County Championship 2012: *comedy title goes here*

 

It’s probably fair to describe the general vibe at 51allout Towers as ‘relaxed’. We’re a pretty easy-going bunch, mainly because no-one can be arsed to get worked up about anything. Except Kieron Pollard, who causes certain members of the team to deviate slightly from their normal level of serenity.

Someone mentions Kieron Pollard to James, causing a slight delay in the completion of the washing up.

Anyway, this week we finally found another thing to get angry about: the British summer. Fair enough, we expect it to have some influence on the county game, but this is ridiculous. Of the seven County Championship games this week only one made it to a result, which says more about Glamorgan’s ineptitude than anything else. Otherwise it’s been bad light, rain and the general onset of the apocalypse all round.

 

Warwickshire vs. Lancashire (Edgbaston)

Some respite for Lancashire after a horror start to the season, as they ground out a hard-earned draw. It wasn’t one that looked particularly likely at the halfway stage, as Lancashire followed on 360 runs behind Warwickshire’s mammoth 557/6 declared, Varun Chopra (113), Rikki Clarke (123*) and Tim Ambrose (96) all gorging themselves against the defending champions’ attack.

Lancashire’s 187 was a terribly timid effort, with only Ashwell Prince (87*) seeming remotely interested. Chris Woakes made a promising return from injury, picking up 3/20.

In their second effort Lancashire finally found some of the grit that was so crucial for them last year. Paul Horton (137*) batted for more than seven hours and Gareth Cross (75*) nearly three before play was finally halted with the score at 343/5. It leaves Lancashire winless so far this season, and sat in the relegation places, albeit just above Durham.

Surrey vs. Somerset (The Oval)

A minor classic at the Oval, as Surrey and Somerset traded blows before eventually settling for a hard-fought draw, like any number of Godzilla/Mothra dustups over the years. The real star of the show was Stuart Meaker, who cemented his place as probably England’s sixth choice seamer with 8/52 in the second innings and eleven wickets for the match.

Despite Meaker’s efforts, Somerset’s batting looked in excellent nick as hundreds from Arul Suppiah and James Hildreth, plus 83 from Nick Compton took them past 500, becoming only the second team in the top division (after Warwickshire) to do so this year. Surrey’s response of 388 was built around a hundred from Steve Davies and 89 from Tom Maynard.

With a first innings lead of 124, Somerset were well placed but Meaker’s heroics (despite another 50 from Compton) left the home side with a target of 305 for victory. They looked well set to reach it at 96/1 before George Dockrell bagged three quick wickets. In the end Surrey hung on, reaching 239/7 with Rory Hamilton-Brown 70*.

Rory Hamilton-Brown and James Hildreth shake hands on the draw.

Worcestershire vs. Sussex (New Road)

The most interesting things about Worcestershire’s latest game were firstly that it happened at New Road, with the floods having mercifully subsided, and secondly that it didn’t feature the injured Alan Richardson, leading to George Dobell refusing to talk about the game at all.

In Richardson’s absence the Worcestershire bowlers did a decent job, restricting the visitors to 315, before their batsmen rather ground their way to 259. In Sussex’s second innings Ed Joyce made an unbeaten hundred, reminding everyone that he can be available to play Test cricket for England in just four years. Or possibly eight. We don’t really understand that rule anymore.

Chasing a rather optimistic 315 to win, Worcestershire finished on 174/4, Aussie Michael Klinger – a John the Baptist figure to Phil Hughes’s Jesus – making 67.

Derbyshire vs. Glamorgan (Derby)

One of the jobs we gave to the work experience boy this week (and we’re always looking for more work experience kids, so write in if you’re interested) was to find something worse than Glamorgan. After several days of dicking around on some young person’s social networking website called RedTube he eventually brought us this on vinyl:

This is actually brilliant: never ever trust work experience kids to do anything properly.

Back to the cricket and Glamorgan’s batting was yet again dismal, despite the addition of Ashes star Marcus North to their lineup. They did actually make it to 400, but it took them both innings to get there, with the only highlights being 79 in the first innings from North and 78 in the second from Billy Bragg, who was presumably taking a break from┬ábeing involved with grassroots, broadly leftist, political movements to play some low-quality cricket.

In-between, Derbyshire made 322, almost entirely thanks to hundreds from old Two-Toes Guptill and Wayne Madsen. Perhaps the real highlight of the innings was seeing Simon Jones actually play some first class cricket without melting, getting through 22 overs and picking up a couple of wickets. Much as we love him, he’s probably still a fair way off our England ladder.

The end result of Glamorgan’s efforts was a target of just 70, which Derbyshire chased down with eight wickets (and a day) to spare.

Leicestershire vs. Essex (Grace Road)

Nothing beats some good old fashioned declaration bowling. Step forward Adam Wheater (4 overs for 86) and Mark Pettini (3.1 overs for 72) who turned their arms over, partly for the lulz and partly to set up a final day chase for the weather to utterly ruin. The beneficiaries of this joke bowling were Ned Eckersley (70* from 19 balls) and Wayne White (50* from 12), figures that in no way make a mockery of the competition.

Prior to that both teams had traded solid first innings scores; Leicestershire made 372 (with Ramnaresh Sarwan making a hundred and David Masters helping himself to six wickets) while Essex made 409 (with debutant Ben Foakes top-scoring with 93). Prior to the declaration bowling, Sarwan narrowly missed out on a second hundred, somehow getting out to Pettini on 98.

Essex were left with 270 to chase but had only made it to 30/2 when the weather forced the players from the field for a final time.

Kent vs. Northamptonshire (Canterbury)

Michael Clarke is seen as something of a trendsetter these days. With him having recently bunked off work to go and get married without telling anyone, we expect to see a slew of copycat incidents over the next few months. If you want our advice, don’t do it – marriage is like picking Steve Harmison. At first it seems like a great idea but it soon turns sour and leaves everyone as resentful, broken people.

The pre-resentment phase. We give it a year, less if he ruins the honeymoon by buggering off to the IPL.

Another Michael Clarke trend is declaring behind to try and force a result and we saw this in action at Canterbury. In reply to Northamptonshire’s 418, Kent reached 280/6 before Rob Key called his side back in. This allowed the visitors to set a target of 262, which Kent completely failed to have a go at chasing, trundling along at 2.55 runs an over to reach 110/1.

David Sales made a fine 140 in the visitors’ first innings while Darren Stevens, the forever-forgotten man of the England ladder, made 57 and took 3/63, leading to whispers that Saj Mahmood’s 30th place might finally be up for grabs.

Yorkshire vs. Hampshire (Headingley)

Another game to fall victim to the weather at Headingley, as both sides had to settle for a disappointing draw. Simon Katich, who will forever be known as the man who lost his international place to Phil Hughes, made a somewhat epic 196 and Michael Bates, who will probably never lose anything to Phil Hughes unless he laughs so much his false teeth fall out, a slightly less epic 103. In reply to Hampshire’s 427 Yorkshire eventually fought their way to 399/9 declared. Anthony McGrath’s long term campaign to force his way back into international reckoning took another step in the right direction with an unbeaten 106.

By the time Hampshire came back into bat it already looked like a result was unlikely. Then came rain on the final morning, leaving the visitors little option but to bat through, finishing on 191/2.

 

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