Champions Essex are in trouble against Hampshire, while Lord's plays host to an intriguing battle which is finely poised heading into day two.
HAMPSHIRE v ESSEX
Hampshire new ball partners Kyle Abbott and Fidel Edwards gave Essex a champion’s hangover as the Specsavers County Championship Division One winners suffered a batting collapse at the Ageas Bowl.
Former Test fast bowlers Abbott and Edwards shared four wickets for 23 to leave Essex on 33 for five overnight after Hampshire had posted 254 thanks to classy fifties from James Vince and George Bailey.
Essex were confirmed as 2017’s title holders last week having thrashed Warwickshire but stumbled on the south coast. Their reply started terribly as Nick Browne failed to pick up the pace of Kyle Abbott to fall in the second over.
Varun Chopra was bowled by the South African four overs latter to give the fast seamer his 50th first-class wicket of the season. Abbott’s opening partner Fidel Edwards joined the party in the following over to have Tom Westley lbw, as the visitors slumped to 12 for three.
Dan Lawrence and Ravi Bopara steadied the ship by blocking out eight overs, before the latter was bowled by Gareth Berg without playing a shot. Essex sent out night watchman Sam Cook to see out the remaining six overs but he only managed two before he was bowled by Edwards – leaving his side 221 behind.
Earlier, Essex’s wicket taking duo Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer took their combined tally for the season up to 134 scalps, after captain Ryan ten Doeschate bowled without a toss on a good bowling track at the Ageas Bowl.
The pair’s wicket taking ability has been one of the main reasons behind Essex’s Division One triumph. But it was Porter’s new ball partner Cook who made the first blow into Hampshire’s batting line up as he struck Jimmy Adams in front in the second over.
Porter wasn’t to be overshadowed for long as he had Joe Weatherley lbw to leave Hampshire struggling on 14 for two. Vince and Tom Alsop came to the host’s rescue with a punchy counter attacking stand worth 71 runs.
The partnership ended when Alsop shouldered his arms at a straight delivery from Porter, with Vince completing his 30th first-class fifty in 65 balls soon after. But Vince departed soon after lunch when he feathered a back foot drive behind off Cook.
Spinner Harmer then took centre stage to claim his 64th, 65th and 66th wickets of the campaign. The South African off-spinner had Sean Ervine caught well by an off-balance Chopra at first slip and Ian Holland bowled, either side of Porter bowling a slow scoring Liam Dawson.
Harmer added Berg to his long list of victims as the Hampshire all-rounder edged behind. While the wickets were falling at one end, captain Bailey was accumulating runs at the other in fluent chanceless style.
The Australian reached his half century in 79-balls but slowed up as the softer ball made rapid scoring more difficult. Hampshire reached a second batting point, which could be important in an unlikely relegation battle, as Abbott was caught at first slip.
Bailey, on 89, decided he need to farm the strike and score boundaries, with unreliable Edwards occupying the other end, but holed out on the mid-wicket boundary attempting a maximum to leave his side all out for 254.
MIDDLESEX v LANCASHIRE
Fifteen wickets fell during an all-action opening day that despite its thrills and spills fell short in terms of application and technique as Division One rivals Middlesex and Lancashire crossed swords in the Specsavers County Championship at Lord’s.
Responding in the day’s third session to a Middlesex all-out total of 233, Lancashire went in at stumps on 113 for five after 34 overs - still trailing by 120 runs.
Having dismissed the hosts inside 62 overs and two sessions, Lancashire went out after tea to lose both openers to consecutive deliveries and with only 22 on the board. Haseeb Hameed was trapped lbw by Toby Roland-Jones, then, to the first ball of Tim Murtagh’s next over, Alex Davies padded up to a straight one to also go leg before.
Dane Vilas scored only five before a shooting Murtagh off-cutter crept between bat and pad to rearrange the stumps, then Steven Finn enticed Liam Livingstone with a short one well outside off that the right-hander cut straight into the hands of Nick Compton at backward point.
Red rose skipper Steven Croft and ‘crab-like’ veteran Shiv Chanderpaul dug in for 10 overs in adding 39 until Roland-Jones returned at the Pavilion End to have Chanderpaul well held in the cordon by Voges for the final wicket of the day. Moreover, Roland-Jones left the field for treatment soon afterwards. The day started with two surprise decisions by Middlesex who, after dropping their skipper James Franklin, then elected to bat first after acting captain Adam Voges won the toss.
Having seen extensive cracks to the surface of this Lord’s pitch, Voges clearly didn’t fancy the task of batting last. Yet, going in first hardly proved a walk in the park either as the hosts skid to 28 for four.
Compton’s miserable run of form continued with a second ball duck to the eighth ball of the game. Jumping back and across his stumps and working to leg, the deposed England opener missed to be sent packing lbw to Ryan McLaren.
The South Africa all-rounder struck again in his third over, dismissing Sam Robson with a lifting leg-cutter that Robson duly followed and feathered to the keeper Davies. Stevie Eskinazi fenced to third slip against Tom Bailey, who also accounted for Dawid Malan on the cheap. Caught on the crease, the left-hander came down late on a ‘fourth stump line’ delivery that slid through the gate leaving umpire Neil Mallender to uphold the appeal for caught behind. Malan trudged off shaking his head and clearly believing he had missed it.
Dropped on 12 by Davies off the bowling of Bailey, John Simpson combined with fifth-wicket partner Voges to add 52 either side of lunch before the latter, prodding half-forward and outside the line of an off-cutter, went lbw for 18.
McLaren struck next, setting up James Harris perfectly with a brace of big out-swingers followed by an off-cutter that trimmed the top of off stump as Harris shouldered arms. Bailey enjoyed a fourth victory when Simpson, on 29, top-edged an attempted pull for Davies to sprint toward backward square leg and pull off a spectacular, full-length diving catch.
Middlesex were allowed to wriggle off the hook somewhat when Lancashire’s seamers lost their radar for an hour or so, enabling Ollie Rayner and Roland-Jones to counter-punch with an eighth-wicket stand worth 102 that took the hosts to the brink of their sole batting bonus point.
The introduction of Matt Parkinson’s leg-spin hardly fazed the pair as Roland-Jones cantered to a 68-ball 50 with 10 fours. But, soon after the England all-rounder missed a leg-stump ball from Kyle Jarvis to be sent packing lbw by umpire Martin Saggers.
Bailey claimed a fifth scalp when Finn played across an angled delivery, but Rayner continued to thrive in reaching his half-century from 71 balls and with seven boundaries. He was unbeaten on 52 when last man Murtagh, having slogged feisty 18, miscued to mid-on to give McLaren four for 63, figures that were only bettered by Bailey with five for 54.
SURREY v SOMERSET
Rikki Clarke took a career-best 7 for 55, including an explosive spell of 5 for 17 in 34 balls immediately after lunch, but Somerset still managed to total 269 against Surrey at the Kia Oval thanks to Steven Davies’s silky 86 and a vintage 65 off 84 balls from Marcus Trescothick.
A dramatic opening day ended with Surrey reaching 42 without loss in 14 overs before stumps, despite Craig Overton and Somerset’s other so-far luckless seamers beating the bat on numerous occasions, in a game crucial to both teams in the five-way scrap to avoid relegation from Division One of the Specsavers County Championship.
Clarke said: "I've been finding a pretty good rhythm with my bowling in recent weeks, without getting the rewards, so it was good to get among the wickets today."
Trescothick and Ed Byrom (42) put on a trouble-free 96 for the first wicket after Somerset had won a toss and opted to take first use of what initially seemed to be an excellent batting surface.
But Trescothick fell leg-before to Gareth Batty’s off spin in the last over before lunch, after biffing 13 fours, and then Clarke set to work in a brilliant exhibition of hostile seam bowling as Somerset plunged to 138 for 6.
That left wicketkeeper-batsman Davies, playing against his former county, to lead a spirited lower order counter-attack in which he added 53 and 59 with Craig Overton and Dom Bess respectively for the seventh and eighth wickets.
Most importantly for Somerset, Davies’s heroics meant two valuable batting bonus points were gained – though the question of whether their first innings total is a competitive one will be answered on the second day.
Fittingly, it took a recall for Clarke – who had taken 5 for 32 in his energy-sapping ten-over post-lunch spell – to finish off Somerset’s resistance.
The 36-year-old all-rounder, who is in his 16th season and who last month returned to his native county in a switch with Warwickshire that saw Dom Sibley move in the opposite direction, forced Bess (27) to chip a return catch with his sixth ball back and then, after Batty had removed Jack Leach leg-before for 2, he had Davies caught on the deep square ropes, hooking.
Clarke had earlier begun Somerset’s sudden slide by having George Bartlett well held at first slip by Kumar Sangakkara for 4, and then pinning James Hildreth leg-before for 1 and also producing a superb off-cutter to bowl Tom Abell for a fourth-ball duck in his next over. Byrom followed, fending weakly to gully after a 126-ball stay, while Peter Trego lost both his off and middle stumps when bowled for 2 through an airy drive.
The in-form Davies, however, batting fluently against his former county, was joined by Overton in a determined seventh wicket stand which ended just before tea when Overton, on 24, tried to whip a ball from left-arm seamer Sam Curran through mid-wicket and was bowled.
Bess, like Overton, offered Davies sound support and had just swept Batty for his fourth four, a stroke which brought up the second batting point, when he became Clarke’s sixth victim. Davies, whose gorgeous square cover drive off Ryan Patel’s medium pace to go to 50 was perhaps the best of his nine fours, faced 119 balls in all.
Former England left-hander Trescothick, aged 41 and in his 374th first-class match, batted beautifully in a dominant display that made a mockery of what came almost immediately after his departure.
He was particularly severe on teenager Curran, 22 years his junior and born five years after Trescothick made his Somerset debut. A resounding square drive and pull-hook for boundaries early on were followed later by two more fours in quick succession, when Curran changed ends, to take Trescothick to a 62-ball half-century in the 19th over.
Only 13 points separated Somerset and third-placed Surrey at the start of this penultimate round of championship games, with three other counties also in a congested relegation zone.
YORKSHIRE v WARWICKSHIRE
Jeetan Patel’s third first-class century and Matt Fisher’s five for 54 in his first Specsavers County Championship match of the season were the standout displays on an enthralling first day between Yorkshire and Warwickshire at Headingley, with the hosts in command.
Patel led a spirited Warwickshire fightback having lost six morning wickets, although they were still bowled out for 219.
Relegated Warwickshire opted to toss and won it before slipping to 49 for six inside 29 overs, with new ball pair Jack Brooks and Ben Coad striking twice apiece. There was no elaborate help on offer for the all seam White Rose attack early on, just enough to ensure their probing lines were rewarded before lunch.
Yorkshire are in danger of joining Warwickshire in Division Two, and they wrapped up the innings during the first half of the evening before closing on 62 for one from 23 overs. The hosts came into their penultimate match of 2017 just a point clear of second-bottom Middlesex.
And while they are still ahead of the game, things could have been even better following the particularly dominant morning. As it was, they were frustrated by New Zealand off-spinner Patel, who drove well through the covers and also enjoyed fortune as he found third-man a productive area on the way to 100 off 112 balls, including 17 fours.
This was his second hundred against Yorkshire. Patel shared 96 for the seventh wicket with Ian Bell, whose 51 was the Bears next best score and only his fourth fifty of the Championship season. Bell reached 19,000 first-class career runs in the process.
Ian Bell has just reached 19,000 career First Class runs. Well played!!— Warwickshire CCC 🏏 (@WarwickshireCCC) 19 September 2017
Yorkshire did not bowl as well in the afternoon, although Fisher struck twice in the 50th over to get Bell and Chris Wright lbw as the score fell to 151 for eight. The 19-year-old, who claimed the last four wickets, had earlier got debutant opener Liam Banks caught behind to mark his first wicket of a frustrating season.
Patel, 37-years-old, and Boyd Rankin then shared 66 for the ninth wicket either side of tea. Patel had reached 50 off 47 balls. Yorkshire have handed a debut to West Indies Test opener Kraigg Brathwaite, and he made 18 before edging Wright to first slip late on.
Opener Banks and all-rounder Alex Thomson, who made 13 and nought respectively, are making their first-class and Championship debuts. Brooks made initial breakthrough when he had Dom Sibley caught behind in the ninth over, leaving the score at eight for one, before getting Jonathan Trott superbly caught at second slip by Adam Lyth for one in his next.
Fisher got Banks before Matt Lamb was also caught behind off Steve Patterson to hand wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd his third catch and leave the score at 34 for four in the 18th.
Tim Ambrose was Lyth’s second victim at second slip as Coad picked up his first with 47 on the board in the 25th over. It was soon 49 for six when the seamer bowled Thomson. Patel reached his fifty first having overtaken Bell in the late twenties before the former England man’s fourth of the campaign came off 121.
Following the departures of Bell and Wright to Fisher, Rankin reached double figures for only the second time in nine innings this year and proved an unlikely ally with 21 not out.
Patel was lbw to Fisher the ball after reaching his century off 111 balls - 217 for nine in the 69th over - before Ryan Sidebottom was bowled by the same bowler in his next over to leave Yorkshire with 23 overs to bat before close. Lyth pulled a couple of sixes to increase the home side’s stranglehold on a game which they are desperate to win. He will begin day two on 35.