August 11, 2012

LV= County Championship, Saturday 11 August

5.30pm: David Lloyd at Sussex v Middlesex

5.30pm: David Lloyd at Sussex v Middlesex

Middlesex have started with the bat as they finished with the ball – like a team in a hurry.

Chris Rogers has plenty of protective padding around the ribs and chest area, just in case he gets one of those vicious lifters, but it is his bat that’s handing out all the blows at the moment.

The Australian scored 36 of a 50-run stand with Sam Robson that took just 13 overs and now that lead of 117 has been reduced to 60.

4.40pm: David Lloyd at Sussex v Middlesex

Sussex’s innings ended with a real flourish – from Middlesex. Toby Roland-Jones, far and away the visitors’ best bowler so far, hit the top of Jimmy Anyon’s off stump and then pinned Monty Panesar lbw first ball to finish with six for 66 from 21.4 overs.

Roland-Jones is already on England’s radar and although this was his first five-for of the season the 24-year-old has been pretty consistent throughout.

As for Sussex, they would have liked a few more than 287. But a lead of 117, with 28 overs remaining on day two, leaves them in a strong position.

4.40pm: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Leicestershire

This is not going well for Leicestershire, whose chances of hauling themselves off the bottom of the table in this match have receded sharply during the afternoon session, in which they have scored 83 runs but lost five wickets, the last four of them for 29 in the space of a dozen overs.

This came after Will Jones and Michael Thornely had served up a respectable opening partnership of 47. The contest between bat and ball has been an even one, which is what you always like to see, with something in the pitch still for the bowler who puts it in the right place, and good scoring opportunities for the batsman when he doesn't. Leicestershire have given away a couple of wickets, though. Ned Eckersley's advance down the wicket to James Middlebrook's second ball was headstrong and cost him dear, while the shot that had Josh Cobb caught behind off a ball from David Willey outside off stump did not carry adequate conviction.

They need something special from Ramnaresh Sarwan, who now has the 18-year-old, Shiv Thakor, for company.

4.05pm: David Lloyd at Sussex v Middlesex

The horse may have bolted for Middlesex. Having got rid of Yardy, the visitors badly needed to mop up the tail for minimal cost – but Sussex bat a long way down these days.

In the last match, against Worcestershire, Steve Magoffin made 41 while Jimmy Anyon nipped in with an unbeaten half-century. Here, the Nos 8 and 9 added 43 precious runs before Magoffin edged a cut against Corey Collymore to depart for 35. He had been missed in the slip (by Dawid Malan off Gareth Berg) when 26 but enough damage had been done by then.

At tea, Sussex were 285 for eight – a lead of 115 and only 15 runs away from a third batting point.

3.10pm: David Lloyd at Sussex v Middlesex

What a pity (though not from a Middlesex point of view, admittedly). Having batted really well for four and a half hours, and with a second championship century of the season seemingly there for the taking, Mike Yardy rather gave it all away.

He had reached 89 when he pulled Roland-Jones straight into Murtagh’s hands at long leg. So 238 for seven, 68 ahead.

3.05pm: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Leicestershire

Leicestershire are 64-1 and somewhat fortunate to be only one wicket down. For every exaggerated leave there has been a ball that has beaten the bat and quite a number that have flown off the edge but failed to go to hand.

David Willey, whose headband seems to give him a particular air of menace, was unlucky that a hostile spell from the Lynn Wilson End went unrewarded but a change of bowling brought a breakthrough. Olly Stone, another blond bombshell, was successful with his fifth delivery as Michael Thornely was leg before.

Stone, an 18-year-old right-arm quick, is playing in only his third Championship match yet can already claim to have a habit of taking wickets in his first over of an innings. He did so twice against Yorkshire last week. Leicestershire were 47-1. Opener Will Jones now has 27 with Ned Eckersley 15.

2.30pm: David Lloyd at Sussex v Middlesex

Not lost, indeed. Toby Roland-Jones needed only six deliveries with the new ‘un to find a way through – Brown sparring at one outside off stump to edge a catch behind. Sussex 206 for six, 36 ahead.

2.25pm: David Lloyd at Sussex v Middlesex

Quite a few teams seem to have switched captains, for one reason or another, just lately but none can have enjoyed more success – for the individuals concerned – than Sussex.

Mike Yardy chose to step down a couple of weeks ago in order “to concentrate on my own game” and he has batted really well in this innings. As for Ed Joyce, who has taken over the reins so far as Championship and CB40 cricket are concerned, he scored a century during the four-day victory over Worcestershire and then made a very useful 68 yesterday.

With Yardy on 79 and Ben Brown into double figures, Sussex have the beginnings of what could be a decisive lead – 35 ahead at 205 for five. But Middlesex now have a new ball in their hand so all is not yet lost for the visitors.

1.30pm: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Leicestershire

Leicestershire, bottom of Division Two, have to score 250 to avoid the follow-on, which may be a tall order for a notoriously fragile batting line-up. At lunch they are 26-0 from nine overs.

David Willey, who is becoming a fine cricketer, opened with a hostile spell from the Lynn Wilson and was unlucky not to make an early breakthrough. Will Jones, who sliced the opening delivery wide of the slip cordon, almost perished at long-leg on eight when he got under one dropped in short. It was not really a chance, but Lee Daggett made a spectacular effort to pull off what would have been a sensational one-handed catch and only just failed to cling on.

1pm: David Lloyd at Sussex v Middlesex

Sussex are ahead, but not before losing a fifth wicket. Luke Wright, who had started nicely, pushed forward at Tim Murtagh to edge a low catch to second slip. That success put a bit more of a spring in Middlesex’s step but Yardy was the one they really wanted.

The left-hander, who sets up with something approaching a square-on stance, may not be the prettiest to watch but he can be very effective. Here, having reached 50 from 106 balls, he brought the scores level by square cutting Gareth Berg for a boundary. Then, a couple of deliveries later, he set about establishing a lead – driving Berg through extra cover with real authority.

Sussex were 182 for five, 12 to the good, at lunch.

12.45pm: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Leicestershire

Northants were 388-9 after 110 overs, which rather absurdly was greeted with a cry of 'rubbish' from one supporter within earshot of the press box, who plainly felt that Lee Daggett and David Murphy ought to have chased a fifth batting point after Oliver Stone was ninth man out for 373 in the 104th over.

It was he who missed the point. It could have been 373 all out. Instead, with Daggett doggedly protecting his own stumps, Murphy progressed to 31 before he went and Northants were all out for 399, in the 115th over. Given that they would have bowled first on a grassy pitch had they won the toss, it is a position they would have taken more than gladly.

12.30pm: David Lloyd at Sussex v Middlesex

Ouch! Or something similar. Just when batting was looking reasonably straightforward, Ed Joyce was brought down to earth (literally) by a nasty lifter from Toby Roland-Jones. It leapt from a decent length to hit Sussex’s captain in the rib cage and, reasonably enough, he crumpled to the ground.

Joyce is made of tough stuff, though, and he was soon working Roland-Jones for a couple through mid-wicket to reach 68.

Those runs ended a sequence of 24 ‘dot balls’ from R-J, who has looked the likeliest of Middlesex’s bowlers so far this innings. And, indeed, it was he who ended Joyce’s stay with another brute of a delivery.

This one not only lifted but also struck the left-handed opener on his glove as he tried to drop his hands, resulting in a gentle lob for keeper John Simpson to gather after trotting a few yards to the right.

Joyce had batted for four hours (and faced 177 balls) for his 68. And his fourth-wicket stand of 78 with Yardy had taken Sussex to within 28 runs of Middlesex.

11.40am: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Leicestershire

Northants continued at 300-5 here, where it is a glorious morning again. After the completion of Nathan Buck's unfinished over, Robbie Joseph, who bowled six no-balls on day one, is back on at the Lynn Wilson End and has opened with four leg-side byes. Since then he has given away three more runs in wides and overthrows, and conceded six boundaries. So it's business as usual for him.

It was business as usual, too, for Stephen Peters, as he moved from 137 overnight to touching distance of his seventh score of 150 or more. But he and James Middlebrook have both gone, both bowled by Nathan Buck, who has bowled with a good deal more control than his team-mate. Peters made 148 off 278 balls with 18 fours.

Northants have achieved one objective by claiming their fourth batting bonus point. They have a dozen overs and three wickets in hand as they go for a full set. 353-7.

11.35am: David Lloyd at Sussex v Middlesex

So Usain Bolt fancies his chances as a cricketer, does he? Well, seeing him bat would add a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘taking a quick single’, but who would want to be his partner?

Getting to the non-striker’s end as soon as possible certainly had its merits here yesterday where batting was never straightforward on a pitch of uneven bounce. Occasional sharp lift from a good length was the main problem, although a couple of deliveries (thankfully not straight ones) kept low.

Middlesex did not help themselves, however, with some poor judgement and should have made more than 170.

The visitors were the people looking most closely at the pitch this morning, presumably wondering whether the surface was likely to deteriorate and wishing, no doubt, that they had the very tall and extremely quick Steve Finn on hand to make Sussex hop about.

In the absence of the England man, Middlesex’s bowlers may struggle to pose as many problems as their faster Sussex counterparts. Anyway, Ed Joyce soon completed his half-century this morning, and with Michael Yardy continuing to provide good support the hosts were only 43 runs adrift at 127 for three.

10am: Alan Gardner with the morning pleasantries

Another day, another confusingly staggered round of the County Championship. This week, we’ve had matches start on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday … Work that one out, Kojak. It does, however, provide another opportunity to plug the ECB’s fan survey; I think 15 minutes is optimistic but it’s well worth half an hour or so, between scanning Friday’s match reports.

There were a couple of big three-day wins completed yesterday, with Warwickshire putting fresh air between themselves and Nottinghamshire – not to mention leaving Worcestershire deep in the muck – at the top of Division One and, in the second tier, Essex reigniting their slim promotion hopes by scalping Kent and putting a bit of a downer on the 161st Canterbury Week festivities.

At Taunton, Somerset chief executive, Guy Lavender, mused on the future structure of domestic cricket (reminder: do the survey) during his side’s drawn encounter with Notts; while Sussex and Northamptonshire had the better of day one in their matches. Keep up with what’s going down at Hove and Northampton and feel free to give your twopenny’orth below the line.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo