Ball One – Sam Robson puts a disappointing winter behind him
Middlesex’s second innings collapse to 89 all out – including a tenth wicket stand of 39 – was trumped by Durham’s capitulation to James Harris (about whom I wrote in my first over of the season) as Adam Voges’ men nudged into first place in Division One. But such heroics would not have been possible without Sam Robson’s 178 on the first day before the carnage. Robson is a little older than Harris, but still not 26 and has Test experience with last summer’s two series on his record. Against Sri Lanka and India, he looked vulnerable to the moving ball (but most openers do – some nick it and some miss it) but he has a Test century and fifty on his record. Robson didn’t get many in the two England Lions Tests vs South Africa A last winter, and this is his first substantial score of the season, but if weight of runs in the county game is the route back into the England team for one player, shouldn’t it be so for all? Over to you Sam.
Ball Two – Cox leaves Somerset still thirsting for their first win of 2015
At New Road, Worcestershire got off the mark with a win over Somerset, who remain bottom of the table having lost all three of their fixtures. Not a single ciderman registered a fifty in the match, so that makes Worcestershire’s seventh wicket stand of 168 all the more commendable. Wicketkeeper Ben Cox (109) and seamer Joe Leach (95) were the men responsible, turning the match’s momentum at six wickets down. Though neither are likely to catch the eye of Andrew Strauss and co any time soon, if they can make things happen like that they will both enjoy long and successful careers in the county game. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Ball Three – Lancashire and Northamptonshire plotting a route back to the top flight
Lancashire’s bonus points were enough to keep them first and Northants second in Division Two after a game in which bat dominated ball, with 1212 runs scored for just 25 wickets down. But the detail reveals a more nuanced picture, with Northants 197-6 in their first innings before recovering to 385 all out and Lancashire well behind on 221-6 before rallying in similar fashion to close their first dig on 436. Both sides lacked the cutting edge to dislodge determined late orders – which is probably why they were playing the fixture in Division Two this year and not, as last year, in Division One.
Ball Four – Hunt continues for elusive Leicestershire victory
Leicestershire came close to registering their first win in the County Championship since 2012, but fell three wickets short at Canterbury as Daniel Bell-Drummond anchored Kent’s chase with a four hour century to secure the draw. The opener is still making his way in the game, but has, perhaps surprisingly, registered 41 first class matches already. I trust he’s listening to the three old lags in the Kent dressing room, who have the small matter of 664 first class appearances between them : Rob Key (289), Brendan Nash (137) and Darren Stevens (238).
Ball Five – Welsh rain reigns in Cardiff stalemate
The Welsh rain that produces the softest water in England makes it hard for cricket teams to force wins at Cardiff, as Glamorgan and Derbyshire found to their cost playing out a draw between the showers. Not much the captains (Wayne Madsen of Derbyshire and Jacques Rudolph of Glamorgan) could do about that. Though both South Africans have excellent credentials for the job, wouldn’t it be better for English cricket if the reins were given to a young English player, with Madsen and Rudolph advising backstage? I’d love to see how Shiv Thakor would respond to the responsibility of captaincy at Derbyshire. The role never did any harm to Michael Hussey nor Matthew Hayden before their delayed blooming as Test match batsmen.
Ball Six – Are there more positive results in Division One because every match matters?
Weather always plays a part in determining the number of positive results teams can achieve in four day cricket, but Division One has already produced eight wins compared to Division Two’s six from the 13 matches played this season. Though the number of victories in 2014 was more or less the same in each division, the feeling persists that sides in the top flight have to battle much harder to get over the line, with most matches having a bearing on the coveted pennant, significant prize money or relegation. Perhaps a little more jeopardy for teams in Division Two would make the wins more precious and the cricket correspondingly tougher – though it’s hard to see how that could be achieved in the current structure.