September 11, 2012

LV= County Championship, Tuesday September 11

5.25pm: Jon Culley at Derbyshire v Hampshire

5.25pm: Jon Culley at Derbyshire v Hampshire

Derbyshire completed the first part of their mission by taking all three bowling points as Hampshire were all out for 272 but are not making the best job of the second part, losing both their openers with only 14 runs on the board. Wayne Madsen was caught behind down the legside as a ball from James Tomlinson climbed on him and Paul Borrington added to local anxiety when another testing delivery, this time from David Balcombe, found the shoulder of the bat and looped to Michael Carberry in the gully. Derbyshire were 23-2 from 11 overs with seven left in the day.

5pm: George Dobell at Essex v Yorkshire

Charl Willoughby has announced his retirement. The 37-year-old, who played international cricket for South Africa, has not made much of an impression at Essex having been released by Somerset at the end of last year and has finally ended a career that stretched back over two decades. He was a fine bowler, for sure, with 848 first-class wickets, but he must also have been one of the worst batsmen of recent times. He only scored 25 more runs in his first-class career than he took wickets.

While Willoughby has not been the addition Essex might have anticipated, they could have done with some more experience today. They have bowled with some charity, allowing Yorkshire to recover despite some poor batting, but without Chambers or Masters - both injured - the young bowlers - Craddock, Mills and Topley - have provided too many scoring opportunities.

But what does it all mean? We’re not much closer now to knowing which two teams will be promoted than we were at the start of the day. But, on a green pitch, Yorkshire might not be too displeased with this total.

4.05: Paul Edwards at Glamorgan v Kent

Glamorgan 263 for eight (75 overs)

The wickets of Mark Wallace just before tea and Graham Wagg shortly after the break continued Glamorgan’s decline in this match. Wallace was bowled, brainlessly attempting to hit Tredwell into the Taff while Wagg played across a straight ball from Coles and was lbw. All of which is faintly irritating because Glamorgan have showed themselves to be capable of resisting Kent’s attack today. The age-old batting maxim of “it only takes one mistake” has come back to haunt them.

Those departures brought Robert Croft to the wicket to play his penultimate innings in first-class cricket. The 42-year-old was greeted with a bouncer from Coles and edged it high over slip for a single. One off the mark, it wasn’t. Croft’s sixth ball was also a bouncer and he gloved it to Jones. Professional cricket remains a hard school – which is just how Croft likes it and just what he will miss like hell come next April.

4.04pm: Alan Gardner puts a hex on Robert Croft

More to come on the subject from Paul, I'm sure, but Robert Croft has singularly failed to live up to the Welsh warrior billing I just gave him, gloving a lifter to the keeper for 1. Still time for him to rage, rage against the dying of the light with the ball in hand, I'm sure.

4pm: Alan Gardner with the post-tea round-up

County life thrums along gently away from the frenzied Division Two promotion scene. Abdur Rehman has taken a career-best 9 for 65 at Taunton, though a Worcestershire collapse from 74 for 0 to 212 all out was reasonably sedate by the visitors' standards. Somerset are in a contest for second place in the top division with Sussex, who stayed afloat at Chester-le-Street thanks to fifties from Kirk Wernars and Ben Brown. Lewis Hatchett and Steve Magoffin have chipped in with an early wicket apiece in the Durham innings.

The summer has still not arrived in Lancashire (which, as the sun shines everywhere else, will appeal to local superstitions) – after last night’s washed-out T20I, the first day between Lancs and Surrey was abandoned. At Trent Bridge, meanwhile, Chris Wright was relegated to first change for the champions but still took 4 for 28 as Warwickshire knocked over their hosts for 155. It seems some time since we thought that game could be a title decider ...

And at Grace Road, Gloucestershire have been bowled out for 234. There were no half-centuries, no five-fors and not much to play for between 16th and 17th in the country. That is unless Robert Croft, just arrived at the crease in Cardiff, invokes the spirit of Owain Glyndŵr in his last first-class appearance to try and lead Glamorgan off the bottom and light a fire under the other two.

3.40pm: Jon Culley at Derbyshire v Hampshire

If there was an argument for bringing this match forward by a day to allow Hampshire an extra day to prepare for the CB40 final on Saturday, the same consideration would have to be extended to Warwickshire, naturally. The ECB, however, are insistent that all matches in the final round of the season are played simultaneously, for obvious reasons with titles, promotion and relegation at stake. It would make more sense, to my mind, to play the Lord's final on Sunday.

