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Cricket Mourns the Loss of Josh Baker

Events on the pitch this week were completely overshadowed by the sad news from Worcestershire that their spin bowler Josh Baker had died, just a few days short of his 21st birthday. Baker, who last season scored the runs that secured his team promotion back to Division One, was a popular figure within the camp and the news left followers of the game stunned. He’d been playing for the county second XI at Bromsgrove, and on his final day of action had picked up the wickets of Thomas Rew, Josh Thomas and Jack Leach. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, team-mates, friends and all those who knew him. RIP.


In such circumstances, what happened in the five County Championship fixtures seems trivial, but at Old Trafford Lancashire hosted Kent, with both counties propping up the table, having played one game fewer than everyone else. The visitors were asked to bat first, and a vital 71 not out from Joey Evison saw them up to 261 all out. In reply, Lancashire’s batting fell apart to Nathan Gilchrist, who took a career-best six for 24, well supported by Wes Agar (four for 35). Bowled out for just 92, the home side were forced to follow on. The hosts fared better second time around, but the fact that George Bell’s 65 was the highest score meant they could manage only 332 all out, setting Kent a target of 164. Skipper Daniel Bell-Drummond saw his side home by seven wickets with an unbeaten 79, the highest score of the match. The result left Lancashire stranded at the foot of the table, four points adrift of Hampshire.


At Taunton, Somerset put a halt to Essex’s early momentum after they beat the visitors inside two days in a low-scoring game. The hosts chose to field first and, despite a battling 43 from Essex skipper Tom Westley, picked up wickets regularly as the away side was dismissed for 156, with Miguel Pretorius taking four for 36, his best Championship figures. Somerset couldn’t match even that, and were rolled over for only 128 in reply, with Jamie Porter (five for 37) and Sam Cook (five for 38) doing all the damage. Essex scored 138 in their second innings to set a target of 167, the highest total of the match. A vital opening partnership of 75 between Matt Renshaw and Sean Dickson set the tone and, despite the steady fall of wickets, the result never looked in huge danger as Somerset edged to victory by three wickets. It took them to within two points of Essex at the top of the table, but Surrey are lurking one point behind with a game in hand.


In the Second Division, Leicestershire went into the game at Lord’s as league leaders despite not yet having won a game. They looked unlikely to change that after the first day was washed out. When play did get under way, the visitors were asked to bat first, and Peter Handscomb rectified his error last time out (when he fell on 99) by making 109, but none of his team-mates reached fifty so they were all out for 306, Ethan Bamber taking four for 68. Middlesex’s reply centred on a third-wicket partnership of 252 between Sam Robson (162) and Leus du Plooy (131, his second century for his new county). Middlesex had reached 407 for eight before the start of the final day, but that too was washed out.


Sussex chose to field first at Derby and all the bowlers chipped in as the hosts made 246 all out, despite a career-best 47 from Blair Tickner. Unfortunately, that moment was put into painful context when it emerged that his wife had been diagnosed with leukaemia. Cheteshwar Pujara led the way with his knock of 113, but he had plenty of support as Sussex amassed 479 in reply. On his debut for Derbyshire, Daryn Dupavillon took three for 89. Needing 233 just to avoid an innings defeat, the hosts folded to Jayden Seales, who took five for 29, twice finding himself on a hat-trick, as they were all out for 109 in just 26 overs to give Sussex a win by an innings and 124 runs. Sussex are now six points clear at the top of the table, ahead of Middlesex and Leicestershire, who have both played one game more.


Glamorgan decided to bat first at Headingley, but Billy Root’s 51 was the highest score in their total of 221 all out, as spinners Dom Bess (four for 25) and Dan Moriarty (four for 74) wreaked havoc. Mason Crane went one better in terms of wickets when Yorkshire batted, but his five victims came at the cost of 152 runs in just 23.1 overs. Finlay Bean set the tone for the hosts’ reply with a career-best 173 off just 189 balls, setting things up for Joe Root to hit his second successive century (156 off 165 balls). Yorkshire were able to declare on 519 for seven after just 94.1 overs, showing how well the county has embraced the Bazball ethic. Any hope of a home victory was squashed by a fourth-wicket partnership of 210 between Sam Northeast (142 not out) and Colin Ingram (113), both men making their second three-figure scores of the summer. Glamorgan batted out 138 overs to reach the safety of 372 for seven and a draw.