County Championship Round Up

A stunning hundred from Ollie Pope helped Surrey saunter to a nine-wicket win over Hampshire at the Oval. Pope’s unbeaten 122 came from just 102 balls and made mincemeat of Surrey’s target of 243 in 72 overs in a contest which had been nip-and-tuck for three and a half days. Dom Sibley played an important anchor role, finishing undefeated on 79, as he and Pope added 193 together in 30 overs to see Surrey home. While the conditions improved throughout the day, the quality of Pope’s knock can not be understated against a high-quality Hampshire attack. Surrey required 145 for victory after tea on the final day, but Pope accelerated superbly, striking three sixes, including an audacious tennis-style lap over fine leg.

Pope had made a vital contribution in Surrey’s first innings, too, his 91 helping them gain a slender lead after bowling Hampshire out for 254 on the first day. It could have been much worse for the visitors, who were floundering at 39-4 at one stage, but they were rescued by Ben Brown, who made a brilliant 95, ably supported by Keith Barker as the pair put on 96 for the seventh wicket. For Surrey, twenty-year-old Tom Lawes picked up four wickets. The all-rounder wasn’t originally selected, coming into the side at the last minute for Ben Foakes, but he claimed the vital wicket of Brown in an impressive performance.

Surrey reached 270 in reply, despite the best efforts of Mohammad Abbas, who finished with figures of 6-64. Pope batted with great technique in testing conditions, as did Rory Burns for his 45, but their lead was only secured by a hard-hit fifty from just forty balls from Sean Abbott. Hampshire’s second innings was a similar story of recovery, a dogged 84 from Nick Gubbins alongside handy contributions from Brown and Ian Holland setting up an exciting finish. But Pope’s class and Sibley’s cool head gave the champions their first win of the season. Read the full scorecard: here

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Warwickshire defeated Kent in a thrilling finish in fading light at Edgbaston, Hasan Ali ending Joey Evison’s resistance with just six overs remaining. It was heartbreaking for Evison, removed one short of what would have been a fully deserved century. Kent had looked dead and buried earlier in the day at 99-7, still 196 runs in arrears and with over sixty overs left to bat. But Evison, first alongside Ben Compton (85), launched a stunning rearguard, the pair adding exactly a hundred before Chris Rushworth removed Compton just after tea, seemingly settling the contest. But Conor Mckerr, the seamer on loan from Surrey, kept Evison company for 30 overs, facing more than a hundred balls for his 23, and it felt more and more likely that Kent would hold on for the draw. But Oliver Hannon-Dalby finally snared McKerr, and Evison departed an over later, sparking wild celebrations in the Warwickshire ranks.

Truthfully, it was no less than Warwickshire deserved, having dominated Kent over four days, despite a day two washout. The hosts racked up an imposing 453 in the first innings, declaring having lost just four wickets against a Kent attack which struggled to take advantage of the conditions. Rob Yates and Sam Hain both made excellent centuries, adding 176 for the third wicket, while Dan Mousley perished just short of a hundred, caught for an exhilarating 94, selflessly chasing quick runs. Kent crumbled to 158 in response, with only Daniel Bell-Drummond providing any prolonged resistance against an impressive Warwickshire seam attack. When Rushworth removed Zak Crawley for the second time in the day, a day four win looked inevitable, but the home side were made to fight all the way. See the full scorecard: here

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Nottinghamshire beat Somerset in a low-scoring contest at Trent Bridge, despite day two being washed out. Left needing 295 runs to win on the final day, Somerset were bundled out for 129, with only wicket-keeper James Rew passing twenty as Dane Paterson picked up five wickets. The returning Somerset skipper Tom Abell chose to bowl in favourable conditions on the first morning, but Nottinghamshire’s opening pair of Haseeb Hameed and Ben Duckett made half-centuries as they put on 125 together. However, a stunning seven-wicket performance from Lewis Gregory destroyed the hosts’ middle order as Nottinghamshire subsided to a disappointing 256, a last-wicket stand between Paterson and Brett Hutton earning them a singular batting point.

Hutton would then take 6-45 as Somerset reached a meagre 173 in reply. Things could have been worse, with the visitors struggling at 87-8, only a half-century from Josh Davey keeping them in the game as he added 55 for the last wicket with Peter Siddle. Gregory impressed again in the second innings as Notts were bowled out for 211, picking up figures of 4-64 and giving Somerset a sniff of a victory, or at least the chance of a draw. But Somerset’s second innings only lasted 39 overs, allowing Stuart Broad to make his way across the road for the Nottingham Forest match! See the full scorecard: here

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Middlesex’s early season batting woes continued as they lost to Northamptonshire at Wantage Road. Australian Sam Whiteman guided the hosts to victory, scoring his first fifty of the season as Northants eased to their target of 120 on the final day. Middlesex had once again found themselves in a world of trouble on the first morning at 11-4, and they were indebted to an excellent 70 from Ryan Higgins that hauled them to 149. Higgins marshalled the tail excellently after launching a mini-recovery with John Simpson after Ben Sanderson had removed the Middlesex top three.

