Apr 202014

Yorkshire 328 for 7 (Ballance 117*, Lees 90) v NorthamptonshireScorecard

Gary Ballance looked comfortable in passing fifty, Yorkshire v Northamptonshire, County Championship, Division One, Headingley, 1st day, April 20, 2014Gary Ballance ensured Yorkshire recovered from early problems, and kept his name in the selectors’ thoughts © Getty Images

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Matches: Yorkshire v Northamptonshire at Leeds
Series/Tournaments: LV= County Championship Division One | England Domestic Season
Teams: England | Northamptonshire | Yorkshire

Peter Moores may not personally have seen the best of Gary Ballance – the Yorkshire left-hander’s highest score in 12 innings against Lancashire, in all cricket, during the Moores’ tenure is 57 – but it is fair to assume he will not be going on that evidence alone when he gets to grips, alongside his fellow selectors, with deciding who merits a place in the first England sides of the new era.

Ballance, the Zimbabwe-born left-hander, made his Test debut in Australia, in the final rubber in Sydney, in circumstances that cannot have been easy, given the debacle that had been unfolding while he waited for his chance. He left for his first major tour in the form of his life, having made more than 1300 runs and six centuries in first-class cricket in 2013, and the start of the new season suggests he is none the worse for the experience, however uncomfortable it may have felt.

Ballance looked in supremely good touch, untroubled by the seamers or in the face of a lengthy attempt to tie him down and test his patience by the offspinner, James Middlebrook. He finished on an unbeaten 117, having hit 18 fours in addition to a six pulled into the Western Stand, somewhat disdainfully, off Azharullah, who formed half of a new-ball attack with Maurice Chambers that will not be the worst he comes up against.

He now has 20 first-class centuries from just 71 matches, which is an impressive statistic. Four of these have come in his last five matches on English soil. He finished 2013 with a hundred in each innings against Surrey at The Oval and began this season with another, against Leeds-Bradford MCCU. Jason Gillespie, the Yorkshire coach, says he has “a presence at the crease” and believes one of his strongest qualities is to “play the situation” in all forms of the game.

“He has a real awareness of his game and the game,” Gillespie said. “He has an understanding of the game and adaptability to different situations and he finds a way to score runs in any situation, in all forms of the game, which is what a good batsman does.”

It was the partnership of 156 between Ballance and Alex Lees that ultimately bent the day heavily in Yorkshire’s direction. Having chosen to bat first when Andrew Gale won the toss, reasoning that any difficulties they might face on a damp, cloudy morning would be outweighed by the quality of the batting surface, it was this partnership that justified the decision.

Earlier, they had been 21 for 2, after Adam Lyth and then Kane Williamson failed to make progress. Lyth nicked one that moved away late, Williamson, who had looked tentative, went leg before when only half forward to a ball from Andrew Hall, on as first change, that came back a little.

Gale, whose form this time last year gave cause for concern, looked scratchy again and fell for 13 after lunch, which brought Ballance to the crease at 57 for 3, at which point the bat-first decision began to look increasingly the right one as a Northants attack lacking David Willey, whose back problems mean he cannot bowl, began to toil.

Ballance moved to his half-century in only 63 balls with 44 of those runs in boundaries, three in the space of four balls in one over from Hall. By tea, his partnership with Lees had added 114.

Lees, last year’s revelation at the top of the order, made 90 before he became the third of six batsmen dismissed lbw, although it had not been his most fluent innings. Northants missed two chances to get rid of him in quick succession when he was dropped at first slip off Chambers on 50 and was then allowed another escape on 51, against Middlebrook, when he should have been stumped.

Ballance completed his hundred with a flick off his legs for a single off Steven Crook, at which point he had faced 143 deliveries.

Meanwhile, there is positive news of Joe Root, who appears to be moving swiftly towards a comeback following the broken thumb he suffered in March, forcing him to miss the World T20. Restricted until last week to catching practice with a tennis ball, the England batsman had graduated to a cricket ball when he took to the outfield with Yorkshire director of cricket Martyn Moxon during the lunch interval.

A return to action against Middlesex at Lord’s next Sunday is on the cards, provided he emerges unscathed from a Second XI friendly scheduled for this week.

His impending return means there is a debate looming for Messrs Gillespie and Moxon over who to leave out to make way for him Root. It would be harsh to omit Lyth, who made 85 and 54 at Taunton last week, albeit on a flat wicket, or Lees. The batsman most at risk, logically, is probably the captain, who therefore needs a score in the second innings.

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Apr 202014
Jennings' patience trumps Overton's pace

Somerset 7 for 0 trail Durham 308 (Jennings 80, Gregory 4-59)
by 301 runsScorecard

Jamie Overton in his delivery stride, Yorkshire v Somerset, County Championship, Division One, Headingley, 1st day, May 7, 2013

Jamie Overton bowled with pace but little control and over-stepped eight times © Getty Images

It may be pace and big hitting that catches the eye, but it is so often patience and denial that proves more effective.

So it proved on the first day of this game at Chester-le-Street. While the bowling of Jamie Overton, a young man blessed with unusual pace, may be what lingers longest in the mind, it was the well organised batting of Keaton Jennings that proved decisive.

Put into bat on a track that is notoriously helpful for seamers, Durham achieved the second highest first innings score on the ground for two years. In 2013, six of the eight first innings total amounted to between 237 and 267 and only once did a side score above that. While the pitch may be drier than normal and carrying less grass cover, this is a total that might be considered about 40 above par.

So Somerset will be especially rueful that they donated 32 extras to the Durham total. That tally includes 30 in no-balls – each no-ball costs two runs in the Championship – with the first session accounting for 24 of them. As Somerset’s vice-captain James Hildreth said afterwards: “That amount of runs can be absolutely crucial in a game here at this time of season.”

While Somerset’s bowlers have some excuse – shorn of the injured pair of Alfonso Thomas and Steve Kirby, this is a youthful attack with its best years well ahead of it – it does seem shoddy to concede so many extras. Nor can it reflect especially well on the disciplines that should be instilled in training.

But the extras are only part of the story. Somerset also squandered the new ball – Mark Stoneman pulled a four and a six in the first over – and conceded 42 fours and two sixes in the innings with a surfeit of short and wide bowling that allowed Durham to score at almost five-an-over for the first hour and then, just as it seemed Somerset might claw their way back into the game, counter-attack with an eighth-wicket stand of 65 in 18 overs.

Durham, in turn, might reflect that they failed to make Somerset pay as heavily as they might have done. While their total is still more than competitive, it could have been far better against an attack that lost Craig Meschede to a side strain in the evening session and contains the sort of spinner in Johann Myburgh who seems to only bowl to improve the over-rate. Somerset were also without Craig Overton, who has a side strain.

But Durham lost several soft wickets. Stoneman flashed without foot movement, Scott Borthwick was drawn into feeling for one he should have left, Phil Mustard left a straight one and Michael Richardson poked to gully the delivery after sustaining a blow to the head off Overton, who was as rapid as he was unpredictable.

That Durham were able to post such a good total was largely due to Jennings. The former South Africa Uunder-19 captain is a left-handed batsman in the accumulative mould of Alastair Cook and, while his colleagues poked and prodded at balls they could have let pass, he left well, defended with a straight bat and waited for the short ball, the leg side ball or the over-pitched ball to put away. He rarely had to wait for long. It took a delivery that bounced more than normal to take his edge and end his innings.

Overton, by contrast, looked raw. Not only did he over-step eight times, but he bowled far too short, far too often and, like Tymal Mills at Essex, provided a reminder that pace without control is a mixed blessing. But, by generating such sharp pace from a run-up that faintly resembles Steve Harmison, when everything clicked, he looked a fearsome prospect and he also struck Jamie Harrison, a much-improved batsman, a blow on the head. Tough days like this should be part of the learning process and it is not surprising that James Whitaker, the national selector, took a keen interest in him throughout the day.

Somerset improved after lunch. Lewis Gregory bowled a particularly good spell to account for Jennings, with one that bounced, and Paul Collingwod, with one that kept low, to suggest there was still plenty in the surface if the ball was put in the right areas. But when Gareth Breese, as much a batsman as a bowler these days, helped Harrison plunder a tiring attack, Durham took the game away from Somerset. Had Breese, at third slip, held on to a tough chance offered by Marcus Trescothick in the final over of the day off the deserving Chris Rushworth, they would have capitalised further.

“Anything above 250 here will be competitive,” Jennings said afterwards. “Sooner or later you get a ball here that has your name on it. We have excellent new ball bowlers and if we out the ball in good areas tomorrow, that should prove a good total.”

“We were disappointed with how we bowled,” Hildreth said, “particularly in that first session. It is hugely frustrating when you see all those no-balls, because they are completely within our control and we have just given them extras. Durham are ahead at the moment.”

Apr 202014
LIVE: LV= County Championship

Live coverage of the day’s LV= County Championship games. Seven encounters are set to start today.

By Matthew Sherry and Rob Barnett 

Follow ECB on Twitter/ Live Scores 

2.57pm – Will they ever get on at Canterbury? Play’s been delayed again. At Headingley, meanwhile, Alex Lees as moved to his fifty.

2.52pm – The action is back under way in Derby.

2.30pm – Phil Mustard has fallen to Craig Meschede, meaning Paul Collingwood has joined Jennings in the middle.

2.24pm – Many people tipped Keaton Jennings for a breakthrough season and he’s living up to the billing. Having struck a half-century versus Northants last week, he has moved beyond 50 once more today.

Live ScoresFollow ECB_Cricket on Twitter

2.09pm – Muhammad Azhar Ullah has a second victim of the day when he traps Andrew Gale in front.

The game between Kent and Leicestershire at Canterbury is set to start at 3pm unless there is further rain.

1.43pm – The first wicket of the afternoon session goes to Warwickshire’s Chris Woakes, who has a scalp in the same over either side of lunch. Having dismissed Andrea Agathangelou before the interval, he now snares Ashwell Prince caught behind for nought.

Rain has delayed the restart at the SWALEC Stadium, but they are going in all the games that had action this morning. We still await the start at Canterbury and the Kia Oval.

1.06pm – It’s lunch at many of our games and here are the scores:

Division One

Durham are 119 for three against Somerset at the Emirates Durham ICG.

Lancashire, having just lost Andrea Agathangelou to Chris Woakes for 48, are 85 for two against Warwickshire at Emirates Old Trafford.

Yorkshire are 39 for two against Northamptonshire at Headingley.

Division Two

Glamorgan are 47 for six against Gloucestershire at the SWALEC Stadium with three wickets for David Payne.

Hampshire, who have now lost Michael Carberry to Tony Palladino for 45, are 64 for two against Derbyshire at the 3aaa County Ground.

The toss has been delayed due to light rain in the game between Surrey and Essex at the Kia Oval.

The toss has been delayed due to rain in the game between Kent and Leicestershire at Canterbury.

12.49pm – Andrea Agathangelou is looking in good order for Lancashire as he edges towards a half-century.

12.40pm – Michael Richardson and Jennings have taken Durham beyond 100. They are flying along, unlike Yorkshire – who have seen Kane Williamson trapped lbw by Andrew Hall. Meanwhile, Derbyshire have broken through, Mark Turner ousting skipper Adams.

12.31pm – Payne is on fire! He grabs two wickets in his fifth over, ousting Alex Gidman and Mark Wallace.

12.16pm – Glamorgan are suddenly in real trouble, David Payne getting rid of Jacques Rudolph.

12.02pm – Hampshire are off to a solid start, with Michael Carberry and Jimmy Adams impressing.

11.36am – It’s been a bad couple of minutes for the Roses, Lancashire opener Luis Reece edging Keith Barker behind and Yorkshire’s Adam Lyth falling likewise to Mohammad Azhar Ullah.

11.31am – Champions Durham are motoring along with the bat now as Keaton Jennings and Scott Borthwick click into gear.

11.15am – Durham have also lost an early wicket, Mark Stoneman edging Lewis Gregory behind for a breezy 11. Meanwhile, it’s raining at Headingley… 

11.04am – Glamorgan made the dream start to their campaign when beating Surrey but today has not gone to plan so far. After losing the toss, the home side have lost a wicket first ball with Will Gidman getting rid of Gareth Rees.

10.43am – Lancashire have, as expected, given Jos Buttler a debut, with Glen Chapple returning to lead the side. Kyle Hogg remains sidelined, though. 

10.40am – The coins are in the air but who’s done what?

Division One

Somerset have opted to bowl versus Durham at the Emirates Durham ICG.

Lancashire have decided to bat against Warwickshire at Emirates Old Trafford.

Yorkshire have chosen to bat against Northamptonshire at Headingley.

Division Two

Gloucestershire have chosen to field against Glamorgan at the SWALEC Stadium.

The toss has been delayed in the game between Derbyshire and Hampshire at the 3aaa County Ground.

The toss has been delayed due to light rain in the game between Surrey and Essex at the Kia Oval.

The toss has been delayed due to rain in the game between Kent and Leicestershire at Canterbury.

10pm – Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the day’s LV= County Championship action. Seven games are getting under way, three in Division One and four in Division Two. For all the information you need to know regarding the top-tier games, click here; for those supporting a Division Two team, this is the place.

Apr 162014
County Championship round-up: Test opener-in-waiting Sam Robson his England prospects no harm at Lord's

Sam Robson, a Test opener-in-waiting in many eyes, was in the unique position of having the in-situ England coach and four potential replacements on site as the interview process for Andy Flower’s successor went on at Lord’s while Middlesex completed …

Apr 162014
Worcs bowlers complete big win

Worcestershire 224 (Kervezee 54) and 270 (Cox 89, Bollinger 5-43) beat Kent 229 (Bell-Drummond 61, Andrew 4-42) and 140 (Andrew 4-43) by 125 runs

Jack Shantry took 3 for 76, Essex v Worcestershire, County Championship, Division Two, Chelmsford, 2nd day, September, 4, 2013

Jack Shantry finished with three wickets as Worcestershire wrapped up a comfortable win © Getty Images

Kent lost seven wickets for 89 on the final morning as Worcestershire wrapped up a 125-run win in their Championship Division Two match at New Road. Charles Morris took three of the remaining wickets to fall as Kent slumped from their overnight 51 for 3 to 140 all out.

Morris finished with 3 for 31 while Gareth Andrew and Jack Shantry claimed another two apiece to end with 4 for 43 and 3 for 26 respectively.

Kent needed to make a solid start to the day to lift hopes of reaching their 266-run target but Ben Harmison was trapped leg before by Shantry having added just one run to his overnight 9. That ended a 30-run stand with former West Indies batsman Brendan Nash, who followed when he flashed at a wide Shantry delivery and was well caught behind by Ben Cox, stood up, for 28.

Shaaiq Choudhry produced an even better catch to remove Darren Stevens, diving full length at midwicket to grasp a difficult chance off the bowling of Andrew.

Morris then struck twice in two overs, bowling James Tredwell off-stump and having Sam Billings lbw, as all Kent hope evaporated. Morris and Andrew then accounted for Mitchell Claydon and Doug Bollinger respectively to end proceedings before lunch.

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