LVCC Round 11 Review: Alex Lees hits 1000, Simon Harmer's reaches 400, and Jamie Smith impresses again

Tom Abell also continues his trend of enforcing the follow-on and winning, while Sussex record their ninth consecutive draw of the season

Division One:

Essex 458/8 & 30/3 beat Kent 207 & 280 by seven wickets
Middlesex 238 & 272 lost to Surrey 433 & 78/2 by eight wickets
Northamptonshire 180 & 224 lost to Somerset 351 & 56/1 by nine wickets
Nottinghamshire 100 & 294 lost to Hampshire 166 & 344/5 by 116 runs
Warwickshire 212 drew with Lancashire 327 & 182/6

Division Two:

Derbyshire 438 & 89/0 drew with Durham 575
Gloucestershire 402/6d drew with Glamorgan 450/6d & 62/0
Leicestershire 110 & 137 lost to Worcestershire 178 & 169 by 100 ruins
Yorkshire 364/8 drew with Sussex 216 & 236/7

Jamie Smith: next cab off the keeping rank?

So much of the build-up to the Test summer, and the Men's Ashes series specifically, was dominated by conversation around England's choice of wicket-keeper: the returning, belligerent Jonny Bairstow; or the incumbent, widely admired Ben Foakes. Bairstow got the nod and proved his worth as definitively as ever in the fourth Test, striking a remarkable 99 not out from 81 balls. Foakes remains in the conversation, but perhaps another Surrey keeper-batter will enter it soon enough.

As Dom Sibley was compiling, across 578 minutes and 415 balls, 140 runs to help Surrey to their mammoth chase of 501 against Kent, an equally significant part of the victory was the innings of Jamie Smith. The now-23-year-old struck an outrageous 114 from just 77 balls - Sibley called it "one of the best knocks I've seen from the other end. The striking, the shot-making was unbelievable. I had the best view in the house and I feel very privileged to have watched it. He's a special player... he's playing a different game at times."

That was Smith's first Championship hundred of the season, and fifth overall. At Lord's this week, as Surrey triumphed away to their London rivals for the first time in 26 years, he added his second century of the campaign and though it was much more patient than his Canterbury blitz (ton off 137; 138 from 194 overall), it was no less crucial. 

Smith clearly has talent in abundance and his CV is also blessed with the honour of being the fastest centurion in England Lions history, taking just 71 balls against Sri Lanka A back in February. "You definitely take on board the style of play that the England team are employing because that’s the style they want to see," he said after that knock. Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum will certainly have an eye on him.

400 for Simon Harmer

The season-by-season breakdown of Simon Harmer's County Championship wickets since joining Essex in 2017:
2017 - 72
2018 - 57
2019 - 83
2020 - 38 (reduced Bob Willis Trophy season)
2021 - 53
2022 - 59

He topped the wicket charts in 2019 and 2020, and was second on the list in 2017 and 2022. His lowest rank in a season was in 2018, when he was 11th.

Harmer's got 41 this season and, in Essex's latest victory against Kent - their fourth in a row this season - he became the first bowler to pass 400 wickets since his arrival on these shores. With his giant, bucket-like hands, Harmer retains an ability to spin the ball sharply, even on the most docile of pitches. Across 82 matches, he has only failed to take a wicket on six occasions. Just three of those have come in a match where he has bowled twice. 

In his time in England, Essex have won the Championship in 2017 and 2019, the Bob Willis Trophy in 2020, the Vitality Blast in 2019 - and are just 14 points below Surrey in this Championship campaign. Harmer has been revolutionary at Chelmsford and his near-perfection of the art of off-spin could well bring yet another trophy to the east. 

Bowler Wickets since 2017
Simon Harmer 403
Chris Rushworth 327
Kyle Abbott 315
Jamie Porter 298
Tom Bailey 281
Ben Raine 281


Lees hits 1000 as Guest profits in July again

Leus du Plooy and James Rew were the best-placed to be the first to 1,000 Championship runs: they were 21 and 41 runs, respectively, away from the milestone coming into the round and both had the fortune to bat first. Du Plooy hit just two and Rew 22, leaving the door open for Alex Lees to stroll through. He duly did, his marvellous 171 more than covering the 84 runs he needed.

At a glance, more than 1100 runs scored for just 20 wickets suggests a road at Derby, and while there may be some truth in that, it would overlook that Durham were 8/2 in their first innings before Lees and David Bedingham (138 from 159) put on the club's highest-ever third-wicket partnership of 305. They break the record of 243, set by themselves, against Leicestershire two matches ago.

Both players brought up their fourth centuries of the season and Lees, who was a part of England Test's team until the end of last summer, is continuing to show a reminder of his talents. He's striking at 74.86 too.

Elsewhere in that match at Derby, Brooke Guest further contributed to an unusual personal stat. His last four first-class centuries have come in match rounds 10 and 11 in the past two seasons. As the table below shows, that's the middle of July. 

Date century is brought up Final score Opposition
13 July 2022 116 Durham
21 July 2022 109 Nottinghamshire
12 July 2023 105 Sussex
19 July 2023 197 Durham


Tom Abell, follow-on expert

If, batting first, you can get far enough ahead to enforce the follow-on, there are few sweeter ways to win. The batters score big, the bowlers do the job.

Tom Abell has become particularly adept at this at Somerset. As the table below shows, he's enforced the follow-on eight times during his captaincy - that's every occasion on which he could - and only once have Somerset not gone on to win the match.

Date Opponent First innings lead Result
12 September 2017 Lancashire 202 Somerset by seven wickets
9 June 2018 Nottinghamshire 258 Somerset by six wickets
24 September 2018 Nottinghamshire 330 Somerset by innings & 146 runs
28 April 2022 Warwickshire 249 Somerset by innings & 82 runs
12 May 2022 Gloucestershire 405 Somerset by innings & 246 runs
18 May 2023 Middlesex 229 Somerset by innings & 13 runs
10 July 2023 Hampshire 170 Match drawn
19 July 2023 Northamptonshire 171 Somerset by nine wickets

(h/t Dan Kingdom)

Sussex: the draw specialists

Perhaps the biggest quirk of the season so far is Sussex's playing record. 10 matches in, they've won one and drawn nine. That solitary victory came in the opening round of the season, and yet they find themselves second in the Division Two table.

There's been some luck along the way. Both fixtures against Yorkshire, including the trip to Headingley in this round, have ended with final-day washouts and both were to the south coast team's benefit. At The 1st Central County Ground, the visitors needed 63 more with seven wickets in hand; this week, Sussex led by only 88 with three in hand.

Their previous three matches have been close calls too: Worcestershire ran out of time five runs short of their target, Oli Carter and Henry Shipley batted out 21.2 overs in 74 minutes for the last wicket against Glamorgan, and Derbyshire got within 19 of their chase last week.

In Nathan McAndrew (31) and Ari Karvelas (28) they have the sixth- and seventh-leading wicket-takers in Division Two, though six counties have a higher scorer than Sussex's leading man (Tom Alsop, 604). It's eight years since Sussex were in the top tier and if they can find a way to force through victories in their final four matches in September, it'll be a fabulous season.