July 30, 2012

LV= County Championship, Monday July 30

4.45pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Sussex

4.45pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Sussex

This may be over in a few minutes, if all parties are agreed, although Sussex are only 29 in front with as many as 19 overs still possible in the day, so a couple of quick wickets could throw that supposition out of the window. Indeed, there were two quick wickets a few moments ago.

Riki Wessels, bowling off-spin in shades Swanny-style, claimed his first in senior cricket on English soil as Luke Wells chipped back a return catch. The batsman was not keen to walk off, it appeared, and umpire Gough was not altogether decisive about giving him out, but the finger came up to confirm his demise in time. It was difficult to see any reason he would not have given it.

In the following over, a horrible shot by Michael Yardy resulted in an easy catch for Andre Adams in the midwicket region off Harry Gurney's bowling. But the draw looks a very warm favourite.

3.50pm: Paul Edwards at Leicestershire v Yorkshire

We have had 12 overs’ cricket since the resumption at Grace Road but Yorkshire have made no further breakthroughs and Leics have gone in to tea on 114 for five, still 52 runs short of making Andrew Gale’s side bat again. Eckersley and White have defended stoutly, although the session has not been without alarms for home supporters: lbw shouts, play and misses etc. Curiously, Harmison has not been used since lunch; he has sprayed it about all game but he has still looked the most likely bowler to take wickets today, his erratic line and length disconcerting the batsmen.

Yorkshire need to take five wickets in 34 overs and may even need to knock off a few runs too. This will be a key session in their season. As I write, Harmison is trotting out to bowl a few practice overs with Jason Gillespie.

3.50pm: George Dobell at Warwickshire v Surrey

When we come to reflect on this match, we may conclude that two or three things prevented Warwickshire achieving victory.

The first of them is Zafar Ansari. The 20-year-old has, so far, resisted for 186 balls in achieving his highest first-class score and his maiden Championship half-century. He is not the finished article - who is at 20? - but he has the temperament and character to go a long way in the game. Perhaps he might be a future Surrey captain?

The second of them is the weather. We have lost 35 overs in the match and 21 of them today.

And the third is the hosts’ failure to take their chances. They have missed four chances of varying difficulty today, with Richard Johnson, who missed Rory Burns off the first ball of Surrey’s first innings, again spurning the easiest of them. If Warwickshire fail to win the title, it is such moments that may haunt them.

3.25pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Sussex

Andy Carter's persistence finally paid off when Chris Nash executed a perfectly good pull off a short delivery only to hit the ball straight to James Taylor, who had been lurking on the square-leg boundary for a good 20 minutes in expectation of the shot.

The opener's six-hour resistance was thus ended. Nottinghamshire were glad to see the back of him, as they would be with any player who had just scored 162. Nash has been a thorn in their side before, however. In his last 10 first-class innings against them, he has scored 786 runs.

At 338-2, Sussex are only 11 behind. Luke Wells has his second half-century of the match and there are 36 overs left in the day, although it is more than likely the game will be written off as a draw in about an hour and a half or so.

3.00pm: Paul Edwards at Leicestershire v Yorkshire

After two inspections, we are about to to restart play, and this may be accounted something of an achievement given the intensity of the lunchtime rain. 20 more overs have been lost and there are now 46 left in the day, given no more interruptions. The odds are still on a Yorkshire win, although colleagues are muttering about clouds massing over the back of the scoreboard.

2.20pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Sussex

It looks more than likely now that both Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire will have to settle for a draw today. In which case, they will be level on points at the top of the First Division table, and level on games after the next round, which Nottinghamshire sit out. When Notts next play it will be at Taunton against Somerset, who may then be right in the thick of the title race themselves if they can beat Lancashire at Aigburth.

Sussex have a chance to cement their place in the division against Worcestershire at Hove. There have been a good few Sussex fans about the place and Trent Bridge has extended the usual friendly welcome to visiting supporters.

It's not Sussex by the Sea, although last week, actually, there was a 'beach' in the middle of the Old Market Square. The Nottingham Riviera, as it is known, is an annual event in which a load of sand is dumped in the middle of town, accompanied by a couple of roundabouts, a cafe and an oversize paddling pool, so that harassed shoppers can tell their kids they're at the seaside, rather then dragging them round Primark. It's the kind of bizarre thing local authorities feel compelled to do, for some reason.

Sussex (not by the sea) are 275-1, trailing by 74, with Nash on 144 and there are 51 overs left in the day.

1.50pm: Paul Edwards at Leicestershire v Yorkshire

“How are you supposed to get promoted when it’s raining all the time?” said a somewhat forlorn Yorkshire supporter a few moments ago and you could see his point. With Leics on 95 for five, still needing another 71 to avoid an innings defeat, a heavy shower has delayed the restart after lunch for nobody yet knows how long. The square is properly covered but the task of batting out a couple of hours or less will be much more manageable for Leics’ lower order batting.

As I write, it is still raining. Instead of being over very quickly – as per last blog - this could be a tense finish. Underwood v Australia at The Oval, 1968?

1.20pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Sussex

Without wishing to offend Riki Wessels, the opening batsman's appearance among the Nottinghamshire bowlers this morning is a fair indication of how the pitch is playing now. Desperate straits call for desperate measures and all that...

Wessels had bowled only three overs in the Championship in nine seasons before Chris Read became intrigued at what his right-arm twirl might look like today. Not too scruffy, actually, even if he didn't manage to supplement his two career wickets, both of which he took for Mid West Rhinos in the 2009-10 Zimbabwe season. He did equal a personal best, though, after a fashion, given that his seven-over spell matched his longest ever.

There has been one wicket, thanks to a stunning, diving catch by Michael Lumb at midwicket, whose outstanding athleticism denied Ed Joyce a boundary and a century after he had clipped a ball from Samit Patel so firmly off his legs he was ready to raise his bat in the follow-through.

Chris Nash is still there at lunch, though, on 138 from 254-1, which has reduced Nottinghamshire's lead to 95 runs. Unless the four-overs-old ball can have a dramatic impact and quickly when play resumes, a draw looks inevitable.

1.15pm: George Dobell at Warwickshire v Surrey

Lunch at Edgbaston. It’s raining hard at present, but perhaps the timing will not overly impact on the game as we’re told it is no more than a passing shower. Batting has looked hard work since the fall of Burns: Harinath has been beaten by Patel’s off-spin and Rankin has looked swift.

Ansari survives, though, with 27 from 111 balls. It is not hard to see why he is so highly rated by coaches such as Chris Scott (Cambridge MCCU) and Chris Adams (Surrey). While he has not always looked comfortable, he is wonderfully unruffled. Even last night, when he was fortunate to survive an edge to slip, he shrugged off the barrage of criticism from Warwickshire’s fielders and simply got on with batting. He may well be exactly the sort of character Surrey need to rebuild around.

The sun seems to be returning… the second new might have an impact here, though it is still 40 overs away and Warwickshire will need to have made further inroads by then.

12.45pm: George Dobell at Warwickshire v Surrey

We have had an hour’s play at Edgbaston despite the looming dark clouds all around. Rory Burns - who looks a well organised player - and Zafar Ansari extended their overnight opening stand to 74 before the introduction of Boyd Rankin made the breakthrough. Rankin, again bowling with impressive pace, beat Burns for pace and forced the batsman to play-on.

It may be worth noting that both Burns and Ansari are products of the excellent MCCU system: Burns from Caridff and Ansari from Cambridge. This scheme, which prospers without funding from the ECB, produces just under 24% of England-qualified cricketers in the county game.

The weather is closing in here at Edgbaston. It seems Warwickshire may be frustrated once again.

12.45pm: Paul Edwards at Leicestershire v Yorkshire

Steven Harmison continues to bemuse spectators and bedevil Leicestershire’s batsmen. Given the first over at Grace Road, his first set of six contained a long hop (cut for four) and a very wide delivery down the leg side. His fifth ball was a superb yorker which completely beat Sarwan to the extent that he barely played at it. Just the breakthrough Yorkshire needed. Harmison then completed his second over, which included two no-balls and more wide stuff. His third included a half volley which Matt Boyce flicked off the middle of the bat. The ball hit short leg Joe Root and the fielder gathered in the rebound. “It’s not how, it’s how many,” says someone. Leics 77 for four, and now 77 for five as Thakor is trapped lbw by Steve Patterson. This could all be over very quickly now.

11.55am: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Sussex

Nothing happening here to suggest this match will not end in a draw. Thankless task for the bowlers but bowlers need to learn their craft on flat wickets, so these guys can console themselves in the knowledge that they will be a lot smarter by five o'clock this afternoon.

Chris Nash has completed his second hundred of the season against Nottinghamshire and when the total reached 189-0 he and Ed Joyce had equalled the partnership they shared for the first wicket against Worcestershire earlier in the year.

Nash had a minor scare on 97 when he almost fell into a trap set for the hook against Andy Carter. One of those lying in wait for the shot was James Taylor, who will be dashing up to Leeds to join his new England team-mates this evening.

Should he play, Taylor will probably be the smallest England Test player since Alfred Percy Freeman played 12 times in the 1920s. The Kent leg-spinner, more commonly known as Tich, was allegedly 5ft 2ins tall. Taylor claims to be 5ft 5ins and he is certainly no taller.

Unimaginatively, Taylor's nickname is also Titch, spelt with a 't', although his friends on Twitter seem to prefer Orinoco, after the character in the Wombles. The TV show used to portray Orinoco as a shirker who loved sleep and food. Does Andy Flower know this?

11.45am Paul Edwards at Leicestershire v Yorkshire

Pretty good news here. If there’s no more rain we are to make a start at 12.15. The locals tell me that the bad weather comes from the Bennett End and the skies are blue in that direction. We have, however, lost 20 overs from the day’s allocation.

11.30am: George Dobell at Warwickshire v Surrey

It will come as little surprise that it has been raining at Edgbaston. We will therefore not start until 11.45am and Surrey’s hopes of achieving the draw should have been boosted. 12 overs have been lost.

11.15am: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Sussex

Showers forecast (oops, I mentioned the weather), but it is looking like Nottinghamshire might struggle to win this anyway, despite having declared at noon yesterday with a lead of 349. No wickets fell in the 70 overs possible yesterday and the pitch seems to be completely flat.

The only hope is that the ball swings with a bit of cloud about but Ed Joyce and Chris Nash have survived the early exchanges and have moved on to 168-0. Nash is only five runs away from his third century in his last 10 innings against Notts.

11.15am Paul Edwards at Leicestershire v Yorkshire

We have a delayed start here, which comes as no surprise at all after the ten-minute downpour we had at 10.30. The umpires were going to make an inspection at 11.30 but it is now raining again, so that will probably be delayed. No criticism whatever should be made of the umpires. After rather getting away with losing only 26 overs yesterday, Grace Road has drawn a short meteorological straw this morning. Yorkshire’s frustration will be deep indeed.

10am: Alan Gardner is on the starting blocks

It's the start of a new week but the latest round of the Championship is approaching the finish line. Apart from the skittles match up at Chester-le-Street, the weekend has treated batsmen kindly - are we finally saying goodbye to the tricky conditions that caused such hullabaloo in the first half of the season?

There will be work for bowlers up and down the country today, as Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire in Division One, and Yorkshire and Kent in Division Two, try to press home the advantage won by their batters earlier in the match. Both divisions are beginning to get stretched out now, with the contenders more clearly delineated. But can the heavyweights find a knockout punch today?

As always, our writers will be contributing above and below the line - please do join in with the bunfight. You can also find all of yesterday's reports on our county homepage.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo