And suddenly it goes from a two horse race to everyone being involved as Sussex and particularly Yorkshire make a right rickets of their matches this week. While in Division 2, Somerset are nearly home and hosed and Essex miss a golden opportunity to close the gap.
Starting, if I must, with the Roses debacle. Yorkshire won the toss, elected to bat and were very quickly 1 for 3 and 22 for 5, with Saj Mahmood and Glen Chapple doing the damage. A recovery to 144 all out was never going to be enough especially as two of the Lancashire batsmen, Paul Horton and Stuart Law each scored more than Yorkshire had managed, Law getting a Roses record (for Lancs) 206 in a total of 517. Murali then took 5-fer as Yorks capitulated to 247 and Lancs ran out very comfortable winners.
Meanwhile Sussex were having problems of their own with Warwickshire. The Bears batted first, scoring 433, with Ian Westwood getting a ton and Tim Ambrose 99. Sussex were then skittled for just 168, with only Luke Wright getting more than 20. Despite a lead of 265, Warwicks didn’t enforce the follow on and scored 238 second time round with Saqlain taking 7 wickets. Sussex then batted out for the draw, with Richard Montgomerie scoring 195 in their 405 for 5.
With neither of the top two winning, Hampshire took the chance to make up ground scoring 455 for 9 against Worcestershire, for whom Gareth Batty took 6 wickets. Worcester were then dismissed for just 86, with Daren Powell taking 4 for 8 in 10 overs. However, like Warwickshire, Hants didn’t enforce the follow on and stumbled to 103 for 8 before declaring. However, this was more than enough as Worcester were bowled out for 187 and they now look doomed to life in Division 2 next season.
A vital match at the bottom of the table saw Surrey take on Kent. Kent batted first and managed only 150 with Harbhajan taking 5-fer. Surrey replied with 215 for a crucial first innings lead, James Tredwell taking 6 wickets. Harbajan took six wickets second time round as Kent could only manage 171 and Surrey got the 108 runs needed for the loss of 6 wickets to lift themselves above Kent and out of the relegation places.
The Championship now looks to be back to a five horse race with Sussex and Yorks still at the top, but having played a game more than Durham, Hants and Lancs. At the bottom, it would take a miracle for Worcester to survive, while Surrey are now a point above Kent and both teams have a game in hand on Warwickshire who, while not giving up on their title aspirations, must be looking nervously over their shoulders. It's getting exciting!
The top two went head to head at Trent Bridge with Nottinghamshire scoring 350 largely due to 145 from Stephen Fleming, putting on 83 for the final wicket. Somerset replied with 452, Cameron White scoring a ton. David Hussey got a ton in the Notts second innings, but the home team were dismissed for just 279 leaving Somerset 181 to win, which they did for the loss of four wickets. The gap at the top is becoming decisive.
With the top two playing each other, Essex had the chance to make up ground on one of them against struggling Gloucestershire. Gloucester batted first, scoring 278. However, this was put into perspective by Essex’s paltry 88, with Jon Lewis and Steve Kirby each taking 5 for 41. Gloucester didn’t do a lot better second time round with 139. However, this was more than enough runs as Kirby took five more wickets and Essex ended up 70 runs short on 259.
Bottom club Glamorgan batted first against Northamptonshire, scoring 465 with Alex Wharf getting a ton. Northants were then bowled out for 387, largely due to 219 from David Sales. Glamorgan scored 197 second time round, with Jason Brown taking 5-fer. However, the match ran out of time before Northants could chase the 276 needed for victory and it ended in a draw.
Leicestershire hosted a resurgent Derbyshire and opened up with 274, with Derby replying with 194. To that point, Stuart Broad had done pretty well, scoring an unbeaten 40 and taking 3 wickets. However, the second innings saw two career best performances as he scored an unbeaten 91 in Leicester’s 344 (Ant Botha taking 5-fer) and then took 5 for 67 as Derby were bowled out 28 runs short on 396, despite 167 from Simon Katich.
England player watch
Stuart Broad clearly had a big game, and it will be interesting to see which tour he gets onto during the winter given England’s surfeit of pace bowlers. Saj Mahmood is recovering well from his injury and was responsible for wiping out the Yorkshire top order in the first innings of the Roses match. However, more importantly, Andrew Flintoff did the same in the Yorkshire second innings and bowled 18 overs in the match, taking 5 for 69 in total. He won’t have enjoyed being lbw to Younus though!
Player of the Week
A couple of good double centuries this week, with Stuart Law setting a Lancs record for a Roses match. Also lots of 5, 6 and even 7-fers. However, for his all round performance and two career best performances which continue to promise a huge amount in the future, the Player of the Week is Stuart Broad.