May 4, 2012

LV= County Championship, Friday May 4

5.40pm: Father Christmas spotted

5.40pm: Father Christmas spotted

Sleet has stopped play at Scarborough - shortly after Colin Graves took on new powers as Yorkshire's full-time executive chairman. As Graves has bankrolled the club for years, Father Christmas had even arrived in style. watch out for reindeers in Huntriss Row.

5.07pm: Best of the Blogs

This take on Ajmal Shahzad will delight some more than others. But we think it's a neat read.

4.50 pm: Nigel Gardner at Derby

Rain stopped play here shortly after 4.30 with Gloucestershire making a good fist of it second time around at 169 for 2, the Kiwi pair of Kane Williamson and Hamish Marshall frustrating the home attack. The word on Benny Howell’s dismissal is that he was done by a slower ball delivered from the back of the hand by Jon Clare rather than the pitch but it was a good innings and his father John, who now lives in Australia and played a few matches for Warwickshire Seconds in 1978, was here to enjoy it.

Since then, David Wainwright has continued his impressive start to his new career after leaving Yorkshire by bowling an excellent 12 overs spell that yielded only seven runs either side of tea although no sooner had his figures been relayed by the scorers than he was dispatched for two boundaries in his next over which cost 10. He will shortly get the chance to have the last word because play is due to start again at 4.55.

4.40pm: Alan Gardner at Middlesex v Worcestershire

We’re going to have an extended evening session at Lord’s, or at least as much play as the conditions permit. The teams came back out at 3.30pm after three hours of watching the BBC’s local elections swingometer and, in a 20-minute spell, Sam Robson succeeded where Andrew Strauss had failed and recorded his half-century, taking just 11 balls to move from 29 to 50. He struck Alan Richardson for consecutive fours, as the Middlesex old boy struggled with his run-up and then plundered 10 off three deliveries from Aneesh Kapil, whose figures went from 1-1-0-1 after his dismissal of Strauss to 3-1-22-1 and prompted his removal from the attack after another break for bad light.

Quite what the light metre readings say is unknown up in the press bubble but the visibility seems to have remained pretty consistent all day – gloomy but playable – and Middlesex certainly haven’t had too many problems batting. Sure enough, they were out again 10 minutes later and the indefatigable Richardson was finally rewarded in his 14th over with the wicket of Robson, as the opener’s ungainly back-foot swipe ended up in Klinger’s hands at third slip. This time, the Australian was worthy of his name. Denly has since pinged a couple of eye-catching straight drives down the ground to move Middlesex on to 139 for 2, with 33 overs still scheduled for the day.

4.30pm: Jon Culley at Lancashire v Nottinghamshire

Nottinghamshire's second innings has come to a rapid conclusion, the last three wickets falling in the space of seven balls without a run scored.

Stuart Broad holed out to mid-on attempting to hit Simon Kerrigan over the top, then James Anderson, who managed to take the catch without further damage to his thumb, completed a five-for by bowling Graeme Swann and Andre Adams with consecutive deliveries to finish with 5-82.

Now we'll see what Broad can come up with by way of response. Lancashire need 328 to win, with 36 overs left today and all of tomorrow.

4.10pm: David Hopps on Colin Graves hands-on role at Yorkshire

Colin Graves - last seen telling Ajmal Shahzad he had no future at Yorkshire - is strengthening his day-to-day involvement with Yorkshire from Monday 7 May when he assumes the role of executive chairman, an amalgamation of his existing role as chairman and the vacant chief executive post.

Graves sold the last of his Costcutter shares in November last year, the business he grew from scratch in 1986 into a national chain of supermarkets, but retained a position on their Board. He was offered the role of non-executive chairman, but has opted instead to become more hands on at Headingley.

Whether he was correct to become the Scourge of Shahzad is highly debatable in my view, but such as Yorkshire's precarious financial position that his greater involvement can only be beneficial. A dash of honesty can do a lot of good in the right places.

He has been a Board Director at Yorkshire CCC since 2002 when, as a member of the Gang of Four, he assumed control of the club's consistently perilous finances. He will now work in a full-time capacity at Headingley in a salaried position and also retains his position on the ECB management board.

3.45pm: Jon Culley at Lancashire v Nottinghamshire

Nottinghamshire have issued a statement to the effect that Mick Newell is unaware of any interest from Bangladesh in making him their next coach, although Cricinfo sources have confirmed that he is a strong candidate to succeed Stuart Law in the role.

Meanwhile, Nottinghamshire have established a lead of 325 with three second innings wickets still standing, even though James Anderson has extended his workout by taking two wickets for 17 runs in 3.4 overs in his latest spell.

The England pace bowler has conceded boundaries to both of his Test team pals, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, the former cracking two in a row after avoiding a pair. Still plainly not feeling well, Anderson has had to stop to take pills at least once, yet produced a corking delivery to have Paul Franks gloving a catch to 'keeper Gareth Cross, who then pulled off a terrific catch to dismiss Chris Read, possibly off an inside edge.

Read, who batted more than two and a half hours for his 54, had shared a 100-run partnership for the fifth wicket with the England Lions captain, James Taylor, before the latter was caught rather tamely down the leg side off the left-arm spinner, Simon Kerrigan. They are taking tea now after an interruption for rain, the first stoppage of the game.

3.10pm: Nigel Gardner at Derby

OK, thinking caps on. How many French-born players have there been in the first-class game? The reason for the question is that one of them is going rather well and leading a spirited Gloucestershire fight back here. Benny Howell, who was born in Bordeaux, has passed his second Championship half century and is making Derbyshire work a lot harder for their wickets after Wayne Madsen enforced the follow-on. The 23-year-old right-hander has shown sound judgement but can play a few shots as he showed when he straight drove David Wainwright for six shortly after lunch.

Which makes you wonder why he was released at the end of last season by Hampshire after making only one first-class appearance in which he scored 71. His captain was the former Derbyshire legend Dominic Cork so could this have been a case of a Bordeaux being Corked? Anyway, he’s just been bowled by one from Jon Clare that seemed to keep low for 64 with Gloucestershire still 57 short of making Derbyshire bat again.

2.40pm George Dobell

Worcestershire have moved next week's championship match against Surrey to Kidderminster.

2.40pm: Alex Winter at Glamorgan v Essex

Off for bad light and then back on and now Glamorgan enjoying their best dig of the season with the bat. Ex-Surrey Stuart Walters is playing nicely.

One of the sponsors here at the Sophia Gardens is Castell Howell (or Howell Castle in English) – a food wholesaler. Someone half-jokingly suggested their investment coincided with Mark Cosgrove’s arrival at the club – he is large chap but a great cricketer, overlooked by a fitness-conscious Australian regime, you could say in a similar manner to England’s attitude to Samit Patel. But Cosgrove has far more talent than Patel and it was a disaster Glamorgan didn’t keep him.

Cosgrove was binned in Glamorgan’s shake-up two winters ago, a shake-up designed to bring success back to the Principality; the change brought no dividend last year. Their latest idea is the signing of another Australian but one whose fitness is approved by the national selectors. Marcus North I think is due in the country today.

2.15pm: Exclusive: Mick Newell on shortlist for Bangladesh coaching job

George Dobell's story is here. Mr Dobell has also combined with our Bangladesh correspondent Mohammad Isam to bring news of Shakib Al Hasan's potential move to Essex.

1.20pm: Nigel Gardner at Derby

Good afternoon from the County Ground where it’s decidedly bleak. On days like this, it’s hard to argue with Byron who said winter in England ends in July and begins again in August. The floodlights are on but at least it’s dry and play started on time.

Derbyshire sprung a surprise before a ball had been bowled this morning by awarding caps to four players, Tony Palladino, Jon Clare, Martin Guptill and Wes Durston and it was the latter who warmed his hands by taking a smart catch at slip to end the Gloucestershire innings after the last pair of Paul Muchall and Ian Saxelby had added 34 runs to at least earn their side a batting point.

In the light of Ajmal Shahzad's departure from Headingley, it is worth remarking that Derbyshire are delighted with their recruit from Yorkshire, the left-arm spinner David Wainwright who has already made his mark at his new county. He ran through Northants on the final day of the opening game of the season here and he certainly has no regrets over his decision to move on.

It was Wainwright who eventually defeated Muchall with one that turned and Derbyshire had no hesitation in sending Gloucestershire back in. The visitors need 182 to avoid an innings defeat and Chris Dent quickly discovered where his off stump was when he looked around to find it lying behind him after he played no shot at Tim Groenewald in the second over.

1.20pm: The team you pick but never watch

It’s one thing for Colin Graves to call a spade a spade. But our no-nonsense county cricket columnist went one better and named himself after a Shovel. Read our no-nonsense (and non-nonsensical) county columnist Kenny Shovel on the side you love to pick but never watch.

1pm: Jon Culley at Lancashire v Nottinghamshire

Critical period coming up after lunch in this game. Notts are 195- 4, which gives them a lead of 218, but Chris Read and James Taylor, having started to build a partnership against the old ball, will be facing an almost new one this afternoon.

Glen Chapple took it the over before lunch and quickly found the edge of Taylor's bat, but it dropped short of the slips.

James Anderson, feeling better after yesterday's poorliness, bowled seven overs for 22, having conceded 14 of those runs in his first eight deliveries. He has taken a crucial wicket for good measure, having Michael Lumb caught at first slip playing back to one that found a bit of extra bounce.

Samit Patel rather wasted his opportunity, falling on 39 after grafting solidly for almost two hours. A change of bowling may have played a part. Luke Procter came on for Chapple and Patel flung his bat at the first hint of width and was caught behind.

There could be more problems for Lancashire, though, after Procter left the field shortly before lunch, apparently not moving easily. Tom Smith is already out of this game -- and facing a few weeks on the sidelines -- with another hamstring injury.

12.45pm: Alan Gardner at Middlesex v Worcestershire

Just as the murmurs of approval at Strauss’ innings were beginning to increase here at Lord’s, he missed a straight one from Aneesh Kapil – Worcestershire’s England U-19 bowler, who had only moments before bared his forearms to the cold for the first time – to be out lbw for 49. The umpire, Nigel Cowley, ruminated on his decision briefly, perhaps trying to avoid catching the England captain’s eye, before raising his finger. Strauss didn’t hang around but he may have regretted Sam Robson’s sluggish running two overs previously, when he clearly wanted a third to take him to his half-century.

Having hooked the returning Richardson into the Grand Stand for six, Strauss was beginning to play with a flourish that Cervantes would have been proud of (as a literary man, the Spaniard would surely have developed a taste for the game). From 22 off 49 balls, Strauss lashed 27 off his next 23 before his association with Robson – Middlesex’s first 50-run opening stand of the season – was ended, somewhat anticlimactically, with the score on 80. Joe Denly arrived at the crease but after a single was added to the score, the players went off for bad light.

Robson has left diligently and accumulated steadily for 29 but the lingering image will be of him lingering at the non-striker’s end as Strauss chided him for not getting a shuffle on. I imagine it may be mentioned over lunch – which is now being taken.

12.15pm: George Dobell at Warwickshire v Durham

It must be infuriating to bowl at Jeetan Patel. The New Zealander played a huge role in Warwickshire’s victory over Somerset with a ferocious innings that settled a tight game and has again produced valuable runs here.

In conditions providing lots of assistance to the bowlers, Patel has repeatedly moved his front foot out of the way and mown the ball back over mid on and mid off with strokes that owe little to the coaching manual but plenty to a decent eye for the ball. At one stage he thrashed Claydon for three successive fours.

He seemed, on the face of things, a modest overseas signing - he has a career bowling average above 40, after all - but with bat and ball, in the field or in the dressing room, he is proving a fine team player. Here he helped Warwickshire stretch their lead to 104 before Chris Wright - a man good enough to bat No. 7 in some sides - was caught behind off the deserving Onions.

It was a frustrating session for Durham. Edges flew between slips and the gully and twice there were tough catching chances for Ian Blackwell. He is now so immobile in the field - and clearly hampered by his injured shoulder - that he was unable to take either. It’s just possible this game could finish today…

12.10pm: Alex Winter at Glamorgan v Essex

What ho. Play in the Principality today started on time but I didn’t bet on it driving to the ground; cloud of varying greys fills the skies and it looks like it has to rain but none is forecast. Essex have bagged an early couple but haven’t bowled brilliantly – Charl Willoughby off target before changing ends and Tymal Mills seemingly hindered by the shirt he is wearing – so tight he should be playing rugby league.

Fall out from Cardiff City’s defeat in the play-off semi-final first leg dominates the morning press. The BBC’s Edward Bevan quick to point out that it’s not doom and gloom for all in these parts today – he and fellow men from Swansea were quite delighted at the scoreline.

11.50am: George Dobell at Warwickshire v Durham

This has been a wonderfully entertaining session. Graham Onions, in particular, has bowled really well in conditions offering him loads of assistance and has beaten Bell several times. Twice in an over Bell edged him just short of the slips and several edges have also flown down to third man. Jeetan Patel has just joined him and, thanks to a few agricultural swipes and a couple of pleasing drives, has helped Warwickshire increase their lead past 70.

Bell was eventually caught behind, off the glove, from one that climbed and left him from Mitchell Claydon. Earlier Keith Barker, who for all his many qualities has a serious issue with the short ball, was caught behind as he top-edged a pull.

11.45am: Jon Culley at Lancashire v Nottinghamshire

James Anderson into the attack at 11.35, even though it transpires that the teams had agreed that he could bowl at any time from 11.11am onwards. Lancashire continued instead with Simon Kerrigan, the left-arm spinner, at the Pavilion End.

Nottinghamshire have been praised for their sportsmanship in not insisting that Anderson served the full time penalty after spending more than three hours off the field yesterday, suffering from a fluey virus.

Commenting this morning, Mick Newell, their director of cricket, said: "In telling Anderson he did not have to field for the length of time he had been off, the umpires made a rare mistake. But we felt that for the betterment of the game it would not have been right to hang the umpires out to dry for it and that it was right in the circumstances that Anderson be allowed to bowl.

"The crucial thing is that they tried to get Anderson on the field yesterday. He was clearly not very well so it was apparent there was no shamming going on."

Nottinghamshire are 148-2 with Michael Lumb having completed a patient half-century in 224 minutes from 173 balls. Anderson's first over went for six in his opening over today, his first ball having been cut for four by Samit Patel.

11.35am: Alan Gardner at Middlesex v Worcestershire

You may notice I refrained from pre-rambling before the scheduled start of play – and what do you know, we have actually got some cricket to talk about. There’s nothing so underrated as silence. Anyway, the gloom over St Johns Wood has lifted just a fraction (whether it’s really much brighter than yesterday afternoon, I’m not sure), though not enough to make batting first an attractive option, with Middlesex duly being inserted for the third time in a row at Lord’s, and four in four overall this season.

That means another look at Andrew Strauss, England’s dear leader who is in need of some affection, or luck at the very least. So far he’s had a fair degree of the latter, pushing forward uncertainly against Alan Richardson on several occasions only to hear the ball thump into Ben Scott’s gloves behind him. He got off the mark with a nudge to fine leg from his ninth ball faced, then edged one low to third slip. The same fielder, Michael Klinger, was then surprised to find a thick deflection spear towards him at throat height: he dropped it – a Klinger clanger, as one wag had it – and Strauss’ luck was seemingly confirmed as in.

He was on 5 at the time and has since added 13 more, including a fierce square drive just now, the bottom hand coming off the bat as the ball skedaddled to the rope. Strauss is a far from Quixotic character but if Richardson, the windmilling Worcs horse, can be outlasted, then he may fancy a tilt today.

11.10am: George Dobell at Warwickshire v Durham

Morning from Edgbaston. It’s cold and grey, but we’re underway on time here.

Ian Bell talked in some depth about his troubles over the winter after play last night. You can read most of it in yesterday’s match report but, among the things I couldn’t fit in, was his view that Saeed Ajmal and Graeme Swann are currently the two best spin bowlers in the world. I was also quite struck by the extent that Bell felt he was struggling for runs - even in Sri Lanka - and impressed by his acceptance that there may have been some technical failings behind the problem. He is still not quite back to his best - even as I write he has been hit on the glove by a delivery from Graham Onions - but there was a moment yesterday, after he had about 65, when the feet started to move with more certainly and the strokes became more fluent.

While that clearly bodes well for England, it also has more immediate relevance for Warwickshire. The lead is currently just over 40 - Warwickshire have just earned their first batting bonus point - and, on a pitch that will remain tricky, anything approaching 100 may well prove decisive.

11am: Jon Culley at Lancashire v Nottinghamshire

Unusually for these parts, it is cloudy this morning, although rain does not look imminent. Nottinghamshire have resumed at 122-2, a lead of 145. James Anderson, who spent much of yesterday lying down in the dressing room, feeling 'under the weather' with a cold, will bowl today, although not immediately.

This follows a compromise apparently reached between the teams over when he would be allowed to bowl, having spent so much time off the field yesterday.

Under normal circumstances, if a bowler is off the field because of illness or injury (apart from injury inflicted by an external blow during the game) he has to spend the same amount of time on the field before he can bowl again. Anderson returned to game yesterday afternoon, having been off for 100 minutes, believing he needed to field for 100 minutes before he could bowl again. However, umpires Bailey and Gale sent him back to the dressing room, believing it would not be necessary in that the requirement did not have to be carried forward to the next day.

It turns out they were wrong, although it not clear how this came to light. It is understood, however, that Nottinghamshire are not insisting that the letter of the law is applied strictly and that Anderson, who has come out with the rest of the Lancashire team, will bowl sooner rather than later. Hope that's clear...

10.30am: The early shift

Welcome to the county blog. We are a little lost for inspiration this morning so while we collect our thoughts, why not tell us what you think. Our top team of writers will be along shortly.

For reports on the second day from our writers around the country, head over to the county homepage

And the latest Kenny Shovel column will be along shortly... once we've passed it through the lawyers

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo