July 28, 2012

LV= County Championship, Saturday July 28

5.30pm: Les Smith at Durham v Middlesex

5.30pm: Les Smith at Durham v Middlesex

Since the rain break this match has not exactly been transformed, but Durham have at least given Middlesex something to think about in the fourth innings. At the resumption Durham were in a perilous place at 119-7, but Scott Borthwick and Callum Thorp came out bullishly and added 60 in eight overs. Thorp went first, but Borthwick continued to bat inventively with his last two partners, and was undefeated at the close of the innings.

So Middlesex need 118 runs to win. Each successive innings score so far has been the best of the match, suggesting that they should achieve that comfortably, but Durham, who at times yesterday appeared dispirited in the field, will be buoyed by this afternoon’s mini-revival. They also have Graham Onions, Ben Stokes and Callum Thorp in their attack. Onions is about to bowl the first ball.

4.50pm: Paul Edwards at Leicestershire v Yorkshire

Suddenly Yorkshire are in command. Having done the hard miles in the afternoon session, both Lyth and Bairstow have reached their centuries and the first innings deficit is just 29 runs.

Lyth’s has been a massive effort of concentration whereas Bairstow has chanced his arm on occasions but is now treating Hoggard’s attack with disdain. Even Lyth is playing reverse sweeps, having earned the freedom to do so. Since tea the pair have scored 81 runs in 14 overs and the Foxes attack is looking ragged. The new ball is due in seven overs, and if it is taken, Henderson will surely get a rest. The slow left armer has bowled unchanged from the Pavilion End since the 12th over. Yorkshire 291 for three.

4pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Sussex

Notts went to tea at 323-3 after a session that has seen Michael Lumb and James Taylor add 125 with no wickets lost, Lumb moving on to 138. Taylor completed his half-century by hooking James Anyon into the New Stand for six.

The New Stand -- the one on the Bridgford Road side with a roof a bit like an open clam shell -- is four years old this year. Not so new, in other words. It remains the New Stand, however, in the hope that some company or other might yet cough up the necessary for naming rights.

It might be a forlorn hope in the current climate. The thought occurs that Sir Garfield Sobers, who is 76 today, might deserve commemorating on a grander scale than is currently the case. One of the indoor nets is called the Sobers Hall and there is a Sobers Waiting Area next to the Radcliffe Road reception (which always provokes mirth in those who wonder where you might wait if you've had a few...) but neither of those really does him justice.

3.30pm: Les Smith at Durham v Middlesex

It’s been Durham’s misfortune to face this crucial phase of play at a time when the weather has changed. Shortly before the Middlesex innings ended the temperature dipped noticeably, then a strong breeze blew up bringing with it increasingly thick cloud. It’s possible that this was meticulously planned by Chris Rogers, employing some mystical ability to triangulate tactics, weather instinct, and ruthlessness when he won the toss yesterday morning. More likely, Durham have been very unlucky.

That’s not to say that Middlesex haven’t outplayed Durham, because they have. Having established a lead which in other circumstances might not have been too intimidating, Middlesex have been able to work themselves into an apparently invincible position by exploiting the combination of bowler-friendly conditions and Durham’s confidence deficit. Steven Finn bowled the first over of the afternoon session and with the second ball yorked Gordon Muchall. Durham’s key middle order batsmen all made starts of sorts before being dismissed. Seventh man out was Michael Richardson at 3.19pm, and at 3.20pm the rain came down heavily. The covers are still on. When the players return Durham’s lead will be 36.

3.45pm: George Dobell at Warwickshire v Surrey

Surrey will have to score 422 just to avoid the follow-on. Warwickshire took their first innings total to 571 with Jeetan Patel contributing a jaunty 76 and Chris Woakes recording the sixth first-class century of his career. He now has a higher batting average than any of his Warwickshire teammates in this game.

The pitch is flat but Surrey may reflect that they made life too easy for the hosts. They contributed 60 in extras, including 34 in no-balls, with the nadir of their fielding performance coming when Meaker, on the long-on boundary, failed to pick up the ball from Patel and allowed it to cross the boundary just a few feet to his right.

Patel and Woakes added 127 for the ninth wicket before Patel top-edged a slog-sweep and was caught and bowled. Boyd Rankin was then dismissed after his bat diverted the ball into the path of Meaker, the bowler, who was able to complete a simple run out.

3.15pm: Paul Edwards at Leicestershire v Yorkshire

Yorkshire are gradually establishing a position of strength here but their position is not completely secure. After losing Gale, who carelessly cut Henderson to Sarwan at backward point five overs after lunch, Bairstow and Lyth have added 74 in 21 overs. The discarded England batsman has made 53 of them and has taken the game to the bowlers at every opportunity. A drive and an edged sweep took him to his half- century. Lyth is 84.

All the same, there has been enough variable bounce, particularly for Henderson from the Pavilion End, to indicate that judgements about this wicket may need to be revised. Leicestershire may be leaking runs at nearly four an over but they are not bowling like a side without hope of making a breakthrough. Bairstow’s attacking style is encouraging them, too. Yorkshire 186 for three, 134 behind.

2.55pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Sussex

Trent Bridge's tradition for pitches -- and atmospheric conditions -- that favour the bowler led some to question whether moving to Nottinghamshire is the wisest option for a batsman looking to further his career. Michael Lumb is doing his best to disprove that notion. His century in this match is his third since he moved from Hampshire over the winter, two of which have been on his new home ground.

Indeed, this is his third first-class hundred on the ground, which was the scene of his highest score to date -- 219 -- for Hampshire, three years ago. This innings has taken him beyond 800 first-class runs for the season.

James Taylor, with whom he is batting now, has yet to enjoy similar success since switching from Leicestershire as the second of Nottinghamshire's major off-season recruits. After prospering against Division Two bowling, it seemed to make sense for him to be tested at a higher level but he still has a few doubters to convince after scoring only 328 runs in the Championship before this match, of which140 have come in six innings at Trent Bridge.

Notts are 276-3 after 79 overs, with Lumb 112 and Taylor 35. Their stand is worth 92 so far. Monty has bowled right through since lunch. He is getting some turn but not for the first time he is not helping himself with some over-optimistic appealing.

1.30pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Sussex

Monty is getting some help from the pitch and Chris Nash, bowling off spin at the Radcliffe Road end, took a wicket with his fifth ball and a big one, too, finding the edge of Samit Patel's bat to bring an entertaining innings of 43 off 67 balls to a close. The England batsman dealt largely in boundaries, seven of them after Luke Wright reckoned he had him caught behind.

Michael Lumb is still there on 69. James Taylor probably needs a score but if he can get it today then Notts will be in a strong position. As it is they lead by 27 at lunch with seven wickets in hand.

It has turned a little cooler and cloudier here but after the savaging I suffered courtesy of the midges or mossies or whatever was biting in my garden last night maybe that's not a bad thing.

1.15pm: Paul Edwards at Leicestershire v Yorkshire

Yorkshire have reached 95 for two at lunch off 26 overs. Lyth, after making starts in previous innings but failing to capitalise upon them, has reached 50 in a Championship match for the first time in six innings this season. He added 68 in 17 overs with Phil Jaques before the Australian top-edged a pull off Buck to Boyce at deep backward square-leg.

At lunch there was a great gathering of Leicestershire supporters in front of the pavilion to watch the renaming of a suite after the former Leicestershire and Yorkshire skipper Ray Illingworth. The great leader was on the ground, as was Dickie Bird, who also played for both these counties. There will be no shortage of opinions over the lunch table.

1.05pm: George Dobell at Warwickshire v Surrey

Surrey struck with the final ball, but Warwickshire dominated the first session of the second day and may just have built themselves a match-winning platform.

Jim Troughton, with his second century in successive championship matches, and Chris Woakes, with a typically elegant half-century extended their overnight partnership to 122, before falling on the stroke of lunch poking at one outside off stump and edging to the keeper.

Both batted well: Troughton, whose century took 231 balls, was disciplined and defensive, while Woakes has been more aggressive and fluent.

Surrey have not helped themselves, though. They have contributed 53 extras and Gareth Batty, at slip, put down Troughton on 108 when he fended off a short one from Chris Jordan. Jordan has continued to bowl relentlessly short.

1.05pm: Les Smith at Durham v Middlesex

Middlesex have struck early, as they did yesterday morning. Murtagh and Finn each have a wicket, and at lunch Durham have a deficit of 59 runs.

12.50pm: Les Smith at Durham v Middlesex

This has the potential to be a very significant day for either or both of these teams, who for very different reasons need points out of this match. Middlesex started the morning looking to extend the lead they established yesterday evening, while Durham needed to take the remaining three wickets quickly if they were to set a challenging target for the fourth innings. Little wonder, then, that we had a cagey first hour.

Ben Stokes carried on as he left off yesterday, probing menacingly at pace. Tim Murtagh will testify to that, having been clattered on the head ducking into a short one, but he soldiered on and it was Stokes’ partners Graham Onions and Callum Thorp who eventually saw Middlesex off for 185, a lead of 83.

In the pavilion stand conversation ranged over a fascinating range of subjects, including the relative value of shopping at Morrison’s and Tesco (with particular reference to packaged cakes), how to tell before purchase whether a birthday card will be charged by Royal Mail as a letter or a large letter, and whether David Beckham should have been selected to play in the competition which must not be named. It seems very likely that over the next couple of hours of play, the cricket will be sufficiently riveting to steer discussion back to the matter at hand.

12.25pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Sussex

I tend to agree with George and Paul that too much is made of bad language. If a red card was shown for every profanity uttered on a football field there would be scarcely a player left at the end; some referees would have to dismiss themselves as well. There is some horrible hypocrisy attached to the issue, too, particularly when members of our own profession, which is hardly known for temperate language, come over all holier than thou at some public figure's choice of phrase.

But consideration should be given to context and circumstances. I have friends who use some of the supposed taboo words so routinely I barely notice; they are simply convenient, all-purpose adjectives. And Peter Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker character in The Thick of It would not be funny if he weren't so outrageously blue.

Yet when I heard a mother berating her six-year-old child in a supermarket the other day using precisely the same words I found it offensive. And I do think that a cricketer delivering a verbal volley by way of a send-off should think about what he says and the way he says it and who might overhear.

Luke Wright may well have had something to say to Samit Patel, for example, after an enormous appeal for caught behind failed to bring the desired answer. It was a legside ball that certainly appeared to take a deflection off something on the way through to Ben Brown but Patel left it to Jeff Evans to decide what and he ruled in the batsman's favour. Anything he did say, though, was audible only in the middle.

Patel was on eight at the time. He is now 37 and Nottinghamshire have overtaken Sussex at 173-2. Lumb is 60. Mark Robinson, the Sussex coach, might have some colourful opinions on 22 runs given away in no-balls.

12.05pm: George Dobell at Warwickshire v Surrey

Here is a rather wonderful statistic about Chris Woakes: aged just 23, he has already scored as many or more championship centuries - four - as Eoin Morgan (three), William Porterfield (two) or Jonny Bairstow (also four). Woakes can bowl, too, so perhaps his ambition to bat at six or seven in the England Test team is not as far-fetched as some think. Quite a few Warwickshire regulars feel he may, in time, become a better batsman than bowler: a reverse of Tom Cartwright, perhaps, who started as a batsman and became a bowler.

Woakes is just approaching his half-century here and has batted impressively this morning. He leaves well, but drives regally and pulls smoothly. The extras tally is also approaching the half-century mark, which reflects poorly on Surrey’s bowling performance. Stuart Meaker remains the most dangerous of the attack.

Anyway, after 110 overs, Warwickshire settled for four batting bonus points and Surrey were limited to two bowling bonus points. Jim Troughton is within ten of his century.

12.05pm Paul Edwards at Leicestershire v Yorkshire

Re George’s point about swearing on the field of play: no, I’m not offended by it either, but I know people who are. I think swearing can be expressive and effective; it can also be useless and deeply dull. However, it’s reasonable to assume that one or two spectators’ enjoyment of their day at the cricket was spoiled a little by the incident at Edgbaston, whereas no one’s was enhanced very much. If that’s so, why do it? In a way, it’s a question of putting yourself in other people’s shoes.

One other point: in one ECB Premier League if a player swears so loudly on the field that it’s audible on the boundary, he gets an ABB (Accumulated Bad Behaviour); two of them and he’s banned for a match. Result: they watch what they shout, even in the tense games

11.35am: Paul Edwards at Leicestershire v Yorkshire

Well, that’s the first part of Yorkshire’s masterplan successfully completed. Matthew Boyce was caught and bowled by Rafiq for 107, having added just one to his overnight score. Leicestershire 320 all out. Rafiq finishes with two for 64, a decent reward for his efforts. The home side’s total was their third-highest in the Championship this season.

Now, a question for my colleagues and readers if they feel moved to ponder it: why is it that so many overnight centurions fail to add many runs to their tally on the morrow? Do they have a subconscious sense that they have done their job? They know the bowlers well and any morning moisture in the wicket scarcely accounts for the number of times it occurs – or, at least, that is my impression. Some are batting with tailenders, I know. I daresay someone’s done some research on it.

Enough of this. Leicestershire have made a breakthrough: Joe Root bowled Nathan Buck for nought. It kept a bit low. Then Lyth has just driven Hoggard sweetly through the covers. Yorkshire 19 for one.

11.30am: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Sussex

Riki Wessels has a reputation as a sharp fielder, which his running out of Mike Yardy yesterday with a direct hit from midwicket confirmed. As a spectator, it is easy to throw up your hands and groan when a fielder takes a shy at the stumps and misses but Wessels revealed later how the degree of difficulty involved is often underestimated. Despite regular practice in training, he reckoned it was his first hit in about 10 attempts this season.

Unfortunately for Wessels, Amjad Khan's accuracy when bowling at him from the Radcliffe Road end was deadly when he took out both middle and off stumps. He has gone for 43 and Michael Lumb has been dropped off the same bowler. But Samit Patel is off the mark with a boundary clipped through the leg side and Nottinghamshire are 110-2.

11.30am: George Dobell at Warwickshire v Surrey

Good morning from Edgbaston, where Warwickshire have just secured a fourth batting bonus point.

I’m not sure the championship requires an opening ceremony. You don’t put lip-stick on a bluebell, do you?

So, your thoughts welcome on this: yesterday one of the Surrey players gave a departing Warwickshire batsman a bit of a send off. Nothing unusual there, of course, except that it was very loud and - rightly or wrongly - offended a fair few spectators with the use of the ‘f’ word.

After some deliberation, I decided not to mention it in the match report as 1: It doesn’t bother me and 2: I’m not at all sure that, in this day and age of professional sport, a bit of bad language is anything to worry about.

But is that right? Should we care? Are people right to be offended by bad language and, bearing in mind that the average age of spectators at these games tend to be what we shall describe as “mature”, is this a generational issue? I know some people will say ‘what if there were kids present’ but really, have you ever walked through a school playground?

Anyway, your thoughts are welcome.

10.40pm: Paul Edwards at Leicestershire v Yorkshire

Good morning from Grace Road, and it is a lovely morning here. Before I, too, obey the five-ring omerta, let me observe that the view of the day’s many opening ceremonies from my train window en route from Birmingham surpassed the wonders in the Olympic Stadium yesterday evening; but the fact that the one reminded me of the other reflects well on Danny Boyle, I suppose.

As to the day’s cricket, this is a day on which Yorkshire’s batsmen will hope to prove that this Grace Road pitch is very flat indeed. While Leicestershire’s recovery from 98 for four to 318 for nine represented a decent effort, Gillespie’s men will plan to bat once in this game and declare at tea tomorrow. That at any rate is the plan, although if Leicestershire bowlers perform with the same degree of fortitude that their batsmen exhibited after lunch yesterday, we may all be in for an interesting day.

9am: Alan Gardner raises the starting pistol

Good morning and welcome to anywhere-but-Stratford. Here at ESPNcricinfo, we understand how it is: you’re sick of the Olympics already and looking for a sport where the clothes are the same colour, the balls a manageable size and the rules only slightly more cryptic. The Games may have landed in east London but England’s summer game abides.

Though perhaps, and it’s just a thought, but maybe the Championship could do with an opening ceremony? A Danny Boyle directed bowl-off on a wet Thursday in April – couldn’t fail to make the headlines.

Anyway, somehow we are two-thirds of the way through season but, as the ever-sage Kenny Shovel has noted, much is still to play for. Both Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire had the better of day one in their matches – will this be the round that they pull clear at the top of Division One, in the fight to scoop up Lancashire’s already fallen crown? Durham, also struggling former champions, suffered another painful day at the crease, meanwhile, bombed out by Middlesex and quickly in arrears.

In Division Two, leaders Derbyshire aren’t in action, meaning that Hampshire, Yorkshire and Kent have the opportunity to make up ground. Hants and Kent will seek to do so by taking points off each other – Kent had marginally the better of Friday – while Yorkshire met with some stiff resistance against Leicestershire at Grace Road.

As ever, our writers around the grounds will be keeping a beady eye on proceedings, filing perceptive and eloquent updates, and observing the Olympiad omerta. However, if you do have to keep abreast of what Boris Johnson is up to, ESPN’s coverage is just a hop, click and a jump away. Do feel free to join the commentariat below the line and catch up with all of yesterday’s match reports:

Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Sussex

George Dobell at Warwickshire v Surrey

Les Smith at Durham v Middlesex

Paul Edwards at Leicestershire v Yorkshire

Hampshire v Kent

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo