It was quite a day in Division Two on Monday, with Gloucestershire's contest with Glamorgan in particular finely poised heading into the second day.
KENT v NORTHANTS
Sean Dickson hit a career-best unbeaten double century and Joe Denly notched his third hundred of the summer as Kent enjoyed a first-day run fest in their Specsavers County Championship match with Northamptonshire in Beckenham.
Kent cashed in on a Worsley Bridge Road shirt-front after winning the toss to post 434 for one after 96 overs with Dickson and Denly unbeaten on 210 and 143 respectively as Sam Northeast’s promotion-chasers racked up maximum batting bonus points at a canter.
The total already represents Kent’s best at this venue, while Dickson’s 210 is his career-best as well as the highest individual score at the ground, beating Ben Duckett’s 207* here last season.
Dickson also became the first Kent player in history to post double tons as his first two first-class centuries for the county.
In adding an unbroken 305 the pair also moved past the previous second-wicket record of 260 against Northamptonshire set by Arthur Fagg and Frank Woolley at Canterbury in 1934. And, when Denly pulled a short one from Nathan Buck for four in the day’s penultimate over, he raised their 300 stand to beat Kent’s record for any wicket against Northants of 296 set by Ken Hutchings and Frank Woolley at Gravesend in 1908. For good measure, the stand is also a record for any wicket at the ground.
As for Northamptonshire, they will look to their ill fortune earlierin the day when they might have dismissed Dickson twice before he had even reached three figures.
Dickson, the 25-year-old South African right-hander, joined forces with fellow opener Daniel Bell-Drummond to post 129 either side of lunch - their second-best partnership of the season behind their 172 against Sussex at Tunbridge Wells last month.
Bell-Drummond went one short of his 50 soon after lunch when edging a back-foot defensive push to the keeper off Ben Sanderson and it transpired to be the visitors’ sole success of the day.
Dickson was on 35 when he survived a concerted shout for lbw against Buck then, with his score on 97, Dickson drove hard at an away swinger from Buck only to be given the benefit of the doubt to another loud appeal for a catch behind the stumps.
With the luck on his side, Dickson marched on to a 165-ball 100 with 10 fours and a six then Denly reached the milestone from 132 balls with six fours and three sixes.
Northamptonshire tried permutating seven bowlers and delayed taking the second new ball in a desperate bid to curtail the run-rate but, when they finally did take the new cherry, their worst fears were realised as Denly cracked it to all parts in a sublime display of driving.
Just before the close, Dickson clipped sweetly off his pads against Steven Crook to hit the ropes for a 20th time and raise his double hundred from 280 balls.
DERBYSHIRE v DURHAM
Matt Critchley delivered another impressive application for all-rounder status when he marked his first County Championship match of the season with a century in the division two match against Durham at Chesterfield.
The 20-year-old, who became Derbyshire’s youngest centurion when he scored an unbeaten 137 against Northants at Derby two years ago, made 102 from 148 balls out of 332 for 9.
The youngster said: "There's enough in the pitch and we saw a few balls at the end that spun so if you bowl consistently in the right place there's enough to take 20 wickets in the game.
"Having runs on the board helps and we saw a few balls misbehave at the end so if we can get up to 350 that would be good."
Wayne Madsen made 54, his highest score against Durham, and skipper Billy Godleman was not out 79 while 18-year-old seamer Matthew Potts took three wickets in his third first-class appearance.
Durham’s day might have been different if they had bowled more consistently and had caught Madsen on one when he edged Chris Rushworth to third slip in the ninth over.
Rushworth had already trapped Luis Reece lbw with one that kept low and Madsen’s wicket would have given them a chance of exposing a batting order weakened by the absence of Shiv Thakor and Gary Wilson with minor injuries.
Madsen, who needed lengthy treatment after he was struck on the left elbow by Paul Coughlin, batted for another 34 overs to establish a platform which Critchley and Godleman exploited with a fifth wicket stand of 99.
Critchley’s timing and placement was impressive although Durham were guilty of giving him too much width as 18 fours in his hundred suggest. A frustrating day for the visitors was compounded when the umpires reprieved Godleman on 10 after Graham Clark claimed a low catch at gully off Rushworth.
Godleman had dropped down to six in the order after feeling unwell and was in danger of being stranded short of his half century when four wickets fell for only 25 runs after tea following Critchley’s exit when he played across a ball from Potts.
But the former Middlesex seamer Gurjit Sandhu emerged from an uncertain start to play soundly on his Derbyshire debut to help Godleman steer his side to a third batting point and easily passed his previous highest first-class score of eight in an unbroken last wicket stand of 66 to make it the hosts day.
GLOUCESTERSHIRE v GLAMORGAN
Twenty-five wickets fell on the opening day of the Specsavers County Championship match between Gloucestershire and Glamorgan at Cheltenham.
An extraordinary start to the annual Festival at the College Ground saw the visitors bowled out for 117 in 32.1 overs after scorning the opportunity to field first under overcast skies. Anuerin Donald top-scored with 39, while David Payne claimed three for 37.
Then it was the turn of Glamorgan’s seamers to profit from a helpful pitch, Marchant de Lange, Timm van der Gugten and Michael Hogan taking three wickets each as Gloucestershire replied with 141, Kieran Noema-Barnett contributing 34.
By the close Glamorgan had struggled to 59 for five in their second innings to lead by 35. While there was seam movement from the start and some swing at times, the standard of batting from both sides was poor.
RECORD NOT TO BEAT// The shortest Championship match ended at 3.22pm on day 2 in 2002 with just 154.3 overs bowled in the match. Clocked.— Glamorgan Cricket 🏏 (@GlamCricket) July 3, 2017
The tone was set by a misjudgement from Glamorgan opener Nick Selman after Gloucestershire had won the toss and elected to field.
The sixth ball of the game saw him drive Payne to mid-on and set off for a single only to be run out by Liam Norwell’s throw when sent back by Jacques Rudolph.
Norwell then excelled with the ball, claiming two for 16 from a seven-over opening spell, well supported by new ball partner Payne as Glamorgan crashed to 21 for four.
Only Donald of the visiting batsmen looked in any sort of form, as Craig Miles and Kieran Noema-Barnett weighed in with two wickets apiece.
From 72 for eight, Glamorgan were grateful to de Lange and van der Gugten for a ninth-wicket stand of 44, which saved them from being bowled out before lunch.
Payne wrapped up the innings by dismissing both early in the afternoon session and it seemed Gloucestershire had taken a firm grip on the match.
But by tea they were tottering on 81 for seven as de Lange (three for 54) and Hogan (three for 25) took advantage of some variable bounce to match anything the Gloucestershire seamers had produced.
Noema-Barnett and Payne (22 not out) offered late resistance to build a slender first innings advantage of 24 before van der Gugten claimed two of the last three wickets.
It briefly looked a different game as Selman and Rudolph produced some fine shots in the early evening sunshine, putting on 36 at the start of Glamorgan’s second innings before Rudolph edged Norwell through to Gareth Roderick and departed for 21.
It was the 12th time in the day a batsman had fallen to catch by the wicketkeeper or in the slips. Selman’s stumps were then disturbed by Noema-Barnett with his score on 19 to make it 42 for two.
Owen Morgan had made only one when a mishit pull shot off Norwell saw Noema-Barnett hold a juggling catch over his shoulder at mid-wicket.
Norwell was on fire as another aggressive shot from Colin Ingram saw him caught at backward point to give the strapping seamer three for 13 from his first five overs.
Donald was bowled by Miles for eight as Gloucestershire ended an amazing day in the driving seat.
At the close of play, Glamorgan head coach Robert Croft commented as he came to terms with the drama he saw unfold before his eyes.
"I certainly didn't expect a day like that when we arrived this morning. The ball did a bit of everything, swinging through the air, moving off the seam and bouncing like a tennis ball at times.
"The bowlers performed well and there was also some good catching. None of the batsmen seemed to come to terms with the pitch," he added.