Shock new leaders of Division 1, while the top of the table clash is a damp affair. In Division 2 Worcestershire have to wait as the Cardiff monsoon season continues.
A couple of weeks ago the Hampshire against Surrey match would have been seen as a crucial relegation battle. Indeed, it was only three weeks ago that Hants were in the relegation zone. However, they are now on a roll and continued their good form, scoring 480 for 8 declared, Nic Pothas getting an unbeaten 137 and Dimitri Mascarenhas falling one short of a ton. Surrey struggled to 210 in reply, Mark Ramprakash top scoring (inevitably) and did even worse following on with just 148. Hampshire ran out victors by an innings and move to the top of the table, although they have played a game more than the other seven teams that are still in the hunt. Surrey are all but relegated despite having the best batsman in Division 1.
The billed “top of the table clash” came at Taunton where Somerset batted first against Durham and managed just 224, Steve Harmison continuing his good form with a 5-fer. Durham made sure of maximum batting points before declaring seven wickets down, Mike di Venuto getting a ton and Shiv Chanderpaul making 92. Starting their second innings 176 behind, an unbeaten Justin Langer century and some wet weather ensured that Somerset came away with the draw to remain above Durham in 2nd.
Now I did say at the beginning of the season that this would be tight and with two sets of matches to go and just four points separate the top 4, although Hants have played an extra game. Even Yorkshire in 8th are not mathematically out of it. At the bottom, it’s just as tight and the Lancs - Kent match this week could have a huge bearing on the final standings.
A win against struggling Glamorgan would have sent Worcestershire up. Staring at the rain for four days didn’t do either team any favours and while I hear that Cardiff is a good place to go out, Worcester would have rather tied up their promotion.
With Warwickshire having a planned week off and Worcester a forced one, Northamptonshire and Essex had a chance to make up ground in their promotion push. The weather got in the way of this game too, so having bowled Nothants out for 304, Essex declared on 256 for 2 to try to force a result. James Foster and Mark Pettini then bowled 24 overs as Northants declared on 251 for 1 (a wicket for Foster) to leave Essex needing 300 for victory. It was all in vain as only 16 overs were possible before the weather struck again with Essex on 60 for 3. The result hits Northants hardest who have played one more game than everyone else, while Essex take on Warwickshire in a massive match this week.
Leicestershire and Gloucestershire also tried forcing a result despite the weather and neither team having a lot riding on the game. Kadeer Ali scored a ton as Gloucester made 281, Garnett Kruger taking five wickets. Leicester then declared on 169 for 4, Josh Cobb making an unbeaten 50. Declaration bowling (including four overs for Paul Nixon) got Gloucester to a quick 198 for 4 leaving Leicester needing 310. Four quick wickets had Gloucester in the hunt but Cobb and Nixon saw Leicester to safety and Gloucester are still winless in the championship.
England Player watch
Dimitri Mascarenhas put the disappointment of missing out of the Stanford match behind him with 99 and five wickets in the match, outbowling Chris Tremlett who took 3 wickets. Steve Harmison also showed good form with the ball taking seven of the twelve Somerset wickets to fall. Ravi Bopara also had a good allround game with three wickets and an unbeaten 65 in the first innings.
Player of the Week
Good performances from Kadeer Ali , Mike di Venuto, Josh Cobb and Steve Harmison. However, this has almost become an exclusive Hampshire award over the past few weeks and that probably explains their charge up the table. As much for his captaincy in turning the season around from the turmoil at the start of the year as much as the 99 runs and five top order wickets, the player of the week is Dimitri Mascarenhas.