Everyone has at least started a match now, although the weather is still preventing too many from being completed. In Division 1, Yorkshire steal a march on their rivals whilst in Division 2, there were two successful run chases. This week also sees the return of England Player Watch – tracking the progress of those in or on the fringes of the test team.
Starting at Headingley where Hampshire put Yorkshire into bat in murky conditions. Having lost three wickets for 53, Andrew Gale came to the wicket to score 138. It’s an important season for Gale, who is getting his first chance to shine with a plethora of talented youngsters waiting in the wings. With support from the tail, Yorkshire managed 398, which looked well above par for the wicket and conditions. It looked even more above par when Matthew Hoggard took the first six Hants wickets, bowling them out for 159. Follwing on, Michael Brown showed some resistance, but 212 wasn’t enough to make Yorkshire bat again.
In equally tricky batting conditions, Durham managed just 224 at home to Surrey. However, this was enough for a comfortable lead as Surrey scored just 183, despite a stand of 99 between Marks Butcher and Ramprakash. Durham then declared on 228 for 9, Saqlain taking 6 wickets. However, the weather put paid to any thought of a Surrey run chase, and the match fizzled out in a draw.
Matt Prior scored a hundred as Sussex made 303 against Kent. For a player looking to rebuild his international credentials, Prior has made a fine start to the season, his 59 in the second innings being his lowest score of the season so far. Kent replied with 204, Mushtaq taking 5 wickets, although but for a 10th wicket stand of 82 between Geraint Jones and Yasir Arafat, that could have been a lot worse. Sussex made 237 second time round, with Azhar Mahmood taking 5-fer. Set 337 to win, Kent were able to comfortably play out for a draw, scoring 193 for 3.
Somerset are finding run scoring more difficult in Division 1 and scored 238 at Lancashire. The home side replied with 221 and Somerset then reached 262 for 8 as the game ended in a draw. The notable performance was the batting form of Ian Blackwell, who scored two half centuries coming in at number 5 for Somerset.
Ravi Bopara continued his excellent start to the season with another hundred as Essex scored 270 at Derbyshire. Indeed not only did he score over half of the Essex runs, he was the only batsman to score at a rate higher than 50 runs per 100 balls. Derby found run scoring equally difficult, with no-one scoring fifty as they were bowled out for 239. Some declaration bowling meant that Essex scored 234 for 2 in just 34 overs to set Derbyshire a target of 266 in 65 overs. They managed this with 5 overs to spare to record an unlikely victory.
Northamptonshire recovered from 127 for 5 to score 385 against Warwickshire, thanks largely to a ton from Nicky Boje. The Bears could only manage 243 in reply and Northants declaration at 240 for 7 left Warwicks requiring 388 in 83 overs. They reached this with a ball to spare, thanks largely to a Darren Maddy hundred, and 20 off just 9 balls at the end from Ian Salisbury.
A very even game at Lords saw Middlesex score 308 in 97.5 overs followed by Glamorgan getting 300 in 97.2 overs, Tim Murtagh taking 7 wickets in the Glamorgan innings, for whom Jamie Dalrymple scored 80 against his former team. The game then petered out to a draw as Middlesex scored 292 for 6.
At Grace Road, Worcestershire declared on 300 for 8 before bowling out Leicestershire for just 193. Worcester then declared on 174 for 4 in an effort to force a result. However, the weather ad ensured that for the second week running, the Pears were unable to capitalise on a promising position.
England Player Watch
Michael Vaughan managed just 19 in tricky conditions in Yorkshire’s only innings, while opening partner Ali Cook got in to the 20s in both Essex innings without pushing on. Andrew Strauss’s scores continue to grow, with 36 and 49, which outscored team mate Owais Shah who managed just 12 runs in both innings. Ravi Bopara scored a hundred and an unbeaten fifty as he continued his fine start to the season. Likewise, Matt Prior scored a hundred and a fifty to push his credentials as a specialist batsman. Ian Bell scored 41 and a quick 62 in the Warwickshire run chase, Tim Ambrose managing just 15 and 19 in the same match
Matthew Hoggard took the first 6 wickets in Hampshire’s first inning and last two in their second to push his claim. Andrew Flintoff and James Anderson both ended up with tight figures for Lancs, although they only managed a couple of wickets each. Flintoff also managed a golden duck, as his batting continues to struggle. Steve Harmison took three wickets for Durham and one would suspect his figures need to be spectacular before he gets back into the international reckoning. Monty Panesar went wicketless, but then took four wickets as he tried to prevent the Warwickshire victory.
Player of the Week
Nicky Boje had a fine allround game, although it was eventually in a losing cause. However, for my POTW this week, I’m going to Headingley. Matthew Hoggard put in a fine spell of bowling. However, for what may turn out to be a career defining century in difficult batting conditions, my player of the week is Andrew Gale.