The domestic limited overs season got off to a cold, miserable and pretty soggy start this weekend, not that the sides who emerged victorious will have minded! The elements did for Lancashire vs Derby, Leicestershire vs Northamptonshire and Warwickshire vs Nottinghamshire. There was though play elsewhere and a couple of entertaining matches.
Nowhere was there a closer match than at The Riverside, where Durham narrowly came out on top over Yorkshire. Put into bat, Durham were in trouble early on, with young seamer Ajmal Shahzad particularly impressive (1-30). Phil Mustard (25) was once again guilty of getting in and then out, courtesy of a leg side hack. He will need to go on more often if he is to stay in England’s ODI side. Despite the wickets of Shahzad, Tim Bresnan (3-51) and Deon Kruis (2-37), the Dynamos crept their way up to 220 all out with four balls remaining, recent overseas arrival, Neil McKenzie, top scoring with a well paced 77. It was a good total on what was a seamer friendly wicket and Yorkshire soon slipped to 57-5 and then 140-8 in reply, largely thanks to an impressive opening spell of 2-19 from 8 overs by Neil Killeen. However, the holders were given a scare by Shahzad (33), this time impressive with the bat and the ever improving Bresnan (55). The Dynamos closed out the game though, just, with Graham Onions (1-40) having Bresnan caught in the covers with 6 needed off of 2 balls. It was a wonderful advert for the game and as far as England player watch is concerned, Liam Plunkett bagged 1-32 and Steve Harmison 2-40. Adil Rashid meanwhile bowled just four overs and was run out for a duck.
Elsewhere, Essex and Kent served up a run feast at Canterbury. Essex were stuck into bat by Rob Key and the decision backfired spectacularly with the Eagles amassing 317-5 from their fifty overs, captain Mark Pettini (119) and Ravi Bopara (99) the standout performers. There were two wickets apiece for Yasir Arafat and Ryan McLaren, but the bowling figures were generally expensive and England hopeful James Tredwell returned a less than impressive 0-52 from ten overs. Kent got to 286-9 in reply, but Martin van Jaarsveld (124) was the only Spitfire to get beyond 30 odd. Meanwhile, Bopara pitched in with a wicket and there were two apiece again for Andre Nel, Chris Wright and James Middlebrook.
To The Oval and Surrey vs Middlesex. More runs aplenty here, with Middlesex registering 315-6, Andrew Strauss hitting a career best 163, ably supported by Ed Joyce (42) and Owais Shah (55). Chris Jordan and Jade Dernbach each took two wickets, but with economy rates of over six. In reply, Surrey made a good start with Scott Newman (65) and James Benning (47) giving the Brown Caps hope. However, youngster Danny Evans (3-36) and debutant Gareth Berg (4-50) were impressive and only Mark Butcher (46) offered any real further threat.
Somerset meanwhile opted to field first at Taunton against Hampshire and the Hawks struggled to 221 all out with four balls left and were indebted to Michael Lumb (47), Nic Pothas (55) and captain Dimi Mascarenhas (53), who were the only real contributors. The returning Ben Phillips (3-47) and wily Steffan Jones (2-29) were the standout bowlers. 221 was never enough at Taunton, even in April and although Somerset suffered an early scare, slipping to 91-4, with a run a ball rate need from the last 20 overs, Ian Blackwell (86*) and John Francis (48*) saw them home with 14 balls left, Blackwell particularly destructive, which will undoubtedly have registered on Peter Moores’ radar. Mascarenhas (1-26), Shane Bond (1-33) and Chris Tremlett (1-39) each took a wicket and ended with tidy figures, but the back up bowling just wasn’t there.
The final match of the day saw Gloucestershire canter to victory over Worcestershire at a lively Bristol. Put into bat, The Royals made 221-8, Ben Smith (75) and Daryl Mitchell (63) the main players. The pace bowling trio of Jon Lewis (2-48), Anthony Ireland (2-43) and Steve Kirby (2-19) exploited the conditions well. In reply, Kadeer Ali (63) and Hamish Marshall (57) laid the foundations, while Craig Spearman (64) finished off the game, Chris Whelan taking two uneconomical wickets for the Royals.
Player of the Week: For a career best 163 off 130 balls, with 23 fours and 4 sixes, it has to be the resurgent Andrew Strauss. Ian Blackwell gets an honourable mention as do Neil McKenzie and Tim Bresnan.