Barely time to review of the last round of the County Championship before the news that the fifth test was cancelled broke in turn leading to much anticipation and speculation that the England players may be available to their counties for the last two rounds now they have nothing to do at Old Trafford.
With the Championship in its final phase it seems a good idea to keep an eye on the competition as a whole and remind ourselves that the last round of County Championship fixtures didn’t end on Monday! Somerset weren’t the only team who capitulated spectacularly in the round of championship games that finished yesterday.
Essex beat Gloucestershire by an innings and 3 runs
Kent beat Worcestershire by an innings and 56 runs
Durham beat Glamorgan (Eddie Byrom 3 and 17) by an innings and 42 runs
But there were two enthralling games in division one as Nottinghamshire and Hampshire moved above Yorkshire into the top two places and in division two at Northampton where Surrey lost again
Hampshire managed to win after being bowled out before lunch on the first day for 89. Trailing by only 27 on first innings after 20 wickets fell on day one (all to seam so need for a pitch inspector apparently) the turnaround started on the second day when Keith Barker playing against his former club came to the wicket batting at number 9 with the score on 173-7. Barker proceeded to bat for 175 balls to make 75 and with great support from Brad Wheal (46 off 144) the ninth wicket pair added 93 and taking the Hampshire second innings beyond 300.
Set 290 to win Warwickshire looked to be well in with a chance at lunch on the last day at lunch but 190-4 quickly became 233-9 as the pressure told on the home batsmen. With James Fuller and an injured Mo Abbas picking up 2-22 and 2-32 respectively Warwickshire, who had started the final phase at the top of the division ended up losing by 60 runs.
But that win wasn’t enough to take James Vince’s side to the top of the table thanks to another win for a resurgent Nottinghamshire. The same Notts, who hadn’t won a championship game for over 2 years and were thumped twice by Warwickshire early this year won again. Wearing down a depleted Lancashire side at Trent Bridge. Without Liam Livingstone (adverse reaction to second covid jab) and Matt Parkinson (presumed rested for England reasons but not selected) and lost Saj Mahmood to a side injury early in the game.
Asked to score 444 or more realistically bat out the last four sessions Lancashire in the shape of Luke Wells and George Balderson looked to be in with a chance of frustrating their hosts and seeing their side to an unlikely draw before the visitors sixth, seventh and eighth wickets fell on 210 in just 10 balls. With Mahmood significantly incapacitated it was left to Danny Lamb and Tom Bailey to bat almost 40 overs. At one point it looked like they were going to do it with a partnership of 108 in 30 overs before Dane Paterson bowled Bailey for 52. When a stunning catch by Ben Slater removed Mahmood 5 overs later Notts quickly closed out a 102 run victory.
The division one table doesn’t make particularly nice reading for Somerset fans as their side prop up the table 8 points adrift of fifth placed Lancashire and 26.5 off the leaders. While Notts are now very much the team to beat second placed Hampshire who they travel to on Sunday and third placed Yorkshire who host a now vulnerable Warwickshire, will still feel they have a real chance as both are only 10.5 points behind.
After two rounds which have seen the table virtually turn on its head who wouldn’t back against further turnarounds this week and next?
The flaw in this conference system is that there is very little focus in the wider sports media on divisions 2 and 3 but having followed some of those games I don’t agree with the view that the games aren’t competitive.
Essex, who have openly stated that they wish to finish as high as possible, lead a division two that will be decided on average points after the Covid cancellation of Durham v Surrey last week by a 7-point average. Middlesex and Kent top division after convincing and contrasting wins for the two at opposite ends of the round of fixtures.
But for me it was the Northants batsmen who grabbed the plaudits at Wantage Road on Wednesday. While their second team was being flayed to all parts by Sam Young and Ned Leonard Surrey’s bowlers fared little better as Josh Cobb (99) led the chase of 322 in 99.1 overs with support from Emiliano Gay and Luke Procter who both got fifties. At 271 -4 with the target 50 away all seemed set fair before Proctor and Rossington both fell in the space of four balls. Fortunately the home side’s lower order were able to cobble (get it?) together the needed runs lying fifth in the division two table.
In the interests of fairness it is worth citing the game at Derby which petered out into a dull draw, but that really was the only game without any real tension or interest.
More of the same starting Sunday please, allowing of course for a reversal in fortunes for Somerset!