All Tied up in Northampton

More than 700 runs were scored on a brutal Tuesday for bowlers at Taunton. Kent set the tone by scoring a seemingly emphatic 352 for six (their fourth highest score ever), with Daniel Bell-Drummond making his third List-A century (106), but it was Alex Blake’s 46-ball century that really gave the innings lift-off. Blake was eventually out for a career-best 116 in 58 balls. Peter Trego (135) was undaunted by the task ahead, and led the reply so that Somerset ended up winning by four wickets with 15 balls left to complete their highest successful run chase.

In the East Midlands, Nottinghamshire won at Derby after the home side made 303 for four, with skipper Billy Godleman top scoring with 90. Set a revised target of 286 off 47 overs, the visitors eased home with four wickets and four balls to spare. Alex Hales got them off to a flying start, making 77 in 58 balls.

With so many runs on offer elsewhere, it was perhaps surprising that The Oval should dish up a low-scoring, close-fought contest. Surrey batted first and needed an unbeaten 77 from Ben Foakes to see them to a meagre total of 210, at which point Essex must have been very confident of victory. At 12 for three, they quickly realised they would not have things all their own way. Wickets fell steadily, and at 193 for nine the odds favoured the home side, but a career-best 44 not out from Simon Harmer, supported by 7 not out from Matthew Quinn saw Essex home with just four balls to spare.

Stiaan van Zyl hit 96 in Susssex’s 292 for six at Hove. The South Coast outfit were joined by new recruit Jerome Taylor, but the West Indies paceman didn’t have much impact as Glamorgan ended up chasing 281 in 43 overs. Kiran Carlson made 40, his best score, but it was Chris Cooke’s 62 that gave the innings any real substance. They were bowled out for 221 in 40 overs after the lower order crumbled away.

At Leicester, Mark Pettini scored a career-best 159 off 135 balls to power his side to Leicestershire’s highest total this century: 363 for seven. He had useful support from Tom Wells (67), making his third successive career high. Sam Hain made 103, his third century in this format, and had good support from Tim Ambrose (83), but Warwickshire came unstuck against two bowlers delivering their best figures: Wells with three for 44 and Gavin Griffiths (three for 35). They were all out for 260 to suffer an emphatic defeat.

Wednesday saw the summer’s first tie at Northampton. Visitors Worcestershire compiled a decent 277 for nine, with Ben Cox the top scorer making a career-best 82 – his only fifty in 36 attempts – though an unbeaten 42 from Ed Barnard in just 27 balls at the end of the innings would prove vital. Opener Rob Newton set the tone with his maiden century (107), but when skipper Alex Wakely was fifth man out for 52, Northants had nine overs to score 66. Adam Rossington took charge, but his side still needed 14 for victory off the final over, and two off the last ball, but fell agonisingly short, with Rossington on 63 not out off 45 balls.

There was an easy win for Yorkshire against Durham at Leeds, where the visitors set a hefty target of 335 for five, with Stephen Cook making his 10th List-A century (106) and Michael Richardson his first (100*), reaching the landmark with the last ball he faced. Jonny Bairstow made the highest List-A score at Headingley, eventually dismissed for a career-best 174 off just 113 balls. It was a destructive performance, and Durham debutant George Harding was left to rue the fact that the only chance Bairstow gave came off his bowling and wasn’t taken. In the end, Yorkshire raced to 339 for four with 14 balls to spare.

Middlesex beat Hampshire by an emphatic (Duckworth-Lewis amended) 89 runs at the Rose Bowl. Nick Gubbins did a superb job as opener in compiling his 114 at almost a run a ball, while Reece Topley chipped away to take four for 68. The visitors finished on 295 all out. Hampshire’s reply was dogged by a superb opening burst from Toby Roland-Jones, who reduced the hosts to 34 for four and finished with his best figures of four for 10. Recovery never looked likely, and when the rain came Hampshire were 146 for seven in the 31st over, and already well beaten.

There was just one game on Thursday, and former England captain Alastair Cook shone with a fine innings of 127 in Essex’s 315 for eight – it was his 10th List-A century. Chris Liddle eventually accounted for him, and finished with four for 54. At 175 for two in the 34th over, Gloucestershire were in with a decent chance, but two quick wickets knocked them out of their stride, and they ended up losing by 29 runs, finishing on 286 for eight as Essex kept up their 100 per cent record.

An England match against Ireland on the Friday was accompanied by seven Royal London games. With no fixtures on the Saturday, it was another curious piece of scheduling that the summer’s first international should coincide with the busiest day of the domestic 50-over tournament, when the days either side of it boasted just one county game. That oddity would be compounded on Sunday when the second international was played alongside eight games.

In the North Group, two unbeaten sides met up at Worcester, and the home side emerged victorious over Yorkshire by 51 runs. Daryl Mitchell (69) and Tom Kohler-Cadmore (118) put on 135 for the first wicket in 21.3 overs, and a late lower-order flurry saw Worcestershire up to 342 all out, with seven balls wasted. Matthew Waite took a career-best four for 65. Although Peter Handscomb made 88, and Matthew Fisher contributed a brisk personal best of 36 not out at the end, five Yorkshire batsmen fell for scores between 10 and 20, with Mitchell the leading wicket-taker (three for 60). On his debut, Josh Tongue wrapped up the innings, bowling Steven Patterson for 5 to pick up his maiden wicket.

In the South, Somerset made it four wins out of four after they thrashed Glamorgan by 170 runs in Cardiff. Skipper Jim Allenby had never scored a century before in 110 previous innings, but he put that statistic right with a superb best of 144 not out off 146 balls. James Hildreth’s unbeaten 58 off 28 balls at the end knocked the stuffing out of the hosts, who were left to chase 338 for three. At 27 for three in reply after 11.2 overs, the match was as good as over, and so it proved as Glamorgan were all out for 168.

Durham recorded a highly satisfactory five-wicket win over Leicestershire at Gosforth. The visitors got off to a terrible start, slipping to 13 for four, and it took a maiden half-century from Zak Chappell (59) to steer them up to 211 all out. James Weighell took four for 34. Fifties from Stephen Cook (67), Michael Richardson (51) and Paul Collingwood (65 not out) were more than enough to see Durham home with 40 balls to spare.

At Liverpool, Lancashire still couldn’t find a win despite setting a total of 324 for eight, with Jordan Clark scoring 76 not out, his highest score, in just 51 balls at the end. There were useful contributions from Richard Levi (63) and Rob Keogh (69), but it was Northamptonshire skipper Alex Wakely who saw his side home with a career-best 109 not out off 98 balls. The visitors reached their target with six wickets and 20 balls in hand.

Things were much closer at Edgbaston, where Nottinghamshire won by 10 runs after making 303 for six. Billy Root reached his first century in this format, finishing on 107 not out off 93 balls, adding 159 for the fifth wicket with Steve Mullaney (89) – a county record. Jonathan Trott replied with 104, but other than Ian Bell (51) the rest of the Warwickshire batting rather fell away as they tried to get to their target. Matthew Lamb made his debut for them, but could score only 2.

Canterbury provided the venue for yet another high-scoring game that ended in a Sussex win. Kent’s highly regarded Daniel Bell-Drummond scored a run-a-ball 138, his second century in succession, to help his side up to 331 for seven. Sussex were decently placed in their reply, on 123 for three, when Laurie Evans came out to bat, but what followed was destructive carnage, as he smashed his way to a career-best 134 not out off just 86 balls, with eight sixes. With Harry Finch, he added 207 for the fourth wicket, two short of the county record and two short of victory.

The London derby ended in a comprehensive victory for Surrey at The Oval. Middlesex made 243 for nine, John Simpson top-scoring with 75 as Ravi Rampaul took four for 40. The runs were shared around by the Surrey top order, as they eased to 244 for three off 45.2 overs.

On the Sunday, Essex were the only undefeated side in action, with both Worcestershire and Somerset having the day off. They lost out by just 1 run at Cardiff in a compelling match. The home side batted first, and Colin Ingram made a career-best 142 as he scored his 16th century in this format. His was the dominant effort in a total of 281 for seven, while Neil Wagner took four for 58. Varun Chopra was another vastly experienced cricketer to deliver a milestone personal best, as he scored 124 in reply, failing with 6.1 overs remaining and 43 runs required and four wickets in hand. Somehow, though, scoreboard pressure told on the batsmen, and the final pair were at the crease at the end, and they couldn’t quite reach the target.

Elsewhere in the South Group, there was an easy seven-wicket win for Hampshire over Gloucestershire at the Rose Bowl. Jack Taylor top-scored with 63 to help the visitors to a modest total of 237, and Hampshire skipper James Vince made 89 not out to see his side home with more than seven overs remaining.

Sussex also recorded a comfortable home win at Hove, beating Surrey by 95 runs. The hosts made 300 for eight in their 50 overs, Chris Nash leading with 82. Michael Burgess, formerly of Leicestershire, made his official debut for the home side, and scored 23. He followed it up with three catches behind the stumps as Surrey’s reply was stymied by David Wiese, who finished with impressive figures of four for 29. Surrey were all out for 205 after 41.1 overs. Ollie Pope was a rare highlight for them, making 55, his maiden half-century.

Given that the Canterbury pitch had yielded more than 650 runs two days earlier, when Middlesex bowled out the hosts for just 200, few would have predicted a home win, but that was just what happened as the visitors were dismissed for 154 in reply. Sam Northeast made the game’s only half-century (55) to help set some sort of target. There was little surprise at Wayne Parnell making some early breakthroughs for Kent, but it was the unlikely figure of Joe Denly, whose legbreaks secured three wickets in successive overs, who finished off the hopes of the away outfit.

In the North, Lancashire finally won, beating Warwickshire by 26 runs at Edgbaston. Skipper Steven Croft hit only his second century in 123 innings, his career-best 127 came in 83 balls and featured eight sixes as he led his side up to 351 for eight. Rikki Clarke threatened to make that challenging total look inadequate, when he blasted his way to 76 off 48 balls, with six sixes. But Simon Kerrigan kept his calm to remove the danger man, and eventually the hosts were all out for 325 with nine balls remaining. The two teams now prop up the group.

Durham won by 19 runs at Chester-le-Street, in a match that was a repeat of last year’s NatWest Blast final. Keaton Jennings opened up with 101, and there were good contributions down the order as his side scored 291 for seven. Ben Sanderson took a career-best three for 36. None of the Northamptonshire team could deliver the big innings required, and so they fell short on 272 for eight. Paul Coughlin finished with a personal best of three for 53, while George Harding took his maiden wicket: Graeme White.

Nottinghamshire recorded a comprehensive victory over Leicestershire at Welbeck Colliery. The visitors had no answer to James Pattinson, who took four for 42, as they were bowled out for 217. Only Mark Cosgrove (80) made a significant score. Half-centuries from Samit Patel, Brendan Taylor and Steven Mullaney ensured a home win by six wickets with 70 balls remaining.

At Headingley there was another runfest, with Peter Handscomb setting the tone with a great innings of 140, his highest score, and surprisingly his first century in 55 innings in this format. A total of 349 for seven was always going to be difficult to beat, but Wayne Madsen’s 112 gave Derbyshire a chance. Matt Critchley scored a career-high 49 off just 21 balls at the end, but it was all in vain as his side finished on 334 for eight. On his Derbyshire debut, Hardus Viljoen found things tough: his ten overs went for 74, though he did pick up the wicket of Alex Lees. The win took Yorkshire to the top of the table.

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