July 15, 2012

LV= County Championship, Sunday July 15

Jon Culley

2.40pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Worcestershire

Steven Croft is enjoying the sort of fortnight that cricketers dream about. Having hit a century in Lancashire’s drawn match at Guildford a week ago, he has marked his surprise inclusion in England’s provisional squad for the World Twenty20 tournament with three wickets and two catches to leave Worcestershire struggling by mid-afternoon on the opening day at Old Trafford.

Having battled to 40 without loss after winning the toss, Worcestershire’s innings has unfolded facing the left-arm spin of Simon Kerrigan from the Statham End and Croft’s occasional off-spin from the Pavilion End, which is sadly disguised by scaffolding while the refurbishment project continues.

They lost six wickets for 53 runs either side of lunch with Lancashire starting the afternoon session particularly impressively. Croft struck in the second over of the session with Moeen Ali edging to slip and then prompting Vikram Solanki, normally one of the sweetest strikers of the ball on the county circuit, to slice horribly to backward point.

He also excelled in the field, taking two catches off successive deliveries at leg slip off Kerrigan to dismiss James Cameron and Gareth Andrew. Ben Scott blocked the hat-trick ball, but Worcestershire’s decision to bat first is looking increasingly suspect at 125 for six.

2.30pm:Nigel Gardner at Derbyshire v YorkshireBack on here where the groundstaff have again worked wonders in mopping up the outfield after yet another downpour – the jet stream clearly hasn’t moved far enough north yet. The umpires also deserve credit for restarting so promptly because there are still some damp, muddy areas but the sun is out now and hopefully we won’t get any more rain because the match is nicely poised. The pitch has done a bit for the bowlers but it’s a decent one for batting on as Phil Jaques has just demonstrated by off- driving Mark Turner for four, a shot that was greeted with a ‘toot, toot’ on the whistle of the miniature train that runs around the boating lake at the far end of this delightful ground.

6.10pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Sussex

Warwickshire are top of the table now, having reduced Sussex to 182-9 for maximum bonus points plus three for the draw, which will be completed very soon. Full report to follow...

5pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Sussex

Happily the game has come back to life again with two wickets in six balls, Murray Goodwin caught superbly at short midwicket by Will Porterfield off the irrepressible Clarke and Matt Prior taken easily at mid-on by Jim Troughton with what looked like a disinterested slog off Patel. And Wells, on 24, has just been dropped at midwicket by Bell off Clarke, not easy but catchable for a man of his calibre. Warwicks have 21 overs to get two more wickets and draw level with Notts at the top.

4.40pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Sussex

This match was always going to end as a draw but after what went on earlier you rather hoped it would reach that point in something other than the slow drift that usually takes hold on the last day of a rain-affected match. Sadly, after Warwickshire's exhilarating rush to 400-8 and a five-point batting bonus, Sussex have not really entered into the spirit of things with their reply. No one expected reckless abandon with nothing much to gain but 87-2 from 25 overs has felt a bit tame by comparison, particularly since they were 26-0 after three. Since tea, 35 have been scored from 12 overs.

3.50pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Sussex

Funny where a conversation can take you. We were talking, here in the Edgbaston press gallery, about whether Darren Pattinson, the Aussie from Grimsby who famously played one Test for England in 2008, would be turning out for Notts against Surrey in the Championship this week. This, naturally, led us into the subject of fish and chips and a racking of brains trying to remember the name of (allegedly) the best fish and chip shop in Cleethorpes, which by common consensus is Steel's.

You can follow Steel's on Twitter. You might wonder what purpose a Twitter feed might possibly serve for a fish and chip shop but had you logged on this afternoon you would have learned that there was a mid-afternoon lull but that staff were expecting to be busy again between five and 7.30. Fascinating stuff.

Here, as tweeted by @CulleyCricket, Sussex are 52-2 at tea and there are 37 overs left in the day for Warwickshire to get some bowling bonus points to go with their five for batting.

3pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Sussex

Warwickshire's pursuit of bonus points turned out to be jolly exciting in the end and indeed a brilliant effort, given that from 175-3 when play resumed they achieved not only the four batting points you suspected they might just get, with the wind behind them, but the full five.

And they did it with four balls to spare, for good measure, reaching 400 off the second delivery of the 110th over when Jeetan Patel cleverly lifted a ball from Steve Magoffin over the slip area for four. Warwickshire thus added 225 off 44.2 overs today, including 61 off the last 6.2 overs as they chased down their target.

At the heart of it was a superb unbeaten 110 from Rikki Clarke off just 105 balls, an innings that included 15 fours and two sixes, the second of which, lofted back over the head of off-spinner Chris Nash, took him from 99 to 105. It was his third century in the Championship this season, although he was dropped on the long-on boundary on 71 by the Sussex substitute fielder, Michael Rippon.

Skipper Jim Troughton declared at 400-8, which left Sussex with 49 overs to squeeze out such batting bonus points as they can accrue, with Warwickshire needing two -- six wickets -- to draw level on points with First Division leaders Nottinghamshire, with a game in hand.

1.25pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Sussex

Warwickshire's productivity so far amounts to two batting points, although a third is but seven runs away when play restarts after lunch. Taking into account the less than wild assumption that this match finishes in a draw, Nottinghamshire can take is as read, therefore, that their lead at the top of Division One is effectively five points as things stand, and shortly to be four.

I suspect Warwickshire, with two big-hitters in tandem in Rikki Clarke and Chris Woakes, will have a crack at a fourth batting point, which could be fun. Clarke is unbeaten on 52 from 66 balls with eight boundaries so far. The third man out this morning, which means Sussex also have two bonus points, was Jim Troughton, who looked cross with himself when a slash outside off stump to James Anyon had him caught at first slip, but need not have been. His 81 from 177 balls is comfortably his highest score in the Championship this season. Indeed he had managed only 50 runs in total in nine previous innings.

The fluffy clouds of earlier have danced away now, giving way to a rather more threatening layer of grey. Light rain is forecast for two o'clock-ish on the BBC website. Today is St Swithin's Day, and you know what that means...

12.15pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Sussex

What remains of this match is likely to be only an exercise in gathering bonus points, which in normal circumstances would make a yawn hard to suppress. Today, though, it seems almost an intriguing prospect. How close can Warwickshire get to the First Division leaders, Nottinghamshire, in the overs available to bat and bowl?

So far, from a starting point of 175-3, they have cut their title rivals' advantage from 10 points to nine, at 244-5, but Rikki Clarke looks in the mood to improve that situation rapidly, especially with the new ball offering some welcome pace off the bat to set against an unsurprisingly slow outfield.

Sussex's Aussie pace bowler Steve Magoffin is giving Clarke and Jim Troughton few easy pickings, however, bowling good and straight. James Anyon, formerly of this parish, has been offering a bit more scope.

The two wickets to fall came in two balls, from Monty Panesar, who came in for a bit of hammer from Darren Maddy but took his revenge with one that skidded through without bouncing much and trapped him leg before. The next delivery turned and bounced more and Tim Ambrose jabbed it straight to Michael Yardy at slip.

Monty is waiting for his next call now, with figures of 4-78, giving him 21 wickets for the season to remind the England selectors that he is still interested in playing a part. Troughton is 71 not out, his best of the season, and Clarke has 22.

10.55am: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Sussex

Whoohoo! After two days of nothing, play is about to start on time at Edgbaston. The sun is out, moreover, and while it would be misleading to suggest it is warm or that there are not a lot of clouds in the sky they are generally of the big, fluffy friendly variety that we shouldn't have to worry about.

For those who may have been away on a mini-break since this match began, Warwickshire were 175-3 when rain intervened last Thursday, with Jim Troughton, the captain, unbeaten on 42, which is his highest score of the season. It would be a surprise if the day were not an exercise in gathering bonus points but it will be a bonus just to see cricket.

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