June 2, 2012

LV= County Championship, Saturday June 2

7pm: Alan Gardner closes the shutters for the day

7pm: Alan Gardner closes the shutters for the day

Two results (one of them a stone-cold thriller at Chester-le-Street) and two draws mean it was an even day in the Championship. The champions have broken their duck - despite apparently trying to toss away victory right up until the end - while Middlesex continued their solid start to life back in the top tier, leaving Sussex closer to trouble. In Division Two, Yorkshire's draw put them back in second but they rued missed opportunities on the final day. All our reports will be on the county homepage soon; and the blog will be back next week. Ta ra.

5pm: Jon Culley at Worcestershire v Somerset

Worcestershire have batted themselves into safe territory with the match drawn but it has been an embarrassing afternoon, nonetheless, for Matt Pardoe and Gareth Andrew, both of whom have fallen victim to the Somerset wicketkeeper... bowling off-spin.

Craig Kieswetter, without an over to his name, let alone a wicket, in any form of professional cricket, came on with Worcestershire 164 in front and still with six wickets standing, the game clearly dead, and promptly took a wicket with his fifth ball, bowling Matt Pardoe leg stump.

Cue hilarity in the Somerset ranks, with more to follow in Kieswetter's next over as a mix-up between the batsmen ended with Ben Scott run out. But that wasn't the end of the fun. In his third over, getting a taste for it, he trapped Andrew, on the back foot, plumb in front. Final figures: 3-0-3-2.

4.25pm: David Lloyd at Middlesex v Sussex

To coin a phrase, it’s hard to know what’s going off out there. With Sussex eight down, two tailenders at the crease and the second new ball 10 overs away Middlesex decided to open the bowling after tea with the decidedly erratic leg-breaks of Dawid Malan.

Outcome? Three overs for 18 runs and the innings defeat avoided. Then again, Chris Rogers could argue that the tactic worked – because Malan’s 18th delivery was driven by Steve Magoffin straight into the hands of long on. And a couple of overs later, Malan did it again with Panesar holing out to deep mid-wicket.

More than one way to skin a cat? Fair enough. Anyway, Middlesex are left needing 18 to win with oodles of overs left. Perhaps they’ll open the batting with Finn and Murtagh, just to underline their versatility.

4.20pm Paul Edwards at Durham v Lancashire

Circumspect batting by Prince and Croft has seen Lancashire advance to 94 for three after 32 overs. 106 needed off 28 now.

To enlarge on Onions’ dismissals before the break: Moore lost his off stump when playing a textbook forward defensive. Bat on the Bakerloo line, ball on the Jubilee? Maybe kept a little low as well.The Lancs opener has now not made a half century in 18 first-class innings this season. Brown, after hitting two sweet cover-drives off Harrison, was beaten by one that kept low. This wicket is still up and down.

3.50pm Paul Edwards at Durham v Lancashire

The short session before tea has gone Durham’s way and has offered yet more evidence of Graham Onions’ level of skill. The in-form seamer has dismissed both Stephen Moore and Karl Brown as the visitors have added just 27 runs in 11 overs to go into tea on 83 for three.

No one is finding Onions easy to face, and Steve Harmison was working up a deal of pace just the break as well. This is becoming an increasingly tricky run-chase for Lancashire and so much rests on the final session – for both sides. Lancs need 117 off 33 overs, a run-rate of 3.54.

3.25pm: David Lloyd at Middlesex v Sussex

Back into innings defeat territory for the visitors. It took a terrific catch from Dawid Malan at first slip to end Arif’s innings, the fielder diving right to hold a low chance after Gareth Berg had found the outside edge.

Then, a couple of over later, Ben Brown had a real rush of blood. Having just completed his second half-century of the match, Brown for some reason decided to try to reverse sweep Ollie Rayner. Result? A gloved catch to slip.

At 176 for eight, Sussex are 32 behind. Still Monty to come, though...

3pm: Jon Culley at Worcestershire v Somerset

Been off for bad light for an hour here. Somerset did their best to keep the players on the field by bringing on spin at both ends, although Worcestershire might have preferred pace rather George Dockrell turning the ball out of the rough.

James Cameron faced only four balls from the Irish left-armer and played a couple of those as if he couldn't see them. When he did connect with the ball he edged it to slip. It was Dockrell's third wicket after Phil Hughes top-edged an attempted pull and Daryl Mitchell popped one up to forwards short-leg. Hughes and Cameron are left-handers. With two more left-handers at the crease and another two to come, Dockrell was licking his lips.

Worcestershire are 102 in front with six wickets in hand but that doesn't mean they are safe.

2.45pm: David Lloyd at Middlesex v Sussex

At last, Sussex have decided there is a match to be saved. Mind, if Eoin Morgan had held a fast but perfectly acceptable two-handed chance in the gully when Naved Arif cut Finn, we might have been done and dusted by now.

Arif had not scored at that stage. In fact, it took him 34 balls to get off the mark, but no matter. With Ben Brown also determined to occupy the crease, Middlesex’s hopes of a quick kill were put on hold.

2.10pm: Paul Edwards at Durham v Lancashire

If we get no more rain, play will restart at 2.55, with Lancashire having 44 overs in which to score 144 runs to win. That’s a rate of 3.27 runs per over. For their part, Durham will need nine wickets.

At least the match should see a conclusion which is worthy of the fine individual performances we have seen. Onions and Stokes for Durham, Procter and Horton for Lancashire, can all look back on the last four days with some measure of pride. Other players are nothing like so well placed…yet.

1.30pm: Jon Culley at Worcestershire v Somerset

Worcestershire have a lead of 94 with eight wickets in hand at lunch but it would be a surprise if they were to do anything that would risk defeat. It is still possible that Somerset could toss them some easy runs in the hope of tempting a declaration but you suspect that there would be only one winner in a run chase. Nine points for a draw would look quite attractive from a Worcestershire point of view.

Worcestershire's two key batsmen are both out. Philip Hughes, after his first innings half-century on his county debut, hoicked George Dockrell's first ball for six to deep mid-wicket but tried to do the same with the left-arm spinner's next delivery and messed it up horribly, sending the ball almost vertically. When it came down, wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter did not have to wander very far to take the catch. Vikram Solanki lost his leg stump to a big inswinger from Peter Trego. Daryl Mitchell is on 15, having been dropped at second slip by Craig Overton first ball.

The Overton twins are identical in many ways, although Craig is the only one who fields in the slips. The trained eye would notice, too, apparently, that in the field they sport different footwear.

1.05pm: David Lloyd at Middlesex v Sussex

Sussex are going down with a whimper at the moment. Finn took a breather after six overs (2-29) but that did not help the visitors much. Gareth Berg nipped in with a couple of wickets and then, at 101 for five, Mike Yardy inexplicably pulled Toby Roland-Jones straight to deep square leg.

This looks like being over before tea because, at lunch, Sussex are not yet halfway towards clearing the first innings arrears of 208.

12.40pm Paul Edwards at Durham v Lancashire

The rain had stopped but has now started again. We are having an early lunch. These do not seem to me to be good drying conditions.

Weather like brings out the amateur meteorologists in abundance: Where’s this come from? Why wasn’t it forecast? When will it stop? The predictive sequence on one website suggests that the threat of rain will move away from this immediate area at 1.30pm. We have the rather bizarre prospect of a match a generally low-scoring, bowler-dominated game ending in a run-chase….or a fourth-day washout…. Happy days are here again.

11.55am: Jon Culley at Worcestershire v Somerset

This is not remotely news to anyone but I can confirm that the M5 on a Bank Holiday weekend is not to be recommended. Not that I was on it anyway, after I'd worked out a detour around Redditch. I can now add Freckenham and Inkberrow to the list of villages I've admired while watching the clock move unhesitatingly towards 11 o'clock and accepting there is not a cat in hell's chance of witnessing the first ball of the day.

In my absence, Somerset failed in their presumed objective of claiming a third batting bonus point. They were all out for 298. Jack Shantry, the left-arm seamer, finished with 5-58, which is not a career-best but is only his second five-for. I'm here now and Daryl Mitchell has been dropped first ball off Peter Trego. Not that this is going anywhere...

11.55am: David Lloyd at Middlesex v Sussex

Finn has needed a few balls to find his range at the start of just about every spell during this match. But when he does find it... The big man’s 10th delivery of the day took Nash’s inside edge and flew well wide of diving keeper John Simpson. The 11th, though, could hardly have been better – a fast yorker that ripped through the opener’s defence to rearrange the stumps.

An England-bound fast bowler warming to his task was hardly what Murray Goodwin needed. The 39-year-old Zimbabwean is having a horrible season, and it hasn’t got any better here with Finn having him caught at second slip for five.

That was Goodwin’s ninth single figure score in 11 championship innings. Finn, meanwhile, has taken all three wickets to fall – and Sussex are still 130-odd behind.

11.15am Paul Edwards at Durham v Lancashire

Early drizzle at Chester-le-Street has prevented a prompt start. Estimates as to when it will cease vary from “quite soon” to four in the afternoon. When it does stop Durham’s attack may be handicapped by a wet ball, but otherwise the conditions seem conducive to swing, and the wicket was still aiding the skilful yesterday evening. We’ve all been there before, though; when the game does get under way, the ball doesn’t deviate either in the air or off the pitch

Despite the weather affecting three days of this contest, it has been a cracking game as both counties scramble for their first four-day win of the season. For the moment, though, the die-hards are huddled under their umbrellas and the players are in the indoor nets.

11.05am: David Lloyd at Middlesex v Sussex

No Royal correspondents here so I guess that means HM is not popping in to Lord’s on her way to Epsom. But – and this is a big but – there are TWO national newspaper cricket correspondents on view. It could be they are here to watch Chris Nash bat. On the other hand, maybe strong suggestions that Steve Finn is set to play for England at Edgbaston on Thursday, in place of Jimmy Anderson, has created a bit of extra interest.

Anyway, the really good news is that early morning rain has cleared to allow a prompt start. Sussex, 174 behind going into the final day, must try to bat it out. Finn, and the rest of Middlesex’s attack, will have other plans.

10.15am: Alan Gardner with the morning call

Diamond Jubilees don't come around all that often - though Lancashire have won at least a couple of Championships since the last one - but while the nation gets itself in a binge-drinking and double-bubble-bank-holiday-induced froth, there's still cricket to be played. What chance Her Maj stopping by Lord's to see if Middlesex can complete the job against Sussex? Or taking a corgi chariot to Somerset, whereby she could bestow her congrats on 1,000-run man Nick Compton (as well as commiserations that he was a day late)? Not high, I guess. But the empire game doesn't need royal patronage these days - cricket's court is in the east and Shah Rukh Khan is its Sun King. Or something ...

Anyway, in the background to a lot of posh people hobnobbing around London, there are still four Championship games to be decided today, including a humdinger of a contest at Chester-le-Street between ninth-placed Durham and seventh-placed Lancashire - like two members of the gentry fallen on hard times, they are battling over the discarded apple core that is a first win of the season. The two-day tour match between Leicestershire and the West Indians also gets underway - will this sceptred isle finally get a glimpse of Sunil Narine (actually, I don't know if he's even in the country yet but it's more fun to dream)?

We've got a full batch of match report from yesterday on our county page, so draw the curtains, put a bullet through the TV and join the Republic of Cricket for the day. Or just talk about your fond memories of the Queen's coronation below the line, it's up to you.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo