August 8, 2012

LV= County Championship, Wednesday August 8

6.41pm: Mark Pennell at Canterbury Kent v Essex

6.41pm: Mark Pennell at Canterbury Kent v Essex

There were no batting gremlins in the pitch for Essex in the closing nine overs of the day as the visitors reached 14 without loss in reply to Kent's disappointing first innings of 262 all out. Napier, Masters and Chambers claimed three wickets apiece as Kent succumbed by 5.50pm, with only Michael Powell reaching 50.

5.25pm: Myles Hodgson at Durham v Surrey

Durham have not enjoyed the easiest of seasons, which is reflected in their position at the bottom club in division one having only recorded their first victory last week. Should they follow that narrow win over Middlesex with an important triumph over Surrey this week then they will have a momentum none of their relegation rivals can match.

If they do beat Surrey over the next couple of days then Ben Stokes, their emerging all-rounder, will have played a major part. He is yet to score 500 championship runs this season, which is in common with nearly every other batsman at the club, but being given an extra responsibility with the ball has clearly aided his development.

He bowled with pace and generated swing and bounce to claim four wickets on the opening day and displayed an ability to make an immediate impact today when he struck with his third ball after coming on to replace Graham Onions, swinging the ball into Arun Harinath’s pads. That latest breakthrough has left Surrey struggling on 38 for two, still 143 runs adrift of parity, with a further 17 overs remaining today.

>4.55pm: Mark Pennell at Kent v Essex

"When the seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think the sardines". . . . well whatever Eric Cantona was on about back in 2003, the seagulls flying in to St Lawrence today - and they don't visit this ground often - seem to know when something's afoot. No sooner do our feathered friends return to Canterbury, then wickets start to fall. Michael Powell departed just before the tea interval for a patient 62. Chasing a wide one that he should have left alone, he edged to Harbhajan at second slip to give Maurice Chambers his third scalp of the day. Then, soon after the resumption, Harbhajan lured Matt Coles down the pitch to tamely chip one to wide mid-on where David Masters took a low, diving catch and make it 198-8.

4pm: Alex Winter at Somerset v Nottinghamshire

This afternoon is so unbelievably frustrating. Grey cloud has taken over and we’re getting hazy rain that makes you go “I don’t need an umbrella” but once you’ve walked across the ground you’re in need of a new shirt. Marginally more overs have been bowled than yesterday. And one more wicket than yesterday. One to Alfie Thomas and the other to Kirby, battling for a new contract we have to assume, getting Alex Hales to drive and edge to second slip – poor stroke really.

While it’s been raining I’ve visited Millichamp and Hall’s factory. A wonderful building full of carpentry equipment and cricket bats in various stages of production. Seems like a decent life but a dying art – they’re only one of three or four left in the country.

Couple of bits of news. Firstly Northamptonshire have appointed interim coach David Ripley on a full-time basis, hoping to turn around their flagging fortunes this season; the county have slumped after such a wonderful first half in 2011. And Derbyshire have handed a four-year contract to David Wainwright, the left-arm spinner that joined from Yorkshire in the close season and has been a revelation for his new county.

3.20pm: Myles Hodgson at Durham v Surrey

After a traumatic season away from the pitch, Surrey are also not enjoying much luck on it during this match. They believed they had a good lbw appeal rejected when Paul Collingwood was in the early stages of his innings, which may have changed the game situation had it been given.

There were also several lbw appeals this morning against Collingwood and Benkenstein, most of which have been greeted with resigned disappointment from Dernbach before he trudged back to his mark to try again. Their disciplined behaviour was tested to the limit, however, this afternoon after Zander de Bruyn angled the ball into Phil Mustard and won an lbw decision.

Before Mustard, who had scored 43 at the time and guided Durham into a 160-run lead, had time to leave the square, umpire Jeff Evans consulted with square leg colleague Michael Gough before reversing his decision. It is difficult to quantify from the press box, but it seems that Mustard may have got an inside edge onto his pad so was given a reprieve, much to the obvious irritation of Surrey captain Gareth Batty.

After remonstrating with Evans briefly, Batty returned to his position at slip while Mustard, in combination with Callum Thorp, has guided Durham to 300 for seven – their highest score at the Emirates Durham stadium this summer.

3pm: Mark Pennell at Canterbury Kent v Essex

A flock of 40-odd seagulls that had been busily pecking away at the St Lawrence outfield have just flown off in the direction of Canterbury Cathedral, at the same time Kent suffered a departure of their own following the loss of Darren Stevens. In attempting to give it the 'kitchen sink' against Graham Napier, the one-time Leicestershire batsman dragged his expansive drive onto leg stump to go for 20 and leave Kent in deeper trouble on 134-5.

2.35pm: Alex Winter at Somerset v Nottinghamshire

Luncheon, sausage and mash, has come and gone and now we have some cricket. It’s just about dry enough and light enough so Notts are out there resuming battle quite literally because it’s darting around and Michael Lumb has already worn one on the body that nipped into him from Alfie Thomas – preferred to open the bowling today in place of Steve Kirby, who was described by one of the Somerset members I saw at lunch as “over the hill”; don’t think I’d be saying that to Kirby’s face in a hurry - lovely bloke but fiery when he’s in the zone. Some debate over whether his contract will be renewed at the end of the season.

2.20pm: Mark Pennell at Canterbury Kent v Essex

Kent have reached three figures at St Lawrence, but the going is tough for the home batsmen as the Essex seam attack are making the most of overcast skies and a little grass on the pitch. The Hop County lost their fourth wicket of the day two balls after the resumption when Brendan Nash fell without adding to his lunch time score of 11. Having been dropped at second slip off David Masters three overs before the break, the same two Essex players combined successfully to snare Nash as he pushed from the crease without moving his feet.

2pm: George Dobell at Warwickshire v Worcestershire

Hello from Edgbaston and apologies for the late update. Twitter-gate has had me involved elsewhere. Mainly twitter.

We have witnessed a fascinating battle here between Boyd Rankin and Phil Hughes. According to Worcestershire’s director of cricket, Hughes has not been tested by anyone with the pace and carry of Rankin during his stay in county cricket.

Rankin should have dismissed him early. In his first over, Hughes, by then on 40, was beaten by a brute of a ball - fast, straight and lifting, that took the edge of the bat. So quick was it, however, that it also evaded Tim Ambrose and went to the boundary. Rankin found some consolation by picking up the wicket of Moeen Ali, edging a waft.

Rankin will be an enormous loss for Ireland, but Warwickshire were insistent that he dedicated himself to them and it is possible that, if he can stay fit, he can force himself into the England reckoning. When he is fit and firing there are very few as fearsome. Marcus Trescothick described him as the best bowler he faced last year.

This is a much-altered Worcestershire team. They have dropped Jack Shantry, Richard Jones and James Cameron and brought in Chris Russell, Joe Leach and Brett D’Oliveria for their Championship debuts.

Warwickshire are also Chris Woakes on England Lions duty, while Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell, who were originally scheduled to play in this game, have been rested after benefitting from another innings on the final afternoon of the second Test in Leeds.

1.15pm: Alex Winter at Somerset v Nottinghamshire

All quiet in the Westcountry once again. No play so far today and the covers, having been removed, are being rolled into position once more as the sky becomes ever-greyer. The Quantocks have also disappeared from view which isn’t a good sign; could be long into the day once again before we get any action. I would also suggest the light has to significantly improve too.

But there are more people here today, a few are out on the terraces enjoying their picnics and flasks – of both the hip and thermos variety – because it is quite warm but muggy with the low cloud.

In better news, I found an excellent driving range last night; a five minute drive from the round, just the other side of the motorway junction. £3.40 for a bucket of 60 balls! I was in heaven. £6 for 55 down my nearest range in south London. Better still, I had the 3 wood going superbly – good form ahead of a couple of days golf in Bournemouth at the weekend.

1pm: Mark Pennell at Canterbury Kent v Essex

Essex, who are fighting to avoid the championship wooden spoon, will be best pleased with their morning’s work at St Lawrence where they have reduced the hosts to 82 for three at lunch. Maurice Chambers bagged two of the wickets to fall, but things might have been even worse for Kent had Harbhajan Singh held on to regulation chance at second slip that gave Brendan Nash a life when on 10 just three overs from the interval. David Masters, the former Kent seamer, was the unfortunate bowler.

12.40pm: Mark Pennell at Canterbury Kent v Essex

At this rate Kent’s historic Canterbury Week may do well to last three days as the hosts have stumbled to 63 for three on the first morning of their Division 2 clash with Essex. After the early loss of skipper Rob Key, Kent have since lost two more in the space of four deliveries. Having looked sound for his 32, Sam Northeast sparred at a leg-cutter from Maurice Chambers only to see Harbhajan Singh at second slip parry the chance to his keeper James Foster. Three balls later Alex Blake, in for the out of sorts Ben Harmison, shouldered arms against a Graham Napier in-ducker that came back to pluck out the left-hander’s off stump as we approach lunch.

12.15pm: Myles Hodgson at Durham v Surrey.

Over the recent years of Durham’s success, one of the key components has been the consistent form of Dale Benkenstein, their former captain. Just last summer he averaged 61 and scored 1,353 championship runs but, in common with many batsmen this year, he has found run scoring more difficult this time.

This was never better illustrated than this morning when Benkenstein, surprisingly, passed his first half-century of his championship season. Overdue it may have been, but it may prove crucial to Durham’s hopes of avoiding relegation. Resuming overnight on 40, he reached his 50 with a two of Jade Dernbach in the eighth over of the morning and marked it with a cover drive for four two balls later.

He has been expertly supported by Paul Collingwood, Durham’s current captain, who followed Benkenstein to his half-century after batting for 159 defiant minutes. Together they have secured what could be a crucial 50-run advantage in batting conditions that are considerably easier than when Surrey won the toss and chose to bat first yesterday.

11.35am: Mark Pennell at Kent v Essex

There aren't too many cricket matches where you walk into the ground to the accompaniment of a jazz quartet, but Canterbury Week is happily still one of them. The Kent Festival, the oldest in the world, celebrates its 161st year this summer and second division strugglers and near neighbours Essex provide the opposition. Kent have won the toss and have elected to bat first. Kent lost their skipper Rob Key to the 22nd ball of the day, caught and bowled off a leading edge low down in his follow-through by Maurice Chambers. Key went for five to make it 12 for one. The hosts selected Adam Riley in place of James Tredwell, who is on England Lions duty. Seamer Mark Davies is rested, so Azhar Mahmood comes in for a rare four-day appearance. Ben Harmison loses his batting berth at No3 through poor form, so Alex Blake comes in. Kent: Northeast, Key, Powell, Nash, Blake, Stevens, Jones, Mahmood, Coles, Shreck, Riley. Essex: Mickleburgh, Westley, Shah, Pettini, ten Doeschate, Wheater, Foster, Napier, Singh, Masters, Chambers.

10.45am: Alex Winter at Somerset v Nottinghamshire

Hello everyone, dark and damp in Taunton again, so much so that's there's no play before lunch again. The only talking point here yesterday was the team sheets and I got Brian Rose's thoughts on players being taken away for Lions matches.

More play at Bristol where Hampshire responded well after bowling out Gloucestershire, and once again further up the M5 has proved drier than Taunton: they've started on time at Bristol,

Up at Durham there was a clattering of wickets all day, as Myles Hodgson found out. Surrey taking a gamble and it didn't pay off, do Durham have a door open to another victory?

Two more games starting today and the leaders are back out. George Dobell is at Edgbaston for Warwickshire against Worcestershire - for whom there are plenty of changes after Steve Rhodes has wielded the axe in his selection. And in Division Two Kent and Essex play at Canterbury, Mark Pennell watching that one for us.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo