There were plenty of standout moments in the County Championship this week, making it difficult to pick our top 5 best and worst. Neil Wagner and Kyle Abbott continued their impressive starts by picking up 8 and 7 wickets, respectively. The young Scottish seam bowler Brad Wheal took 7 wickets for Hampshire against Middlesex, combining well with Kyle Abbott to force their second win of the season. Further, veteran bowler Darren Stevens produced an inspired spell of bowling that helped Kent beat Sussex at home.
With the bat, Michael Carberry continued his good form, coming agonisingly close to his second first class century since his cancer surgery. Keaton Jennings scored an excellent unbeaten hundred in a losing cause for Durham, further cementing a position in the top 3 of England’s test team. A good rear-guard effort by Adam Voges was the key to Middlesex battling for a draw on the final day at the Rose Bowl.
A brilliant collective bowling performance from the Nottinghamshire seam attack allowed them to comfortably beat Durham. Luke Fletcher warrants particular mention, as he took 5 wickets in the match and scored 92 in the first innings.
Here are top 5 best bits and 5 moments to forget.
- Ben Coad (5/52 and 5/50 vs. Warwickshire, Birmingham):
The young bowler from Ripon has had a meteoric rise to prominence this year, only starting last week due to injuries to Liam Plunkett, David Willey, Jack Brooks and Ryan Sidebottom. He followed up his impressive display against Hampshire with stunning match figures of 10-102 that propelled Yorkshire to victory against Warwickshire in just over three days.
- Alistair Cook (52 and 110 vs. Somerset, Taunton):
This was the first game that Cook walked on the field without the England test captaincy since August 2012. He marked this occasion by scoring an excellent hundred in a low scoring game to guide Essex to a win against Somerset at Taunton. Hopefully, without the weight of the captaincy on his shoulders, Cook will continue to amass mountains of runs for Essex and England over the next few years.
- Sam Northeast (23 & 173* vs. Kent, Hove):
The 27-year-old scored a delightful unbeaten 173 off 181 balls in Kent’s win against Sussex to carry on his stellar form from last year. He’s one of a number of middle order batsmen that will be trying to stake their claim for a test berth this summer.
- Northamptonshire (307& 330/7) beat Derbyshire (281 & 351/1d), Derby:
Both teams deserve credit here. The game was fairly close after the first innings. Billy Goldeman (156*), the Derbyshire captain, who’d put on 333 for the first wicket with Luis Reece (168), made an aggressive declaration to try and force a result against Northamptonshire. That gave Northants 65 overs to chase 326, which they did in thrilling fashion with one ball to spare, thanks largely to Richard Levi’s 99 and Robert Newton’s 98. This was a good advert for county cricket.
- Surrey 319 (Burns 91, Parry 3-31) and 323 for 3 dec (Sangakkara 136, Borthwick 108*) drew with Lancashire 470 (Chanderpaul 182, Clark 140, Footitt 5-118):
The game may have ended in a draw but there were some fantastic performances. Two greats of the game gave their own masterclasses, with Chanderpaul scoring 182 (he came in at 44-3 and was the last wicket to fall) and Sangakkara scoring 136 after Surrey following on. Jordan Clark, who scored his maiden first class century, helped Chanderpaul guide Lancashire to a first innings lead. Scott Borthwick, scored his first century for Surrey, helping Sangakkara guide their team to a draw. He is another young batsman that will be putting his hand up for England selection this summer.
Mark Footitt continued his good start to the season by picking up another 5 for in the first innings. Perhaps more encouraging though was the selection and performance of the two Lancashire spinners, Stephen Parry and Simon Kerrigan. In the first innings they were extremely impressive, registering combined figures of 5 for 66. This is slightly reassuring for those that are concerned by the absence of English spinners, chiefly Hampshire’s young leg spinner, Mason Crane.
- James Pattinson’s celebration:
Yes, it was a superb catch by Riki Wessels and yes, it was the important wicket of Paul Collingwood, but there really isn’t any need for the sort of in-your-face celebration from James Pattinson. It was a ten second spell that showed the best and worst of the county game, but given the reaction on social media hopefully it will be stamped out soon.
It was another hapless display I’m afraid for Warwickshire fans, who must be fearing the worst already. At one stage in their second innings, they were 7 for 5, so to get to 115 was somewhat of a minor victory!
- The ECB:
The confusing policy to not allow certain players to play for their counties undermines the quality of the County Championship. Stuart Broad only bowled 21 overs against Leicestershire last week and should have been allowed to play against Durham this week. The forced resting of Jonny Bairstow is even more baffling, since he was free to play in the all action IPL this year. Paying fans deserve a decent explanation as to why these marquee players aren’t being allowed to get some valuable game time.
Durham have been treated very harshly by the ECB to find themselves relegated and with a heavy points deduction (see George Dobell’s excellent article at http://tinyurl.com/l387h9e). However, they were very disappointing this weekend against Nottinghamshire. Jennings aside (102* in the second innings) the batting was pretty weak. This was a good Nottinghamshire attack, but the Durham faithful (perhaps the most harshly treated by the ECB’s sanctions) will expect more of the batsmen as the season progresses. They won’t be able to rely on Jennings when the South Africa test series starts.
- Luke Fletcher:
Poor old Luke Fletcher. Seeing him desperately run out to the non-strikers end without his bat just 8 runs shy of his maiden first-class hundred was heartbreaking (if a bit comical)! To be honest his inclusion in the ‘best’ group would have been just as apt given his excellent performance with bat and ball, but we just can’t that image of him scrambling towards the crease out of our minds!