Katich and Hodge blitz on county circuit
A string of seven Australians scored county hundreds in the past week, led by Simon Katich with a double-century, while several others impressed with bat or ball. Katich, who was keen to show he was not a spent force after losing his national contract, compiled 221 in nearly seven hours as he pushed Derbyshire to an imposing 8 for 801 declared against Somerset.
He was one of four Australians who starred at Taunton - though two of them had nothing to prove to the national selectors - as the match petered out to a draw. Katich and Ian Harvey (153) added 252 for the fifth wicket as they made light work of all Somerset's bowlers, including Cameron White, who took 0 for 115 from 28.3 overs.
White, however, returned the favour and his 138 was his ninth first-class century. Somerset's 530 was not enough to avoid the follow-on but their captain, Justin Langer, sealed the draw with an entertaining 136 not out from 150 deliveries.
The Somerset pair followed up against the World Cup surprise packet, Ireland, in a one-day match at Taunton. Langer made 132 and White, batting at No. 3, hit a run-a-ball 65 as Somerset built a huge total of 341, a score Ireland never looked like chasing successfully.
Langer's Western Australia team-mate, Marcus North, was also impressive for Gloucestershire against Leicestershire at Bristol. North warmed up in the first innings with a lively 86 before walloping a 73-ball century in the second innings. Not only did he finish with 106, North's offspin also earned him 3 for 53.
The one-day match between Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire at Worcester was dominated by Australians, with Phil Jaques' 113 from 129 balls a lone hand as the home side struggled to 234. But David Hussey has always been a lead-by-example captain when filling in at Victoria and he again displayed that ability with 88 as he guided his Nottinghamshire unit to their third victory from three games.
Another man who briefly led Victoria in 2006-07, Brad Hodge, proved his lack of match practice in the later stages of the World Cup had not dulled his skills with a century for Lancashire. While the English media wrote about Andrew Flintoff's 66 against Northamptonshire at Old Trafford, it was Hodge's 130 that set up Lancashire's win. A reduced target of 121 from 21 overs was too much for Northamptonshire against an attack boasting Flintoff, James Anderson, Sajid Mahmood and Dominic Cork.
George Bailey was at his bludgeoning best for Scotland against Leicestershire at Leicester, where he hammered 76 from 42 balls, but the visitors could not pull off a surprise victory. Scotland's defence began well but Paul Nixon's 60 brought Leicestershire within reach of the target of 256 and the winning runs came off the last delivery of the 50th over. Bailey also impressed against Northamptonshire at Northampton, where he made a quick 43 from 27 balls at No. 5 in an innings reminiscent of several he played for Tasmania in 2006-07.
Hampshire's Stuart Clark grabbed the headlines at the Rose Bowl when he sent down a sharp delivery that broke the middle finger on Michael Vaughan's right hand, almost certainly ruling the England captain out of the first Test against West Indies. Clark put in a solid performance with 1 for 37 and 3 for 83 but his skipper, Shane Warne, returned the unattractive match figures of 2 for 177.
Buoyed by his unexpected retention of a Cricket Australia contract, Jason Gillespie took three wickets in each innings for Yorkshire and twice removed Warne. However, it was his team-mate Younis Khan, the Pakistan batsman, who stole the show with 106 and an unbeaten 202.
In an inspired piece of captaincy, Darren Gough, then threw the ball to Younis - who had only 12 wickets from 110 first-class games - and the dual century-maker claimed 4 for 52. It was not quite enough, though, and Hampshire hung on by two wickets to secure a draw.
Two days later Hampshire came out on top at the Rose Bowl against Ireland, with a limited-overs win set up by tight bowling from Clark and Warne. A comfortably-paced 143-run stand between Kevin Pietersen and Sean Ervine confirmed the victory and consigned the winless Ireland to the bottom of the table in the South Conference of the Friends Provident Trophy.