Blimey this is late – sorry I’ve been away. This week, the entire Yorkshire squad is replaced by non-cricket playing aliens, thus wrecking their Championship hopes, while at the other end of the table, Warwickshire are in deep trouble. In Division 2, Notts win again and are nearly promoted, although Middlesex are keeping the pressure on.
The top two met at Hove in a game that promised much, but was ultimately very one-sided. Yorkshire were without the inspirational Darren Gough and despite the presence of Matthew Hoggard, Sussex made 597 for 8, with Mike Yardy and Andrew Hodd getting tons. All of a sudden the pitch changed from featherbed to minefield and Yorks could only make 247 (Mushtaq taking 5-fer) and then 89 in reply. Yorkshire are now playing for pride and Sussex are favourites for a second successive title.
Making a late charge at the title are Lancashire who bowled Durham out for 166, Glen Chapple taking 7 wickets. In reply, Ottis Gibson went one better with 8 wickets as Lancs made 183. Durham managed 185 second time round, to leave Lancs a potentially tricky 169 to win. At 7 for 2, Durham had a chance, but Stuart Law and VS Laxman saw them home to keep their challenge alive and put a big dent in Durham’s hopes.
Hampshire, buoyed by the unexpected return of Shane Warne, also kept their championship aspirations alive playing the already relegated Worcestershire. Mike Carberry scored a ton as Hants made 444 in their first innings. James Tomlinson then took 5-fer as Worcester made just 289. Carberry scored his second ton of the match as Hants declared on 376 for 2, setting Worcester far too many and Warne took 5-fer as they capitulated to 237, Hants winning by 294.
The big game at the bottom of the table saw Surrey take on the plummeting Warwickshire. The Bears batted first collapsing from 193 for 2 to 285. Surrey’s 373 in reply was largely thanks to 175 to Mark Ramprakash (inevitably). Warwicks then scored 264 second time round leaving Surrey requiring 179 to win, which they did for the loss of just one wicket. Surrey look safe while Warwickshire are still just above Kent, who have a game in hand.
It’s still mathematically any from five at the top, although Sussex are now clear favourites. At the bottom, it’s looking increasingly like a West Midlands double going down as Surrey complete their great escape.
With Somerset already promoted, Nottinghamshire had the chance to get themselves close to their return to Division 1 against Derbyshire. Notts batted first and scored 548 for 9, Stephen Fleming playing his last game for the club scoring 243, with his successor as captain, Chris Read continuing his fine season with the bat, scoring 90. Jon Clare took 5 wickets. Derby made just 205 in their first innings and 337 second time round, six runs short of making Notts bat again.
Middlesex are the only team that can prevent Notts promotion now and they started off scoring 440 against Gloucestershire, with Ed Smith and Ben Scott both getting tons. Gloucester made just 152 in their first innings and 199 second time round to give Middlesex a big win.
Somerset had the chance to confirm themselves as champions and finish off any hopes that Essex had of promotion and Charl Willoughby took 5 wickets as Essex made just 144 in their first innings. Somerset replied with 312, despite 7 wickets for Danesh Kaneria. Essex did better second time round, scoring 349, with James Foster getting 96. However, despite the early loss of Marcus Trescothick, Somerset made the 184 required for victory for the loss of just 4 wickets and they return to Division 1 as champions.
The other game in Division 2 saw two teams packed with Kolpak players or aging journeymen pros playing a meaningless end of season match. Northamptonshire beat Leicestershire by 177 runs, with Nicky Boje, David Sales and Niall O’Brien getting tons for Northants, Paul Nixon hitting 3 figures for Leicester. 5-fers for Ryan Cummings (Leicester) and David Lucas (Northants) and a 6-fer for Boje. The irony is that these counties have produced two of the most exciting bowlers to play for England in some time (Monty Panesar and Stuart Broad), yet if these teams weren’t in the county championship, would anyone notice?
England player watch
Michael Vaughan looks like he’s packed up for the season and should really be rested for Yorkshire’s last match, while Andrew Strauss continues his run of getting a start and getting out. Matthew Hoggard took three wickets and looked the pick of a pretty ordinary Yorkshire bowling performance.
Player of the Week
Mike Carberry scored two tons and but for winning this in week 10, might just have been POTW this week. However, he is pipped to the honour by an overseas player who has contributed enormously to the success of his county over a number of years and has made the county circuit a more challenging place for opposition bowlers. For his double century taking Notts to the brink of promotion, the player of the week is Stephen Fleming