Ball One – Lanky stand tall to go top of Division One
To the surprise of many, including a fair few who sport the red rose, Lancashire lead Division One having pasted fellow promoted side Surrey, whose sorry season continues, by an innings and plenty. With James Anderson bending the ball for England, Steven Croft needed one of his seamers to step up and Kyle Jarvis did exactly that, the Zimbabwean channeling the spirit of thousands of Lancashire League seamers from years gone by wobbling it a bit in the air and a bit off the Spring earth of northern England to take 11 wickets in the match. Next, Lancashire go to Headingley for a huge match against Yorkshire and Surrey go back to the drawing board.
Ball Two – James Weighell rolls Warwickshire
Playing only his fourth First Class game, James Weighell was asked to do Chris Rushworth’s job of taking wickets to set up the batsmen. Having taken a career-best 4-97 in Warwickshire’s first innings, the seamer bettered that second time round with 5-33. Chris Woakes nine wickets may have captured the headlines, but Weighell’s nine set up the win, delivered when he, fittingly, took a single off Jeetan Patel to send Durham second, ten points off Lancashire.
Ball Three – Mason Crane lifts Hampshire
Starting the round of matches winless and rock bottom, Hampshire needed to make something happen if their red ball season wasn’t to slide away in a avalanche of one day stuff before it had even begun. In a tight match, captain Will Smith, was bold in his choices and gained the rewards with a win by 69 runs to leapfrog Surrey. Mason Crane may rejoice in a name that suggest solidity, but he has chosen to practise cricket’s most fragile of arts – legspin. The teenage wrist-spinner seems to have turned as many heads as he has balls, with many good judges tipping him for great things – but we’ve all heard that before. Even with all those if, buts and maybes that any English cricket fan must surround themselves when a fair-haired legspinner hoves into view, his three wickets in each innings against a very experienced Nottinghamshire line-up, is exactly the kind of progress England’s selectors will be hoping to see. This Crane could be a high-flyer before long.
Ball Four – Kent believe in themselves to produce incredible win
In Division Two, Kent did not allow the concession of nearly 500 runs in the first innings of the match block their path to victory and a slot in second place behind pacesetters Essex. After 125 overs in the field, Sean Dickson, with barely a run to his name all season, dug in to carry his bat for 207 and give his bowlers a chance. Matt Coles, James Tredwell and Calum Haggett then rolled Derbyshire for less than 100, before Daniel Bell-Drummond 80* calmed any nerves to gather 21 points for Sam Northeast’s men. Welcome though those points are, the nature of the win is just as important for Kent, a spectacular comeback showing great heart. This magnificent match was just what the division needed too in a lacklustre season so far – let’s see more like it!
Ball Five – Joe Leach and Matt Henry clean up Leicestershire
In a match that shared a similar shape to the one at Derby, Worcestershire overcame a first innings deficit to run out easy winners over Leicestershire and move into third place in the table. For that, they had to thank pacers Matt Henry and Joe Leach who shared 15 wickets in the match and bowled unchanged through the second innings, an innings that lasted just 25 overs accumulating a pitiful 43 runs. Mark Cosgrove’s reconstructed team has shown more promise this season (they could hardly fail to do that after all) but this setback may take a bit of getting over – the captain himself should aim to lead by example, scoring some much needed runs to end an uncharacteristic lean spell.
Ball Six – Surrey slide to predictable defeat
There were ticket touts outside Oval tube station as Surrey opened their Twenty20 home season against Glamorgan – whether the scalpers will be there for the next game is doubtful. Surrey were simply dreadful, charging first class prices for club quality cricket. Steve Davies lifted one into the deep, Kumar Sangakkara inexplicably charged his fourth ball and Jason Roy predictably holed out to extra cover when circumspection was required. So, when Azhar Mahmood (not unreasonably aged 41) pulled up lame, Surrey were done for with the match barely 45 minutes old. Quite how the wealthiest county in England managed to field only three specialist batsmen (those named above) with Zafar Ansari, plagued by injuries and without a run since 1 May, at four and Gary Wilson (in for Ben Foakes crocked in the warm-up), with 12 runs in 2016 at five, is the kind of mystery that has baffled Surrey members for years.