Champions Middlesex hammered Yorkshire at Lord's, while Lancashire and Essex both turned the screw on a dramatic day in Division One.
Middlesex v Yorkshire
Toby Roland-Jones again pressed his England Test claims as he spearheaded an innings and 64-run Middlesex victory inside three days against Yorkshire at a sweltering Lord’s.
England start their four-match series against South Africa at Lord’s on July 6, and Roland-Jones has a strong case to be included. He took his season’s first-class wicket tally to 22 at 31 runs apiece as Yorkshire were bowled out for 208 and 174 after being asked to follow on in reply to Middlesex’s first innings’ 446. Middlesex take 23 points, and Yorkshire just three.
On a pitch producing more variable bounce, the accuracy and pace of Roland-Jones and Tim Murtagh made them a testing proposition and, with Ollie Rayner, Steven Finn and James Franklin also chipping in, Middlesex made sure of their first Specsavers County Championship victory of the summer – at the sixth attempt.
It has been a frustrating start to their title defence for the champions, who lost one and drew four of their first five matches, but they will now go to Chelmsford next week to take on early Division One pace-setters Essex with renewed belief that this result will kick-start their four-day campaign.
This was also a fourth successive championship win for Middlesex against Yorkshire at Lord’s, following last September’s epic in which they clinched the title with Roland-Jones finishing the match with a hat-trick.
Here the strapping 29-year-old grabbed the key wicket of Yorkshire captain Gary Ballance with the second ball after lunch, a beauty which moved up the Lord’s slope to take a thin edge through to keeper John Simpson, after earlier removing opener Alex Lees with another fine ball delivered from the Pavilion End in his opening spell.
Lees fell for 14 as Yorkshire lost their first three wickets in just seven balls, with Murtagh striking twice in four balls in his fourth over to send back Adam Lyth for 2 and Harry Brook for a third-ball duck. It was in his fourth over that Roland-Jones then had Lees smartly held by Rayner at second slip from a ball angled across the left-hander.
Lyth edged a good one low to Simpson, who took a neat tumbling catch behind the stumps, while 18-year-old debutant Brook – struck on the gloves by the first ball he faced – wafted weakly at a rising ball to give Simpson another catch. Murtagh’s final figures were 11-7-13-2, and Roland-Jones’ 2 for 46. Off spinner Rayner, who enjoyed himself as Yorkshire’s tail was polished off, earned himself a return of 4 for 35 but it was the new ball pair who did the terminal damage.
Yorkshire were reeling at 16 for 3 after Murtagh and Roland-Jones’ early successes, but Ballance and Peter Handscomb briefly rallied them with a stand of 36 until Roland-Jones returned to cut that short. Handscomb made 21 before spearing a short ball from Finn straight to cover and Andrew Hodd was the next to go, for 15, when he played inside a ball from Rayner that held its line down the Lord’s slope and was bowled.
Adil Rashid’s 35 ended with a poor stroke and an edge through to Simpson, when left-arm seamer Franklin angled one across him and, after tea, Ben Coad pulled Rayner straight to mid wicket to depart for 8 and Ryan Sidebottom offered a few defiant blows in a final wicket stand with Steven Patterson before inside-edging a reverse slap at Rayner on to his pad and into the hands of silly point.
Middlesex captain James Franklin said: “We have bounced back strongly after getting a bit of a towelling from Lancashire at Southport last week, and it was really important that we fronted up here. To beat Yorkshire inside three days is very satisfying.
“Our bowlers asked some serious questions of Yorkshire’s batsmen, and when you got it in the right areas it was a tough pitch to bat on as it deteriorated. In terms of enforcing the follow on or not, we were about 240 runs ahead and we knew they would have to bat extremely well indeed to put the pressure back on us in the last two sessions on the final day. But we were confident of our ability to put the pressure on them again with the ball, so it was a no-brainer in all honesty."
Earlier, resuming their first innings on 186 for 9, Yorkshire’s last wicket pair resisted for 20 minutes before No 11 Sidebottom, having just whipped Finn off his pads for four, edged the fast bowler to keeper Simpson to go for 9.
At least, by then, Ballance had hit Finn for three successive fours to earn his side a single batting bonus point. On 53 overnight, Ballance finished with 69 not out from 123 balls, with twelve fours.
Yorkshire head coach Andrew Gale said: "I thought first day, bowling wise, we did quite well without a lot of reward. That was when the pitch was at its best. We got rewarded for that second morning, but from then on we were well below par. From a batting point of view, we were well below par. We've talked about it for a while now.
Essex v Warwickshire
Simon Harmer bowled 39 overs on a sultry day at Chelmsford, 32 of them unchanged in one marathon spell, to claim six for 92 in Warwickshire’s first innings and help Essex force the follow-on
The rest of the Essex team formed a guard of honour as the offspinner went off to a rousing ovation from a sizeable third-day crowd after taking his first five-wicket haul since joining Essex at the start of the season.
The South African, who has now taken 25 Specsavers County Championship wickets, helped dismiss Warwickshire for 283 in 109 overs, well short of the 392 target to make Essex bat again. The indefatigable Harmer was then back in action after six overs of Warwickshire’s second innings, and had Jonathan Trott lbw not playing a shot to the final ball of the day.
Happy Harmer was pleased with his showing: “I’ve been struggling a bit with my knees, so that is the only thing that hurts. Other than that I’ve got a big engine, so once it gets going I’m all right.
"It was nice to get a good bowl in. It was a long shift, but obviously a productive one so you’re not going to complain after a day like that."
Warwickshire were 27 for two in the 11 overs available before the close, still 231 runs short of avoiding their fourth innings defeat in six Championship games this summer.
Essex, on the other hand, will be looking to winkle out the final eight wickets and extend their lead at the top of Division One.
Harmer bowled at the Hayes Close End from 11.30am until 4.35pm, with only breaks for lunch and tea. During a marathon stint in the afternoon session he had figures of 17-10-20-1. So difficult was he to get away that the usually belligerent Rikki Clarke took 30 balls to get off the mark. Only some big-hitting late on by Jeetan Patel – who claimed 36 of his run-a-ball 71 from the 28 deliveries he faced from Harmer – dented his figures.
At times Harmer had five close-catchers around the bat and there were frequent loud entreaties to ‘catch it’ or appeal for lbw. It was never easy for the batsmen as they had to beware balls bouncing off a length and others that kept low.
Even when Harmer was taken out of the attack, what might have been a well-deserved rest was only brief as he immediately switched to the River End. In his first over from the opposite end he had Keith Barker lbw to break an entertaining eighth-wicket stand of 76 with Patel. Seven balls later, he gained a measure of satisfaction by removing Patel to a return catch.
Apart from Patel, the only other Warwickshire innings of note was from Sam Hain, whose 58 was his best score of a scratchy season punctuated by numerous single-figure innings.
Essex took the prized wickets of Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell in the morning session, but it was not until 5.20pm that they finally had Warwickshire all out for 283, 258 behind.
Trott went to the fifth ball of the day, taking the bait dangled invitingly by Wagner. The former England batsman had got away with it the ball before when he ducked under a bouncer, left his bat hanging in the air and inadvertently top-edged for four over the wicketkeeper’s head. Wagner dug in another short-pitched delivery and Trott pulled it firmly but straight into Varun Chopra’s hands at square leg.
Bell was watchful if not entirely comfortably against Harmer. The spinner got one to turn and took the outside edge, but the ball dropped just short of Alastair Cook at slip. However, an hour and a half into the session, by which time he had eked out another 24 to his overnight eight not out, he followed one from Harmer straight into Cook’s hands. With Hain, he put on 66 for the fourth wicket in 21 overs.
Hain reached a deserved fifty from 93 balls to the first delivery of the afternoon, turning Aaron Beard off his hip to fine leg for the required single.
Tim Ambrose was reprieved on 15 when Ryan ten Doeschate dived a fraction late at forward shot leg, and Hain received a let-off when he edged Paul Walter between first slip and wicketkeeper and Cook only got half a hand to it. Next ball, however, Hain nicked in a similar direction and James Foster swooped to his right to claim.
Hain batted for 127 balls for his 58 and had taken Warwickshire from 65 for three to 171 for five in 44 overs at the crease.
