Dickson Tops 300 as Records Tumble at Beckenham

With the top two (Essex and Lancashire) not having a fixture, it was an opportunity for the chasing pack to try to exert some pressure on the leaders this week, but neither of them could be caught. Champions Middlesex emerged victorious by one wicket in a thrilling game at Edgbaston. It was nip and tuck throughout the whole match, after Middlesex decided Warwickshire could bat first. Matthew Lamb made his first fifty (51), two batsmen fell for 49, and Rikki Clarke top-scored with 83 to take his side up to 334 all out. Middlesex’s reply was dominated by Stevie Eskinazi, who made a career-best 179 out of 334. All square after one innings.

Having been one of those unlucky 49ers in the first innings, Jonathan Trott followed it up with 99 in the second – one of five victims to fall to Tom Helm, who ended with his best figures of five for 59. Middlesex’s target was 234, and losing Sam Robson and Eskinazi with just one run on the board was hardly the ideal start. Four of the top seven passed 30, but none reached 50, and every time one side thought they had the advantage, the other pulled things back. When Ollie Rayner was trapped in front by Boyd Rankin, Middlesex still needed 7 runs for victory, with Helm and Tim Murtagh left to do the job – and they did it. The result left Warwickshire mired in trouble at the bottom of the table.

Their position was made even worse by the fact that Somerset beat Yorkshire by 179 runs in Scarborough. The visitors batted first and made 268, with Tom Groenewald blasting 41 not out at the end off just 24 deliveries. Liam Plunkett took four for 73. Craig Overton did most of the damage to Yorkshire’s reply, taking five for 87, as they were bowled out for 213. James Hildreth then made a speedy century (101 not out) before Lewis Gregory declared with Somerset on 281 for four, setting a target of 337. Four wickets each from Overton and Jack Leach did the job, as Yorkshire stumbled to 157 all out. The win meant Somerset are 17 points ahead of Warwickshire, but still 30 behind both Middlesex and Surrey. We now have to wait for a month until Somerset welcome Surrey in their next Specsavers Championship fixture, when a win for them will certainly set up a dramatic run-in to the season’s close.

There was another runfest at The Oval, where Hampshire won the toss and chose to bat. Surrey picked up two wickets in the morning session before Jimmy Adams (144), James Vince (104) and George Bailey (161, his highest score in county cricket) took the visitors up to a daunting 648 for seven declared. After that, it was really a case of trying to bat out the rest of the game for Surrey.

Skipper Rory Burns took on the challenge. He carried his bat for an unbeaten career-best 219, batting for a mammoth 603 minutes and 423 balls, but without Kumar Sangakkara in the side there was no one else to play the big innings required, and the hosts were dismissed for 483 and forced to follow on. Burns was straight back out, and lasted another 153 minutes before he was finally stumped for 68, with a little more than ten overs of the match remaining. He had done enough, and Surrey finished on 166 for three. During the match just 20 wickets fell while 1297 runs were scored, leaving a match average of 64.85. Mason Crane ended with match figures of one for 222 off 61 overs. The draw took Hampshire to third place, one point behind Lancashire, who have played one game fewer.

It was the same story in Division Two, where both Nottinghamshire and Worcestershire had no game. Kent and Northamptonshire are their two main challengers, and the two counties met at Beckenham. If the batsmen thought they had ideal conditions at The Oval, those here were even happier. An opening partnership of 129 between Daniel Bell-Drummond and Sean Dickson was little more than the appetiser. What came next was an epic county record partnership for any wicket of 382 between Dickson and Joe Denly (182). By that point, people were scouring the record books to find out the highest innings for the county, as Dickson closed in on and then passed 300 runs. He was finally dismissed for 318, his highest score, the biggest innings of the season, and the second highest innings ever by a Kent batsman – just 14 short of Bill Ashdown’s record of 332 set in 1934.

Kent skipper Sam Northeast finally took pity on the wilting Northants attack and declared on 701 for seven – it was the highest score of the summer, Kent’s second highest total in their history, and the highest score ever made against Northamptonshire. When you have to pass 550 to avoid a follow-on, that is scoreboard pressure. But Ben Duckett (105), Max Holden (a career-best 153) and Adam Rossington (112) saw the visitors up to 568 in reply. There was still time for Kent to make 184 for three before the match ended in a draw. Dickson scored 60 in the second innings, to take him to a match aggregate of 378 runs, seven more than Aravinda de Silva in 1995 – but he couldn’t surpass Arthur Fagg, the only man ever to score two double centuries in a match, back in 1938. The match produced 1453 runs for 20 wickets at an average of 72.65.

Durham recorded their second win of the summer, beating Derbyshire by six wickets at Chesterfield. Matt Critchley (102) and Billy Godleman (98) provided middle-order ballast, while Gurjit Sandhu got another taste of first-class cricket and made his highest score of 46 not out from No 11. Derbyshire were all out for 368. Durham scored 301 in reply, with Imran Tahir taking five for 110, as he made his debut for his sixth county. Derbyshire’s second innings followed a similar to their first, with the runs coming from the middle of their line-up, only this time is was Alex Hughes scoring 108 out of a total of 214. A target of 282 opened the door for the visitors, and an unbeaten fifth-wicket partnership of 127 between Jack Burnham (93 not out) and Ryan Pringle (62 not out) saw them home, despite the efforts of Imran and Hamidullah Qadri.

There was a curious set of scores at Cheltenham, where Gloucestershire came out the winners by ten wickets against Glamorgan. The visitors were skittled out for 117 in their first innings, before the home side replied with 141. When Liam Norwell just missed out his career-best performance in taking six for 38 to dismiss Glamorgan for just 158 in their second innings, it appeared to be anyone’s game in such a low-scoring match. Instead, Cameron Bancroft (62 not out) and Chris Dent (68 not out) sped the hosts to victory, reaching 137 without loss. It was the second highest total Gloucestershire have ever chased for victory without losing a wicket.

The match at Arundel Castle started two days later than the rest of this round of fixtures, and saw the debut of former Lancing College pupil Will Fazakerley (NB the spelling) for visitors Leicestershire. Sussex scored 262 in their first innings, with Fazakerley trapping Chris Jordan LBW to pick up his first wicket. Leicestershire replied with 281, the debutant lasting just two balls.

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