County Championship Round Four Preview

A preview of the Championship games starting tomorrow and a bumper crop of photographs.

This post looks ahead to the county championship matches that get underway tomorrow. The competition is organized in an unusual way this year: the counties have been arranged in three groups of six, and will play an opening league stage of 10 rounds, after which there will be a split into three divisions, featuring the top two from each group, the middle two from each group and the bottom two from each group. For the teams who were in the same groups half points will be carried forward into this final stage, which will comprise four further matches. The leading side in the first division at the end of all this will become County Champions, and they and second place will play off for the Bob Willis Trophy.

GROUP ONE

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire: The ‘Brian Clough Way’ Derby. The main road linking these two east midland cities is now named in honour of Brian Clough who had his greatest successes as a football manager in the two cities concerned. Neither side are going particularly well this year, and Nottinghamshire are without a first class victory since 2018. Many eyes will be on Haseeb Hameed of Nottinghamshire to see if he can kick on from scoring twin centuries last time out, but someone else who definitely merits some attention is Derbyshire’s leg spinning all rounder Matt Critchley.

Worcestershire v Essex: Essex will be looking to rebound from their loss to Warwickshire, and Simon Harmer will have been stung by going wicketless on a fourth day pitch in that game. Dan Lawrence will be looking to score some big runs for Essex.

Durham v Warwickshire: Warwickshire will be looking to build on their success against Essex last time out. Robert Yates will want to prove that his unbeaten ton in that match was not a one off, and Sam Hain is also one to watch.

GROUP TWO

Gloucestershire v Leicestershire: Gloucestershire won their first two games and held out for a draw against Hampshire in the third and most recent. That game saw the last pair defy Hampshire for over an hour to secure the draw. Hassan Azad will be looking for runs for Leicestershire to further bolster his England credentials. With an all rounder needed for England Gloucestershire’s Ryan Higgins will be looking to to continue his fine start to the season.

Somerset v Middlesex: The Lee family clash (Harry Lee was a Middlesex opener of long ago, and his brothers Frank, later a test umpire, and Jack both played for Somerset, and there was one occasion one the scorebook feature all three brothers on one line – Harry was caught by Jack off the bowling of Frank). The reverse of this game was played in round one and Somerset won, a result they will keen to duplicate on their own patch. Tom Lammonby will be looking to continue the rehabilitation from a poor run that his unbeaten 70 in the last match started. Several Somerset bowlers have fared well this season. Ethan Bamber has been impressive with the ball for Middlesex, and Luke Hollman, a leg spin bowling all rounder who is just starting out could well be worth watching.

Surrey v Hampshire: The Phil Mead clash (the dour left hander failed to make the grade at Surrey but moved to Hampshire and set records for the most runs (48,809) and most centuries (138) made by anyone for a single first class side). Ollie Pope and Ben Foakes have both made runs to start this season and will be looking to continue that trend, while Amar Virdi will want to put down a marker given the successes other spinners have been having early this season.

GROUP THREE

Glamorgan v Kent: Indifferent starts for both of these sides. Zak Crawley will be looking to get among the runs for Kent. Kiran Carlson has had one fabulous match for Glamorgan this season.

Yorkshire v Northamptonshire: David Willey, who played for Northamptonshire earlier in his career may feature for Yorkshire. Dom Bess who took six wickets in the final innings of Yorkshire’s last game, in which they beat Sussex, will be looking to continue his revival. For Northamptonshire the obvious one to watch is Ricardo Vasconcelos, with two 150+ scores to his name already this season.

Lancashire v Sussex: First against third in the group. Matt Parkinson will be looking to continue his massively impressive start to the season. For Sussex Oliver Edward Robinson will be looking to underline his England credentials by producing something at a test match venue, and left arm pacer George Garton could well be part of England’s plans, especially if he plays well.

