Surrey close in on the title, while Kent and Middlesex battle it out to stay up
Rain had a big impact on results this week, with a couple of games not getting started until day three. The south east was the least affected part of the country allowing games at Lord’s, Chelmsford and the Oval to start on time.
Surrey put bottom-placed Northamptonshire into bat under gloomy skies and were well on top when played ended just before six o’clock on day one, the visitors on 171/6, Karun Nair putting up the main resistance, on 51 not out. Earlier Hassan Azad had made 48 and Tom Lawes took 3/47. Justin Broad hung around the next morning, but at 193/7 Surrey would have been hoping to be batting before lunch. Nair and Tom Taylor had other ideas and the pair put on 114 for the eighth wicket. Taylor was out for 66 and then it was the Nair show as he and Jack White put on 50 for the last wicket, White contributing just 5. Nair was last out for 150 on the morning of day three, caught and bowled by Lawes, who finished with 5/105. Northamptonshire were well pleased with their 357 and it looked even better when they bowled Surrey out for just 185, Jamie Overton top-scoring with 51, while Jack White took 4/45. However the rain meant that only 83 overs were left in the game when Northamptonshire enforced the follow on and batting had become easier as Surrey saw out the rest of the match without the loss of any further wickets, finishing on 142/0 with Rory Burns on 71 and Dom Sibley on 67.
Meanwhile at Chelmsford, Essex chose to bat first against Hampshire and when both openers were back in the pavilion inside nine overs may have been regretting the decision. However runs then started to flow from the middle and lower order, with half centuries from Tom Westley (50), Matt Critchley (99), Simon Harmer (62) and Umesh Yadav (51) alongside a century from Adam Rossington. Essex declared on 447/9 at lunch on day two, Liam Dawson finishing with 3/165, but rain then restricted play to just seven more overs in the afternoon, Hampshire ending the day on 10/0. Essex looked to be taking control when Hampshire were 195/6, but an 89 run seventh wicket partnership between Tom Prest (108) and Keith Barker (42) saw Hampshire to safety. The innings ended on 334, Harmer finishing with figures of 6/149 and it was then a matter of whether Essex could force the win they needed. Tight bowling from the Hampshire bowlers, handicapped by the absence of Barker, restricted Essex’s scoring and when they declared on 153/8, the equation was that Hampshire needed 267 from 59 overs. Essex would have sniffed victory when Hampshire were 32/4, but James Vince (89) and Liam Dawson (119) took control, putting on 184 run for the fifth wicket. Hampshire finally got home with five balls and three wickets to spare, the result leaving Surrey 20 points clear at the top of the table.
In the relegation battle Middlesex faced Warwickshire at Lord’s and their batting woes persisted as, put in to bat in bowler friendly conditions, they were dismissed for 121 inside 40 overs, Joshua De Caires top-scoring with 40. Oliver Hannon-Dalby’s fine season continued as he ended with 5/29. Only 24 more overs were possible on day one, but it allowed Tim Murtagh, who had announced his retirement at the end of the season, to give Middlesex some hope as his 3/17 helped reduce Warwickshire to 72/4. Two more wickets early on day two had the visitors 95/6, but then skipper Will Rhodes, who had been watching proceedings from the other end, was joined by Danny Briggs and together they took the score to 238, Rhodes finally out for 102, his first century of the season. Briggs just failed to reach his century, ending on 99, but he helped take the Warwickshire total to 315, Murtagh finishing with 6/83. Second time around an undefeated century from Sam Robson and 57 from Ryan Higgins saw Middlesex to 251, but that just left Warwickshire needing 58 from 10 overs, which they reached with nine balls to spare. The result sees them consolidate fourth place 18 points ahead of Lancashire.
Kent moved above Middlesex thanks to a draw against Somerset. Play did not start until after lunch on day one at Taunton and it was no surprise when Jack Leaning asked Somerset to bat first. However Kent were soon on the back foot as their injury woes continued, Michael Hogan hobbling off with a hamstring injury having completed just 11.2 overs. They had already lost the services of New Zealand overseas signing Ben Lister who sustained a hamstring injury playing against England last week and chose not to go with Indian leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal. The loss of Hogan was a major blow given the inexperience of the Kent attack, Jaskaran Singh and Arafat Bhuiyan having just eight first class appearances between them and the Somerset batters took full advantage. Tom Lammonby reached his first century of the season and they finished the first day on 214/2. No play was possible on day two and when they resumed on day three it was Lewis Goldsworthy, playing his first championship game of the season, following a strong showing in the One-Day cup, who notched up another ton. Tom Kohler-Cadmore, celebrating his England call up, then plundered 68 off just 31 balls and Somerset declared on 404/4. Kent were soon in trouble at 31/4 before Joe Denly (73) restored some order to proceedings, guiding the visitors to 235. There were only 41 overs left in the game when they were asked to follow on and they were 44/2 when the teams shook hands. Kent and Middlesex are now separated by just one point, so it is all to play for.
The remaining game in Division One was hit hard by the weather, with less than 85 overs bowled at Old Trafford in the match between Lancashire and Nottinghamshire. Lancashire finished on 272/7, 19-year-old Matthew Hurst scoring an undefeated half century on his Championship debut.
In Division Two Durham secured the top spot when they dismissed Worcestershire for 313. Play did not start until after tea on day one and then only 27 overs were possible. Durham chose to bowl first, but Worcestershire were well placed at 104/1 when play ended for the day. No play was then possible on day two and the innings finished on 313 at the end of day three. Durham batted out the final day, finishing on 371/4.
Leicestershire’s promotion hopes were washed away in a game that they had hopes of winning after dismissing Yorkshire for just 155. Choosing to bowl first when play got underway after lunch on day one, they made good use of the overcast conditions and it was only Finlay Bean (40) and Shan Masood (34) who put up any significant resistance. Will Davis was the most successful of the bowlers, taking 4/28. However, no play was possible on day two and the Yorkshire innings finally ended three balls into day three. Despite the sun being out, the pitch was still aiding the bowlers and the Leicestershire batters found life equally tricky. The hero from their One-Day cup victory, Harry Swindells was the only batter to pass 50, his 73 guiding them to 233. When play ended on day three Yorkshire had reached 113/1 in their second innings and at lunch on the final day Leicestershire had made some inroads into the Yorkshire batting, with the score on 209/4, the Yorkshire lead standing at 131. However only 28 more balls were possible as rain set in and Leicestershire had to settle for eight points.
While Sussex were still mathematically capable of catching Worcestershire, their promotion chances were effectively ended by a twelve point deduction imposed due to them receiving four fixed penalties in one season. Captain Cheteshwar Pujara was also suspended for one match and with the first two days play of their match against Derbyshire washed out it was perhaps not a surprise that when they were asked to bat first, their innings collapsed to 100 all out. Zak Chappell and Sam Conners both took four wickets as Brooke Guest marked his 100th appearance for the county as a wicketkeeper by taking seven catches, to equal the record number of dismissals in an innings for Derbyshire. In reply Derbyshire reached 229/6 declared, Luis Reece top-scoring with 86, leaving two sessions to try and bowl Sussex out and capture their first win of the season. Three quick wickets gave them a glimpse of victory, but Tom Clark dug in and rain ended play shortly after tea, with Sussex on 84/3.
Surrey now need just five points from their last game to regain the Championship title, with Essex the only team that can catch them. Northamptonshire will be playing in Division Two next season with Kent and Middlesex separated by just one point in the battle for the other relegation spot. Durham have now claimed the Division Two title and Worcestershire need just three points to join them in Division One next year, Leicestershire the only county that can catch them.
Current Championship tables:
LV County Championship Division One
LV County Championship Division Two