Just a few minutes before seven o’clock yesterday evening Leicestershire and Derbyshire shook hands on a draw and the second round of 2023 County Championship fixtures was at an end. I look back at a round that featured several fine matches.
SURREY V HAMPSHIRE
The county of my birth, Gloucestershire, had their match rained out without a ball being bowled, so after Thursday, a work day and hence one on which I cannot follow cricket my focus was on the first class county in which I have lived the longest, Surrey. For three innings this had all the makings of a magnificent contest, with only 16 runs between the lowest and highest team totals in those innings – Hampshire 254 and 258, Surrey 270. When Surrey started batting a second time just before lunch on day four with 243 to chase a great finish was in prospect. It was a splendid fourth innings, but it was never a contest – Surrey were in charge almost from the start, with openers Burns and Sibley achieving the first task when they reached the lunch interval still together. Burns’ dismissal fairly early in the afternoon session brought Ollie Pope to the crease, and the Hampshire bowlers neither had, nor looked like having any further success, as Pope batted brilliantly and Sibley looked utterly secure in the supporting role. Pope completed the century he had missed out on in the first innings, the only individual three figure score of the match. Shortly after that he took his match aggregate to 200, and then, facing the start of a new over with just eight more needed and his own score 110* he finished the match in the grandest of styles, hitting successive sixes to give Surrey a nine wicket win…
Warwickshire were in charge for most of such play as the elements permitted in their match against Kent, but were thwarted by a rearguard action involving Joey Evison and Conor McKerr, which almost secured Kent a draw. McKerr was ninth out having completed a ‘Den-tury’ (100 balls survived, named after another player with Kent connections whose surname begins with “Den” and who was notable for doing precisely this during his spell as an England player) from number 10, and young Joey Evison was last to go, having come in at number eight and missed a century by one run. Worcestershire were attempting to hold out for a draw against Durham, and it looked like fading light might help to save them but Aussie left arm spinner Matthew Kuhnemann ensured that justice was done when he bowled Dillon Pennington to end the match. As that was his fifth scalp of the innings he may just also have earned himself a place in the upcoming Ashes. That left Leicestershire and Derbyshire the only sides still in action, with their game long since reduced a scrap for bonus points. In the closing stages Derbyshire passed 250 and Leicestershire took their wickets tally to seven. All of this consigned Yorkshire to bottom of the second division after two rounds of fixtures.
With the weather properly spring like I have a fine photo gallery for you…