Ball One – Warwickshire at the summit despite Slammin’ Samit
Samit Patel went all Twenty20 with an extraordinary assault that, as they so often do, concluded just at the moment it seemed it might actually succeed, but Warwickshire ran out 53 runs winners over Nottinghamshire to clamber over a couple of Roses and assume the leadership of Division One. That prospect seemed unlikely on the first afternoon when Jonathan Trott, the last of Warwickshire’s specialist batsmen, was dismissed with the scoreboard showing a queasy 117-6. Cue the Midlanders’ phalanx of all-rounders to get going, with skipper Chris Woakes and red hot Keith Barker hitting tons to drag their team to a competitive first innings total of 373. The two centurions then got on with the day job, opening the bowling in each Notts innings and taking nine wickets between them. Woakes and Barker are the epitome of the “Bits and Pieces” cricketer so often derided by those with eyes only for Test matches – but they and their like form the bedrock of the domestic game and would get a place in any county XI right now. We should give them more respect.
Ball Two – Colly’s folly?
Paul Collingwood did what captains are supposed to do, made a game of it and was rewarded magnificently by his bowlers in a match that showcased exactly how four day cricket should be played. He won the toss, batted at home and saw his boys rack up 411 by the second morning, a score founded on Scott Borthwick’s 134 and his own gritty 97. The Durham bowlers then took wickets at the right times to restrict Lancashire to 326 with Irish all-rounder, Barry McCarthy, the standout with a maiden fivefer in only his third first class match. Then, after Borthwick had added a second century in the match, Colly declared overnight to leave Lancashire 325 to get on the last day. Despite missing spearhead Chris Rushworth, Durham’s bowlers responded to that rallying cry and shared ten wickets amongst themselves to win by 73 runs. That is how to risk defeat in the pursuit of victory – well done Colly! 23 points sends Durham fourth, just six points behind Lancashire in third.
Ball Three – Yorkshire forced to show their mettle as they scrap for a draw
When your seam attack is under-strength, the last place you want to go is Taunton – but such was Yorkshire’s fate last week. Jack Brooks, Liam Plunkett and Steve Patterson registered combined figures of 71.2 – 11- 274 – 2 as Somerset piled up 562-7 dec, with old hands Marcus Trescothick, Chris Rogers and Peter Trego registering 90s and the not-quite-so-old hand James Hildreth biffing 166. With a bit of assistance from the weather and a tiring Somerset attack (asked to run in again after bowling Yorkshire out for 311), the Tykes set off back on the long trip home with nine points for the draw and the knowledge that delivering a hat-trick of pennants isn’t going to be all plain sailing.
Ball Four – Division Two calling London counties as clash finishes in damp draw
In the London derby, Surrey limped away with a draw after Ollie Rayner had dismissed them first time round and all the rain (yeah?) saved them in the second dig, the fourth day washed out with South Londoners still trailing by 53 runs with all ten wickets in hand. After five matches each, neither county has registered a victory and, with two going through the trap door in September, they’ll need to force some results in their remaining 11 matches to avoid the expanded (and dreary) Division Two come 2017.
Ball Five – Craig Miles leads Gloucestershire’s efforts to close the distance on Essex
Gloucestershire registered only the fifth win in 22 Division Two matches this season after they overcame a 68 runs first innings deficit to bowl out Glamorgan for 143 on the fourth day and take home 21 points, sufficient to lift them to joint third in the table. Their star man was 21 year-old Craig Miles, who made 49* and 39* with the bat and took three wickets in each innings with his pacey seamers. Inevitably labelled the “New Stuart Broad” (well, it makes a change from the “New Ian Botham”) the blond lad still has a long way to go, but he has already been involved in the Potential England Performance Programme and is definitely one to watch. Many more matches like this one and he can expect contract offers from Division One sides for 2017.
Ball Six – Nick Browne following famous footsteps
Good judges speak highly of a left-handed opener at Essex who likes to occupy the crease and can go very big if conditions are right. No, not Alastair Cook, but Nick Browne, who spent almost ten hours compiling 255 against Derbyshire in a match that petered out into a draw on a wet fourth day. Browne has both an excellent conversion rate, with ten tons and eight half-centuries to his name and an excellent contribution rate too, those 18 crossings of fifty coming in just 37 matches. At 25, he’s served an apprenticeship (also playing grade cricket in Australia where he scored a double ton last winter) and will look to play Division One cricket with his local club in 2017 – if Essex can lead the table from gun to post.