A day of mixed weather saw some intriguing battles, with momentum regularly changing hands, in both divisions of the Specsavers County Championship
The champions returned to County Championship action with a trip to promoted Hampshire, and their task was eased when Fidel Edwards, a real weapon against Yorkshire in the first week, tweaked his hamstring shortly after removing Nick Gubbins for 13. But Middlesex’s innings did have a familiar feel, their batting order looking rock solid despite the absence of Nick Compton through injury. Two half-centuries, from Sam Robson and Steve Eskinazi, provided a foundation and there were contributions from Malan and Voges before James Franklin and Toby Roland-Jones saw out the day. At 290-6, it’s fair to expect a decent total tomorrow, especially if Edwards is unable to bowl.
Surrey were hotly tipped to provide Middlesex’s main competition in this year’s title race, and their demolition of Warwickshire at The Oval on the opening weekend certainly highlighted their strengths. They started well against Lancashire today, too. Quickie Mark Footitt, one of the aforementioned strengths, picked up three wickets to help reduce Lancs to 67 for five. But, they came unstuck thanks to a partnership of contrasts from the vastly experienced Shivnarine Chanderpaul (85 no from 183 balls) and the more explosive youngster, Jordan Clark. Clark reached his maiden first-class hundred in epic style off a Footitt over (4,4,dot,4,6) - though it must be said, the dab was unforgivable.
Eight overs will be added to tomorrow’s play after bad light curtailed Friday’s action, and it should be a fascinating contest between these two sides.
Essex Mean Business
Essex have provided more evidence that they will be a tough nut to crack in the top tier. Somerset were comfortably on top at 108-2 but, after Dean Elgar was stumped coming down the wicket to his compatriot Simon Harmer, it was a different story. With wickets shared around (nobody took more than two) they confined their hosts to a modest 209.
Alastair Cook (39 no) then helped steer his side to 60 for two at the close. It was a classy innings from the England opener, negotiating an awkward session, and he'll be the prize wicket tomorrow.
Proper Cricket Weather
The first week of the Specsavers County Championship 2017 saw grounds across the country bathed in August-esque sunshine. It didn’t feel like April at all. While the weather at Chester-le-Street wasn’t exactly wintry (snow is a regular feature of April cricket in Durham), this was more typical early season stuff, and Durham’s first innings of 162 was no embarrassment on a pitch that offered assistance to Nottinghamshire's dangerous seam attack. Jake Ball, James Pattinson, and Luke Fletcher took three wickets each, Harry Gurney getting one, and it looked a lot like hard work for Durham's batsmen.
However, Durham’s bowlers were able to make the most of the conditions, too, including a two-over period of three wickets for no runs from Graham Onions and Chris Rushworth. At seven for 3, Samit Patel and Michael Lumb needed all the benefit of their years to steady the ship but, when bad light interrupted play, they had recovered to 80-3. There was a sting in the tail, though. Returning to the field well after 6pm, Mark Wood caught Lumb lbw with one that stayed low and it's almost honours even going into the second day.
Last week, Ben Coad showed that he is a young seam bowler with a bright future. He took four Warwickshire wickets at Edgbaston today to prove that was no fluke, but he’s by no means the only up-and-coming seamer in Division One. With seven for 67 in Kent’s first innings of 304 at Hove, Sussex’s Jofra Archer displayed more penetration than his opening partner, South African international Vernon Philander, and had a tighter economy rate too. Having broken into Sussex’s first team in mid-2016, Archer looks like he’ll be ripping out a few stumps in the coming years.