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Hampshire Send Early Warning of Title Ambitions


After two years of Covid-related disruptions, the LV= County Championship decided to continue as if it was still 2019; unfortunately, initially the weather owed more to the winter past than the summer ahead. Champions Warwickshire took on Surrey at Edgbaston, and the visitors chose to bat first. Rain prevented a full first-day’s play, but Ryan Patel (75) became the first batter of the season to make a half-century. By the close two of England’s winter strugglers, Ollie Pope and Ben Foakes, had come together. Pope looked as though he would go on to make a big score, but fell for 58 and instead it was Foakes who scored his side’s first century of the season, making an unbeaten 132 as Surrey finally declared on 428 for eight. Oliver Hannon-Dalby took four for 78. England’s out-of-favour opener Dom Sibley fell first ball in the hosts’ reply. But thereafter, things improved for the hosts. Matthew Lamb scored 106 and then Michael Burgess made 178, the highest score of his career. Craig Miles’s 32 was perhaps a less significant knock, but it was still his highest for the county, and helped the hosts up to 531 all out. Surrey reached 43 without loss when the game ended as a draw.


At Chelmsford, visitors Kent must have regretted choosing to field first as Alastair Cook (100) and Nick Browne (107) put on 220 for the first wicket. Matt Critchley had a county debut to remember, the former Derbyshire man making 132 as Essex piled up a formidable total of 514. Tawanda Muyeye accounted for him, picking up his maiden first-class wicket. In reply, Kent found runscoring just as simple: Ben Compton hit 129 on his debut for the county, and Jordan Cox reached his century just before the close of the third day, before he too fell for 129. The lower order took Kent into the lead, with an unbeaten 53 from debutant Jackson Bird seeing them up to 581 all out. Essex were 68 for one when the game ended as a draw.


Somerset’s campaign in 2021 rather fell away towards the end, when they lost all four of their Division 1 games. There was little sign of improvement in 2022 when, having chosen to bat first at Southampton, they were dismissed for just 180, despite 87 from veteran James Hildreth. Hampshire’s opening pair of Joe Weatherley and Ian Holland equalled that for the first wicket, before Weatherley went on to make a career-best 168. The lower order didn’t make the most of the situation, as Ben Green nipped in with a three for 31, his best figures, but a total of 428 left them with a first-innings lead of 248, which appeared more than enough. So it proved, as Somerset’s batting again folded, with Mohammad Abbas taking four for 22, and they were rolled over for just 135 to lose by an innings and 113 runs.


Finally in Division One, Gloucestershire visited Northampton and 117 by James Bracey saw the away outfit up to a total of 223, Ben Sanderson taking four for 66. The hosts were struggling at 129 for seven but a partnership of 137 between Rob Keogh and Gareth Berg took them into the lead, before they were all out for 288. At 21 for four, Gloucestershire were in deep trouble until Ryan Higgins led the fightback with a fine century. When he was finally out for 139, the away side led by 276. Zafar Gohar made his highest score for the county (53) and, despite five for 66 from Ben Sanderson, the visitors were eventually all out for 363, setting a target of 299. The result could have gone either way, as Saif Zaib (65) and Rob Keogh (74) put Northants in the hunt, but two wickets in two balls by Higgins ensured that the chase was called off and they batted out for a draw, finishing on 272 for eight.


In Division Two, Durham travelled down to Cardiff, but the weather restricted the match to just 74 overs in the first two days, during which time Glamorgan were dismissed for 234, helped by 87 from Colin Ingram. Alex Lees carried his bat for a fine 182, his highest score for the county, in five minutes short of eight hours to help Durham to a reply of 383. Andrew Salter, who had previously taken just 101 wickets in 66 games with his off-breaks, finished with seven for 45, easily the best figures of his career. Glamorgan batted out the rest of the match, finishing on 220 for five.


At Grace Road, Worcestershire chose to bat first and new skipper Brett D’Oliveira top-scored with 118 not out and was well supported by former captain Joe Leach (70) as they made 348. Lewis Hill’s 93 was the only significant contribution in Leicestershire reply of 213, while Leach continued his good match taking four for 37. A typically aggressive innings of 112 in 122 balls from Ed Pollock, playing his first first-class game since April 2017, enabled the visitors to declare on 234 for five, setting a target of 370. Hasan Azad did his best, but the rest of the batting fell away around him until he was joined by No 11 Beuran Hendricks. The pair survived 25.4 overs, or 99 minutes, with Azad finishing on an unbeaten 104, as they clung on for a remarkable draw. Josh Baker finished with career-best figures of four for 51.


Derbyshire made the trip down to Lord’s and chose to field first, but were soon struggling – not helped when loan signing Ryan Sidebottom picked up a muscle injury at the beginning of his second over. Josh de Caires (a career-best 80) and Steve Eskinazi (118) took full advantage, adding 186 for the second wicket. Overseas signing Suranga Lakmal struck in his second over, but finished with figures of two for 100 as Middlesex made 401. Alex Thomson’s four for 103 was his best Championship analysis. Derbyshire’s other overseas recruit, Shan Masood, fell nine short of a century on debut as his side was bowled out for 304. Middlesex raced to 258 for five declared in just 50 overs, setting a target of 356. Derbyshire were 255 for five when the game ended as a draw.


Nottinghamshire chose to field first at Hove, but had to wait a while before having any success with the ball as Ali Orr (68) and Tom Haines (59) put on 110 for the first wicket. But the star for the hosts was Tom Clark, who made 100, his maiden century, as Sussex reached 375 all out, with Liam Patterson-White taking five for 84. The visitors were stumbling at 52 for four in reply, but then skipper Steve Mullaney stepped in, going on to make the highest score of his 158-match career: 192. Joey Evison is newer to the game, but he went on to make a career-best 109 not out to see his side up to 435 for nine declared. Sussex needed to score 159 to avoid an innings defeat, and their batsmen struggled to respond, with eight wickets falling before they cleared the deficit, despite the visitors losing Luke Fletcher to injury. All out for 172, Sussex set a target of just 14, which was achieved without loss.