May 11, 2012

LV= County Championship, Friday May 11

7.35pm: George Dobell at Worcestershire v Surrey

7.35pm: George Dobell at Worcestershire v Surrey

If learning quickly is the secret to success, it should be no surprise that Kevin Pietersen has enjoyed such a fine career. Pietersen has not played on too many surfaces like this in recent years. This New Road pitch is slow, low and offering seam assistance to the bowlers and his second innings here was only his seventh in championship cricket since he became a Test player in 2005.

But, having fallen in Surrey’s first innings when he was drawn into a loose drive against one that left him - the sort of shot that may well have brought four on the flat tracks of Delhi - Pietersen learned the lessons and demonstrated his fine form with a much-improved second innings performance. Coming in with his side in some peril, against a ball just 37 deliveries old and with his team two down and 161 behind, he took the game by the scruff of the neck and may well have played its defining innings. Playing straight, advancing down the pitch to negate the seam movement, leaving anything away from his body and showing the confidence to hit the ball over the top when the opportunity arose, was his highest first-class score for Surrey and his highest championship score since 2008. It was a performance that bodes well for England.

For a full report on this and all other matches check our county pages. Thanks for following us and enjoy the weekend.

6.15pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Middlesex

There could be a positive outcome here without the need for any jiggery-pokery after Nottinghamshire made yet another rocky start to an innings.

Seeking to build on a lead of 123 after Middlesex declared on 300-9, Notts lost their first three wickets for 17, two of them to man of the moment Ollie Rayner.

Rayner, whose heroic effort as nightwatchman ended unbeaten on 143, was introduced after only three overs and was celebrating after his fifth ball as Alex Hales was bowled through the gate. Then Steven Finn had Neil Edwards caught by Andrew Strauss at first slip.

Graeme Swann's appearance as nightwatchman was somewhat less successful than Rayner's. Facing his fourth ball from the off-spinner, he popped a straightforward catch into the hands of Joe Denly at silly point. Notts closed on 22-3, a lead of 145. Full report to follow.

4.30pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent

Alastair Cook has fallen lbw for one as Essex start their reply, and his England colleague Ravi Bopara has been taken to hospital for a precautionary scan on a leg muscle. The injury looks minor, but Essex are unlikely to see Bopara at the crease today unless there is a crisis. Alviro Peterson will have to bat down the order after missing fielding to rest an ankle strain.

Mark Davies, a very good fast-medium bowler in my book, seamed one back into Cook and then produced a kicking delivery for Tom Westley next ball, drawing him on to the front foot for a thin edge. Understandably Essex's progress was insipid until Mark Pettini cut Shreck for the first boundary in the eighth over.

4.05pm: George Dobell at Worcestershire v Surrey

Quite a day. Surrey, bowled out for 113 in their first innings, have been asked to follow-on 172 runs behind. They have already lost two wickets in their second innings, too, with Rudolph playing horribly across one and Ramprakash falling to a catch down the leg side. It completes just the third pair of his 26-year first-class career and only his second in the championship. The other one came against Essex - and Mark Ilott in particular - in 1996.

Worcestershire have suffered a serious setback, though. Alan Richardson has been forced off the pitch in just the third over of Surrey’s second innings with what looks like a shoulder injury.

Pietersen is batting now and, having started with a flick off his legs and a pull through mid-wicket, looks in ominous form. Moeen Ali’s first ball was driven gloriously through extra cover for four and his second driven over long on for six.

4.00pm: David Lloyd at Hampshire v Derbyshire

Jimmy Adams did not make the same mistake as Shafayat, reaching three figures just before tea and giving Hampshire their first hundred-maker of this largely bowler-dominated Championship campaign. At 233 for three, the hosts were going well.

4pm: Alex Winter at Gloucestershire v Yorkshire

An exceptionally bizarre scenario has unfolded here. Gloucestershire suddenly slipped from 290 for 4 to 299 for 9 at which point the home fans were worried they would miss out on a third batting point. But then some kind of agreed plan kicked into action. Adam Lyth and Andrew Gale allowed 52 runs in 19 balls and Gloucestershire declared with a fourth batting point in the bank.

But what happens now? There’s a good 140 overs left in the match, more than enough time for Yorkshire to chase 352 to win. If a double-forfeit was on the cards, surely Gloucestershire would have wanted 400 on the board? There was time to get there for another point too. Confusion reigns at the moment. I would have though Gloucestershire would have wanted the chance at three bowling points – the opportunity for which a double-forfeit would obviously remove.

What has happened is Yorkshire have forfeited their innings; so no batting bonus points for them or bowling points for Glos. The hosts are now batting once more, presumable to waste time. And might Yorkshire chase 420 in 120 overs perhaps?

3.45pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Middlesex

Ollie Rayner has joined what must be a fairly exclusive club by completing a century in an innings that he began as nightwatchman. He is currently 112 not out, having moved into three figures from his 182nd ball, which he drove down the ground in the air for two off Paul Franks. He had hit 15 fours and faced 23 balls getting from 90 to 102.

The 26-year-old off-spinner does actually know one end of the bat from the other, however. He is also a member of the century-on-debut club, having introduced himself with 101 against the touring Sri Lankans at Hove, back in his Sussex days.

There was no Murali in the Sri Lanka side but there was one not inconsiderable opponent in Lasith Malinga, who took 5-79 as Sussex were 262 all out.

This is his first hundred since but he also has eight other half-centuries, including five last season. He moved to Middlesex over the winter on a three-year contract.

Nonetheless, Middlesex are struggling to avoid the follow-on. Dawid Malan, with whom Rayner shared a stand of 119 for the fifth wicket, is their next highest scorer with 46. Harry Gurney, Nottinghamshire's brisk left-armer, has taken a wicket with the second new ball and at 242-7 at tea, Middlesex are still 32 short of what they need.

3.40pm: David Hopps on the 30th washout of the season

Today's abandonment at Chester-le-Street is the 30th washout of the season in the County Championship and add a sprinkling of matches when only a handful of overs were possible that makes it one of the wettest starts to a championship season on record.

When it wasn't raining in the first two rounds of the championship, it was unbearably cold with temperatures falling as low as 4.5C. These sort of things happen when you commit to 16 championship games but cram half of them in before the end of May.

Despite two days lost to rain, Somerset will still hope to force a victory against Durham on the final day tomorrow. They lie by 95 runs with two wickets left and the weather is set fair for Saturday.

No wonder wickets are falling all around the country. Groundsmen face a virtually impossible task to get their pitches firm and dry and with use of the heavy roller banned the indentations made on damp surfaces make things even harder.

As for whether this is the wettest start to a cricket season of all time you will have to Ask Steven.

But The Times suggests that if things don’t pick up it could join 1903 and 1954 in the all-time hate list. My favourite, though, is 1888 when Wisden fulminated: "June was detestable, July indescribable." And we still have those to come.

3.30pm Sahil Dutta at Sussex v Lancashire

Strange day at Hove. As close to blazing sunshine as we’ve had all summer and the ground looking a picture, but play abandoned. The umpires “didn’t think it was fit for first-class cricket” and thought they’d “do an injustice to the game by playing”. Fair enough because the run-ups were very damp indeed. Michael Yardy said he hadn’t given much thought to declaration set-ups if we get play tomorrow but did say he’s “desperate for points”. As well he should be.

No cricket but there were, however, hoards of school kids at Hove. Clearly some kind of welcomed promotion and dragging down the average age of spectators nicely. An otherwise forgettable day for them was saved by visit to the Sky commentary box where Bumble let them get stuck in with microphones and all. Very good of him too. That wasn’t the end of it though. He soon Tweeted: “Local schoolchildren just visited box and had a go at comms . Great fun! Can't show it Need written parent permission #madness.” So there you have it, frustrating day all round.

3.15pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent

Charl Willougby claims his fifth wicket by ridding Essex of Darren Stevens for 119 or 120, a score yet to be finalised. Stevens sliced a drive to cover point and walked off furious with himself after an array of high-quality strokes. Next over James Tredwell pushed forward to off-spinner Tom Westley and was given out lbw. Mark Davies went next, slapping a catch to point, followed by Charlie Shreck, thin-edging a forward defence. Kent 206 for 9, with Geraint Jones on 71 and Ravi Bopara back on the field after physio treatment to a leg.

3.05pm: Alan Gardner with the latest from Hampshire v Northants

At Grace Road, Kyle Coetzer has passed his previous best score of 84 for Northamptonshire, as play resumed after day two was lost in its entirety to the shonky May weather. The visitors have added more than 100 runs to their overnight 99 for 3 for the loss of just Alex Wakely, who made 63. Both sides find themselves at the wrong end of Division Two, with Leicestershire, like last year, still looking for a second win after beating Glamorgan in the opening round. A result may be unlikely here but Northants, so close to promotion in 2011, look to be steadily rebuilding after picking up their first win of the season against Hampshire last week.

3.00pm: David Lloyd at Hampshire v Derbyshire

Bilal Shafayat c Statisticians b Press Box 93. No sooner had we confirmed that Shafyat would be the seventh Hampshire player – and first since Andy Bichel in 2005 - to score a century on his first-class debut for the county than he was out. For 93.

Having played with real authority, he chased a wide one from Jonathan Clare to be well caught, diving right and low down, by keeper Tom Poynton. Hampshire were 184 for two with Adams in the 70s.

2.45pm: David Lloyd at Hampshire v Derbyshire

One of the many fine things about cricket is that you never know who you might bump into – or what that meeting might throw up. I promise I will not mention the big ball game again, but who would have thought that two followers of Oldham Athletic would be introduced to one another at a match between Hampshire and Derbyshire?

More important, one of these people, Richard Binns, has just brought out a smashing photo-book that traces the rise and fall of Hampshire’s old home, Northlands Road, and the rise and rise of their ‘new’ HQ at West End. There are some terrific pictures, none better than those on facing pages showing the contrast between the two grounds.

There is no picture of Bilal Shafayat in ‘From Northlands Road to Rose Bowl’, but Hampshire’s new first team recruit continues to give photographers every opportunity to snap him in action today. Looking particularly strong off his legs, he has moved easily into the 80s and led Hampshire to 175 for one.

2.40pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent

Darren Stevens reached his 23rd hundred in first class cricket with a simple lofted extra-cover drive off Greg Smith. Easy as pie. His ton came off 150 balls in a mature innings that began with his team in disarray. He had faced only a couple of balls when the score was 9 for 5, but today only David Masters's command of length kept him reasonably quiet as Kent raced to 180. The pitch looks more placid now.

2.20pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent

The Kent fightback continues as Darren Stevens jumps to 91 with a top-edge six to fine leg off Greg Smith, a shot that followed an all-run four into the lush extra-cover spaces. Harry Ramsden, substituting for Graham Napier, the substitute for Ravi Bopara, was given the thankless task of a fruitless chase towards the boundary. Carrying the drinks must be easier than this... Geraint Jones has reached his fifty, and the stand is worth 150. Good cricket.

2.15pm: George Dobell at Worcestershire v Surrey

Surrey’s ninth-wicket pair have already doubled the score. Rudolph, dropped on one and seven, has taken a more aggressive approach since lunch and has recorded his first half-century for Surrey in the championship. Richard Jones has struggled with his rhythm since the interval and has just been replaced in the attack by Richardson. George Edwards looks a respectable batsman, too, and has just carved Richardson through the covers for four. The follow-on target - 136 - may be achieved yet.

2.05pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Middlesex

Stuart Broad is 0-50 from 14 overs but his habit of standing with hands in pockets as the ball scorches to the boundary is not because he is a sulky boy but because he is using handwarmers, according to his lunchtime Tweet. It is 12 degrees here but the sun is out, for heaven's sake. Middlesex are 178-4.

1.40pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent

Ravi Bopara left the field at Chelmsford for physiotherapy on a leg strain -- a quad -- after bowling one over before lunch. This allowed Graham Napier, in his benefit year, to make a substitute appearance squeezed into a Masters shirt. Alviro Petersen took no part in the first session to rest his sore ankle.

