Another Test Match series has been and gone and once again England finish with as many questions as they do answers.
There are still a some places up for grab, particularly in the batting line-up, which has again thrown the door wide open for someone to stake a claim in the County Championship before the next Test series against India starts in August.
Despite another change at the top of the order, England’s merry-go-round of opening batsman could well continue this summer. If a change were to happen, scoring 151 against a full-strength Hampshire side which featured 3 International bowlers, including Kyle Abbott, will have done Rory Burns no harm at all.
Having won the toss and electing to have a bat, the Surrey captain may have been ruing his decision when he lost his opening partner and his number three in the first over. Burns, however, quickly settled in and began to repair the early damage by putting on 133 for the fourth wicket before he too was dismissed for a fantastic 151 from just 204 balls, in doing so becoming the first man to reach 500 Championship runs this season, to leave his side 282/4. Ollie Pope was the new man in and he continued his fine efforts this season until he was the penultimate man out for 41, helping Surrey to reach 368 all out.
If Burns made batting look easy, James Vince’s side made it seem near impossible, as only one Hampshire batsman passed 20 on their way to being bowled out for 135 inside 50 overs.
That left Burns with the option to enforce the follow-on, which he duly did. And, once again his bowlers did not let him down, with Hampshire only mustering an additional 40 runs from their first innings total, to lose the match within three days by an innings and 58 runs.
In Manchester, Lancashire took on defending champions Essex in a game where Jordan Clark’s 79 was the highest score in the match.
Lancashire were asked to bat and found themselves 59/5 before Clark began to steady the ship for the home side, striking 10 boundaries along the way as he dragged his side towards respectability before he was bowled with the score 193/7. Some lower order resistance allowed Lancashire to reach 301 all out, despite Sam Cook taking 3/65.
Essex’s reply started much better than Lancashire’s, with Tom Westley making 41 runs, 32 of which came in boundaries, and Ryan ten Doeschate adding 43 before he was run out by Dane Vilas. Once again, lower order runs proved crucial as Essex managed to give themselves a lead of one run.
Lancashire started their second innings hoping to press home an advantage big enough to upset Essex. What they got instead was a barrage of probing bowling which proved effective enough to leave the hosts 41/7 in just the 18th over. Their bowlers managed to save complete embarrassment by clawing their way to 105 all out.
Essex had a nervy start to their chase losing four quick wickets to leave them 41/4 but only lost one more, that of ten Doeschate for 19, to win the match by 5 wickets inside 30 overs.
Elsewhere, Somerset hosted high-flying Nottinghamshire in a match which featured the return of Dom Bess, fresh from his debut Test Match series against Pakistan.
Having elected to bat first, Somerset made a steady start before a flurry of wickets, including George Bartlett for 29, saw them slip to 176/4 before some strong middle and lower order performances got them to 392 all out, of which Bess made 34.
Notts’ reply got off to a dreadful start with the scoreboard at one point reading 28/5 with only Ross Taylor providing any resistance to the Somerset onslaught. Taylor was the last man out as his side were skittled for 134, of which the New Zealand batsman made 74.
Predictably, Somerset enforced the follow-on with hopes of wrapping the match up inside three days. What they found instead was a host of rejuvenated Nottingham batsman, epitomised by the first wicket partnership eclipsing their entire first innings total.
Taylor this time was unable to match his first innings efforts, but he was backed up by Samit Patel who notched up the 55th half century of his career, helping his side surpass the deficit to eventually take a lead of 247.
Without their star bowler Jake Ball, who was unavailable due to his inclusion in England’s ODI squad, Notts’ attack lacked the star quality that had seen them rise to the top of Division 1. Their spinners were called upon early on a turning pitch, but despite often beating the bat, they were unable to break the back of Somerset who in the end only lost 4 wickets, including that of George Bartlett who did make 43. The result meant that Somerset leapfrogged Notts in the standings and now currently sit atop of Division 1.
In Division 2, Cameron Steele’s Durham side pulled off their second remarkable win of the season, by defeating Derbyshire despite being bowled out for 96 in the first innings.
Duanne Olivier was the pick of Derby’s bowlers, taking 5/20 from 16 overs in the first innings, ably backed up by Hardus Viljoen who picked up 3/30 as they bowled Durham out shortly after lunch on day 1. Derbyshire finished the day with a lead of 79, but a terrific fightback from the hosts bowlers meant they had also lost 8 wickets. They lost the final two wickets in the morning session of day 2 but did head into the second innings with a lead of 109.
Olivier and Viljoen picked up where they left off, picking up an early wicket each but Durham erased Derby’s lead for the loss of just three wickets, laying the foundations for an improbable chance of victory. However, a flurry of wickets left them with a lead of 50 for the loss of seven wickets at the start of day 3. Lower order partnerships of 104 & 99 meant that they were eventually dismissed for 376, a lead of 267, despite Olivier picking up 5/105, finishing with match figures of 10/125.
Ben Slater got the Derby chase off to a good start but he was essentially left to himself and by the time he was dismissed for 68, he was the 8th wicket to fall and his side had only made 133 runs. The bowlers attempted a fightback, but the damage had already been done as Durham picked up Derby’s final wicket to leave 172 all out, a victory margin for Durham of 95 runs.
Jonathan Trott continued his fine form in the One Day Cup to help Warwickshire secure victory over Glamorgan at Edgbaston, securing their spot at the top of the table.
Having been asked to bowl first, the hosts decided to give Glamorgan a trial by spin, one in which the visitors were unable to answer as they were bowled out for 220 on the first day.
However, Warwickshire’s hopes of only batting once in the match quickly dissipated when they found themselves 18/2 which brought Trott to the crease inside 10 overs. He quickly began to repair the early damage, reaching 57 before running himself out which sparked a collapse akin to Glamorgan’s as the home side slipped from 99/3 to 250 all out.
In the second time of asking, Glamorgan righted many of their wrongs from the first innings, this time making 323 as they dared to dream about a first victory at Edgbaston since 1988.
Unlike in the first innings, Warwickshire began serenely, reaching 119/2 when Trott once again joined the party, notching up his second 50 of the match before falling for 67. Trott had no need to worry though as his teammates picked up where he left off and, despite Andrew Salter taking a career-best 4/80, saw them home with about an hour to spare.
And finally, Gloucester hosted Kent in a high-scoring match which featured the visitor’s first Championship hundred of the season. That honour fell to opening batsman Sean Dickson who, along with opening partner Daniel Bell-Drummond, put on 124 for the first wicket before Bell-Drummond fell for 49. Dickson continued, however, and made a well-earned 117 before he fell with his side 216/2. Kent would put on another 370 runs to finish 582/9 declared.
Dickson’s side pressed home their advantage by rolling Gloucester out for just 240, allowing Kent to immediately enforce the follow-on in hopes of an early finish. Their hopes were not answered, however, as they instead received a procession of rearguard action from Gloucester batsmen as they looked to deny Kent a 4th successive victory. Despite being 219/6 at tea on the last day, the hosts thwarted Kent’s barrage to lose only one more wicket, finishing 322/7 to earn a hard-fought draw.