Ball One – Yorkshire enjoy the sweet smell of success in Roses Match
Lancashire crossed the Pennines sitting on top of Division One to face the old enemy and champions for the last two seasons. After a pulsating match that twisted and turned, Lancashire are still top of that table, but with Yorkshire ominously level on points with six matches completed. The Red Rose took to the field first and soon had the White in trouble, the in-form Kyle Jarvis’s three wickets reducing Yorkshire to 74-5. Then, as has been the case so often under Jason Gillespie, the Yorkshire bowlers dug in with the bat and wrested the advantage back with 88 from Adil Rashid and 69 from Tim Bresnan the highlights. Lancashire had a sniff again second time round, when the two all-rounders were back in harness with the lead just 201, but they, and some biffing once again from Liam Plunkett saw the lead raised to 348. That was always too much for Steven Croft’s boys, who ran into Bresnan and Rashid with the ball this time, the pair snaring four wickets each. Lancashire can look back with pride on the first third of their season: Yorkshire can look forward with confidence.
Ball Two – Fuller’s Extra Special Bowling leaves Hampshire reeling
Durham’s draw took them to third spot just one point behind the champions, but the other big movers of the week were Middlesex, who smashed Hampshire at Northwood by an innings and plenty. After Adam Voges had shared stands of 279 with Dawid Malan and 174 (unbroken) with John Simpson, Tim Murtagh knocked the top off the visitors’ first innings and Toby Roland-Jones swept away the tail. That trick is usually harder to pull off second time round, and so it proved as Hampshire, following-on, dealt better with Middlesex’s experienced opening pair, only to run into James Fuller whose pace brought him five wickets on his first class debut for Middlesex. With Steven Finn looking out of sorts for England, a place in the Middlesex XI is by no means guaranteed if he returns to domestic cricket.
Ball Three – Batty driven mad by last wicket heroics
In a magnificent match at Taunton, the denouement of which made for electrifying radio on the BBC website, Surrey contrived to concede 64 runs to Somerset’s last two wickets in a low scoring match. After Gareth Batty had rolled back the years to take 7-32 and secure a first innings lead of 162, Surrey’s talented but fragile batting let Somerset back into the game collapsing to 138 all out in the second innings. The Londoners were always ahead, arguably until the last over of the match, but some smiting from Jamie Overton and then some cold-blooded accumulation (and a little luck) from Numbers 10 and 11, Jack Leach and Tim Groenewald, left Batty wondering how he took ten wickets at Taunton and still ended up on the losing side. Surrey have a lot of work to do to stay up, bottom of the Division and the only county without a win.
Ball Four – Gareth Roderick weathers the Shantry storm to declare and win
Gloucestershire are proving the surprise package of the season, their win over Worcestershire moving them into second place in Division Two behind Essex. It wasn’t just the points haul that will have pleased young and unsung skipper, Gareth Roderick, but the way his team fought back from conceding 439 first innings runs to Worcestershire, a total boosted by Jack Shantry’s extraordinary charge from 50 to 100 in just 14 balls. After Graeme van Buuren’s 172* had got his team back into the match, Roderick declared 75 behind and watched, no doubt with a wry smile, from his position of wicketkeeper as Craig Miles and Liam Norwell disposed of the home side’s batting in 57 overs (Shantry, naturally, going for a second ball duck). That left Gloucestershire 315 to get in 70 overs which, with tons from Michael Klinger and a charging Jack Taylor, was knocked off with time to spare. Roderick’s willingness to shape a match with an early declaration had reaped a rich reward and shown the way to captains much more experienced than the 24 year-old South African.
Ball Five – The batsmen and bowlers who have done well in the season so far
With a break in County Championship cricket over the next three weeks, it’s timely to look at the top individual performers to date. In Division One, England reject Sam Robson leads the run-scoring charts with 636 at 80, with Kumar Sangakkara second (which shows how badly his Surrey teammates have batted). Scott Borthwick is the name that stands out in the top ten, his 574 runs coming at 82, the leg-spinner turned batsman putting another solid season together for Durham. Amongst the bowlers, Lancashire’s southern Africans, Kyle Jarvis and Neil Wagner, lead the way with 28 wickets each, one pitching it up, the other banging it in. The most interesting name in this top ten is an old favourite of this column, Middlesex’s Toby Roland-Jones, whose 20 wickets this season contribute to a career record of 268 wickets at 25 at a strike rate of 48. Quite how numbers like that manage to go under the radar season after season is beyond my powers to explain. In Division Two, Northamptonshire’s young batsman Ben Duckett’s 646 runs puts him just behind old stager, Ed Joyce in the batting hit parade. Dear old Graham Napier has the most wickets with 31, but Essex buddy Jamie Porter is in second with 28 despite going off the boil a little in May.
Ball Six – Jason Roy a king again when the ball is white
The franchise brigade rode into town as the T20 Blast got underway to bring in the crowds and halt a County Championship that had just begun to get interesting after a slow start – such is life, I fear, for the foreseeable future. You won’t hear Jason Roy complaining though, as he found refuge from some dismal personal form in an underperforming Surrey side to er.. blast 109 from 67 balls at Hove, Surrey running out easy winners by 23 runs having posted 205. Roy was one of three changes to the Surrey XI after the dispiriting events at Taunton, the others being Dwayne Bravo and Sam Curran, but Mat Pillans kept his place. However, the South African paceman’s search for a second wicket of the season will now go to a seventh match.