It was another very entertaining week of matches in the County Championship this week. Early season conditions favoured the bowlers, especially on the first day as over 70 wickets fell around the country. This went a long way to ensuring that all seven matches had positive results. The full results were:
Nottinghamshire beat Durham by 114 runs
Sussex beat Lancashire by ten wickets
Middlesex beat Surrey by three runs
Warwickshire beat Somerset by two wickets
Derbyshire beat Glamorgan by 130 runs
Gloucestershire beat Hampshire by 33 runs
Kent beat Northamptonshire by an innings and 120 runs
It was a poor start to Lancashire‘s title defence as they were bowled out for 124 on the first day. Whilst this was hardly unusual given the conditions around the country, it still looked like a very bad toss to lose. There was some hope: Lancs had some of the best bowlers in the country last year and they reduced Sussex to 15-3 in reply. Michael Yardy and Ed Joyce but on a stand of 164, however, which probably decided the match. It was an especially good innings by Yardy who not only steadied the ship for Sussex but counterattacked brilliantly. Lancashire have to rue the four catches they put down on the second morning however. Sussex had one other fairly big partnership: 43 for the ninth wicket to end Lancashire’s brief hopes of keeping the deficit relatively in check. Lancashire did not play terribly poorly; credit must go to Yardy and Steve Magoffin whose batting and bowling performances respectively were excellent. Lancs could do with a bit more batting practise, but their biggest area of concern will probably be the fielding. It probably did not decide the match, but they dropped far too many catches. In the end, they only barely avoided an innings defeat. Ashwell Prince’s 58 was the biggest score of the match for Lancs as they only set Sussex a target of one to win.
Notts continued a good start to the season by beating Durham despite being bowled out for 161 in their first innings. Both sets of bowlers made good use of the friendly conditions, however, and that 161 turned out to be good enough for a first innings lead of 32. I think it was not unreasonable to expect more of the same, but instead Notts built an unchaseable total around Michael Lumb’s 131. Given that only three other batsmen in the entire match passed fifty, it was a fantastic innings. Durham started the chase of 368 by collapsing to 30-5 and it was only some good lower order batting that saw them avoid humiliation.
Middlesex‘s derby against Surrey looked like it might be the best match of the round even on the second day and it did not disappoint. It started off as a bit of a slow-burner; batsmen had to play themselves in properly before trying to go on. The top order for both sides did so passably well, though both suffered collapses in the first innings (Surrey’s the more dramatic). Neither, however, resembled the implosions seen in many other matches. It was slow, low-scoring work and very pleasing to see unfold even as I listened to Lancashire’s match. The work of Dawid Malan for Middlesex and Steve Davies for Surrey in getting the only two fifties of the first innings was very impressive in light of the fairly low team totals. The second innings saw the return of the proper collapses, however. Middlesex had a first innings lead of 34, but only set Surrey a target of 141. They needed something special from their bowlers and Tim Murtagh and Toby Roland-Jones just about delivered. It was close though. Rory Hamilton-Brown almost got Surrey across the line after they had been reduced to 22-3 and 68-4. He could not find a partner though and even though he made the second highest score of the match with 63, his departure left Surrey 126-8 and the tail could not quite do enough.
Somerset won the toss against Warwickshire at Edgbaston and chose to bat. Seventeen point four overs later they were 44-5 with Trescothick, Nick Compton and James Hildreth making just 14 between them. Compton at least managed to make his five last 64 balls, which is fairly impressive. I did not think they were going to get to 100, before Philander decided to become an all-rounder and top-scored in the innings with 38. In the end, Warwickshire had to rely on their own tail to get the lead close to 100. Somerset had a chance to set a good total and although they lost their openers cheaply again, they got an excellent hundred (133) from Compton and 93 from Jos Buttler. The pair of them put on 167, but it was a mark of how little help they got from the rest of the batsmen that their joint contribution was over half of the total of 354 all out. With Somerset’s batting, it is probably fair to say that it should have been more. Jeetan Patel’s unbeaten 43 left them rueing that failure. Although Warwickshire had briefly been 190-3, they collapsed in just eight overs to 207-8 and Somerset had a real chance. I think, however, that the more deserving team won.
Derbyshire‘s match against Glamorgan was a case of one semi-competent batting innings winning a match. At the end of day one, Derbyshire had been bowled out for 130 and had reduced Glamorgan to 37-4. They would go on to bowl Glamorgan out for 95 before themselves collapsing (again) to 37-5. Eventually they found some semblance of batting in the lower-middle order, most notably an unbeaten 51 from David Wainwright, and could set Glamorgan over 200 to win. It was not objectively a lot, but in the context of the match all the safe money was on Derbyshire. The extent of Glamorgan’s collapse was still pretty surprising, however. They got off to a decent start and were at one point 92-3. Six overs later, they were all out for 102. Jonathan Clare did most of the damage for Derbyshire, but it was still a spectacular implosion.
Gloucestershire managed comfortably the best performance in the first innings of this round of matches in their trip to Hampshire. They put up 314 all out, thanks mostly to 114 from opener Chris Dent. Despite a solid 74 from Simon Katich, Hampshire’s reply never seemed to really get going and Will Gidman’s 5-48 ensured that they were bowled out 115 in arrears. Gloucs made enough of it, but I’m sure they would have liked to have done more. No one went past fifty in their second innings, and Hampshire were set a not unreasonable 290 to win. Hants’ top order didn’t bother to show up for that chase, however, and found themselves 72-6 at one point. Wicket-keeper Michael Bates and Chris Wood engineered a recovery, but when Will Gidman struck to remove Bates 13 short of the latter’s hundred, the match was all but up.
Kent had the biggest victory of the week over Northamptonshire. Northants won the toss, batted and were bowled out for 132. It was an interesting innings as there were no scores of note and the wickets were shared around the Kent bowlers. Northants possibly scented a comeback when Kent were 35-2, but solid contributions from Ben Harmison, Brendan Nash and Geraint Jones combined with an unbeaten 128 from Mike Powell meant that they trailed by a massive 236 after the first innings. Northants did not make much of an effort to make Kent bat again. Captain David Sales 42 was the highest of only three double-digit contributions to their 116 all out as Matt Coles took 6-51 to achieve the earliest finish (lunch on day three) of the week.
Victory for Notts coupled with defeats for Somerset and Surrey mean that Nottinghamshire now top the first division table with 38 points from two matches. In Division Two, Derbyshire are enjoying one of their best starts to a season in recent times; they sit atop the table with 39 points and two wins from two.
Nick Compton would be a dark horse at best for England’s vacant number six spot, but after two matches he leads the first division in both total runs and average. Jos Buttler’s good, but ultimately just insufficient, innings should also keep him in the selectors’ minds.