September 4, 2012

LV= County Championship, Tuesday September 4

Alex Winter

11:15am: Jarrod Kimber at Surrey V Notts

The necronomicon is a book written by the mad poet Abdul Alhazred in 738AD. It’s a book used by many people who believe in the occult to find spells and such. Some Satanists claim it is the most important book in history. Famed explorer Ash Williams was a reader of the book. You can buy it on Amazon. And it’s been mentioned in many songs and films.

The only problem is, the book isn’t real. It does not exist, at all. There was no Abdul, mad or otherwise. It was invented as a plot point by HP Lovecraft, the racist often-brilliant sci-fi writer.

To surmise, Surrey have got a batting point this morning. The question is, just because you can earn them, see them on the table and teams crawl painfully towards them, do batting points really exist?

Surrey were bowled out for 269 when Gurney got one to go underground and bowl Linley. Meaker was unbeaten on 29. 29 is a magical number that helps you get batting points according to the necronomicon.

10.15am: Les Smith at Yorkshire v Glamorgan

Homer Simpson, walking past Moe’s Tavern, observed, apropos of nothing plot-wise, that 1974 was the year in which rock music reached its peak. He was right, of course, and driving down the A64 this morning under cirrus clouds and a 2/3 moon, listening to The Black Keys, it was like 1974 all over again, in a very good way. Pay attention, pop-pickers.

While playing air drums in the slow lane I was also trying unsuccessfully to recall who referred to whom as “the baby-faced assassin”. Can anyone help? Anyway, it won’t be long before someone uses the phrase to describe Joe Root, if it hasn’t been done already. Geoff Miller was here yesterday and it doesn’t take a genius to work out, with a vacancy in England’s top two, why. As it turned out, Root and Adam Lyth only had six overs to negotiate yesterday evening as they set about establishing a foundation for Yorkshire’s pursuit of Glamorgan’s first innings total of 272.

Yesterday’s wi-fi problem appears to have been resolved, at least for the time being, so we’re ready to rock on.

5.55pm: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Essex

It is 50 years since Keith Fletcher first played for Essex. Since then, of course, he has captained and coached the county and captained and coached England. In recent years he has looked after the development of the county’s young players, predicting, when Alastair Cook was 15, that he would play Test cricket. Of the teenage Ravi Bopara, he memorably said that he had too many shots for every ball bowled – which is still the case. It was mooted last winter that Fletcher should be honoured through a dinner in Chelmsford which would attract any number of members and supporters, but this has not materialised. His unbeaten half century of service deserves better.

5.25pm: Dodgy county cricket wi-fi - update

Today's county cricket wi-fi dunces are Yorkshire where Les Smith has been unable to get online for the last 90 minutes. That keeps them in the top four of the table.

5.05pm: David Hopps at Sussex v Somerset

Sussex have fallen for 221 at Hove and I suspect that is about 80 below par on this pitch, an observation I always make with considerable trepidation especially when I have spent much of the last hour talking to Les Lenham, Sussex’s part-time batting coach, about the talents of Murray Goodwin.

Lenham, whose connection with Sussex goes back 60 years, reckons Goodwin is the best Sussex batsman he has ever seen. More on this in the report later. Those who wanted to read a blow-by-blow account of Ed Joyce’s 65 may be disappointed.

The last four wickets fell for four runs and Abdur Rehman, who flew in from Dubai today, got three of them; far more rewarding than an afternoon snooze.

5:10pm Vithushan Ehantharajah at Middlesex v Lancashire

“A real man makes his own luck.” – Billy Zane

Billy Zane didn’t actually say this, his character in Titanic did. You remember, the film about one man’s struggle to come to terms with different types of cutlery?

Neil Dexter has made his own luck today, with the help of Steven Croft and Ajmal Shahzad. His hundred has not been the most seamless, but you could cut together a video of it, throw it on YouTube and drum up enough interest that many might even talk about him playing for England.

Then someone will make a joke about him being South African, and we’ll all laugh. Every single one of us.

Well batted Neil Dexter - Middlesex currently 335 for 6.

4.40pm: David Lloyd at Kent v Derbyshire

The value of Derbyshire’s early work with the ball was underlined when a stand of 46 for the sixth wicket was followed by one of 57 between Jones and Coles. And even when Coles was caught at slip, trying to cut Wes Durston, Mark Davies arrived to give the ball a good clump.

With Jones seeing little of the strike, Davies pulled Groenewald for a splendid six before confidence slightly got the better of him. Having driven to long-off, he tried to turn two into three – and was run out by Wayne Madsen’s fine throw from the deep which left bowler Mark Turner with little to do.

At 234 for eight, Kent were fighting their way into this game.

4.25pm:Jarrod Kimber at Surrey v Notts

Play has been slow here, not as slow as the old man who struggled to carry his suitcase one handed for much of his walk around the OCS stand, before taking out the handle and wheeling it rather comfortably.

Few have ever thought of Gary Wilson as a resistance leader, but he and Zander de Bruyn have matching fifties as Surrey edge closer and closer to a reasonable total here. Sadly for Surrey, this is Gary Wilson’s last game of the season, as he is about to fly out to join his Irish team mates in Sri Lanka leaving them Wilsonless for the match against Lancs.

When Gary Wilson arrives in Sri Lanka to meet with his Irish team, he’ll also meet their new bowling coach Craig McDermott. McDermott stepped down as a Australian bowling coach to spend more time with his family. Since then he’s been at the Under 19 world cup and is now on his way to Sri Lanka.

Irish bowling coach news is important; I don’t care what you say. Surrey are 204 for 5. The pitch is still on the low side, but it looks easy to bat now. As if you care.

3.50pm: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Essex

A week ago here, Hashim Amla and others were piling on the runs on the ideal pitch for a one day international. There was no grass left on at all. Now, there is a thick layer, and hence no little help for the seamers. A surface on which to win the toss: Hampshire have put Essex in and bowled them out for 180. Head groundsman Nigel Gray is skilled at his art: it will play better on days three and four, as has been the case for most of the season, but we have seen all too little spin this year and all too little of Danny Briggs. This is not good for the game. ECB inspector John Jameson is a former opening batsman and would be the very person from whom to seek a view, only he has disappeared – if that can be said of a man who retains the bulk he possessed when he was at the crease in a former life.

3.40pm: David Hopps at Sussex v Somerset

Murray Goodwin is out, which brings no joy to the romantics who are hoping he will grace his farewell championship match with a century, and Ed Joyce is out too, a wicket which these days is probably the one that Somerset valued the most. With Sussex 184 for 6 at tea, Somerset have the edge.

Sajid Mahmood ended Goodwin’s innings to a catch by Marcus Trescothick at second slip. Goodwin, who had got a sitting ovation when he came out to bat, got more subdued, seated applause when he returned.

Joyce was Sussex’s brick, 65 in four-and-a-quarter hours, a patient innings unadorned by fripperies, and one that looked increasingly necessary for Sussex as his was one of three wickets to fall to Alfonso Thomas as tea approached.

Abdur Rehman, just back from Dubai, via Heathrow, strolled onto the field around 2pm and had a peramble around 2.30pm. Jack Leach’s second championship match was therefore limited to a solitary over just before lunch before he returned to 12th man duties.

3:10pm: Vithushan Ehantharajah at Middlesex v Lancashire

Someone has told Ajmal Shahzad to bowl bouncers. Unfortunately, they didn’t tell him how.

Everything’s there – the sprint to the crease, almost too up-right, with a physique so muscularly wide he almost takes out the stumps AND the umpire (beat that Steven Finn. Actually, don’t.). The pace is there and all – I’m not sure of the speed, but he’s quicker than my mate at primary school who bowled so fast he made me sit on my stumps.

The issues start when it comes to the delivery of the ball – the business end of the bouncer, if you will. Shahzad seems hell-bent on breaking his own toes than the batsman’s nerve, as he bowls a couple of balls so short, they balloon over the head of the wicketkeeper. If he keeps this up I reckon those in the front two rows of the media centre should probably rethink their positions. Oh good, he's off.

Dexter moves to fifty with a lovely on-drive, while Gareth Berg is sweeping Simon Kerrigan for fun. Lancs try to spoil the party with two men on leg-side boundary, so Berg gives Dexter the strike. “If I can’t sweep then what’s the point of it all?” Chapple and Smith back into the attack – Middlesex going steady at 216 for 5.

3pm: Jarrod Kimber at Surrey v Notts

Luke Fletcher’s run up is a bit like a person driving a rented van. Someone’s probably said that before, haven’t they?

Thanks to Alex for deputising for me while I dealt with my pregnant wife’s medical condition. I wouldn’t want to give you too many details, so I’ll do just the one, I almost got hit in the face with a used speculum this morning. Google it if you’ve had your lunch.

Talking of speculums, KP was out before I got to the ground, which is a shame, because I couldn’t give hear the pulse of the sparse crowd as he walked off. There are approximately 464 people here, all with 24 yards space between each other in proper pre-Olympics style London living.

The pitch seems to be keeping a bit low to me, but I’m assured by the press box elite (and Alex) that none of the wickets have really come from that. Jason Roy’s apparently came from him being Jason Roy. Jason Roy is the sports car you hire in LA only to realise you can’t drive a manual.

Surrey are struggling along awkwardly at 150-5.

2.55pm: David Lloyd at Kent v Derbyshire

Two David Lloyds, there’s only two David Lloyds... Actually, there are millions of them these days. But while one, sadly, was making a duck on championship debut at Headingley, another has just seen something rather spooky here.

Sam Northeast slapped Ross Whitely straight to square cover before lunch and now, blow me down, Michael Powell has just done the self same thing – same catcher, same bowler and for the same score (37). Strange, don’t you think?

Anyway, it was a good breakthrough for Derbyshire because Powell and Geraint Jones were threatening a bit of a fightback before their stand of 46 came to an end.

2.40pm: George Dobell at Worcestershire v Warwickshire

Warwickshire have gone past Worcestershire’s first innings total without the loss of a wicket. While Alan Richardson has bowled as well as ever, Varun Chopra is looking a high-class batsman. Richardson, not for the first time, is lacking support.

Perhaps the best example of the difference between these teams was provided when Nick Harrison came on as Worcestershire’s first change bowler. Harrison, who is making his Championship debut despite conceding 83 in seven overs in his last List A game (against Lancashire; that analysis includes him being thrashed for 30 in an over), started with a wide and then delivered a wide long-hop so generous that, had it had been gift-wrapped with a ribbon, the batsman could hardly have been more grateful. Warwickshire’s first change bowler, by contrast, is Boyd Rankin.

Harrison has now been replaced by Joe Leach, who doesn’t feature in the top 40 of the Birmingham League bowling averages.

2.40pm: Les Smith at Yorkshire v Glamorgan

Five years and one week ago I moved inland after twenty years of living at the seaside. A couple of days into my new residency I was trying to put my finger on something that was absent in a good way. Then I got it. No squawking. No aerial squabbling. No seagulls. I hope this explains to Mr Hopps my disparaging comment of this morning. I’m sure, anthropomorphically speaking, they’re lovely people who care for their kids, look after their friends, and watch the Discovery Channel. But they are a noisy nuisance with questionable personal hygiene habits.

Someone else who might have been appreciating gull-free Headingley is Andy Hodd, who is accustomed to playing at Hove, which is similarly infested to Scarborough. Playing his third championship game on loan at Yorkshire, he’s snaffled all three wickets as his new side have begun to make inroads into Glamorgan. None of the chances were difficult. Will Bragg reached 92 before edging Steven Patterson, then David Lloyd went in identical fashion after facing eight balls on his first class debut and failing to score. 175-3.

2:15pm Vithushan Ehantharajah at Middlesex v Lancashire

Odd stage of the game – Lancashire are bowling with a degree of control, but Neil Dexter and John Simpson are cashing in with the odd four here and there. Neither seems to have the upper hand. Maybe they both think they do?

There should be a gauge – perhaps a dial? – that shows which side are in the ascendancy. It wouldn’t necessarily have to change every over, only when momentum shifts. Obviously, it will have to be done at the discretion of the person operating it. We’ll soon have our elite panel of ‘Ascendancy Dial Operators’; a collection of the finest, most unequivocally decisive judges of tide-turnings in the land.

There’s a joke to be made about Nick Knight here, but I’m certainly not going to make it. Or am I?

A couple of expensive overs from Shahzad and Hogg are followed by the wicket of John Simpson, who becomes the second batsmen today to tickle one down the leg-side to Gareth Cross. Dexter still there on 42.

1.55pm: David Lloyd at Kent v Derbyshire

It’s good to know that not all the cynics are in the press box.

Kent supporter: “How many nights have you booked in for?” Derbyshire fan: “Three.” Kent man: “Blimey, I should negotiate a rebate, quick.” Derbyshire: “Oh well, if it finishes early we can always do some sight-seeing.” Kent man: “Yes, there’s the power station...”

