April 22, 2012

LV= County Championship, Sunday April 22

7.25pm: George Dobell’s round-up

7.25pm: George Dobell’s round-up

While Hampshire clinched a two-wicket win from the penultimate ball of a dramatic match at Cardiff, Durham suffered a late wobble at Lord’s. Warwickshire made it two wins out of two at Liverpool, while Nick Newell, the Nottinghamshire director of cricket, had some harsh words for his team after the rain came to their rescue at Trent Bridge.

Read reports from all today’s games on our County Cricket home page.

5.10pm: Jon Culley at Middlesex v Durham

Once upon a time no so long ago the players would have been rubbed down, showered and on their way home by now. But then someone came up with drains so effective it is like having a big plughole in the middle of the field.

Instead, they are all still in their whites and coming out to play again. Only one side can win and a draw is still odds-on but at eight without loss and 16.2 overs left in which to reach 130, Durham will pretend it is Twenty20 and have a go. Otherwise it really will have been a waste of time and effort.

5.00pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Warwickshire

It was a lot closer than Warwickshire would have liked, but chasing a target of 70 they have wobbled through and secured victory by five wickets. The pessimistic among the locals will point to another Lancashire defeat, the first time they have lost their opening two matches to a season since 1965, but they pushed Warwickshire hard in the tense closing stages.

It took a composed, unbeaten 22 from Will Porterfield to steady nerves, while Tim Ambrose’s favourite cut shot secured victory. Those Lancastrians with relegation on their mind might be interested to know that Lancashire now trail Warwickshire by 40 points.

3.50pm: David Lloyd at Surrey v Worcestershire

Just when the first century partnership of the match beckoned, Mitchell lost his off stump to Chris Jordan. And just when Surrey had their first wicket of the innings, the rain arrived to halt a fascinating contest.

Mitchell had batted nearly 31 overs for his 20 when he made the fatal mistake of failing to get forward to one that did keep low. Dark clouds were all around and there was just time for Vikram Solanki to face one ball before the umpires called a halt.

At 94 for one, Worcestershire were a tantalising 152 runs from victory – or 39 overs away from safety.

3.45pm: Alex Winter at Kent v Gloucestershire

Tea at Canterbury forced a few minutes early by rain that, by the looks of what is approaching, could well end the game. No chance of a result anyway with Kent batting out very comfortably, nothing happening off the pitch or in the air. The two wickets came from two poor strokes – particularly Ben Harmison who holed out to deep midwicket off Ed Young unthreatening left-arm spin.

I had wandered out pas the Cowdrey stand to take in a few overs in what was delightful sunshine but that has now disappeared and the game will probably end a damp squib.

3.40pm: Jon Culley at Middlesex v Durham

Early tea at Lord's as Durham chase a target of 130 win. They had 45 overs available when they set off but even though it is not raining especially heavily (if at all) the covers are on. Umpires Millns and Mallender have been to the middle without the need of umbrellas but it is pretty dark and a patch of brightness in the south-west seems to be filling in again.

Which is good news for Middlesex, whose director of cricket, Angus Fraser, has apparently completed the London Marathon in five hours and four minutes, as ever taking advantage of favourable conditions. And only 20 minutes behind Andy Flower who, without wishing to be rude, carries a little less timber.

3.25pm George Dobell at Nottinghamshire v Somerset

We were, very briefly, underway at Trent Bridge. But after three overs the rain returned and the teams are now taking an early tea. Somerset, it appears, are going to be frustrated. If it stopped right now, they would have about 40 overs to take the remaining seven wickets. It is much more likely that an early finish will be called by the umpires.

A St George’s day parade has just passed the ground led by bagpipers. This led to a furious (in truth it was quite ambivalent) debate about the origin of the instrument. I wouldn’t have thought any nation would want to take credit – or blame – for such an invention. Surely welding sounds better?

We have been joined in the box at times during this game by Mike Hendrick, the former England seamer and now the bowling coach at Nottinghamshire. Among the fascinating stories he has to tell – and he has many – is a good one about batting with Mike Selvey against the 1976 West Indians. Suffice it to say, they were both pretty keen to stay at the non-striker’s end. He also had an interesting one about how Tony Greig, the England captain of the time, let him know he was going to be dropped. “He just said ‘see you around,’ as I was getting into my car.”

3.05pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Warwickshire

Since the introduction of two divisions in the county championship there have only been two instances of the champions being relegated the following season – Yorkshire in 2002 and Nottinghamshire in 2006 –but never let it be said that confidence is over-flowing among Lancashire fans as they begin their title defence.

Admittedly, they have not had the best of starts to the new season having lost their opening match to Sussex while they are struggling to stave off defeat against Warwickshire, but two games into the season may be a little premature to begin planning next summer’s division two itinerary. That, though, would be to under-estimate the natural pessimism that nearly every county cricket fan has ingrained in them from an early age.

A colleague in the press tent witnessed two Lancashire fans on the train this morning discussing odds for relegation while a quick stroll around the ground at Aigburth should guarantee several similar downbeat assessments of the champions’ prospects.

2.50pm: Jon Culley at Middlesex v Durham

Just as Durham thought this was there for the taking, Middlesex's ninth-wicket pair have put a sizeable spanner in the works with an 82-run partnership. At 173 for nine, with Tim Murtagh just gone for 45 to a legside caught-behind, Middlesex have a lead of 123.

Graham Onions looked to have pushed them to the brink with his double-wicket maiden first up after lunch. But he bowled only three overs subsequently and Claydon and Thorp have been ordinary by comparison. Collingwood has had a trundle and now Scott Borthwick is on with his hitherto unemployed leg-spin.

Wicketkeeper John Simpson is looking for a half-century if Steven Finn can stay with him and the sky is looking ominously full of rain to the south-west. Durham may be missing an opportunity.

2.30pm: David Lloyd at Surrey v Worcestershire

There is a theory – one which this observer accepts but still manages to forget at least four times a season – that more rubbish is written, thought about and discussed when it comes to pitches than any other subject in cricket.

Consequently, far from being cleaned up for 50 by a succession of grubbers and lifters as a tricky surface became completely unplayable on the last afternoon, Worcestershire made rather pleasing progress to 45 without loss

That left them a long way (200 runs) from victory and a lot of overs (54) from safety but Australian Michael Klinger and captain Daryl Mitchell had set out a decent stall.

2.15pm: Jeremy Snape's Five Sledging Survival Tips For Parents

We can feel you all waiting for this, so here it is. Thanks to MCC and Chance to Shine - the charity that works to promote cricket in state schools - for their assistance.

1. Create a pre-performance routine. Predictability in the lead up to a big match can have a positive impact on a player’s confidence. Creating a routine of preparation, food, travel timings and warm ups means that they can focus all their energy on the game ahead.

2. Prepare for battle. If we assume that the more competitive your child’s cricket becomes, the more they will be exposed to mind games, then its best to prepare for that early. Make it really clear that during a practice session ‘for the next minute or so’ you will try to distract them while batting. You can judge the level and content of the comments but the key is to return to normal support after the quick distraction test!

3. Reward positive reactions. Really praise your children for their positive responses to these tough situations. By pointing out the specific behaviours you saw such as walking away or strong body language will help them to become more resilient and focussed in the future.

4.Avoid negative interactions. If your child sees you, their leading role model – reacting negatively or in an unsporting manner, they are more likely to copy it. Handle any issues of conflict around the match professionally and discreetly showing an attitude worth catching.

5. Prepare – Do - Review. Witnessing your child getting ‘chirped’ can be distressing for any parent. Rather than diving into the emotion of the contest, talk to your child once the dust has settled to build their mental toughness. Just as we prepare for matches and play them it’s really important to review our results and thinking to keep the learning process moving forward.

2.05pm: David Hopps at Yorkshire v Essex

Eddie Bevan, the voice of Glamorgan cricket – in English and in Welsh – has had his attention drawn to Alviro Petersen’s lbw dismissal for Essex at Headingley today. According to Bevan, who watched Petersen play at Glamorgan last season, he is a prime candidate for leg before decisions. “England seamers take note,” he advises.

Yorkshire are proud of their quite bullish early-season declaration, one that left Essex needing 262 in a maximum of 74 overs. The feeling among the cognoscenti is that they would have been a touch more conservative a year ago and that the enterprising approach of their new coach, Jason Gillespie, has something to do with it.

With heavy showers forecast, though – the players are off the field at the moment – Yorkshire would probably grab a guarantee of 50 overs to try to bowl Essex out. With Billy Godleman another lbw victim – no insight yet from the Sage of Wales on that one – Essex are 26 for 2.

1.25pm: Jon Culley at Middlesex v Durham

To whoever was 'just wondering', to be fair to Surrey (if we must...), Mark Ramprakash did tweet last night that he had never seen a pitch at The Oval with such uneven bounce...

1.00pm: Jon Culley at Middlesex v Durham

If Andrew Strauss does arrive at the opening Test against the West Indies in nick he will have done it the hard way, almost certainly. Having come up against Graham Onions here, he will have to deal with Alan Richardson when Worcestershire come to Lord's for the England captain's next assignment.

Onions currently has 18 first-class wickets so far to Richardson's 17. The veteran former Middlesex and Warwickshire seamer has taken 10 in the match against Surrey across the river from here. His visits to Lord's since leaving Middlesex have not been especially productive but he had a seven-for, a six-for and two five-fors here in the early part of his career.

David Balcombe of Hampshire has been the most successful exploiter of early-season pitches so far with 23 wickets, 18 of them in Division Two, in which, bizarrely, the Glamorgan quartet of Waters, Allenby, Henriques and Wagg have taken 52 wickets between them for a team which may finish today with three defeats from three matches.

Middlesex have stumbled to lunch here at 91 for six. Neil Dexter could make only a single. Chris Rogers is 36 not out but with a lead of 41 it will probably need rain to save them. The main cover is on but it might be an optimistic precaution.

12.55pm: Jeremy Snape's Five Sledging Survival Tips For Players

1. Be mentally prepared. If you expect these situations to arise, you are more likely to feel comfortable when they occur. Imagine yourself in pressurised situation, thinking clearly and communicating well with your batting partner.

2. Stay focussed. Your opponent is just trying to break your concentration, rather than listen to what they are saying, see it as a challenge to ignore them and watch their reaction. They will get bored before you!

3. Take it as a compliment. Reverse your opponents’ desired effect by seeing their jibes in a positive light. If they could get you out easily, they wouldn’t have to try and ‘chirp’ you out. They must see you as a threat – keep proving them right!

4. Be your own ‘helpful commentator’. Positive self-talk can have significant effects on your confidence, so if you do get distracted remind yourself of the positive aspects of your game. The voice in your is always 10 times louder than any opponent, so be helpful to yourself rather than listen to your red-faced opponent’s comments.

5. Think ‘WIN’. If you feel yourself becoming distracted, you have probably lost focus on the only thing which can impact the game – the next ball. To bring your thinking back under control ask yourself – What’s Important Now.

Jeremy Snape now runs Sporting Edge Solutions, a company which delivers sports psychology and mental training programmes.

12.45pm: David Lloyd at Surrey v Worcestershire

With Stuart Meaker, Jon Lewis and Jade Dernbach all throwing the bat to excellent effect, Surrey zipped up to 224 before being dismissed shortly before lunch.

That left Worcestershire the apparently appealing target of 246 from 70 overs. Possible? Yes. Likely? Certainly not. A combination of this pitch and Surrey’s bowlers makes a home win the very firm favourite.

12.40pm George Dobell at Nottinghamshire v Somerset

Somerset – and Warwickshire – supporters may be interested to know that Dermot Reeve has expressed an interest in becoming Bangladesh’s next coach.

You can read the full story here

Reeve has been coaching in India and New Zealand in recent years – with some success – and we understand that he has already spoken to officials on the Bangladesh cricket board and members of the team. He was also on the shortlist for the Pakistan job. We all know he had some troubles six or seven years ago, but those who remember what a wonderful partnership he formed with Bob Woolmer at Edgbaston will welcome his revival.

12.30pm: Alex Winter at Kent v Gloucestershire

Hello from a sunny Canterbury. So sunny that Gloucestershire decided to bat for 80 minutes this morning, finally declaring on 257 for 7. So Kent will need 363 to win in a minimum of 73 overs – stranger things have...nah, they’re not winning this. Question is whether the visitors have left themselves enough time to take 10 wickets, a bowler light too with David Payne injured.

After a hard slog yesterday evening I tried to treat myself with an Indian and a beer before driving back, could I find such an outlet? Could I hell...snaking blindly around the tight streets of Canterbury was a fruitless exercise. I reluctantly settled for Ossie’s fish bar...of the famous Ossie’s I could think of Mr Ardiles was low on the list of possibles who could have started a new life in the shires. Needless to say, the man who served my bag of chips had never played for Spurs or Argentina, or indeed looked like he had ever appeared in competitive sport.

So any recommendations and crucially, directions, to a curry house in Canterbury would be most appreciated for the future...

12.20pm: David Hopps at Yorkshire v Essex

Yorkshire have set Essex 261 for victory at Headingley and have allowed themselves half-an-hour or so before lunch to try to make early inroads.

Joe Sayers is a dedicated batsman, but his dismissal to the first ball of the day, cutting at David Masters, was not the worst outcome for Yorkshire as they sought quick runs in between the showers. You can talk as much as you like about stability, gradual acceleration, sides low on confidence and anchor roles, but 45 in 45 overs on Saturday evening was still hard to justify.

Yorkshire added 70 in 12 overs this morning, with Andrew Gale's unbeaten 48 from 52 balls possessing an appropriate sense of purpose. Showers are forecast from mid-afternoon, but they have been skipping around Headingley throughout much of the match so a good finish is not out of the question.

12.10pm: Just wondered

...if Surrey will finish this match by complaining that it is the worst pitch they have ever seen at The Oval...?

12.05pm: David Lloyd at Surrey v Worcestershire

Gareth Batty might disagree with the earlier suggestion that there are tougher things in a sporting life than batting – or at least he might have done immediately after getting a vicious lifter from David Lucas that hit high up his blade and looped to point.

With several deliveries from Alan Richardson keeping low there was plenty of early evidence to support the theory that bounce would be more variable than ever on the final day.

Still, none of this bothered Hamilton-Brown too much. He continued to bat quite beautifully and had reached 76 before he made his one and only real mistake – slightly dragging an attempted drive into the hands of mid-on.

That gave Richardson 10 wickets in the match – the first Worcestershire player to achieve that feat against Surrey since 1966. But the hosts were already 185 to the good and more useful runs from Stuart Meaker and Jon Lewis soon extended the advantage beyond 200.

12.05pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Warwickshire

A further inspection has revealed we are due to start at 12.20, with 21 overs lost from the day’s allocation. The good news is the sky has cleared and there is no obvious danger of any further rain, although that is a brave statement to make at Aigburth this summer.

11.55am George Dobell at Nottinghamshire v Somerset

It may well be that rain is Somerset’s greatest foe at Trent Bridge. We have barely had 20 minutes play today and we’re off again.

In that time, though, Somerset have struck twice. Neil Edwards, feet rooted to the spot, edged a fine ball from Trego angled across him, before Alex Hales wafted at one from Meschede and was well taken in the slips.

Without the injured Kirby, however, there is an awful lot required of Trego, in particular.

Looks as if we should have play again very soon.

11.40am: David Hopps has some tips to survive sledging

To promote the campaign to improve sporting behaviour in schools, run jointly by Chance to Shine and the MCC, advice has been issued to players about how to cope with psychological warfare from opponents.

They have been drawn up by Jeremy Snape, who has followed up 16 years as a professional cricketer by working as a sports psychologist with international sides including England and India. He now runs Sporting Edge Solutions, a company which delivers sports psychology and mental training programmes.

Those of you were talked out in a club or school match on Saturday might like to take particular notice….

Snape says: "When faced with psychological warfare, it is important to remember the main reason why your opponent adopts these tactics: they want to disrupt your focus. This age old tactic is a sure-fire way to distract a player if they are not mentally capable of managing the situation.

"Cricket offers a unique challenge in sport with the regular breaks between balls. These gaps can bring a thinking ‘vacuum’ which can either be filled by thoughts building confidence and commitment or by negative doubts and fears. This is all part of the game and if you want to make it to the top, the techniques needed to manage the space between balls are as crucial as those during play."

As the day develops, the blog will bring you Snape's five top tips for players - and for parents - to help you handle the backchat.

11.30am: Jon Culley at Middlesex v Durham

Durham are already bracing themselves for the loss of Graham Onions sooner rather than later after the Gateshead bowler's impressive start to the season, especially after his double dismissal of the England captain here. “I would not be surprised if we were missing him fairly early in the season," their coach, Geoff Cook, said.

Even after letting Mark Davies and Ben Harmison move on in the winter, Durham still have a strong clutch of seamers, so strong that even Steve Harmison has been told he has to take some wickets in the twos to be considered for the first XI. Cook thinks it is good insurance.

“Then there is a lot of one-day international cricket and a lot of Lions four-day cricket, so the likelihood is we will miss one or two with Ben Stokes part of the (England) squad. Suddenly you use two of your top four seamers and all resources are needed.” Onions has already claimed his second wicket of this innings.

Andrew Strauss, who had hoped to be leading Middlesex's battle to save this game, has wondered along the boundary past the Mound and Tavern Stands, having had a net this morning. He may have been in jocular mood as he chatted with coach Richard Scott but somehow you doubt it.

11.15am: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Warwickshire

Warwickshire are becoming accustomed to nail-biting finishes this season following their tight victory over Somerset in the previous round of games, which may prove useful at Aigburth today as they attempt to force through a second successive win.

Heavy overnight rain and steady drizzle this morning has ensured a delayed start and the forecast for the remainder of the day in Aigburth is not promising. Whatever time we do start, Warwickshire may need to wrap up Lancashire’s final six wickets quickly if they are to be victorious again.

Umpires Trevor Jesty and Martin Saggers have been out in the middle three times already this morning, but a further inspection is likely to be postponed by a further rain shower.

There is, however, some news of Chris Woakes’ recovery from his ankle problem. He has been using the facilities at Finch Farm, Everton’s training ground, in an effort to speed up his recovery schedule. He has also used Aston Villa’s training ground facilities, although Warwickshire do not expect him to return for at least another two or three weeks.

11.00am: David Lloyd at Surrey v Worcestershire

Well, one thing is for certain: we will not see 19 wickets fall here today. Few would bet much against 14 going with a clatter, though.

As mentioned yesterday, there is some uneven bounce – Mark Ramprakash got one that kept low while Chris Jordan was hit on the glove – and plenty of sideways movement.

Batting was not impossible yesterday, though, as first James Cameron and then Rory Hamilton-Brown proved. And, anyway, there are many tougher things in life than batting – like running in the London Marathon, for example.

As for here, Surrey resume with a lead of 152 and four wickets in hand. Eyes down.

9.25am: David Hopps on the early shift

There are some corking cricket reports on ESPNcricinfo today. Much attention has focused on Andrew Strauss' search for form with Middlesex - a process that began with two failures against a bowler pushing again for England honours again - Durham's Graham Onions. Jon Culley considers that - and we promise we won't use the crying at onions headline for at least another season.

George Dobell is at his most trenchant in criticising Notts' performance against Somerset at Trent Bridge, where Nick Compton has extended a run-heavy start to the season. Dobell even dares to pose the question whether, given a full summer in an England shirt, Compton or Strauss would get most runs?

David Lloyd watched all 22 batsmen take guard at The Oval, most of them not for very long, There was a century for Ravi Bopara at Headingley, witnessed by David Hopps, and Alex Winter observed Kent's winning start to the season put under pressure by the Glorious Glaws.

All the reports can be found on our county cricket home page.

There is lots to debate to be had, as ever, as eight championship matches reach their climax. Keep an eye on the Twitter deck for weather upates from the county media officers, as well as their regular cries of WICKET! if that sort of thing takes your fancy.

If you missed it yesterday, Alan Gardner joined Ian Botham's charity yomp around the Norfolk countryside this week and was so exhausted by the fresh air that he has taken four days off to recover. It is fortunate that we did not ask him to track Andy Flower around the London marathon today. Read On The Road With Beefy.

And make a mental note: Jarrod Kimber has a great video interview with Alan Richardson tomorrow. Richardson was a somewhat controversial choice as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers' Almanack - thoroughly deserved as far as this observer is concerned - and he is the first subject in County Banter, a series of chats with some of the county game's most interesting characters. Watch out for it.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo