Wednesday was all about Kumar Sangakkara, but Hampshire have Essex on the ropes...
HAMPSHIRE v ESSEX
Kyle Abbott ripped through Essex to bowl the Specsavers County champions out for 76 as Hampshire appeared to be strolling towards an innings victory at the Ageas Bowl.
South African face bowler Abbott ended with figures of six for 20 as Essex collapsed to their lowest score of the season. But batsmen Dan Lawrence and Ravi Bopara helped Essex reach parity, having been made to follow on, with patient half centuries as the visitors led Hampshire by 30 runs at the end of day two.
Essex began the day on 33 for five after Abbott and new ball partner Fidel Edwards had sparked a collapse. Abbott needed just four morning deliveries to add to his two wickets, when he sent Lawrence’s off stump cartwheeling.
Afterwards, Abbott said: “It was great to get out this morning and wrap it all up and to contribute for a 76 all out is pretty cool. There was a bit of discussion about the follow on but we felt we had them in such a good position that we had to go again.
“It was nice but it is amazing how things can change so quickly."
Captain Ryan ten Doeschate had reached 26, the highest score in the innings, but became Abbott’s next victim as he was struck on the pads. The former Test quick then celebrated his fourth five wicket haul since re-joining Hampshire at the beginning of the season as he hit Simon Harmer on his back pad plumb in front of the stumps.
The very next ball Neil Wagner was adjudged lbw to a ball pinging back at him, but Jamie Porter unconvincingly blocked the hat-trick ball. Ian Holland wrapped up the innings when James Foster was lbw, Essex scoring below 100 for the first time in three seasons and posting their lowest score since they were bowled out for 20 in 2013.
That left Essex 178 runs behind Hampshire, who are desperate for the win to confirm their place in Division One for the 2018 season. After asking the away side to bat again Varun Chopra gloved Gareth Berg behind to spark worries of a repeat of the first innings.
But Nick Browne and Tom Westley put on 43 for the second wicket in a watchful manner to begin a turn in fortunes. Browne fell lbw to a sharp Liam Dawson turner, while Westley made a case for Ashes selection with a fine 36 before smashing a caught and bowled back to spinner Dawson.
At 81 for three Essex were still 97 runs behind Hampshire, but Lawrence and Bopara partnered up to bat their side towards parity. Lawrence had got off the mark with a six over mid-wicket, but attacking shots were at a premium as he scored his half century in 115 balls.
After moving into the lead, and a century stand, Bopara collected his 48th first-class fifty from 106 balls. Lawrence ended the day, early due to bad light, on 78 not out, Bopara on 52, the stand unbroken on 127 and Essex leading by 30 runs.
YORKSHIRE v WARWICKSHIRE
Warwickshire fought hard with ball and then bat to enjoy a hugely encouraging second day in this intriguingly poised Specsavers County Championship match with Yorkshire at Headingley.
This battle at the foot of Division One has seen the already relegated Bears land a number of punches against a side who are in danger of joining them in the bottom two. After bowling their visitors out for 219 on day one and reaching close at 62 for one, Yorkshire’s passage to a lead of 77 was far from simple. Warwickshire then reached close at 49 for one from 16 overs, a deficit of 28.
Yorkshire lost wickets at regular intervals throughout the day - three in the morning, four in the afternoon and two in the first half of the evening in being bowled out for 296 with 20 overs remaining in the day. Four overs were lost to bad light.
Adam Lyth top-scored with 62 as he advanced from 35 overnight, while Tim Bresnan’s 47 was the best of a quartet of useful contributions. Captain Gary Ballance made 28, Jack Leaning 36 and Matt Fisher 37.
Chris Wright, off-spinner Jeetan Patel and Boyd Rankin were Warwickshire’s standout bowlers on a pitch offering something for everyone. Wright and Rankin finished with three wickets and Patel two as a few loose shots aided their cause.
Night-watchman Steve Patterson was caught at slip off the third ball of the day from Ryan Sidebottom before Wright bowled Alex Lees through the gate with late in swing. When Lyth played on trying to pull Rankin’s third ball of the morning, Yorkshire were 115 for four in the 40th over of the innings.
The hosts lost two quick wickets after lunch to even give Warwickshire a glimmer of a first-innings lead, with Ballance and Andrew Hodd caught behind off Patel and Wright as the score slipped to 179 for six in the 61st.
But Bresnan shared two important, if not sizeable, stands with Leaning and Fisher - 49 for the seventh wicket and 36 for the eighth. He fell three short of a fifty in the penultimate over of the afternoon when he lost his leg stump sweeping at Patel with 264 on the board in the 86th.
Yorkshire’s pursuit of a third batting point for reaching 300 became a tense affair after tea, and it ended in failure. Fisher posted his first runs in first-class cricket, although he lost Jack Brooks caught at slip off Rankin as the score fell to 289 for nine.
Seven runs later, he chipped a return catch to Rankin. Yorkshire’s seamers then tested the Bears batting resolve under the Headingley floodlights, and they came through in reasonable health.
Liam Banks offered a low chance to Leaning at third slip off Ben Coad on nine, although Coad switched ends to Kirkstall Lane and was rewarded shortly afterwards when Dom Sibley played across one and was lbw as the score slipped to 35 for one in the 12th over. Banks will begin day three on 22 and Jonathan Trott on nine.
SURREY v SOMERSET
Kumar Sangakkara’s eighth Specsavers County Championship hundred of a remarkable final season for Surrey left relegation-threatened Somerset in trouble after two days at the Kia Oval.
At stumps Surrey were 328 for 6, a lead of 69, and while half-centuries centuries by England opener Mark Stoneman and 19-year-old Ollie Pope were vital contributions to the Surrey cause, the day was again dominated by the remarkable Sri Lankan, who has now scored a hundred off each of the other first division counties this season, except Hampshire.
He finished unbeaten on 119, raising his aggregate in just 13 innings to 1,369 runs with twice as many hundreds as any other batsman in Division One.
Coming in at 114 for 2, Sangakkara saw Ryan Patel (14) depart without addition to the score but two punishing partnerships after lunch put Surrey in control as he added 55 with Ben Foakes and then 109 with Pope in 29 overs.
Pope fell to the new ball after lodging his first half-century at the Oval, but by then Sangakkara was in cruise control and he duly reached the 64th hundred of his first-class career with a back-foot force off Craig Overton for his 14th boundary.
Playing with his customary fluency on both sides of the wicket, he also struck off-spinner Dom Bess for a straight six and went into the 90s when a shy at the stumps by Tom Abell, as Sangakkara scampered for a single, dissected the slip cordon and went for four overthrows.
On a pitch offered little assistance to their spinners, Jack Leach and Bess, the slack was taken up by Peter Trego who picked up four wickets, his best return of the season.
Trego broke a stand of 97 between Stoneman and Rory Burns for the first wicket when Stoneman, shortly after passing 50 for the seventh time this season, edged one that held its line. Burns (43) was bowled by Trego off a big inside edge and when Tim Groenewald picked up Patel, it was no more than Somerset deserved for some excellent bowling before lunch.
But as the ball got soft so batting became easier. Sangakkara greeted Leach’s return to the attack by hitting him for two boundaries as he moved towards a 93-ball half-century while Foakes, with whom he had shared a partnership of 258 against Yorkshire last week, looked in good touch until Trego came back and did him with late away movement.
Pope lost little in comparison to his partner as Surrey went past Somerset’s first innings 269 with only four wickets down but six overs after it was taken Somerset struck with the new ball when Pope gave Steven Davies his fourth catch of the day shortly after reaching an 85-ball 50 with eight fours.
Sam Curran (17) was smartly caught at slip off Trego to give Somerset a precious second bonus point but Sangakkara, a month short of his 40th birthday, looks capable of inflicting more punishment tomorrow.
At the close of play, Pope said: "We've got a decent lead now and hopefully we can have a good morning batting tomorrow and then do the business with the ball. I'd describe it as a good Championship wicket. You can get runs but there is something in it for the bowlers too."
MIDDLESEX v HAMPSHIRE
There could be a tense finish to the Specsavers County Championship match between Middlesex and Lancashire at Lord’s.
Lancashire, requiring 221 to win, are 46 for one at the end of the second day, requiring another 175 to win. Middlesex had the edge – a thin edge - when Lancashire started to bat again on a bowler-friendly surface. But at stumps on Wednesday both sides were convinced they could win.
Middlesex are desperate for a victory to ease their relegation anxieties, while Lancashire want a strong finish after missing out on the Championship.
To make life more difficult for Middlesex they will be without their England fast bowler Toby Roland-Jones for the rest of the match. Roland-Jones had a scan on his stiff back on Wednesday but it proved inconclusive. He will have further tests on Thursday. He batted on the second day, but was unable to bowl.
Lancashire resumed on 133 for five on the second morning and were bowled out for 165, with Tim Murtagh claiming four for 49. That gave Middlesex a first innings advantage of 68, a meaningful lead in a low-scoring match.
When Middlesex batted again they soon lost Nick Compton, who was caught behind for nine, to complete an unhappy match. Then Stevie Eskinazi had his off stump plucked out by Tom Bailey and they looked distinctly wobbly at 16 for two, just 84 runs ahead.
It didn’t get any easier for the batsmen. Top scorer Sam Robson (58) and Dawid Malan established a partnership but then the players took an early tea because of bad light, with the score on 54 for two. And with the first delivery after the break Ryan McLaren had Malan lbw for 18.
Acting captain Adam Voges had made just five when he got a thick edge to one from Jordan Clark and the ball just carried to Ryan McLaren took a tumbling catch in the gully. That made it 79 for four.
Robson completed a dogged fifty from 87 balls, with six fours. But then he pulled Bailey to deep backward square-leg where Kyle Jarvis pulled off a marvellous two-handed catch, diving to his right.
Jarvis then pulled off another excellent catch, this time low down at extra-cover, to send back John Simpson for a gutsy 33; 130 for six. And without addition James Harris was seventh out in the next over, lbw to Jarvis.
Roland-Jones was unable to reprise his first innings heroics and Middlesex were all out for 152, with Bailey taking five for 44, to set up a classic finish.