Ball One – Rogers re-writes records
Records fell at Lord’s as Chris Rogers played one of the all-time great Championship innings, getting Middlesex over the line in their pursuit of 472. Everyone (except possible Geoffrey Boycott when the record is his own) loves to see the Cricinfo’s boffins inserting rows towards the top of their stats spreadsheets, but is it good for the game? Those of us who endured Graeme Smith, Neil McKenzie and Hashim Amla grinding through 92 fourth day overs while they compiled 229 runs back in 2008, will know how Lord’s can go flat, especially since the impressive drainage was laid down 11 years ago. But if, in April to boot, Yorkshire and Middlesex score 675 runs for the loss of just nine second innings wickets in not much more than a day and a half, well – perhaps the balance between bat and ball needs to be considered at HQ.
Ball Two – Trescothick turns back the clock
Those 472 runs were not enough to take Middlesex to the top of Division One, despite leaders Sussex being blown away at home to Somerset. If Lewis Gregory’s nine wickets was the standout performance, office workers all around the country may have wondered about some colleagues’ whispered “Yes” (possibly accompanied by a fist-pump, for once justified) as they “worked through their emails” on Monday afternoon. Those private celebrations were provoked by computer scorecards clicking over to show three figures next to the name of Marcus Trescothick, who had cause to raise the bat and remove the helmet for the first time in a Championship match since September 2012. A good week then for veteran left-handed nice guy openers.
Ball Three – Bell has no alarms as Warwickshire take the points early
In a sharp contrast to Lord’s, the wicket was much more sporting at Trent Bridge, where Warwickshire wrapped up an impressive win on the third day. In a match where only three other batsmen – all internationals – passed fifty (with Phil Jaques the best of them with 64), Ian Bell played a captain’s knock to anchor his team’s first innings, stroking 122 of the 202 runs added while he was at the crease. It’s been a good start to the summer for the England man who can expect to win his 100th Test cap next month – in rather happier circumstances than the last two occasions that such a milestone was reached.
Ball Four – Jimmy Anderson swings back into the groove
At Wantage Road, Lancashire prevailed over the home side in a match which already had a bit of the relegation shoot-out about it. Jimmy Anderson was the Red Rose hero with two “fivefers” to add to his handy contribution to a tenth wicket stand of 39, the highest of the match until Northants’ sixth wicket’s 57. After a winter about as far removed from the successes and jolly video-diary japes of the previous Ashes tour as one could imagine, England’s senior bowler needed to re-discover his mojo – match figures of 49 – 16 – 89 – 10 is just what the sports psychologist ordered.
Ball Five – New Road proves no road before Pakistan’s spin king takes the high road
Worcestershire went top of Division Two with a crushing innings win over Derbyshire. Inevitably, Saeed Ajmal was the key man, taking 8 – 100 in the match, though Moeen Ali’s 99 underlined his growing stature in the game. Things are never straightforward with Pakistan’s magical cricketers and it’s no different for Ajmal, who will leave mid-season for the Caribbean Premier League, followed by international duties. Daryl Mitchell will hope that the seven remaining matches in which he can toss the ball to the man currently fifth in the Test bowlers rankings, will provide the platform for a promotion push come August and September.
Ball Six – Cobb earns his crust but fails to roll Glamorgan
The other three matches in Division Two were draws, the best of them at Grace Road where Glamorgan’s eighth wicket pair of Stewart Walters and John Glover survived the last hour to deny Leicestershire a first Championship win since the last game of 2012. Leicestershire are giving youth its head this season, with skipper Josh Cobb just 23 years old, his fresh-faced optimism presumably noticed by his opponents, who numbered six thirty-somethings and one forty-something (old warhorse Murray Goodwin) amongst their ranks. Cobb’s declaration after a morning thrash asked Glamorgan to score 321 in just over two sessions – okay, not exactly generous, but not as cautious as his elders are prone to be.
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