May 26, 2012

LV= County Championship, Saturday May 26

7pm: Alex Winter signs off

7pm: Alex Winter signs off

We've got a huge chunk of the season out of the way already, these round of matches are flying by. The only thing significant today was this morning with Warwickshire's victory at the The Oval - they're suddenly big favourites for the title already. But Notts, in control at Hove after two days, will have something to say. Lancashire out of the bottom two but couldn't force the win against Middlesex, who are showing they're good enough to stay up this season.

Down in the Division Two, Northants grabbed a last gasp win and Hampshire bagged their second win of the year - or should that be, Glamorgan failed to win again?

All the reports on our county homepage, keep in touch for all the latest news and Sahil Dutta's reports from the last two days at Hove and then we'll be back here on Wednesday to do it all again! See you then, enjoy the Test...

6pm: Alex Winter on the drama at Wantage Road

And what drama it was, Northants had all day to bowl Gloucestershire out but the visitors made a cracking start, putting on a century opening stand before Charl de Lange struck just before lunch. After the interval a mini-collapse put the visitors in trouble before Hamish Marshall – centurion of the first innings – got stuck in again. He was James Middlebrook’s third victim as Northants looked to be pushing for victory comfortably. The last pair came together with 40 minutes remaining but looked to be pulling off a remarkable escape before Middlebrook bagged the last wicket in the final over of the match! Amazing stuff.

5.05pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Middlesex

The match has just finished as a draw with Middlesex progressing to 265 for one when play ended. As the scorecard suggests, Lancashire struggled to put pressure on the Middlesex batsman throughout the day and are still waiting for their first championship victory of the season.

Chris Rogers, Middlesex’s overseas batsman, finished unbeaten on 138, his highest score for the county, while this was only the second draw in 14 matches at Aigburth stretching back to 2004.

3.20pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Middlesex

Chris Rogers has just progressed to a fine century, which has frustrated Lancashire’s hopes of forcing their first victory of the summer but is unlikely to be in a winning cause. His first century of the season was brought up with a cover drive against Ashwell Prince’s very occasional off-spin – he has not bowled in first class cricket since August 2008 – but tight bowling and a slow outfield has ensured Middlesex have made slow progress.

They have added 68 runs in 25 overs to reach 105-1 and, unless we are heading for a spectacular final session, with a minimum of 38 overs remaining, Middlesex are unlikely to reach their victory target of 429.

2.30pm: Sahil Dutta at Sussex v Nottinghamshire

With very little happening for Sussex they’ve pestered their way to a ball change. If nothing else it may break up the rhythm of the batsmen. Seems unlikely though. It’s the sort of day where spinners should be bowling a lot of overs. Monty, though, got through 10 accurate but ineffective ones before lunch and so far hasn’t had another go. All of which doesn’t bode well for my hopes of goading him into a light-hearted interview today.

2.15pm: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Glamorgan

More on scorers, who, until race horse owners and school-masters took to the role, were regarded as rather a down-trodden species. Matthew Fleming, the former Kent captain and MCC committee member, once told Dr Andrew Hignell he was too young to be scoring for Glamorgan. But Hignell has never lacked gravitas. And he is not looking forward to the start of the t20 competition, which, he feels, breeds a lack of concentration among young spectators. "It is an indictment of our society," is his powerful summation.

1.10pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Middlesex

Curiously kept out of the attack until just two overs before the interval, Kyle Hogg finally made the breakthrough to end a frustrating 104-run stand that has kept open the slim possibility of an unlikely Middlesex triumph.

Despite being Lancashire’s best seamer during their championship triumph – he claimed 50 wickets last summer – Hogg was forced to wait for his chance while Chapple tried four other bowlers, including switching Simon Kerrigan, Lancashire’s left-arm spinner, to the Pavilion End for a short spell.

When he was given his opportunity, he enjoyed almost immediate success and tempted Sam Robson into edging behind as he attempted to clip off his legs to Hogg’s fifth ball of the morning. Middlesex, chasing 429 for victory, still added 75 runs in the session and reached lunch on 105 for one, still needing a further 323 runs.

12.30pm: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Glamorgan

Dr Andrew Hignell, the cerebral Glamorgan scorer and former school-master, is one of at least three county chalkers who have had a significant triumph by putting some money on a horse owned by Dawn Pugh, their Worcestershire colleague. Her husband used to train horses and The Wife's Sister, which they still own, came in first at Worcester on Thursday. On its only previous outing of the season, it was last: hence the odds of 100-1.

Luck was with the chalkers: two horses leading it both fell and The Wife's Sister romped home. "That will cover my bridge toll fees for the rest of the summer," said Hignell.

12.20pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Middlesex

It has been hard work for Lancashire this morning with Middlesex finding little difficulty in surviving on what is still a good batting wicket. Chris Rogers survived an enthusiastic appeal from Glen Chapple, Lancashire’s captain, for lbw in the first over of the day, but otherwise there has been little excitement to get a healthy crowd interested.

That has not stopped the usual cries of anguish from fielders around the bat, while Chapple has attempted to keep Rogers and Sam Robson guessing with numerous bowling changes, including moving Simon Kerrigan from the River End to the Pavilion End.

There is plenty of speculation about whether Middlesex can win it inside the press tent, which is also trying to keep tabs on the Test match from Trent Bridge. The general consensus is that the draw is favourite, although if they keep wickets in hand and Eoin Morgan can play one of his special innings, we remain hopeful of an exciting finish.

At present , Morgan may struggle to get a bat with Robson and Rogers guiding Middlesex to 88 without loss with around 40 minutes until lunch. I think we can assume there may be some strong words spoken inside the Lancashire dressing room during the interval.

11.35am: Jon Culley at Surrey v Warwickshire

Warwickshire needed only 32 minutes to complete a five-wicket victory over Surrey to move into a 15-point lead at the top of the First Division with four wins from six matches.

Oddly enough, it took them only nine overs this morning -- one more than the eight they would have had yesterday evening had the extra half-hour been allowed.

Tim Ambrose finished unbeaten on 89, Rikki Ckarke 40 against his former employers. A cracking match with a high standard of cricket from both sides ended, incongruously, when a misfield by Stuart Meaker at mid-on allowed Ambrose to turn a single into a two.

Runners-up last season, they have already beaten all the other top-four finishers as well as promoted Surrey. They are favourites for the title with every justification.

11.30am: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Glamorgan

Strange ticket pricing on this, the final day, at West End, where a decent finish is in prospect. Glamorgan needed at the outset 210 with eight wickets intact and have since lost Gareth Rees. Although entry for the final day of the Lord's Test last Monday was only £10 for adults and a fiver for OAPs, Hampshire have announced that the reduction today will be to £15. The Trent Bridge Test and local beaches are in competition. A tenner would surely be quite enough to ask in order to fill the many vacant seats.

11.10am: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Middlesex

I have been presented by a mountain of facts by those helpful people at OPTA, who are now providing scores and statistics for the England and Wales Cricket Board, which only strengthen the belief that we are unlikely to witness an unexpected victory for Middlesex.

They resumed on 29 without loss chasing a victory target of 429, which as any cricket-lover knows, is highly improbable in the final innings of any match. Yet, the prospect remains no matter how unlikely. We were already aware that the highest ever successful run chase at Aigburth, where the slow outfield traditionally makes boundaries difficult, is Kent’s 360 for four from 105 overs in 2002.

The need for greater improvisation in one-day and Twenty20 cricket has, of course, made targets more accessible. Should they reach this total, however, it would rank as one of the outstanding victories of this, or any other, recent season.

Middlesex have only ever scored 400 to win twice, when scoring 502 for six to win at Trent Bridge in 1925 and beating Glamorgan at Southgate in 2005 by scoring 408 for four. Lancashire, who claimed thrilling final day victories over Yorkshire and Hampshire at Aigburth last summer, remain confident of securing their first win of the season.

They will hope Simon Kerrigan, their talented left-arm spinner, can repeat his display against Hampshire when he claimed nine for 51. After five overs, despite several yelps and cries and near misses, Lancashire are yet to make the breakthrough with Middlesex progressing to 36 without loss.

11.10am: Jon Culley at Surrey v Warwickshire

Scoring 41 runs to win with five wickets in hand should be relatively straightforward for Warwickshire although a couple of early wickets for Surrey could have them squeaking a little.

The Oval is decorated with posters of Surrey players in a suitably triumphant poses to mark their achievements down the years, among them several of Gareth Batty, who might have prompted a double take from any Aston Villa fans among the Warwickshire supporters. He does bear an extraordinary resemblance to Alex McLeish.

Batty, with 10 wickets in the match, is already into the attack and has opened with a maiden. But Jon Lewis has helped Surrey's cause by giving away four byes from his second ball.

Apparently, Warwickshire were willing to take the extra half-hour on the third evening in pursuit of a quick conclusion but the umpires felt they had not been scoring runs quickly enough for there to be a realistic expectation of a result.

10.40am: Alan Gardner heralds the start of a new day

The sun is shining and so cricket must be played; this is an immutable law of the land. With the exception of Sussex's game against Notts, another round of Championship matches will conclude today, as the Division One and Two tables begin to take shape. Warwickshire need 41 more runs to beat Surrey and go back to the top of the tree, while Lancashire will be hoping to take ten Middlesex wickets for a first win of the season that would move them away form the bottom. In the second tier, a comprehensive victory for Derbyshire over promotion rivals Essex put daylight between them and the rest, while Kent leapfrogged Yorkshire to go second by thrashing struggling Leicestershire. As ever you can follow the action here and join in the fun below the line. After all, the sun is shining and cricket must be played ...

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo