Week 8 Vitality County Championship Review

Week 8 Vitality County Championship Review

We are now half way through the County Championship competition, although only a third of the way through the cricket season and with the temperatures hopefully warming up, we now have two months of Blast cricket, broken up by two rounds of Championship matches. Clearly someone thinks it’s a good idea, although we are not sure anyone has identified who that person is.

However, just as we had thought the tables were sorting themselves out, the latest round has thrown up some unexpected results, not least of which was the record defeat of leaders Surrey by Hampshire, inside three days. Surrey have looked imperious so far this season while Hampshire have struggled, despite recording a win last week against Nottinghamshire. The Rose Bowl has been a bat first ground this summer, with spin the dominant bowling force and it was no surprise when Rory Burns followed suit when he won the toss. This game was played on a used pitch and it certainly had the effect of encouraging spin. Liam Dawson was bowling by the 10th over and he first dismissed Dom Sibley for 11 and then removed Ollie Pope (15) and Burns (33) in successive overs, to have Surrey 67/3. It was then the turn of Kyle Abbott and Michael Neser to run through the rest of the Surrey batting, the visitors all out for 127. Abbott’s 5/25 means he is now the highest wicket at the Rose Bowl, surpassing Dimi Mascarenhas’ 186 victims. The skies brightened as the Hampshire openers, Toby Albert and Fletcha Middleton, took the field mid-afternoon and they were determined to bat long. Their 50 partnership came off 140 balls, Middleton (35) falling shortly after, but Nick Gubbins was equally resolute and he and Albert took the score to 252, both making centuries. Albert was only in the starting eleven because of Ali Orr being sidelined with back problems and was determined to make the most of his opportunity. Gubbins had returned to the side after celebrating the birth of his second child during the last week. The dismissal of these two did not provide any respite to the Surrey bowlers as Ben Brown then scored an unbeaten 165 and Liam Dawson 81, the innings finishing on 608/6 declared. The one disappointment will be that the pace of scoring meant they only managed two batting bonus points. When Surrey batted for the second time, Dawson was joined by Felix Organ in the wicket-taking, the pair picking up five and four wickets respectively as Surrey were all out for 203, still 278 runs short of making Hampshire bat again, their highest ever innings defeat. Ben Foakes put up the most stubborn resistance, batting 107 balls for his 19 not out, a brave effort having not been able to keep wicket because of back spasms.

Last week’s second placed side Somerset, were also brought back down to earth, this time by Durham, the bowling of Ben Stokes doing the damage. He finished with match figures of 8/77 and the other Division One sides will be hoping that this will be the end of his Test preparations. Somerset were asked to bat first at Chester-le-Street and Tom Abell replaced Sean Dickson at the top of the order. He was bowled by Ben Raine for 4 and then Stokes dismissed Matt Renshaw and Tom Lammonby, both caught behind. The only significant score was Migael Pretorius with 53, but he was struck on the helmet during his innings and was eventually replaced by Jake Ball as a concussion substitute. Somerset were all out for 171, Stokes ending with 4/54 and Raine and Peter Siddle with three wickets each. David Bedingham’s fourth century in four consecutive innings, then helped Durham to 265, Ollie Robinson and Raine both scoring 46, while Jake Ball took his first fifer for his new county. Durham ended on 265, Stokes’ success with the ball not matched with the bat as he went for a duck. Somerset were then rolled over for just 88 in their second innings, just three batters making double figures and the game was finished before tea on day two. Stokes took 4/23 and Raine 3/26, with Tom Banton too unwell to bat. The win sees Durham move up to fifth place.

Essex took the opportunity to close right up on Surrey as they beat Kent by an innings and 96 runs down at Canterbury. Electing to bat first, a double century from Jordan Cox, alongside runs from Shane Snater (83*), Michael Pepper (82), Dean Elgar (77) and Nick Browne (65), enabled them to declare on 591/7. Kent were hampered by an injury to Wes Agar, who was only able to bowl seven overs. Runs from all the Kent batters, Joe Denly (87) and Harry Finch (85) the only two to pass 50, saw them to 394 all out at the end of day three, Matt Critchley taking 5/88 with his leg spin. Kent were asked to follow on, needing to bat out the final day. Shane Snater dismissed Zak Crawley cheaply, to end a disappointing five games for the England opener in which apart from his magnificent 238, his other nine innings produced just 84 runs, half of them in one innings. A mixture of spin and seam, alongside some questionable umpiring decisions, then worked its way through the Kent batting, Denly putting up the longest resistance with 23 off 73 balls, before he was the eighth man out, losing patience against Simon Harmer and chipping the ball to mid wicket. Harmer and Critchley took the last two wickets to leave Kent 101 all out, Harmer finishing with 4/32 and Kent. Essex are now just two runs behind Surrey and 14 points ahead of Somerset, while Kent fall below Lancashire and look like being in another relegation battle.

At Old Trafford, Lancashire were looking to jump out of the relegation zone as they took on Warwickshire. The start was delayed by overnight rain, but when play got underway at 2:10 the visitors chose to bat first and their skipper, Alex Davies was back in the runs after a sequence of lower scores. He made an unbeaten 127 off 296 balls, batting through the innings, his scoring hampered by the steady fall of wickets around him. They were in trouble at 93/4 before 40 from Jacob Bethell helped put on 74 for the fifth wicket and Davies marshalled the lower order through to a final total of 284. The wickets were shared amongst the bowlers, Tom Bailey taking 3/49. Lancashire then struggled with the bat, George Bell top-scoring with 40 as the Bears’ spin duo of Jacob Bethell (4/20) and Jake Lintott (3/11) helped roll them over for 149. This was the third time Lancashire have failed to reach 150 in their first innings this season. Warwickshire ended day three on 96/3 and the players were unable to get onto the field until 3:14 on the final afternoon, at which point Warwickshire declared. This left a possible 44 overs left in the game, Lancashire needing 232 to win and they promptly set about the target. They were 89/4 from 15 overs when further rain took the players off at 4:30 and no further play was possible.

Worcestershire were back at New Road for the first time this season to take on Nottinghamshire, but the problems with flooding were back to haunt them with no play possible on day one. They finally got underway after lunch on day two and the Pears were asked to bat first on a pitch that aided the bowlers. The Nottinghamshire seam attack took full advantage, as Worcestershire were all out for 80 inside 32 overs, the wickets shared amongst the four bowlers used. The Notts batters then found life easier, particularly Haseeb Hameed, who notched up his second century of the season as they reached 234/3 by the end of day two. Unfortunately further rain meant that no play was possible on days three and four and clearly this will further reinforce the idea that a move from New Road is needed.

The top two sides in Division Two met at Lords and Sussex, having been asked to bat first, took control thanks to centuries from Cheteshwar Pujara (129) and John Simpson (167), The Middlesex bowlers, with Henry Brookes having replaced Toby Roland-Jones, kept the scoring in check, limiting the visitors to three batting bonus points. They declared at 554/9 and then it was the turn of the Middlesex batters to take advantage of the flat deck, centuries from Sam Robson (136) and Ryan Higgins (106), alongside 91 from Nathan Fernandes and runs from the lower order allowing Middlesex to bat out the remainder of the game. The contest reached the stage where Ollie Robinson was bowling off spin and Middlesex ended on 613/9. As with Sussex, their slow rate of scoring produced just three batting bonus points, but the two sides remain clear at the top, Sussex extending their lead by a point.

Leicestershire, with six draws so far this season, hosted Glamorgan at the County Ground. Both sides have strong batting line ups, but less threatening bowling and that was highlighted by the home side’s inability to take advantage of a very green pitch. Lewis Hill won the toss and put Glamorgan in, wayward bowling allowing Eddie Byrom (86) and Billy Root (40) to put on 90 for the first wicket. Kiran Carlson (80) and Sam Northeast (61) added further runs in the middle order and when the tail took the score to 387, it looked an above par score. Leicestershire were not helped by the loss of Tom Scriven to a hamstring injury, having only bowled four overs, although they had gone into the game with five seamers, including the newly signed Ian Holland. Scott Currie, one of the three players between the two sides who are on loan from Hampshire, was the pick of the bowlers, capturing his first fifer. Glamorgan had Timm van der Gugten, their leading wicket taker from last summer, back in the side for his first match of the season and although the heavy roller had taken much of the life out of the pitch, the Glamorgan bowlers also failed to take full advantage of still helpful conditions. Van der Gugten and Mir Hamza reduced Leicestershire to 65/3, but then Lewis Hill (92) and Peter Handscomb put on 141 for the fourth wicket. Handscomb went to his century, before being trapped lbw by van der Gugten, who was the pick of the Glamorgan bowlers, finishing with 5/65. Mir Hamza also picked up a hamstring injury in the latter half of day two, so both attacks were down a bowler, significantly reducing the chance of a result. The Foxes declared on 343/9, just before tea on day three, but only nine overs were bowled before heavy rain ended play, Glamorgan 14/1. Batting became trickier on day four, with the ball holding up and keeping low, but Glamorgan reached 157/4 before one of a number of rain interruptions finally halted play just after 4pm. Both sides took 13 points from the game, Leicestershire remaining in third place.

Northamptonshire captain Luke Procter put Yorkshire into bat on a green pitch at the County Ground and Adam Lyth, as so many times before, was the main contributor, notching up his 35th first class century. Half centuries from Shan Masood (50) and Jordan Thompson (53) saw Yorkshire to 362. Yorkshire were without Ben Coad and Matt Fisher and with the injuries to Matt Milnes and Mickey Edwards, have brought in Sri Lankan left arm seamer Vishwa Fernando for their next three Championship matches. The Northants innings was built around a century from Luke Procter, his first in almost two years, as he helped take them to 301, Fernando mopping up the tail, finishing with 4/48. Northants were without the services of Jack White in the Yorkshire second innings, a blow for the pace bowler as this was his first game of the season, because of injury. The inconsistency of the Yorkshire performances was then highlighted as they slipped to 146/5, but an unbeaten century from Masood, batting with an injured right wrist having been struck by Sanderson, allowed them to declare on 264/6, leaving them 71 overs to dismiss Northants, who were chasing 326 for the win. Northants had four overs to face before lunch and then lost Emilio Gay to the first ball of the afternoon session, but both sides went after what would have been their first wins of the season. Ricardo Vasconcelos was the only Northants batter who hung around, while for Yorkshire, who had gone into this game with an all seam attack, it fell to Lyth’s off spin to fill in and he duly obliged, taking 4/56. Northants hopes of a win were scuppered by the fall of wickets and further time lost to rain and when Sanderson became the sixth batter to fall for a single figure score, Northants were 219/8 with six overs left. The good news was that Vasconselos was still there and he and Siddarth Kaul held out, Vasconselos finishing with an excellent 129.

Derbyshire go into the break in a much better frame of mind than previous performances would have left them, as they posted their highest score of the season so far against promotion chasing Gloucestershire. Choosing to bat first, a maiden double century from Matt Lamb and 95 from Brooke Guest took them to 526 and maximum batting bonus points. Anuj Dal and Aneurin Donald contributed 60’s, Donald’s 67 coming off just 59 balls, while Beau Webster finished with 6/100. Despite reducing Gloucestershire to 131/4, the Derbyshire bowling was plundered by James Bracey (144) and Graeme van Buuren (187) who put on a record fifth wicket partnership of 277, beating that of WG Grace and WO Moberly set in 1876. The innings finished at lunchtime on day four, 530 all out and it was then a matter of Derbyshire batting out the day. This they did, declaring on 166/4, before the sides shook hands.

With the surprise defeat of Surrey alongside Durham’s defeat of Somerset the Championship title has opened up. Essex’s win will be a huge boost for them going into the Blast and you are hard pressed to think the title will not be between them and Surrey again. At the bottom it looks like being another struggle for Kent to stay up, while Lancashire look the most likely team to join them, as they continue to struggle to score runs.

In Division Two wins remain difficult to achieve and Sussex and Middlesex remain clear favourites to go up. The gap between the first and second divisions seems to be widening, particularly when it comes to bowling.

Current Championship tables:

LV County Championship Division One

PosTeamPlayedWonLostDrawnBattingBowlingDeductPoints
1Surrey741216190115
2Essex741215180113
3Somerset72141619099
4Hampshire72141013285
5Durham7214911083
6Nottinghamshire71241120079
7Warwickshire70251918077
8Worcestershire70251317070
9Lancashire 7133816064
10Kent7133714061

LV County Championship Division Two

PosTeamPlayedWonLostDrawnBattingBowlingDeductPoints
1Sussex731320192109
2Middlesex72051415089
3Leicestershire70072115092
4Gloucestershire71152014090
5Northamptonshire70161817083
6Glamorgan71151214082
7Yorkshire70251621077
8Derbyshire70161211170

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