Week 7 Vitality County Championship Review

Week 7 Vitality County Championship Review

Surrey stay in command at the top of Division One while Sussex are back on track in Divison Two

There are many influences that come to bear in how a game of cricket pans out, but the huge variation in outcomes is sometimes difficult to comprehend. All 18 counties were thankfully in action this week, as they will be for the remaining rounds, but in two matches 17 wickets fell on day one, while in another just two were captured. It is one of the reasons we go and watch cricket, in particular the red-ball variety, but who would be a groundsman?

Some things are more predictable and a strong performance from Surrey is one of them, as they overcame a poor start to secure a comfortable win against Worcestershire. The Oval was one of the grounds where 17 wickets fell, Surrey having been asked to bat first. The decision was based on a significant grass covering on the pitch and three wickets from Joe Leach and one from Nathan Smith reduced the home side to 15/4. Ollie Pope (63) and Dan Lawrence (84) then steadied the ship, putting on 148 for the fifth wicket. Jordan Clark finished with 42 not out, while none of the other Surrey batters reached double figures and they were all out for 213. When Worcestershire batted conditions were still helpful for the bowlers and Daniel Worrall was the main benefactor, his 6/22 helping roll Worcestershire over for 128, Matthew Waite top-scoring with 35. Things were easier by the time Surrey came to bat for the second time and runs from Rory Burns (70), Jamie Smith (72), Lawrence (87) and Clark (98) saw them to 427, setting Worcestershire 513 to win. South Asian Cricket Academy graduate Yadvinder Singh took 4/103 in his maiden first-class game, while Matthew Waite took 3/69 to add to his three wickets in the first innings. Surrey had now taken control of the game and Worrall was again Worcestershire’s main tormenter, taking 3/13 in an opening nine over spell and the Pears were soon 75/7. Nathan Smith with 60 and Ben Gibbon with 75 gave some respectability to the score, but the final margin of victory was 281 runs and Surrey stay clear at the top.

Essex kept up the challenge with a four wicket win against Warwickshire at Chelmsford, a result that looked unlikely after conceding a first innings deficit of 235. The visitors chose to bat first and at 104/6 it was looking the wrong choice. However, as at the Oval, there was a fight back this time by Ed Barnard (165) and Michael Burgess (108) who put on 209 for the seventh wicket, helping take Warwickshire to a final total of 397. The Bears’ new overseas signing Michael Rae was then the first to strike with the ball, removing Feroze Khushi with the score on 16. He has been signed on a short term deal due to injuries to Chris Rushworth, Liam Norwell, Craig Miles and Aamir Jamal, while Hasan Ali has been called up by Pakistan. Three wickets from Che Simmons (the 20-year-old playing his first first-class game) and Rob Yates and two from Oliver Hannon-Dalby and Rae restricted the home side to 162. Essex then fought back through the spin duo of Simon Harmer (4/24) and Matt Critchley (3/28), dismissing Warwickshire for just 94, Rob Yates (28) the only batter to pass 14. Essex still needed 330 to win and two quick wickets from Rae reduced them to 12/2. Tom Westley (18) hung around with Dean Elgar (60) to take the score to 65/3, but the main partnership was between Jordan Cox (112) and Critchley (99*) which saw Essex to 288/5. Cox and then Michael Pepper fell in quick succession, but Critchley saw them safely home before lunch on day four. The result sees Essex keep up the challenge on Surrey, although they have fallen behind Somerset.

At Taunton, Kent chose to bowl first on what turned out to be an excellent batting surface, although Sean Dickson’s struggles continued as he went for a duck. Matt Renshaw (40) and Tom Lammonby (69) took the score to 75/2 and then centuries from Tom Banton and James Rew and 77 from skipper Lewis Gregory helped Somerset to maximum batting bonus points and a final total of 554. Kent were then dismissed for 178, the wickets shared amongst the Somerset bowlers, Jack Leach, in his first game of the season, taking 2/22. Joe Denly top scored with 61. Kent were then asked to follow on and it became the Zac Crawley show as he made 238, including partnerships of 194 with Ben Compton (65) and 184 with Daniel Bell-Drummond (62). Denly (67) then added 165 with the tail, taking the total to 564, leaving Somerset needing 189 from a minimum of 59 overs. Dickson again fell cheaply, but Renshaw (82*) and Andrew Umeed (73*) saw them home with eight wickets and 15 overs to spare. The win, with maximum bonus points moves Somerset above Essex into second place, 18 points behind Surrey.

Lancashire hosted Durham at Blackpool, a game that attracted plenty of attention with the selection of Ben Stokes in the Durham side. Lancashire were put into bat and Stokes bowled 18 overs, taking 2/71, as Lancashire made a better start than in recent games thanks to a century from Keaton Jennings. They finished on 357, Matty Potts and Ben Raine each taking three wickets, albeit Potts going for 100 runs from his 22 overs. Lancashire then put up a strong performance with the ball, 20-year-old seamer Tom Aspinall, in just his second first class game, taking 5/41, including a spell of 4/16 to wrap up the innings. That spell started with the key wicket of David Bedingham whose 101 was the main score. Nathan Lyons also took 4/59, including the wicket of Stokes (2) as Durham were dismissed for 236, to trail by 121 runs on the first innings. Not content with one century, Jennings then repeated the performance when Lancashire batted again, Potts struggling as he went for 25 in the three overs he bowled in the innings. Jennings ended with 155 as Lancashire declared on 353/9, Stokes taking 5/98 from 20 overs. Durham were left needing 475 to win from 129 overs and made a steady start with an opening stand of 83 between Alex Lees (40) and Scott Borthwick (39). Three wickets then fell for the addition of just 14 runs, before Bedingham and Ollie Robinson came together. Both posted centuries (the second of the game for Bedingham) as they put on 216 for the fourth wicket. Lyons dismissed Bedingham for 103 and Stokes scored just 18 before he was bowled by Luke Wells’ off-spin. It was then a matter of whether anyone could hang around long enough with Robinson to give Durham a chance and they couldn’t. George Balderson took four of the last five wickets to fall and Durham ended on 414, Robinson stranded on 171 not out. The margin of victory was 60 runs and this result will give Lancashire a huge lift after what has been a wretched start to the season, even though they still languish at the bottom of the table.

At Trent Bridge Hampshire made a start in trying to get their season back on track with a five wicket win against Nottinghamshire. Choosing to bowl first, they reduced Notts to 50/6, before Lyndon James played the only significant innings, with support from the lower order and his 106 helped take the home side to 235. It could have been much better for Hampshire if they had held onto their chances, with James dropped on 23 and 32. Mohammad Abbas finished with 4/49 and Kyle Abbott 3/39. Hampshire’s reply was hampered by the absence of Tom Prest, who was injured while fielding and the two Notts quicks, Olly Stone with 4/62 and Dillon Pennington with 3/70 pushed their names into the minds of the England selectors as they helped dismiss Hampshire for 276. The main contributors with the bat were the ever reliable Liam Dawson with 95 and Keith Barker, who in his first outing of the season, contributed 74. Barker then removed Haseeb Mameed, leaving Notts on 33/1 at the end of day two. Half centuries from Joe Clarke (57) and Jack Haynes (59) were the only significant scores as Notts limped to 209, Abbott taking another three wickets and Felix Organ adding three to the nine he has already this season. Hampshire were left needing 169 with plenty of time remaining in the game, but with five of the top six going for single figure scores, their first win of the season looked in jeopardy. However that was the end of any opportunities for the home side as Fletcha Middleton (59) and James Fuller (77) saw Hampshire home. The win lifts Hampshire up to sixth place, four points behind Notts in fourth in a very bunched mid-table behind the top three.

The most interesting encounter in Division Two was at Hove where leaders Sussex were hoping to bounce back after a disappointing loss in Cardiff last week. They faced Yorkshire who, though without Harry Brook, had Joe Root in the side for his last game of this block. On a pitch with plenty of grass, Sussex were asked to bat first and rolled over for just 150. Matthew Fisher was rested, but George Hill took 4/22 and Ben Coad 3/73. It was no easier when Yorkshire came to bat and despite the absence of Jayden Seales (groin strain), the visitors were seven down by the end of day one, with 176 runs on the board. Joe Root made the one significant contribution with 67, the only score over 40 in either of the first two innings. Sean Hunt (4/64) and Ollie Robinson (3/25) finished off the tail in the morning, the final total of 195 giving Yorkshire a 45 run lead first innings lead. Coad and Ben Thompson then had Sussex in trouble at 6/2 before Tom Alsop stood firm, ending day two on 77 not out, with Sussex on 194/7, a lead of 149. They added another 33 on the morning of day three, Coad, Jordan Thompson and Hill each taking three wickets, leaving Yorkshire a target of 183. The outcome remained in the balance throughout the innings, Adam Lyth holding firm as wickets fell around him. At 158/6, needing 25, Yorkshire looked to have things under control with Lyth well set on 73 and Matthew Revis giving support at the other end. However Robinson had other ideas and a spell of 3/2, starting with the wicket of Lyth, who was only able to fend off a short ball to John Simpson behind the stumps, wrapped things up for Sussex, winners by 21 runs. The result moves Sussex further ahead at the top of Division Two while Yorkshire’s promotion hopes are in tatters as they fall to seventh place.

Leicestershire’s skipper Lewis Hill might be giving Nasser Hussein a call to have a chat about getting over making the wrong decision at the toss, with Gloucestershire scoring their highest ever first class score of 706/6 at Leicester. Cameron Bancroft (160) and Ben Charlesworth (126) put on a 316 run opening stand and Graeme van Buuren also made a century with James Bracey scoring 92. The Gloucestershire attack was weakend by the absence of Ajeet Singh Dale (rested) and Marchant de Lange (injured ankle). Zafar Gohar was also left out to allow the selection of Australian all-rounder Beau Webster, while Matt Taylor returned, having recovered from a toe injury. Leg spinner Ed Middleton and Luke Charlesworth both made their first appearances of the season and it was Taylor who struck first in the Foxes innings, trapping Marcus Harris lbw for five. Rishi Patel and Louis Kimber put on 67 for the second wicket, but then wickets fell regularly. Scott Currie came in as nightwatchman on day two to join Patel and they were still there at lunch the next day, by which time Patel had reached his first century of the season. He went for 117 and Currie was eventually dismissed for 72 from 236 balls. Leicestershire were finally all out for 371, but had kept the Gloucestershire bowlers in the field for 122.3 overs. Asked to follow on they needed to bat another 109 overs and ended day three on 24/0. Runs and more importantly balls faced all down the order saw them to safety on day four, Peter Handscomb top-scoring with 81. Leicestershire ended on 377/7 and Gloucestershire had to settle for 14 points.

