Middlesex and Hampshire saw their relegation fears heighten on another tense day at the foot of Division One...
SOMERSET v MIDDLESEX
Somerset built a winning position on the second day of the Specsavers County Championship match with Middlesex at Taunton, knowing that victory would secure Division One survival at the expense of their visitors.
The hosts closed on 159 for three in their second innings, with a lead of 253 on a pitch which, while offering less assistance to the spinners than on day one, is still turning.
Middlesex needed to reach 250 in their first innings to clinch the bonus points necessary to ensure they finished above Somerset whatever the result. Instead, they were bowled out for 142, from an overnight 18 for three, Jack Leach claiming four for 54 from 25 overs.
Unbeaten batsman James Hildreth said: "I have played better and got a hundred on a juicy wicket at Scarborough. But in the context of the season and for the team this is easily the best.
“There is still enough spin out there and if you put the ball in the right areas there is enough going on, but I think if you go into a game with the mindset that its going to spin or be a bad wicket to bat on then sometimes its not a great way to approach things."
From that point Somerset, with a first innings lead of 94, were aware that a win would secure safety. James Hildreth led the way with 82 not out as they built steadily on their advantage.
The day began brilliantly for the home side as Adam Voges drove a catch to mid-wicket off Dom Bess, who then ran out John Simpson for a duck with a direct hit at the wicketkeeper’s end after Dawid Malan had called for a single to cover.
At that point Middlesex were 22 for five. But Malan and Paul Stirling then showed what was possible with sensible shot selection by adding 73 for the sixth wicket. Counter-attacking when possible, Malan hit 2 sixes and Stirling one. The stand was broken when left-arm spinner Leach claimed his third wicket of the innings, pinning Malan lbw for 38.
Stirling had batted confidently for his 41 when carelessly stumped down the leg side off Leach, Steve Davies whipping off the bails and appealing successfully to umpire Mike Burns as the batsman stood his ground. Somerset’s third spinner Roelof van der Merwe got in on the act by earning a leg before verdict against Steve Finn as he unfurled an extravagant slog-sweep to make it 117 for eight.
Lunch was taken at 127 for eight and after the interval it was Craig Overton, tipped for a place in the Ashes tour squad, who wrapped up the innings by bowling James Harris and having Ravi Patel caught at cover. Overton finished with three for seven from 5.3 overs, having bowled quickly and accurately on a surface more conducive to spin.
When Somerset batted again young batsmen Eddie Byrom and George Bartlett fell cheaply to poor shots. But Marcus Trescothick passed 19,000 first class runs for Somerset in contributing 31 before falling lbw to a good delivery from Harris that moved into him. By then Somerset had extended their lead to 153 and Middlesex were bowling almost as much seam as spin in an attempt to limit the scoring.
With the sun shining, Hildreth, who reached his half-century off 98 balls, with 4 fours, and skipper Tom Abell piled the pressure on Middlesex. Their unbroken stand of exactly 100 by stumps featured orthodox batting and made the pitch look benign.
Hildreth, in the last innings of his testimonial year, batted with an assurance that was matched by his partner as Abell ended the day unbeaten on 33. Middlesex were left to bemoan the absence of injured spinner Ollie Rayner, who would surely have relished conditions, particularly on the first day.
WARWICKSHIRE v HAMPSHIRE
Hampshire have plenty of work to do to avoid relegation after they dismissed Warwickshire for 188 but were then rattled out for 116 themselves on an extraordinary second day of their Specsavers County Championship match at Edgbaston.
A first-day washout was followed by a second-day wicketfest which left the visitors still vulnerable to the drop. After choosing to bowl, Hampshire, requiring six points to secure their First Division status, took advantage of damp conditions to reduce the home side to 28 for five.
CLOSE: It's been a difficult session with George Bailey (55) scoring a crucial half-century, but Hampshire were dismissed for 116. 🌹& 👑 pic.twitter.com/NynBCAvs25— Hampshire Cricket (@hantscricket) 26 September 2017
Dominic Sibley resisted hard to bat through the innings for 92 (168 balls, 12 fours, one six) but Fidel Edwards took two early wickets and added three more to tidy up the tail to end with five for 49.
Hampshire then starting their reply knowing events elsewhere meant they would be safe from relegation if they reached 300. But they were soon 13 for three and only captain George Bailey (55, 57 balls, ten fours) defied long against an attack led by Olly Hannon-Dalby (four for 29) and Jeetan Patel (three for 19).
When the game got underway a day late Hampshire's pacemen struck rapid blows, though the first damage to the Bears was self-inflicted when Liam Banks ran himself out, embarking upon an impossible single to mid-on. Kyle Abbot struck twice as Jonathan Trott edged into the slips and Ian Bell was bowled first ball, offering no shot, before Edwards bowled Matt Lamb and Tim Ambrose.
Sibley found two more durable partners in Alex Thomson (26, 95 balls) and Chris Wright (26, 34) with whom he added 80 and 39 respectively. When Wright edged Edwards, Sibley, sensing the end was near, lifted Liam Dawson for two fours and a six from successive balls but was left stranded when Edwards castled Hannon-Dalby and Ryan Sidebottom.
Hampshire's batsmen then found life even more difficult. Sidebottom trapped Tom Alsop in front and bowled Jimmy Adams while Wright pinned James Vince lbw. Fast, full deliveries from Hannon-Dalby won lbw decisions against Sean Ervine, Ian Holland and Gareth Berg, Dawson lifted Patel to point and Bailey's skilful resistance ended with an edge off Hannon-Dalby.
Abbot was stumped off Patel and when the spinner ousted Edwards with the sixth lbw decision of the innings, Hampshire's relegation fears were suddenly back in sharp focus. Faced with six overs batting before the close, Warwickshire, on 0 for 0, were not too sorry to see bad light close a crazy day after eight balls.
ESSEX v YORKSHIRE
Nick Browne and Dan Lawrence combined for a century third-wicket partnership that laid the foundations to enhance Essex’s remaining ambition of going through the Division One season unbeaten.
The pair had put on an unbroken 128 stand to increase the champion county’s first-innings lead of 116 to 250 when bad light caused an early finish with eight overs remaining. At that point Browne was 53 from 134 balls and Lawrence 75 from 143.
The Yorkshire bowlers toiled for 48 overs on a wicket that became slower and easier for batting the longer the partnership went on. Browne and Lawrence started watchfully after Jack Brooks had removed Varun Chopra and Ravi Bopara in the space of three balls in his second over, both pinned plumb in front, and only six on the board.
It was perhaps fortunate for Yorkshire they had claimed the points necessary to avoid relegation from Division One on Day One, as they were dismissed for 111 in 46 overs by mid-afternoon on the second day. Jamie Porter, Neil Wagner and Simon Harmer split nine of the wickets equally between themselves. Porter claimed his for 29 runs in 14 overs, Wagner at a personal cost of 21 from nine, and Harmer for 36.
Browne and Lawrence got their heads down for a period of crease occupancy that was initially so obdurate that it was not until Lawrence’s 54th ball that he hit his first boundary, crashing Steven Patterson through the covers, to move from five to nine.
The tempo went up noticeably as they approached the fifty partnership, reached in 23 overs, at which point Lawrence struck two fours in an over from Patterson. A flurry of boundaries followed, Lawrence’s seventh lofted back over Karl Carver’s head before the spinner suffered worse when Lawrence skipped down the wicket and launched a six over long leg.
Lawrence beat Browne to half-a-century, clipping Ben Coad to the long-leg boundary for two. A measure of how his scoring sped up was that he needed just 49 balls to move from five to fifty, reached in 103 balls. The century partnership followed soon after from 36 overs. Browne’s fifty, which included five fours, three of them in two overs from Coad, took slightly longer after he became becalmed in the forties. A pushed single in the onside took him to the mark from 124 balls.
When Yorkshire batted in the morning, Porter made the initial breakthrough on a pitch that had lost some of its spite of the first day. He produced one that nipped in late to remove Kraigg Brathwaite’s off-stump with the West Indian aiming through midwicket. Brathwaite had needed 21 balls to get off the mark, driving Porter to the cover boundary for three, but only added another single from the remaining seven deliveries faced.
Adam Lyth showed no respect to Harmer when the off-spinner was introduced into the attack, pulling his first ball for four and lofting the second straight for six. However, three balls later, Alex Lees prodded forward to try and smother any turn and nicked behind to James Foster.
Foster claimed a second catch when a quicker ball from Wagner moved away to end Lyth’s 52-ball innings on 35. Seven balls later and the New Zealand Test had a second wicket when he swung one back in to pin Jack Leaning lbw. Wagner had a hand in Yorkshire’s fifth wicket, too. Andrew Hodd straight-drove a full-toss and the bowler deflected on to the stumps with Gary Ballance, on unlucky 13, a foot out of his crease.
Hodd went to the last ball before lunch, lbw to Wagner, before Matt Fisher and Patterson showed some resistance in the nine overs afterwards, while adding just eight runs. That sedate pace was the prelude to three wickets falling in 14 balls. Porter pinned Patterson lbw, Harmer had Brooks flashing outside off-stump to be snapped up behind, before Fisher exposed his stumps to give Porter a third wicket.
The last pair took Yorkshire into three-figures before Harmer had Karl Carver trying to leave one alone, but gloving behind. Porter and Harmer now have 143 Championship wickets between them with one more innings left in which to improve the total.
LANCASHIRE v SURREY
Captain Steven Croft hit his first century since June 2016 to help Lancashire recover from a flurry of pre-lunch wickets on day two of their Specsavers County Championship match against Surrey at Old Trafford.
His 115 earned Lancashire a first-innings lead of 67 as they were dismissed for 268. Croft shared three successive half-century partnerships with Ryan McLaren, Tom Bailey and Stephen Parry as Lancashire battled back from a pre-lunch collapse.
Surrey took five wickets in quick succession as Lancashire slipped from 69-0 to 84-5, including losing four wickets for six runs in the space of 5.2 overs. But Croft’s knock put his side ahead, before Surrey’s opening pair of Mark Stoneman and Rory Burns guided the visitors back ahead with an unbroken 79-run stand to leave Surrey 12 runs ahead on 79-0.
Resuming on 17-0 overnight in reply to Surrey’s 201-8 declared, Lancashire started the morning in commanding fashion. Opening pair Alex Davies and Rob Jones put on 69 for the opening wicket, with Davies going on to make 54 and pass 1,000 first-class runs for the season in the process - incredibly, the first Lancashire wicketkeeper ever to do so.
But Jones’ dismissal triggered the collapse as Rikki Clarke had him caught at second slip by Scott Borthwick for 15. Gareth Batty quickly removed Liam Livingstone before Clarke struck twice in successive overs to get Davies with a leading edge to Mark Stoneman at mid-wicket and then Shivnarine Chanderpaul lbw for just one.
Dane Vilas then joined the procession of wickets with the final ball before lunch, a second lbw victim for Batty, with Lancashire 84-5 at the interval. From there, Croft spearheaded the revival. He put on a fifty partnership with McLaren, who was another to fall lbw to Batty, before notching his first Championship half-century of the season.
Bailey provided able support from the other end, with the pair putting on 63 before Bailey gave Scott Borthwick his 200th first-class wicket by picking out Olly Pope at backward point. At tea, Lancashire were 222-7 with Croft unbeaten on 87. The captain was finding support all the way down the order as he shared another half-century stand with Parry.
Croft’s century, his first since Warwickshire at Old Trafford in June 2016, came from 161 balls and included 14 boundaries. Surrey wrapped up the innings quickly when they eventually decided to take the new ball, with the final three wickets, including Croft for 115, fell in the space of 3.3 overs.
Stoneman and Burns were imperious in the final session, not offering Lancashire a chance. Stoneman will return on Wednesday on 43 with Burns on 27.