July 18, 2012

LV= County Championship, Wednesday July 18

6.47pm:Nigel Gardner at Derbyshire v Yorkshire Funny old game, this cricket

6.47pm:Nigel Gardner at Derbyshire v Yorkshire Funny old game, this cricket. After a first spell that should have carried an x certificate, Steve Harmison has just put Yorkshire right back in this top of the table contest with 3 for 0 in 11 balls. None of his victims were prised out by unplayable deliveries but after bowling five wides and two no balls in his opening three overs, the 33-year-old will not care how the wickets come. Derbyshire will probably be wondering how they got out to him after Jon Clare chased one he should have ignored to be caught behind and then Wes Durston went after another widish ball and edged to second slip. At least David Wainwright got a decent bouncer which he helped around to long leg where Moin Ashraf took a well judged catch just inside the ropes. It means seventeen wickets have fallen so far and this on a pitch which is not a poor one by any means. Never mind the pitch inspector, send for the batting inspector.

5.45pm: Nigel Gardner at Derbyshire v Yorkshire Sad to report more problems for Steve Harmison. He bowled only three overs at the start of Derbyshire’s reply and they did not make for pretty viewing. His fourth ball was a wide and he bowled four more, one of them was so wayward it shot away down the leg side to the boundary. There were also two no balls in a spell that cost 27. It was no surprise when he was removed from the attack. Since then, Yorkshire have hit back by taking three Derbyshire wickets including Australian batsman Usman Khawaja who was bowled driving loosely at Moin Ashraf.

5.20pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Surrey

Floodlights won't be needed. Just waterproof shoes. Off for the day at Trent Bridge. A few hefty showers is all it takes at the moment. But it's goodbye jet stream, hello Azores High next week, apparently, so all will be well again soon.

5.10pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Surrey

It has been stop-start at Trent Bridge, although at least it is an improvement on stop-stop. The players are off after the heaviest downpour so far, the third break for rain. There are rumbles of thunder but the clouds keep blowing through quickly and if light becomes an issue later this ground can use floodlights at any time.

Between the showers, Chris Read and Adam Voges have restored order to the Notts innings with an unbroken partnership of 94 that has been interrupted four times, including lunch. From 84-5 this morning, Notts are 178-5.

Read is well familiar with going in at five down for not too many and the Australian batsman Voges has passed this way often enough to have become accustomed to it too. They have rattled along, in keeping with the pace of the innings overall, scoring their runs off 108 balls. Read has 49 from 63 balls with eight fours. The Notts skipper clocked up 11,000 first-class runs for the county during the match against Middlesex at Uxbridge last week.

4.45 pm:Ivo Tennant at Somerset v Warwickshire

Too much rain has fallen for any more play today. And more forecast.

4.15pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Worcestershire.

There were many inside Old Trafford, not least in the press box, who doubted the sanity of Worcestershire’s decision to bat first in overcast conditions after winning the toss. They were facing a Lancashire attack including notable seamers like Glen Chapple and Ajmal Shahzad and it was assumed they would have plenty of bowling for the majority of the opening day.

Instead, Worcestershire’s decision has almost been vindicated after recovering to reach 193 for six at tea after slipping to 93 for six. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the day was that Lancashire’s envied seam attack were peripheral figures, with Steven Croft’s occasional off-spin and the left-arm spin of Simon Kerrigan prompting a collapse of five for 37 in 11 overs.

Since that collapse, the sun has come out and helped ease the conditions for Ben Scott and Matthew Pardoe to build a determined century stand that has almost defied logic. They managed to battle through 26 successive overs of spin, with both slow bowlers extracting turn, before Lancashire reverted to seam bowling and struggled to make the breakthrough.

All in all it has been a fascinating contest between two sides battling to preserve their status in the first division. It has been watched by a small crowd, although Lancashire believe the pessimistic weather forecast – thunder storms were predicted earlier in the week – may have discouraged some from attending. That may have been the case, but it is doubtful they would have faced a huge queue for the return of championship cricket to Old Trafford, no matter what the weather.

4.10pm: Ivo Tennant at Somerset v Warwickshire

And still the rain falls on the beloved west country. So much so this summer that the long established Bristol Youth Cricket League has taken to playing indoor cricket for the first time. Which first-class ground will be the first to have a roof over it in the manner of Wimbledon?

3pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Surrey

The England selectors are plainly as confident as the bookmakers that Nottinghamshire are the new force in Twenty20, naming six of their team in the provisional squad for the World Twenty20, adding the names of Taylor, Hales and Lumb to those of Patel, Swann and Broad. No county has as large a contingent. Next come Surrey and Yorkshire with four each. Read more here...

Notts are so seriously intent on qualifying for finals day in Cardiff next month they have gone into this match without Darren Pattinson, who you would generally expect to be an important component, when fit, of their Championship attack, specifically to keep him fit for the T20 quarter-final against Hampshire next Wednesday.

Meanwhile there has been an interruption for rain at Trent Bridge. Been off for 50 minutes and it got a bit heavier just when it looked like it was clearing up. Notts are 147-5 (35.4). Tea at 3.10pm and restart at 3.30pm all being well, but skies to right put that in doubt.

2.50pm: 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.

2.40pm: Nigel Gardner at Derbyshire v Yorkshire

Back 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.

2.20pm: Ivo Tennant at Somerset v Warwickshire

It is not just the rain which is causing problems at Taunton. The electronic scoreboards have been problematical all season. One does not work at all and has not yet been replaced and the other worked intermittently this morning. That is not much use if you are planning to stage one day internationals here, as Somerset hope to do.

1.40pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Worcestershire

A spinner’s lot in county cricket can be a difficult one. Take Simon Kerrigan, Lancashire’s highly-rated left-armer, who had the misfortune to come across a motivated Kevin Pietersen at Guildford last week, who hit seven sixes off him and left him with figures of one for 152 off only 23 overs.

With that experience in mind, it must have taken a big leap of faith for Glen Chapple, Lancashire’s captain, to throw him the ball in only the 12th over of today’s championship against Worcestershire. His faith was rewarded with Kerrigan dismissing Daryl Mitchell to a low catch at short gully mid-way through an impressive spell.

His success prompted Chapple to combine Kerrigan with Steven Croft’s off-spin shortly before lunch, who ended a disciplined innings from Phil Hughes, Worcestershire’s attack-minded opener. The cuts and pulls we are used to seeing with him at the crease were resisted apart from an early swish or two and instead he showed great respect to the overhead conditions. He hit only two boundaries in the first 50 balls he faced but, in the final over before lunch, he fell lbw to Croft attempting to force through mid-wicket after scoring a pedestrian 32 from 79 balls, including only four boundaries.

1.15pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Surrey

Here at Trent Bridge, they tend not to see any point in a 400 plays 400 wicket and five down at lunch on the opening day is nothing unusual. Notts have been on the wrong end of the vagaries of this strip but they have also scored 118 against a mixed bag of Surrey bowling and if Chris Read and Adam Voges can hang around for a while this afternoon they may end up with a decent score for the conditions, although one more quick wicket puts Surrey squarely on top. Voges, moreover, has already had one life, put down at third slip on five. But he and Read have added 34 in five overs, pushing the scoring rate for the morning back above four an over after a rip-roaring start by Riki Wessels was tempered by the loss of Hales, Lumb and Patel in rapid order.

The pitch has some green on it, which is fair enough, but the variable bounce is making some balls impossible to read and certainly played a key part in the demise of Lumb and James Taylor. Bizarrely, speaking from an entirely selfish platform as someone paid by the day, a bit of rain would not go amiss. The hover cover has been moved to the edge of the square during the interval but so far it is dry. If what has happened so far is a guide, Saturday could be a day off.

1.10pm: Nigel Gardner at Derbyshire v Yorkshire

Lunch here and Jonny Bairstow did not get through the morning session. He hit five fours in his 27 which came off 32 balls but he rode his luck and Derbyshire were convinced he was caught behind off Jon Clare when what sounded like an inside edge was pouched by the ‘keeper but he stood his ground and Peter Hartley did not raise the finger. In the end, it didn’t matter because he was out in the next over without adding to his score when an inside edge off Tony Palladino took out his middle stump.

David Wainwright was given the last over before the interval against his former team mates and just completed it before the rain which was forecast arrived leaving puddles near the boundary edge in front of the pavilion. The storm has now passed but the restart could be delayed

12.35pm: Nigel Gardner at Derbyshire v Yorkshire

All eyes are on Jonny Bairstow here after Tim Groenewald nipped out both openers in the first hour. He will be hoping he doesn’t get a ball like the one that did for Adam Lyth who did well to edge one that lifted and left him to give Richard Johnson, on loan from Warwickshire, his first Championship victim for Derbyshire.

Bairstow started well enough after his duck against Hampshire last week and drove his third ball sweetly down the ground to the steps of the timber-framed pavilion. Since then he has looked less convincing and was lucky when an attempted cut at Jonathan Clare went between the wicketkeeper and first slip. A mistimed pull in the same over would almost certainly have ended in the hands of midwicket if Derbyshire had put one in place but instead if brought him another four so perhaps this could be his day.

It’s certainly one of the last on the circuit this season for umpire Sunderan Ravi who is standing in his final first-class match as part of an exchange deal that saw Tim Robinson umpire in India last year. He has just seen the ball whistle past him at square leg as Bairstow pulled Clare for another boundary.

12.25pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Surrey

It's been a bit of an odd morning so far, all boundaries and wickets. There have been 13 of the former and four of the latter, which Surrey will feel well pleased with, having stuck Notts in. With some grass on the pitch, Notts would have inserted too, no doubt, and there is some variable bounce too.

After Wessels was caught at slip for a breezy but perhaps inappropriate 23 off 23 balls, Hales managed to play a ball into the ground and on to his stumps going back to defend against a delivery from Jon Lewis that maybe bounced more than he expected, then Michael Lumb, facing Chris Jordan from the pavilion end, got only half forward to a ball that kept a touch low and was leg before. Samit Patel, having matched Lumb by smacking his first ball for four, enabled Stewart Meaker to become the fourth seamer to take a wicket when he tried to flick away an innocuous leg-side delivery and managed only to help it through to 'keeper Steve Davies.

From 35-0 after five overs, Notts are 69-4 after 20. James Taylor has struggled to read the pitch but he has just helped himself to four past point.

12pm: Ivo Tennant at Somerset v Warwickshire

Play is underway in the gloaming following a delayed start - which is more than could be said for the opening day of Marcus Trescothick's comeback attempt in Somerset's second XI against Essex. It was rained off. All you need when trying to test out an inkle injury after missing most of the season.

11.35am: Ivo Tennant at Somerset v Warwickshire

Guy Lavender, the Somerset chief executive, is reflecting before the delayed start on the financial return of the Elton John concert held on the County Ground last month. "Difficult to say at the moment but definitely five figures not six. In our case a modest profit in return for minimal risk reflecting the arrangements we had made with the promoter. Ticket sales and corporate hospitality were lower than we would have liked reflecting; the economy, he has been here before, most business were stood down for the Jubilee weekend and there are lots of other things on. Still a very worthwhile event for the Club."

11.25am: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Surrey

These sides lock horns only three days since Notts beat Surrey comfortably in the CB40 at Guildford, since which time Notts have beaten Hampshire with equal ease in the same competition and Surrey have been contemplating how they might secure their first win in the Championship since the opening round of games.

They are hoping to do it here by leaving out Gareth Batty with Murali Kartik the only spinner. Chris Tremlett, who made his four-day comeback against Lancashire last week, where he bowled 27 overs in a rain-restricted match (what other kind is there?) but is considered not ready yet for another first-class game so soon, following back surgery.

Zander de Bruyn captains the side for the first time, Batty having been the stand-in for Rory Hamilton-Brown, who is on indefinite leave. Kevin Pietersen being back with England after his double-hundred against Lancashire, there are three changes in all. Chris Jordan and Tim Linley return with Matt Spriegel making his first Championship match of the season. Jade Dernbach remains injured.

Notts are unchanged as they seek to maintain the two-horse race developing between themselves and Warwickshire. They are unbeaten in their first nine matches in the Championship, a feat last matched in 1937.

Openers Riki Wessels and Alex Hales made a blistering start for Notts after Surrey won the toss and put them in, capitalising on some woefully inaccurate early bowling. Of the first 39 runs, 32 have come in boundaries, but Wessels has just gone, caught at first slip off Linley for 23 off the same number of balls.

11.15am: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Worcestershire

Good morning from Old Trafford, where the ground staff have worked wonders this morning to ensure a start at 11.30am despite heavy rain yesterday. Given the overcast conditions, it is perhaps a surprise that Worcestershire have decided to bat first after winning the toss.

We have a small cluster of spectators, who are still out-numbered by workmen in high-visibility vests, for a match of some importance for both teams. Lancashire have named an unchanged team following their high-scoring draw at Guildford last week, while Worcestershire have replaced Jack Shantry with Shaaiq Choudhry.

Worcestershire are looking for their first championship win of the summer, but famously beat Lancashire at New Road with three matches remaining last season to ensure they stayed in division one. Lancashire, the reigning champions, only have one win to their name themselves, but are unbeaten in six matches and look high in confidence.

The redevelopment continues at some pace here at Old Trafford and the new dressing rooms/media centre opposite the old pavilion seems the main focus of the efforts at present. Complimentary bacon sandwiches have been given to the media present here today, which is always a good start to a championship match.

10.55am: Nigel Gardner at Derbyshire v Yorkshire

The good news from Queen’s Park is the game is due to start on time which is a tribute to the efforts of the groundstaff after further torrential rain here on Monday. They also have another task at this lovely tree-ringed ground which is clearing the outfield of deposits left by the Canada Geese who make the park their home during what masquerades as an English summer. In the past, the park rangers have operated a ‘goose patrol’ using a working dog to control them but a fence has now been erected to try and keep them away from the playing area. Judging by the underfoot conditions on the way in from the car park, this has not been entirely successful so the goose patrol could yet be back on the Queen’s Park beat.

The result of the toss has just been announced and, despite what looks like bowler-friendly conditions, Yorkshire have decided to bat which could mean an early examination for Jonny Bairstow against a good Derbyshire seam attack. Steve Harmison will be hoping his radar is more accurate on his second Championship appearance for Yorkshire in what is Derbyshire’s 400th first-class match at Chesterfield.

10am: Alex Winter brightens up your week

There may be a small Test series about to begin but it can compare not to the drama of the County Championship. England v South Africa is also just the one match in the same place but we have six contests starting today and another getting underway tomorrow for you to be enthralled by.

Last week the rain wiped out a result everywhere but yesterday a fabulous win by Glamorgan might have slipped under the radar. A couple of forfeited innings set up the chance of 16 points and it was Glamorgan who grabbed them with a fine effort in pursuit of 351 – they got there with five balls to spare. A fabulous chase and their first four-day win of the season.

The victory takes Glamorgan off the bottom of the Championship and leaves Leicestershire wondering if they can conjure up enough points in the remaining games to avoid the wooden spoon again. They travel to Cheltenham today to face Gloucestershire.

The other match in Division Two is at another splendid outground – Queen’s Park, Chesterfield is host to a huge clash at the top of the table between Derbyshire and Yorkshire and Nigel Gardner (no relation of our Monty before you ask) will be there for us. If the hosts can win that game they will believe that they are good enough to go up this season. If they lose, it will mean two defeats in three after an unbeaten start and suddenly their excellent April and May will begin to erode away, particularly if Hampshire can beat Essex, starting tomorrow at Chelmsford. In Division One the game of the week is down at Taunton where Somerset play Warwickshire. The Bears showed excellent form in getting much the better of a draw against Sussex last week and can take a move away from the middle pack of teams with a win. Somerset, for all their injury troubles, could potentially end the week top of the table with a win. Ivo Tennant will bring us the scoop from the Westcountry.

Up the M5 and M6, Myles Hodgson will be describing Lancashire against Worcestershire at Old Trafford. The visitors looking for a first win in the competition and have Alan Richardson back fit too. Jon Culley is at Trent Bridge where my banker of the week is for Nottinghamshire to beat Surrey – shorn of Kevin Pietersen of course. And the other game in the division is at my second-favourite outground, Arundel, where Sussex entertain Durham.

Plenty to shout about in the next four or five days, the weather is also expected to improve as the week goes on, so get involved, tweet using #countycricket, comment below and rejoice in our wonderful game.

And while your waiting for play to begin, have a listen to the latest edition of Switch Hit where we discuss the Pietersen saga, South Africa and Matthew Mott potentially leaving Glamorgan to coach New Zealand.