Early finish? No need to start panicking along those lines yet awhile. True, Sam Northeast gifted the visitors his wicket by slapping an innocuous delivery from Ross Whitely to square cover just before lunch, then the excellent Groenewald removed Brendan Nash, lbw (playing across the line) during this afternoon’s third over.

But there was no real reason for Kent to collapse. They were threatening to do just that, however, when Darren Stevens edged a drive against Tony Palladino to leave the hosts 93 for five.

1.45pm: Les Smith at Yorkshire v Glamorgan

If this were Scarborough, and there were seagulls swooping overhead, they might have been interpreted as harbingers of doom for Yorkshire this morning. Grounds for a little optimism now though. Yorkshire have finally made a breakthrough twenty minutes into the afternoon session. Ryan Sidebottom served up a wide, full length ball and Nick James went for it. The result was a straightforward catch to wicketkeeper Andy Hodd. Will Bragg, meanwhile, has added 17 runs since lunch to pass his previous highest first class score of 2012. This is not what Yorkshire expected when they put Glamorgan in this morning, and although Stewart Walters has looked rather scratchy since coming to the wicket, there could be an afternoon of hard slog ahead for Yorkshire’s bowlers under a cloudless sky.

1.40pm: David Hopps at Sussex v Somerset

I am bemused by Les Smith’s antipathy towards seagulls. I love seagulls. They signify life, excitement, activity, boundless optimism. They beat albatross any day.

I am disappointed by the lack of seagulls at Hove so far. But the loss of Luke Wells to a fast catch at short midwicket, has meant that Murray Goodwin has come in to a sitting ovation. Those deckchairs take some getting out of when you have reached a certain age.

1.05pm: George Dobell at Worcestershire v Warwickshire

Worcestershire have been dismissed for 60 here at New Road; their lowest first-class score since 1971 and their lowest ever against Warwickshire. It cannot have been quite what they had in mind when they won the toss and elected to bat. The ball swung and the pitch is a little green, but there is no devil in it.

Suffice it to say, Worcestershire batted abysmally. While Moeen Ali, victim of a perfect outswinger, might consider himself a little unfortunate, the slashes outside off stump that accounted for Phil Hughes and Matt Pardoe were quite dreadful. Mitchell played across a straight one - maybe deceived by the wide angle the bowler took for that delivery - Kervezee followed one he could have left and Leach looked out of his depth.

Credit is also due to Chris Wright and Keith Barker. They bowled not just throughout the session, but throughout the innings, ending with five wickets apiece and both claiming their 50th Championship wickets of the season. Neither have yet been awarded their county cap - an accolade that still has meaning at Warwickshire - though they will surely not have to wait for long.

12.50pm: David Hopps at Sussex v Somerset

Luke Wells will take lunch at Hove a little gingerly. He was struck on the side of the temple in the last over before lunch by Sajid Mahmood, now bowling fast(ish) for Somerset, a glancing blow as he drew his head away from a ball that did not get up as high as he expected.

Fortunately for Wells, the ambulance sirens outside the ground as he received treatment were sounding for other reasons. He had a lengthy drink, took pain-killing tablets and survived the over.

The threat posed by Mahmood’s follow-up ball can be summed up by a conversation outside the bookstall.

“A test of nerve now. A test of nerve.”

“A bouncer, I’ll wager.”

“Disappointing, very disappointing.”

And with that they turned away, no purchases made.

Abdur Rehman’s late arrival has caused a little confusion. The 12th man, Jack Leach, had an over of left-arm spin before lunch. He is allowed to do so under the ECB regulation which states that star players can turn up late if they get permission and the 12th man can do what they like until he arrives. That is not quite how it’s worded, admittedly, but you get the gist.

It was a painstaking morning for Sussex after the loss of Nash with Wells and Ed Joyce proceeding at two-an-over. It's 83 for 1 at lunch. A snooze in a deckchair was a tempting solution, but professionalism insisted this correspondent must demur.

12.45pm: Vithushan Ehantharajah at Middlesex v Lancashire

Sound the dogged fight-back klaxon.

Sam Robson and Neil Dexter take Middlesex into three figures, after coming together at 39 for 3. Robson looked very comfortable; solid in defence and clinical on the back-foot, with the odd drive thrown in, making his wagon-wheel that little bit cuter. Dexter on the other hand has been scratchy, flailing at a couple of wide ones, seemingly struggling to read the pitch as well as his partner.

Naturally, it’s Robson who falls first, trapped in front by Simon Kerrigan, in the left-armer’s first over of the day, for 49. It was a good 49 – one of those that people won't stop talking about for the first 10 minutes of lunch. “That’s a blow,” they’ll say. “He’ll be kicking himself – there was a big score out there for him today,” they’ll add. “Pint?”

108 for 4 at the break – you’d say it was Lancashire’s morning, but Dexter’s still there on 21 with John Simpson, who is fresh off a match-winning 76 last against Lancashire’s in the semi-final of the 2nd XI Trophy. Yes OK, Lancashire’s morning…

12.30pm: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Essex

One other exchange concerning the great Geoff Boycott, who, having worked in the media for so long, evidently has an appreciation of what constitutes news. At the weekend, when Kevin Pietersen was supposed to be meeting Andy Flower to discuss his future, Boycs was closely questioning a reporter from the newspaper for whom he writes a column. “You should have had a man following his every movement around London to see where the meeting took place,” he opined.

12.25pm: George Dobell at Worcestershire v Warwickshire

Keith Barker has just taken his 50th Championship wicket of the season to reduce Worcestershire to 46-8. His opening bowling colleague Chris Wright reached the same milestone about 90 minutes earlier. Both were relatively unheralded before the season but have performed admirably for Warwickshire. Many international teams would be happy with them as an opening attack.

There is nothing wrong with this pitch. Warwickshire have bowled well and Worcestershire have batted pitifully poorly. There are some very disgruntled Worcestershire supporters around the ground and at least a few are questioning the position of the club’s director of cricket, Steve Rhodes.

Rhodes will not be sacked. Even if Worcestershire was that sort of club - and it really is not - it is doubtful whether they could afford to sack a long-serving member of staff. Besides, most here would insist that Rhodes has done rather well in recent times.

The club knows it cannot compete with the salaries on offer elsewhere and instead aims to compensate with unity, team spirit and generally being a friendly, welcoming club in which to play. Rhodes has and will continue to be a big part of that and, when supporters come to reflect on this season, they may conclude that Worcestershire had exceeded expectations by spending a couple of years in the top division anyway.

12.20pm: Les Smith at Yorkshire v Glamorgan

It’s not gone according to plan for Yorkshire at Headingley this morning. Having inserted Glamorgan Andrew Gale would have been looking for at least two wickets by now, but it hasn’t happened. Will Bragg has taken the lead for the visitors. He went to 50 off 83 balls with ten boundaries. His partner Nick James was missed by Adam Lyth at slip off Azeem Rafiq, but has played an admirable supporting rolein an opening stand which has now put on 90 runs.

12.15pm: Alex Winter briefly at Surrey v Nottinghamshire

Absolutely superb day here and a decent number are taking advantage, nice to see. But back in the darkened, cool press box the photographers have beaten a hasty retreat because Kevin Pietersen has just been dismissed. He brought the 50 up with an imperious drive past Harry Gurney but next ball he attempted the same stroke, didn’t quite get into it as much, and edged low to Chris Read who took a splendid catch down to his right. There was left-arm spin, Graeme White, introduced for Pietersen but its left-arm seam that has done the trick today.

And left-arm seam has been very effective this morning, Gurney has three wickets, proving that Notts do have something about their bowling attack without Andre Adams. They lost the toss but it’s been their morning on what looks a very dry pitch that is offering a hint of turn already.

11.55pm: David Lloyd at Kent v Derbyshire

Bloomin’ weather! The scorers reckon we’ve lost the thick end of 10 minutes’ play this morning because of batsmen being dazzled by the sun glinting off car windscreens. Never have this trouble when it’s raining...

The most dazzling event of the session, though, had nothing to do with rays. Having beaten the outside edge several times and seen one snick fly over slips, the visitors inadvertently hit upon a more successful tactic: first change Mark Turner gave Key the chance to leg glance, only for keeper Tom Poynton to hold a stunning catch – one glove, full length dive, yards to his left – off the face of the bat.

It was a brilliant piece of work by the stumper, the sort of thing that really lifts a side. Lo and behold, Tim Groenewald – having bowled well without luck – soon pinned Alex Blake lbw.

Derbyshire are bowling impressively and will be pleased with 42 for two off 20 overs.

11.55am: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Essex

Danny Briggs, the promising left arm spinner who is not playing here because he is in England’s t20 party, has been refused permission by the ECB to turn out in the CB40 final on September 15 because England depart for the ICC world t20 tournament two days beforehand. The ECB will not allow him to delay his flight to Sri Lanka.

In fact, this is a period of attempted scheduling rearrangement for Briggs. He is only 21 but is getting married in the autumn in Dorset. He has already postponed his wedding on account of his England commitments but was not prepared to do so a second time. So if Hampshire progress beyond the qualifying rounds of the Champions League in South Africa in October, he is unlikely to be still involved.

11.30am: George Dobell at Worcestershire v Warwickshire

Thanks for the all the comments, by the way. Dave Brooks makes an excellent point about Murray Goodwin. At his best, Goodwin looked as technically tight and hard to dismiss as anyone. He is, I’d suggest, the perfect example of the good influence a well-judged Kolpak (or similar) signing can have on county cricket and has played as large a part in Sussex’s fantastic decade as Mushtaq, Moores, Robinson and Adams.

Warwickshire are bowling beautifully here, by the way, but Worcestershire’s batting is painfully thin. Warwickshire look irrepressible; Worcestershire look doomed.

11.20am: David Hopps at Sussex v Somerset

Murray Goodwin’s excellent Sussex career is drawing to a close. Sussex have confirmed that this will be his last season, so bringing to an end a 12-year stint during which he has scored more than 24,000 runs in all formats, including nearly 14,500 first-class runs with an average a touch under 50.

Goodwin’s time with Sussex has brought three championships – he struck the winning runs in their first triumph in 2003 – two Pro40s, one 50-over competition and a Twenty20 cup.

He certainly sounds as if he has enjoyed it. His heartfelt thanks even extended to his bat maker. He must have been through a few. Go on then, Newbery, you can soak up the adulation, just this once. He added: “My family have loved every year here, and we feel so privileged to have been associated with this wonderful Club. Our boys have spent half their childhoods here and we feel they have been exposed to the very best of British life, in all its capacities."

Goodwin is due in next at Hove, Chris Nash having been caught at the wicket after Steve Kirby made one bounce a bit. Abdur Rehman has been selected for Somerset but he is still on a flight back from the UAE and is unlikely to make much of an impression until tomorrow.

It is a beautiful Hove morning, county cricket at its finest. However, I was a bit perturbed to find the bar in the Umi Hotel only had Guinness on tap - and on closer inspection even that turned out to be a designer can opener.

Quite why boutique = no real ale is beyond me. A walk up the road to the nearest hostelry proved essential. Whatever your definition of the best of British life in all its capacities, Brighton can probably provide it.

11.15am: George Dobell at Worcestershire v Warwickshire

Morning from New Road.

There were queues to get into the ground this morning - actually there were queues on the M5 as well, but I suspect they were not related to the game - as both sides have plenty to play for in the penultimate round of Championship games this season.

While Warwickshire are within sight of their first Championship title since 2004, Worcestershire need something approaching a miracle to escape relegation.

The hosts might have taken some encouragement from the absence of several Warwickshire players on international duty and Tim Ambrose to a thigh injury that may well keep him out of the CB40 final, but they have made an awful start. The top three have gone already and there have a tail like a diplodocus.

Vikram Solanki, off to Surrey for next season, remains unable to gain selection having been dropped while Ben Scott is looking for opportunities outside cricket having been informed that his contract will not be extended into next season. While that is sad news for a wonderfully talented keeper, Scott would be the first to accept that he has not scored the runs required this season.

Chris Woakes, it should be noted, may yet be drafted into this side if England decide he is surplus to requirements in tomorrow’s ODI.

Chris Wright is the man to have done most of the damage so far. He has now passed 50 Championship wickets this season; a wonderful achievement for a man now effectively at his fourth county (he graduated through the youth system at Hampshire and then had undistinguished spells at Middlesex and Essex) who was released by Essex just over a year ago. This season, however, made to feel wanted and valued by Graeme Welch, the Warwickshire bowling coach, he has bowled with pace, consistency and skill and, if his team win the title, he will have played a huge part in their success.

11.15am: Vithushan Ehantharajah at Middlesex v Lancashire

On the way into Lord’s I walked past three fried chicken shops – clearly, I came in from the Paddington Station end – each offering a breakfast wrap. Picture it; a deep fried thigh of chicken draped in processed cheese, with a splattering of mayonnaise and topped off with a covering of salsa (who *doesn’t* have salsa for breakfast?). While not the most appealing start to a day – least of all one as warm as this – I can imagine these wraps would be the perfect indulgence when you’re feeling particularly grim - the ultimate, greasy, ‘pick-me-up’. Perhaps Joe Denly could do with one.

He’s not had the best times in the middle this season, and he fell in the third over of the day, strangled down the leg-side by Glenn Chapple. And they spelled his name wrong on the scoreboard.

Lancashire had won the toss and given Middlesex first go on what looks to be a pretty honest Lord’s track. Rogers fell in the first over – lbw to Chapple for a duck – before Denly departed for 4. I would suggest he heads down to the fried delights of Edgware Road to cheer himself up, but knowing his luck they probably stopped serving breakfast at 10:30am.

11.00am: Les Smith at Yorkshire v Glamorgan

Headingley is not, obviously, Scarborough. For a start, no seagulls, which is a blessing. This is a key match for Yorkshire in their push for promotion, and there’s a healthy crowd in to see the opening exchanges, but whereas at Scarborough last week they would have made the place feel nicely packed, here there are swathes of empty seats. The gentleman from Chesterfield, a member of both Derbyshire and Leicestershire, who used his railcard to get a return ticket for £6.50 will no doubt now have recovered from his disgruntlement at being ejected from the Yorkshire members’ area. He and the rest of us have a fascinating day in store.

The pitch has a distinct green tinge to it, which will account for Andrew Gale’s first two decisions of the match. Ryan Sidebottom’s swing and seam replace Adil Rashid’s spin, and Glamorgan, having lost the toss, are batting.

For Glamorgan, twenty year old batsman David Lloyd, a recent beneficiary of the Tom Maynard trust, is given his first class debut.

10.45am: David Lloyd at Kent v Derbyshire

Amply proportioned ladies are not bursting into song and no-one is counting fluffy little creatures still inside their shells but, rest assured, Derbyshire supporters are muttering the p-word when they think no-one else is listening.

As Jon Culley points out in his excellent article elsewhere on this site, Derbyshire have never earned a Championship promotion (they were founder members of the first division in 2000, went down at the end of that season and have been in the second division ever since). But this year, surely...

Well, they are 23 points clear of third-placed Kent and a win here could, and probably would, seal the deal with a match to spare.

Derbyshire have not done themselves any favours here first up, though, with captain Wayne Madsen calling incorrectly at the toss. There are not many certainties in this life but Rob Key choosing to bat on a gloriously sunny morning was a pretty safe bet – and it came in.

Both teams are as expected, meaning that Geraint Jones – the former England wicketkeeper – plays his 100th consecutive championship match for Kent. Jones is only the 10th player to have reached that landmark for the county (information courtesy of Kent’s excellent match guide).

Rob Key, meanwhile, has just clipped Tony Palladino for the day’s first boundary.

Michael Carberry drives during his innings of 32, England Lions v West Indians, Tour Match, 2nd day, Northampton, May 11, 2012
Michael Carberry will be hoping for runs to not only push Hampshire's promotion cause but to help his chance of a call up for England's tour of India  © Getty Images
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10.30am: Ivo Tennant at Hampshire v Essex

Hampshire, the team of the moment, have not surprisingly put Essex in to bat in their quest to gain promotion to division one. Michael Carberry, one of the openers vying for Andrew Strauss’ England position, is playing. Interestingly enough, Geoff Boycott told James Whitaker, the national selector, at Scarborough last week that Joe Root, another contender, is not yet ready for Test cricket (although Boycs rates him highly).

Observing Boycott in a media centre – he was at Lord’s at the weekend – is both instructive and highly entertaining. He dominates any space he is in through his unrivalled knowledge and force of personality. Dennis Amiss, his old opening partner, appeared with friends and a couple of young boys who might well have been his grandchildren. Boycs, at full volume, told the assembled party how useless Amiss was at running between the wickets. But he also praised his ability and personality.

10am: Alex Winter’s morning espresso

Double shot please barman, need to wake up to the reality that this is the penultimate week of the season. Where on earth has the time gone? Suddenly it’s September and right on cue, the weather that we could have done with four months ago arrives. Nice and settled with warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine, at least until this weekend – or so I’m told.

Playing into only two weeks of September is frankly criminal, particularly with the pattern of Indian summers in recent years: we had 30 degrees in October last year when the only cricket to watch was the last knockings of the Champions League T20 on Eurosport. This year’s Champions League follows the World T20 in October but next season the tournament has been plonked at the start of September, creating an enormous clash with the end of the domestic season. We are led to believe that the counties have seen sense and washed their hands with the tournament. Hurrah! So next year we should have cricket for at least three weeks of September. No indication of when the one-day final will be played but let’s get it back to the first weekend in September. Nowadays there’s no danger that the Championship will be a case of After the Lord Mayor’s Show.

And this year it could be another thriller. Warwickshire have a 22-point lead at the top of Division One, a win for them at New Road this week will almost certainly secure their first title since 2004 and could also relegate Worcestershire in the process – what a sweet scenario for Bear’s fans. Worcester, 18 points from safety, need points badly. We’ve got the big gun in place for this one – our senior correspondent George Dobell.

The chasing pack is led by Sussex, a surprise package to many. David Hopps has travelled down to Hove to see whether they can stay in the hunt with a win over Somerset, themselves still, mathematically, in the title race.

Any of the teams looking to overhaul Warwickshire realistically have to produce two wins this week and next and Nottinghamshire are perhaps the best placed to do that. They go to Surrey this week where Jarrod Kimber will be watching for us and next week have the advantage of playing Warwickshire. I say advantage because if they can get on terms in this round, next week could become a winner-takes-all affair and you can’t say fairer than to have your fate in your own hands.

A win for Surrey wouldn’t quite guarantee their survival; they are in a two-from-three relegation battle with Lancashire and Worcestershire. Lancashire go to Middlesex, like Worcester, needing points to keep their heads above water. Vithushan Enhantarajah will be observing for us at Lord’s.

So in fact, everything could be wrapped up this week in Division One. And it could get even more bland next week if promotion is completed this week for Derbyshire and Yorkshire in Division Two.

Derbyshire, whose revival in the past decade has been tracked by Jon Culley, can return to the upper tier for the first time since it’s inauguration with a win at Kent. David Lloyd will see whether that can be achieved or whether Jimmy Adams, in his first season in charge, can keep the promotion dream alive for Kent.

Also looking for an immediate bonus is Jason Gillespie at Yorkshire, a win for them against Glamorgan could secure them promotion, and if Derbyshire fail to win, the White Rose could be heading for the Division Two title next week too. Les Smith is at Headingley for us. Hampshire have also refused to go away and if they can beat Essex at West End, they can also take us to some final week drama. Ivo Tennant is down there.

And there are no dead rubbers at all in this week’s matches because Gloucestershire are suddenly fending off the wooden spoon; they host Northamptonshire desperately hoping to get themselves off the bottom.

So you may be heading back to normalities from summer excursions, looking towards autumn and the winter beyond. But do not go gentle into that dark night for cricket season is still alive and kicking. Still time for a cider on the boundary...

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Posted by Anonymous on (September 5, 2012, 11:57 GMT)

@Paul Ainsworth - surely your Player of the Year has to be Alan Richardson. An experienced, dedicated professional currently having to play as a one man team.

Posted by William Franklin on (September 4, 2012, 18:19 GMT)

Rather surprised that this will be only Warwickshire's seventh title - always thought they had a few more.

Posted by Angus on (September 4, 2012, 18:15 GMT)

Just back from Lords. Beautiful day, sunshine, good crowd and decent cricket. I can't believe we pull up stumps on Friday for the year. Just plain daft.

Posted by Paul Ainsworth on (September 4, 2012, 18:13 GMT)

Bit depressing being a Worcs fan at the moment. Giving youngsters a chance is all very laudable but they don't appear to be upto it at the moment. We need an experienced head to replace Solanki and an overseas opening bat of the calibre of Hughes for next season. Oh yes... all that with next to no money! Had an e-mail for the Player of the Year awards just now - that'll be a tricky one! Very sad.

Posted by Samuel on (September 4, 2012, 18:06 GMT)

Paul - no one to blame but your own Ashley Giles! Picking Woakes, then not playing just so he can ship him back off to Warwickshire... not that I'm promoting any conspiracy theories or anything :P

Posted by paul carew on (September 4, 2012, 17:58 GMT)

I'm a Warwickshire supporter so my message to England's selecters is - leave Chopra to us and stop nicking our batsmen and our allrounder and then not playing him. Blimey, how do we keep winning with all that lot missing. Oh yeah, forgot, best squad in the country bar none. YOU BEARS!!!!

Posted by SanjayN on (September 4, 2012, 17:56 GMT)

Hate to sound like I'm whining (OK I am) when the Bears have had such a productive day but has anyone been given a longer rope in FC cricket than Will Porterfield? He's scored just 3 half centuries all year, one of them was against Cardiff MCCU and his last one was in May.

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