Unfortunately, this was a very rain hit round of matches. Out of eight matches played in both divisions, only two had positive results. Despite this, some of the draws were quite close run things and we were treated to a handful of very tense finishes. The eight matches, with summaries thereof at the end of the post, were:
Warwickshire beat Lancashire by five wickets
Middlesex drew with Durham
Nottinghamshire drew with Somerset
Surrey drew with Worcestershire
Derbyshire drew with Leicestershire
Hampshire beat Glamorgan by two wickets
Kent drew with Gloucestershire
Yorkshire drew with Essex
Warwickshire’s second successive dramatic win puts them top of the Division One table, whilst Derbyshire’s survival keeps them in that spot in the second tier. It’s still probably too early to draw any definitive conclusions, but it is worth noting that none of Durham, Lancashire or Yorkshire have won a match yet. I was far from alone in predicting those three to finish at or near the top of their respective divisions and it will be interesting to see how they go from here. Derbyshire also looked far from impressive in their match and it will be interesting to see if their good start was due to favourable opposition.
There were many very good performances this week, but my player of the week this week is Warwickshire’s Rikki Clarke. His innings pained me greatly, but coming in at 81-7 and scoring 140 is very impressive. Given how close the match turned out, if he had scored even twenty or thirty fewer it might have made a difference to the result.
Warwickshire‘s win over Lancashire was a fairly exciting match and not a little bit gutting. It and the ramifications thereof are worth a separate bog post which I will write tomorrow. Meantime, credit must go to Rikki Clarke and Darren Maddy for excellent innings each and a match-winning partnership together.
Middlesex‘s match at Lord’s was most notable for the return of Andrew Strauss to his county as he looked to bat himself into some form. He faced the first ball of the match after Durham won the toss and bowled. It was not until the next day, however, as rain prevented any play on day one. Strauss might have wished it would keep raining: Onions nipped one back in and knocked back the England captain’s off stump. Onions did his Test hopes no harm with an additional nine wickets in the match and whilst Strauss will no doubt be disappointed with his return, he can take solace in the fact that the rest of his batsmen only managed 336 runs between them in both innings. There was, fortunately, an exciting ending to this match. Rain had interrupted the early part of Durham’s chase of 130 to win, but left them 16 overs to get another 122. Happily, they went for it. They lost six wickets en route too, but there too few overs for a proper climax and the match was drawn.
At first glance, it is not too surprising that Nottinghamshire and Somerset combined to score four centuries, one of them a double and three of them unbeaten, in a drawn match at Trent Bridge. They probably have on paper the two strongest batting lineups in the country. The devil is in the deatils, however, and only one side was even in this match. The ten batsmen who were out in Notts’ first innings scored 41 runs between them. The top-score amongst those was ten. Which makes the unbeaten 104 by Chris Read all the more remarkable in comparison. It was still not close to enough, however, as Arul Suppiah scored 124, Nick Compton made an unbeaten 204, and James Hildreth chipped in with 102*. Somerset declared on 445-2, a first innings lead of 283. Notts showed some more fight in the second innings, however, and the intervention of rain meant that Somerset did not get the win that they deserved.
Bowling dominated Worcestershire‘s trip to the Oval. Surrey were bowled out for 140 in the first innings as Alan Richardson took 6-47, but Stuart Meaker returned the favour with 6-39 at Worcs only made 119 in reply. Despite being reduced to 59-5, a solid 79 from Rory Hamilton-Brown helped Surrey set Worcs a tricky 246 to win. The Oval pitch reverted to it’s stereotype, however, and when the rain came at 94-1 it probably denied Worcs a victory instead of Surrey.
Leicestershire dominated the derby in Derby, putting on 324 in the first innings against the hosts including 105 each from Ramnaresh Sarwan and Joshua Cobb. Unfortunately for the prospects of a result, it took them over two days to do so. When Derbyshire just managed to avoid the follow-on it seemed to seal the fate of the match and even a third innings declaration did not threaten to bring about a result.
Hampshire went to Glamorgan for what turned out to be the best match of the round. It was notable in the first innings for the return of the tactical declaration: Glamorgan skipper Mark Wallace declared with his side on 103-9 late on the first day to try to get a Hants wicket before the close. It worked as Wallace’s opposite number departed for just three. From there Hampshire slipped to 156 all out the next day and a century for Ben Wright gave Glamorgan a real chance at their first win of the season. Hampshire needed 204 to win and by stumps on day three they were 112 for four. Cue the rain. For a very long time it looked as though the teams would not even get on the pitch on the fourth day. When they did, however, it was just barely in time and Hampshire won by just two wickets off of the penultimate ball.
Will Gidman had another good match for Gloucestershire at Canterbury, scoring 56 in the first innings and then taking 5-43 in Kent‘s reply. Gloucestershire had a first innings lead of 105, but like in the rest of the country rain had taken time out of the match and Will’s brother Alex took too long in declaring on the last day. Kent were asked to chase a nominal 363, but only 38 overs were ultimately possible and they were comfortably able to draw the match.
Yorkshire were also unable to play on the first day of their match against Essex at Headingley. When they did get on the park, 126 from Phil Jaques saw them at one point reach 184-2. The subsequent collapse quite spectacularly saw them finish 246 all out. It was still a decent total and only Ravi Bopara, as already mentioned, resisted for Essex. It did not leave the White Rose with much of a first innings lead, however, and with time already lost in the match the only way to get a result was for Yorkshire to dramatically collapse again and when that failed to happen it was always going to be a draw.