Here we go again then. The Predictions have been made and even though there’s barely a dent in the Easter Egg pile, the County season is off and running again. All the usual features, including the weather making a mess of everything.
Starting at the Rose Bowl where Hampshire entertained newly promoted Worcestershire, who surprisingly decided to bat first. This back fired as they made just 132 in damp conditions, with new boy Dominic Cork taking 4 wickets. Hants needed 66 from Liam Dawson to establish a first innings lead, totalling 216. Worcester managed 189 second time round, Vikram Solanki top scoring with 73. This left Hants needing 107 to win, which they managed for the loss of 3 wickets to put them top of the table.
The other promoted team, Warwickshire, batted first on a typical Taunton wicket, making 500, with Ian Bell getting the first Championship century of the season. This was then dwarfed by Somerset making 672 for 4 declared, with James Hildreth scoring an unbeaten 303, Craig Kieswetter making an unbeaten 150 as the pair made an unbroken stand of 218. Warwicks reached safety with 108 for 1 as the game drew to a close. In a microcosm, this could be the problem this season for both teams as the batting so dominates the bowling.
My tips for promotion, Essex, put Derbyshire into bat at Chelmsford and restricted the visitors to 329, with only the promising Dan Redfern making fifty. However, this was enough for a comfortable first innings lead as Essex managed just 194, Ian Hunter taking a 5-fer. Derby then declared on 179 for 6 as they tried to force a result despite the damp weather. However, Essex batted the game out making 120 for 3.
Leicestershire also regretted their decision to put the opposition in as Northamptonshire made 387, with Andrew Hall making an unbeaten 124. Leicester’s 184 left them needing to follow-on and at 104 for 4, they were struggling. However, Boata Dippenaar and Paul Nixon saw Leicester to safety in another rain affected match.
Rain was also a problem at the Oval where Gloucestershire’s 333 was a disappointment, given that they were 247 for 2 at one stage. However, it was plenty for a first innings lead as Surrey made just 160. Following on, the home team were 120 for 2 as the game finished, with nearly two days lost to bad weather.
England Player Watch
A section based on who I think is or should be in contention for England. If you think I’ve missed someone, let me know!
Ian Bell was sent back to county cricket to make runs and although it was at Taunton, his 173 will keep him at the forefront of the number 3 debate. James Hildreth may also have played himself into England Lions contention. James Foster top scored for Essex with 40, as well as taking 8 catches in the match to apply pressure to Matt Prior.
Kabir Ali is looking to restart his international career but was expensive in the low scoring game with Hants, despite his three wickets. Chris Tremlett also took three wickets, but Dom Cork took the headlines on the bowling front for Hants. Monty Panesar bowled tidily but was wicketless in seamer friendly conditions.
Player of the Week
Not many games this week, and one outstanding candidate. For an unbeaten triple century, the first Player of the Week is James Hildreth.