Ball One – Arshad not sad at Chester-le-Street
It was Yorkshire’s turn to miss a round of county championship matches and they suffered, surrendering their top spot to a rampant Durham, who simply ran all over Sussex to win by 285 runs. It was a consistent team performance from the North-Easterners, with no batsmen scoring a ton and no bowler returning a five-fer. One name caught the eye though – Usman Arshad, playing only his second match, returned match figures of 6-34 and scored handy runs in both innings. Seems that Durham may not miss England man, Ben Stokes, after all.
Ball Two – Rayner stops Surrey play
If the top two slots in Division One look likely to go the current occupiers, the bottom two slots look much less predictable with three weeks of fixtures left. Amazingly, after just one win in another chaotic season, Surrey are not gone yet, despite running into a Rayner storm of wickets at The Oval. The tall off-spinner got plenty of bounce and used it well to return figures of 8-46 and 7-72, as Middlesex collected 21 points and Ollie collected a few records. Surrey fielded seven internationals, but their batting looks desperately reliant on Hashim Amla, their only man to score more than 38 in the match. The experienced pros and the young will need to stand up and be counted if Surrey are to retain the Division One status that, by any criterion other than the one that matters – points on the board – should surely be theirs.
Ball Three – Derbyshire win after 316 overs of ups and downs
Also in the basement, there was a real topsy-turvy thriller that eventually saw Derbyshire get over the line by two wickets in squeeky bum time. First Somerset were down, dismissed for 103 by the Derbyshire seamers. And they were still down when they conceded a first innings lead of 195, but Piyush Chawla’s five wickets showed that they were not quite out, with Derbyshire to bat fourth. Solid scoring right through the order (led by Nick Compton’s 95) pulled Trescothick’s men right back into the game, as they set the visitors 244 to win. But Derbyshire, continuing to show great heart in the second half of the season, got up despite another five-fer for Chawla. Just a point separates these two, both with two to play and with Somerset in the relegation place.
Ball Four – Rain for Read with a win in sight.
Not out of the mire Nottinghamshire had set themselves up with a gettable chase of 210 at Trent Bridge after dismissing mid-table Warwickshire twice for under 300 runs – but the rain spoiled what would have been a fascinating fourth day. Chris Read’s men will need Andre Adams fit and firing and Samit Patel to back up his century in this match with more runs to show the England selectors what they’re missing. And they’ll need a bit more luck with the weather too.
Ball Five – Old timer and young tyro double up
There were two double centuries at the Rose Bowl, as Hampshire and Northants drew – a result that merely continues an ordinary season for Hampshire, but might (and not for the first time) derail a Northants’ promotion push in the final furlong. The double centurions provid a good example of the variety in the English county game. Old pro Jimmy Adams has been round the block a few times and hit 23 tons and 74 fifties in a career well into its second decade. Rob Keogh, just a year on from his debut, had not even crossed fifty, before digging in and going all the way to 221. County cricket has always been broad enough to accommodate the old (well, oldish) and the new and both benefit as a result.
Ball Six – The only way is Essex wins, if promotion is to be secured
Northants, for so long a shoo-in for promotion, are suddenly under pressure, as Essex finally start to deliver on their potential. Tall lefty Reece Topley powered his side to the win with impressive match figures of 11-85, as Worcestershire lost all ten wickets in the first dig for 102 and nine in the second for 186. Topley seems to have been around for years, but he’s still a teenager with plenty of scope for improvement. He needs 12 more wickets to reach 100 in First Class cricket – Essex fans will be hoping they come in their game in hand over Northants which, if they win with a full hand of bonus points, will see them just five points off the all-important second place. That game is no gimme though – it’s a Trans-Thames local derby vs Kent.
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