Ball One – Ambrose’s tasty knock takes Warwickshire to the summit of Division One
After the previous week’s record breaking chase, Middlesex would have been confident when Chris Rogers won the toss and said, “We’ll have a bat.” A couple of hours later, the scoreboard read 66-8 and there was to be no second innings heroics this time round. Warwickshire’s innings victory sent them top of the table, a lofty location for which they will be thanking seventh wicket pair, Tim Ambrose (167) and Jeetan Patel (105) who lifted The Bears’ score from 140-6 to 315-7. Ambrose is still only 31 and has scored more runs this season than any other English keeper with the exception of James Foster – yet he gets few mentions as an answer to the national team’s injury concerns. The new regime could do a lot worse.
Ball Two – Yardy impresses as Sussex shuffle into second
Another ex-England man with an esoteric technique that works, Michael Yardy, batted nearly eight and a half hours in a low scoring match at Old Trafford in which Lancashire were stymied in their chase of a very distant 324 by the weather. Yardy’s first innings 139 from Number Three was the highest knock in the match by some 80 runs – the kind of differential that reveals a top class innings. Chris Nash’s men are second, but will do well to maintain that position with a line-up that looks better suited to one-day cricket; and Hove’s more reliable weather.
Ball Three – Yorkshire bat on but come up short
The two counties most likely to carry the North’s challenge for the pennant played out a draw at Chester-le-Street, as Yorkshire chose to bat deep into the second day with a view to taking 20 wickets in two consecutive innings – they got 14. It was a curious decision from returning captain Andrew Gale, because he must have known the state of the wicket having amassed 124 himself in five hours at the crease, so he obviously knew that his four man pace attack would likely require plenty of overs to get through Durham’s batting. I’m not sure that Sidebottom, Brooks, Bresnan and Plunkett will have enjoyed the fourth day much, having delivered 105 overs between them to force the follow-on. Then again, had journeymen pros , first innings centurions Mark Stoneman and Michael Richardson, batted like their more illustrious team-mates, Yorkshire would top the table now.
Ball Four – Taunton taunts bowlers again
Though Samit Patel and Phil Jaques, both of whom scored over 200 runs in the match, may disagree, batting is too easy at Taunton. Just 23 wickets fell in four full days play, with runs coming at closer to four an over than three, as bowlers toiled again. Somerset are trying to do something about it, but producing pitches to order requires a delicate alchemy and the warning to be careful of what one wishes for should be borne in mind. Two high scoring draws this season have backed up four draws last season, with only one home success in that time. As is shown year after year, it’s wins that bring home the Title, something that has eluded Somerset through its 123 years in the Championship – is another chance already slipping by?.
Ball Five – Daryl Mitchell hits purple patch
Worcestershire, the only team with two wins, sit atop Division Two thanks to a remarkable run of form from their skipper, local boy Daryl Mitchell. He was last man out for 109 (of 240) in the first dig, then declared in the second innings having scored his second undefeated 150+ score of the season. He’ll be hoping that Friday evening’s T20 Blast curtain-raiser at Durham doesn’t interfere with his rhythm – but such are the demands as cricket’s fixtures gain momentum at last.
Ball Six – Surrey are lucky to be third bottom
In the first four Championship matches (that’s 25% of the season) , Surrey’s batsmen have walked to the crease 58 times: none have returned with more than Zafar Ansari’s 74 (scored a month ago) to their name. Nobody knows why. Unlike Worcestershire’s run machine, some rhythm-adjusting Blasting is exactly what Graeme Smith and co need.