Roelof! Roelof! for the Comeback of the Season

With snow having interrupted play earlier in the week, there can have been few who were looking forward to watching floodlit cricket in Manchester in late April, though fortunately the temperatures remained in double figures as the evening drew in. But, in its wisdom, the ECB had decided that white-ball cricket, in the shape of the 50-over Royal London One-Day Cup, should begin on 27 April, more than three weeks earlier than in 2016.

On the first day, six players made their List-A debuts. Two of them – Cameron Steel and James Weighell lined up for Durham against Derbyshire at the Riverside, but the match was abandoned before either of them could  take the field. Durham had reached 194 for two in 34 overs by then, with Michael Richardson making a career-best 83 not out, his fourth half-century in just eight innings. The match at Lord’s was also abandoned, after Middlesex had made 341 for five. John Simpson scored a career-best 82 not out and Ryan Higgins also had a personal best, blasting 48 not out off 23 balls. Sussex were 26 for one when the match ended.

At New Road, Worcestershire beat Nottinghamshire by five wickets, despite 104 from Michael Lumb. On his debut, Billy Root made 46 off 42 balls to help the visitors up to 273 for six. The weather interrupted proceedings and the home side chased a target of 168 from 22 overs, winning with 12 balls to spare, Ross Whiteley finishing the job by scoring 41 not out in 19 balls.

Duckworth/Lewis was called upon at the County Ground, where Glamorgan beat Gloucestershire by 18 runs. Skipper Jacques Rudolph led from the front, making 121, as the visitors scored 277 for seven. Gloucestershire reached 232 for eight in 44 overs in reply, captain Michael Klinger top-scoring with 78. Colin Ingram’s figures of three for 39 were narrowly worse than his career best. Glamorgan’s Lukas Carey bowled Ian Cockbain on his debut.

Ian Holland, that rarest of beasts, a US-born first-class cricketer, made his debut in this format for Hampshire and picked up the wickets of Sam Northeast and Adam Rouse. He helped bowl out Kent for 258 in Canterbury. Having made 94 at more than a run a ball for the first wicket, it was a disappointing score. Tom Alsop made his second limited-overs century (112 not out) as he batted throughout Hampshire’s innings to see them comfortably home by six wickets with 29 balls to spare.

The match in Northampton was utterly one-sided. The hosts were bowled out for 151 in 29.4 overs of a reduced 30-over game, and for Warwickshire their debutant Grant Thornton failed to open his wicket-taking account – if he achieves a long-lasting career, I fear there may be many more puns to come. William Porterfield (63 not out) and Sam Hain (89 not out) secured a ten-wicket victory with four overs to spare.

There were just two games on 28 April. At Taunton, Surrey’s Ben Foakes made a career-best 92 (off just 65 balls) to help his side to a total of 290 for eight. In reply, the hosts slipped to 22 for five after 6.2 overs and it appeared there was no coming back from that shocking start. Instead, Dean Elgar (68) and Roelof van der Merwe began the most remarkable recovery, adding a Somerset record 213 for the sixth wicket in just 30.3 overs. Van der Merwe was unstoppable, finishing with a career-best 165 not out off just 122 balls – remarkably it was his first limited-overs century in 117 attempts. Somerset won by four wickets with 37 balls remaining. Cricket’s beautiful unpredictability was once again firmly in evidence.

At Old Trafford, Haseeb Hameed finally made his List-A debut – and nearly scored a century, eventually falling for 88 off 101 balls as Lancashire reached 314 for eight, James Sykes finishing with career-best figures of four for 57. There can’t be many players who have made their England Test debut before their white-ball debut. Three Leicestershire players hit fifties, and they reached their target with four balls and three wickets to spare, Tom Wells equalling his career-best score of 32 not out.

Bizarrely, only one game was scheduled for the Saturday of the Bank holiday weekend. Yorkshire cruised to a comfortable seven-wicket victory after they bowled out Nottinghamshire for just 185 at Trent Bridge, with Tim Bresnan taking three for 22. The game had been billed as the battle of the Roots, but while Billy made just 6 Joe scored an unbeaten 75 to see his side home with more than 17 overs to spare. It was the first time the brothers had lined up against each other in professional cricket, but one imagines it won’t be the last.

At Derby, Northamptonshire made a seemingly competitive 307 for seven, with Richard Levi scoring 109 and debutant Miles Richardson finishing the innings off with 1 not out. However, it turned out to be an inadequate total as Shiv Thakor raced to a career-best 130 off just 113 balls, his first century at this level, helping Derbyshire to 309 for four, a county record one-day run chase, with eight balls to spare.

At Leicester, visitors Worcestershire made a formidable 361 for eight, their fourth highest score in all limited-overs games, with Moeen Ali getting them off to a fine start with 90 in 87 balls. Ben Cox scored a career-best 44. The hosts also passed 300, with Aadil Ali reaching 88, his highest score in all formats of the game, and Tom Wells also made a personal best 34, but it wasn’t enough as they were bowled out for 319 with 16 balls remaining.

Hosts Essex won by 25 runs at Chelmsford against Hampshire, after making 304 for seven, with Ashar Zaidi blasting 72 not out in 40 balls at the end of the innings. James Vince and George Bailey added 91 for the third wicket, but both men fell in the sixties when one of them needed to go on and score a century. Hampshire were all out for 279 with ten balls remaining.

The weather intervened at Cardiff, after Glamorgan were bowled out for 239 at Sophia Gardens, with Jade Dernbach and Sam Curran both picking up three wickets. Surrey’s revised target was 182 off 29 overs and a 48-ball 74 from Mark Stoneman set them on their way, then Kumar Sangakkara finished it off with 81 not out.

There was a well-paced run chase by Gloucestershire at Lord’s, after the home side made 256 for nine. Toby Roland-Jones scored a career-best 65 in his 65th limited-overs game, but it was Liam Norwell who did most of the damage, taking five for 36, the best figures of the season to date. In reply, Ian Cockbain’s 108 not out, his first century, saw his side up to 257 for five with five balls left. He and Benny Howell (86 not out) added 192 in 26.5 overs to set a new county record for the sixth wicket. Meanwhile at Hove, Somerset were indebted to Dean Elgar’s career-best 131 not out for seeing them up to 303 for five in 49 overs. In reply, Laurie Evans hit five sixes in his 40, but that was the highest score of the innings as they tried to chase 165 in 20 overs, but finished on 155 for nine.

Bank holiday Monday saw the first Roses match of the summer, and Yorkshire batted first. In-form skipper Gary Ballance made 85, adding 143 for the fourth wicket with Peter Handscomb (86), as his side reached 298 for nine. With none of the Lancastrians reaching fifty, it was plenty, and Azeem Rafiq took four for 47, the best figures of his career, to help dismiss their local rivals for 217.

There was a late start at Edgbaston, but Durham skipper Keaton Jennings didn’t waste any time when he went out to bat, scoring a superb career-best 139 off just 101 balls. Somewhat surprisingly, it was only his second century in this format of the game in 40 innings. That effort set up a final total of 313 for five in 39 overs. In only his third match, Aaron Thomason took four for 64, his first wickets in this format. Grant Thornton also got off the mark as a bowler, dismissing Graham Clark. Warwickshire’s reply was built round 92 from Jonathan Trott, but James Weighell was the star, picking up five for 57 in his first spell. The hosts were bowled out for 241, losing by 72 runs.

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