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Chilly Finish to Warm-up Matches

With the weather intervening on the final day in many of the matches, the second round of MCCU games mostly finished in draws, with the exception of the fixture at Headingley where Yorkshire beat Leeds/Bradford by an innings and 151 runs. In their first innings, the students succumbed to Matthew Waite, who took five for 16, his first five-wicket haul, and were dismissed for 119. The hosts replied with 455 for six, Tom Kohler-Cadmore making a career-best 176 and Jonathan Tattersall scoring a maiden century and finishing on an unbeaten 130. Despite a hard-fought 62 from Saad Ashraf, Leeds/Bradford were bowled out for 219.

There were the makings of a close game at Canterbury, where Kent took on Loughborough. Sean Dickson made 108 not out in the hosts’ total of 237 for eight declared. The students replied with 248 for nine, taking the narrowest of first-innings leads and the highest score by any of the MCCU sides this season, with debutant Fred Klaassen unable to take his first wicket. Kent then began to assert themselves in the second innings but had reached 149 for one when the weather intervened.

At Hove a quickfire 130 from David Wiese, his top score for Sussex, saw his side up to 480 for nine. But it was Cardiff MCCU’s Daniel Douthwaite who caught the eye, scoring 100 not out in 107 balls. He made one List-A appearance for Warwickshire last summer, so this was an impressive effort from Cardiff’s opening bowler. Chris Jordan took five for 33 for Sussex, who bowled out the students for 203. Stiaan van Zyl scored 103 before retiring out in Sussex’s second innings of 274 for three.

The most spectacular scoring came at Fenner’s where Ben Duckett hit 216 in 180 balls (including 34 fours and 4 sixes), including an unbeaten 148 before lunch on the first day – just 32 short of Ranjitsinhji’s English record of 180 before lunch, set in Hastings in 1902. With Ben Slater (a career best 130), Duckett put on 325 for the first wicket in just 58 overs, before Nottinghamshire were eventually all out for 565. Cambridge made 148 in reply and, rather than enforce the follow-on, the county side batted again, making 231 for five – Duckett scoring 82 in 52 balls. The third day was washed out.

Hampshire were in a similarly dominant position before losing the whole final day at The Parks. They made 478 for nine declared, with centuries from James Vince (139) and Sam Northeast (118), before skittling Oxford for 114, Liam Dawson with four for 11. Batting again, they had reached 66 for four. It was much the same pattern at Northampton, where the home side scored 481 for seven declared, including hundreds by Robert Newton (118) and Joshua Cobb (139, his highest score for the county). Durham MCCU were bowled out for 136, and the county side were 108 for three when the final day’s play was completely abandoned.

Fortunately, although the weather began to deteriorate in the middle of the week, with snow recorded in the north of the country, the forecast was for slightly warmer conditions towards the weekend when the Specsavers County Championship will get under way once again – and the challenge will be on to see if anyone can stop Surrey from winning back-to-back titles. With eight different winners since 2010, history may not be on their side – a really talented squad, however, will ensure they are again the ones to beat.