Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

County cricket: thrills and spills galore in a super round of games
Cricket Sport

County cricket: thrills and spills galore in a super round of games

Ball one: Surrey are kings with the Dukes ball

It’s increasingly difficult to make a case for anything other than another summer procession for Rory Burns’ men as they find yet more routes to the inevitable destination. It’s four wins on the bounce now – a phrase in the news this week.

The two Dans threw Worcestershire to the floor, Lawrence making a pair of 80s and Worrall delivering SF Barnesesque figures of 10 for 57. Jordan Clark again brought the biff with 98, his team’s standout player this season in a squad of full of them.

Worcestershire provided some late defiance through Nathan Smith and Ben Gibbon, but it was never enough. Hampshire are up next for the champions of the last two years, but we may need to wait for the return of the Kookaburra ball to change the narrative.

Ball two: Cox pips Warwickshire in comeback

The only two clubs to deny Surrey in the last six Championships, Essex and Warwickshire, played a seesawing match at Chelmsford.

Down a mountainous 235 on first innings after centurions Ed Barnard and Michael Burgess had rescued the visitors with a stand of 209 for the seventh wicket and Essex had failed to muster even a partnership of 50, there was work to be done. Sam Cook and Jamie Porter did their thing with the new ball, but it was spin twins Simon Harmer and Matt Critchley who ran through the order to set up a chase of 330.

Dean Elgar went looking for a partner and found one in Jordan Cox, who then found one in Matt Critchley, who fell just one short of joining Cox with a three-figure score when the winning runs were scored.

If Clark’s 310 runs and 13 wickets make him the leading all-rounder in the country, Critchley’s 382 runs and 13 wickets put him not far behind (albeit ahead on stats alone). After coming through at Derbyshire, he turns 28 in August, the leg-break bowler in his prime for Essex. Although unlikely to get the nod for England, he is nevertheless an elite domestic player in all formats and worth his weight in gold.

Ball three: Somerset are second – again

Elbowing between the champions of recent past and present, one finds champions never, Somerset, who won a splendid match in a round of splendid matches, deep in the final session of day four.

Zak Crawley’s return to form with an imperious 238 (cut and get ready to paste that adjective whenever the England man gets past 50 these days) brought Kent back into a match they looked out of when asked to follow-on, 376 behind. But Somerset didn’t need either of their first-innings heroes, ton-up men Tom Banton and James Rew, as Matt Renshaw and Andrew Umeed steered them home with an unbroken stand of 134.

Nobody would deny Somerset a full hand of 24 points, but the two picked up by Kent seem a meagre reward for their efforts in bowling the home side out in the first innings and making 564 in their second dig.

Somerset players celebrate after beating Kent.View image in fullscreen

Ball four: We do like to beat Ben by the seaside

Ben Stokes, making his domestic bow for 2024, was upstaged with the bat by his teammate David Bedingham and his former England teammate Keaton Jennings, who each made twin tons, and with the ball by Tom Aspinwall, a less likely name.

The 20-year-old’s first bowl in the Championship in only his second match brought him five for 41 and the applause of the England captain as he led Lancashire from the field. Snaring Alex Lees and Colin Akermann in the second innings won him his own captain’s appreciation.

Spare a thought for Ollie Robinson (not the Sussex bowler, the ex-Kent wicketkeeper) left high and dry on 171 with 61 still to get, a heroic failure so beloved of English fans of any sport. He couldn’t deny Lancashire their first win of the season, though they’re still propping up the division.

Ball five: HH goes from AA to ZZ

Haseeb Hameed, who has little need of the lesson to be fair, found out that karma can turn very rapidly in cricket. After last week’s performance for the ages, he made 20 and 0 as Notts ran into Hampshire’s ageing but supremely skilled trident of seamers, augmented by bowlers who bat and batters who bowl.

Keith Barker was typically in the game with a couple of wickets in 39 tight overs and a very handy 74 to rescue his team from 77 for five; Liam Dawson picked up three wickets at an even more parsimonious cost to add to his 95; and James Fuller chimed in with a match-securing 77, carrying his side from the depths of 44 for five all the way to the 169 they needed for the win.

Hampshire’s first win lifted them to respectability in mid-table. Although the likes of Kyle Abbott, Mohammad Abbas and James Vince (in addition to those mentioned above) remain excellent players, one wonders how they are going to win a pennant at this stage in their careers when they couldn’t win one earlier.

Ball six: Up step the other Ollie Robinson

Scores like Gloucestershire’s 706 for six catch the eye, but it’s the low-scoring, squeaky-bum games that provide red-ball cricket’s thrillers.

The clatter of wickets competed with the squawks of the seagulls at Hove, as 40 went down inside 250 overs (wickets not gulls). It was advantage Yorkshire after the first digs, a slim lead of 45 worth rather more than it looked in the circumstances. The home side knew that the third innings needed an anchor – and a solid 86 from solid pro, Tom Alsop, provided that. Add in a few bits and pieces, and a target of 183 was set.

It was an awkward but gettable target. The visitors must have felt confident with 25 to get, four wickets in hand and Adam Lyth doing a Tom Alsop. Cue Ollie Robinson, as good a bowler as there is in the domestic game (when fit). He snared Lyth and precipitated a collapse of four wickets in 26 balls for the addition of just three runs.

Will Sussex retain their ace card as England face the post-Anderson future? If talent were the sole criterion for selection, no they would not – but Test cricket is named, as the cliche has it, because it tests much more than that. That said, Robinson is taking wickets at under 25 this season, which is higher than his Test average of 23. Numbers like that (almost) speak for themselves.

Source: theguardian.com