August 21, 2012

LV= County Championship, Tuesday August 21

6.30pm: Tim Wigmore at Surrey v Glamorgan

6.30pm: Tim Wigmore at Surrey v Glamorgan

Surrey finish up on a disappointing 219-9. As so often in the CB40 this season, their top order batting let them down before, typically, Matt Spriegel brought them to something approaching respectability: his 51 came off 75 balls and contained only one four, but Surrey would have really floundered without it. Zafar Ansari’s perky 30 was also impressive and Stuart Meaker’s late-innings legside shovels could yet prove crucial. But Glamorgan are certainly favourites, even with a notoriously collapse-prone batting line-up.

Incidentally, the crowd is very good here - not far off the number at Lord's yesterday. Well done to Surrey for giving 7,000 tickets away to the local community to create a great atmosphere for this match. It's something counties should do more of.

6.10pm: Les Smith at Durham v Worcestershire

I’m being cautious here because I don’t want to do a very good cricketer a disservice, but watching Alan Richardson today I’ve been reminiscing about one of my favourite cricketers. As a boy, learning to love cricket in Kent in the 1970s, I was captivated by Norman Graham. Big Norm, who came from hereabouts, was four inches taller than Richardson. He was ungainly, a truly dreadful fielder (picture a giraffe trying to scavenge an acorn), and gave the impression that a cricket bat was merely a perambulatory aid to get him to the middle and then promptly back to the pavilion again. But when he had the ball in his hand, at Canterbury, Maidstone, or Tunbridge Wells, he was as wholehearted a competitor as you could wish to see.

Alan Richardson is a better cricketer than Big Norm was, and he’s still at it here, bowling his 19th over and continuing at a little over two runs per over. Durham 177-7.

5pm: Ivo Tennant at Somerset v Sussex

Just for a change, it is raining in the west country. There has been no play since 2.50pm and quite a few spectators are homeward bound. Still, they have seen Marcus Trescothick batting at something approaching his best: he is 89 not out, needing 11 runs for his 50th first-class century. He had scored just 94 runs before this innings this summer at an average of 13.42, but we all know that his ankle injury has been the reason behind that. Last year he made 1,673 runs at 79.66. The local newspaper man can recite these statistics off the top of his head, which is impressive. In a controversial article in The Cricketer last month, Tres was reckoned to be of greater worth even nowadays than Kevin Pietersen. Some people scoffed; but not in these parts.

5pm: Tim Wigmore at Surrey v Glamorgan

Simon Jones has just bowled Kevin Pietersen with a terrific delivery – one that jagged back and took out the top of off stump. It would probably have got any batsman in the world out, though the crowd were disappointed to see KP’s enterprising 43 ended. The Pietersen-Jones duel was something, and, based on this form, it doesn’t seem that outlandish that Jones could play for England again, though obviously as a short-form specialist. 12 CB40 wickets at 31, with an economy rate of six, show that he hasn’t quite been consistent enough this season. At 101-4 in the 18th over, Surrey could be bowled out here.

4.45pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Middlesex

Neil Dexter has had a tough year. He suffered personal tragedy with the sudden death of one of his brothers back home in South Africa during the winter, an event that affected him profoundly, as might be expected.

It was under his captaincy that Middlesex were promoted as Division Two champions last year but he stepped down from the role early this year in the hope that he could restore his faltering batting form. He continued to struggle and spent a period out of the side altogether.

His century here today, therefore, can be seen as a significant milestone on the way to recovery. He completed it with his 17th boundary and immediately looked upwards, pointing his bat.

That moment came shortly before tea. Soon afterwards, he was leg before to a fullish ball from Boyd Rankin, who claimed another wicket three balls later when Toby Roland-Jones edged to second slip. Ravi Patel, who made seven on his Championship debut, has just driven Ian Blackwell straight to mid-off to give the on-loan Durham left-arm spinner four wickets from his debut bowl for Warwickshire.

3.55pm: Les Smith at Durham v Worcestershire

Alan Richardson is 37 years old, has played for four first class counties in addition to three seasons with Staffordshire, and has recently signed a two year contract extension with Worcestershire. This afternoon he has given an indication as to why his employers value him so much. He and his bowling colleagues have a very small total to defend, so a spell of ten overs for 22 runs and a wicket before a run had been scored was exactly what his side needed. Viewed from side on, his walk back to his mark appears laboured and a little awkward, but then he turns into a smooth, fluid ten pace run up culminating in an athletic leap into the delivery stride. His figures tell the story of the accuracy with which he prevented Durham from making a flying start in pursuit of what should still be a healthy first innings lead.

Durham were 8-2 but the left handers Keaton Jennings and Ben Stokes have, with increasing fluency, placed them in a position of relative strength. 66-2.

3.55pm: Tim Wigmore at Surrey v Glamorgan

Dare you mock Kevin Pietersen? Glamorgan and Graham Wagg have just done so. The ball after Wagg dismissed Steven Davies with his seamers he switched to left-arm spin – no doubt mindful that Hampshire’s Liam Dawson has twice dismissed KP first ball this season. But the ball was a little short, and was promptly crunched by Pietersen to point for four.

3.40pm: Tim Wigmore at Surrey v Glamorgan

Hello from The Oval, where the cyclists have just arrived from their 150-mile ride from Swalec Stadium, led by Matthew Maynard. This means that the Tom Maynard trust has officially launched – more details of which can be found here. Already, £20,000 has been raised. The first handouts (for £2,000) have just been awarded – to allow Surrey’s Matthew Dunn and George Edwards, and Glamorgan’s David Lloyd, to pursue playing and coaching opportunities abroad this winter.

We have also been treated to a video celebrating Tom’s career, played to the tune of the Manic Street Preachers’ Dakota. The whole occasion is obviously desperately sad, but Surrey and Glamorgan are trying to make it into as uplifting an occasion as possible, epitomised by the decision to hold a minute’s applause rather than silence.

Let’s hope they can produce a game to honour Tom’s memory – Surrey have won the toss and will bat first, and we are about to get under way.

3pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Middlesex

On the basis that he predicted before Warwickshire beat Worcestershire in their last match that three wins from five matches would clinch the title, you assume that Ashley Giles, their director of cricket, will see two wins from four as enough now.

He believes Warwickshire are a stronger team that last year, when they were runners-up, and he is right. But they have to guard against allowing any complacency to slip into their mindset. Giles has had them properly focussed on playing one session and a time and ignoring the table all season and they need to maintain that approach more than ever now that the heat is on.

Today, though, collectively they have bowled poorly, giving away easy boundaries and compounding their lack of control by giving away 18 runs in no balls. Neil Dexter has helped himself to 87 not out.

On the plus side, Ian Blackwell, the portly -- well, he is! -- left-arm spinner on loan from Durham, has claimed his first Warwickshire wicket. It was an awful ball, pitching half-way down the pitch, but Adam Rossington, who had batted well to that point for his 29, did not see it coming and ended up prodding it straight to Varun Chopra at backward point. 220-5.

2.35pm: Ivo Tennant at Somerset v Sussex

Mark Robinson, the Sussex coach, is pleased to see some old boys on the County Ground. Tony Pigott, former fast bowler and chief executive, is here in his capacity as ECB pitch officer. Richard Montgomerie, who now runs cricket at Eton College, is also wandering round. There is more talk of texts with Vic Marks, the chairman of Somerset’s cricket committee, who has been at Lord’s. It all brought to mind an earlier controversy over text messages when Giles Clarke, now ECB chairman, was chairing Somerset, and Neil Davidson, now a joint owner of The Cricketer, was in charge of Leicestershire.

Leicestershire beat Somerset in a one day match and Davidson made the mistake of sending Clarke a text. “I see now why Taunton is the home of girls cricket,” it read, in reference to this becoming the HQ of the women’s game. Clarke responded by reporting him to the ECB. All of which only goes to emphasise that it is best to stay well clear of critical texts and twitters.

2.25pm: Chance to vote

If any of you fancy voting in the LV= County Championship Breakthrough Player award, here's the link. Rumours are that it takes slightly less time than the ECB survey on the future of county cricket which some of you have so nobly attempted.

2.20pm: Les Smith at Durham v Worcestershire

The sun has shown its face at Chester-le-Street just in time for the start of Durham’s first innings. Worcestershire went to lunch at 85-7 and, in the person of Ben Scott, came out looking to get as many runs on the board as possible before the apparently inevitable occurred. Scott added 21 to his not out score in quick fire time, but is now padded and gloved as Alan Richardson prepares to open the attack five minutes after being yorked first ball as Worcestershire were bowled out for 120. Chris Rushworth has claimed career best figures of 5-44.

The ground is well populated for a Tuesday afternoon in the County Championship, but the locals have been oddly subdued as their bowlers ripped through Worcesterhire. They’ll be even more subdued now. Richardson has dismissed Mark Stoneman with the fifth ball of the innings. 0-1.

1pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Middlesex

Normally speaking, four wickets from the opening session is seen as a reasonable reward for sticking the opposition in, in which respect Warwickshire have fulfilled their plan. Unfortunately, Middlesex have scored 126 runs.

The Warwickshire bowlers can't crow too loudly about their successes, either. Two of Tim Ambrose's three catches were down the legside, the other the result of Joe Denly wafting at a ball outside off stump. The ball from Keith Barker that had Chris Rogers caught at second slip was a decent one, though. There have been 84 runs in boundaries.

Still, the game is moving along well. My feeling is that if Warwickshire win this one, it will be their title. At the start of the season, I said Durham would win it. I may have to concede they have left their run a bit late.

12.45pm: Ivo Tennant at Somerset v Sussex

Just for a change, KP is a talking point here. As, it should be mentioned, is Marcus Trescothick, given that he has just reached his first half century of his injury-hit season. It transpires that Kevin Pietersen considered joining Kent when he left Nottinghamshire. Dave Fulton, the Kent captain at the time and now a Sky reporter, said this morning that he spoke to him following a match at Maidstone in 2003 in the knowledge that Pietersen’s mother had Canterbury connections. Yet it was not money, apparently, which was the main factor behind a move to Hampshire. “Canterbury wasn’t a sufficiently happening place,” admitted Fulton.

12.05pm: Les Smith at Durham v Worcestershire

These counties are notable for the numbers of local men in their respective sides. Durham supporters are expressing surprise and disappointment that one such, Mark Wood, is not in their team for this match. Wood who, like the Harmison brothers, is a native of Ashington, came into the side for the game at Trent Bridge last week, his second appearance in the County Championship. While Graham Onions’ nine first innings wickets stole the headlines, Wood’s five in Notts’ second innings were crucial to Durham’s victory. The 22 year old who, according to one local, “can handle a bat”, also contributed two scores in the thirties batting down the order. Wood was in the side because Ben Stokes was representing England A, but Stokes is back and Durham must feel pleased to be able to rest a player after such a solid performance.

Stokes has yet to have a bowl here. Graham Onions and Chris Rushworth have bowled unchanged throughout the first hour, and Worcestershire have struggled. They are 37-5. Matthew Pardoe has stood admirably steadfast amid the wreckage, and will have to continue to do so if his side is to post a challenging total.

11.45am: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Middlesex

It has not been quite the start Warwickshire wanted after opting to put Middlesex in at Edgbaston, but they have just made a breakthrough with Chris Rogers caught low down at second slip by Rikki Clarke off Keith Barker for six, which would look better on the scorecard if opening partner Sam Robson had not scored 31 off 31 balls.

The wicket came two overs after Warwickshire persuaded umpires Jeremy Lloyds and Martin Saggers to change the ball. Make of that what you will.

Warwickshire have Ian Blackwell making his Championship debut on loan from Durham, with Boyd Rankin continuing in place of Chris Woakes, who is required by England. Middlesex give a Championship debut to left-arm spinner Ravi Patel and Gareth Berg returns. Tom Smith and Andrew Balbirnie drop put from the side narrowly beaten by Surrey at The Oval. 43-1 after 11 overs.

11.20am: Les Smith at Durham v Worcestershire

The A19 is a fine highway. It takes the traveller north past the foot of the Hawardian hills and the fringe of the North York Moors, through the messy sprawl of Teesside, and into Tony Blair’s old constituency. From there it’s a short final leg to this fine cricket ground at Chester-le-Street. It might not deliver the same kicks as Route 66 but it will do for today.

The last time I was here four weeks ago Durham were languishing where Worcestershire are now: at the bottom of Division 1 of the County Championship. Three successive victories for Durham under the fresh captaincy of Paul Collingwood have put them in a position to look upwards rather than down, while two defeats and a draw have had the opposite effect on Worcestershire, who are 18 points adrift of seventh placed Surrey and 23 of today’s opponents. Like Warwickshire at the other end of the table, they have a game in hand on their rivals, but this is a crucial fixture for them.

Victory in this match would probably secure Durham’s place in Division 1, and they’re going for it. Collingwood has won the toss and, under an increasingly cloudy sky, has chosen to bowl.

11.20am: Ivo Tennant at Taunton

There was talk of Somerset bringing the start time for these four days forward to 10.30 in order to ensure they would arrive in Cardiff in good time on Friday in preparation for t20 finals day, but this has not materialised. Anyway, they are batting at a conventional hour against Sussex and have included Saj Mahmood, on loan from Lancashire until the end of the season, as cover for injured fast bowlers. Should this loan system be utilised at this stage of the season against fellow title contenders?

11.00am: Andrew McGlashan sets the scene

Morning everyone. Sorry for the slow start. Been buried in England squads. But this is a KP-free zone (bit like the squads, I guess) so let's focus on the Championship which is brewing up superbly for the final few weeks of the season. Some fantastic games in the last round, not least Surrey's win against Middlesex and the game at Trent Bridge where Durham won by 16 runs.

Durham have now won three on bounce to move clear of the relegation zone and this week face bottom side Worcestershire. Sussex and Somerset will both fancy a late dip at the title so their clash is vital, while Warwickshire will want to extend their gap at the top against Middlesex. Meanwhile, in Division Two Derbyshire are still handsomely placed.

Apologies for the brief summing up, but I trust you can all had far more to this discussion in the comments section so fire away. Enjoy the day.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo