LV= County Championship, April 12 2013 | Live cricket |

LV= County Championship, April 12 2013

  • Close headlines
    • Neil Dexter takes five wickets for Middlesex to leave Notts only 107 ahead with one wicket in hand
    • Somerset, chasing 235 to beat Durham, reach 96-2
    • Yorkshire facing prospect of innings defeat
    • Hampshire on course for innings victory over Leicestershire
    • Rain disrupts several other games

    Today's debate:
    Do county wickets help spinners enough? 
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  • Preamble

    Welcome to day three of the new county season. Yesterday was a little ruined by the weather perhaps – although certainly not at the northernmost county. There were 18 wickets in the day at Chester-Le-Street – Durham, 92-8 in their second innings but leading by 210, will have enough runs if Graeme Onions and Craig Rushworth can replicate their form of the first innings.

    But an intriguing question was raised by George Dobell after observing the mayhem. Had it been spinners, not seamers, inflicting the damage, would there have been calls for pitch inspectors? And this feeds into a wider issue – also raised by Wisden 2013 – of whether there is enough help for spinners on county pitches today. No one is saying every wicket should resemble Mumbai, but it is true that tracks like Northampton offer less assistance for spinners than say ten years ago.

    Do join the debate.
  • Wisden 2013 on English spin bowling

    An interesting snippet from Wisden 2013, urging the county game to do more to help spinners. I think there is a very valid argument that English pitches have become too homogeneous. It wouldn’t hurt anyone to have the odd pitch turning from day one. Perhaps the place that’s most likely to happen this year is The Oval - Chris Adams has said playing two spinners, even in April, is very possible. Surrey have two high calibre ones in Gareth Batty and Gary Keedy. Anyway, here's the extract from this year's editor's notes:

    “The spinner’s paradise has now vanished from county cricket altogether. Last season, the weather didn’t help. Neither did a fixture list in which half the Championship matches were over by June 9, when slow bowlers in England are still coming out of hibernation. But it is also a question of attitude. Points penalties just aren’t worth the risk, and since Northamptonshire were caught out in 1998 even their pitches have retreated into the Stepford Wives blandness of the domestic game. Slow bowlers on the up, such as David Wainwright, Danny Briggs and Simon Kerrigan, are battling a system in which not one of the 18 first-class headquarters in England can be regarded as spin-friendly; the gradual disappearance of outgrounds further precludes variety. If England are to keep winning Tests in India, this has to change – with pitch liaison officers instructed to show more leniency to turners than seamers.”
  • Jon Culley at Warwickshire 14-0 v Derbyshire

    The answer to Tim's poser is that English wickets certainly do not offer enough encouragement to spin bowlers, which is one reason why Graeme Swann can see himself having an elongated Test career - there is no obvious heir apparent around the counties.  It will not change, moreover, if so much Championship cricket is played so early in the summer and if the prevailing attitude is that a pitch that turns on day one is inherently a suspect one.  (Start delayed again here.)
    by Jon Culley via email edited by Tim Wigmore 4/12/2013 10:17:05 AM
  • Tim Wigmore at Lancashire 60-0 v Worcestershire 344

    In reply to Matt's question, Dockrell isn't eligible for England, I think, until the end of the 2014 season. Whenever I've seen him, I've been very impressed though - he has exceptional control and a brilliant temperament. Though maybe England have stolen enough players from Ireland already... 
  • A fan risks scoring without gloves at Trent Bridge (© Press Association)

  • As bizarre competitions go, this is hard to beat:

    Hampshire Cricket is offering its most dedicated members the opportunity to win a pitch inspection with Head Groundsman, Nigel Gray.

    Any member who attends a minimum of five days’ cricket at the ground before the end of Lancashire’s LV= County Championship visit on the 26th May will automatically be entered into a draw to win one of 24 places (six per day) to accompany Gray to the middle during the next LV=CC fixture - Hampshire against Gloucestershire, running from the 12th to the 15th of June.

    There, they will benefit from being able to see what the conditions are for that day’s play and hear Nigel’s thoughts on how he thinks the wicket will play. 

    One for the enthusiasts, certainly, but I'm sure some people would appreciate it. 
  • @Jake: George Dobell's exclusive was on the spot-fixing case. You can read it here. His report on yesterday's play is here too.
  • Les Smith at Durham 92-8, with a lead of 210 v Somerset

    Thick and fast come intimations that youth is history. There was the Radio
    2 moment, then the first pair of glasses. Later came having to hold the
    bannister when descending the stairs first thing in the morning, and to sit
    down to put on socks. This morning it's the realisation that 18 of the
    players in this match weren't born when The Clash played Shea Stadium in
    New York City. The recording of this magnificent event has sustained me on
    the long, murky drive up the A19 and A1.

    Ah, the A19: one of England's most under-valued roads. For ten miles the
    eye is drawn to the right by the graceful Hawardian hills, though they were
    barely visible through the gloom this morning. Then it elevates itself to
    avoid the fumes of Teesside before delivering the traveller to Tony Blair's
    old constituency, and on to the cricket.

    The cricket. Well, there isn't any yet at Chester-le-Street. We have no
    rain, but we are shrouded by by low milky cloud. There was some desultory
    warming up going on earlier but the players have all retreated to the
    warmth of the pavilion. Yesterday was so compelling, and we anticipated a
    result today. This might still happen, but something overhead will have to
    change first.
    by Les Smith via email edited by Tim Wigmore 4/12/2013 10:45:35 AM
  • George Dobell at Nottinghamshire 278 v Middlesex 297-6

    Good morning from Trent Bridge.

    Due to an abundance of similar pieces last year, we have a ban on the ‘r’ word in our county introductions. It’s the worst four-letter word we know.

    But, on days like this, it really is quite tricky to report what is happening - or not happening - without using it. Suffice to say, a lack of sunshine and surplus of water mean the square is still under covers. And it’s not to prevent sun burn. The outlook is not promising.
  • George Dobell at Nottinghamshire 278 v Middlesex 301-6

    It turns out I wouldn’t be much good as a weather girl: play is now underway. We have only lost four overs. John Simpson has just hit the second ball of the day for four to earn Middlesex their third batting bonus point.

    As to the spin question… There has to be a balance. Good bowlers - spinners or seamers - find a way. Providing too much assistance to young bowlers may kill them with kindness. Certainly it will do them little good when they are promoted to international cricket and find themselves bowling on something approaching a road. There are some highly-touted young spinners in county cricket at present who will never have the weapons to prosper in Test cricket. Kerrigan, who is very much not on that category, is probably the best of the young ones I’ve seen.

    Having said that, it isn’t necessarily doing batsmen that much good to play on tracks offering bowlers little. They may turn find themselves in Perth - where the pace and bounce is remarkable - in the UAE - where the ball skids - or in Asia - and find they don’t have the skills to adapt.

    The dull answer, I’m afraid, is there is a balance to strike. I’d like to see centrally contracted groundsmen who prepare the best possible wickets rather than pandering to home advantage. The ECB have discussed this idea and there is not, at present, much chance of it happening.
  • Alex Winter at Essex 30-2, 379 behind Gloucestershire

    No play here after a sharp shower before the start. More are forecast. Half the sheets are still on. Bonus points may be all there is to play for though. John Bracewell has just marched out to have a word with the umpires and his players are now following on behind to warm up. Positive signs. In fact we're going to try and start at 12.30pm with lunch at 1.30pm.

    So my evening last night. Started off tremendously well. The Orange Tree is a fine venue. Plenty of beer, good atmosphere, locals playing a rowdy round of bridge, open fire and a fantastic curry, exactly how a pub curry should be - for there is a difference between curry house curry and pub curry and they got it spot on. I washed it down with a Dark Star Hop Head, thankfully not dark at all but a little hoppy. Cause then Spurs spoiled it and Newcastle made it two British sides knocked out of Europe. Carnage.
  • Tim Wigmore at Lancashire 87-0 v Worcestershire 334

    Lancashire have begun well this morning, on a flat track that isn’t offering much for the bowlers. After waiting until the final game of last season for their first century opening stand, they are on course to record one here. Paul Horton hit David Lucas for two consecutive fours, a pull behind square and a flick through the legside, showing what a classy player he can be.

    Returning to the spin question, when Mooen Ali spun Worcestershire to victory here last season with 12-96 the pitch inspectors had a long discussion over imposing an eight-point penalty on Lancashire – even though they had omitted Gary Keedy. There’s no way of answering, but if 34 wickets had fallen to seam, rather than spin, would the pitch inspectors have shown so much interest?
  • Alex Winter at Essex 30-2, 379 behind Gloucestershire

    All eyes to the right (well for me and everyone else in this stand). There be rain on the way...
  • Paul Edwards at Yorkshire 27-1 v Sussex

    Well it could have been November early this morning at Headingley. Skeletal trees, rain rolling like gunsmoke across the ground and cars with their headlights on in Kirkstall Lane. The ground bore a passing resemblane to the Marie Celeste.
    Things have improved since then, thank heavens, but we are still to have an early lunch at 12.20 and the umpires will take another look at 1pm. That's as much as we could have been expected.
    As to wickets giving enough help to spinners, I'm not sure they ever have been too generous in April, although Monty Panesar may get a few more overs today if the Yorkshire batsmen are more obdurate than they were on Wednesday (and they couldn't be much more supine.) My feeling is that there should certainly be some help for the slow bowlers by the third day of a Championship game and I saw Robert Croft, Simon Kerrigan and even Moeen Ali prosper in the last month or so of last season. Balance is the key, as distinct from today at Headingley, where Ballance could be vital.
    by PAUL EDWARDS via email edited by Tim Wigmore 4/12/2013 11:30:20 AM
  • Just about sums things up here at Chelmsford. The lyrics more than this theme park video by the way...

  • Tim Wigmore at Lancashire 112-1 v Worcestershire 334

    Luke Proctor was 
    the only wicket to fall this morning, caught off a leading edge two balls after reaching his fifty with a pulled six off Chris Russell. Proctor is the sort of player it’s easy to under-rate, but with a good batting technique and nagging seam bowling he should be an important player for Lancashire this season.

    While eating your 
    lunch – and apologies for the shameless plug – why not look at my comparison of Glen Chapple and Alan Richardson (who has figures of 17-7-19-0). Here’s a taster:
    Although descriptions of their bowling styles inspires many of the same adjectives, Chapple and Richardson have subtly different virtues. Chapple has a smooth, rhythmical action and generates just enough seam movement to worry batsmen. Equally reliable, Richardson's action could hardly be described as smooth - just before his delivery stride, he shapes as if like a windwill. It is slightly ungainly, but what comes next isn't: able to extract more bounce than Chapple, Richardson can shape the ball both ways.
  • Les Smith at Durham 92-8, with a lead of 210 v Somerset

    I would love to be able to deliver better news, but the prospects are not
    promising at Chester-le-Street. We've had negligible rain but it's the bad
    light that's holding us up, and in that respect nothing has changed.
    Moreover, the Met Office website offers no hope of improvement during the
    rest of the day.

    Here's one of the things I love about county cricket. From the press box
    window I can see precisely 17 spectators sitting on the terraces in bitter
    weather waiting for something that in all likelihood won't be happening.
    There are a lot more behind the windows of the hospitality boxes and
    Members' Lounge, of course, but to you 17 I say, I salute you.
    by Les Smith via email edited by Tim Wigmore 4/12/2013 12:16:30 PM
  • George Dobell at Nottinghamshire 278 v Middlesex 353

    John Simpson was left stranded three short of his first century for two years, but could console himself with the knowledge that he had earned his side a strong platform in their game against Nottinghamshire.

    Simpson, whose last century came at the end of April 2011, ended unbeaten on 97 when he ran out of partners. He was on 96 when the ninth wicket fell but, rejecting the chance to farm the strike, he saw last man Tim Murtagh reach for one he could have left and edge a loose drive from the last ball of an Andre Adams over.

    By then, however, Middlesex had earned a lead of 75. On a pitch which continues to show signs of variable bounce, that is not insubstantial.

    Simpson will still be satisfied with his work. After failing to register a half-century in last year’s competition, he worked hard over the winter and looked to have his game in far better order.

    He may regret his slow pace on the third morning, though. Having eased the second ball of the day for four through midwicket, it took him 53 balls to progress from 81 to 97. He survived one chance, too, when Samit Patel, at second slip, put down a simple opportunity when Simpson had 92 off the bowling of Adams.

    Ollie Rayner, James Harris and Toby Rolad-Jones were also seduced into driving at balls that left them and edged to the keeper or slips. Nottinghamshire utilised the conditions better than the second day and bowled with more patience and discipline.
  • Les Smith at Durham 92-8, with a lead of 210 v Somerset

    No sooner do I predict the worst than the umpires visit the middle and decide that the gloom has lifted sufficiently for play to get under way a quarter of an hour from now. So here's another prediction: we won't see any spin bowling this afternoon. We can expect to see Peter Trego and Steve Kirby striving to take Durham's last two wickets double quick, then Graham Onions and Chris Rushworth ripping into Somerset. The stumps are in the ground, the Somerset players are warming and stretching, and we're nearly ready to go.
    by Les Smith via email edited by Tim Wigmore 4/12/2013 12:34:01 PM
  • Jon Culley at Warwickshire 14-0 v Derbyshire

    The presence of water on the outfield, falling from the sky and of the protective coverings on the square has prevented any cricket so far today, wiping out a fourth session in a row. I read Alex Winter's notes from Chelmsford the other day with envy as he listed the taverns and eating opportunities in the vicinity of the ground. It only reinforces the grim truth that for all its strengths as a big-match venue (and I'm not knocking the new grandstand for a moment ), Edgbaston can feel like a pretty soulless ground in a pretty charmless neighbourhood, especially when there is no play.

    Today, the weather is teasing us all mercilessly. An hour so ago, the groundstaff were out on the field, removing the covers, and Karl Krikken was preparing to get his bowlers out there turning their arms in readiness. Lunch had been taken (not that there had been any announcement to that effect) and we were probably about 20 minutes or so from a start. But then it rained again, stopped, and has now started again, heavily. In response to Brummie_Paddy, Derbyshire didn't score enough for there to be any thoughts of forfeits just yet and I wouldn't imagine it would be considered so soon in the season anyway.
  • Alex Winter at Essex v Gloucestershire

    Rain. Dry. Rain. Dry. You get the picture. I could make a lunch/beer/Chelmsford anecdote but soon you'll be thinking I'm the travel/food correspondent.

    My pennyworth on spinning decks. All for um. It's good to watch when the ball turns and the problem arises with wickets tumbling and authorities complaining of a poor wicket because players don't know how to play on turning wickets. If we had a couple of places around the country where spinners could really get stuck in it would be for the benefit of everybody. Results pitches are not evil, in whatever shape they come, roads are.
  • Tim Wigmore at Lancashire 142-1 v Worcestershire 334

    Chatter has moved onto young players to watch this season. I’m watching one now – Mooen Ali is bowling his offspin. It’s accurate and he gives the ball nice flight, although it’s hard to see him replicating his 12-96 last year anytime soon. Mooen’s batting is his strength – very stylistic and, if his 78 on the first day was any guide, with newfound patience. Aged only 25, he certainly has the potential to play for England.
  • Jon Culley at Warwickshire 14-0 v Derbyshire

    Warwickshire think calling Edgbaston soulless is a bit harsh.  People can be sensitive about such things.  Once, when I suggested that the County Ground in Derby might not be the most beautiful venue on the planet, I was invited to explain/justify my comments on local radio (it was a slow news day). At seven o'clock in the morning! And I was daft enough to set my alarm and take their call, which still seems a ridiculously obliging thing to have done considering they just wanted listeners to ring in and take a pop.  The thing is, my local ground is Trent Bridge, which among provincial Test grounds is peerless.  The others have a lot to compete with.
    by Jon Culley via email edited by Tim Wigmore 4/12/2013 1:24:40 PM
  • Paul Edwards at Yorkshire 65-3 v Sussex
    Before the start of the season much was being made of Yorkshire's seam bowling strength. Rather less attention was being paid to the side's batting frailties, yet it is these which may harm the White Rose's summer.
    We've had two examples of sloppiness this afternoon as Yorkshire have stumbled to 76-3, still 184 runs behind Sussex. First Adam Lyth edged Anyon down the leg side to Brown and departed for 25. A strangle in some players' view but it was a delivery at which Lyth had no need to play. Then, three balls later, Gale weakly edged  Anyon to Joyce at third slip. Both dismissals were caused by batsmen error. Sussex haven't really bowled as well as they did in the first innings.
    by PAUL EDWARDS via email edited by Tim Wigmore 4/12/2013 1:29:14 PM
  • George Dobell at Nottinghamshire 278 and 13-2 v Middlesex 353

    Poor Michael Lumb. He could, right now, be earning a fortune in the IPL. Instead he is sitting in the pavilion in Nottingham reflecting on a pair. For the second time in the match, he was beaten, half forward, to one that nipped back.

    Ed Cowan has gone, too. Stuck in the crease, he was beaten by one that swung sharply from Tim Murtagh and lost his off stump. Toby Roland-Jones has beaten Alex Hales off stump several times and batting looks hard work.

    Which all sounds pretty good for Middlesex, doesn’t it? But James Harris is not on the pitch - he has a hamstring strain - and Gareth Berg is described as 80 percent fit.
  • I have to say I agree with Jon Culley. Edgbaston's new stand is a great improvement and has totally lifted the status of the ground to new levels, so much respect for that. But it still lacks the beauty of, say Trent Bridge or Lords or the grandeur of the Oval. And it IS dragged down by its envrons. Leave the ground at Headingley and there are endless food and drink places to choose from, and other stuff Paul Edwards drooled over yesterday on this blog. It is not worth leaving the ground at Edgbaston unless you plan a very long walk.
  • What is all this hogwash about the Garden of Eden - by which I mean Edgbaston - not being delightful? I’ll have you know that in Edgbaston Reservoir we have 24 different species of beer can. Four or five of them really quite rare. You're two minutes from a park and nature centre - it's the other side of the road - 2 mins from a great gold course and 2 mins from a tennis centre. Go and explore: you'll love it.
  • I'm pretty sure Conrad was thinking about Southend when he wrote 'The horror. The horror.'
  • There was, though, a great cartoon in the Birmingham Post a few years ago. It showed a couple in a pod at the apex of the Birmingham Wheel - the huge Ferris wheel that used to sit on Broad Street - with one fellow saying to another ‘From the top of here, you can see why Birmingham didn’t win city of culture.’
  • Gloom over the construction work here at Old Trafford. And gloom for Paul Horton - needlessly run out for 66.

  • Les Smith at Durham v Somerset 36-0

    Somerset's Jamie Overton turned nineteen on the first day of this match, as coincidentally did his twin brother Craig. Jamie is playing in his fourth first class match here at Chester-le-Street, and has demonstrated this afternoon that he doesn't lack chutzpah. Whether he has the common sense to match it has yet to be seen. When play finally got underway at 1.40, while Alfonso Thomas was nagging away at the batsmen with his accurate fast medium pace, Overton was triyng to intimidate them - and Graham Onions in particular - with short pitched deliveries and some well chosen words. His most effective contribution was to run out Phil Mustard. Somerset have lost their first wicket and require 199 more runs to win.
    by Les Smith via email edited by Tim Wigmore 4/12/2013 2:11:25 PM
  • We're playing at Chelmsford but, umm, yer...

  • Tim Wigmore at Lancashire 172-2 v Worcestershire 334

    I had the pleasure of interviewing Thilan Samaraweerawa yesterday. It was striking the huge regard with which he holds county cricket – he thinks he would have been a better player (with a Test average of 48, he wasn’t too shabby anyway) had he experienced county cricket earlier in his career, and has urged other young Sri Lankans to try and play if they can. Which young players around the world could most benefit from a season of county cricket?

    Oh, and we're off for rain, but it has now stopped.
  • George Dobell at Nottinghamshire 278 and 93-8 v Middlesex 353

    We’ve had a remarkable passage of play at Trent Bridge. Middlesex, forced to manage without the injured James Harris, instead entrusted the ball to two medium-pacers and have seen them tear the Nottinghamshire batting apart.

    Neil Dexter, who may well not have bowled at all had Harris been fit, claimed four wickets for six runs in 13 balls to give his side an excellent opportunity of securing victory. Gareth Berg, who is rated as 80 percent fit, also chipped in with the wicket of Alex Hales to a fine delivery that left the batsman late.

    Not all the batsmen were so innocent. Samit Patel fell to an ugly attempted pull - top edging to mid wicket - while Riki Wessels, batting with a runner due to a hamstring injury, guided one to slip and Chris Read, set up by away swing, left one that went straight on. James Taylor’s eye lit up when he received a short, wide ball but its lack of pace and his own lack of foot movement saw him manage to edge it to the keeper.

    Andre Adams took Nottinghamshire into the lead with a pull for six but Dexter has just taken his fifth wicket - he has never taken more than three wickets in an innings - as Ajmal Shahzad pushed at one that left him. Notts are currently 18 ahead with only two wickets in hand.

    Andy Flower has just arrived and is talking to Stuart Broad. What he makes of this is anyone’s guess.
  • Tim Wigmore on the possibility of Afghan overseas players

    In response to below comments - under current ECB rules, Afghans are not allowed as overseas players - no matter how good. Qualification for overseas players has a minimum Test or ODI stipulation, and Afghanistan don't play enough ODIs at the moment. Cricket at its worst.
  • Under the current rules, Afghans aren't eligible to play as normal overseas players - none of their players fulfil the criteria. It's not a ban as such, but, because Afghanistan don't play enough ODIs to get their players above the arbitrary targets, the rules act as one.
  • Jon Culley at Warwickshire 25-0 v Derbyshire

    We had some cricket.  It lasted 22 minutes. There were 33 balls and 11 runs and no wickets.  The players have been off again for 40 minutes or so.  The umpires stood on top of the big sheet at the pavilion/grandstand end for some minutes, looking at the sky and the floodlights and the field. They went back inside for a bit, leaving the groundstaff to roll out more covers, but it has brightened up considerably now and there should be more play. 
    by Jon Culley via email edited by Tim Wigmore 4/12/2013 3:35:39 PM
  • Just to clarify: overseas players can only qualify for a work permit if they have played the requisite number of international games in the qualifying period. Yorkshire, for example, were hoping to sign David Miller but he has not, at present, played enough matches.You can read the details here:

    There are ways around this. Numerous players qualify through a British or European passport. Or because they already had work permits before the rule changes. So it’s not really fair to call it a ‘ban’ on affiliate or associate players. They CAN qualify if they play enough games.

    For the record, Viv Richards would not have qualified for Somerset had the new rules been in place. He played county cricket before he played for West Indies.

    The aim of the rule is to encourage young, England-qualified players and to avoid a repeat of the situation of not so long ago where more than a dozen non-qualified players appeared in the same county game.
  • I still think the rules are too rigid - Glen Maxwell, for instance, only qualified for Hampshire last season through his passport.

    For Afghans the rule serves as a de facto ban because NO PLAYER would have played enough internationals (to my knowledge) to qualify, as they simply don't play enough ODIs. Which isn't really their fault.
  • How do you feel when your unproductive allrounder slips town and then takes six wickets on his debut for his new county? That's what happened when Chris Jordan left Surrey for the south coast. Josh Green, from ESPNcricinfo's Supporters' Network, wonders what fate will await him at Sussex.
  • Each case would take some investigation, but I think several qualify. Mohammad Nabi, for example.
  • Les Smith at Durham v Somerset 96-2 chasing 234

    This match is nicely balanced, and the brief passage of play we've had this afternoon has been as intriguing as what we saw on the first two days. Somerset have dug in and with the weather tomorrow likely to be the best of the match they are probably favourites to win, but Durham have a dangerous attack, as we saw in Somerset's first innings. We've had 35 overs of cricket since play started at 1.40, but they're off for bad light again and it's difficult to see it getting any lighter.
    by Les Smith via email edited by Tim Wigmore 4/12/2013 4:01:10 PM
  • Alex Winter at Essex 101-2, 308 behind Gloucestershire

    We're doing alright here. I daresay any major rain has passed us by and we might be ok for a decent period. Gloucestershire have been too loose with the ball, Bopara and Westley have played their strokes and moved the scoring along at a good lick. They have wrested back some of the initiative and the odds on a draw have come tumbling in with no wicket to fall today.

    The naming-rights deal with Ford came to an end last year and without branding, Essex seem to be pushing the Australian abbreviation, ECG, as the new name for their home. Being open 365 days of the year must have been at Alastair Cook's request, he could do with a net on Christmas Day.

  • George Dobell at Nottinghamshire 278 and 159-8 v Middlesex 353

    We’ve had yet another twist in this remarkable game. Nottinghamshire’s ninth-wicket pair of Andre Adams and Luke Fletcher have thumped a 50-run stand for the ninth wicket to give their side just a little bit of hope.

    Adams has been particularly effective. Surviving a drop on 28 - Neil Dexter putting down a tough chance at deep square leg - he pulled the next two deliveries for six off the flagging Toby Roland-Jones and has helped put his side more than 80 ahead. Paul Fletcher has looked increasingly impressive, too.

    With James Harris unable to bowl in the second innings, the Middlesex seamers have looked jaded in the last hour or so. The off-spin of Ollie Rayner has just been introduced into the attack.
  • Vithushan Ehantharajah at the Surrey press day

    When you flex your financial muscle in county cricket, you set about a series of shifts.

    A shift of feeling; the envy of your peers countered, albeit less vociferously, by the goodwill of the glory-hunters and neutrals.

    A shift of talent; Chris Jordan (right arm, don’t you know) took six wickets on debut, Laurie Evans is touted for big things at Warwickshire and Matthew Spriegel could be so much more than just a medieval surname in Steelback clothing.

    But the biggest – and arguably most important – is the shift in aesthetics.

    Filing into a shmancy suite at The Oval for Surrey’s press day, the first thing you notice is the variety of haircut on offer. For every Jason Roy – a coiffed, reverse-front arrangement with immaculate sides – there’s now a Vikram Solanki – his no nonsense bouffant, worthy of a “Just For Men” ad.

    This is where Graeme Smith comes in.

    Combining the sensibility of a man entering his latter cricketing years, with the twinkly eyes, puffed chest and caricature chin of a Disney bully, his shaped back and sides provide the support for a quiff reinforced with hydrolysised England captains.

    On paper, Surrey are formidable. On the pitch they may take time to gel.

    Follicly, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone better. 

  • George Dobell at Nottinghamshire 278 and 182-9 v Middlesex 353

    We’re off for bad light at Trent Bridge. Nottinghamshire lead by 107 runs with one wicket left in their second innings.
  • Tim Wigmore at Lancashire 186-3 v Worcestershire 334

    This may be a Division Two match meandering towards a rain-soaked draw, but the standard remains impressive: Alan Richardson, who has just had Karl Brown caught behind, bowling to a pair of proven internationals, in Ashwell Prince and Simon Katich. Brown played with commendable discipline in his 34, and it was an admirable show of faith from Peter Moores to allow him to continue at three even with the addition of Kaitch.
  • You can read Alan Gardner's interview with Graeme Smith here. Seems like he's in it for the long haul.
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County Results

Gloucs v Derbyshire at Bristol - Sep 25-28, 2017
Derbyshire won by 157 runs
Lancashire v Surrey at Manchester - Sep 25-28, 2017
Lancashire won by 7 wickets
Leics v Northants at Leicester - Sep 25-28, 2017
Northants won by 6 wickets
Somerset v Middlesex at Taunton - Sep 25-28, 2017
Somerset won by 231 runs
Sussex v Notts at Hove - Sep 25-28, 2017
Match drawn
Warwickshire v Hampshire at Birmingham - Sep 25-28, 2017
Match drawn
Worcs v Durham at Worcester - Sep 25-28, 2017
Worcs won by 137 runs
All recent results »