Law leads Lancashire to three in three
Australia have been playing an entertaining third Test against West Indies in Barbados over the past week, but in England the focus was on the Twenty20 tournament. For some of the Australian contingent it's their last chance to book a place in the money-swilling Champions League.
Stuart Law made a good start to his campaign, leading last year's semi-finalists Lancashire to three wins in their first three matches of the North division. He made 22 from 17 balls against Leicestershire at Grace Road, wasn't required in a ten-wicket success over Derbyshire in Derby and then picked up 21 from 10 in their first home match when they beat Leicestershire easily at Old Trafford.
Darren Pattinson, who hasn't been able to force his way into the first team of the Twenty20 Champions League-qualifiers Victoria, went wicketless in Nottinghamshire's first match, a tight win against Yorkshire with four balls to spare at Headingley. His county team-mate Adam Voges, who is through to the Champions League with Western Australia, made an unbeaten 40 from 22 balls but could manage only 7 in their win against Durham at Trent Bridge, where Pattinson took two victims.
The game proved to be Michael Di Venuto's third shocker in a row - on a personal level at least. It was one of two ducks in three innings - his other score was 5 - but the team fared better. In the same division Chris Rogers was missing for Derbyshire while having a break, but he may come back in the latter stages.
Dirk Nannes was the stand-out performer with a hat-trick as Middlesex made it three wins in three in the South/East division. He took 1 for 35 in the opener against Hampshire at The Rose Bowl and 1 for 22 in the second game, beating Essex at Lord's, but it was in the third match that he really made a mark. He grabbed 4 for 28 against Essex at Chelmsford including a hat-trick. At one stage he had four wickets for two runs from two overs, having nailed Varun Chopra, Grant Flower and Ryan ten Doeschate in succession.
Hampshire are breathing down Middlesex's neck. Aside from their loss to the group toppers, when Sean Ervine took 1 for 30 from two and made 31, they won their other two affairs. Ervine collected 1 for 9 and a not-out 38 against Sussex at Hove, though he did not play against Kent on the Saturday. The fellow Australian and these days Twenty20 specialist, Ian Harvey, scored 22 in the Middlesex defeat then 29 in Hampshire's successful chase of 205 against Sussex, which was completed on the final ball. He also posted a two-runs-a-ball 22 and took 1 for 28 from his four overs against Kent at Southampton.
Matthew Nicholson has played only one game for Surrey so far. He was run-out for 7 and took 1 for 22 from three against Essex at The Oval.
Over in the Midlands/West/Wales division Justin Langer could be forgiven for being a bit peeved that his team-mates haven't backed up his runs, as Somerset lost all three of the opening matches. He got 32 in 30 balls against Northamptonshire in their opener at Taunton, 62 from 43 in a failed chase of Glamorgan's 170 at Cardiff and 39 off 30 against Warwickshire at home.
Marcus North's 45 from 40 wasn't enough for Gloucestershire against Worcestershire at Worcester and his four overs went wicketless for 28. Steve Magoffin's four went for a painful 42, but he was soothed by the win and the dismissal of the dangerman Craig Spearman for 11. North's last-gasp wicket ensured Gloucestershire tied an exciting fixture with Warwickshire at Bristol after he had made an unbeaten 31 from 29. His 36 from 29 couldn't help against the unstoppable Northamptonshire, also at home.