their second highest ever total of 737 and it just left Sussex to bat an over before they shook hands. Sussex took 12 points from the game and are now 29 points behind Durham with Glamorgan taking seven to join Worcestershire in third place.
Surrey look strong contenders to defend their Championship crown, but Warwickshire will be able to close the gap with their game in hand. Meanwhile Northamptonshire and Kent look the sides under pressure at the bottom of Division One. Durham go from strength to strength at the top of Division Two, with the contest now seeming to be for the second promotion spot. Sussex lead the chasing pack and look very capable of maintaining their position.
LV County Championship Division One
LV County Championship Division Two