May 30, 2012

LV= County Championship, Wednesday May 30

5.25pm: Ivo Tennant at Gloucestershire v Derbyshire

5.25pm: Ivo Tennant at Gloucestershire v Derbyshire

Although Derbyshire have been bowled out for 95, there is no sign of an ECB pitch inspector here. Not that one is needed, for although there was movement this morning, it was chiefly through the air. Besides, Gloucestershire are far too wound up over the future of their County Ground to worry unduly about that. They have decided this afternoon - or at least have declared this afternoon - to lodge an appeal if their application for development is turned down for a second time this year by Bristol City Council.

4.35pm: Alex Winter elsewhere

Up at Headingley, Jonny Bairstow is back on county duty and thus he’s back behind the stumps; a couple of catches so far today as Yorkshire have put Northamptonshire, who won the toss, under pressure. Mitchell Starc, on his championship debut, has nipped out a couple – bowling a little better than his effort on telly the other night against Sussex in the CB40.

Talking of CB40, one of the topics for Kenny Shovel’s latest offering:

With only the first placed team in each group of seven guaranteed to go through to the knockout stage it’s a structure that means counties must win relentlessly for the slightest chance of qualifying, whilst any side losing three out of their first four or five games can look forward to months of one-day cricket as meaningless as the plot of a Michael Bay movie.

Of the other championship action, Glamorgan are going well in reply to Leicestershire’s 271 – probably a below par score. Marcus North has scored a first half century for his new county.

Also today we’ve gathered in our broom cupboard to record another episode of the hottest cricket chat show. Jonathan Legard guest-presents this week’s Switch Hit Podcast as Andrew McGlashan, George Dobell and I mull over England’s second Test victory, where West Indies go from here, Lancashire’s miserable form and Derbyshire's rise to be the early pace setters in Division Two.

4.15pm: David Lloyd at Middlesex v Sussex

Joyce has not made a century against his former county – and he will not be able to raise his bat for three figures in the first innings of this match.

Finn troubled the left-hander with short balls on three or four occasions, either side of lunch, and it was a lifting delivery that did for him in the end, although not in a classical manner.

Joyce moved inside the line neatly enough but then deflected the ball too close to keeper John Simpson to fall victim to the old leg-side strangle. Out for 77, he still received a generous hand from a decent crowd.

That was a blow for Sussex. But they were able to take tea at 163 for six – a useful recovery indeed from the low point of 66 for five.

4.10pm: Jon Culley at Worcestershire v Somerset

Everything seems to be conspiring against Nick Compton, whose chance to score those 59 runs will not present himself before tomorrow, barring an extraordinary shift in the tenor of this day.

At tea, Worcestershire had lost only the wicket of Phil Hughes, the opener looking to prove to Australia that they were wrong to drop him. Hughes opened his account with his third county by scoring a century in Sunday's CB40 match against Middlesex, one of his previous employers here, and followed that up by reaching 53 before he tried to carve Peter Trego through the offside and was caught behind.

Daryl Mitchell, who had a century in the opening match of the season against Notts, is on 72 with Vikram Solanki on 21. Compton would be a little closer to batting had Solanki not been dropped off consecutive balls, first at slip against George Dockrell, the left-arm spinner who was Somerset's match-winner against Durham last week, and then by Dockrell at midwicket off Trego.

If that weren't enough frustration for Compton, there is a threat of showers to delay things even more.

4pm: Ivo Tennant at Gloucestershire v Derbyshire

Paul Russell, who has stood down as chairman of Glamorgan owing to ill health, has offered to support Gloucestershire over Bristol City Council's planning debate about the future of the County Ground. So Russell, who of course played a major role in the development of The Swalec into the Test ground it is today, will be speaking on behalf of Gloucestershire this evening.

And poor Tom Richardson, the chief executive who has enough to deal with at present, is having to field comments and complaints about the departure of Fosters, who no longer look after the catering on this ground. The company is, in fact, owned by ECB chairman Giles Clarke, who also is the proprietor of a bistro and coffee houses in Bristol. Has Richardson had Clarke on the phone? "He wouldn't do that," says the chief executive - with what looks to be a rueful grin.

3.15p.m: Paul Edwards at Durham v Lancashire

Exponents of the pathetic fallacy are not short of material at Chester-le-Street where the miserable weather probably matches the mood of the home supporters. Resuming on 85 for six, Phil Mustard’s side lost their last four wickets for 17 runs in 7.3 overs this afternoon, three of them to Luke Procter, who returned career-best figures of five for 17 in 10 overs.

There was at least some excuse for the Durham batsmen’s errors in the second session: Procter got the ball to swing even more than he had managed to do in the morning and the deliveries which accounted for Scott Borthwick and Jamie Harrison would have caused problems for much more accomplished batsmen e.g. the players who had rather carelessly thrown their wickets away in the first hour of the day.

All the same, this is the sixth time in nine completed innings in 2012 that Durham have mustered less than 164 runs. What’s more, Glen Chapple’s batsmen have avoided having to begin their reply in similarly bowler-friendly conditions. Rain began just as Stephen Moore and Paul Horton were about to take strike.

3.00pm: David Lloyd at Middlesex v Sussex

Selector alert. And it’s the main man himself, Geoff Miller, who has taken up residence in one of the vacant commentary boxes.

While Finn is the main object of his attentions today, Miller must be impressed with the performance of former England batsman Ed Joyce, who is now back where he belongs, internationally speaking – playing for Ireland.

Today, Joyce is back where he was always very popular with Middlesex supporters. Time flies and this is the Dubliner’s fourth season with Sussex following his departure from Lord’s

Joyce watched this morning as five colleagues were sent packing by a combination of good bowling and poor shot selection. This afternoon, though, he has found a stout companion in Ben Brown. Runs have come at a trickle, rather than rush, but there is nothing wrong with that – especially given a challenging, post-lunch spell from Finn and the fact Sussex are trying to recover from 66 for five.

With Joyce going past 50 and Brown contributing nicely, the visitors were a slightly happier 125 for five.

2.45pm: Ivo Tennant at Gloucestershire v Derbyshire

Tom Richardson, the Gloucestershire chief executive charged with sorting out the future of the County Ground, is locked in discussions with council officials before the crucial meeting in the city tonight. Although the club has reduced the size of the proposed apartment block at the Jessop Tavern End, this would still incorporate 147 dwellings. "It will make the ground more of an arena," said former chairman John Light, who is on the ground today, as ever. Contrast that with the doomed planned apartments at Lord's, of similar size, which had been given the tacit approval of Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. They were still not wanted by MCC's committee.

2.30pm: Jon Culley at Worcestershire v Somerset

The rain lasted only a few minutes, thankfully. The players re-emerged after lunch to possibly the longest guard of honour ever assembled on a sports field, made up of 300 schoolchildren from eight county schools who are at New Road as part of Worcestershire's Learning Through Sport day.

Quite a number of them, distinctive in purple teeshirts, then formed a slightly shorter queue at the ice cream van parked on the cathedral side. The ice creams here, incidentally, are another of this ground's numerous attractive features. In my view second in quality only to Gallone's at Northampton on the county circuit. And since I've just plugged that family business it would be remiss not to mention that Dean's Traditional Ice Creams are the established suppliers here.

Worcestershire have just lost their first wicket. Phil Hughes, who completed his debut half-century off 101 balls with five fours, was caught behind off Peter Trego for 53. They are 106-1.

1.15pm: Jon Culley at Worcestershire v Somerset

Worcestershire's problems with the weather are not limited to the perennial threat of floods whenever there is any sustained period of heavy rain. If the sun shines too much, the main scoreboard malfunctions.

This is one explanation, apparently, for the regular failures afflicting the facility, which is out of action for the present game. The actual cause remains a mystery, however. Numerous investigations and replacement parts have not got to the bottom of what's wrong.

Thankfully, there is another electronic board on the cathedral side of the ground, although it requires good eyesight or a pair of binoculars if you happen to be sitting in the pavilion.

It makes you hanker after the days when we were not so beholden to technology, when scoreboards were operated by people using pulleys and reports were written on typewriters. The old and rather attractive manually-operated scoreboard at the Diglis End here is still standing. Unfortunately it is now behind the Basil D'Oliveira Stand.

The bad news for Nick Compton is that Worcestershire have batted through the morning to be 77 without loss, though Daryl Mitchell and Phil Hughes, making his Championship debut for this county, have not found progress easy against tight Somerset bowling and with a slow outfield saving more than one boundary.

Good news, perhaps, for the chances of the scoreboard coming back to life is that it is raining. Just a passing shower, though.

12.50am: Paul Edwards at Durham v Lancashire

Few people in the press box have had even so much as a sniff of the Kenco at Durham where Paul Collingwood and Dale Benkenstein’s attempt to rebuild Durham’s innings has just been wrecked by Benkenstein’s injudicious attempt to drive a wide one from Luke Procter.

Kyle Hogg did most of the early damage, taking three wickets in six deliveries, although Gordon Muchall did well to reach the ball he apparently nicked to Gareth Cross. Peter Willey sent him on his way.

The wicket looks to have no more life than one might expect on the first morning and some of these dismissals have been soft indeed. Benkenstein and Collingwood were just the men for a crisis, you would have thought: the Zimbabawean scored 280 runs for once out in his three Championship innings against Lancashire last season. He’s gone now, though, and Durham are 82 for five.

12.45pm: David Lloyd at Middlesex v Sussex

Rotation or not, how can England overlook this chap for the final Test against West Indies? Figures of 6-3-4-3 add up to selector-prodding, rather than nudging. Good old Finny! Um, good old Tim Murtagh, actually.

There was a time when England would have been beating a path to Murtagh’s door. These days, though, they have any number of young giants (like Finn) to consider, leaving the likes of 30-year-old Murtagh to do their business on the county circuit.

Today, the former Surrey man added Joe Gatting (inside edge onto pad, caught at slip) and Murray Goodwin (snicking very low to second slip) to his collection as Sussex nose-dived to 16 for three. And when Mike Yardy drove away from his body to perish against Gareth Berg, the visitors were in real trouble at 33 for four.

Watching this clatter from the media centre was Mike Denness, former England captain and long-serving ECB pitch liaison officer. Mike has had a rough few months, health-wise, but was as good company as ever this morning.

Time will tell, but the Board’s man doesn’t appear to be concerned about this pitch. Bowlers are entitled to use the new ball skilfully, and hit the seam regularly, after all. And batsmen are entitled to counter-attack, which Ed Joyce and Luke Wright did, to a modest extent, while taking their side to 66 for four. The return of Finn did for that partnership, however, with Wright caught behind.

It wasn’t only batsmen who had problems at Lord’s this morning, though. Sky reporter Dave Fulton found himself being sledged by a grumpy spectator while giving his live update from one of the stands. It’s tough at the top.

12pm: Ivo Tennant at Gloucestershire v Derbyshire

The future of Nevil Road as a county cricket ground, let alone an international venue, may well be resolved tonight when Bristol City Council meet to deliberate on a re-submitted planning application by Gloucestershire. Plans to build an apartment block were rejected in January and the club has now put forward a plan to reduce this in size from seven to six storeys. Tom Richardson, the chief executive, is in doubt that Gloucestershire will have to consider moving if the verdict goes against them this evening.

Gloucestershire have taken on the services of Robert Griffiths QC, who was in charge of the £400m redevelopment of Lord's until his high-powered committee was summarily disbanded last year by MCC's chairman and treasurer, who expressed caution. This led to a huge row involving numerous luminaries ranging from Sir John Major to Christopher Martin-Jenkins. Griffiths was also involved in the more successful development at Old Trafford, so no-one could be said to have greater experience of such matters.

11.40am: Jon Culley at Worcestershire v Somerset

The chances of Nick Compton scoring the 59 runs he needs to become the ninth batsman to score 1,000 first-class runs before the end of May in an English domestic season receded a little after Worcestershire won the toss and opted to bat.

The Somerset batsman has only today and tomorrow to become the first to achieve the feat since Worcestershire's Graeme Hick in 1988 and join the exalted company of WG Grace, Don Bradman, Tom Hayward, Wally Hammond, Charlie Hallows, Bill Edrich and Glenn Turner. Bradman did it twice with the touring Australians in 1930 and 1938.

Compton scored 685 from his first six innings of the season -- overtaking Hick's April record of 410 -- but has lately faltered a little, relatively speaking, adding only 256 in his last six. He missed two opportunities when he was out for 64 and eight against Durham at Taunton last week.

Worcestershire are again without key fast bowler Alan Richardson, who failed a late fitness test on the shoulder injury that has kept him out for three weeks. Worcestershire are 20 without loss after 13 overs and the main scoreboard has failed.

11.25am: David Lloyd at Middlesex v Sussex

Blimey, these days there’s barely time for a hurried sip of coffee, never mind a leisurely cup, before someone does something out there to demand a hurried note.

With Sussex winning the toss and batting on what looks, from our high perch, to be a good pitch, most eyes this morning were likely to be on England hopeful Steve Finn. But the almost always reliable Tim Murtagh got cracking before Finn could get the ball in his hand.

Murtagh’s second delivery of the opening over was a beauty, leaving Chris Nash late just outside off stump to take the edge and present a catch behind. Match that, Mr Finn.

He couldn’t, not initially anyway, but was soon warming to his task after a rusty first over.

Sussex are fielding the side that lost to Notts earlier this week, but Middlesex have made a significant change. Having relinquished the captaincy last month, Neil Dexter has now lost his place in the team with the hosts preferring to play an extra seamer here following Toby Roland-Jones’ recovery from an ankle injury.

11.20am: Paul Edwards at Durham v Lancashire

Morning from Chester-le-Street where Lancashire won the toss and opted to bowl in a game which pits the ninth-placed side in Division One (Durham) against the team just nine points and two places above them in the table. Lancashire, though, have played a game more. The visitors are unchanged from the team which drew against Sussex last week while Durham include Scott Borthwick in place of Ian Blackwell, who has a back problem. Durham seamer Jamie Harrison, Whiston-born but Sedbergh-educated, plays against the county of his birth. First blood has gone to Lancashire, Mark Stoneman meekly steering Chapple to Kerrigan in the third over of the morning.

10.30am: Alex Winter in sunny London

Indeed sunny and more good weather forecast for another another round of County Championship action. But we're now getting close to the mid-season break the tables are beginning to take shape.

Why don't we start right at the bottom where the game already underway is between Galmorgan and Leicestershire in Cardiff, the visitors should have made more of their position yesterday but closed not in great shape. The basement battle that is - Leicestershire having beaten Glamorgan already this season and the men from the Principality yet to taste success.

Staying in Division Two, leaders Derbyshire will hope to cement their place at the top of the table with a visit to struggling Gloucestershire - Ivo Tennant watching the surprise package of the season perhaps? The big timers Yorkshire are back in action this week too, they play Northamptonshire at Headingley with Jonny Bairstow available.

In Division One, Steve Finn is in action for Middlesex, they're taking on Sussex at Lord's with David Lloyd in attendance, and Graham Onions, another bowling pushing for Test selection, is playing for Durham against Lancashire, Paul Edwards watching that one. The other Division One match is at New Road where Worcestershire are batting against Somerset - so Nick Ccmpton will have to wait for a chance to exclipse the 1,000 run mark before the end of May - Jon Culley is there to watch potential history in the making, but maybe not today.

As ever, get involved on twitter using the hashtag #countycricket and in the comments below. Going to be another cracking four days.

A side note to the four-day action was another victory for Netherlands in the CB40 yesterday. Could they spring a surprise? They top their group with four wins...

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo