The test matches may have started, but the Championship goes on. The biggest winners this week were probably Yorkshire and Notts, who had a week off while the teams that did play battled against the weather.
Worcester continued their North of England tour at Lancashire, skittling the home team for 161 is the first innings, Kabir Ali taking eight of the wickets. The evergreen Graeme Hick scored a ton as they took a lead of 167 on first innings, despite 6 for Murali. However, the weather and a much more resilient Lancashire performance (Peter Horton getting a ton) meant the game ended in a draw and Worcester remain winless at the bottom of the table.
Champions Sussex continue to struggle, conceding 626 for 3 at home to Surrey, with big scores for ex-internationals Mark Butcher (179) and Mark Ramprakash (254 no) who put on over 400 for the third wicket. Despite a ton from Murray Goodwin, Sussex were made to follow on, but a double hundred from Goodwin again and a ton from Chris Adams saw them to safety.
Even less play was possible at Edgbaston, where two of the divisions form teams were playing. Warwicks batted first, and tons for Kumar Sangakkara and Alex Loudon got the Bears to 335, with Graham Onions filling the boots of Steve Harmison and Liam Plunkett and taking eight wickets. Durham’s reply was cut short by the weather at 274 for 6, Dale Benkenstein nearing a hundred as the game ended.
Derbyshire and Middlesex were the only teams to take their game into a fourth innings, with Middlesex outscoring the home team 248 to 225 on the first innings. Middlesex then scored 180 second time round, Irishman Boyd Rankin taking his second four-fer of the match setting Derby around 200 to win. With the weather getting in the way, they close at 53 for 1 and had to settle for a draw.
Local rivals Glamorgan and Gloucester locked horns in Bristol, with the Welshmen scoring 392 in their first innings, thanks largely to tons from Mark Wallace and Alex Wharf. All eyes were then on the returning Simon Jones, but he was out-bowled by 17 year old James Harris, who took seven wickets as Gloucester were bowled out for 219. Following on, Gloucester scored 328 for 9, with Kadeer Ali scoring a ton and Harris taking five more wickets.
Finally to Grace Road, where Leicester scored 335 before rolling Essex over for 201. The second innings had barely got started when the match was abandoned as a draw.
England Hopeful watch
Less of these now as the test team is playing. However, it is good to see Simon Jones playing again, even if he did go wicket-less. Steven Davies scored 43 for Worcestershire, but the form of Matt Prior (with bat and gloves) in the first test suggests that the England keeping slot is in safe hands at the moment.
Graham Onions is part of the England development squad and will have done his chances no harm with an 8-fer. However, the current test seems to show that taking wickets for Durham is no indication of form.
Player of the Week
Two contenders this week. One at the start of his career, one approaching the end. Mark Ramprakash has continued his sublime county form from last season, leading to many (including those who should know better) pushing him for an England recall. However, pipping him to the player of the week is James Harris. 17 years old and 12 wickets for Glamorgan against Gloucester. Certainly one to watch.