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6.50pm: Alex Winter's round up In the other games today we’ve had a couple of results in Division Two...
Robbie Joseph, on debut for Leicestershire, took 12 wickets as the foxes successfully defended 236 against Glamorgan at Grace Road. The visitors fared little better than their first dig, bowled out for 183 as Joseph took another six wickets.
Essex were also victors on day three, hammering Gloucestershire by an innings at Chelsmford. Graham Napier took five wickets as the visitors couldn't even match theirpaltry first innings effort.
Still cricket tomorrow at the Racecourse where Martin Guptill has made a century to put Derbyshire well on top with a big lead and still 10 second-innings wickets in hand; great chance for them to push for victory against Northamptonshire.
Full reports coming from all the games today and make sure you’re back here tomorrow for full coverage of the final day’s play of the opening round of matches.
5.40pm: Graham Hardcastle at Yorkshire v Kent.
We're off for bad light at Headingley as Yorkshire battle to avoid the follow-on in reply to Kent's mammoth 537 for nine declared.
Centurion Jonny Bairstow departed earlier in the evening session for 107, handing over the responsibility to Adil Rashid and Ajmal Shahzad in their bid to pass a score of 388, virtually securing a draw in the process.
Rashid and Shahzad had disastrous summers in 2011, and simply have to perform this term to avoid the hair-dryer treatment from club chairman Colin Graves.
At the moment, things are going ok. Rashid is ten runs away from his fifty. The likelihood is, with the weather closing in, he will have to wait until tomorrow to get it. Yorkshire are 316 for six.
A quick update on the health of Yorkshire's Rich Pyrah. He expects to be out for six weeks with his broken left hand.
4.55pm: George Dobell at Surrey v Sussex.
News that Jacques Rudolph has been off the pitch all day after sustaining a blow to the hand while batting yesterday might be enough to concern lovers of both Surrey and South Africa cricket.
They need not worry. Surrey say he is off the pitch as a precaution and there has been no need to send him for an X-ray or similar. It may be more relevant to point out that it really is quite cold again today and Rudolph only arrived in the country a few days ago.
If Sussex go on to lose this game – and they surely will – Joe Gatting might have particular cause to reflect on his second innings dismissal. Being caught on the long-off fence – the fielder hardly had to move – while chasing 342 in almost two days is quite hard to justify.
Sussex are six down now and require 175 more runs to win. Stuart Meaker has been the pick of the Surrey bowlers.
4.45pm: David Hopps on Leicestershire's points docking
Leicestershire have been docked five points and Glamorgan one for slow overrates in their championship match at Grace Road. It takes some doing to be docked FIVE points. How long does it take a bowler to remove seven sweaters?
4.20pm: David Lloyd at Somerset v Middlesex
Middlesex will do extremely well to get out of this match with a draw but they have shown enough, to this moment, to suggest that those people tipping them for an instant return to the second division may have been a bit hasty.
They lost a good toss yet battled extremely hard to limit the first day damage. Then, whenever Somerset’s batsmen threatened to get away from them, disciplined bowling made the hosts work really hard for a lead of 104.
True, some sloppiness in the field must not be repeated too often. But they never stopped scrapping (in the best possible sense) and the good fight was then fought again by openers Joe Denly and Sam Robson as Vernon Philander and Steve Kirby steamed in with the new ball.
Denly fell to Kirby in the 12th over but so far so generally encouraging for Middlesex.
4.15pm: Graham Hardcastle at Yorkshire v Kent.
A penny for Ben Harmison's thoughts because Jonny Bairstow, dropped on 24 at second slip by the ex-Durham all-rounder, has reached his hundred on the stroke of tea.
The wicketkeeper has notched his third first-class ton, a typically aggressive knock, to cheer the Headingley faithful, who have witnessed a decent Yorkshire recovery during a lengthy afternoon session. They are now 265 for five in reply to 537 for nine declared.
Bairstow, watched by England selector James Whitaker, has taken a particular liking to the off-spin of Adam Riley, clattering him for two sixes over long-on and mid-wicket.
For those of you familiar with Headingley, the second six landed just short of the Long Room windows at the back of the East Stand.
Bairstow will return to the dressing rooms at tea to find out he has been named in England's 26-man Performance squad for the first time ahead of this summer's internationals.
4.00pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire
The National grid is taking a big hit in Nottingham this afternoon. The floodlights are back on at Trent Bridge, soon to be joined by the illuminations at the City Ground across the road, where Forest are hoping to ease a little further away from the relegation places by beating Bristol City. Expecting a bit of an exodus here at around 5pm ready for the 5.20pm kick off. And its on tv.
Stuart Broad will be taking his seat at the other place, no doubt, huge Forest fan that he is. As his 267,403 followers on Twitter will know, he has been using an anti-gravity treadmill at the Forest training ground to aid his recovery from the calf injury that forced him to miss the second Test against Sri Lanka. Not sure if Nick Pierce, the ECB’s chief medical officer, is one of the 267,403 but it would be a surprise, of course, if he didn't know about it anyway.
Notts could have done with a few overs from Broad here this afternoon. Worcestershire now need only another 231 to pull off an unlikely victory. Daryl Mitchell and Moeen Ali have put on 100 together out of 161 for two at tea.
3.35pm: David Hopps on a predictable England Performance Squad
Did you want a shake-up? Even a teeny-weeny shake-up? Well, this ECB announcement suggests you haven't got one.
England Performance Squad 2012: Andrew Strauss (Middlesex) Test captain; Alastair Cook (Essex) One-Day Captain; Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire) T20 Captain; James Anderson (Lancashire); Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire); Ian Bell (Warwickshire); Ravi Bopara (Essex); Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire); Danny Briggs (Hampshire); Jos Buttler (Somerset); Steven Davies (Surrey); Jade Dernbach (Surrey); Steven Finn (Middlesex); Craig Kieswetter (Somerset); Eoin Morgan (Middlesex); Stuart Meaker (Surrey); Graham Onions (Durham); Monty Panesar (Sussex); Samit Patel (Nottinghamshire); Kevin Pietersen (Surrey); Matt Prior (Sussex); Ben Stokes (Durham); Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire); James Tredwell (Kent); Chris Tremlett (Surrey); Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire)
12-month Central Contracts for 2011-12:
James Anderson, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Steven Finn, Eoin Morgan, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Andrew Strauss, Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett and Jonathan Trott.
Increment Contracts for 2011-2012:
Ravi Bopara, Jade Dernbach, Craig Kieswetter, Samit Patel.
3.05pm: David Lloyd at Somerset v Middlesex
The salt was ready and waiting – all Nick Compton had to do was rub as much as he liked into Middlesex’s wounds. And then, to his horror, he blew it.
Having batted for six and a half hours, faced 311 balls and survived two chances against the county he left in 2010, Compton pulled a short delivery from Toby Roland-Jones straight to mid-wicket to fall for 99.
Until that completely unexpected error Compton looked as though he would make his old team pay a heavy, heavy price for dropping him on 76 (Dawid Malan) and failing to run him out on 81 (Neil Dexter).
Still, in a tight game even 20 or so freebie runs could be vital. Somerset were 87 ahead when Compton was seventh out with the total 333.
2.20pm: Graham Hardcastle at Yorkshire v Kent.
We've had pigeon issues at Headingley too. There was one stuck behind an advertising board at the back of the North East stand's second tier during the lunch interval.
Thankfully, after being freed by two members of the ground-staff, it flew away and perched itself with a decent view behind the bowler's arm on top of the Rugby Stand.
It may well have seen Mark Davies trap Yorkshire skipper Andrew Gale lbw without adding to his lunchtime score of 44 to give Kent further hope of clinching a surprise opening round win.
Mind you, Ben Harmison will be hoping his recent drop at third slip to hand Jonny Bairstow a lifeline on 24 off Davies will not be too costly. Yorkshire would been in serious trouble at 132 for five.
1.45pm: George Dobell at Surrey v Sussex.
Good to see that Surrey allow spectators on to the pitch at lunch and tea. The outfield has been full of kids playing games of cricket during the intervals throughout this game.
Towards the end of last season, the Sussex CEO – Dave Brooks – actually took part in several such games with a group of his county’s supporters at New Road. It is hard to think of many county CEOs who would have been down to earth enough to do similar.
County spectators can be a funny lot. A few minutes before lunch I was sitting in the OCS Stand when an unusual character – a woman who looked as if she lived alone with 200 cats - sat next to me and said: “A pigeon landed next to my friend. She thought it was Jesus so she killed it.”
It was an exchange that begged many questions. But all went unasked. I made my excuses and returned to the safety of the press box.
Meanwhile, Sussex resume on 41 for three having lost Goodwin, beaten for pace by Meaker, just before lunch. Their target of 342 looks mighty distant. Surrey’s first win in the top division of the championship since 2007 surely beckons.
1.10pm: David Lloyd at Somerset v Middlesex
Chances, unlike those London buses of a million sayings, don’t tend to come along in twos when you are playing first division cricket. And so it was that, having missed an opportunity to run out Craig Kieswetter for six yesterday, Middlesex had to wait until England’s one-day wicketkeeper had reached 83 before getting rid of him.
By the time Dawid Malan dived forward to hold a low catch off Corey Collymore, Somerset were 11 runs ahead at 255 for four – and a stand with Nick Compton that might have been worth just eight had risen to 152.
Worryingly for Middlesex, their old boy Compton was still there, on 81, at lunch. Worse, he had the chance to underline the point about the need to snaffle every opportunity, having just been dropped by Malan off Tim Murtagh.
1.00pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire
Worcestershire’s target of 392 does not require them to break any records to win this game. Back in June 1996, at Bath, where the first four sessions of the match were washed out, Somerset captain Andy Hayhurst declared at 376 for six late on the third afternoon, confident that 446 would be well beyond the scope of the visitors, who were still looking for a first win of the season.
In the event, Worcestershire won by one wicket with three balls to spare after an extraordinary finish in which Richard Illingworth and David Leatherdale - now, of course, chief executive at New Road - were both run out with the scores level.
With wicketkeeper -- now coach -- Steve Rhodes watching helplessly from the non-striker’s end on 92 not out -- Alamgir Sheriyar, who fell into the category of genuine number eleven, arrived at the crease to face England’s Andy Caddick, which seemed about as unfair a contest as was possible. Yet the first swish of Sheriyar’s bat sent the ball flying to the cover boundary, prompting a celebration described in one newspaper the next morning as “a manic jig back to the pavilion”.
There is a link with this match. Vikram Solanki, current at the crease with Worcestershire 41 for one at lunch, was playing in his eighth first-class match, aged 20, making 13 and 71.
12.52pm: David Hopps on cricket books.
Reviewed on ESPNcricinfo: A new survey of seven Yorkshire and England cricketers is also an exploration of British culture, history and manners. Les Smith, a self-confessed Kent supporter, reviews We'll Get 'Em In Sequins. We will be giving a free copy of one of cricket's best books of the year for the best County Cricket Live comment in the next week.
12.46pm: Graham Hardcastle at Yorkshire v Kent.
As a comedian from the other side of the Pennines once said, it's that fine rain that soaks you through.
We're set for an early lunch at Headingley due to the weather with Kent on top after their bowlers took advantage of good bowling conditions to snap up three Yorkshire wickets, including two in two balls for Mark Davies.
Joe Root may have been a little bit unfortunate with his dismissal, adjudged caught down the leg-side in Mat Coles' first over of the day.
But that hasn't stopped some members of the Headingley faithful getting stuck into their team. There has already been one tweet come into a member of the press..."same old Yorkshire, good job there's no Division Three".
12.40pm: George Dobell at Surrey v Sussex.
Jon Lewis has just taken his 800th first-class wicket: Chris Nash, playing on as he attempted a back foot drive. Sussex, set 342 to win, are 31 for one.
The first of Lewis’ first-class wickets came in 1995, at Edgbaston, when Wasim Khan – now CEO of The Cricket Foundation – was bowled. I am also reliably informed that no England-qualified bowler has bowled Mark Ramprakash more.
That won’t happen again. Having taken 771 of those wickets for Gloucestershire, Lewis has now joined Ramprakash at The Kia Oval. He may be 36 now, but he remains a fine bowler.
11:20am: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire
Riki Wessels confirmed that there has been nothing at all wrong with the pitch here, even when 20 wickets were falling on the opening day. “I think a few of us fell into the trap of going a bit hard at the ball on the first morning,” he said. No excuses then, which is refreshing to hear.
With two days left, no surprise that Notts have chosen to add what they can to their overnight lead of 343. Graeme White cracked the third ball of the day to the fence but has already gone with no addition, slicing to third slip when David Lucas found movement and a bit of bounce.
Andre Adams has joined Riki Wessels, who has added five to his 104 overnight. The Worcestershire fielders are already suffering cricked necks with the ball flying off various parts of the bat at all sorts of angles. A massive swing against Lucas has just sent the ball soaring into the Hound Road Stand, though.
Gloomy and with a hint of rain in the air but the floodlights, on since mid-afternoon yesterday, are not yet in action.
10.50am: David Lloyd at Somerset v Middlesex<
Vernon Philander has already made himself popular with the Somerset faithful – and if he can follow up his five wickets in the first innings by putting getting among Middlesex again, either later today or tomorrow, then the South Africa fast bowler will have gone a long way, in just one match, towards justifying all the excitement that greeted his signing.
There is bit less optimism just now, however, about the prospects of seeing master blaster Chris Gayle in Twenty20 action for Somerset this season.
Following suggestions that former West Indies captain Gayle could return to international cricket and tour England this summer, rather than honouring a commitment to play T20 on the county circuit, Somerset have written to the player, his agent and WICB for clarification.
10.50am: Graham Hardcastle at Yorkshire v Kent.
Yesterday was a tale of contrasting fortunes for two all-rounders, Kent's Mat Coles and Yorkshire's Rich Pyrah.
Coles, the 21 year-old who has spent his winter on the England Performance Programme and with the England Lions, scored his maiden ton from number nine in the order, whereas Pyrah is set for a spell on the sidelines after breaking the ring finger on his left hand during the morning session in the field.
As Coles aims to add to his ton with a few wickets this morning under gloomy skies, Pyrah can only watch and hope. Hope that his team-mates bat well and secure a draw and hope that his visit to the specialist brings positive news regarding the length of his lay-off.
Despite some early morning rain around Headingley, we are set to start on time at 11am.
10.24am: George Dobell at Surrey v Sussex.
Morning from The Kia Oval, where an intriguing day of cricket looms. Surrey hold the upper hand, but I recall watching Yardy and Goodwin bat through a whole day at Hove once – a championship match against Warwickshire – so you never know.
Among the spectators at this match has been Sir Trevor McDonald OBE. The former newsreader and journalist has a life-long love for the game – he wrote well-received books about Sir Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd – and has been named as the next president of Surrey CCC. He has watched both days of the game.
Sad to report, one elderly spectator has passed away during the game. He had a heart attack while sitting in front of the pavilion and, though the emergency services were on the scene quickly and worked terrifically hard, he could not be saved. His family have now been informed.
06.00am: David Hopps on today's delights.
ESPNcricinfo reporters are at four county matches this Easter Saturday and their missives from the third day of the 2012 county championship are online as part of our comprehensive county coverage.
George Dobell will be watching a cut-and-thrust encounter between Surrey and Sussex at The Oval with Surrey seeking to prove that derring do will sustain them on their return to Division One.
Jon Culley is at Trent Bridge where Nottinghamshire will aim to set Worcestershire a 400+ target; David Lloyd ponders at Taunton whether Somerset can raise expectations that this really will be their year as they face Middlesex; and Graham Hardcastle steps in at Headingley for Yorkshire v Kent while Myles Hodgson instead spends a day watching a big ball bouncing.
We are committed to reviewing the best cricket books, too. Catch up with Les Smith's insightful comments on Max Davidson's study into masculinity in Yorkshire cricket - We'll Get 'Em In Sequins. We will be giving a free copy of one of cricket's best books of the year for the best County Cricket Live comment in the next week.
If you haven't taken a look already, don't forget our sideways look at county cricket in County Cricket Matters from Kenny Shovel, the game's freshest voice.
And, if you have a habit of lurking around social network sites, how about a mention for ESPNcricinfo's new county blog?
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David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.