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Surrey Prove Pope is a Catcher

There were just seven fixtures scheduled for the fourth round of the Vitality County Championship, and again the weather played a considerable role in many of the games – this April has certainly raised more questions than usual about starting the season this early. As recently as 2018, the first Championship game did not start until 13 April, but 30 years ago it was as late as 28 April. But it would be a mistake to draw too many conclusions from one wet start to the season.


Champions Surrey would certainly not have any complaints about how the month ended. They asked Hampshire to bat first at The Oval, a decision that was fully vindicated when the away side was dismissed for just 151 in 44.4 overs. A captain’s knock of 113 by Rory Burns had little support until he was joined by No 9 Jordan Clark at 218 for seven, and the latter blasted his way to 106 not out off 102 balls to see his side up to a reply of 359. Only 32 overs were possible on the third day, by which stage Hampshire had struggled up to 116 for five and it appeared that only more rain could save them from defeat. But the sun shone and Surrey quickly wrapped up victory by an innings and 11 runs as Hampshire were all out for 197. Ollie Pope had a spectacular time in the field, taking six catches; only Micky Stewart (with seven catches in 1957) and Graham Thorpe (with six in 1998) could rival that innings tally fielding for Surrey. Pope ended the match with eight catches, equalling the county record set by Tony Lock, also in 1957.


League leaders Essex travelled up to Chester-le-Street, where Durham chose to bat first. Colin Ackermann made his maiden century (112) for his new county, while Ollie Robinson made the highest (90) of his five consecutive fifties this summer. There wasn’t too much else from the rest of the side, however, as the hosts were bowled out for 358. Feroze Khushi hit back with 107, while Nick Browne had the frustration of finishing the second day on 94 not out, only to see the third day washed out. He duly completed his century on the final day, before eventually being run out for 184. Essex were all out for 488, with Callum Parkinson taking five for 131. Durham didn’t have too long to bat to see out the draw, and finished on 131 for two. The draw left Essex and Surrey tied at the top of the table with 71 points each.


Somerset were put in to bat at Kidderminster, and Tom Banton top-scored with 92 before the innings was declared on 309 for nine, giving the visitors five overs at Worcestershire. They didn’t manage a breakthrough, and when they got one early on the second morning they were made to pay as Jake Libby (97) and Gareth Roderick (122) then added 194 for the second wicket. The hosts eventually declared on 451 for nine, a very useful lead of 142, and in the three overs left at the end of the third day did what Somerset hadn’t been able to do, and picked up a wicket. Matt Renshaw’s 12 in 125 minutes was an extreme, but a lackluster day saw Somerset up to 190 for four off 75 overs in the tamest of draws.


Finally in the First Division, Nottinghamshire travelled to Edgbaston and chose to bat first. The decision may not have worked for skipper Haseeb Hameed, out for 2, but his opening partner Ben Duckett thrived, racing to 218 off 264 balls, making 197 of them on the first day. The visitors were eventually all out for 400, with Oliver Hannon-Dalby taking five for 78 while new overseas signing Aamer Jamal went wicketless. Just 35 overs were possible on the third day, rendering the final day more or less a formality. Warwickshire replied with 361, Aamer making 40 to ensure his county debut wasn’t entirely one to forget. Jacob Bethell’s 93 was his highest score.


In the Second Division, it was probably a good round for leaders Sussex to miss out on, given all the interruptions to play. Middlesex were put in to bat at Bristol and were on the receiving end of a blitz from Marchant de Lange, whose six for 49 was his best analysis in Championship cricket. Bowled out for just 203, Middlesex just about managed to keep themselves in the game by dismissing Gloucestershire for 322 in reply. Having lost three wickets for 79, Middlesex were indebted to a hefty fourth-wicket partnership of 201 between Max Holden (111) and Ryan Higgins (155) to ensure there were no worries. The game ended in a draw with the visitors on 449 for seven.


Northamptonshire were asked to bat first at Grace Road, and George Bartlett responded by making his first century for his new club (126 not out), hurrying his side up to 453 for seven declared off 110 overs to ensure they received maximum batting points. Leicestershire ended the second day on 97 for two, but the third day was a washout. Peter Handscomb suffered the misfortune of being run out for 99, while Rehan Ahmed made 85. Leicestershire finished on 452 for eight, and the draw was enough to take them top of the table, two points ahead of their opponents. Both sides are still awaiting their first win of the summer.


The third day was also washed out at Headingley, but there was plenty of action in the two days that preceded it after Derbyshire put the hosts in to bat. While Adam Lyth fell just short of his century (97), Joe Root (119) and Harry Brook (126 not out) did not make the same mistake, with the England pair adding 201 for the fourth wicket in four balls under 40 overs. Yorkshire were able to declare on 450 for five after just 97.2 overs. It was the fourth-wicket pairing of Wayne Madsen (104 – a 37th century for the 40-year-old) and Brooke Guest (75) that played a major part in Derbyshire’s reply, as they added 170. Derbyshire were eventually all out for 447, leaving time for Yorkshire to reach 59 for one before the game’s end. So it was that the 15 April fixtures in the Second Division produced only two decisive results.