Having won their first match, Hampshire went into their fixture at The Oval full of confidence, but they met an on-form Surrey side who won by an innings inside three days, a result that took them to the top of the nascent table. The visitors chose to field, but were soon made to suffer for that decision, as Ollie Pope continued his excellent form on this ground, making 127 to help the hosts up to 467 all out. Keith Barker took four for 80, and followed that up with the highest score (57) of Hampshire’s reply. Jamie Overton picked up five for 54 (his best figures for Surrey) as the away side was dismissed for 223 and asked to follow on. Joe Weatherley’s positive 87 was one way to fight back, but too few Hampshire players stuck around, and they were bowled out for 227, with Jordan Clark the most successful bowler (four for 55).
They say that low-scoring matches can be the most compelling, and that was certainly the case at Taunton, where a match aggregate of 527 ended in a nail-biter. Essex put the hosts in to bat, and Somerset’s woes continued as they were bowled out for just 109, only Tom Lammonby (48) putting up any sort of resistance. Alastair Cook took four catches, while the wickets were shared around by the bowlers. When Cook got to 33, he reached the landmark of 25,000 runs in first-class cricket – no other current batsmen has even 20,000, so far out on his own is he. With Joe Root having announced he is stepping down from the job as England captain, it’s no wonder some have looked back to his predecessor. Cook was eventually out for 59, which would prove to be the highest score of the match. For Somerset, it was Craig Overton who bowled them back into some sort of contention, the England man taking a career-best seven for 57 as Essex were held to 180 all out.
One felt that Somerset would need a big total to put any sort of pressure on Essex, so when they fell for 154 it felt like game over. Only Steven Davies’s 51 had helped them get even that far. Shane Snater did all the damage, taking six for 36. A target of 84 seemed inevitable, but Overton and Peter Siddle each struck twice in the first four overs to reduce the visitors to 4 for four. By the time the sixth wicket fell, Essex had scored just 28 and Somerset sensed their chance. Adam Rossington and Adam Wheater nudged their way along, adding 29 for the seventh wicket, before Wheater and Harmer fell in quick succession to make it 60 for eight. Rossington and Snater drew the scores level, only for Overton to dismiss the latter. Mark Steketee had to see out the over, but on the final ball a leg bye gave Essex a one-wicket victory. Overton finished with six for 30 to give him remarkable match figures of 13 for 87, but it was all in vain.
Lancashire chose to bat first at Canterbury and made Kent toil in the field as they piled up a total of 506. Steven Croft (with 155, one short of his personal best) and Dane Vilas (124) did most of the damage, while Phil Salt (97) narrowly missed out on a debut century for his new county. Hamidullah Qadri, who had had a relatively quiet time since joining Kent, took a career–best six for 129. Kent’s reply got off to a strong start, with Zak Crawley (54) joining Ben Compton in putting on 109 for the first wicket, but the rest of the batting fell away as Kent were bowled out for 260, with Compton carrying his bat for 104 not out. George Balderson picked up a career-best three for 14.
Following on, Kent stumbled to 82 for seven, when Hamidullah joined Compton and the pair put on 139 as Hamidullah made 77, his best score, as they fought to bat out the day. Finally, Compton went to his hundred, meaning he had reached three figures not just in both innings of this match, but all three innings so far this summer. Batting with last man Jackson Bird, he knew he was guaranteed to become one of only 12 players to have batted through both completed innings of a match. Only six had done so undefeated, and only two had done so both undefeated and scoring a century in each innings (Jimmy Cook of Somerset was the most recent, back in 1989, while Cecil Wood was the other, for Leicestershire in 1911). But Balderson trapped him in front for 115, meaning that little piece of history eluded him, as Kent were all out for 279. Lancashire then knocked off the 36 runs required without loss.
Yorkshire also got their season off to a flier with a six-wicket win at Bristol, with 11.5 overs to spare at the end of the match. Their decision to field first would have been completely vindicated were it not for a fine innings of 136 from Marcus Harris on his debut for Gloucestershire, who made just 227, while Matthew Fisher took four for 19. Harry Brook (101) had much more support from his team-mates, who replied with 376, with Ajeet Dale taking a career-best four for 72. The hosts’ second innings followed a similar pattern to the first, with one man dominating, though this time it was James Bracey, who made 177, the highest score of his career and his second century of the summer. Gloucestershire’s total of 359 meant they set a target of 211 in 61 overs. David Malan (65) and Brook (56 not out) ensured there were no slip-ups. James Wharton made his first-class debut for Yorkshire, scoring 4 and 11.
In Division Two, Nottinghamshire (like Hampshire) suffered a reverse after their first-round win, losing to Glamorgan by seven wickets at Trent Bridge. The away side chose to field first, and 122 from Ben Duckett saw the hosts up to 302 in their first innings. A ninth-wicket partnership of 106 between James Weighell (45, his highest score for the county) and Timm van der Gugten (62) helped them to a total of 379. Duckett fell five short of a second century in the match, but his team-mates provided inadequate support, as they were all out for 242, van der Gugten picking up four wickets. With Marnus Labuschagne in the side, a target of 166 proved relatively straightforward, the Australian finishing unbeaten on 50. The win took Glamorgan to the top of the table.
Durham moved themselves into a strong position in their match against Leicestershire at Chester-le-Street, but were unable to see home the advantage in a game that ended in a draw. Put in to bat, the hosts scored a hefty 428 all out, with Sean Dickson making 120, his highest score for the county, and Daniel Bedingham scoring 191 in just 256 balls. The pair put on 231 for the fourth wicket. In reply, skipper Colin Ackermann’s 81 was the top score in a total of 273. Matthew Potts took a career-best six for 58. Michael Jones made a maiden century (108) as Durham went in search of quick runs to set a target, declaring on 239 for two, leaving the visitors to chase an unlikely 395. Sam Evans batted for more than five hours to make an unbeaten 77, as the away side ended the match on 183 for two. There was some joy for Durham as Oliver Gibson picked up his maiden wicket (George Rhodes) on his first-class debut.
At Derby, the home side chose to bat first against Sussex and quickly made sense of that decision when Shan Masood and Wayne Madsen (111) put on 292 for the third wicket. Masood dominated the first day, making an unbeaten 201 (his maiden double century) and many arrived for the second day feeling that George Davidson’s record score of 274 (dating back to 1896; he would die of pneumonia less than three years later) might be vulnerable, but he was finally dismissed for 239. There was still time for Alex Thomson to make a career-best 52 before Derbyshire declared on 505 for eight.
Sussex’s batsmen found the going much tougher and were dismissed for 174 in reply, with debutant Nick Potts taking three for 43, leaving them with a daunting two days to bat out to save the match. By the close of the third day, they had reached 278 for two, with Cheteshwar Pujara giving Tom Haines sound support. On the final day, both men went on to score double centuries: Haines’s 243 was his first, while for Pujara his 201 not out was his highest in the Championship. Having been the leading runscorer in 2021, Haines’s record may bring him to the attention of the England selectors at some point soon. It was only the third time in Championship history that there had been three double centuries in a match, the last being between Northamptonshire and Glamorgan in 1998. The pair was together for almost 120 overs, adding 351 for the third wicket as they made the game safe. The match ended in a draw with Sussex on 513 for three.