In Cardiff, Middlesex kept up their challenge for a top two finish with a nail-biter of a win against Glamorgan. Having been ahead for the first three days, Middlesex let things slip on the morning of the final day as a 61 run eighth wicket partnership between Zain ul-Hassan (34) and Mason Crane (48) allowed Glamorgan to set the visitors a target of 213 from 69 overs on a pitch that appeared to have flattened out, albeit stroke play was problematic. At 102/1 they looked in command, Mark Stoneman playing comfortably on 39 not out. However Mason Crane then started spinning the ball square and his second five wicket haul of the season helped reduce Middlesex to 161/8, still needing 52 runs. Tom Helm joined Jack Davies and Helm looked more comfortable than anyone against Crane as he used his long reach to nullify the spin. The two saw their side home with an unbeaten 52 run stand, Davies ending on 22 not out and Helm 25 not out. Earlier Helm had taken seven wickets across the two Glamorgan innings, four in the first after Glamorgan had been put into bat. Marnus Labuschagne joined Eddie Byrom at the top of the order with Mia Hamza, having taken seven wickets in last week’s win, rested in order to allow both Labuschagne and Colin Ingram, the leading Championship run scorer to play. However it was the batting that failed, accurate bowling from the Middlesex seamers dismissing Glamorgan for 183. In reply, the Middlesex batters accumulated slowly, Mark Stoneman top-scoring with 129 and Ryan Higgins finishing unbeaten on 75 as they reached 343, having batted for 117 overs. James Harris has been the quickest and most effective of the Glamorgan bowlers this season and picked up 4/84. In Glamorgan’s second innings, Labuschagne and Ingram looked as though they might be able to take Glamorgan to safety, but both fell to loose shots after reaching their centuries and it was only Crane and ul Hassan who created a competitive target. It remains to be seen whether Middlesex’s slow scoring rate, not just in this game, will cost them at the end of the season, having missed out on possible batting bonus points. Nevertheless they will be grateful to come away with the win and remain in second spot.

The bottom two clubs, Northamptonshire and Derbyshire met in Derby and the visitors, who were asked to bat first, will rue what could have been. Neither side has a very strong bowling attack, although Derbyshire have added South African, Daryn Dupavillon alongside the tall Kiwi seamer, Blair Tickner and Leicestershire have brought in Siddarth Kaul. Ricardo Vasconselos (53) and Emilio Gay (45) put on 99 for the first wicket, but the main contributions came from George Bartlett (76), Rob Keogh (102) and Justin Broad (75) as Northants amassed 422. David Lloyd (8), who has moved up to open for Derbyshire in place of Harry Came, became the first of Ben Sanderson’s five scalps, but half centuries from Brooke Guest (76), Wayne Madsen (62), Matthew Lamb (52) and Ross Whitely (54), in his first game for Derbyshire in 11 years, took the home side to 362. Northants then came out to score quick runs, led by Gay with 153 from 166 balls and they reached 310/3 declared from 53 overs. This left them with 81 overs to bowl out Derbyshire, who had been set a target of 371. Lloyd again went cheaply, but there was resistance from Luis Reece (44) and Brooke Guest (33). However wickets fell steadily and Derbyshire lost Ross Whiteley on the stroke of tea to leave them on 149/7, with Northants optimistic of picking up their first win. After the break Zak Chappell joined Anuj Dal and Derbyshire can be thankful to this pair for the draw. They put on 108 for the eighth wicket and more importantly used up 31.4 overs. Chappell went for 72 and then Tickner succumbed to the new ball with 11 balls left. Those were seen out by Dal and Dupavillon, Dal having made 31 from 139 balls. Derbyshire remain at the bottom of the table while Northants have moved up to fifth, although they are further away from a promotion place in terms of points..

Clearly the pitches at the Oval and Hove had healthy coverings of grass and while assistance for bowlers is a rarity in white ball cricket, the pitch regulations for the Championship are designed to encourage pace bowling significantly quicker than medium (<75mph) alongside spin. With 20 wickets falling on day one on a green seamer at Taunton last week, it remains to be seen if any admonishments are delivered (if we will ever know).

As far as the Championship is concerned Surrey are only enhancing their favourites tag at the top of Division One, with Somerset and Essex remaining the main threat. These three have set themselves apart from the chasing clubs, the remaining seven counties separated by just 15 points. Of these, Lancashire will be feeling a lot happier with life as the battle to avoid the drop could involve all these counties.

In Division Two, Sussex have re-established their supremacy after the loss last week, with them and Middlesex looking favourites for promotion. Gloucestershire were unable to take advantage of their dominant batting display this week, but if they can field their full strength bowling attack they should be hopeful of a win against bottom placed Derbyshire in the next round.

LV County Championship Division One


LV County Championship Division Two



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