Ball One – Middlesex stay top after sensational win over Somerset
If Middlesex break Yorkshire’s stranglehold on the Division One title come September, expect plenty of references to their extraordinary win at Taunton last week as the turning point of the campaign. The Londoners were six down and still over 100 behind on first innings when they began to haul themselves back into the match. James Harris and James Fuller, who probably owed their places to England selectors favouring Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones, added 162 for the ninth wicket and Middlesex were unexpectedly ahead at the halfway mark. But Marcus Trescothick and Peter Trego scored tons prompting Chris Rogers to set the visitors 302 in a minimum of 46 overs – a positive, if ultimately doomed, declaration. Cue fourth afternoon mayhem that showed the county championship off to very best effect – Somerset striving for wickets, Middlesex refusing to contemplate the draw. If John Simpson’s six-to-win-it eight down at the death, made him the hero of the match, we shouldn’t forget to salute 22 players who played to win from first to last. Middlesex lead the table and Somerset continue to search for a second win of the season.
Ball Two – Yorkshire’s Adam Lyth gets the better of Surrey, but rain beats both teams
Yorkshire, without a win since the Roses triumph in early June, looked handily placed to force a win over fragile Surrey, but could do nothing about the rain which allowed fewer than 50 overs on the first two days at The Oval. There was time for Adam Lyth to compile a double century in a match in which the next highest score was his skipper’s 61 and put his name back in the selectors’ minds. He seems a long way off a return to England’s colours, but so did his team-mate, Gary Ballance, and he got the nod for the First Test, so who knows? With Yorkshire still handily placed to retain the pennant, 25 points off the leaders with a game in hand, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to deliver under pressure before the summer is out.
Ball Three – Gloucestershire have what’s needed to challenge for promotion
In what’s turning into a fine race for the one promotion slot available in Division Two, an impressive team effort from Gloucestershire saw them defeat leaders Essex, and squeeze up to within 11 points of their foes with a game in hand. With their young captain -opener-keeper Gareth Roderick leading from the front with 61 and 102 in a low scoring match, bowlers Craig Miles, Liam Norwell, David Payne and Josh Shaw shared the wickets around, ensuring that Dan Lawrence’s century and Matthew Quinn’s 11 wickets were in vain. With old hands Michael Kilnger and Hamish Marshall anchoring the middle order, in that quintet of players, none of whom is over 25, Gloucestershire have the tools to make a run for top spot in their seven remaining matches.
Ball Four – Leach and Henry clean up sorry Northamptonshire
Worcestershire tucked into second place, between Essex and Gloucestershire, after a crushing win over winless Northamptonshire. For that, they had much to thank their opening bowlers, Joe Leach and Kiwi quick Matt Henry, who combined for match figures of 60.1-11-207-15, the kind of numbers that usually see a pair of pacers on the winning side. While Joe Leach’s progression to the top of Division Two’s wickets table has caught the eye, the New Zealander has taken his wickets even more cheaply, his genuine pace a real strike weapon in a division where it is a rare sight.
Ball Five – Mark Wood is back and barking for Durham
In the T20 Blast North Group, Performance of the Week goes to England’s Mark Wood whose long haul back to fitness is progressing well. He backed up impressive figures of 4-0-25-1 against Leicestershire with even more parsimonious stuff in the Northants match, going for just 19 in his four overs and chipping in with a wicket. Durham’s two wins helped them to third place in the Group, but it’s so tight that any of the nine clubs could yet qualify for the quarter-finals. What a shame that the race is so invisible in the mainstream media.
Ball Six – L Dawson plays all the right notes for Hampshire
It’s almost as tight in the South Group, where the Performance of the Week goes to Liam Dawson, recently something of a surprise pick for England’s T20 side. He backed up his 76* off 54 balls with four wickets for just 23 runs, as he and Shahid Afridi strangled a Glamorgan reply that never got going. Dawson seems to have been around forever but, despite being in his tenth season for Hampshire , he’s still only 26. Few as young as that have acquired the street-smarts T20 cricket demands and we can expect him to play plenty more of the format in England colours.