In all of the 20Twenty excitement, it’s all change at the top of both divisions of the County Championship as Notts and Worcester take their chances, while Lancashire are frustrated/ hang on (delete according to viewpoint) against Hampshire.
Only two games in the top division, and with Durham not playing Nottinghamshire had the chance to return to the top – as did Yorkshire, mathematically. Notts decision to bat first looked to have backfired as they were bowled out for 213. However, this was enough for a decent first innings lead, as Yorkshire, missing Antony McGrath who was injured in the warm up, made just 161 with Charlie Shrek taking five wickets. Batting got easier second time round, particularly as Rana Naved picked up an injury which restricted his bowling and Notts made 350, leaving Yorkshire needing 403. Despite an outstanding 132 (his maiden first class century) from Adam Lyth, it was a player at the other end of his career that took the plaudits as Mark Ealham finished up with seven wickets in the total of 290 and Notts ran out comfortable winners to top the table. Yorkshire are beginning to look over their shoulders.
Lancashire could have gone top with a win over Hampshire and started well with 357 in their first innings, Imran Tahir taking five wickets on debut for Hants. A stand of 145 between Michael Brown and Chris Benham rescued Hants from 35 for 3, but their total of 288 still gave Lancs a decent lead. However, Tahir went two better second time round, taking 7 wickets as Lancs struggled to 155, leaving Hants needing 225 for victory in 71 overs. A poor start meant that the chase was more about survival. However, at the close of play they had reached 215 for 7, only 10 runs short of an unlikely victory. They stay in the bottom two, while Lancs move up to 2nd.
With Warwickshire having a week off, Worcestershire had the chance to go top against a Middlesex team who’s mind was on the 20Twenty finals. Indeed Middlesex were indebted to a fine 91 from Shaun Udal to get them to 300, Kabir Ali taking 5 wickets. Worcester went 61 runs better, with Ben Smith getting out in the 90s again. In the second innings, it was only a century partnership between Dawid Malan and Ben Scott that got Middlesex to 164, with Gareth Batty taking 5 wickets. Worcester knocked off the 105 needed for victory without losing a wicket to go top while Middlesex’s challenge is faltering.
Also keeping up the pressure at the top are Essex, who restricted Gloucestershire to 275 in their first innings, despite Marcus North getting 98. However, at 109 for 6 Essex were struggling and only a lower order rally, centred around James Foster took them to a four run first innings lead, Steve Kirby taking five wickets. Danesh Kaneria took five wickets second time round as Gloucester struggled to 184. Essex were quickly 7 for 2, but then reached the 181 needed for vitory without losing another wicket, Ravi Bopara getting a hundred with support from Neil Dexter. Essex are 4th, but with a game in hand over Worcester and Northants, who are also still in the hunt.
Northamptonshire stayed in contention with a Kolpakshire derby win against Leicestershire. Northants made 373 first time round with David Sales contributing 151. this was enough for a lead of 200 as Leicestershire struggled to 173. Following on they had reached 92 for 6 before Paul Nixon’s 73 at least meant that Northants had to bat again, ending on 226. Northants lost 2 wickets in their chase of 27, but still ran out comfortable winners to move 3rd in the table.
England Player Watch
Another century for Ravi Bopara who is having an excellent season for Essex. In contrast Owais Shah made just 7 runs in his two innings.
On the bowling front, Adil Rashid is back in the wickets, taking 6, while Matthew Hoggard took five wickets. Charlie Shrek took a 5-fer and given the selector’s current love of Notts bowlers, he time may come soon!
Player of the Week
Not many matches, but some outstanding performances. Adam Lyth deserves credit for his maiden century as does David Sales for his 151. Mark Ealham turned back the years with his 7-fer, however it was another 7-fer that almost took Hampshire to an unlikely victory that wins the award. Last season he played one game for Yorkshire and looked out of his depth. This season he’s started his Hants career with 12 wickets in a match and the Player of the Week is Imran Tahir.