Ball One – Old pros provoke more prose about pros and cons of buying in overseas pros.
Though some members (certainly at Old Trafford) would prefer to see younger academy prospects given a go, old (very old) hands, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Kumar Sangakkara, continue to deal in cricket’s hardest currency – runs. In a innings that would be described as Chanderpaulesque even if he hadn’t played it, the man from Demerara batted in his own sweet way for 482 minutes to take the Red Rose from 67-5 up to 470 all out. Four hours of those hours, he spent in the company of Jordan Clark, whose maiden century may just herald the season in which the all-rounder finally delivers on his rich promise. After Surrey’s curiously passive first innings left them following on and in trouble, still 85 behind with both openers back in the hutch in the second dig, the veteran Lankan found a partner in Scott Borthwick, who emulated fellow Durham import Mark Stoneman’s feat of last week in scoring a first ton for his new county. The draw took Surrey to the top of Division One and left Lancashire fifth.
Ball Two – Middlesex dig in at the Rose Bowl.
Hampshire are the second of three teams with a win and and a draw after two matches, their attempt to secure a home victory over Middlesex frustrated by some late order resistance from the champions. Bowlers, Steven Finn, Ollie Rayner and Tim Murtagh all batted for over an hour and Toby Roland-Jones, slowly turning himself into a Martin Bicknell style all-rounder, was only eight minutes short of the mark, as a home attack, shorn of the cutting edge of the injured Fidel Edwards, could take only five wickets on the fourth day. Middlesex will be happy to have extended their long unbeaten run in the Champo with a ten points draw and Hampshire, after their controversial promotion, can be satisfied with second place in the table after two matches.
Ball Three – Coad red hot as Warwickshire press the batting panic button.
Middlesex’s predecessors as pennant fliers, Yorkshire, will be much happier after last week’s deflating defeat with an innings win over hapless Warwickshire. Ben “Highway” Coad, the latest in a seemingly inexhaustible supply of effective White Rose seamers, backed up his eight wickets first time out with two “Michelles” to give him 18 Division One wickets already and put his county into third place. He will be hard to drop when the likes of Liam Plunkett, Jack Brooks and Ryan Sidebottom are available for selection. Keith Barker and Jeetan Patel – handy batsmen, but their main job is bowling – scored 145 of Warwickshire’s 293 runs in the match, a testament to the home side’s batting travails, Ian Bell’s team rock bottom of the table having been dismissed for fewer than 180 runs three times in four completed innings this season.
Ball Four – Neil Wagner sends the whiff of napalm into Somerset noses.
Another man whose currency is neither positive body language, tempo shifting biffing nor “move the field” strokes is Alastair Cook, who made 52 out of 129 in the first dig and then 110 in a fourth innings chase of 255 to seal the win that sent Essex fourth in the early standings. If the ex-England captain is an old fashioned batsman, he’ll be happy to acknowledge the skills of team mate, Neil Wagner, the old fashioned Kiwi quick, who is nowhere near the pace of Shane Bond, but nobody has told him that, so he bangs it in and roughs up opponents, running in all day for his skipper. His second innings 6-49 comprised each of the last six Somerset wickets – showing the value of a bit of mongrel when it comes to knocking over a tail.
Ball Five – Crash, bang wallop by both sides sees Northants win in a photo finish
What cricket takes with one hand, it gives with the other, as events on the fourth day at Derby proved. After a morning of nonsense to set up the home side’s declaration, the game started again with Northants looking at a chase of 326 in 65 overs – tough, but fair. Alex Wakeley knew that he had nine decent cards to play, with Saffer slugger, Rory Kleinveldt listed to come in at nine, but in form off the back of a match-turning 86 last week. The visitors could have shut up shop at 124-4 with 202 to get in 38 overs, and again with 27 to get and seven down. But after Rob Newton’s well paced 98 up top and Richard Levi’s booming 99 off 79 balls to get the chase started again, it was that man Kleinveldt who hit the penultimate ball of the match for 6 and the win that took his team joint top of the Second Division. If Luis Reece and Billy Godleman have an asterisk against their morning stand of 333 for Derbyshire, that’s a price worth paying for a splendid, positive conclusion to a match that entered its last over with all four results possible.
Ball Six – DI Stevens builds the case for Kent
Just a point behind the early pacesetters, Kent’s season is off to a fine start, not least as a result of yet another ageing warhorse in peak form. Darren Stevens has an uncomplicated technique with bat and ball – “See ball, hit ball” and “You miss, I hit”, has been his MO for a few years now and, a few days short of his 41st birthday, that’s unlikely to change any time soon. In Kent’s two Championship matches, he has registered three half centuries and two fivefers, his latest the a nap hand comprising the top five in the Sussex order, as the home side fell well short of a fourth day rather distant target of 427. Stevens’ gnarly face and comfortable physique won’t feature on many of the ECB’s posters for its city based T20 tournament, but there’ll always be room for a crafty bugger like him as long as the game is played.