LANCASHIRE v MIDDLESEX
A stirring fightback from Lancashire’s tail-enders and three wickets for slow left-armer Stephen Parry ensured it will be the hosts who go into the final day of this Specsavers County Championship clash with Middlesex confident of victory.
Following Saturday’s total wash out a complete day’s play was possible with only the blustery conditions preventing this from being a perfect experience for the patient Southport spectators as Lancashire fought hard to contrive a winnable position and raise the possibility of ending Middlesex’s 21-match unbeaten run.
At the close of an extended final session Middlesex are 27 runs ahead and with only four wickets in hand to help them extend their slender lead after Lancashire compiled an unlikely total of 309 in their first innings.
Crucial to the change in momentum of the Lancashire effort was Ryan McLaren who came in to bat following the early loss of Shiv Chanderpaul who had failed to add to his overnight score of 32 when he edged Tim Murtagh to Sam Robson at first slip.
125-5 quickly became 136-6 as Dane Villas also fell to Murtagh but with Lancashire rocking a 62 run partnership for the seventh wicket between McLaren and Jordan Clark saw the Red Rose eke out a lead before James Harris trapped Clark in front for 38 with the same bowler dismissing Parry caught at second slip by Dawid Malan soon afterwards.
Tom Bailey then joined McLaren at the crease for an even more productive partnership as the pair extended the total to 291 before the South African was bowled by Murtagh, who picked up 6-63 off his 28 overs, for 75.
Bailey, determined to go down all guns blazing, hit two consecutive sixes before holing out to Stevie Eskinazi to give James Harris his fourth wicket as he reached a career best score of 58.
A lead of 129 looked incredibly useful and was made to look even better when Nick Gubbins was adjudged to have edged Saqib Mahmmod behind for one despite retrospective evidence that it had hit his arm rather than his glove.
Robson and Eskinazi looked to rebuild the innings from 5-1 and they had reached 64 when the latter was beaten by a fine delivery from Parry and bowled for 42.
Seven overs later Robson joined him in the dressing room after he played a loose to shot to a wide one from McLaren and was pouched by a leaping Steven Croft at backward point.
Seam and swing bowling had so far dominated the game but it was Parry, who did not even bowl in the first innings, who now began to determine the course of events.
The 30th over saw the left armer claim two wickets in four balls as Paul Stirling was trapped in front for 12 before wicket keeper John Simpson was caught at short leg by a diving Vilas for a duck to leave the Middlesex innings in tatters at 99-5 and still 30 runs in arrears.
Lancashire’s day was topped off when Mahmood bowled skipper James Franklin without scoring with an excellent yorker to leave Malan (45*) and Harris (15*) battling their way to 156/6 at the close.
Speaking afterwards, McLaren said: "“Very good day, we’d have taken it. The aim was to get close to their target and when we’d got there to get as many as possible. So to have 129 as a lead was a great position. From a batting position you never felt in on the wicket. You just have to graft and get as many as you can."
SOMERSET v YORKSHIRE
Gary Ballance took his average in nine Specsavers County Championship innings this season to 103.85 as Yorkshire pressed for victory over Somerset at Taunton.
The 27-year-old left-hander boosted his prospects of an England Test call with an unbeaten 98 as his side progressed their second innings from an overnight 127 for two to 283 all out, Peter Handscomb contributing 70 and Dom Bess taking five for 80.
Then Steven Patterson claimed three quick wickets as Somerset, chasing 262 to win, crashed to 49 for four before closing on 101 for four, needing a further 161 on the final day.
Ballance, unbeaten on 15 at the start of the day, held the Yorkshire innings together, showing the sort of application needed on a dry pitch offering just enough assistance to the spinners to make batting tricky.
He lost overnight partner Handscomb with the total on 158 as the Australian pushed forward to off-spinner Bess and edged to Marcus Trescothick at slip.
Bess quickly followed up by removing Jack Leaning to another Trescothick slip catch, this time tempting the batsman to drive at a cleverly flighted delivery wide of off stump.
Ballance went to his half-century off 98 balls, with 9 fours, and found a positive partner in Matthew Waites, who hit Bess for three boundaries in an over as the pair took the total to 213 for four at lunch. That gave Yorkshire a lead of 191. But the early post-lunch session proved disastrous for them as four wickets fell for the addition of only ten runs.
The first ball after the interval saw Waites caught at short-leg off Jack Leach. The left-arm spinner also accounted for Azeem Rafiq and Patterson, while Bess pinned Andrew Hodd leg-before. Suddenly, at 223 for eight, the visitors looked vulnerable. But Ballance was still there calming any dressing room nerves and Karl Carver contributed 13 to a priceless ninth-wicket stand of 51.
Ballance reaches another fifty off 98 balls with 9x4s. 184-4 in the 65th over. He has reached 50 six times in @CountyChamp this year.— Yorkshire CCC (@YorkshireCCC) June 11, 2017
Somerset delayed taking the second new ball with Bess and Leach bowling well in tandem. And when they did take it the only immediate result was an increase in the Yorkshire scoring rate. By the time Carver was run out by Leach’s accurate throw to the wicketkeeper after the batsmen had hesitated over a quick single to backward point, Yorkshire were 252 in front and looking favourites again.
Ballance had faced 230 balls, hitting 11 fours and 2 sixes, in an immensely impressive display of patience and sound technique when Bess claimed his fifth victim, last man Ryan Sidebottom falling lbw, much to his dismay.
Bess’s 30th Championship wicket in just five appearances was unlucky for Balance, who had just moved to 98 with an extraordinary uppercut six over third man off Jamie Overton.
But any disappointment in Yorkshire ranks was soon dispelled by Patterson, who had Dean Elgar caught behind down the leg side before adding to the woes of Somerset’s young skipper Tom Abell by trapping him lbw pushing half forward.
It has been a wretched season so far for the 23-year-old Abell, who saw two more wickets fall as Patterson had Trescothick caught behind for a scratchy seven and James Hildreth fell leg before to Waites for a breezy 27.
Adam Hose, on his Championship debut, was then joined by Steve Davies, another to have struggled from any semblance of his best form this season. Together they gave Somerset hope with an unbroken stand of 52 in 18.5 overs.
SURREY v ESSEX
Simon Harmer and Jamie Porter took seven wickets between them as Essex seized control of their Specsavers County Championship Division One match against Surrey at Guildford on a fascinating third day.
By stumps Surrey were 253 for 7 in their second innings, a lead of 217, after Essex had earlier earned themselves a slender first innings advantage with Ryan Ten Doeschate finishing up on a brilliant 168 not out as they replied with 435 to Surrey’s 399.
Off spinner Harmer took 4 for 75 from 34 skilful overs and Porter claimed 3 for 48 from 18 overs while Ben Foakes, with a cool and calm 46 not out, again impressed with the bat for Surrey.
Essex captain Ten Doeschate, unbeaten on 120 when Essex began day three on 376 for 7, guided his side past 400 and maximum batting points and, eventually, a hard-fought first innings lead of 36.
🎯That's out!— Surrey Cricket (@surreycricket) 11 June 2017
Ravi Rampaul finishes it off cleaning up Quinn for 0
Essex are 36 runs ahead! pic.twitter.com/LXSAm18FTp
Those runs looked doubly valuable as Porter and Harmer, in their contrasting bowling styles, built up the pressure on a Surrey team who knew they would have to bat for at least three full sessions if they were to make an Essex final day run chase a tough challenge.
The loss of Mark Stoneman in the third over did not help their cause. Stoneman, who had batted so beautifully first time around for 197, looked like a man in prime form as he almost dismissively twice clipped Neil Wagner’s slippery left-arm seamers to the mid wicket ropes in front of the beer tent. Then, however, on 10, he edged the probing Porter to second slip where Harmer juggled the ball for Alastair Cook, at first slip, to complete the catch.
A second wicket stand of 93 between Rory Burns and Scott Borthwick rallied Surrey, but then Borthwick dragged Harmer’s off spin to mid wicket to go for 36.
Burns reached a solid 57 from 128 balls, with eight fours, before Porter had him caught behind and Kumar Sangakkara eased to 26 – going past 900 championship runs for the season in the process – only for Harmer to remove him with a classical piece of off break bowling from around the wicket, drawing the great Sri Lankan defensively forward and thin-edging to James Foster behind the stumps.
🏏5️⃣0️⃣ for Rory Burns.🙌— Surrey Cricket (@surreycricket) 11 June 2017
Well played VC 👍 pic.twitter.com/W7abslhNX3
Dominic Sibley, on 28, was lbw half-forward to a Porter delivery angled in to his pads but also seeming to keep a little low and, with Matt Quinn unable to bowl again in the match because of a back spasm sustained on the first day, the 24-year-old Porter’s stamina and willingness to run in for lengthy spells was crucial to Essex’s ability to keep their opponents under pressure as a blustery but sunny day wore on.