May 16, 2012

LV= County Championship, Wednesday May 16

6.30pm: Alan Gardner wraps the day's play

6.30pm: Alan Gardner wraps the day's play

At last, the batsmen have had a decent crack - which will probably only serve to deepen Mark Ramprakash's funk this evening. All seven County Championship matches went uninterrupted today and of the sides that batted first this morning, only Glamorgan failed to make it through the day. Even then, they picked up their first batting point of the season, thanks in part to Marcus North's 79 on debut.

With the West Indies about to start their Test series against England, the currently-exiled Ramnaresh Sarwan issued a reminder of his abilities with his second ton of the season for Leicestershire in their match against Essex. There was also an unbeaten century for David Sales at Canterbury, as Northamptonshire built a solid platform in their first innings against Kent, while in Division One, Chris Nash's 84 helped push Sussex towards 300 against Worcestershire at New Road.

Reports from all today's matches will soon be on our county homepage and don't forget to join us tomorrow, in between checking the ball-by-ball updates from Lord's, naturally. Cheerio!

4pm: David Lloyd at Surrey v Somerset

Something quite unexpected has just happened here – Compton is out. And for only 83.

The kettle was on for tea, the sandwiches were cut, Compton pushed forward at medium-pacer Zander de Bruyn and umpire Jesty upheld the appeal for lbw. Who would have thought it?

Surrey were pretty chuffed, though, and the total is now 290 for three.

4pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Lancashire

Can we now announce that summer is officially here? Is it time for toiling fast bowlers to start going in the groin? Messrs Hogg and Mahmood might not be so disappointed to have missed out on this one, given that Warwickshire are 186-1 at tea. Sounds like a belter at The Oval too.

Varun Chopra and Ian Westwood put on 202 for the first wicket against Somerset last June and looked to be on for something similar here until Westwood pushed at a ball outside off stump from Luke Procter and managed to get himself caught by a tumbling Paul Horton at first slip for 70.

In the circumstances it was a bit of a soft dismissal and the former Warwickshire captain headed back for the pavilion with the disappointed air of someone who knew he had missed an opportunity.

Chopra, who had a life on 51 when he was dropped at second slip off Ajmal Shahzad, is still there on 90 and the pair hold the distinction of sharing the highest opening stand in the First Division so far, at 168. In fact, four of the division's biggest partnerships by wicket in 2012 belong to Warwickshire, the others being: third, 219 v Sussex at Hove (Chopra and Jonathan Trott), seventh, 110 v Sussex at Hove (Trott and Tim Ambrose) and eighth, 224 v Lancs at Liverpool (Rikki Clarke and Darren Maddy).

3.10pm: David Lloyd at Surrey v Somerset

Right, the sun is far enough past the yardarm to mention (but only mention, sadly) beer. Or, rather, the beer festival which coincides with this four-day match at The Kia Oval. Some 50 or so beers and real ales are available for sampling inside the ground, by all accounts – not a bad way to spend a day if you’re able to get to south London, but probably best to come by public transport.

And talking of getting stuck in... Suppiah and Compton enjoyed a double century stand at Trent Bridge last month and, other than one of them taking a wrong turn at tea and ending up in the beer tent, there seemed little chance of the second wicket pair failing to add at least 200 here.

Until? Until Suppiah was run out for 106. He thought there was a single when Compton turned Gareth Batty into the leg-side, the striker didn’t and a fine stop and throw by Tom Maynard at mid-wicket defeated the opener’s dive.

That meant the stand was worth a mere 143 but with Compton soon passing 50 for the fifth time this season Surrey had little cause for celebration as the total climbed to 235 for two.

3.05pm: Myles Hodgson at Yorkshire v Hampshire

Bookmakers are not often wrong, but Hampshire have struggled to show the faith put in them as pre-season favourites for the second division title so far. Only one win up to this round of matches, they have nevertheless turned around their match at Headingley impressively with Simon Katich scoring a 99-ball hundred after they slipped to 83 for four.

Frustrated by their failure to make further inroads while Katich and Sean Ervine have built an unbroken fifth-wicket century stand, Yorkshire’s performance in the field has begun to look scratchy. Ervine was dropped driving an Iain Wardlaw full toss straight to Phil Jacques at cover and Katich was missed on 114 by Ryan Sidebottom at mid-on. All in all, it has not been a good afternoon session for Yorkshire as Hampshire progressed to 196 for four.

2.15pm: Myles Hodgson at Yorkshire v Hampshire

Overseas batsman often testify to the fact that it takes time to become used to English conditions, particularly at the start of the season when they have to combat a variety of temperatures and weather even before they consider how to combat unfamiliar batting conditions.

There can be no such excuse, however, for Australian Simon Katich. He is now on the fifth county of his career, which began with Durham in 2000 and also included a brief stay with Yorkshire in 2002. He survived a first ball appeal for lbw from seamer Steve Patterson, but since then has dominated Hampshire’s recovery from 55 for three to reach 128 for four.

He has been brutal whenever Yorkshire have dropped short and raced to his half-century off only 49 balls, which included nine fours, and has continued at a similar scoring rate throughout his innings.

While Katich has dominated since his arrival at the crease, Yorkshire will have been encouraged by the form of Iain Wardlaw, who has claimed two wickets during the morning session. His prospects of finishing the match depend very much on the England selectors, however. He has been named as the player to drop out if Tim Bresnan is not required by England for the first Test at Lord’s tomorrow and is released back to Yorkshire.

1.50pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Lancashire

There is no immediate prospect of Lancashire's fortunes looking up if the morning's play at Edgbaston is an indicator. The champions, who have suffered three defeats and two rain-affected draws in their five matches so far, have not been able to deny Warwickshire their biggest opening partnership so far.

Varun Chopra and Ian Westwood have played pretty well for Warwickshire, justifying Jim Troughton's decision to bat first. They have taken few risks and picked off the bad balls nicely. Not that Lancashire have bowled all that badly, particularly Ajmal Shahzad, who has usually been the one responsible when the ball has beaten the bat and on another day might have got lucky.

With two spinners in their line-up, Lancashire are clearly hoping for the pitch to offer them some turn to work with at some stage but so far it looks like a decent track.

The persistent chill wind is still taking the edge of the temperature despite the occasional glimpse of the sun. Warwickshire will hope the Daily Express forecast of another month like this is as wide of the mark as most of that journal's extraordinary predictions (last year was meant to be marked by an extreme heatwave leading to crop failures), given that they are hosting their only Test in three years against the West Indies on June 7.

To that end, in a bid to drum up interest, they are promising for one day only to name the new West Stand -- that's the open-topped terrace attached to the new pavilion -- after a fan on the so-called 'people's Saturday'. To decide who has that privilege, anyone who buys a ticket for the West Stand will have his name entered in a draw to be made on June 1. Not sure if there is an opt-out box to tick...

Warwickshire are 98-0 after 36 overs.

1.05pm: David Lloyd at Surrey v Somerset

Chris Jordan’s bowling this morning was unremarkable – five wicket-less overs with the new ball cost him 20 runs. It was still difficult to take your eyes off him, though.

For a start, he must own the most garish sunglasses in the cricket business. The frames are fluorescent green and fairly ghastly, to be honest. They couldn’t be blamed, though, for his failure to see umpire Trevor Jesty, though, because he never looked up before barging into the square leg official.

For a couple of minutes it looked a really nasty collision. Jordan had set off in hot pursuit of a clip along the ground by Nick Compton when he thudded into Jesty. Both men ended up on the turf and in need of treatment.

Jesty was first to rise. And Jordan was okay as well, although he needed a few minutes off the field for a bit of attention.

Life was tough generally for Surrey. Alex Barrow’s boundary-packed innings (10 fours in 47) ended when Stuart Meaker engineered a catch to gully by forcing the young opener onto the back foot. But, other than that, the near run-out of Arul Suppiah was as close as the hosts came to a second wicket before lunch.

Still, it is about time batsmen had some fun in the sun. And 109 for one was fun indeed for Somerset.

12.10pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Lancashire

Warwickshire are batting, and have been doing so in the presence of the Goodyear blimp. The 192-feet long airship has been drifting about in the way that it does, gliding one way, then stopping and changing course randomly for another few feet towards nowhere in particular.

No idea why this is. It may have mistakenly thought there was a Test match on, although had it thought to buy a scorecard it might have noticed there was no Bell or Trott playing, which you would have thought was a clue. Maybe it was meant to be at Lord's but programmed the satnav wrongly.

As well as the name Goodyear along its side, there is the legend 'safety together'. It didn't look too safe, it has to be said, when it suddenly raised its nose towards the heavens and then, equally suddenly, pointed it towards the city below, although I'm sure it was all routine stuff and nothing to be alarmed about. I'm quite happy not to have been on it at the time, though.

Warwickshire's openers, Varun Chopra and Ian Westwood, have been going about their routines with relatively few alarms after opting to bat first, even though the Lancashire bowling has been respectably threatening, particularly Glen Chapple and Ajmal Shahzad. They are 47-0.

There is only Luke Procter to back them up in the seam department, however. Lancashire have picked both their left-arm spinners, Simon Kerrigan and Gary Keedy, and left out Kyle Hogg and Saj Mahmood. It was here last season that Kerrigan bowled them to victory with 5-7 as Warwickshire were dismissed for 97 in their second innings.

11.30am: Myles Hodgson at Yorkshire v Hampshire There have been two notable landmarks at Headingley this morning. Firstly, the match has started on time and in bright sunshine, which in this summer of consistent heavy rain is enough of an event in itself.

Then we had an early wicket for Ryan Sidebottom, the 550th first class victim of his career, who tempted Liam Dawson into a nervous prod outside off-stump and edged behind for wicketkeeper Gerard Brophy to take an excellent low catch.

Given that there was some scepticism when Sidebottom was given a three-year contract to return to Yorkshire at the start of last season, he has certainly done his utmost to prove he is worthy of such a deal. He claimed 61 championship wickets in a struggling Yorkshire side last summer and his wicket this morning took him within nine of claiming family bragging rights by over-taking father Arnie’s first class wicket tally for Yorkshire.

Since Sidebottom claimed the opening wicket, Steve Patterson has also won an lbw decision against Jimmy Adams, Hampshire’s captain. It is already looking like a toss that Hampshire wished they had lost and are now struggling on 11 for two.

11.25am: David Lloyd at Surrey v Somerset

This will cheer up Ramps: according to those who have been out there, the pitch looks a belter. Just the sort of surface an out of form batsman would like to find himself on, apparently.

Well, time will tell on that front. But Somerset’s acting captain, James Hildreth, was sufficiently impressed to choose to bat first after winning the toss.

As for the team news, the visitors were boosted by news that Vernon Philander was fit to play. But, apart from that, their injury list shows no sign of shortening – as George pointed out in his scene-setter.

They do have Nick Compton back, of course, following his stint with England Lions. Belter or not, he will do rather well to leave here with the 264 runs he requires to reach the magic 1,000 before the end of May mark, but you never know.

And you never know, either, whether those of us behind the dark windows of The Oval press box will be able to pick Jamie Overton from his identical twin, Craig. Both 18-year-olds are on duty which means a first-class debut for Jamie.

As for Surrey, their near embarrassment of fast bowling riches means that Jade Dernbach and Tim Linley are sitting out this one. And the other bit of gen out of The Oval this morning is that Mushtaq Ahmed, who has a part-time contract with England, is joining Surrey for a month – from June 20 to July 20 – as a mentor and spin bowling coach.

On the field, Somerset made a sensible start, seeing out the first five overs without too much alarm.

9.45am: George Dobell sets the scene

There will be one notable absence from the Surrey side in the new round of Championship matches starting this morning. For the first time in more than a quarter-of a century, Mark Ramprakash finds he has been dropped by his county.

Ramprakash has scored just 62 runs in eight Championship innings this season at an average of 7.75 and, in Surrey’s latest game at New Road, suffered just the third pair of his first-class career and only his second in the Championship. It is believed to be the first time he has been dropped from a championship side - be it Middlesex or Surrey - since 1987. Aged 42 and out of contract at the end of the season, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the sun is setting on Ramprakash’s 26-year career.

Not that Ramprakash has accepted that. Talking to The Telegraph he insisted - with some justification - that he had been victim of some poor luck and fine deliveries this season and suggested that Chris Adams, the Surrey director of cricket, had acted a little hastily in leaving him out of the side.

“I have mixture of emotions, but I am very disappointed,” Ramprakash said. “I feel I have a lot to give and I feel fit. It is just that I have had an unfortunate run. I’ve been out caught down the leg side, had shooters along the ground and after four games by May 15 I am out of the side. It is amazing.”

“I have had a difficult start to the season, like most players, and just have not got a score. I am fit and healthy and moving around 100 per cent better than last year, when I had problems with my knee. I am still very bullish that I can make big scores in four-day and one-day cricket at this level. I am not putting any time frame on it. I am mulling over life.”

Whether Ramprakash still has the desire to force his way back into the side through weight of runs in second XI cricket remains to be seen, but Surrey have no shortage of talented young players coming through. Jason Roy is the man likely to replace him today. Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker also return for Surrey after Lions duty.

Vernon Philander faces a fitness test ahead of the same game. Somerset’s South African seamer reported a sore shoulder following the game against Durham. Somerset are already missing seamers Steve Kirby, Geemal Hussain and Adam Dibble though injury, while Alfonso Thomas is at the IPL. Batsmen Marcus Trescothick and Jos Buttler are also injured, while the club have recently learned that Francois du Plessis, the South African allrounder they signed as a replacement for Chris Gayle in this summer’s FLt20, will also be unable to join them. They have lined up Richard Levi as a possible replacement, though he, too, may be required by South Africa for their T20 series against Zimbabwe.

Elsewhere Warwickshire, who are without England pair Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott for their game against Lancashire, welcome back Chris Woakes for his first Championship match of the summer following injury,

Mitchell Starc has finally returned to Yorkshire, but will not play in this round of game as the club allow him time to acclimatise and settle in, Leicestershire have extended their loan deal with Robbie Joseph until the end of the season, Graham Wagg has been ruled out for three months with an ankle injury and Marcus North is set to make his debut for Glamorgan, his sixth county.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo