A bit of a disappointing week in the County Championship saw plenty of rain and just two games that didn’t end in draws. Still, we can probably find something to write 1,380 words about, right?
Last year’s top two teams enjoyed very different starts to their season – Warwickshire edged past Somerset in their first game while Lancashire were thrashed by Sussex. For a long time it looked like Lancashire had put that aberration behind them, making 250 batting first in very good bowling conditions before reducing Warwickshire to 81/7. However, like most people, they hadn’t reckoned on former England legends Darren Maddy (three Tests) and Rikki Clarke (two). These two added 224 for the eighth wicket with both making hundreds as Warwickshire reached the heady heights of 329. Lancashire collapsed to 148 all out in their second innings, setting a target of just 70 that the Bears chased down after a few top-order wobbles.
It’s not been a great start for the defending champions – they sit bottom of the table – and anybody who predicted them to be relegated must be feeling pretty smug right now.
As well as being a rather decent bowler, Graham Onions is a headline writer’s wet dream. His battle against Andrew Strauss gave proper journalists across the country the opportunity to flex their creative muscles:
Obviously not everyone went for the pun option.
This was another game heavily disrupted by the great British weather. Middlesex recovered from losing Strauss for a duck in a disastrous start (2/3) to post 188. This was mainly thanks to 65 from Neil Dexter, the man who recently gave up the captaincy in order to concentrate on his burgeoning career in cutting people up and putting them into bin bags at the bottom of the ocean.
In reply Durham edged their way to 238 with Ben Stokes (45) top-scoring, giving them a crucial lead of 50. Middlesex made another rubbish start to their second innings, Strauss making just six, but the tail wagged them up to 179 all out, leaving Durham 130 to win. However the rain and Steve Finn had other ideas, with the visitors eventually finishing on a rather delicately poised 82/6.
From an England perspective there were mixed fortunes. Strauss (0 and 6) had a shocker, being cleaned up twice by the very impressive Onions, who finished with match figures of 10/73. Steve Finn also finished with 7/98, which wasn’t too shabby either.
Trent Bridge saw another game ruined by the rain, with Somerset well on top. Notts’ first innings score of 162 was almost entirely down to Chris Read, who made 104*, with no other batsman making it past 10, although Johnny Extras did make 17, not bad for a fictional character. Peter Trego (5/53) was the star with the ball. Somerset’s reply seemed to be taking place on an entirely different pitch with Arul Suppiah (124), James Hildreth (102*) and Nick Compton (204*) all piling on the runs. Samit Patel’s bowling figures were particularly hideous, going at nearly a run a ball for 21.4 overs to finish with 0/126.
Setting off 283 runs behind, things looked grim for Notts. Thankfully for them, not as grim as the weather which constantly took the players off the field before Notts finished on 169/4 with James Taylor making 38*. Aside from not winning, the main downside for Somerset was an ankle injury to Marcus Trescothick that will keep him out for around six weeks, making a mockery of Legside Lizzy’s bold preseason prediction that he ‘could have a big impact in the county championship this season’.
Another potentially close finale was ruined by the South London weather with Worcestershire 94/1 chasing 246 to win before Mother Nature decided that she’d seen enough. Like all mothers, Mother Nature is evil, seeking to attack us by any means neccesary.
The first day saw no play whatsoever before both sides exchanged paltry first innings scores (Surrey 140, Worcs 119) with Alan Richardson and Stuart Meaker both helping themselves to six wickets. Rory Hamilton-Brown then made a very fine 76 as the home side fought their way to 224. Richardson claimed another four wickets, backing up Legside Lizzy’s bold preseason prediction that he ‘could have a big impact in the county championship this season’. Worcestershire’s chase got off to a very good start thanks to (presumably third-rate seeing as he couldn’t even get into the IPL) Aussie Michael Klinger’s unbeaten 69 before the premature end came and everyone sulked off home.
Down in the second division, Leicestershire’s much-derided (by us) batting lineup travlled to Derby. However, hundreds from Ramnaresh Sarwan and Josh Cobb took them past 300 in the first innings and set up a massive 144 run lead after the home side were bundled out for 180. The ever-popular Wayne White was the main destroyer, taking 5/54.
With such a big lead, Leicestershire then found themselves in the awkward position of having to set a realistic target, taking into account both the opposition and the weather forecast. They eventually declared on 169/4, giving Derbyshire 314 to get in around 69 overs. Of course, the rain ate up a number of these overs and the home side finished on 91/0, Martin Guptill making an impressive 67* from 75 balls.
No side in the country has batted as badly as Glamorgan this season. Apart from perhaps Durham MCCU but that’s to be expected after a hard night of drinking £1 pints of watered-down Fosters in the student union. Against Hampshire this trend (the Glamorgan batting one, rather than the watered-down Fosters one) continued, the home side struggling their way to just 103/9 before just giving up and declaring. Not that the vistors were much better, Hampshire being bowled out for 156 with Huw Waters taking 7/53.
In their sixth innings of the season, Glamorgan finally got their first batsman (Stewart Walters) to 50. As if to make a joke about London buses, Ben Wright followed close behind, making 104 of his side’s 256. That left Hampshire with a target of 204 to win.
Going into the final day Hampshire were well placed at 112/4. But the rain continued to fall like girls at the (fully toed) feet of One Direction before play eventually got underway at around 4:15. This left Hampshire desperately short of overs and a T20-esque chase ensued. Sean Ervine’s 75 was the key innings but it was Hamza Riazuddin who saw his side home, winning by two wickets with just one ball of the day to spare.
After a first-round horror show against Essex, in which reaching day three before losing by an innings was seen as a good result, Gloucestershire have begun to turn things around. Last time out they beat Hampshire and they had much the better of their game against Kent. Will Gidman was the star of the show, top-scoring with 56 in his side’s 255 before taking 5/43 to limit Kent to just 150.
Gloucestershire then decided to set Kent a huge total of 364 to chase, something that never looked likely to happen. Despite some reasonable enough weather on the final day both sides had to settle for a draw, the home side finishing on 94/2.
The final game of the round saw a second succesive draw for preseason favourites Yorkshire, as the rain arrived to bail Essex out from a precarious fourth innings position. Following a first day which saw a grand total of zero overs bowled, both sides were indebted to a single batsman in their first innings; Phil Jaques making 126 out of 246 for Yorkshire and Ravi Bopara 117 out of 199 for Essex. Angry former England seamer Ryan Sidebottom took 5/30.
Yorkshire”s second innings was rather more conistent, Joe Root making 67 as they reached 214/4 before declaring. This left Essex needing 262 to win but two quick strikes from not-quite-so-angry former England seamer Ajmal Shahzad left the visitors reeling at 7/2. They limped to 26/2 before the rain came and everyone could retreat to the pub to jealously watch the IPL.