FOLLOWING THE ACTION

It will not be possible for fans to watch these games at the grounds, although it is my understanding that we are only a few weeks away from that happening. Commentaries on all games will be available via www.bbc.co.uk/cricket – click the ‘live county cricket’ button and scroll across to select your commentary, livestreams are available via the county websites and youtube, and for extra detail you can keep a cricinfo.com tab open with your chosen game selected.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have lots of photographs to end this post…

County Championship Update

A look at happenings in the county championship as day three draws to a conclusion. A mathematical teaser and some photographs.

In this post I look at what has been going on around the grounds on day three of the county championship. Due to today being one of my fortnightly music therapy sessions I missed the entirety of the morning’s play, which as it turned out meant missing the denouement of the London derby. I am therefore tuned into Leicestershire v Somerset, which is also highly likely to finish today, with Somerset heading towards a convincing win. Elsewhere in the world Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are contesting a test match, but due to the state of the pitch that game has been rendered an utter irrelevance which even the batters who have been bolstering their averages are unlikely to remember beyond stumps being pulled up tomorrow on the stalest of stalemates.

SPINELESS SURREY’S SATURDAY SURRENDER

Surrey resumed this morning just behind Middlesex with seven second innings wickets standing. Those wickets went down in a heap, Surrey crashing to 130 all out, setting Middlesex just 16 to win, a target the latter achieved wtihout losing a wicket in their second innings. Burns made 54 for Surrey, while Roland-Jones (four wickets) and Bamber (three scalps) did most of the damage with the ball. The last seven Surrey wickets fell while 25 runs were scored, the sort of passage of play that deserves to doom a side to defeat as it did.

SOMERSET IN CONTROL

Leicestershire faced an 85 run deficit when they began their second innings in their home match against Somerset. Craig Overton (a remarkable 18-10-25-5) and Jack Leach (20-8-43-3) ensured that Somerset’s victory target would be modest, Leicestershire being restricted to 199 in their second innings, a lead of only 114. Overton has match figures of 8-64, and Leach 5-82, an excellent effort from an England possible and England’s #1 spinner (unless the selectors are going to try the ‘Ecclestone Experiment’). Lammonby, who came into this season with many calling for his elevation but has barely scored a run thus far is finally relocating some form, 32 not out in a score of 51-1. That innings, over two thirds of his season’s run tally, has boosted his FC record to 501 runs at 35.79, with scope for improvement – seeing Somerset home will count heavily in his favour if he manages it. However Hassan Azad had moved ahead of him in the pecking order, though he did not have a great match this time, and there has been another significant development.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

Sussex v Yorkshire: Sussex are 59-1 in their second innings, needing a further 176 to beat Yorkshire. Yorkshire battled to 305 in their second innings to give Sussex a genuine target in the fourth innings. There were runs for former England batters Lyth and Ballance, an off spinner named Jack Carson took a five for, and Oliver Edward Robinson, widely expected to feature for England sooner rather than later, took three wickets.

Worcestershire v Nottinghamshire: Worcestershire 436 all out, Nottinghamshire 276 all out. Worcestershire should enforce the follow on, going for the win, but may well take the cautious option of batting again. Haseeb Hameed, whose budding test career was interrupted by injury, and who then lost form with Lancashire, scored a century in the Notts innings, a knock that prove of considerable significance to England. Charlie Morris took 3-30 for Worcestershire.

Essex v Warwickshire: Essex are 129-6 in their second innings, an overall lead of 140. The winners of three of the last four English FC trophies are not having things all their own way this time. Dan Lawrence is undefeated on 49, and Simon Harmer is supporting him. Craig Miles has three wickets, with the other three shared between Oliver Hannon-Dalby and Olly Stone.

Northamptonshire v Glamorgan: Glamorgan are 92-2 in their second innings, leading by 135 overall. Billy Root, younger brother of Joe, is batting decently there and he has Nick Selman for company.

Durham v Derbyshire: Durham 475, Derbyshire 267, Durham 48-1. Durham lead by 256, and a big final session could set them up for an overnight declaration (although I suspect that enforcing the follow on would have been a better call by them). The Durham second innings wicket has been claimed by Hudson-Prentice, who bowls right arm medium fast and is beginning to establish a decent reputation for himself. Chris Rushworth, a magnificent county bowler who has never caught the eyes of the England selectors, took 6-58 for Durham.

Kent v Lancashire: Lancashire 525, Kent 169 and 141-0. The large opening stand notwithstanding, Lancashire have done the right thing in sending Kent back in. Bell-Drummond in on 72 and Jordan Cox 62. Tom Bailey took four wickets in the Kent first innings, centurion Luke Wood three and leg spinner Matt Parkinson two. Bailey incidentally looks rather familiar as a line in a scorebook – his initials are TE, the same as Trevor Bailey, once of Essex.

Hampshire v Gloucestershire: Hampshire 470, Gloucestershire 283-5. Gloucestershire need 38 more to avoid the follow on, and if by some chance they fail to get them, then unquestionably Hampshire should enforce it – we are deep in to day three, and bowling Gloucs out a second time is the only route Hampshire have to victory. As I type the sixth Gloucs wicket has just gone at 283. Ryan Higgins, underlining his considerable all round credentials, is undefeated on 70, having already claimed four wickets in the Hampshire innings. Kraigg Brathwaite (WI) and James ‘Bobby’ Bracey (a good chance of playing for England) have both also scored significant runs for Gloucestershire.

Newsflash: Worcestershire have correctly enforced the follow on against Nottinghamshire. Somerset meanwhile have moved on to 72-1, just 43 short of victory over Leicestershire, Lammonby 37 not out.

A MATHEMATICAL TEASER

At the request of several of my twitter followers I am including a mathematical teaser, the solution to which I shall include in my next blog post. As usual it comes from www.brilliant.org.

Do not be overly intimidated by the four flames – it is not actually as difficult as the setters thought.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

As I reach the final prepublication stages of this post, Lammonby has completed a 50, and Somerset now need just 21 more, still with nine wickets standing. Lammonby now has 55 not out, which gives him 527 runs at 37.64 in FC cricket.

Robson’s Luck Runs Out At Last

A look at developments in the London derby, and a skate through the rest of the county championship action.

In this post I will bring you up to date with developments in the county championship I am following, and also provide a quick look at goings on elsewhere.

MIDDLESEX AHEAD IN LONDON DERBY

Middlesex are currently 63 ahead of Surrey with three first innings wickets standing. They owe this position to a combination of Sam Robson and absurd amounts of good fortune. Robson has just fallen for 95, having been dropped three times along the way and survived a few other close calls. Reece Topley snared him LBW. Between his 95 in this match and the 165 against Somerset in the first match Robson has surely used up a whole season’s allocation of good fortune. Middlesex are quite possibly some way from being done – Luke Hollman is making his FC debut at no9 and is officially recognized as an all rounder. Topley has four wickets, and if he has a good season and stays fit he may be in the Ashes tour party (the only other left armer of comparable pace and ability who England might think about is George Garton of Sussex).

AROUND THE GROUNDS

Sussex v Yorkshire: Sussex moved into a first innings lead with only three wickets down, but Yorkshire have come back and restricted their advantage to 71. Yorkshire are no 28-0 in their second innings. Duanne Olivier and Steven Patterson took four wickets each for Yorkshire, while young opener Tom Haines top scored for Sussex with 86.

Worcestershire v Nottinghamshire: Worcestershire are 430-9 in the 143rd over. Joe Leach is on 81. Libby made a century, and there have also been 50s for Mitchell, Barnard and Alzarri Joseph. Liam Patterson-White, the left arm spinner, has 3-114 from 41 overs.

Warwickshire v Essex: Essex were restricted to 295 in their first innings and Warwickshire are 119-4 in reply. Browne, Walter and ten Doeschate all scored 50s for Essex, while Oliver Hannon-Dalby and Olly Stone each took four wickets. Porter, Cook, Siddle and Harmer each have a wicket for Essex and no one has yet produced a significant score for Warwickshire.

Northamptonshire v Glamorgan: Glamorgan tallied 407 in their first innings, and Northamptonshire are struggling at 76-4 in reply. Chris Cooke scored 136 for Glamorgan, and Dan Douthwaite scored 44 at number eight. James Harris, James Weighell and David Lloyd (who scored 65 yesterday) have a wicket each for Glamorgan.

Durham v Derbyshire: Durham are 469-9 after 146 overs. David Bedingham scored 257 of these and Jack Burnham 75. Samuel Conners has four wickets. Bedingham is now averaging 45.83 in FC cricket with eight centuries in 67 innings at that level.

Kent v Lancashire: Lancashire are 438-8 after almost 150 overs. Danny Lamb is 86 not out, while Luke Wood made 119, and Josh Bohannon 87. Darren Stevens has fared best among Kent’s bowlers, with 2-44 from 26 overs.

Hampshire v Gloucestershire: Hampshire are 470-9. Tom Alsop made 149 and Ian Holland 114. England limited overs batter James Vince scored 52 and former England man Liam Dawson scored 65. Aussie Daniel Worrall has 4-75, and Ryan Higgins continues to press his England claims with 4-78.

Leicestershire v Somerset: Leicestershire made 233 in the first innings, Somerset are currently 252-6 in response. Lewis Hill scored 68 for Leicestershire, while Overton took 3-39, Jack Leach 2-23 and Lewis Gregory 2-39. Tom Abell made 88 and George Bartlett 48 for Somerset. Jack Leach as nightwatch scored 26, lasting 89 minutes in the course of which he faced 68 balls. Steven Davies and Craig Overton are currently batting together, Lewis Gregory is next in.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

As I prepare this post for publication Middlesex have moved on to 245-8.

Picking a Test Side Without Stokes or Woakes

A look at options for the England side for the first test and some photographs.

This post looks at the problems caused by the absences of Stokes (injured) and Woakes (at the IPL) for England. Another round of County Championship matches gets underway tomorrow and may provide more information.

FOUR BOWLERS OR FIVE?

Stokes and Woakes are the two best English all rounders currently playing, and without either the choice is between relying on four bowling options or accepting a weakened batting line up in order to have five bowling options. My choice, because one needs to take 20 wickets to win a test match is to have five bowling options.

BUILDING THE TEAM

There are doubts over whether Sibley will be fit for the first test match, and the only potential replacement who is doing enough at the moment in my book is Hassan Azad of Leicestershire. Burns and Crawley will round out the top three. Skipper Root will be at four, the slot he has made his own. Number five is choice between Pope and Lawrence, but Pope has underlined his quality with a huge score in the last round of championship matches, so I select him. As readers of this blog know I consider that Foakes should be a shoo-in for the test wicket keeping berth, and with five bowlers needed I put him at six. Personally I would select Ryan Higgins at seven – he is a cut above Overton, Gregory or S Curran with the bat, and an FC bowling average of 21 suggests he could do a job at the highest level. No8, where also batting skills are not entirely irrelevant is for me locked down – Oliver Edward Robinson who underlined his credentials with a nine wicket innings haul a few days ago gets the nod. Archer is at the IPL, and current form suggests that of the other two out and out speedsters Olly Stone should get the nod. Parkinson’s fine bowling against Northants not withstanding Jack Leach is clear as England’s #1 test spinner. James Anderson is missing Lancashire’s next game due to a tight calf, which suggests that Stuart Broad has to get the final placed. Thus my provisional line up, assuming that availability is as it seems is:

  1. Hassan Azad
  2. Rory Burns
  3. Zak Crawley
  4. *Joe Root
  5. Ollie Pope
  6. +Ben Foakes
  7. Ryan Higgins
  8. Oliver Edward Robinson
  9. Olly Stone
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Stuart Broad

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Championship Performances of Promise

A look at some of the more important success stories from this round of county championship games and a bumper crop of photographs.

As this round of county championship matches heads towards its conclusion (three are already settled – congratulations to Essex, Gloucestershire and Hampshire on their wins) I highlight several performances of potential interest to England.

While Ollie Pope dominated Surrey’s massive total against Leicestershire with his 245 there were also useful runs for Jamie Smith (119) and far more significantly for Ben Foakes (87), who should feature as England’s test wicket keeper.

For Leicestershire, Hassan Azad, mentioned as a candidate for an opening berth (Burns remains under some scrutiny after his winter, and Sibley is injured and may not be fit for the first test, while Lammonby is struggling horrendously after a fine start to his FC career) made a century in the first innings and is well on the way to doubling up. As things stand at the moment he is averaging 44.84 in FC cricket, while playing his 31st match at that level.

In the west country derby Ryan Higgins had a fine match, and with there being a possible vacancy for an all rounder with Stokes injured and Woakes playing in the IPL that could prove significant. Of more definite significance is the performance of James Bracey – a century and an 82 not out in the second innings. He has been part of the England set up but has yet to play a test match.

Finally, Matt Parkinson for Lancashire has produced a good bowling performance. He took 3-49 in the first innings, including a pretty good impression of the ‘Gatting ball’ and already has 2-23 in the second as Lancashire press for victory (Northamptonshire can do no better than a draw from here). His five wickets in this match have taken his bowling average in FC cricket below 25 (currently 67 wickets at 24.42). He remains #2 to Leach among current England spinners, although he is now paying less per wicket than Leach in FC cricket, because Leach has over 300 wickets to his credit at FC level and is faring respectably at test level, but he may well be earning himself a trip to Australia as an accredited member of the party rather than a ‘reserve’ as was over the winter just gone.

Oliver Edward Robinson of Sussex, definitely a candidate for elevation, has just recorded innings figures of 9-78, giving him 13-128 in the match. If England want five bowling options, Higgins at seven, Robinson at eight, one out and out speedster, Leach and one of Broad/ Anderson could work well, Higgins and Robinson have decent batting credentials.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have lots of photographs to share with you…

Somerset Struggling in West Country Derby

A look at goings on in the County Championship, with particular reference to Somerset and Gloucestershire.

This post looks at the action in the County Championship with particular reference to the game I am following, but a brief mention of some significant events in one of the other matches.

SOMERSET’S SECOND INNINGS WOES

Somerset took a slender first innings lead (three runs), as they took the last two Gloucetsershire wickets early this morning. However, they quickly lost nos 1,2,3 and 5 in the order to plummet to 37-4 in their second innings. The two most experienced members of the line up, James Hildreth and Steven Davies are currently together and have advanced the score to 55-4 as I write. Ryan Higgins, a crafty right arm medium pacer who is also a good middle order batter has 2-13 from seven overs in this innings. He currently has 1802 FC runs at 34.00 and 133 wickets at 21.37, from 39 matches, and though there are valid concerns about his pace at international level he may yet get his England chance. If Woakes’ IPL commitments prevent a return to England for the NZ test series then Higgins might be an option at no7 if England want to play five front line bowlers.

For Somerset’s top order there are several issues: Tom Banton is not looking, or at present scoring, like a natural opening batter and Tom Lammonby who started this season with 459 FC runs at 51.00 and three centuries has amassed five runs in four innings (including a pair in this game), meaning that his record now stands at 464 runs at an average of 35.69. It would be as premature to rule him out of future England consideration as it was premature of those who advocated his elevation on the strength of a good showing in six first class matches, but he has work to do to convince people that his good start at FC level wasn’t a flash in the pan. Only Abell of the three Toms at the top of the Somerset order has any current form to talk about. As I typed this last section Steven Davies has gone to make it 68-5, with Overton joining Hildreth.

NEWS FROM LONDON

Down at The Oval Surrey are in a commanding position against Leicestershire. Leicestershire scored 375 first up, but Surrey in reply are 391-4. Ollie Pope, looking to shore up his claim to a middle order slot in the England line up, is 172 not out, Ben Foakes has also made good runs, sharing a stand of 229 with Pope, and Jamie Smith who will don the gauntlets for Surrey if the England selectors do the right thing and select Foakes as their keeper is 32 not out.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Surrey have moved on past 400, and in the game I am listening to, that man Higgins has snagged a third wicket by clean bowling Overton to make it 71-6 and bring Gregory to the crease, Higgins 3-18. Now it is time for my usual sign off…