1.15pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Middlesex

Middlesex are fighting back well on what has become a pretty flat pitch. How Andrew Strauss might have enjoyed himself...

It has been Middlesex's session, a first in the match for them. Andre Adams removed the dangerous Joe Denly in his second over of the day but the fifth-wicket pair have added 93 in 31.2 overs since then.

Ollie Rayner, who came in ostensibly as nightwatchman but isn't really qualified for the role (his average is just shy of 25 and he has a first-class hundred), is unbeaten on 60. In that he is still there he can be said to be winning the duel of the off-spinners, although Graeme Swann had him dropped twice, at short midwicket on 49 and at slip on 50. He was flashing hard in the second instance and Alex Hales got only an outstretched hand to it.

There is work to do still, however, to get to the first Middlesex target of 274, which will avoid the follow-on.

The slightly unsung contributor to Nottinghamshire's 423 was Steven Mullaney, whose 60 got slightly lost in the shadow of Michael Lumb's 162 and the woes of the England captain. Mullaney's reputation is that of a bits-and-pieces white ball player but he actually appeared in every round of the Championship last season.

His opportunities might be limited this year, especially when Adam Voges rejoins the club as overseas player later this month. When James Taylor and Samit Patel are available, Mullaney will be fighting with Neil Edwards, Riki Wessels and Karl Turner for the right to fill one of two batting slots.

So yesterday's effort will not have done him any harm. If he gets a bowl and can break this partnership, he'll be looking better still. Middlesex are 156-4.

1.15pm: George Dobell at Worcestershire v Surrey

53-8. Sometimes the stats do all the talking. Surrey, confronted with a decent attack on a pitch offering some assistance, have shown a lack of application or defensive technique. Some of their batsmen - such as Ramprakash - can count themselves unfortunate to receive fine deliveries, but several others have been drawn into playing at balls they should have left outside off stump (Pietersen, Maynard and Hamilton-Brown). Others have played across straight ones (de Bruyn) or been stuck in the crease (Batty). Rudolph, on 19, could yet carry his bat, but he has been dropped twice in the slips and has never looked comfortable.

David Lucas, bowling just above medium pace but hitting the seam and swinging the ball back into the right-handers, bowled beautifully, while Richard Jones, who has a reputation for inspired spells but lacking consistency, has been at his best.

The follow-on target of 136 looks some way distant, while Surrey’s lowest first-class total against Worcestershire - 57 scored in 1958 - might also be relevant.

1.10pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent

Essex have failed to take a wicket in the morning sunshine and cannot even claim to have dropped a catch. A few scares -- that's all -- as Darren Stevens and Geraint Jones have moved the score on to 123 for 5 by lunch, a prettier picture than 9 for 5 when the partnership started. Stevens has timed the ball very crisply at times, speeding the ball over the lush outfield. Nice to watch, as so often when he bats with freedom. David Masters the pick of the bowling.

12.55pm: David Lloyd at Hampshire v Derbyshire

Bilal Shafayat was a week short of his 17th birthday when he made his Championship debut for Notts against Middlesex. That was in 2001 – and he scored 72 before being dismissed by Phil Tufnell.

It might have been the start of something really special. It still could be, I suppose. But, at the moment, most remember him (if only vaguely) for upsetting Ricky Ponting near the end of the 2009 Ashes Test in Cardiff when, as England’s 12th man, he was twice instructed to run gloves and drinks onto the field as last pair Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar battled to earn an unlikely draw.

Funnily enough, Shafayat would rather have a better claim to fame. Well, on the strength of an hour or so in the middle this morning, he looks in the mood to make the most of the chance Hampshire have given him here. The ball did not do nearly as much as Derbyshire had hoped, but Shafayat and Jimmy Adams still played impressively to take the hosts to 92 for one shortly before lunch.

12.45pm: George Dobell at Worcestershire v Surrey

I can barely keep up with the fall of wickets here at New Road. Surrey have lost three more batsmen - Rory Hamilton-Brown, who was drawn into prodding at a good one just outside off stump, Tom Maynard, who was bowled off his inside edge as he tried to leave one from Lucas and Zander de Bruyn, who played across a straight one. Gareth Batty has just come to the crease to a muted reception from the New Road spectators.

Lucas bowled a 12-over opening spell and taken three for 17. And had Mitchell been able to cling on to another couple of chances, his figures and Worcestershire’s position would be even stronger. Jones, a much improved 25-year-old, has also bowled well.

12.25am: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent

Kent have stabilised their innings, with Darren Stevens and Geraint Jones looking comfortable enough. Stevens edged a cracking seamer from David Masters wide of gully, and a couple of outside edges off Greg Smith's skidding seamers went down to non-existent third man. Masters switched ends, and then the pace of Tymal Mills was tried at last, but Stevens sailed on to his fifty off 79 balls, including 10 fours, with Jones happy to support. An entertaining morning so far, and in sunshine too.

12.10pm: George Dobell at Worcestershire v Surrey

Pietersen’s 43-minute innings is over. Drawn into a loose drive in Richard Jones’ first over, Pietersen was undone by one that left him just a little and took the outside edge on its way to Scott. Surrey are 23 for three and the follow-on mark -136 - might yet prove relevant. Not sure that was the shot of a man used to batting in English conditions...

12.05pm: George Dobell at Worcestershire v Surrey

We have had a fascinating start to the day at New Road. Rudloph has now been dropped twice - both times by Mitchell at second slip off the deserving Lucas - while Pietersen has started watchfully with one drive back over the head of Lucas the standout shot. He has a couple of nervous moments, too: he survived a big lbw shout from Lucas before he had scored and turned one just in front of Moeen Ali at mid-wicket on six. Lucas, again, was the unfortunate bowler. The keeper, Ben Scott, has taken to standing up to the stumps off Lucas to prevent Pietersen coming down the wicket.

Richardson’s figures are impressive - eight overs for just five runs - but he wasn’t absolutely at his best. While there was nothing loose, he didn’t force the batsman to play as much as he does usually in his first few overs. He has just been replaced by Richard Jones at the New Road End.

11.45am: Alex Winter at Gloucestershire v Yorkshire

Hallelujah! Sunshine! The barefoot pilgrimage from Tewkesbury Abbey to Gloucester Cathedral worked! We have started on time and Kane Williamson has gone through to his third century for Gloucestershire, and this is the best of them.

Another portion of good news is that a fresh shipment of coffee beans has arrived. The whole ground was on rations for Sunday’s CB40 and the situation spilled over to this match. Apparently the clipper got held up in bad weather around the Bay of Biscay but safely docked into Bristol last night. That should mean my panama hat has also arrived; ordered a new one for Goodwood.

The coffee has also been described as the “best on the circuit” by the Yorkshire Post correspondent. It ain’t half bad.

A side note, Kane Williamson was required to give a urine sample last night by the drugs squad. An hour in and he hadn’t fulfilled his quota; a break for more fluid and a quick chat with yours truly hopefully sorted the boy out. Touch awkward to explain to the family that I was delayed waiting for a man to appear out of the toilet.

11.30am: George Dobell at Worcestershire v Surrey

Morning from New Road. It is a bit overcast here, but we have started on time and Surrey have already lost Steve Davies, driving away from his body and slashing a catch to gully, and Mark Ramprakash, leg before to a beauty that swung back into him. Jacques Rudolph, on one, has enjoyed a let-off, too. Daryl Mitchell, at second slip, was unable to cling on to a low chance off the excellent Lucas. Kevin Pietersen has just come to the crease: only his sixth championship innings since becoming a Test player in 2005

Meanwhile Kevin Pietersen has taken to Twitter to dismiss the suggestion that playing conditions relating to LBWs need to be changed in response to the emergence of the switch hit. Pietersen said that it would be a “waste of a meeting” if the ICC cricket committee discussed amending the LBW regulations so that a right hander could be given out if they were playing the stroke and the ball pitched outside leg stump.

“I’d suggest that those who want to have a meeting about it actually get some pads on and try it,” Pietersen said. “I don’t believe that brining in the LBW as a lerft-hander would make a difference anyway.”

The ICC cricket committee includes former and current players, such as Kumar Sangakkara, Mark Taylor, Ian Bishop, Ravi Shastri, Trent Johnston, Clare Connor, Tim May, Gary Kirsten, John Stephenson and Ranjan Madugalle.

11.20am: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent

It's cloudy, sunny, dank, chilly and warm at Chelmsford, but play has started on the realisation that the sun is indeed up there somewhere. Kent resumed on 24 for 5, and Darren Stevens has already cut Masters for four and straight-driven Willoughby crisply for another boundary. So far a different game; 9 for 5 on Wednesday seems a long time ago.

11.15am: David Lloyd at Hampshire v Derbyshire

A game of cricket has broken out here. After two days lost to the weather, the sun put in appearance this morning and, thanks to another of those super-quick drying outfields, umpires Jeremy Lloyds and Martin Saggers decided play could start on time.

Whether we get a meaningful contest, or simply a search for bonus points, will depend largely on how much life there is in a distinctly green-looking pitch. But Derbyshire, who sit proudly atop the second division table, have seen enough in the surface to want to bowl first after winning the toss.

As indicated yesterday, Hampshire have decided to strengthen their batting line-up by giving former England U-19 captain Bilal Shafayat a first team chance. Shafayat, who was released by Notts at the end of the 2010 season, has made some second XI appearances for Hampshire and spent the winter playing first-class cricket in Pakistan.

As for the rest of their side, the hosts have left out spinner Danny Briggs for the third consecutive Championship match. But Kabir Ali and James Tominson are included for the first time this campaign, having recovered from early season injuries, and captain Jimmy Adams returns at the top of the order after missing two games because of “personal reasons.”

11.10am: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Middlesex

Lovely morning at Trent Bridge. Lots of blue sky and fluffy cloud. Stiff breeze too. Good day to get the washing out and swing a cricket ball.

Middlesex have been given a start in their pursuit of the 274 runs they need to avoid being asked to follow on, Andre Adams conceding 12 runs in the day's opening over, including -- unusually -- four byes. Still a long way to go, though. Stuart Broad has just opened with a maiden.

Indeed, the task just became a little more difficult. Adams, who has quickly tidied up his line, has claimed his third wicket of the innings and 31st of the season.

It's an important one, too. Joe Denly, 32 overnight, has gone for the addition of only three runs, superbly caught low to his right by Alex Hales at first slip. Middlesex are 63-4 from 25 overs.

11.10am: Sahil Dutta at Sussex v Lancashire

Good morning from Hove. Yesterday was a write-off with the outfield wetter than the sea, today things are far better. Spotted the beach on the way in, with the water looking turquoise, the stony beach looking almost like white sand and now at Hove, squint hard enough and the floodlight pylons could be palm trees. Yes, it feels like the Maldives on the south coast. Sort of. No play before lunch, however, and perhaps not even until tea. The murmurs have it that initially, at least, there will be no declaration set-ups either.

Despite that, when play does get underway there will be no end of intrigue. Ajmal Shahzad to debut, surely, and maybe in place of Saj Mahmood. Can only hope Shahzad develops into a more consistent bowler than Mahmood. Elsewhere I’m looking forward to comparing Simon Kerrigan with Monty Panesar. But really, it doesn’t matter what we see today as long as there is some cricket. In other news, there have been plenty of literary references of late on Cricinfo. So, here’s my effort. It’s the great Virginia Woolf playing cricket.

11.01am: David Hopps is fashionably late

Here now. Our crack collection of writers will imminently produce more gems from the county circuit. As for me, everywhere I try to watch cricket, it rains. Frankly, I am fed up with it.

In the meantime, Jarrod Kimber takes a left-field look at the appointment of the ICC's chief executive. I would call Kimber the Marmite of cricket writers. Except that I don't like Marmite whereas Kimber should be taken daily with tea and toast.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo