May 9, 2012

LV= County Championship, Wednesday May 9

6.30pm: Alan Gardner wraps up the day

6.30pm: Alan Gardner wraps up the day

Rain, rain, etc. But Northants and Leicestershire did get in some play at Grace Road, where Kyle Coetzer's unbeaten 43 was the highlight for the visitors. There'll be reports from that match, as well as the four others that saw action, over on our county homepage. Check them out - we promise it'll be better than receiving a grubber off a length.

5.15pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire

After the attempt to make a 3.30 start was abandoned, the rain has not stopped and there will be no more play until tomorrow. Andrew Strauss has been across for a net in the indoor lanes in the Radcliffe Road stand. Having watched Hales and Lumb prosper, even against Steven Finn, the England captain might just fancy his chances of a score.

4.40pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent

Play has been abandoned for the day to the cold and wet at Chelmsford. Kent 17 for 5.

4.05pm: David Hopps at Durham v Somerset

Durham, bottom of Division One, have an average age of 31 and as they slumped to 125 all out against Somerset, they seemed much older. Somerset’s average age is 23, and at times in the last hour, as they have tabled 65 for 4 in reply, they seemed much younger.

That’s age for you. Do well and age is cunning and know-how; do badly and limbs and minds are held to be weary. In similar fashion, when youth does well, the cry goes up in favour of exuberance and spirit; do badly and naivety is held to be the cause.

On this pitch, bowlers have looked good and batsmen have been sacrificial. Graham Onions, true and straight, took wickets in his first two overs with lbw decisions against Arul Suppiah, first ball, and Alex Barrow; Lewis Gregory, who had batted soundly, pulled Callum Thorp to mid-on; and James Hildreth looked late on the shot as Mitch Claydon bowled him middle-and-off.

I am tempted to suggest in all seriousness that says Peter Trego should have a dart after tea. It will be interesting to see if he does.

3.50pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent

Rain has halted play with Kent in dire trouble at 17-5, bemused by the military swing of Charl Willoughby. No doubt Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara, viewing the shambles from the slips, were glad they did not have to bat in such awkward conditions in their search for time at the crease before England duty. But maybe the Kent attack, containing Ivan Thomas on his Championship debut, would not have been as effective as Willoughby and David Masters, two very experienced medium-pace practitioners.

Rob Key and his men were given little scope while Willoughby swung the ball in sharply and Masters nibbled away on a good length. There was something of a domino effect as each subsequent batsman seemed anxious to get out as soon as feasible. Willougby adopted a similar strategy to the 1970s England left-arm seamer John Lever, the subject of a special display in the cricket museum here. An Essex legend, Lever brought success to the county by pitching the ball up, swinging it and giving nothing way.

3.45pm: Elsewhere

If you are wearied at the thought of David Hopps's polemic on the Mitchell Starc imbroglio and more bother for Yorkshire, you might like to pass the time in between the showers by reading Tanya Aldred and an altogether more gentle assessment of Peter Moores' coaching challenge at Lancashire.

And watch out later for Andrew McGlashan's latest on England Lions v West Indies, where Michael Carberry is seeking to reawaken his England career, and George Dobell's round-up of the best news around.

One team not playing this week is Glamorgan. Their very talented bowler James Harris has had his injury troubles recently. Read his thoughts on T20, sushi and architecture.

3.20pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent

Essex have slipped to 9-5 in seven overs, hardly able to lay bat on ball. Scott Newman thin-edged a catch off David Masters second ball of the innings and Charl Willoughby's swinging left-armers accounted for four more wickets. Can't look away because something might happen...

3.00pm: David Hopps at Durham v Somerset

Durham still don’t have a half-century in the top six. What’s more they don’t have a first innings left. It’s all over in circumstances leaving one local journalist wondering if it might be a day to upgrade from “abject” to “execrable,” a word that if memory serves was much fancied by Michael Henderson when he wrote about an innings with which he did not find favour. Now he was a polemicist.

The loss of seven wickets in 9.3 overs for 35 runs have seen Durham bowled out for 125 in 46 overs. The Eleven Fit Men of Somerset, barely more than you fit on Uncle Tom Cobley’s horse (yes, I know that’s Devon but it’s near enough when you are in a hurry) are cock-a-hoop to have laid waste to Durham’s batting on a lively, seaming but by no means unplayable surface. It is just what this game needs with every chance of a washout on the second day.

Craig Overton, the gangling young Devonian, has taken three of the last five wickets to finish with 4 for 38, Craig Meschede the other two. Overton clearly has promise and is tall enough to delight in high fives with smaller colleagues who can’t reach. It is to be hoped that Somerset, short on resources, use him wisely at such a tender age.

“Onions will be a danger on here,” someone said. Sure enough, he had Arul Suppiah lbw to the first ball of the innings. An anxious 40 minutes follows for Somerset until tea – and another anxious hour afterwards.

2.45pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Middlesex

The rain has arrived at Trent Bridge and it is possible that the 42 overs bowled so far will be the full allocation for the day, given the forecast. The entire square has been covered. Happily the rest of the week looks better.

There is still no separating Alex Hales and Michael Lumb although their progress has been restricted by some tight Middlesex bowling. The scoring rate has dropped from more than three and a half runs per over to less than two.

England's Steven Finn has run in to some purpose from the pavilion end and has troubled Lumb a couple of times with his pace and bounce. The batsman looked particularly relieved not to get a touch when one ball that climbed and left him late outside off stump, but he completed his half-century with a handsome on-drive off the same bowler.

It is Lumb's third time past fifty in his 11 Championship innings so far for Notts, who are 132-1, with Hales on 71. All the runs have come in this partnership.

2.45pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent

Essex have decided to insert Kent, not surprisingly, though the ball is wet. Rob Key and Scott Newman are both bashers and might flourish if there isn't much swing. Play is about to start and is unlikely to be dull.

The public address has announced that adults admission has been reduced from £16 to £8 and that Billy Godleman's shirt number has gone down from 35 to 34.

2.20pm: Elsewhere

The other game today is at Grace Road where they have had play. Northamptonshire who were so close to promotion last season, got their season up and running with a big victory over Hampshire last week; Leicestershire were thumped by Yorkshire.

The hosts won the toss and two more wickets for Robbie Joseph, a revelation since his winter move from Kent, has reduced Northants to 99 for 3 before the rain arrived.

One team not playing this week is Glamorgan. Their very talented bowler James Harris has had his injury troubles recently. Read his thoughts on T20, sushi and architecture.

2.15pm: David Hopps at Durham v Somerset

Here is a startling batting statistic which gives one reason why Durham are at the foot of the table: they are into their fifth championship match of the season and not one batsman in the top six has yet made a half-century.

Phil Mustard, their captain, who bats at No 7, has one and is top of the averages as a result. Two quick bowlers - Mitch Claydon, who has their only other fifty, and Graham Onions – are second and third in the averages.

It could change today, of course, but only if Ian Blackwell changes it. The top five have come and gone against Somerset on a seaming pitch. Since lunch, Mark Stoneman has edged Vernon Philander to Craig Overton at wide third slip and Overton, a young whippersnapper of a bowler enjoying a surprise 1st X1 run, has had Gordon Muchall lbw.Overton, 18, has a nice high action, keeps hitting the seam and looks as if he is having the time of his life.

Mustard has walked out at 92 for 5 and must feel like getting on the phone to his Notts counterpart, Chris Read, another wicketkeeper-captain who regularly comes out to bat in calamitous circumstances, to ask him how he has managed to put up with it for so long.

1.50pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent

Play is expected to start at 2.45pm at overcast Chelmsford, with 55 overs play scheduled. The prospect of further rain looks quite strong, so no one here is getting too excited before the toss is made. I managed to get some grass seed down on my lawn yesterday, and by the time this Championship game finishes there might well be some shoots appearing if these muggy damp conditions persist.

1.25pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Middlesex

Nottinghamshire have not managed to put together a century stand for the first wicket in a Championship match since August 2008 and they still haven't, although today it feels like they have.

They lost their left-handed opener, Neil Edwards, to the seventh ball of the match -- Steven Finn's first -- before a run had been scored, since when Alex Hales and Michael Lumb have added 109 without further loss.

Chris Read had been spot-on in his decision to bat first, which seemed to alarm a few Twitterers mindful of Notts having picked up only one batting point in five matches. But the pitch cut for this game, on the Bridgford Road side of the square, has played pretty well. For once, the 'bowler-friendly' description might be redundant.

Neil Edwards was bowled off an inside edge via pad defending. There have been few scares subsequently. Hales, the more aggressive of the two batsman so far, edged one ball from Neil Dexter past Andrew Strauss at first slip moments after second slip had been taken out, but has otherwise looked relatively secure and fluent, picking up 12 boundaries in his 62. Lumb, more circumspectly, has reached 38.

1.10pm: David Lloyd at Hampshire v Derbyshire

Off here for the day, sad to say. But at least the forecast is a bit better for tomorrow – and quite a lot better for Friday and Saturday, so all is not lost.

1.05pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent

Covering has been maligned as the cause of bland pitches, but would there have been any Championship cricket at all for the past few weeks if covers had been illegal, as they were until 1924? That was the year when Derbyshire and Leicestershire had the idea of covering so that their prized matches against the touring South Africans would be more likely to go ahead for the benefit of the public. They were roundly condemned by the MCC for contravening the Laws until it was discovered Scarborough had been doing this for years. Then a rethink to permit commonsense. Can't trust Yorkies.

The drizzle has ceased at Chelmsford and the covers have done their job, but it is muggy and the threat of rain, real rain, is ever-present. Pity, because this game has the makings of a cracking contest.

1pm: George Dobell at Worcestershire v Surrey

It’s just started raining at New Road and the forecast is not particularly promising, but Worcestershire have enjoyed much the better of the first session here. Progress has been slow - we have only had three fours off the bat and Michael Klinger’s 16 have occupied more than 26 overs - but Worcestershire’s openers have shown good patience to record their second half-century opening stand of the summer. The other one was also against Surrey.

There doesn’t seem to be much in the pitch for the bowlers. On the few occasions the ball has beaten the bat, edges have not carried. George Edwards, a 19-year-old fast bowler making his championship debut, justified his selection ahead of Chris Jordan and Matt Dunn with an impressive spell of disciplined fast bowling, but enjoyed no fortune. He and Jon Lewis were the pick of the bowlers. Tim Linley’s figures flatter him a little as he has, most uncharacteristically, struggled with his line.

12.40pm: David Hopps at Durham v Somerset

I have to admit I gave a yelp of pleasure when Paul Collingwood decided to continue his county career with Durham. It was not a huge yelp – it does not do to get over-excited about such things – but Collingwood’s decision not to respond to England rejection by walking out on county cricket seemed to come into the category of what politicians of all hues now like to call the Right Thing To Do.

(That reminds me, I was amused to see on BBC News last night that on David Cameron’s visit to the Chelmsford tractor factory yesterday he was surrounded only by blue tractors. They have lots of red tractors as well but presumably they were hidden around the back. But I digress).

It is understandable why England players of great longevity find the county circuit hard to bear, especially a county circuit where the schedule remains unremittingly confused and, in the terms of Twenty20, unable to look IPL in the eye.

But county cricket needs England players of yore to return to the ranks for a couple of years. Marcus Trescothick’s retirement from international cricket because of a stress-related illness was to be deeply regretted but there has been no finer sight on the county circuit for the last couple of years than Trescothick in full flow. It sends the message that the game matters, and is in good hands.

The only problem for Collingwood is that The Right Thing To Do is not going awfully well. He was out third ball today and now has 37 runs in five attempts. He got off the mark with a streaky boundary off Peter Trego but then edged to James Hildreth at slip. Durham, who find themselves bottom of the table, needed something better especially as Dale Benkenstein pulled out at the last minute after dislocating a shoulder in the warm up.

Somerset are down to 11 fit players. They were interested in Ajmal Shahzad, but it would have meant him changing his lifestyle and becoming a West Country farmer rather than just popping over the Pennines from West Yorkshire so it was never going to happen. Vernon Philander dismissed Michael Di Venuto but looked below his best (sorry George) and Craig Meschede ended a pawky innings from Will Smith. Somerset, so depleted, would have bitten your hand off if you had offered them three down for 62 by the 19th over.

12.15pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent

Rumours raging around the Ford County Ground seemed to suggest there might be play for about three hours later this afternoon. But no cricket until lunch is the official status so far. There has been no toss but Essex are likely to be unchanged from last week's Cardiff wash-out, with Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara waiting for their chance to bat before international duties call.

12.10pm: David Lloyd at Hampshire v Derbyshire

As feared, no play here before lunch. And we will need a big improvement in the weather to get any action after knife and fork time.

That’s a real pity for those of us looking forward to watching table-topping Derbyshire for the first time this season and wondering whether Hampshire can find room for the recently surplus to requirements Danny Briggs.

11.45am: George Dobell at Worcestershire v Surrey

Morning from New Road, where Worcestershire have won the toss and opted to bat first. They have made a sound start, too.

There a couple of interesting inclusions in the Surrey side. For a start Kevin Pietersen is here, playing just his fifth championship match for Surrey, while George Edwards makes his championship debut. Edwards is a 19-year-old fast bowler - yet another product of the Surrey youth system - and has been preferred to former England U19 seamer Matt Dunn. Edwards has just started bowling and looks seriously sharp. Bit of Flintoff in his action.

It’s been a fine effort from the groundstaff to stage this game here today. As recently as the weekend, part of the outfield was under water, but the improved drainage installed as a result of the 2007 floods has worked wonders.

Ashley Giles - the Warwickshire director of cricket and one of the England selectors - is among the spectators.

11.40am: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Middlesex

Unlike most grounds, Trent Bridge do not insist on empty seats behind the bowler's arm. Members at the Pavilion End, at least, are trusted not to jump up and head for the bar, or dramatically unfold their Daily Telegraph, just as the batsman prepares to receive.

Choice of clothing can be a problem, however. Subtle, subdued colours are fine. Bold and vibrant less so. Especially red, as one gentleman discovered when waving arms and shouted messages from the middle prompted the stewards/fashion police to move him hurriedly to a less prominent vantage point.

Not that it helped Nottinghamshire. The first ball from that end bowled Neil Edwards anyway, as the towering Steven Finn struck an early blow for Middlesex.

There has been plenty of movement in the crowd at the Radcliffe Road end, mainly due to the fire alarms going off. Nottinghamshire, for whom Chris Read won the toss and, rather daringly in view of his side's track record opted to bat first, are 38-1.

11.30am: David Hopps at Durham v Somerset

No team has looked older than Durham in the County Championship this season. Many viewed their experience as reason to tip them for another County Championship, with injuries and Lions call-ups halting their latter-season charge last year. But come a new campaign and they are no wins from four matches with two defeats – bottom of the table. Today the temperature in the north-east has jumped to a balmy 13.5 degrees, enough perhaps to warm Durham’s creaking bones.

Regular listeners to the Switch Hit podcast will know who George Dobell’s favourite cricketer is. Sure enough Vernon Philander has taken the opening wicket of the match after Somerset won the toss.

11.15am: Sahil Dutta at Sussex v Lancashire

Good morning all. I say good, I mean drizzly. The news from Hove, remarkably, is that it's raining and there will be no play before lunch. Doubt we’ll see much after either. This comes a few days after Sussex's tour match against West Indies was restricted to 34 overs. All a bit grim. On the way in I met a poor fellow who’d come from Liverpool last night for this game and is scheduled to stay through the weekend, wonder how many overs he'll see.

Hove is not without a touch of glamour, though, this morning. There is the beer festival still on and Sky’s commentary team are down. Teams have not been announced but Ajmal Shahzad is in the Lancashire 13 so presumably would play. James Anderson, apparently, will not.

While we wait, have a read about Peter Moores. Tanya Aldred asking what makes him tick?

10.45am: David Lloyd at Hampshire v Derbyshire

Curious things happen at cricket grounds these days. Not much in the way of cricket, admittedly, so far this soggy season but counties are ever keen to attract new clients to their corporate suites and conference rooms in order to raise extra revenue.

And so it came to pass, as the drizzle drizzled and the players of Hampshire and Derbyshire huddled in their changing rooms this morning, that a company held one of those ‘team bonding’ days at the Ageas Bowl – with the promise (threat?) that employees would be able to do some ‘fire walking’ later in the day.

It’s all to do with finding your inner self, apparently. That and seeing how thick the soles of your feet are, presumably. Anyway, the very mention of flames was enough to trigger a (false alarm) fire alert – which at least sparked a moment or two of excitement in the media centre.

As for cricket, not much chance of play at the moment.

10.45am: Alex Winter at Gloucestershire v Yorkshire

No play before lunch here and I would strongly suggest no play all day because this afternoon’s forecast is horrendous. Thankfully tomorrow’s charts have cleared but this could still be a two-and-a-half day fixture.

I’m sure Gloucestershire are pleased Mitchell Starc can’t fill in his forms properly! Saying that, they are suddenly in a position where Dan Housego, the winter signing from Middlesex, is left out of the squad because they have a few guys in form. A second-innings total of over 400 and a century from Kane Williamson helped them draw last week at Derby. Benny Howell, who everyone can’t believe was released from Hampshire, has come into the championship and CB40 teams and looked a good cricketer – he will retain his place here.

9.30am: Alan Gardner sets the scene

As surely as the rain continues to fall, the County Championship rumbles on, water dripping from the brim of its floppy "sun" hat. We have a full schedule of eight games starting today, although, as you can see from the handy little weather symbols on our fixtures page, the elements are set to impose themselves once again.

Luckily, at the grounds we have a hardy bunch, armed with insight and wit as well as galoshes and brollies. The full line-up is:

Division One Durham v Somerset - David Hopps Nottinghamshire v Middlesex - Jon Culley Sussex v Lancashire - Sahil Dutta Worcestershire v Surrey - George Dobell

Divison Two Essex v Kent - Charles Randall Gloucestershire v Yorkshire - Alex Winter Hampshire v Derbyshire - David Lloyd

There's also action at Grace Road, between Leicestershire and Northants. Do chip in below the line with your thoughts, questions and funnies. And while you wait for the start of rain-delays-play, here's our editor, David Hopps, on the Mitchell Starc imbroglio and more bother for Yorkshire.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo