Ball One – Maxwell steadies the ship as Yorkshire turn the tide at Scarborough
Only one of the current round of County Championship Division One matches had been completed at the time of writing, but that was the big one, the battle of the North Eastern heavyweights that saw Yorkshire cruise to a 183 run win at Scarborough. It wasn’t all plain sailing at the seaside for the champions (and, with a fifty point lead and a game in hand, probably champions-elect too), but, as so often under Jason Gillespie’s coaching, the Tykes found a way to win. After ball had dominated bat in both first innings (162 played 158), Durham’s strong seam attack had their hosts 79-5 and struggling. Cue Glenn Maxwell, recently out of the side by reasons of form and poor discipline, but primed to play his most important innings for Yorkshire alongside the man for a crisis, Adil Rashid. A partnership of 248 runs in 46 overs took the game away from Durham who were never getting 447 in the fourth innings. Maxwell’s 140 off 144 balls was critical, but Rashid’s 127 and his wrapping up of the tail probably made him Man of the Match and will have interested the England selectors as they bask in the luxury of a dead Ashes rubber coming up at The Oval.
Ball Two – Doubles all round as Gloucestershire beat Glamorgan
Gloucestershire are probably too far behind Surrey to challenge for the second promotion slot in Division Two, but it doesn’t mean to say they won’t take aim at Glamorgan’s third place, as their comfortable win at Swansea showed. The victory was a real team effort from Will Tavare’s men, their first innings total of 416 comprising no score above 70 and none below 11 (with Extras also catching the mood with 46, producing not one single figure score on the card). Six bowlers chipped in with at least one wicket too, as Gloucestershire went third, just nine points behind their vanquished opponents.
Ball Three – Northamptonshire show good focus in a crisis
The other completed match in Division Two had apparently little riding on it, with Northamptonshire and Kent stuck in mid-table. But both clubs have T20 Blast quarter-finals this week, with both needing the money, especially Northants around whom the financial vultures are circling. So Alex Wakely will be pleased to have seen the fight shown by his charges, as they rolled Kent for 167 and 208 to get home by an innings and 23. He may, however, have mixed feelings about the 145 made by Ben Duckett, his wicketkeeper batsman, playing as a specialist opener in this game. Still only 20, Duckett has three first class centuries this season and is averaging over 50. With David Willey almost certain to leave at the end of the season, if Northants are to regain the Division One place they relinquished last season, they can ill-afford to lose Duckett too. I suspect that they might.
Ball Four – Gloucestershire fostering winning mentality
It was a good week for Gloucestershire all round with three consecutive wins lifting them to joint top of the Royal London One-Day Cup Group A, qualifying for the knockout stage with two matches still to play. A century from Australian-batsman-in-form, skipper Michael Klinger, was enough to chase down local rivals Somerset; another captain’s knock of 135 proved too much for Durham; and, in the absence of their talismanic leader, the 229 added before the loss of the fourth wicket made for an easy chase of 265 to beat Worcestershire. That’s nine wins and one no result in Gloucestershire’s last ten matches in all competitions – too bad their early season form saw them eliminated at the T20 Group Stage.
Ball Five – Riki Wessels is a fine first class cricketer destined not to play at international level
In Group B, Nottinghamshire head the table, also after three wins in a week. Where one might expect big contributions from international cricketers like James Taylor, Samit Patel, Alex Hales and Chris Read, Riki Wessels caught the eye with a brilliant 132 that was plenty enough to apply scoreboard pressure to Middlesex’s forlorn chase. Not surprisingly given that he is the son of Kepler Wessels, the opener with 24 Tests for Australia and another 16 for South Africa, Riki Wessels has been round the block a few times with registrations, visas and qualifications. He might just reflect a little on that lack of clarity as he looks back on his career, in which his record as a keeper-batsman is as good as many who have played international cricket, something which, at the age of 30 this coming November, will probably pass him by.
Ball Six – Peters retires and leaves four men standing
So farewell then Stephen Peters, whose fine county career at Essex, Worcestershire and Northamptonshire never quite lived up the the promise of his famous century in England’s victory over New Zealand in the 1998 Under-19 World Cup. The scorecard comprises some famous and not so famous names, but now leaves us with just two on each side regularly playing first class cricket: step forward Rob Key and Graham Napier for England and Hamish Marshall and James Franklin for New Zealand. What lives those 90s teenagers were to live out, on and off the field, good times and bad times and what changes they witnessed. And, if you’re thinking that there’s a book in that match, you’re right.