April 6, 2012

LV County Championship 2012: Friday, April 6

5.16pm: Myles Hodgson at Yorkshire v Kent

5.16pm: Myles Hodgson at Yorkshire v Kent

Yorkshire seamer Richard Pyrah is expected to be sidelined for several weeks after breaking a bone in his left hand while fielding during the second day of their championship match against Kent at Headingley.

Pyrah suffered the injury during the morning session and was taken to hospital for a scan, which confirmed Yorkshire’s worst fears. He returned to the ground wearing a plaster cast and his absence is likely to be a severe blow to Yorkshire’s hopes of getting off to a good start towards their hopes of promotion from the second division.

5.10pm: George Dobell at Surrey v Sussex.

Floodlights on at The Kia Oval; excellent that play is able to continue despite the increasing gloom. Not that Hamilton-Brown will be too happy: his excellent innings has just ended when a top-edged pull was wonderfully caught by Murray Goodwin, running back from mid-wicket. Hamilton-Brown made 89, with 68 of them coming in boundaries.

Meanwhile our intrepid travellers – Simon, Jake, Bobby and Chris - have enjoyed Derby and are now at Trent Bridge. That means they have seen three championship games in the day. Great effort.

4.17pm: George Dobell at Surrey v Sussex, tea.

Amid the talk about his early elevation to the captaincy, it is easy to overlook what a fine player Rory Hamilton-Brown could become.

Appointed to lead a struggling team when he was just 22, Hamilton-Brown has responded by helping his side back into the top division in the championship and winning the CB40 Trophy. He is still just 24, too.

Perhaps his batting – and certainly his bowling – have suffered just a little bit in the process. While Hamilton-Brown has continued to contribute with the bat, the pressure of leading the side and opening the batting – as he did in 2011 – might have arrested his development a little. He averaged 37.10 in the championship last year. For one so gifted, that is a relatively modest return.

Here, though, he has provided a potent reminder of his talent. Timing the ball beautifully, he has helped his side recover from a mid-innings wobble that threatened to hand the initiative back to Sussex as they lost three wickets for the addition of three runs in nine balls.

But Hamilton-Brown has made batting look straightforward. Taking full toll of some off colour bowling from Chris Nash and Lewis Hatchett, he has raced to 73 not out at tea and has so far added 100 for the fifth wicket in just 20.4 overs with Tom Maynard. There is little margin for error on this sluggish pitch, so Hatchett’s first ball – a leg stump long-hop – was pulled for six, while Chris Nash’s first two balls – both short – were also deposited for boundaries. Anything over-pitched – and there has been plenty – has also been driven with some style.

It has been an innings that has typified the modern style of batting. Hamilton-Brown has barely played a defensive stroke and is more likely to skip down the pitch and attempt to drive the bal back over the bowler’s head than he is to leave one outside off stump.

Surrey were grateful for the contribution. After Jacques Rudolph was drawn into playing away from his body and steered a catch to point, Mark Ramprakash was run out – a direct hit from Amjad Khan at mid on with only one stump to aim at – as he attempted a sharp single. Chris Jordan then allowed himself to be stumped as he dozily allowed his back foot to lift off the ground before Zander de Bruyn was undone by a bit of extra bounce and guided a catch to slip.

4.05pm: David Lloyd at Somerset v Middlesex

It’s all very well filling your boots against the students but plundering runs off those boys is no guarantee of early season success once the championship starts.

Last week, Middlesex’s Sam Robson scored the earliest-ever first-class century when making 117 against Durham Uni on March 31. Yesterday he departed for a duck, sent packing third ball by Vernon Philander.

James Hildreth’s fall from great heights was even more spectacular though. Somerset’s No 4 contributed just a single today – some 267 runs fewer than he took off Cardiff MCCU a week ago.

4.01pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire

Leaden skies but dry at Trent Bridge, where commonsense has broken out with the floodlights on since five to three. Nothing makes a mockery of the game more than the sight of the players walking off on account of no more than a dark cloud or two.

It has allowed Notts to continue building towards a substantial lead, which stood at 214 at tea, four wicket down, after Riki Wessels became the latest batsman to make at least partial amends for first-day embarrassment by completing a 64-ball half-century. James Taylor, leg before offering no shot earlier, was not among them but Michael Lumb looked in good order until he was caught behind off the thinnest of edges pushing at the left-arm spin of Shaaiq Choudhry.

3.15pm: David Hopps on the news latest

Saeed Ajmal, the Pakistan spin bowler who England could not handle, is expected to pull out of his Worcestershire deal to play Friends Life t20 this season. Umar Farooq has the exclusive story here

3.05pm: Myles Hodgson at Yorkshire v Kent

Even the most passionate of supporters allow their adopted team a little leeway at the start of a long campaign of county cricket, but there was almost an audible sigh around Headingley when Kent finally declared on 537-9 after Matt Coles reached his century.

Coles hit eight fours in his 111-ball innings and reached three figures in a very modern style – a reverse sweep off Adil Rashid for the third six of his innings. Older Headingley members cannot remember Geoffrey Boycott, now Yorkshire’s new President, ever reaching a century in the same manner.

In tandem with Davies, they added 153 in 37 overs, just one short of the Headingley record for the ninth wicket set during last season’s Roses match by Ryan Sidebottom and Richard Pyrah. Had their record fallen, Sidebottom would only have himself to blame after dropping Coles on 56 at backward square leg and narrowly missing a difficult chance when he was 69 in the swirling wind.

Even captain Andrew Gale was not immune from criticism after dropping Coles on the cover boundary, who responded by hitting his six to bring up his century off the very next delivery. Yorkshire have plenty of batting to do.

2.55pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire

Worcestershire skipper Daryl Mitchell has at last taken pity on Alan Richardson and allowed the veteran seamer a breather, at the end of his 17th over of the innings.

That brings his total in the match so far to 32 and he’ll doubtless be required to send down a few more with Notts looking set for a long occupation in search of a match-winning lead. Yet he will not complain. Richardson is starting his 18th season in first-class cricket and will celebrate his 37th birthday next month. It is fair to say he thrives on hard work, even if his general demeanour is that of a man who can’t wait to lower his weary body into a welcoming bath.

Last season he played in all of Worcestershire’s 16 Championship matches, in each of which, on average, he bowled 42 overs, including 54 in the final match of the campaign.

He took 73 wickets, almost five a match, and has been unlucky not to have picked up more than that number here as the most consistent and testing of the Worcestershire bowlers. He does have four, though, after James Taylor completed a less than impressive Nottinghamshire championship debut by shouldering arms to be leg before for 13. That’s 447 career wickets at 28.17.

1.50pm: George Dobell at Surrey v Sussex

Surrey have taken a first innings lead of 68 here at The Kia Oval. It might have been considerably more but for Joe Gatting, who made an unbeaten 72 and helped Sussex recover from 122 for eight.

There has been a noticeable absence of application from batsmen throughout this match. The pitch is providing a little assistance, certainly, but too few players have been prepared to play straight, play patiently and wait for the poor ball.

Ben Brown clipped to square leg as if proving catching practise, Naved Arif edged behind as he tried to leave one while Amjad Khad’s attempts to flick one into the legside ended in a leading edge to gully.

Jimmy Anyon, who shook off a blow on the head when he had scored six, helped Gatting add 45 for the ninth wicket, but when Anyon top edged an attempt to turn one off his hips, Gatting was left with only Lewis Hatchett for company. The latter was run out attempting to ensure Gatting retained the strike.

Only Gatting provided meaningful resistance. Twice he thumped Gareth Batty for six – the first, to bring up his 50, with a slog-sweep and the second when he skipped down the pitch and drove over long off. He survived one chance, on 69, when Chris Jordan made a fearful mess of a catch offered off the bowling Jade Dernbach. Jordan had to cover some ground – running in from the cover boundary – but it was the sort of catch that Monty Panesar would have backed himself to hold.

Meanwhile the intrepid quartet attempting to watch three championship games today and utilising only public transport have left Leicestershire for Derby. They tell me they missed two wickets at Grace Road due to ‘thirst related issues’ (ie: they were buying a beer) and underlined their sense of adventure by braving a visit to The Meet.

