Title contenders Essex wrapped up their victory over Hampshire at Southampton inside three days after they put the hosts in to bat. Jamie Porter did all the damage, taking five for 37 as the home side was rattled out for 120. Essex’s reply of 169 meant they had a solid lead in a low-scoring match, but when Porter worked his magic a second time, taking five for 46 to give him match figures of ten for 83, to bowl out Hampshire for 131, it was pretty much game over. Chasing 83, Essex lost four wickets in getting there.
But, later in the day, Surrey also secured their win over Somerset at Taunton, by ten wickets, to keep a 17-point lead over their nearest and only rivals. The hosts chose to bat first but were dismissed for only 170, with 20-year-old Tom Lawes taking four for 41. Tom Latham and Will Jacks both fell for 99 in Surrey’s reply of 368, which could have been even higher were it not for Matt Henry taking six for 80. It was only the second time in Championship history that two batters had fallen for 99, the previous occasion being when Mike Smith and Clive Radley did so v Surrey in 1973 (with thanks to Pushkar Pushp). Somerset needed something special to save the match and, although James Rew made 55 to ensure he became the first batter to score 1000 runs in Division One this summer and Craig Overton made a bright 70 not out, a total of 226 left Surrey chasing just 29 for victory.
An extraordinary first day, when 22 wickets fell at Edgbaston, meant it was almost a surprise that the game lasted as long as the third day. Warwickshire were put in to bat and tumbled to 20 for six, before making the smallest recovery to 60 all out – it was just five runs more than their lowest-ever score against Middlesex. Ethan Bamber took a career-best five for 20. At 31 for four, the visitors might have been looking at a similar score in reply, but Ryan Higgins hit 53 as they recovered to 199 all out. A second-innings score of 232 was a big improvement for the hosts, but it still left Middlesex to chase just 94 for victory and an unbeaten 52 from Mark Stoneman ensured there would be no upsets as the visitors won by eight wickets.
At Trent Bridge, Nottinghamshire were put in to bat by Kent. Ben Slater made 100 and Tom Moores added 94 as they reached 350 all out. Jaskaran Singh, playing his first match of the season, took four for 87. The home side shared out the runs more evenly in their reply of 316, though Calvin Harrison nipped in with a career-best four for 28. Toby Albert (37) and Ben Geddes (36) joined on loan from Hampshire and Surrey, respectively. The hosts then set up a tough target of 407 by racing to 372 for six declared in just 63 overs. Kent had no answer to Dane Paterson (five for 41) and Brett Hutton (four for 44) and they were skittled out for 85, losing by a mammoth 321 runs. It took Hutton to 52 wickets for the summer, the first bowler past the 50-wicket landmark.
Northamptonshire chose to bat on their visit to Old Trafford. Emilio Gay’s 144 was one short of his personal best and was the foundation of his side’s score of 342. Phil Salt picked up five dismissals behind the stumps (including two stumpings) and then went on to be one of three centurions as Lancashire piled on the runs in reply (his 105 was his highest score for the county), with Luke Wells (119) and Josh Bohannon (128) also reaching three figures. They eventually declared early on the final day with the score on 544 for seven. Dominic Leech joined the visitors on loan from Yorkshire, but failed to take a wicket. In their second innings, the away side reached 213 for five off 100 overs, as the game ended in a draw.
In the Second Division, Derbyshire will have regretted giving Glamorgan first use of their wicket after the visitors piled up a total of 521 for eight declared, with all ten batters reaching double figures and Colin Ingram top-scoring with 136. Luis Reece made 131 adding 165 for the first wicket with Harry Came, but the rest of the Derbyshire line-up struggled and they were all out for 318, meaning that the follow-on was enforced. But it didn’t help, as Reece and Came compiled an unbeaten opening partnership of 360 to save the match, a new record for Derbyshire’s first wicket, with Reece making a career-best 201 not out and Came scoring 141 not out, his highest score.
Runaway leaders Durham had more than Yorkshire to contend with at Scarborough, where the weather meant that just 120 overs were possible in the match, with the third and fourth days entirely lost to rain. The home side batted first and 111 from Adam Lyth set his side on the way to a total of 340, with Matty Potts and Ben Raine each taking four wickets. Alex Lees, with four hundreds in his past five innings, continued his relentless form, and was 65 not out when the game ended as a draw with his side on 106 for one. To make matters worse for both sides, Durham lost one point for a slow over rate, while Yorkshire were deducted 48 points for their response to the Azeem Rafiq racism case.
Things started a day later at Cheltenham, where Worcestershire were put in to bat. At 182 for seven, it looked a good decision, but the tail wagged to take them up to 406, with Josh Baker hitting a career-best 75 and Adam Finch making a personal best of 33 not out. Oliver Price made a career-best 115 in reply, but there wasn’t much from the rest of the team as the hosts were bowled out for 301. Jake Libby scored 117, but Matthew Waite’s 32-ball 62 sped Worcestershire to a declaration on 316 for eight, while Paul van Meekeren finished with five for 73, the best figures of his career. Chasing 422, the hosts were given hope by Jack Taylor’s 98, but four wickets each for Dillon Pennington and Adam Finch saw them all out for 311 to give Worcestershire the win by 110 runs, moving them into second place, 40 points behind Durham but 14 points clear of Glamorgan.
It was the last day of County Championship cricket until 3 September, as we make way for The Hundred, which has been given a huge space in the summer calendar (with no international cricket either until 30 August), as part of the ECB’s ploy to ensure this much-derided tournament secures a stronger foothold in our affections. For those of us who will be seeking our entertainment elsewhere, we should welcome the arrival of Metro Bank as the sponsors of the One-Day Cup, which runs across four weeks from 1 to 29 August, with the final at Trent Bridge on 16 September. With all counties denuded of several players (Surrey lose 12 from their books, while nine other counties will be missing five or more players), it’s a great opportunity to see some up-and-coming talents get their chance. With the first round including fixtures at Cheltenham, Scarborough and Sedbergh, it’s also a good sign that the counties are bringing cricket to fans away from their main ground, too, while The Hundred of course restricts the opportunities to go to a game by focusing on just the eight venues.