April 12, 2012

LV County Championship 2012: Thursday, April 12

Close: Andrew McGlashan wraps up the day

Close: Andrew McGlashan wraps up the day

The bowlers held sway across the country today and you can catch up with all the action from our reporters around the country. David Hopps witnessed another example of Durham's strength in pace bowling and Myles Hodgson saw Lancashire given a tough start to their title defence. Meanwhile, George Dobell reports on another fine display by Chris Wright and Alex Winter watched Surrey make inroads before Middlesex fought back at Lord's.

Over in Division Two, Ivo Tennent saw some stubborn batting from Gloucestershire while 14 wickets tumbled at Cardiff between Glamorgan and Derbyshire and 13 at Northampton where Kent took control.

Thanks for join us today and we'll see you back here at around 10.30am for the second day.

5.30pm: George Dobell at Warwickshire v Somerset

Fascinating to see Vernon Philander bowling in county cricket after an absence of a few years.

The last time he played county cricket - for Middlesex in 2008 – he looked a decent bowler, certainly, but no world beater. Crucially, he didn’t look terribly fit. He claimed ten wickets in his three championship games and, when he went home, Middlesex found his club car full of takeaway wrappers.

Somewhere, in the intervening years, he has worked tremendously hard on his fitness and his skills. His record in Test cricket – 51 wickets in his first seven Tests – is little less than extraordinary and he has delivered a demanding opening spell at Edgbaston.

But Warwickshire have lost only Westwood so far and remain the happier of the two sides.

5.25pm: David Hopps at Durham v Nottinghamshire

Durham have bowled out Nottinghamshire for 161 and, if the assessment of their bowling coach, Alan Walker, is any guide, that should put them about 80-100 runs to the good, all things considered. Deciding who is ahead in a cricket match is a dangerous business, so you can now confidently expect Durham to get 85 or 350 in reply. And to be fair to Walker I might have put words in his mouth a tad.

Walker supervises untold riches in Durham’s seam attack. As well as the four on show here, they have also omitted Steve Harmison, Liam Plunkett, Ruel Brathwaite and Chris Rushworth. That is comfortably the most powerful fast-bowling group in the country. At this stage of the season, to use the sort of horse racing parlance more suited to Alex Winter, Harmison still needs a run out. Plunkett has been Walker’s main concern this winter as he has worked on a remodelling of his action.

Personally, I would select the four Durham fast bowlers who get through their overs most quickly because we are heading for a seven o’clock close. Notts have ample time to hit back unless bad light intervenes.

That they made 161 was due to a fifth-wicket stand of 66 between Chris Read and James Taylor as Durham’s control wavered in the afternoon. Taylor played quite solidly before he fell at third slip. Mitch Claydon was the pick of Durham’s attack and Graham Onions came back strongly against the tail to take four wickets. It is a lively pitch with more pace than might have been expected and is likely to remain so throughout the match.

4.55pm: Alex Winter at Middlesex v Surrey

The home side have been guilty of not protecting their timber - we've had four bowled on the card, Ollie Rayner the latest to be castled by Jon Lewis (another Lewy special by the way - top of off) to leave Middlesex in trouble at tea. The powerfully-gunned Surrey attack have produced the goods since the extended lunch break.

For the moment the weather is also holding for us - the greenhouse effect in the JP Morgan (yes they have paid their royalties) Media Centre is making the press a touch uncomfortable. No-one's dared to move for the air conditioning just yet. Unfortunately that large rain delay turned a few out of the ground so the crowd, which were decent in number, is touch reduced. Probably doesn't help that the main public area open - the grandstand - is on the West of the ground and totally in shade.

4.20pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Sussex

Grasping for positives when you have been bowled out for 124 on the opening day of your title defence is by no means an easy task, but Lancashire may have found a way to do just that. Two wickets before tea has allowed them to believe they can remain in contention with Sussex and any possibility of being docked points for an un-fit pitch seems to have diminished.

Peter Walker, the England and Wales Cricket Board’s pitch liaison officer at the game, has studied the 12 wickets to fall in the first two sessions and believes there is nothing wrong with the surface. “Both sides have bowled very well on it,” confirmed Walker, which will come as a considerable relief to Lancashire.

4.15pm: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Gloucestershire

Two more stories about Vic Isaacs, the former Hampshire scorer who is unwell. He is remembered with affection by Kevan James, the ex-all rounder who now works for the BBC. "Vic used to drive to matches in his younger days on a motorbike, which didn't always convey him home at close of play. Two players delighted in relieving themselves into the petrol tank."

Isaacs himself would tell the story of when the great Barry Richards was asked to give him a lift to Hove one evening. In the front seat sat Richards' girldfriend; Isaacs occupied the back seat. The master batsman announced they would be stopping for dinner en route. Halfway to their destination, Richards pulled up a pub. The girlfriend got out and, turning to Isaacs, Richards said: "We'll be back in an hour and a half."

3.50pm: Alan Gardner rounds up the rest of the action

Around the country it’s been raining wickets and, er, rain, with stoppages for weather the only thing interrupting the procession of batsmen back to the pavilion. Mr Winter had the privilege of witnessing the best opening stand of the day so far – 33 between Sam Robson and Joe Denly at Lord’s – but generally speaking there have more cheap dismissals than you could shake a soggy stump at.

At Wantage Road, Northamptonshire have just been bowled out for 132 in less than 60 overs, which included a collapse from 103 for 5 to 106 for 9. Alex Wakely top-scored with 33 for Northants, a side possibly still numb from their unexpected hiding at Derbyshire last week, while there were three wickets apiece for Charlie Shreck, Matt Coles and Darren Stevens. Looks like the sun is still shining on Jimmy Adams, whatever the weather elsewhere; Kent made the biggest score of the first round of the Championship at Yorkshire and their reply here could indicate just how pepped up they are for a promotion challenge.

Rain has interrupted proceedings in Cardiff, meanwhile, where Derbyshire had limped to 92 for 5 – though that’s a position of relative strength, having been reduced to 44 for 5 earlier in the morning. After putting on 224 in their last opening stand together, Martin Guptill and Paul Borrington were separated after five balls today, with 4 on the board, as Graham Wagg took the first four wickets to fall. Jimmy Allenby then nipped out Dan Redfern before Ross Whitely and David Wainwright, unbeaten with 24 and 21 respectively, stabilised the Derbyshire innings.

Oh, and just as I post this, play has resumed and Allenby has dismissed Wainwright lbw. I think that confirms #wickets are still trending ...

Don't miss:

Kenny Shovel, salt of the county scene, on how he survived county cricket's earliest start to the season.

3.30pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Sussex

It has not been the most impressive of starts to their title defences for Lancashire. Put into bat in admittedly bowler-friendly conditions – what else can they expect in mid-April? – they have been bowled out for 124 in only 52.2 overs.

James Anyon was the pick of Sussex’s attack by claiming five for 36, but the Sussex backroom staff will have been equally impressed with overseas signing Steve Magoffin, who has recovered from back problems during the winter to make an impressive start to his county career.

Magoffin only claimed two wickets, but bowled with impressive hostility from the River End, including a 10-over spell with the new ball, which suggests that he may have to work hard for his county contract.

Having a county coach as positive as Peter Moores can be a blessing on days like this, but even he may have struggled to find a way to build up Lancashire’s efforts with the bat. Stephen Croft scored a half-century and added a useful 41 with captain Glen Chapple, but otherwise it was an opening innings to forget.

3.15pm: Alex Winter at Middlesex v Surrey

We lost the best part of an hour's play because of rain but back out and Surrey right among the wickets. Tim Linlely cleaning up Sam Robson without adding to his score, Jade Dernbach sent back Neil Dexter and next ball had John Simpson edging to slip...but Gareth Berg blocks the hat-trick ball to cover.

That's woken a few up, not least in the Middlesex dressing room where solid progress has suddenly become scrapping for a score...it's a glorious day again though. A few ice creams were being traded behind the Warner stand.

But the loudest cheer of the day so far has come from three gentlemen surrounding a TV screen in the grandstand bar...Big Buck's came home for them in the Liverpool hurdle at Aintree.

2.45pm: David Hopps at Durham v Nottinghamshire

Nottinghamshire are not short of practice against the moving ball at Trent Bridge but they have some way to go before achieving perfection. No matter what close-season signings they make to try to address their top-order failings, their captain Chris Read normally has to march out soon after lunch to avert another crisis.

It was 38 for 4 today when Read marked his guard, with Durham’s seam attack entirely on top on a day chilly enough for Lumley Castle still to have a forbidding, wintry look about it. Alongside him, James Taylor, omitted from England’s development squad after skippering the Lions in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, was trying to come to terms with more demanding circumstances than those he normally faced in his days with Leicestershire in the second division.

All four Notts wickets have fallen in traditional early season manner: lbw decisions for Neil Edwards and Michael Lumb and edges to the wicketkeeper/slip cordon by Alex Hales, another England squad omission and Samit Patel. Patel could be forgiven perhaps as he tried to cope with a temperature difference of 34C between Chester-le-Street and Colombo, where he was involved in England’s Test victory last week.

Is Lumb really a championship No. 3 for a Division One side? He can prove himself invaluable in one-day cricket, but while the wickets remain as spicy, he will have to be at his best to rebuild his reputation in the longer format of the game.

2.45pm: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Gloucestershire

Good news and sad news at The Ageas Bowl: Danny Briggs, the talented 20-year-old left arm spinner, was awarded his county cap by Rod Bransgrove, the Hampshire chairman, during the lunch interval. He is still somehow managing to commute from his home on the Isle of Wight.

This is the time of year, alas, when news filters through of deaths and illnesses suffered during the winter: Vic Isaacs, the longest-serving post-war scorer - he had a stint of 33 years with Hampshire - is having an operation for colon cancer.

Isaacs fell out with Bransgrove, who banned him from the Rose Bowl, as it then was. And he did not endear himself to Kevin Pietersen, either, when critcising his Mohican haircut. Still, the secretariat here wish him well.

2.05pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Sussex

There is a major contrast in conditions at Aigburth for Lancashire’s opening fixture of the new championship season against Sussex. Last year supporters were in short-sleeves and sun lotion was required for the innings and 55 runs victory over the same opponents, which gave them an early impetus in their surprise title triumph.

This year woolly hats and big coats are all the rage in sunny but extremely cold conditions. There is some warmth to be found in the sun-shine, but sadly not in the press tent, which must be a contender for the coldest area of the ground.

At least the action on the field has kept the cold bunch of cricket journalists animated enough. After winning the toss and deciding to bowl, Sussex have made regular inroads into Lancasire’s top order with James Anyon claiming three wickets in the morning session and Australian seamer Steve Magoffin claiming a wicket on his county debut.

1pm: George Dobell at Warwickshire v Somerset

Warwickshire are much the happier of the teams as rain has brought about an early lunch here at Edgbaston. Having won the toss and decided to bat, Somerset have struggled to 52 for five in the face of some excellent swing and seam bowling from Chris Wright and Keith Barker.

Interesting observation about KP. On February 17, when asked whether he was playing in the IPL in part to gain experience of Asian conditions which could be useful for England and with a view to the World T20 in particular, he replied that "I'm not looking at it [IPL] as preparation for the [World] T20 at all.”

Now he says that playing in such conditions would be “magnificent” for the England team ahead of the World T20 and the series in India. Hmmm.

12.45pm: David Hopps at Durham v Nottinghamshire

This feels like a big one. Except it doesn’t. Let’s try that again. This should feel like a big one, but it is April 12 and the temperature was 8C when I drove into The Riverside this morning. Durham v Nottinghamshire so early in the season will feel like a bit of a waste if the weather intervenes. We live in hope that the weather will allow these two powerful sides to punch their weight.

I was a little tardy admittedly, due to the pressing need to inform you that Kevin Pietersen thinks England are “jealous” of the IPL.

So that is why you are checking the county scores and, one trusts, plucking up the courage to contribute to ESPNcricinfo’s new county blog. You are secretly driven by a raging envy of IPL, secretly wanting to bury yourself, sobbing, into the arms of IPL, but instead following Championship cricket with a sense of propriety and a heavy heart.

Not that anybody arriving at The Riverside soon after noon had missed anything. The scoreboard showed 18 runs and 10 wickets, but that was a leftover from Durham UCCE’s collapse to Durham a few days ago. It now shows 12 for 1, a much calmer position all round, although not without a batting failure of its own, Neil Edwards having fallen lbw to Callum Thorpe for 10. That represents a solid start for Notts. In fact, now it shows 16 for 2, which still is.

That is it for now. My computer won’t let me download Adobe Flash player for security reasons, but that is a minor irritation. Any vital stats that I may miss later will be blamed on this fact.

12.45pm: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Gloucestershire

The great Shane Warne, one time Hampshire captain, has had his name expunged from The Ageas Bowl. The Shane Warne Suite is no more - it has been renamed The Ageas Suite. And yet The Shaun Udal Suite remains intact. As a famous editor used to say, surely some mistake?

12.30pm: Alex Winter at Middlesex v Surrey

Sunshine remains here at Lord's and it's been a bright start for Middlesex, they lost Joe Denly to an oh-so-typical Jon Lewis dismissal but since Sam Robson has played very nicely indeed and Chris Rogers is settling into his stride too.

Little surprised to see Zander de Bruyn as the first change - a planned surprise angle by Hamilton-Brown perhaps. Jade Dernbach - sporting a protective sleeve over his latest tattoo - had to wait until third change to get a go and has since bowled a touch waywardly...as I type he's just trapped Chris Rogers on the crease, lbw, Surrey back in the session.

Decent turnout here too, and why not first the year's first action at HQ

11.45am: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Gloucestershire

This is, as Hampshire chairman Rod Bransgrove, has pointed out to the assembled media, The Ageas Bowl, not The Rose Bowl. "Say it 12 times to yourself before start of play each morning." His sense of humour is so sardonic that one is never sure if he is joking. But he is certainly relieved to have had some of the financial burden here lifted by this insurance group, given he has put around £6m of his own money into a draining project.

11.40am: George Dobell at Warwickshire v Somerset

The Zuni tribe of New Mexico are known to practise an elaborate rain dance that involves the wearing of feathers and turquoise clothing in the hope that they might encourage rainfall.

They need not bother. They could simply schedule a game of cricket.

It is raining at Edgbaston. Warwickshire, who have bowled very well indeed, have reduced Somerset for 14 for two. Trescothick has just felt for a fine delivery outside off stump and edged a second catch of the day to Rikki Clarke at slip.

11.35am: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Sussex

When this summer’s county fixtures were announced late last year, officials at Liverpool Cricket Club were no doubt anticipating a flurry of excitement at their hosting of Lancashire, the new county champions, for their first match of the season at Aigburth.

That initial excitement has no doubt subsided after they learned it would fall in the same week that Merseyside gears up for Saturday’s Everton v Liverpool FA Cup semi-final at Wembley and the Grand National at Aintree on the same day.

By contrast, the new champions have breezed into town without much fuss or fanfare. The Championship pennant is fluttering from the roof of the fine pavilion and the Lancashire flag flies from Liverpool City hall, but otherwise just a few hardy spectators are sitting in the sunny but cold conditions.

Lancashire have made their first difficult decision of the summer, preferring the promise of Simon Kerrigan in their starting line-up to the experience of Gary Keedy, who contributed 61 wickets to their championship triumph last summer. Overseas batsman Ashwell Prince returns to their line-up while Luke Proctor is preferred in the all-rounder role to Tom Smith, who has a slight hamstring problem.

Sussex have included England spinner Monty Panesar, while Australian seamer Steve Magoffin is making his debut as their overseas player. He has been given an early chance to impress with Sussex winning the toss and deciding to bowl first.

11am: George Dobell at Warwickshire v Somerset

Morning from Edgbaston where Somerset have won the toss and will bat first.

Warwickshire beat Somerset home and away last year – results that had a significant bearing on the end of season position of both teams. Two of the key figures in those games – Boyd Rankin and Chris Woakes – are both absent with injury, though, and Warwickshire surely face a much tougher struggle without them.

Warwickshire have just awarded Varun Chopra his first team cap. Fully deserved, too: he is a realistic candidate to be one of the next England openers and was the only Warwickshire man to pass 1,000 championship runs last season.

Interesting thoughts from Kevin Pietersen about the IPL. He has suggested, in short, that English ambivalence towards it is rooted in jealousy. I’m not so sure. Might it not be simply that the IPL has encroached on the English domestic season and, as such, has become a bit of a threat? My own view about the IPL is similar to my view of next door’s children: they’re very nice, but if there’s a fire, I’ll probably save mine first. County cricket could do with KP et al. appearing in it far more frequently.

We’d be interested to hear your views.

10.10am: Alex Winter at Middlesex v Surrey

Good morning to round two of the 2012 season. I've bridged the north-south London divide with a trip over the Thames myself this morning to find tremendous conditions at Lord's for a London derby that, now it resumes Division One status, takes up the mantle of one the biggest games in English cricket once again. As such, the press box is rather well populated - this game is even being broadcast on Radio 5 Live - and the importance of county cricket is once again apparent.

Surrey's swagger became a touch more confident back after they kicked off their new season with victory over Sussex at The Oval. Their neighbours slipped to defeat on the final day at Somerset - how they would love to have Andrew Strauss and Steven Finn back a week sooner.

Surrey have won the toss and have decided to bowl first. One change for them, Tim Linley in for Stuart Meaker. Middlesex field the same side that lost at Taunton.

ESPNcricinfo are once again out and about around the country, we've got George Dobell at Warwickshire v Somerset, David Hopps at Durham v Nottinghamshire, Myles Hodgson is watching the return of the champions, Lancashire, against Sussex at Liverpool and Ivo Tennant is down at Southampton watching Hampshire's first dig back in Division Two against Gloucestershire.

As ever, get involved in our coverage in the comments section below, and on twitter using the hashtag #countycricket. Also have a listen to the latest edition of the Switch Hit Podcast where we discuss England's series draw in Sri Lanka and chat about the opening round of the county season.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo