August 23, 2012

LV= County Championship, Thursday August 23

5.30pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Middlesex

5.30pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Middlesex

Warwickshire have made some inroads after breaking a fine partnership between Chris Rogers and Dawid Malan but Middlesex had a lead of 253 when the score was 299-5 and another 50 runs will make it a difficult chase, which will be good for the title race, if not for Warwickshire.

After Ian Blackwell toiled for 20 overs without success it is Boyd Rankin who has done the damage in his spell since tea, accounting for Rogers, who cut him to slip, Neil Dexter, who was brilliantly caught by William Porterfield at gully, and Adam Rossington, who top-edged a pull.

Rogers made 109 in a stand of 203 with Malan, who went on to complete his second century of the season and remains unbeaten on 109. His wicket is key for Warwickshire, who could be knocked off the top by Sussex.

5.30pm: Ivo Tennant at Somerset v Sussex

Monty Panesar, ‘the Sultan’ himself, has match figures of 13 for 137. He has outbowled Abdur Rehman in this match and has given his county, Sussex, every chance of becoming champions. Sometimes he has seemingly tried to bowl as fast as Derek Underwood, fizzing the ball through on this responsive surface. But you can’t argue with such statistics. Sussex need 164 for victory.

4.45pm: Ivo Tennant at Somerset v Sussex

‘The Sultan’ has four more wickets to add to the seven in took in Somerset’s first innings. Monty Panesar is propelling Sussex towards…..the first division title? Who knows. But James Whitaker, the England selector who came to watch him, has seen enough. For Jos Buttler has also been and gone, cheaply. Whitaker has departed, no doubt to deal with the next KP crisis.

3.30pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Middlesex

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital was part of the explanation for the helicopter, although it was not a case of a faulty satnav. Apparently, there is no open space close to the QE that is suitable for a Chinook, so this one landed in Calthorpe Park so that the patient on board could be transferred to an ambulance. The QE is the hospital that receives incoming wounded from Afghanistan.

There is no parting Dawid Malan and Chris Rogers, whose partnership at 176 is the second biggest for any Middlesex wicket this season, behind the 245 shared by Rogers and Joe Denly for the second wicket against Somerset at Lord's in June. Malan and Rogers have figured in all of the 10 highest Middlesex stands this season, although this is the first involving both. Middlesex are 201-2.

3.20pm: Ivo Tennant at Somerset v Sussex

The search is frantically on at the County Ground for the Somerset mascot, ‘Stumpy,’ who is required to perform before the cameras in Sky’s build-up to t20 finals day at Cardiff on Saturday. Unfortunately for them, he has done a runner. Requests have gone out to rather bemused club and media officials to find him. If he does appear, he will be running with David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd during the event, but otherwise a sub will have to be sent for, if one exists.

3pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Middlesex

I can't seem to watch a game of cricket these days without the involvement of at least one helicopter. After the four spotted circling the ground on days one and two as part of some off-the-wall urban opera production, you might suppose the appearance of just one this afternoon was a lesser event, except that this was one of those twin-rotor Chinooks favoured by the military, which descended into Calthorpe Park -- barely 300 yards behind the Birmingham End -- and then took off again within a few moments, passing perilously close to the floodlight pylon behind the scoreboard.

Its destination was unknown. Speculation is that the pilot had been looking for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and thought the enormous new pavilion stand here was it.

It was enough to cause a momentary pause in play, although Dawid Malan and Chris Rogers have not been distracted. They are proceeding swimmingly, their partnership for the third wicket currently worth 140 without much hint of a Warwickshire breakthrough. Rogers might have been caught at third man with an uppercut off Boyd Rankin but the ball carried beyond Keith Barker and into the seats for six. 169-2.

2.45pm: Les Smith at Durham v Worcestershire

At 2.15pm the clouds opened above Chester-le-Street and steady rain began to fall. Fortunately for Durham, at 2.05pm Dale Benkenstein had square cut Moeen Ali to the boundary to secure both a fourth successive County Championship victory and security in Division 1. After the mini-collapse at the start of the day, Durham had an ideal partnership in Benkenstein and Paul Collingwood, who both scored undefeated half centuries. Worcestershire, meanwhile, must lick their wounds before heading back to New Road and a crucial fixture against Middlesex next Tuesday.

1.40pm: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Middlesex

Ian Blackwell opened his bid to become England's second spinner after 13 overs of the Middlesex innings, although he was interrupted after only two overs by lunch, which he may have been pining for anyway. He was Monty's sidekick when he won his only Test cap, in the first Test in Nagpur in March, 2005, when he bowled 19 overs for 71 runs over the two innings without taking a wicket.

Although I feel slightly uncomfortable commenting on body size issues, given that my waist measurement is not what it was, I have to say that Blackie is possibly as large as he has ever been these days and will have to take advice from Samit Patel if he is to rekindle selectorial interest.

Blackwell's real target, of course, does not go beyond making the most of being Warwickshire's first spinner, having been borrowed from Durham after Jeetan Patel was summoned by New Zealand. Speaking the other night, he did mention the 'fitness' word in his explanation as to why Scott Borthwick is the slow bowler of choice at Chester-le-Street. He is clearly hoping that a bunch of wickets will persuade Warwickshire to look beyond such matters and offer him a contract.

At lunch, Middlesex are 68-2. Sam Robson was caught behind and Joe Denly, dropped the next ball while on 0, was brilliantly taken at second slip by the excellent Rikki Clarke, both wickets going to Chris Wright.

1.15pm: Les Smith at Durham v Worcestershire

The crowds here at Chester-le-Street over the last three days have conformed with the County Championship stereotype: overwhelmingly male, and overwhelmingly middle aged or older. The women who are here are mostly with their husbands, and the younger men are mostly with their dads. Should this cause concern to lovers of the four day game about its long term future? Probably. The demographic will be significantly different next Monday when Durham play Hampshire in the forty over format.

Today started encouragingly for Worcestershire as Alan Richardson took three cheap wickets to reduce Durham to 35-4, but the elder statesmen Dale Benkenstein and Paul Collingwood have come together, got their heads down, and guided their team to within thirty runs of their victory target at lunch.

12pm: Ivo Tennant at Somerset v Sussex

James Whitaker, the England selector who is back at the County Ground, smartly turned out as always, is altogether a man of taste and decorum. He has skipped the newspaper stories on Prince Harry’s crown jewels and is concentrating on what Michael Atherton has to say. Sensible person.

11.50am: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Middlesex

In the end, Warwickshire added 40 in 10.1 overs to their overnight, aided by Toby Roland-Jones bowling short to Keith Barker, who was dropped on the hook/pull on 19 but otherwise profited from the tactic before Tim Murtagh had him caught behind off an inside edge. All out for 333 (a number that will prompt press box colleagues of a certain vintage to recall a Kent freelance with a famous name), which gave them a lead of 46 that might come in handy. Especially if Ian Blackwell can launch a late push for a second Test cap later.

11.30am: Ivo Tennant at Somerset v Sussex

‘The Sultan,’ as England selector James Whitaker calls him, is no footballer. Monty Panesar, who took his career best figures of seven for 60 yesterday, prepared for action today – he hardly needed another bowl in the nets – by kicking a ball around the outfield with his Sussex team-mates. His passing was all over the place. But that hardly matters when he can perform as he did in Somerset’s first innings. Whitaker is back on the County Ground today. And no-one was more generous in assessing his worth than Marcus Trescothick, the one batsman to master his turn and bite on this helpful pitch. Monty will play again for England, for sure.

11.15am: Jon Culley at Warwickshire v Middlesex

Don't know about autumn -- whatever I'm sniffing in the air is making me want to reach for the hayfever pills. Anyway, Warwickshire have achieved their immediate objective, which was to secure a third batting bonus point. They did so in the 94th over, which creates a slight dilemma. They could go hell for leather for a fourth -- and both Chris Wright and Keith Barker are well capable of pushing on -- but that would risk losing their last two wickets cheaply. The ball is only 14 overs old. It might be more sensible for these two to proceed with a bit more circumspection in the hope of scratching out a lead on the assumption that this pitch will become more difficult to bat on. At 307-8, Warwickshire are 20 in front.

11.00am: Les Smith at Durham v Worcestershire

There was a discernible whiff of autumn in the air when I walked into town to get the weekly local paper this morning. (Front page splash: Local family has miserable holiday in Spain, bless them). I drove through heavy rain for a spell in North Yorkshire on the way to Chester-le-Street. Here now the overhead conditions have followed the same pattern as the first two mornings of this match, sunshine early on then cloud moving across as the start of play approaches. Worcestershire’s bowlers will be hoping it stays that way, because they are going to need all the help they can get. Even if we get some of the showers that are forecast, this is a good drying ground and, provided that thy go about their business sensibly, Durham should gain the additional 148 runs they need for a fourth successive County Championship victory by early afternoon. Mark Stoneman and Keaton Jennings have the task of giving their side a solid over the next half hour.

10.45am: Setting the scene

Third day is often moving day in the Championship but we'll also get at least one finish as Durham chase their target at Chester-le-Street. Warwickshire, meanwhile, have not had it all their own way at Edgbaston and neither have the Division Two leaders, Derbyshire, at Northampton.

Yesterday Monty Panesar took a career-best seven-wicket haul and it again ignites the debate about who should be England's second spinner this winter. Monty probably leads the way, but there is also James Tredwell who has had a solid season - and bowled well in the CB40 last night - plus the younger group of Danny Briggs and Simon Kerrigan. Feel free to post your thoughts.

I will leave you in the capable hands of our correspondents around the circuit.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo