Coad on Highway to the Top

For the first time since mid-September 1999, all 18 counties took to the field at the same time in the County Championship. Just five players took the field in 2017 who had been in action almost 18 years ago: Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Chris Read, Darren Stevens and Marcus Trescothick.

Two of those veterans lined up against each other at Chester-le-Street, with Read choosing to field and inserting Collingwood’s men. Despite his request to play, Stuart Broad was unable to lead the attack for Nottinghamshire, the ECB sticking to their advice to keep him fresh for the first Test – which starts on 6 July. While central contracts have been a boon to international players, ensuring they can perform at their peak when required, it is hard to see how critics can complain about poor attendances at Championship games when the nation’s brightest stars are kept from the action. Unless, that is, they want to play in the IPL to entertain the crowds in India.

The visitors made light of Broad’s absence and rattled through Durham’s brittle middle order. Only a quickfire 65 from Stuart Poynter (his highest score in the Championship) helped the home side up to 162 all out. Luke Fletcher, having taken three for 23, then followed up with 92 in Nottinghamshire’s reply, equalling his career-best and falling in an unfortunate run out. It was a fine effort from him as Durham can still field an attack that includes two England stars in Graham Onions and Mark Wood, along with the highly effective Chris Rushworth. With James Pattinson (59), he added 108 for the eighth wicket as the Australian continued to enjoy his time in this country with both bat and ball. All out for 305, the away side led by 142 runs and soon had Durham 24 for three, before Collingwood steadied the ship, as so often in the past, with Keaton Jennings. When the skipper fell for 40, it was the new England man who stood firm to ensure the match went into the fourth day. Jennings carried his bat, making 102, but his side were all out for 250, leaving Notts to chase 108 for victory, which was achieved for the loss of only Jake Libby.

There was no big score for the third of the quintet, as Trescothick and Somerset were beaten by eight wickets at Taunton inside three days against Essex. The hosts scored a modest 209 in their first innings, but it seemed more than enough when Essex could make only 129 in reply, with current England opener Alastair Cook becoming the only man in the first innings to reach a half-century (52). Neil Wagner then delivered his best figures in the Championship, taking six for 48, to leave Somerset reeling on 174 all out, though it was enough to set a decent target of 255. An 82 opening partnership between Cook and Nick Browne set Essex well on their way, and the former England skipper went on to complete his century before falling for 110. Tom Westley, unbeaten on 86, was still there at the end.

Two more games were completed in three days. Worcestershire dominated proceedings at Cardiff after choosing to field first. David Lloyd (88) was the only one among the top order to put up any significant resistance, and then Lukas Carey made a career-best 39 at the tail end of the innings as Glamorgan were bowled out for 207. Tom Kohler-Cadmore top-scored with 102 in reply, but there were several other useful contributions that took the away side up to 403, a daunting lead of 196. Glamorgan lost five wickets in wiping out that deficit, but the tail collapsed to the medium pace of 19-year-old Josh Tongue, who took five for 45 on his Championship debut. They were all out for 223, and Worcestershire quickly knocked off the 28 runs required for victory.

Gloucestershire were the other three-day winners, beating Leicestershire by an innings and 6 runs at the County Ground. A painstaking 101 from Will Tavaré that took more than a day to complete set up an unassailable position for the home outfit. Gavin Griffiths took four for 101, the best figures of his fledgling career, but couldn’t stop the hosts from declaring on 466 for eight. It was then Liam Norwell’s turn to dominate, as he took five for 66 in the first innings and then backed it up with even better figures in the second innings – five for 33 – to complete the second ten-wicket haul of his career. Ned Eckersley top-scored with 88 in Leicestershire’s first innings of 259 and then made 85 in the second, when his side made 201. On both occasions, it was Norwell who finally got the better of him.

Warwickshire lasted just eight overs into the final day, as they were trounced by Yorkshire by an innings and 88 runs at Edgbaston. The visitors chose to field first and quickly reduced the home side to 77 for seven, before Keith Barker made 50 to help them to the vague respectability of 178. Ben Coad took five for 52 to follow up his success in the previous game. Yorkshire’s innings saw useful contributions throughout, with Peter Handscomb top-scoring with 75, as they made 381 in reply. Coad and David Willey reduced Warwickshire to an embarrassing 7 for five, and they eventually stumbled up to 115 all out. Coad ended with five for 50 to complete his best match figures of ten for 102. He is out on his own as the leading wicket-taker this season, with 21 already.

If the veterans who played all those years ago in 1999 weren’t having such a great time of it, two others found The Oval much more to their liking. Lancashire won the toss and batted, and after slipping to 122 for six, Jordan Clark joined Shivnarine Chanderpaul at the crease. Some had queried the recruitment of the 42-year-old Guyanan, but he guided the younger man through a partnership that lasted more than 65 overs, with Clark reaching a career-best 140 as the pair added 243, just five shy of the county seventh-wicket record. Chanderpaul was the last man out, having made 182 in just over eight hours at the crease. Lancashire were all out for 470, and Mark Footitt was the most successful bowler, taking five for 118.

Having reached 211 for two in reply, everything seemed on track for Surrey before Stephen Parry and Simon Kerrigan hustled out the middle order, leaving them all out for 319, just short of saving the follow-on, which Lancashire duly enforced. When Lancashire picked up the second wicket early on the final day, there was a glimmer of an opening, but Scott Borthwick (108 not out) and 39-year-old Kumar Sangakkara (136) batted on to add 256 for the third wicket. Not long after, with Surrey on 323 for three, the match ended as a draw.

Champions Middlesex didn’t have things all their own way at Southampton. After winning the toss and choosing to bat, they were bowled out for 356, Brad Wheal taking four for 98. Hampshire’s innings featured two near misses. First of all, Michael Carberry was caught behind on 98. Then Rilee Rossouw was run out for 99, one short of what would have been his 19th first-class century. A total of 438 gave the hosts a useful 82-run lead, and at the start of the final day Middlesex were in trouble on 111 for four. Adam Voges made a resolute 92, and Middlesex eventually declared late in the day on 278 for nine and the match ended as a draw. Kyle Abbott took five for 59, and has 16 wickets after just two games.

Things were pretty even after the first innings at Derby – and they stayed that way in a compelling encounter that went to the wire. The hosts scored 281, with Nathan Buck doing most of the damage as he picked up a career-best five for 68. Northamptonshire replied with 307, Max Holden top-scoring with 76 – his highest score. Luis Reece and Billy Godleman batted for almost five and a half hours together, making a county record first-wicket partnership of 333, beating a record that has stood since 1929. Godleman declared soon after, on 351 for one, to set a target of 326. Rob Newton’s 98 gave the visitors early momentum, but it was a blistering 99 in 79 balls from Richard Levi that set up an unlikely and dramatic victory, as Rory Kleinveldt hit a six off the penultimate ball of the match to win the game by three wickets.

There was personal success for at least one of the 1999 brigade, as Darren Stevens played an influential role in Kent’s big win over neighbours Sussex at Hove. He was the joint top scorer in Kent’s first innings, with 68, as his side made 304, but the plaudits went to Jofra Archer, who took a career-best seven for 67. Archer wasn’t done there, either. He joined keeper Ben Brown with his side in trouble on 192 for nine, and had made 60 when Brown fell for 90 after the pair had added 99 for the last wicket. Delray Rawlins, who had performed well on England’s Under-19 tour during the winter, was given his first-class debut, and the Eastbourne CC batsman made a steady 22.

Leading by just 13 after the first innings, Kent took charge in the second innings as skipper Sam Northeast made a speedy unbeaten 173 (in 181 balls) – he and Stevens (71 not out) added 161 in 26.4 overs before Northeast declared on 413 for five, setting the home side a target of 427. Rawlins took his maiden first-class wicket, removing Will Gidman for 6. Stevens wasn’t finished in the match, either. In a six-over burst, he removed all of Sussex’s top five, and there was no coming back from that, though once again Brown did what he could with the tail. Sussex were all out for 200, and Stevens had the 14th five-wicket haul of his career.

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