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7.30pm: Alex Winter signing off
Another fine day of championship action. Lancashire are showing signs of getting over their early season wobbles, Warwickshire look to be nailing down their title credentials and Somerset and Durham continue to show that perhaps they're good but not good enough this season? No-one taking hold of that match at Taunton, at the end of day two down in the Westcountry.
Division Two action centred on the revelation of the season, another five-for for David Wainwright, could he bowl Derbyshire to promotion this year? Hampshire are trying to get their campaign going and Kent too are trying to get right back on course after a good start. Northamptonshire piling on the runs n'all.
That's your lot for today, our county cricket hompage has all the best reports and analysis. And if you're on the move, be sure to log on to our mobile website too where many of our reports are also available. I'm off to explore Chelmsford, until the 'morrow...
5.20pm: Alex Winter at Essex v Derbyshire
It’s very warm this afternoon. There was cloud earlier today but that has been burned away to leave conditions a touch uncomfortable in this cramped press box. I have stepped outside for an ice cream (a 99 costing £2) and watched Derbyshire wrap up the Essex tail – the last four wickets for 16 runs. Now looking forward to watching Martin Guptill bat.
I mentioned my trip to Southend’s Garon Park earlier on: that was a hot match too (but not as hot as Beckenham that same year; that was 32 degrees all game; sat outside, we had chairs stacked five high with my umbrella taped to it to provide shade). But on the Essex coast we were sat on a desk adjacent to the sightscreen, all manner of cable of varying lengths to get us online. Far more comfortable for the radio guys here – they have they own entrance to a spacious area on two levels. Their windows wide open, drinking in the atmosphere; which is good, upwards of 1,700 in the ground but Essex are a touch disappointed with that figure. They say the first day of a match is generally the most popular and given the weather were hoping for closer to or even over 2,000. Good numbers for a small county.
Obviously haven't read this Monty! Ibiza isn't all lager louts.
5.15pm: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Glamorgan
Now we know why this is not a four day pitch. "I have a wedding to go to on Saturday," said head groundsman Nigel Gray - with a twinkle.
4.30pm: Alan Gardner at Surrey v Warwickshire
What it is about the merest glimpse of the sun in the sky that encourages the British male to bare his chest? So many slightly red pot bellies are on display at The Oval that it’s almost like an episode of Ibiza Uncovered – though admittedly no one has tried to organise a foam party in the OCS Stand as yet.
Warwickshire are batting, having hustled out Surrey for what is almost certainly a below-par 223. Varun Chopra and Ian Westwood have taken completely the opposite approach to Surrey’s at the start of the day, scoring just 5 from the first four overs. If they’re still there at the close, though, Warwickshire will be firm favourites for a fourth win in six.
4.20pm: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Glamorgan
Rod Bransgrove, the Hampshire chairman and benefactor whose ever-enjoyable company, sardonic humour and personal supply of Chablis in the atrium here are often sought by the media, is keeping a low profile this season. This may or may not have anything to do with West End not having been allocated an Ashes Test. He is keeping his powder dry. Nor has he been seen of late in the Test Valley village of Awbridge, where he lives in a spacious Edwardian property with pool house and gym. It was out of character that he should turn down an offer of dinner with two national newspaper journalists earlier this season. "They only want to get me drunk," he said. Whatever next?
4.10pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Middlesex
Lancashire may be struggling to repeat their success on the field this season, but there are few more hospitable press tents on the circuit. Having been treated to complimentary food at lunch-time, the media have now been given a slice of cake to keep them going through the tea interval.
The cake has been provided by Vicky, the fiancé of local freelance Graham Hardcastle, as part of her birthday celebrations. Never a group to consciously turn down free food, the cake was received enthusiastically by the assembled media and polished off in rapid time.
Angus Fraser, Middlesex's Director of Cricket, missed the tea-time treat because he had departed to the dressing room to gee up his team after they allowed Lancashire to recover and reach 164 for three at tea, with Ashwell Prince and Steven Croft forging an unbeaten 109-run partnership.
4pm: Tea time with Kenny Shovel:
The poet laureate of the county game is back with his latest column, on cricket's great rivalries:
Me, I go back to the fundamentals. Bat against ball. Batsman against bowlers. Given my lifelong attempt to master the inswinger it’s not hard to work out where my sympathies lie. I’ve always regarded bowlers as the game’s heavy lifters; putting in hours of hard toil while batsmen get to stand there, knock the ball around a bit, then disappear into the night to sip champagne from a supermodel’s navel.
You can digest the rest of his weekly musing here.
3pm: Alan Gardner at Surrey v Warwickshire
Perhaps the pitch isn’t quite as blameless as it looks, although the feeling persists here that it is more a case of Surrey’s batsmen getting themselves out, with seven wickets now down and fewer than 200 on the board. Tom Maynard is batting nicely, as has been the case in recent weeks, and he’ll want to be out in the middle for as long as possible after his role in Rory Hamilton-Brown’s dismissal.
The Surrey captain became the second needless run-out casualty of the innings when he pushed to mid-on and called for one – only to notice about two-thirds of the way up the pitch that Maynard had not responded in the same fashion. Hamilton-Brown turned and had to continue his march all the way back to the dressing room, having made 34, the same score as Davies before his own act of hara kiri.
That was the second of four wickets to fall for 30 after lunch, though Maynard and Jon Lewis have steadied things a touch. Warwickshire may already be widely fancied for the title but surely they wouldn’t have been expecting the opposition to start doing them favours too?
2.45pm: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Glamorgan
There is increasing interest in the wicketkeeping and batting of Michael Bates, the 21 year-old who has succeeded Nic Pothas in Hampshire's side. If it is becoming apparent why the experienced Pothas was allowed to go, conceivably before his time, it is altogether less clear why the club made an approach for James Foster last year. Talented young cricketers should be given their chance, and there was never any doubting Bates' ability behind the stumps. The requirement was for some runs - which have been forthcoming. Having made a maiden century last week against Yorkshire, he has managed 41 in Hampshire's innings today on a decidedly green pitch. What with the signing of Kabir Ali and one or two South Africans who have disappeared out of sight, there are questions to be asked about Hampshire's transfer policy.
2.20pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Middlesex
The lunch interval is normally a time when journalists relax, catch up with friends in the crowd, eat their sandwiches, and chat about the morning’s play, but for two members of Lancashire’s media there is no respite.
Graham Hardcastle and Chris Ostick, who co-wrote their excellent account of last summer’s unexpected championship triumph called “Champions – About Bloomin’ Time”, instead spent their lunch-time signing copies of their book after being inundated by requests from supporters at the ground.
They had hoped the book would be a record of a remarkable season in Lancashire’s history, celebrating their first championship in 77 years. Given Lancashire’s struggles since being crowned champions, it may be some time before they are in a position to write a sequel.
On the field, Lancashire have recovered from losing three wickets before lunch after winning the toss and deciding to bat first and are now on a more comfortable 92 for three.
2.05pm: Alex Winter at Essex v Derbyshire
So now settled at the Ford County Ground, the press box is the smallest in the world, I think my local club had a larger press box than this. Seating for 10 if the 10th man doesn’t mind squeezing in between the sink and wash hand basin. I was the 9th in courtesy of the poor traffic. Mark Eklid of the Derby Telegraph kindly removed his baggage from one chair so I could take my place. We’re blessed with fully opening windows – ideal on such a delicious day – but if you do open them, they only go so far because of the blinds attached to side windows at a hideous height. I might bring a screwdriver tomorrow, not a week for looking through glass. We do have one window open though but hardly a breeze today.
I took a gamble at lunch too. Went for a granary bread sandwich: Wensleydale with a carrot and celery chutney. It was Ok. I need a cool beverage to wash it down with though and cups are non-existent up here. Marvellous excuse to head for the bar, or log cabin as it is here. One bar not in use is no more than a simple shed found in gardens up and down the land. Wherever it’s being sold from, Thatcher’s Gold has made its way this far east. A billion times better than this Oranjeboom stuff – one of the chief sponsors of Essex – doesn’t sound nice. Wurzel me up them crushed apples.
12.30pm: Alan Gardner at Surrey v Warwickshire
The sun is shining at The Oval and the Surrey batsmen have taken the view that there’s no better time to roll out the combine harvester. Keith Barker in particular took some punishment, before trapping Jason Roy in front, while Zander de Bruyn clipped three crisp boundaries in a 15-ball stay before flashing to gully. With Surrey rattling along at five an over, Steven Davies then suffered a rush of blood and ran himself out to leave the home side 84 for 3 and the Warwickshire bowlers slightly less perturbed than they might have been after a hot and sweaty first hour.
There’s a decent crowd in the ground today, swelled by free entry for children from a number of local schools. With the sound piped in from outside, the atmosphere in the press box is rather like a playground at break time – particularly when you factor in all the name-calling as well. If there’s one man who would approve of indoctrinating the next generation of duffle-coat wearing, thermos-carrying county cricket fans from an early age, it’s Kenny Shovel. His latest serving of wisdom is in, fresh out the pot.
12.20pm: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Glamorgan
The great Shane Warne, and conceivably Ms Hurley, will be back at West End on June 16, along with members of the family of the late Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie. Stands will be named after the two Hampshire captains of old, arguably the best the club has ever had. No doubt 'Warney,' who will also be commentating on the match between England and West Indies that day, will be encouraged to say a few words by his friend Rod Bransgrove, the supremo in these parts. The two captains would have had a lot in common, although they would not have known each other well. 'Ingels' was friendly with Keith Miller, the great Australian all-rounder, and he and Warne would have made an omnipotent double act on and off the pitch had they played together.
12pm: Alex Winter at Essex v Derbyshire
Hello, hello. Not counting Stansted (let’s call it international territory, akin to the UN in New York) this is only my second trip to Essex. The first being to commentate on Gloucestershire at Southend three years ago – that was an experience, more on that shortly.
All the fun of the fair so far today. Firstly there was the novelty of the Dartford crossing, the bridge is very impressive, likewise the tunnel which descends at quite a gradient. I'm sure Sky have a channel with rolling documentaries about it. Certainly the first time I’ve driven personally over the crossing but I remembered a trip to Tottenham v Manchester United with family friends from near Brighton, many years ago, that would have taken in the Dartford crossing. Only £1.50 to get across too – Severn Bridge take note!
Continuing up the M25, the traffic approaching the A12 exit was carnage. Standstill. Two mile tailback in the inside lane. After less than half a mile in 30 minutes, I decided enough was enough and I took the approach that conjures much swearing – pulling out for a mile and a half and then cutting everybody up. Let the record show I was not the only one taking such a stance. I reckon I saved myself an hour at least.
But I did arrive for the start, the weather is lovely and Essex are batting with Oasis Shah performing to a slightly different audience to his last match. A couple of early strokes suggest IPL mode too.
11.20am: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Middlesex
After a sluggish start with clouds dominating the sky-line, the sun has finally broken through and summer has arrived. Whether it was the shock of not being required to warm up in woolly hat and warm gloves or the use of a different coin – a £2 one instead of the usual pound coin – but Lancashire won only their second toss in the last 13 home games and decided to bat first.
If Lancashire are to win their first championship victory of the summer, they will have to do so against a strong Middlesex line-up. Eoin Morgan is playing his first championship match since July 2010 and they may have Steven Finn in their ranks later in the match if he is released from England duty at the second Test.
Lancashire have made one change from the line-up that somehow clung on to draw at Edgbaston last week and have brought all-rounder Kyle Hogg in as a replacement for Gary Keedy and have progressed to seven without loss after five overs.
10.45: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Glamorgan
So green is the pitch cut by Nigel Gray, the head groundsman at West End, that it is completely indistinguishable from the square. Clearly Hampshire do not fear Glamorgan's attack - which is no surprise given that they are without three leading seamers. On the other hand, Glamorgan who have won the toss, will still bowl. They could scarcely choose to do anything else on this surface.
9.30am: Alan Gardner with the morning post
Good day (finally, that description doesn't look like being inaccurate) and welcome to the latest helping of the county blog. The focus may have switched back to England and their swinging posse but the Championship continues to chug along in the background, building up a nice head of steam. If England press conferences don't do it for you, then this is the place to be.
One match, at Taunton is already underway, with Durham's top order finally firing against Somerset. Six more games start today and our team will keep you up to date with all the action from around the country. I'll be toddling off to The Oval shortly for Surrey v Warwickshire; Myles Hodgson will be at Aigburth for Lancashire v Middlesex; Alex Winter is making his maiden to trip to Chelmsford for Essex v Derbyshire; and Ivo Tennant will be taking in Hampshire v Glamorgan.
As ever, the blog is also about you, dear reader, so please do chip in below the line, ask questions (we'll try to answer them), crack jokes and generally shoot the breeze. If you bought shares last week and are now worrying about their plummeting value, then you might want to click the Facebook 'like' button at the top of the page, too. Finally, here's our Switch Hit podcast to help kickstart your day ...
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