1.30pm: David Lloyd at Somerset v Middlesex

Shock, horror - lunch is no longer sacred on the county circuit. And goodness knows what havoc that will play with catering staffs, and the stomachs of all and sundry, up and down the land.

When 1pm came today and over was called here, no-one left the field. Instead, play continued. What? Having decided to follow the ICC’s lead, the ECB introduced a new condition this season that says lunch will not be taken in the county championship when nine wickets are down – or at least not until the final wicket has fallen or another eight overs have been bowled.

And that is not the end of the revolution. If lunch or tea is reached with a result imminent then the umpires can prolong the action for another four overs in the hope of saving everyone a bit of time.

1.15pm: Myles Hodgson at Yorkshire v Kent

It is not often at a cricket ground, particularly one as big as Headingley, that a ball goes absent without leave but that is just what happened this morning while Kent progressed purposefully towards a massive first innings total.

Two wickets from Ajmal Shahzad and another from Adil Rashid had left Kent on 374-8 and, when you consider they were on 201-1 yesterday, looked likely to miss out on reaching 400. Just over 15 overs later, Kent had added 85 thanks to some powerful hitting from Matt Coles, supported well by Matt Davies.

Coles has hit two sixes in his 47-ball half-century, including a pull off Joe Root’s gentle off-spin that flew high into the West Stand, which is closed to spectators as is the norm for most county championship matches. After several minutes of searching the stand, the umpires decided to change balls, only for the original culprit to be found by a member of the groundstaff several overs later.

As the cloud cover gets thicker, Yorkshire will no doubt ponder the ability of Davies to swing the ball when they do begin their reply over their lunch. For the moment, though, they still have some work to do in the field with Kent ominously placed on 459-8.

1.00pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire

As always seems to happen, just when you start to wonder when something that is about to happen last happened, it doesn’t happen after all, if you can follow that.

Bowled out for 118 on day one, Nottinghamshire looked comfortably set to reach three figures without losing a wicket for the first time since whenever only for Alex Hales to chip a low catch to extra cover off James Cameron, ending his opening partnership with Neil Edwards at 94.

Nonetheless, the stand beat anything achieved by an opening pair for Notts last season. The county used nine different combinations in the Championship in 2011 and only eight times did any of them stay together past 30. Best was 88 between Edwards and Mark Wagh against Yorkshire at Trent Bridge in May. Edwards and Hales opened together in only one match (18 & 12).

As it happens, one wicket begat another. The wicket-taking over was Cameron’s last for the moment, giving way at the Radcliffe Road end to Alan Richardson, who struck with the third ball of his second spell as Edwards was leg before.

12.20pm: David Lloyd at Somerset v Middlesex

Five-fors have not been 10 a rand, exactly, for Vernon Philander over the last few months but they’ve come along with startling regularity: six in seven Test matches as it happens

The South African’s latest five-wicket haul still gave him a lot of pleasure, though, and confirmed him as an instant favourite with Somerset’s fans.

Having struck three times against yesterday, Philander added John Simpson and Gareth Berg to his collection to boast figures of five for 37 from 18 overs. Home supporters gave him a long round of applause and their new star return responded with beaming smile and cheery wave.

Middlesex were less happy at 150 for seven but, as on the first day, their batsmen looked much more at ease once big Vern was given a breather.

12.15pm: George Dobell at Surrey v Sussex

Bit of bad news for Worcestershire and Warwickshire. We understand that Saeed Ajmal will pull out of his T20 deal with Worcestershire due to international commitments – Pakistan are hoping to announce an overseas tour against Sri Lanka shortly – and to spend time with his family.

Boyd Rankin, meanwhile, will miss the first six weeks of the season with a ‘stress reaction’ in his right foot. Warwickshire are already missing Chris Woakes for a similar period.

We’ll have more detail on both stories on the main site shortly.

11.36am: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire

Long gone -- sadly, in some respects -- are the days when county cricketers would routinely leave rivalries on the field and share a few beers together at close of play. Yet the social traditions of the game have not died out completely.

Both dressing rooms here, for example, were represented as the Premier League Darts circus came to Nottingham last night, including two from the opposing camps who are about to become related: Worcestershire’s Alan Richardson is soon to marry the sister of Nottinghamshire’s Paul Franks.

Alex Hales is said to be a particular fan of darts. Some might cruelly suggest that this was reflected in his batting technique, and that of quite a few others, after 20 wickets fell on the opening day.

Nottinghamshire have safely negotiated the opening half-hour here as they bat for a second time in the match, although Hales was missed at second slip off Richardson on six.

11.00am: David Lloyd at Somerset v Middlesex

Okay, okay – it’s sunny here as well. And, in the case of Taunton, what a contrast to yesterday when the weather was grim and grey throughout.

What cricket we had was colourful enough, though, with most attention on the bowling of Vernon Philander, who took 3-21 from 12 overs. But Middlesex must have been equally pleased with their new boy because Joe Denly showed his class while making an unbeaten 64.

And just a little statistical curiosity for you: Denly’s score on his first proper day as a Middlesex cricketer was exactly the same as that achieved by Scott Newman (against Yorkshire), who has moved in the opposite direction – from Middlesex to Kent.

10.24am: George Dobell at Surrey v Sussex

Morning from a sunny Kia Oval. It’s a little crisp here but wonderfully bright. I don’t suppose we’ll have much need for the floodlights today.

There’s also a fair chance we won’t require a fourth day. 15 wickets fell yesterday, with batsmen of both sides struggling in the gloom and in conditions that gave the bowlers just a little assistance.

It was a similar story at several other games. Whether it is a result of early season pitches – though it was an unusually warm March – or simply loose batting is debatable. The absence of the heavy roller – unavailable after the toss these days - is another factor that has encouraged bowlers since the start of 2011, though it shouldn’t have made much difference on the first day.

Whatever the causes of the lower scores, it has made for some entertaining cricket. Whether it is ideal preparation for international cricket is a moot point, but with the ICC encouraging national boards away from the habit of preparing overly batsmen friendly tracks, perhaps techniques gained in county cricket will prove as invaluable as ever. Run-drenched bore draws are, surely, a bigger danger to the future of Test cricket than three day finishes. We’d be interested to hear your views on that.

Meanwhile an intrepid quartet of county cricket lovers is attempting a race against time. Simon, Jake, Bobby and Chris are hoping to attend three county championship games today – the games at Leicester, Derby and Nottingham – and, to make life even more difficult, they will travel only on public transport. On a Bank Holiday, that may prove quite a challenge. It is all in order to raise awareness of muscular dystrophy. Anyway, they are starting at Grace Road so, if you see them send them your best wishes. I’m told two of them came within an inch of missing their early-morning train from London…

10.03am: Myles Hodgson at Yorkshire v Kent

Good morning from Headingley, which is once again blessed with almost perfect cricket weather. Perfect, that is, if you regard sunshine bursting through low clouds and a gentle, cool breeze swirling across the ground, as ideal conditions for our summer sport.

Umpire Neil Mallender wore a woolly hat under his sun hat yesterday and may wish to consider additional insurance against the conditions before the start today. There have been instances in the past of Long Johns being worn, but I wonder whether he might consider ear muffs, although that might dull his reaction to bowler’s appeals.

Either way, this is not the sort of day you would want to stand around in the outfield for long and Yorkshire will want to wrap up the Kent innings quickly, which resumes on 345-5.

08.40am: David Hopps with a few gems for the early risers

George Dobell and the rest of the team will be along later for the second day of the county season, but until they clock in, here are a few delights to keep you occupied.

Yorkshire's trio of Azeem Rafiq, Ajmal Shahzad and Adil Rashid take a non-too-serious look at how they will recover from a 2011 campaign that saw them relegated from Division One of the championship on the

You can also wander off briefly to the ECB website (we will take the risk that you will wander back) to watch for the latest championship highlights. Be warned: some of the batting in the Notts v Worcs match is 18 certificate.

If you have not caught up with the match reports from the ground, read George Dobell, Myles Hodgson, David Lloyd and Jon Culley for the best coverage of county cricket.

And don't forget our sideways look at county cricket in County Cricket Matters from Kenny Shovel, the man at the back of the stand cradelling a polystyrene cup of stewed tea.

And, if you have a habit of lurking around social network sites, how about a mention for ESPNcricinfo's new county blog?

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo