Should we talk about the weather? With the country under a national raincloud this week, the seamers impressed. But then come Friday and Saturday the sun hit the sky and the batsmen took control. Such changeable conditions made it difficult for captains and resulted in a plethora of draws. If we were the sort of website in the habit of mentioning B*Witched, we’d blame it on the weatherman. But to be fair, there were tight finishes, dramatic collapses and some deal-making that would have made Noel Edmonds proud.
Michael Lumb – predicted to be a flop by some nameless website editors – continued his excellent start to the season for his new county, making 162 in the first innings as Nottinghamshire reached 423ao. Steve Finn’s 4/117 came from a laborious 35 overs. In reply, Middlesex began terribly with some codger called Andrew Strauss caught behind for 2. Ollie Rayner’s 143 (as nightwatchman) was the sole contribution of note and helped his side to recover to a respectable 300/9. He then starred with the ball: his 4/67 restricted Nottinghamshire’s quest for quick runs. They declared on 174/7, disappointingly leaving too few overs for either side to aim for a win. In 35 largely inconsequential overs, Strauss made 43* as Middlesex finished on 87/0.
On May 9th, no cricket was played. On May 10th, no cricket was played. On May 11th, no cricket was played. On May 12th, some cricket was played.
After three days of rain, it would have taken an elaborate plan between the captains to contrive a result on the final day. In the end Lancashire batted for 45.4 overs, reaching 144/8; Naved Arif looking dangerous with his swingers accounting for three wickets. When Sussex batted, Ajmal Shahzad- making his first appearance under the red rose- came on first change and immediately removed Ed Joyce, then Luke Wells just four balls later. At 85/4 Sussex looked uncomfortable, but the middle order pair of Matt Prior (86) and Michael Yardy(63) added 142 in 23 overs. In a race for batting points, Joe Gatting hit 42* from 25 balls to take his side to 300/8 at the close.
The rain did not merely affect what should have been a close encounter at Durham, it destroyed it with a meteorological wrecking ball. On day one the home side were bowled out for 125, Craig Overton taking 4/38 in helpful conditions. Somerset began terribly (6/2) but made it to 220/8 by Wednesday evening. The next two days were spent sheltering from the storms, with the rain only drying by Saturday morning. Somerset reached 267ao (Craig Kieswetter 96*, Callum Thorp 4/71). Faced with a remote chance of defeat, Durham batted better second time around, but wickets still fell regularly – Overton and Peter Trego with three apiece – and they were 234/9 when the umpires finally decided to head home.
The floodwaters of the Severn subsided quick enough to allow Worcestershire to come back to their HQ for their latest match- and what a match it was! A century partnership between Vikram Solanki and Moeen Ali formed the backbone of the first innings, but Surrey took regular wickets thereafter to restrict Worcestershire to 285ao – albeit this innings spanned the whole of the first two days. The third, however, was packed with more action than Pune’s entire IPL campaign. David Lucas and Richard Jones burst into Surrey’s batsmen and left them reeling at 43/8 (Kevin Pietersen 11, lots of people 0). Jacques Rudolph did anchor the innings with 68 to drag his team to 113ao, but unsurprisingly Surrey were invited to follow on.
At 11/2 (Mark Ramprakash out for his second duck of the day – is the bell tolling?) Surrey would have been rain-dancing, but then the tide began to turn. Firstly Pietersen decided to attack (briefly): his 69 included 31 from two overs. Then Rory Hamilton-Brown (115) and Tom Maynard (143) put together a scintillating partnership of 225 to steer Surrey to a strong position. Declaring at 431/7, Hamilton-Brown set the home team 260 from 52 overs. Worcestershire may have been in shock at how the game had changed, for their ‘chase’ was in trouble from the 9th over – three wickets fell with the score on 29. They were 98/6 with 19 overs to go, but their tail held strong. By the close, they were 150/8, Surrey just two wickets away from what would have been a staggering victory.
It was a truly bizarre first innings: Kent were 17/5 after day one (they had been an even more amusing 9/5 at one stage) and 24/5 the next – only ten balls being bowled as the monsoon season struck Essex. But Darren Stevens (119) and Geraint Jones (88) resurrected the innings, before the final five wickets fell for 22 runs. Charl Willoughby finished with 5/70; no doubt Holly was extremely proud. Essex could only make 181 in reply, Mark Pettini top scoring with 92. Notably, at one point Alviro Petersen and Ravi Bopara were batting together with a runner each.
Sadly, the match was always heading for a draw; Kent’s second innings lasted 28 overs in which they reached 92/2 before declaring and allowing spectators to get home in time to watch Britain’s Got The Voice on television.
It was effectively a two-day game at Southampton, with bonus points being the main focus. Hampshire made 352/8, thanks to Jimmy Adams’s 122* and Bilal Shafayat’s 93 on debut. Derbyshire blasted 403/9 in response, with Wes Durston (121) and Dan Redfern (133) contributing significantly.
The match that they don’t call the A6 derby finished tensely, after the captains made a deal following Wednesday and Thursday’s rain. Northamptonshire’s 352/7 was largely due to Kyle Coetzer, who made 120. Matthew Hoggard then declared his side’s innings at only 38/2, preventing Chaminda Vaas (2/4 from seven overs) from taking all ten wickets. Northamptonshire then batted for eight overs, reaching 26/0, the declaration preventing Greg Smith (0/9 from one over) from taking all ten wickets.
Thus Leicestershire were presented with a target of 341 from 86 overs. Ramnaresh Sarwan did score 94, but in truth Northamptonshire always looked the most likely victors. Nathan Buck was the ninth man out in the 77th over, with the deficit more than 80 runs. Wayne White and Matthew Hoggard therefore had nine overs or so to see out. Lee Daggett couldn’t take his fifth wicket, White was indefatigable in his 29* and Hoggard scored an impressive 1* from 13 balls (40 minutes) to secure the draw.
With only 51.2 overs of play possible across the first two days, deals needed to be made. Firstly Kane Williamson top scored with 111; the home team reached 351/9 (TT Bresnan 5/81), of which 52 came against the declaration-bowlers Adam Lyth and Andrew Gale. After Alex Gidman declared, Gale forfeited Yorkshire’s first innings; Gloucestershire then ambled to 48/0 from 27.1 overs. Yorkshire were set a stiff 400 to win; they were 30/1 overnight with one day remaining.
Coach Jason Gillespie and skipper Gale denied themselves first innings batting points in seeking victory and their positive attitude was justly rewarded. Phil Jaques scored 160, Gary Ballance 121* and they reached their target – the second-highest winning total in the county’s history – for the loss of six wickets.