Northants totalled 198 in response, largely thanks to an excellent unbeaten 75 from Rob Keogh, while Toby Roland-Jones again impressed with the ball, picking up four wickets. But Middlesex’s batters struggled again in the second innings, despite a better start, and only Roland Jones’s quickfire 37 boosted them to an eventual total of 167. Whiteman ensured Northants made light work of their chase, condemning Middlesex to back-to-back defeats. See the full scorecard: here

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The loss of 103 overs at Chelmsford condemned Essex’s encounter with Lancashire to a draw, despite some breathtaking batting on the final morning from the visitors. Seeking to set up a swift declaration, Lancashire added 137 in the last 15 overs of their innings, declaring on 351 and setting Essex 340 to win in 68 overs. Tom Hartley provided Lancashire’s morning pyrotechnics, striking five sixes in his 50-ball 73 after Keaton Jennings’s 96, and a second half-century of the match from young George Bell had set a strong platform. Essex opted against the chase, and after James Anderson had removed Alistair Cook for the second time in the match, they safely batted out the overs thanks to Tom Westley and Matt Critchley.

Lancashire would have likely taken a draw when they were mired at 86-6 on the first day, but a determined 60 from Bell dragged them past 200, despite a five-wicket haul from Sam Cook. Anderson, in his first action of the summer, picked up four wickets as Essex chiselled out a small lead, with Critchley continuing his impressive start to the season with a measured 78 as he and Dan Lawrence dug them out of a hole at 25-3. With Lancashire 214-6 at one stage, the game appeared in the balance, but Hartley’s wonderful innings ultimately ensured an even share of the spoils. See the full scorecard: here

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Australian Matt Kuhnemann spun Durham to a dramatic last-day victory over Worcestershire at Chester-le-Street. Kuhnemann finished with figures of 5-53 as Worcestershire were bowled out for 192, with just five overs remaining. The visitors’ last pair, Adam Finch and Dillon Pennington had resisted together for 14 overs, but Kuhnemann finally managed to get one to beat Pennington’s defences and give the home side victory. Durham’s victory owed to some positive batting from Scott Borthwick and David Bedingham on the final morning, the pair adding 196 in 31 overs, with Borthwick scoring his first century in two years. Borthwick declared on 254, dangling the carrot and setting Worcestershire a target of 314 in 70 overs. But the visitors were soon struggling at 3-2, and despite forties from Brett D’Oliveira and Jack Haynes, the draw looked the best option.

Worcestershire skipper D’Oliveria may rue his positive declaration on day three, declaring with his side still 59 runs behind Durham and with five wickets remaining. Admittedly, having used 110 overs, they could gain no further bonus points. Worcestershire’s reply to Durham’s 425 had been built around several solid contributions and a superb unbeaten century from Haynes after opener Ed Pollock had provided a bombastic start to the innings with 26-ball 41. Bedingham was the star of Durham’s innings, hitting a fluent 118, while Alex Lees and Ben Raine both made seventies. Durham’s innings was boosted by a hundred-run stand for the eighth wicket between Bedingham and Paul Coughlin. See the full scorecard: here

Leicestershire and Derbyshire’s clash was consigned to a draw by the weather, with no play possible on days two and three. Leicestershire’s total of 451 ensured the home side received full batting points, with skipper Lewis Hill finishing unbeaten on a superb 162, while Colin Ackermann continued his strong early-season form with a century of his own. Their innings had been launched in positive fashion by Sol Budinger, his 72 coming from just 62 balls. Derbyshire reached 254-7 in reply on the final day, with Brooke Guest and Wayne Madsen making impressive fifties as they added 143 for the third wicket, while Chris Wright picked up four wickets for the hosts. See the scorecard: here

All seven championship matches faced interruptions from the weather at some point, but no one fared worse than Gloucestershire and Yorkshire. Recent heavy rain in the west country and an extremely sodden outfield led to the match being abandoned on Saturday morning, with both sides receiving five points. It was especially disappointing for a Yorkshire side seeking to bounce back from their shock defeat to Leicestershire in round one.

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