The return of Wagner did for Ambrose. He over-stretched to reach the ball outside off-stump, was unable to control the shot and fired straight to Varun Chopra at point for 25. Clarke stuck around for 45 balls for his seven before he was trapped lbw by Harmer.
Patel changed the tempo of the innings when he came in, and hoisted Harmer into the gardens at the Hayes Close End in the over after tea, and followed with another over midwicket.
Patel’s fifty, passing his previous best for the season, came from 48 balls, and when Barker departed, Patel had scored 58 of their 76-run partnership. Boyd Rankin became Harmer’s fifth scalp, his second lbw victim after changing ends. His sixth was not long in following.
Walter made a breakthrough in Warwickshire’s second innings in his first over when Ian Westwood got one that left him to be caught behind.
Lancashire v Hampshire
One of the best and most dramatic three sessions in Lancashire’s season ended with Steven Croft’s team in prime position to beat Hampshire on the final day of the Specsavers County Championship match at Emirates Old Trafford.
Having seen their batsmen compile a mammoth 595, thereby establishing a first-innings lead of 198, the home supporters watched in delight as James Anderson took three wickets and Kyle Jarvis one to reduce Hampshire to 26 for four in a mere 11 overs.
By the close Hampshire had struggled to 50 for five and if this was the best day of Lancashire’s season it was also one of the worst endured by their opponents
Yet if Lancashire fans were toasting Anderson at their Members’ Forum on the penultimate evening of this game, they may have been raising even larger tankards to Dane Vilas, whose career-best 244 had played the major role in enabling his team to build a match-winning advantage.
Vilas began the day on 76 and was dropped off the second and third balls he faced, both bowled by Brad Taylor. Sean Ervine grassed the first chance at slip and Michael Carberry dropped the second at mid-off but Vilas took full advantage of the opportunities he was afforded by helping Ryan McLaren add 129 in 31 overs in the morning session.
The pair had extended their sixth-wicket partnership to 184 at lunch, thereby setting a new sixth-wicket record for Lancashire against Hampshire, eclipsing the 183 put on by Luke Sutton and Nathan Astle at the Rose Bowl in 2006. George
Bailey’s bowlers were ineffectual and the Lancashire pair scored almost at will against deep-set fields.
Hampshire’s bowlers took three wickets in the afternoon session but those successes did not alter the course of the game. Lancashire’s batsmen had built a first-innings lead of 124 by tea and still had two wickets in hand when the players came in with the home side on 519-8 and Vilas unbeaten on 194.
Ryan McLaren became the third Lancashire centurion when he hit Kyle Abbott for three successive leg-side fours but the former Hampshire all-rounder was leg before to Gareth Berg for 107 soon afterwards.
That ended McLaren’s 221-run partnership for the sixth wicket with Vilas, the fourth-highest sixth-wicket stand in the county’s history. McLaren’s century also ensured that this innings would be the first for 13 years in which three Lancashire batsmen have made centuries.
Hampshire enjoyed further success when Jordan Clark was leg before to Matt Salisbury for 24 and Stephen Parry was caught at short leg by Jimmy Adams off the persevering Brad Taylor. However, the off-spinner was hit for three sixes in a single over by Vilas as the South African cut loose in the evening against a tired and utterly dispirited attack.
Kyle Jarvis fell to Berg for 30 and Vilas was the last man out, caught at short third man by Ervine off Matt Salisbury for 244. He had batted 434 balls, faced 275 balls and hit 25 fours in addition to four sixes. Berg with 4-111 was the most successful Hampshire bowler.
What followed was arguably even more dramatic as James Anderson dismissed Jimmy Adams and Rille Rossouw for nought with successive deliveries and Kyle Jarvis bowled Michael Carberry, who was playing no shot, for 10.
Anderson’s mastery of the swinging ball was again in evidence when he had George Bailey leg before for 10 and the England seamer finished with figures of 8-4-5-3, an analysis to gladden Trevor Bayliss’s heart.
James Vince and Sean Ervine tried to ensure that Lancashire made no further breakthroughs but Vince fell two overs from stumps for 29 when he drove McLaren to Rob Jones at short extra cover. It will now take an almighty Hampshire fightback or the intervention of the weather to halt Lancashire’s victory charge.