August 3, 2012

LV= County Championship, Friday August 3, 2012

5pm: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Yorkshire

5pm: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Yorkshire

Yorkshire have not lost a match in the Championship but haven't won one since May, which is of much greater significance to their prospects of returning to Division One. Little wonder they were anxious to get on the field again.

With Hampshire and Kent breathing down their necks with games in hand, Yorkshire really need to find a way to drag a win out of this match. Given that Northants are not out of the promotion race themselves, it would appear to be in the interests of both sides to set up a meaningful last day but there is no sign yet that anything has been agreed. At 275-7, Northants are 26 in front and there are 26 overs left in the day.

4.25pm: Ivo Tennant at Sussex v Worcestershire

John Snow is sitting in the deckchairs by the sightscreen, wearing 1970s jeans and has hair now which is akin to that of Father Christmas. It is amazing how many autograph hunters recognise him, but then he is a genuine star. He talks of being aged 70 as coming to the end of the "conveyor belt" of life, but his mother lived to 96. He looks fit enough for at least two more decades.

4.10pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Somerset

It may not be as strong a standard as the selectors may like – and they would certainly have frowned at some of the shot selection on view here today – but county cricket remains a compelling brand of entertainment. Having been dismissed for 63 in their previous championship match. Lancashire were on the brink of another batting humiliation at 50 for six, just 86 runs ahead, at 12.19pm earlier today.

Somerset then encountered the highly-skilful but determined presence of Ashwell Prince, Lancashire’s South African overseas batsman. Running hard between the wickets to put constant pressure on the fielders and restraining himself from any expansive shots, Prince cajoled and encouraged Kyle Hogg to such an extent they forged a crucial 98-run seventh wicket stand.

At one stage Prince went 29 overs between boundaries and although Hogg became the first of two victims for left-arm spinner Jack Leach when he chipped to mid-off, Lancashire reached tea on 184 for eight. Somerset now know they will have to make the biggest score of the match if they are to triumph and Prince reached interval unbeaten on 86 and in sight of his second century of the summer at Aigburth.

2.40pm: Ivo Tennant at Sussex v Worcestershire

Interesting, positive declaration by Ed Joyce, who as yet can do nothing wrong in his first match as Sussex captain. He has settled for a lead of 258 over Worcestershire, even though James Anyon and Amjad Khan were flailing the bowling to all parts. Meanwhile, the club continue to honour their old players. Following Les Lenham’s knees-up yesterday, there is to be a lunch held to celebrate the 90th birthday of wicketkeeper turned actor Rupert Webb on August 12. And still there is to be no appearance by Robin Marlar.

2.20pm: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Yorkshire

When I first watched cricket at the County Ground, Northampton Town were still playing football at the Abington Avenue end (although not at the same time, obviously). There was a fairly basic Main Stand down one side and two end terraces, one of which -- the Hotel End -- had a roof, the other open to the elements.

That was - goodness me - about 25 years ago. It is very different now. The indoor school at what is known now as the Lynn Wilson End, in honour of the late former president of the county, is one of the smartest facilities on the circuit.

By contrast, at the other end it sometimes feels as if time has stood still. Now, as then, the media watches from a vantage point on top of what used to be the indoor school. It has wifi these days and a water cooler, a ready supply of coffee and biscuits but otherwise feels hardly any different. 'Elf and safety, which was invented at about the same time as the internet, insists that there are a couple of fire extinguishers, even though no one, of course, is allowed to smoke.

The media level is shared with public seating and there are some glass panels at one end to protect spectators from the rain, which generally sweeps in over their shoulders. The first time I came here I noticed that there was a small, neat hole in one of the panes, which those of a more fanciful nature might have imagined had been made by a high-powered rifle. It is still there.

The other constant is that whenever I make one of my rare visits these days it always seems to be Old Players' Day, which it is today. They have had plenty of time to reminisce. The rain that forced the players to take an early lunch at about a quarter to one has only just stopped. If there is any more play, it will not be for some time.

1.15pm: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Somerset

Every team, no matter how talented, can have one of those days every so often but when you are dismissed for 63 and then slip to 72 for six in successive matches, clearly there are some serious problems with your batting line-up.

This is the predicament for Peter Moores, Lancashire’s coach, as he surveys the wreckage of their batting at lunch. These same players, by and large, guided Lancashire to their first outright championship in 77 years less than 12 months ago yet they have passed 300 only four times this summer. Even allowing for difficult conditions, that is not a record conducive to avoiding relegation.

This morning they started their second innings 36 runs ahead and but for Ashwell Prince, their South African overseas batsman, may have eclipsed the lowest ever county score at this ground of 22 recorded by Glamorgan in 1924.

While his top order colleagues have contributed to their own downfall through a combination of good bowling, reckless shots and, on two occasions, ridiculous running, Prince has remained a calm presence in the middle. He has reined himself in and batted for 108 minutes for his 27, while his speed between the wickets has constantly put Somerset’s fielders under pressure.

Kyle Hogg did help Prince halt the collapse by batting for 10 overs until lunch undefeated, a feat itself this morning, and Lancashire are not without hope in reaching lunch at 72 for six, leading by 108. Looking at Somerset’s powerful batting line-up, however, they will probably need to double that total if they are to have any chance of claiming their first home win of the summer.

12.45pm: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Yorkshire

This session has belonged to Yorkshire, with Adil Rashid enjoying a long bowl that has the added value of a couple more wickets now. The leg-spinner slid one through to dismiss James Middlebrook leg before wicket for 10 and has picked up his third of the innings thanks to an extraordinary catch by Joe Root at forward short leg.

It is a key wicket, too, that of Stephen Peters, who launched into a full-blooded pull as Rashid presented him with a delivery that sat up nicely for the shot. Root began to turn away, as well he might, holding his hands up to protect himself, but managed to intercept the flight of the ball as he did so and somehow managed to hold on to it.

Peters had not long since completed his first century of the season and was not looking inclined to budge, so it is a significant wicket for Yorkshire. Rain has forced an early lunch with Northants 235-7, trailing by 14.

12.35pm: Ivo Tennant at Sussex v Worcestershire

Not great publicity for the game at Hove. A re-start was due at 12.20pm, following heavy rain....the players all assembled ready for the first ball....only for umpires Bodenham and Cowley to take them off again owing to having discovered one damp patch. But not all is gloomy. The great John Snow is on the ground, looking fit enough, at 70, to play right now, damp spot or not.

11.30am: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Yorkshire

The forecast for tomorrow is not great, so it might all be academic. But working on the assumption that this match produces a result it is reasonable to say this is a vital session for Yorkshire.

And it has started very well, with two wickets in as many balls from Moin Ashraf in the fifth full over of the morning. The Yorkshire pace bowler broke an 85-run stand for the third with a thick edge from Rob Newton flying to Gary Ballance at first slip, then surprised Andrew Hall, who missed a full, straight ball first up to be leg before. James Middlebrook survived the hat-trick ball but the pressure is on Northamptonshire, who trail by 56 at 193-5 with much hanging on Stephen Peters, who has 86 not out.

11.30am: Myles Hodgson at Lancashire v Somerset

There are times in a cricketer’s life that no matter how much hard work, preparation and visualisation, there is nothing they can do to arrest a bad slump in form. That should surely apply to the situation Stephen Moore, Lancashire’s opener, finds himself in after completing his 24th first class innings of the season without a half-century.

As an opener he will no doubt argue that he bats when the bowlers are at their freshest, the ball is swinging and you are battling with the toughest conditions. There are also times, though, when luck just isn’t with you and that applied this morning when he was run out in a mix-up with Karl Brown that left Lancashire, leading by just 36 at the start of their second innings, slumped to seven for three.

Moore struck the ball firmly down the ground off Peter Trego and clearly believed he had beaten the bowler’s out-stretched hand and set off for a single. Instead, Trego deflected the ball to Gemaal Hussain at mid-off and by the time Moore made an abrupt turn, the ball had been returned to Craig Kieswetter, Somerset’s wicketkeeper.

Paul Horton had already departed by the time Moore trudged back to the dressing room, playing on to the fifth ball of the innings from Trego as he attempted a leave, while Brown followed in the next over when he was adjudged lbw after playing no shot to Steve Kirby.

10.55am: Ivo Tennant at Sussex v Worcestershire

The Sussex cricket manager Mark ‘Robbo’ Robinson is a sensitive, and, occasionally, tetchy, soul. The issue of Mike Yardy’s depression and his decision to relinquish the club captaincy is, of course, a difficult subject for the media to pass comment on. Robinson has been round to the press box – he must know the security code on the door – to pick up one journalist about his reporting of this matter. It is always hard to know how much notice county dressing-rooms take of press and radio comment. One journalist from The Guardian took it upon himself once to apologise to the then Kent captain Mark Benson, now a familiar umpire, for something he had written, only to discover that no-one in the conservative-leaning Kent dressing-room read the newspaper. Benson promptly sent the 12th man out of the ground to purchase five copies, so at least its circulation was boosted.

10.45am: David Hopps with The Rushed Hello

There are long queues for all Olympic venues apparently. Turnstiles at all county cricket venues, however, are coping admirably with the traffic. Our team of county cricket writers will be along shortly to bring you up to date with what is happening.

It is a big day for Lancashire after 20 wickets fell on the opening day at Aigburth. They begin with a paltry 36-run first-innings lead against Somerset and victory would do wonders for their chances of First Division survival.

There can rarely have been such a discouraging season for spinners but Simon Kerrigan, Lancashire's left-arm spinner, has progressed better than most. Hopefully, I will get a chance to watch him for England Lions against Australia A at Old Trafford next week. I wonder why Danny Boyle's Olympic opening cermony didn't include a joyous passage about the attractions of watching cricket on a building site....

Thanks for sticking with us through the rain and the Olympics.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo