Ball One – The Buttler did it – without doing anything
In a week which saw the er… custodians of the game take a big step towards carving up the season into ever smaller slices, the County Championship delivered some magnificent sport as it comes to a thrilling climax. Middlesex stayed top after drawing with Lancashire in a match that both sides wanted to win, but neither could afford to lose. At Old Trafford, the visitors were always ahead in the game once openers Nick Gubbins and Sam Robson had put on 127 on the first morning. But Rob Jones, playing only his third first class match, carried his bat for 106 to keep Lancashire in the game. The mere threat of Jos Buttler chasing down a target of, well, almost anything, induced James Franklin to delay his declaration until over 300 runs were required from 44 overs on a fourth day pitch with no fielding restrictions – after some short-lived Buttlerian high jinx, the draw was agreed. Middlesex’s 11 points extended their lead over Yorkshire and Lancashire’s 9 points keeps them 14 points above the trap door.
Ball Two – Jack Leach bleeds out Yorkshire resistance
Somerset needed to win at Headingley to keep their late charge for the pennant going and, with surprising ease, that’s exactly what they did, demolishing the home side in their fortress by 10 wickets. The season long fragility of the Tykes’ top order was exploited by the visitors’ seamers and, though Tim Bresnan dug in yet again, he couldn’t find a partner and was left marooned on 38. The first day finished with Somerset just 38 behind one down, with Marcus Trescothick and Chris Rogers at the crease and very much on the front foot. Though Jake Lehmann and Liam Plunkett offered some resistance with a stand of 101 for the eighth wicket second time round, Jack Leach’s six wickets were enough to ensure that the jig was up for Yorkshire and the game done with a day to spare. Yorkshire go into the final round Lord’s showdown with Middlesex trailing their opponents by nine points; Somerset, just a point behind in third, welcoming rock bottom Nottinghamshire to Taunton. Game, as they say, on.
Ball Three – Something for everyone in a fine match at The Riverside
Durham assured themselves of another season in Division One (though who will be left to play for them remains to be seen) after winning a thrilling match at The Riverside by just 21 runs in 1273. Keaton Jennings, who will play for Durham (or, possibly, England) next year, anchored the first innings, carrying his bat for 201 with the next highest score 38. Graham Onions then turned back the clock matching Mark Footitt’s Surrey fivefer to secure a first innings lead for the home side, which was extended to 280 on Day Four despite Sam Curran’s 7-58. Though Jason Roy added 96 to his first innings 120, Ben Stokes three quick wickets opened the door for the victory and Sam Curran was left 50 not out when Onions knocked over the tail. Durham celebrated what was probably their red ball season objective and Surrey turned their attention to the Royal London One Day Cup Final at Lord’s, their first class season completed.
Ball Four – Two wicketkeepers and an all-rounder get the job done for Essex
Could Essex’s vastly experienced XI have been suffering nerves on the brink of promotion after so many close calls? It looked that way after newcomer Kiran Carlson, at 18, became the latest young English (okay, Welsh) batsman to catch the eye with a century, having turned 18 earlier this season. When Ravi Bopara was fifth out, stumped, with the score on 85, the necessary bonus points looked a long way off. But captain, Ryan ten Doeschate found partners in the returning Alex Wheater and old pro James Foster, and the champagne corks were soon popping on the balcony. Glamorgan went on to win another very decent match by 11 runs, but Essex won’t be too concerned with that, bonus points making them champions with a game to spare.
Ball Five – 12-10 the final score, as Miguel Cummins wins bowlers’ duel with Steve Magoffin
Not much to play for elsewhere in Division Two (which expands to ten clubs next season) but two seamers with varying experience, can be satisfied with their contribution to a fine match at Hove. Australian, Steve Magoffin, can count himself a little unlucky not to have played international cricket, but he knows his way round at the domestic level, as his two fivefers against Worcestershire showed. Impressive, but not enough to win another super match as Miguel Cummins, playing only his seventh red ball match outside the Caribbean, backed up his first innings 7-84 with 5-82, including the last four wickets in just seven overs, to squeeze the win for the visitors by 11 runs. He might be back next summer.
Ball Six – Bears have Browncaps on toast
It was a very, very bad day at the office for Surrey from the moment Gareth Batty surprised me, if not everyone in the Media Centre, by choosing to bat at Lord’s at 10.30am in mid-September. To be fair, Jason Roy and Steve Davies got the South London side off to an unexpected flier, but once Laurie Evans did a bit of flying himself at midwicket to catch Roy in spectacular fashion, ten wickets went down for 91 runs in 32 overs and Surrey were never at the races. Jonathan Trott cruised to an unbeaten 82, and it was all too easy. The Warwickshire fans enjoyed it, but there was nothing for the neutrals in a poor advert for the 50 overs game.