There were no major surprises in this week’s results, with all the matches reaching a positive conclusion. With the exception of Durham, wins in Division Two have been hard to come by, but there is a suggestion that the latest batch of Dukes balls are more bowler-friendly, with a harder seam meaning they move about for longer. It may also be that counties are producing some more results pitches in the hunt for 16 point hauls as the season draws to a close.
Surrey maintained their lead over Essex at the top of Division One, both teams winning their matches, Surrey against Warwickshire and Essex against Middlesex. Despite wins for Hampshire and Lancashire, Essex are now the only side who can catch Surrey. Lancashire could theoretically reach 206 points with three wins with maximum points, but Surrey would need just two points from their remaining two games to stay ahead. Warwickshire put in a disappointing performance against the leaders, as they bid to stay in the title race. They had lost by an innings and 97 runs by 10:45 on day three, with Ben Foakes again showing that he is perfectly capable of scoring important runs, his century helping Surrey to a first innings total of 396, after they had been put into bat. Foakes has now scored 660 first class runs this season at 44.00 with three centuries. Warwickshire were then dismissed for 161, Kemar Roach taking 4/64 and Dan Worrall 3/34 and then having been asked to follow on, were skittled out for 138, Worrall taking 5/25 and Jordan Clark 4/26.
Essex elected to bat first against Middlesex and the opening pair of Sir Alastair Cook and Nick Browne both scored half centuries as they took the opening partnership to 122. 21-year-old off-spinner, Josh De Caires (son of Michael Atherton) then led a fight back, ending with career-best figures of 8/106. Essex finished on 304 and then the batting frailties Middlesex have suffered all season recurred as they were dismissed for 179, Jamie Porter taking 6/34. Half centuries from Cook and Matt Critchley helped Essex to build a 444 run lead before Middlesex were bowled out for just 147 second time around, Simon Harmer bagging 5/43. This was Harmer’s third five-wicket haul of the season, taking him to a total of 51, 16 wickets ahead of the next spinner, Liam Dawson.
Hampshire enjoyed a comfortable 185 run victory over Somerset but are now 49 points adrift of Surrey with only 48 points available from their remaining two games. Choosing to bat first, a century from Dawson saw them to 308. Jack Brooks, now 39-years-old, took 5/56. In reply Somerset stumbled to 137, Andrew Umeed backing up his impressive One-Day Cup performances with the top score of 43, while Keith Barker took 5/32. A century from Nick Gubbins then allowed Hampshire to set a formidable target of 502. Somerset fell well short at 316, Dawson taking 4/85. Despite the defeat, Somerset sit safely above the relegation battle.
Northamptonshire’s faint hopes of staying up were dealt a further blow as they lost by an innings and 26 runs to Lancashire. Put into bat, they made 232 thanks to a half century from Sam Whiteman, the wickets being shared amongst the Lancashire bowlers. In reply the red rose county put the opposition bowling to the sword, Josh Bohannon making 175 and 22-year-old all-rounder George Balderson continuing his impressive run with the bat as he scored 115, batting at eight. This was his second century of the season, and he has now made 634 runs at 63.4. Despite another half century from Whiteman in the Northamptonshire second innings, they could only manage 266, off-spinner Luke Wells taking 5/25 and it was not enough to make Lancashire bat again.
Durham continued their march to the Division Two title with a seven wicket win against Sussex and while there is still a mathematical chance for Worcestershire or Leicestershire to catch them the trophy is effectively theirs. Sussex chose to bat first and half centuries from the top three batters took them to 144/2. However, four wickets from loanee Matt Parkinson and three from Ben Raine, saw the final eight wickets fall for 122 runs, Sussex ending on 266. Alex Lees fifth century of the season, alongside a century form Graham Clark and a maiden first class hundred for Bas de Leede took Durham to 505/9 declared and their seventh maximum batting bonus points haul of the season. Lees now has 1281 Championship runs at 75.35, 104 clear of the impressive James Rew, who lies second in the runs scored table. Second time around, half centuries from Cheteshwar Pujara, Oli Clark and Fyn Hudson- Prentice took Sussex to 295, but that just left a target of 57 for the Durham batters. Parkinson ended with match figures of 8/138.
In the battle between second and third the Worcestershire bowlers eventually held sway as Worcestershire defeated Glamorgan by 80 runs inside three days. Put into bat Worcestershire were in trouble at 110/6, three wickets from Jamie McIlroy and two from James Harris. However, Brett D’Oliveira, fit again after suffering a should dislocation and Logan van Beek in his debut first class game for the Pears, put on 104 for the seventh wicket. Van Beek was eventually out for 53 and then Ben Allison (37), on loan from Essex, helped his skipper get Worcestershire to an ultimately match-winning total of 284, D’Oliveira left undefeated on 74. The Worcestershire bowlers were then able to find some useful movement, particularly from the older ball, dismissing Glamorgan for 170. Van Beek backed up his batting with 4/42, while Dillon Pennington took 3/43. When Worcestershire came to bat again, Glamorgan were hampered by a hamstring injury to Timm van der Gugten, picked up in the first innings, but an excellent effort from Jamie McIlroy, taking 5/34 to add to his 3/41 in the first innings and James Harris with 3/39 meant Worcestershire were dismissed for just 145. A target of 260 was always going to be difficult with conditions still favouring the seam bowlers, but Glamorgan would have felt that with the strength of their batting, they were in with a shout. However, as in the first innings, it was only Billy Root who put up any significant resistance, finishing on 84 not out and Glamorgan were dismissed for 179, van Beek taking 4/42.
Worcestershire needed the win as Leicestershire continued their fine run of performances since the end of the Blast competition with a win against Gloucestershire. The Foxes will be buoyant having secured their place in the One-Day cup final and it was their bowlers who set up the victory, dismissing Gloucestershire for just 159 in their first innings. Only five days earlier Leicestershire had bowled out the same opposition for 125 in the semi-final of the One-Day cup, but at 75/1 at lunch on day one Gloucestershire seemed to have put that behind them. However, 4/30 from Tom Scriven and 3/30 from Chris Wright saw the home side into the driving seat. 73 from the in-form Rishi Patel then helped the Foxes to 204, Zaman Akhter taking 4/46. Second time around, Gloucestershire were soon in trouble at 10/2, but a third wicket stand between Ben Charlesworth (33) and Miles Hammond (46) of 70 helped steady the ship. There were also some lower order runs from Akhter (40), but 4/61 from Wiann Mulder and 3/43 from Scriven ended Gloucestershire’ innings on 212. 62 not out from Lewis Hill and 93 not out from Colin Ackerman then saw Leicestershire home by eight wickets.
In the remaining game between the bottom two clubs, Derbyshire and Yorkshire, the white rose county came out on top by 277 runs. Asked to bat first, Yorkshire reached 297 thanks to runs right all down the order, while Anuj Dal took 5/72. In reply, a half century for 20-year-old opener Mitchell Wagstaff, in his second first class game and 93 from Wayne Madsen saw Derbyshire to 247. Yorkshire took control of the game when they came out to bat for the second time, Shan Masood making 86 and Matthew Revis 106 (his second first class century) as they posted 520/9 declared, setting Derbyshire an improbable target of 571. The declaration came just after tea on day three and Derbyshire survived until half way through the afternoon session on the final day, all out for 293. Madsen top scored with 93, while Dom Bess took 4/79.
Essex now trail Surrey by 18 points with 48 points still up for grabs. Interestingly both have games left against Northamptonshire and Hampshire, with wins against Northants the most likely outcomes. It may then come down to whether Hampshire can create an upset against Surrey in the last round. At the bottom, Nottinghamshire, Middlesex, Kent and Northamptonshire each have three games to play and while they are all still at risk of going down, it looks like coming down to Northamptonshire plus Kent or Middlesex. In Division Two Durham are going up and while Worcestershire are favourites for the second spot, Leicestershire are on a roll. They do have the distraction of the One Day cup final coming up, for which Hampshire will start firm favourites, but nothing would be a surprise given the way their season has gone.
Current Championship tables:
LV County Championship Division One
LV County Championship Division Two