Hampshire are not badly placed at tea, although they should be better placed had not Sean Ervine and James Vince, co-conspirators in a stand of 136 for the fifth wicket, not both given their wickets away. Ervine was bowled behind his legs by David Wainwright for 61 when, for no sensible reason, he tried to reverse sweep. Vince, having completed his first Championship century since August last year, and having rarely looked uncomfortable, slapped a wide half-volley from Ross Whitely straight to extra cover. At tea, they are 232-6, which means, of course, that Derbyshire have two bowling points.

2.55pm: Paul Edwards at Glamorgan v Kent

Glamorgan 228 for five (62 overs)

Three wickets in 22 balls changed this game and put a spring in the step of Kent’s bowlers and fielders. The middle dismissal of the three continued David Lloyd’s very painful introduction to first-class cricket. Glamorgan’s No5 collected a pair on debut against Yorkshire last week. Today he survived five balls before edging the sixth, bowled by James Tredwell, to Darren Stevens at slip. That’s three ducks in three knocks. How will he be feeling come the second innings of this match?

Lloyd was only at the wicket because Stewart Walters, having made a good 63, unwisely accepted Charlie Shreck’s invitation to hook and skied the effort to long leg, where Mike Powell, once of Glamorgan of course, took a decent catch.

Then, a few moments ago, an execrable shot by Ben Wright gave Shreck a second wicket. One’s not sure that the batsman’s crooked “drive” is in any coaching book; we can, however, be sure that it gave a catch off the inside edge to Jones. And so, for the second game in succession, Glamorgan were well on the way to spoiling a good morning’s work. Jim Allenby and Mark Wallace have since done their best to repair matters a little but 300 is a minimum requirement in the first innings on this pitch.

Re Taunton’s secret life, I have no evidence on the number of private shops in Cardiff. There is, however, a wonderful variety of trees in Bute Park.

2.50pm: George Dobell at Essex v Yorkshire

This has been an odd encounter so far. While there has been some impressive cricket, there has also been some pretty awful cricket. Certainly Essex’s bowlers have delivered plenty of poor balls but, in between thumping them to the boundary, the Yorkshire batsmen have got themselves out to some horrible strokes.

It was all summed up just now when Anthony McGrath, in attempting to glance a leg side delivery, could only guide the ball into the wicketkeeper’s hands.

Earlier Jaques fell to a top-edged pull, before Gale, who laboured for 54 balls over his 10, finally lost patience and, in attempting to drive Tom Westley’s off-spin into the river, spooned a leading edge to cover. Gary Ballance also spooned a simple chance to mid-on. He played the short ball from Topley as if it stopped on him, but it may just have been a poor stroke.

It all means that Yorkshire are in danger of squandering their opportunity to set an imposing first innings total. And with Kent fighting back at Glamorgan, that could prove costly.

2.35pm: Jon Culley at Derbyshire v Hampshire

Any suspicions that may have been raised by Derbyshire's early inroads in their bid for promotion have been knocked on the head in the last couple of hours, during which James Vince and Sean Ervine have mounted a strong Hampshire fightback.

The wicket unveiled this morning was certainly well grassed and Derbyshire did not hesitate about bowling first when Wayne Madsen won the toss but there has been the odd ball that has taken off there has not been any serious misbehaviour and the fifth wicket has added 129 so far, with James Vince enjoying a return to form in four-day cricket on a quick surface with good carry.

Although the 21-year-old Vince has been a key figure in Hampshire's progress to Saturday's CB40 final at Lord's, today's half-century is his first of the season against the red ball. He has played confidently and positively, with 60 of his 87 runs coming in boundaries. Ervine has provided good support and the Derbyshire bowlers have not really had a sniff since Tony Palladino took his third wicket after an hour and half. Hampshire were 188-4 after 45 overs.

2.10pm: Alex Winter moonlighting in the radio shed at Taunton

A good crowd has turned out for the final action of the summer in the west country and they’ve prepared a right old Bunsen burner at Taunton. This surface is very dry and after an hour this morning, Abdur Rehman was introduced and in the first two overs he had removed both openers and went on to take another couple to put Somerset on top. There was big turn and bounce and Rehman bowled very well and having changed ends is threatening after lunch too and now has all seven of the wickets to fall.

12.40: Paul Edwards at Glamorgan v Kent

Lunch: Glamorgan 133 for two (31 overs)

This morning has not really gone according to plan as far as Rob Key is concerned. The Kent skipper stuck Glamorgan in at around ten o’clock, a decision no doubt predicated on the ability of his seamers to get plenty of help from a greenish wicket. Well, the ball hasn’t deviated very much and a few of the Kent seamers – Davies, Shreck, Coles – have served up plenty of half-volleys. Will Bragg tucked into this stuff with considerable relish. Having been 69 not out at lunch on the first day of Glamorgan’s previous game against Yorkshire, Bragg made 59 before he was lbw attempted to sweep-slog James Tredwell eight minutes before tiffin today. Off-spinner Tredwell was introduced into the attack in the 20th over and has conceded six runs off six overs. The other wicket to fall was that of Nick James, who was caught behind by Geraint Jones off Darren Stevens for 26. Stewart Walters is 39 not out and has enjoyed facing Matt Coles. Key's mood won't be improved by Derbyshire and Yorkshire's progress either.

12.25pm: Jon Culley at Derbyshire v Hampshire

When I looked at the remaining fixtures six weeks ago, this game was some way down the list of where I expected I might be. Odds-on favourite was Notts against Warwickshire, which looked for so long as though it had been brilliantly conceived by the ECB fixture planners as a Championship decider. Notts, in fact, have looked less and less like genuine contenders since before the Twenty20. Their last win in red ball cricket was in May. All that is being decided at Trent Bridge is that Warwickshire are currently rather better than Notts, who lost their first six wickets for 85.

If they can end their 12-year exile from Division One, Derbyshire will look forward to no fixtures with more relish than the two against their old rivals from along the A52, particularly in the light of Michael Atherton's unfortunate choice of phrase of a couple of years ago, in a piece in The Times arguing for a smaller Championship, when he described Derby as a "satellite town for Nottingham".

Atherton is here today in his role as Sky TV commentator, in which capacity he has had to describe a very decent morning for the Peakites so far. Tony Palladino has added the wicket of Liam Dawson to the two he claimed earlier, pinning the diminutive batsmen leg before on the back foot, and Ross Whiteley has seen off Jimmy Adams, who was looking set to stick around for a long time until he pushed forward to a ball that left him late and was superbly caught at second slip. Hampshire are 92-4.

12.25pm: George Dobell at Essex v Yorkshire

Adam Lyth was on course for a century before lunch until he was surprised by a short ball from Napier. Attempting to withdraw his bat, Lyth could only run the ball of its face through to the keeper, James Foster.

Progress has been slower since then, but Phil Jacques is looking secure and Yorkshire will also be encouraged by the progress of Glamorgan.

11.30am: George Dobell at Essex v Yorkshire

Anyone visiting Chelmsford today not quite up to speed with the England system and the pecking order for a Test place might presume that, if either of the Yorkshire opening batsmen were of interest to the selectors, it must be Adam Lyth.

Lyth, who is averaging 57.66 in the Championship compare to Root’s 46, has already reached a 42-ball half-century and has put away the poor ball - and there have been many - with some style.

Having said that, it seems unlikely any England batsman will receive bowling quite so friendly in India. Suffice it to say that leg-spinner Tom Craddock, introduced into the attack in just the tenth over, has not quite found his length just yet. Or his line. Topley and Mills, too, have betrayed their youth with several deliveries straying on to Lyth’s legs.

11.25am: Jon Culley at Derbyshire v Hampshire

It may not command quite so much attention as the Olympics, and it is possibly too late for Tony Palladino to make a late bid for Sports Personality of the Year, but Derbyshire have their eyes on adding their own milestone to this historic year in sport by securing their first-ever promotion.

The Peakites have been in Division Two not quite since it was invented -- they made the cut-off when the Championship was split in two after the 1999 season -- but having been relegated in 2000 they are the longest serving members.

Derbyshire are unchanged from the side that lost at Canterbury last week in the match that brought Kent solidly into contention for promotion themselves. Jon Clare is still missing through injury, although Mark Turner has done well enough in his absence and might have kept his place anyway. Hampshire, who have a Lord's final to think about, have rested Simon Katich and brought in Chris Wood in the one change from the side beaten by Essex last week, a result that effectively ended their hopes.

Derbyshire have made the start they wanted. They won the toss, have put Hampshire in and the aforementioned Palladino has struck twice, bowling Michael Carberry off an inside edge and having Bilal Shafayat caught at third slip. Hampshire are currently 25-2.

11.05: Paul Edwards at Glamorgan v Kent

Greetings from Cardiff where thoughts of last things at Glamorgan jostle with the immediate concerns of Kent. Rob Key’s team go into the final game of the season five points behind Yorkshire and six behind Derbyshire at the top of the Division Two table. Key has asked Glamorgan to bat first on a wicket which seems to have a bit of grass on it, but some over-pitched deliveries from Mark Davies and Charlie Shreck have given Will Bragg and Nick James the opportunity to score freely in the first eight overs.

Plainly Kent’s players must attend to their own business here and not really concern themselves too much, at least for a day or two, with what Derbyshire and Yorkshire are doing. Were the two leaders to win their games, they will also collect enough bonus points to ensure that they are promoted. Once the first innings in both games are complete, the precise arithmetic will become clearer and Kent’s needs likewise.

This is also the final first-class appearance of Robert Croft - although one imagines that this proud Welshman would not turn down his county’s call if an emergency arose next season. And there is a certain irony about a season which has been marred by some wet weather ending under blue skies, at least on the first day. The temperature by the banks of the Taff was very acceptable too and that made one’s riverside walk this morning all the pleasanter. Or it would have done had one not nearly been mown down by about five mad cyclists. Honestly, a few gold medals and suddenly everybody’s Bradley bloody Wiggins. (I’m considering taking a spoke to put in a few wheels tomorrow.) Anyway, Glamorgan are 50 for no wicket after eight overs and they are rattling along like a peloton.

11am: George Dobell at Essex v Yorkshire

Morning from Chelmsford.

Yorkshire have, despite a remarkably green-looking pitch, chosen to bat here and, in just the second over, have lost Joe Root, pushing half-forward to one from Graham Napier. The England selectors have surely already made up their mind about who should be the man to replace Andrew Strauss at the top of the order so Root’s failure might not be too significant from a national perspective, but it was hardly the ideal start from promotion-chasing Yorkshire. Root, it seems, has an excellent chance making it on the Test tour of India.

Reece Topley, a gem of a prospect at just 18 years of age, is opening the bowling at the other end (The Hayes Close End) from Napier, while left-arm fast bowler Tymal Mills, at just 20 a another example of Essex’s productive youth system, is also playing.

Might it be relevant that Alastair Cook isn’t playing? Probably not. But there is some speculation - nothing more than that, really - that Cook may be meeting Kevin Pietersen today in a last-gasp attempt to find a solution to the saga that seems to have been running longer than The Archers.

10am: Alan Gardner with the morning post

Would you believe it? No, not the fact that a British man has won a tennis major, but that the Championship season is almost at a close. The summer has slipped and slid by, like water off a hover cover's back, and now we have reached the final round. Still, there are four more days to while away, so you've come to the right place.

There are one or two important matters to be decided, too. It's all over bar the mid-table shuffling in Division One but three clubs are vying for promotion from the second tier and we've got a crack team assembled to chart the fortunes of Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Kent. The former have led the standings for much of the season but suffered a costly defeat last week - Jon Culley will be at the Racecourse Ground to see if Derbyshire can reclaim a place at the top table for the first time since the two-division system was created.

Second-placed Yorkshire have travelled to Essex, who were themselves an Adam Wheater-slog to long-on shy of still being in the promotion race, with George Dobell braving a few nights in the Diamond Jubilee city of Chelmsford to report on their progress; while Paul Edwards has crossed the border to keep us informed of Kent's clash with Glamorgan.

And speaking of the Welsh county, Robert Croft is due to exercise his offspinning finger one last time in professional cricket, so we have commissioned BBC Wales commentator Edward Bevan to give him a proper send-off. Why don't you have a read and then leave your favourite Crofty memories in the comments section? As usual, our writers will pop below the line to join you. There are only 384 overs of Championship cricket (maximum) left in 2012 for us to enjoy - and not even Andy Murray can change that.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo