August 16, 2012

LV= County Championship, Thursday August 16

5.30: Paul Edwards at England Lions v Australia A

5.30: Paul Edwards at England Lions v Australia A

Craig Kieswetter has greeted Jackson Bird in the first over on the resumption by hitting him for two fours through the covers and a six over midwicket. Very clean hits they were too and Kieswetter is now 102 not out and smacking it to all parts. What did he have for tea, one wonders.

On outgrounds , I accept the claim of Uxbridge, but it not as venerable as Aigburth, nor is it as much an integral part of the English summer as the (other) Cheltenham Festival. It certainly hasn’t hosted as many games as Scarborough. But it remains true – said the member of Southport and Birkdale CC - that when they are occasions rather than routine events, outground games are better attended than those at HQs and the players enjoy performing on grounds where 3,000+ people fill the place as distinct from 1000 folk rattling around like peas in a drum. Of course, the wicket has to be good enough to host first-class cricket. That’s an essential pre-requisite. Then again, some wickets at HQs have been rated as “poor” this season, which is rather where we came in, with Lancashire shifting a game to Liverpool......

5.40pm: Myles Hodgson at Yorkshire v Derbyshire

It may be fair to say that Tim Bresnan has suffered by comparison to Graham Onions since they were both released by England at Lord’s this morning and travelled back to play for their respective counties. They both travelled up the M1, Onions to feature in Durham’s match at Trent Bridge while Bresnan had further to go before joining Yorkshire’s match against Derbyshire at Headingley.

That, though, is where the comparisons end. While Onions has enjoyed one of those days to remember, taking a wicket with his sixth ball, claiming nine wickets and a run out, Bresnan has had a much quieter afternoon. Called on to bat after Yorkshire claimed maximum batting points, he scored only one before hitting across the line and driving David Wainwright, the former Yorkshire leg-spinner, to mid on.

If he was not irritated enough by the manner of his dismissal, it is to be hoped he has not glanced at a weather forecast for tomorrow, which predicts yet another day watching the rain fall from the home dressing room.

5.30pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Durham

Graham Onions missed out on all 10 -- he was bound to as soon as we started to talk about who did it last -- but 9-67 isn't bad. In any case, it was all 10 after a fashion. The only one he didn't get was a run-out from his own direct hit, swooping just behind square as Luke Fletcher turned Scott Borthwick round the corner and called Ben Phillips through for a single. But Fletcher, who is not quite built like a whippet, was a little slow off the blocks. Onions shied at the non-striker's end and, well... he seems to know where the stumps are today.

The figures are the best of his career, and the best by anyone this season. He will probably conclude it wasn't the worst three hours' work he has ever done.

5.10pm: Tim Wigmore at Surrey v Middlesex

Last wicket partnerships, eh? Just when Surrey appeared to have hauled themselves closer to parity than they would have dared to hope, after claiming six wickets for 24, Tim Murtagh and Toby Roland-Jones – as if they hadn’t hurt Surrey enough with the ball yesterday – proceeded to double Middlesex’s lead, from 44 to 88. There was little luck involved, either, with the power of Murtagh’s backfoot strokes particularly impressive. Surely no better batsman has batted at number eleven in county cricket all season?

Conditions for Surrey’s reply are a lot better than in their first innings, but Middlesex’s opening bowlers have been relentlessly consistent once more, Roland-Jones having already removed Ansari. 20 overs remain – Surrey cannot afford to lose more than one wicket.

5pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Durham

No stopping Graham Onions. Back after tea, he claimed his sixth wicket with his fifth ball as Steven Mullaney became his third lbw victim, and now Paul Franks is his fourth. Onions is 7-57. For Nottinghamshire, there are unwelcome echoes of the match here in July 2009, when England released Stephen Harmison from a Test squad at Lord's and he unleashed his anger on them.

It followed a slightly different pattern. Harmison arrived, like Onions, at lunchtime on the second day, but bowled well within himself in the first innings, taking only one wicket. However, after Notts were dismissed for 171 and followed on, he let it rip on the third day and took 6-20. Durham won by an innings.

Franks had only just raised his bat in triumph at a 63-ball half-century when Onions got what looked like a generous decision to a ball that seemed to pitch outside the line of leg stump.

3.40pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Durham

If South Africa were 150-0 this would be a better story, but it's not bad anyway. Graham Onions, after rushing up the M1 and having a quick limber up during the lunch interval, is running through Nottinghamshire like nobody's business. He is taking a breather now at 5-49 from nine overs. Notts are 84-5.

It makes the 50-run stand between Chris Rushworth and Mark Wood for the last Durham wicket look even more valuable. A couple of batsmen -- Alex Hales and Riki Wessels -- have been done by the pitch, effectively, after the ball barely bounced above ankle height, but Adam Voges was unfortunate to get a real beauty that clipped his off stump. Michael Lumb was trapped on the crease by a full delivery but Chris Read, uncharacteristically, perished to a bit of a swish first ball.

I notice that @OfficialMoinA23 has got his A-level results (they must have been held up in the post). He tweeted: "I got an A in bowling fast, D in fielding and A for my haircut." As a reward, he is to be given the rest of Yorkshire's game off.

3.35pm: Tim Wigmore at Surrey v Middlesex

As overseas spinners are meant to, Murali Kartik has dragged Surrey back into the game here. He has taken three wickets and Gareth Batty two (in consecutive balls), as Middlesex have slipped from 164-3 to 188-8. Batty could have had three in four balls, as he spilled a sharp return catch from number ten Toby Roland-Jones. Either way, the spinners are extracting real turn and bounce, which they are exploiting skillfully, with Kartik’s dismissal of Neil Dexter to a delivery with noticeably more air. Perhaps Surrey’s tactics – preparing a raging turner, then batting first in overcast conditions - may yet pay off, especially with Middlesex’s leading spinner Ollie Rayner injured.

On the ‘Outgrounds Plus’ category, surely Uxbridge must lead that list?

3.30pm: Myles Hodgson at Yorkshire v Derbyshire

At this time of year there are numerous players around the country whose contracts are due to expire at the end of the season and either looking to move on or secure a new deal. We have the rare occurrence of two such players batting together at Headingley this afternoon with Anthony McGrath looking to secure a new deal and Andrew Hodd, a loan signing from Sussex, aiming to win a permanent contract.

McGrath has served Yorkshire well over many years and is hoping to continue beyond this summer. He has postponed contract talks until next month and having scored a century against Hampshire in May, he has progressed to an unbeaten 74.

Hodd is in a different category having been signed on loan until the end of the season, which effectively gives him four championship matches to persuade Yorkshire to give him a permanent deal to act as reserve wicketkeeper. He has made a good impression on his debut, contributing 14 valuable runs to a half-century partnership with McGrath under sunny skies at Headingley.

We are assuming Tim Bresnan, overlooked for England’s final Test line-up this morning, has now arrived after hot-footing it from London to make a belated entrance into this match. He may struggle, however, to match the impact of Graham Onions, also left out of England’s line-up, who arrived at Trent Bridge and promptly took five wickets for Durham.

As for favoured out-grounds, I would concur with Paul and include Scarborough on any such list. Once you have negotiated the painfully slow traffic into town and worked out the confusing entrance to the press box, it remains one of the best grounds for watching cricket in the country. The fish and chips aren’t bad there, either.

3.15pm: Paul Edwards at England Lions v Australia A

We are back on here after an 80-minute delay caused by lunchtime rain. However, we still have 58 overs to watch, so it could be Ovaltine all round – unless that’s kept for Surrey games.

Re Tim’s comment about the 2007 Lancashire v Sussex match, I covered that game, which was well won by Sussex on their way to the title, and umpire Ian Gould said that he thought the standard of play to be more akin to a Test match. As regards Liverpool itself, yes it is a lovely ground, although some people have become blasé about it because they’ve been there so often recently. It really belongs with Scarborough and Cheltenham in the category, “Outgrounds Plus” Any others? Tunbridge Wells? Arundel?

2.50pm: Tim Wigmore at Surrey v Middlesex

Surrey have been bowling with a purpose they lacked yesterday, though they haven’t yet received the rewards they deserve: Middlesex have just snuck into the lead for the loss of only three wickets, night watchman Tom Smith having progressed to an irritating 24*.

Despite Surrey’s grim overnight position and the Test at Lord’s, there’s a very decent crowd here: pavilion seats are probably 75% full, and there’s also a reasonable sprinkling around the ground. Still, I always think county cricket – at least of the non-t20 variety – has a nicer feel when it’s not played at international grounds. So it’s no bad thing Surrey’s final game of the season, away at Lancashire (looming as a relegation decider) has been moved to Liverpool, which is a lovely ground. In 2007 I saw a couple of riveting days between Lancashire and Sussex there, featuring talent including Brad Hodge, Stuart Law, Andrew Flintoff, Muttiah Muralitharan, Murray Goodwin, Mushtaq Ahmed and Rana Naved.

2.00pm: Paul Edwards at England Lions v Australia A

Lancashire's final LV= Division One game of the season has been moved from Old Trafford to Aigburth. The match against Surrey will now take place at the home of Liverpool CC from Tuesday 11th to Friday 14th September The upcoming game against Durham was also moved to Aigburth earlier this season and the latest decision means that by the end of the 2012 season the club will have hosted 12 of Lancashire's last 16 four-day games.

Confirming the decision, Lancashire's director of cricket Mike Watkinson said: “The period of extremely wet weather, which forced us to move the Durham game to Liverpool, hasn’t sufficiently improved to re-establish the grass cover on the newer pitches on the square. We have also got two international Twenty20 matches taking place at Old Trafford the day before the Durham game is due to start.

Drying up procedures continue here.

1.45pm: Paul Edwards at England Lions v Australia A

We had a late start here and we will also have a late resumption after lunch, rain having chased the players in for their tiffin at 1.00. In the 20 overs that were possible this morning Australia A bowled very well to reduce England to 55 for four. As I write, Messrs Mallender and Robinson are ambling in from conducting an inspection and I think they’ve said that they are to have another look at conditions at 2.20.

1.30pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Durham

Not for the first time, I've been made to look foolish. In my earlier assessment of Mark Wood's pedigree, in which I suggested that this was his first Championship match, I overlooked the rather glaring detail that he played in this fixture last year and not only took five wickets in total but scored an unbeaten 45 in the second innings, albeit in a losing cause as Durham slipped to a 67-run defeat. I stand corrected. Indeed, the earlier entry stands corrected.

Wood seems to like batting here, if I'm not mistaken. He and Chris Rushworth have conspired in the biggest partnership of the Durham innings, irritating Nottinghamshire, who had hoped for a few overs' batting before Graham Onions showed up. They held up lunch, too, under the new rule that allows an interval to be delayed half an hour if nine wickets are down, and it was not until virtually the full 30 minutes had been used up that Wood was given out caught behind for 34. The last pair had added 50 exactly.

Happily my error count for the morning session is well short of Durham's. Four of the five batsmen out will look back on the shots they played and concede that they should have done better. Wood reacted as though he thought Steve Gale might have done better with the decision that ended his innings, his swish outside off-stump at White making the thinnest of contacts, if any at all. Then again, he had been given the benefit of the doubt the ball before. Durham all out 194.

Onions is (are?) also on the menu for lunch, coincidentally, accompanying some very tasty Cumberland sausages that the caterers have been keeping warm.

1pm: Tim Wigmore at Surrey v Middlesex

Only six overs were possible before another shower here, giving Middlesex supporters a chance to appreciate Steve Finn’s spell at Lord’s, though there was a lot of chatter that he should have been opening the bowling instead of Stuart Broad.

Rather mystifyingly, Zander de Bruyn opened the bowling here, a measure of how far Tim Linley has fallen from last season, when he took 73 championship wickets at 18 apiece. But Jade Dernbach’s three overs were very good, seam movement accounting for Sam Robson to leave Middlesex a slightly less imperious 107-2. They should resume at half one, moody skies permitting.

12.30pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Durham

This is a second Championship match -- thanks, durhamfootman -- for the 22-year-old Durham seamer, Mark Wood. Like Stephen Harmison, he's an Ashington boy. He took five wickets and scored an unbeaten 45 in this match last year. In fact, he once made a century for Northumberland Under-17s batting at three and hit 95 against Leeds-Bradford MCCU at four only this May.

He is not being set much of an example in this match. Four Durham wickets have fallen this morning, three to dreadful shots, of which Scott Borthwick and Callum Thorp are the latest guilty parties. Mitch Claydon has been obliged to bat. Durham are 134-8 from 52 overs.

11.45am: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Durham

Graham Onions is hot-footing it up the M1 to join Durham after fulfilling his duties as net bowler for England. It might be that Mitch Claydon, who is designated to drop out, has a role to play in this match, after all. Durham are 107-6 after Luke Fletcher took his third wicket of the innings as Paul Collingwood edged catch to gully and then Dale Benkenstein drove wildly at a ball from Ben Phillips that was not there to be hit and got himself caught at second slip.

Onions might be a real challenge on this pitch, which has offered something for the bowler who gets it right. The ball can sit up to be driven but Fletcher in particular is getting it right too frequently for Durham's comfort. Mark Wood is in now but Claydon is doubtless padded up as I write.

At least Graeme White can be assured that he will be needed. The left-arm spinner, who bowled seven overs in Nottinghamshire's opening match of the Championship programme but has not played in a red-ball game since then, keeps his place with Graeme Swann recalled by England at Lord's.

11.40am: Tim Wigmore at Surrey v Middlesex

It might be sunny at Lord’s but, typical of a summer that has defied logic, it’s been raining pretty heavily here a few miles South. The sun has belatedly made an appearance, and we resume at 11.55.

The one piece of good news for Surrey is that Steve Finn has been selected by England, so won't be inflicting any damage on them this game. Then again, Surrey’s penchant for kamikaze batting is such that they don’t normally need much help getting themselves out.

On the subject of twitter the Surrey bunch are quite a shy bunch (unlike in other areas, someone unkind might add). Mark Ramprakash was quite prolific though, and seldom shy to voice his frustration with some of Chris Adams’ selection decisions. No one has made a parody account of ‘Battle Axe’ – yet – but the real thing can be followed @MarkRamprakash.

11.20am: Paul Edwards at England Lions v Australia A

One thing virtually no one noticed at Edgbaston yesterday was the major effort of the groundstaff to mop up after play had been abandoned, About eight of them were out here until maybe five o’clock making sure the place was as dry as it could be in preparation for this morning.

However, the law of sod is a formidable piece of legislation. Half an hour before the start of play today another shower came down and we have a delayed start at 11.30.Australia A have declared by the way.

As to parody Twitter accounts, a theme I didn’t take up yesterday, I am reminded of the comment of Tom Lehrer that political satire was dead when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize. I rather think giving some very famous sportsmen the opportunity to tell us about their lives and opinions in no more than 160(?) characters rather kills parody too. Nonetheless, which county players might be vulnerable to a parody account? Sajid Mahmood? Matthew Hoggard?

11.00am: Myles Hodgson at Yorkshire v Derbyshire

There were many guffaws this morning from Headingley when it was announced that Tim Bresnan had missed out on selection for the final Test at Lord’s. The amusement was not in delight because he will be available for Yorkshire for the remainder of this current match against Derbyshire, which may have a major bearing on their promotion challenge, but more at the role he played in previewing the big match at Lord’s.

Presumably selected to face the media earlier this week because of his detachment from the Pietersen affair – and therefore was unlikely to inflame the situation further – his release from the squad 48 hours later was something of a surprise in these parts.

Of course, the ECB PR machine are unlikely to be privy to the selection meeting prior to the Test, so their selection of Bresnan as the player provided to the media may have been quite innocent. Even this, however, does not surpass Alex Tudor’s similar role some years ago before a one-day international. He was articulate and interesting in his press conference but released from the England squad early the following morning almost before most people had read the various reports on his views in the morning newspapers.

Yorkshire have confirmed Moin Ashraf, another player with a spoof twitter account, will make way for Bresnan in this match just as soon as he completes his journey up the M1. They will resume on 127 for two after yesterday's rain-interrupted first day at Headingley.

10am: Alan Gardner presents today's offering

Hello and welcome to the most comprehensive county coverage in this, that or any other market town. We had another disrupted day on Wednesday but our correspondents, Jon Culley (Trent Bridge), Tim Wigmore (The Oval) and Myles Hodgson (Headingley), will be back with their collars turned to the wind and an optimistic turn to their phrase.

Over on our county page we've got a full batch of reports; feel free to add your own flavours below the line.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo