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County Championship 2021 – Late Luke Wood breakthroughs lead Lancashire to 206-run victory | Cricket

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Luke Wood made the vital breakthroughs for Lancashire © Getty Images


Lancashire 305 (Bohannon 68, Davies 57, Kerrigan 4-60, Taylor 4-91) and 296 for 7 declared (Croft 103*) beat Northamptonshire 177 (Bailey 3-32, Parkinson 3-49) and 218 (Procter 93, Wood 3-31, Parkinson 3-39) by 206 runs

The blackthorn is in flower and the chiffchaffs will arrive soon. The County Championship season has begun with some fine games and few can have been more engrossing than the one that concluded at Emirates Old Trafford this evening. All the same, when folk arrived at the ground on a sunlit morning some rather desultory chat centred on how many sanitiser breaks Northamptonshire’s remaining seven wickets would survive before Lancashire sealed their first victory of the season. The all too easy assumption was that either Saqib Mahmood would blast the visitors out or Matt Parkinson would twirl them back to Wantage Road. Adam Rossington’s cricketers adore such blithe expectation; it gives them the chance to trample on it.

As things turned out, after nearly a full day of compelling cricket Lancashire did win this game but only with 13.3 overs left in the contest. Parkinson’s leg spinner was, so the umpire Mike Burns decided, edged onto his pad by Luke Procter and caught by the batsman’s old mucker, Steven Croft at backward short leg. Procter is a phlegmatic sort of bloke but he looked aghast. He had batted 371 minutes for 93 runs and there were times in the day when it seemed he would guide Northants to a draw against the side he had represented with limitless pride for many years. Anyone thinking of mentioning to Procter that he had played a noble part in a wonderful day’s cricket should probably wait a few weeks before doing so. On second thoughts, make it a few months.

It was neither Parkinson nor Mahmood who had made the vital late breakthroughs just before the last hour commenced. That honour fell to Luke Wood, who had Nathan Buck caught down the leg side by Alex Davies after the former Lancashire seamer had shared in an eighth-wicket stand with Procter that had sucked up 18 overs. With the final hour plus eight overs left in this rich game and three wickets in hand, some in the Northants dressing-room may have been wondering if an escape was possible. Instead, Wood followed his removal of Buck by yorking Simon Kerrigan first ball. After that it really did seem a matter of time; not that anyone told Procter.

Suddenly it was very much more than half a day since Northants had lost three wickets in ten overs of the first session. At that point the visitors’ frailties looked likely to send us all home quite early. The reverse sweep will never be pleasing on the eye but rarely can it have appeared quite such a misbegotten thing as when Ricardo Vasconcelos attempted to play it off Parkinson’s second ball of the morning. The Northants opener left all his stumps exposed, missed the ball and was bowled off his boot. Nought for technical merit and less than that for artistic impression. Three overs later Rossington pushed all too loosely at Wood and nicked a catch to Keaton Jennings at first slip.

Saif Zaib’s dismissal by Parkinson was more controversial. Burns’ judgment that the batsman was playing no shot was fair enough; Zaib’s jab down looked an afterthought. It was surely stretching it, though, to argue the ball would have hit the stumps and one wondered whether the leg spinner’s Warnesque dismissal of Rossington on Friday evening coloured the judgement. Probably not. Burns took a while to make the decision and the old sweats told us all to look in the book. (Slight yawn, to be honest. Even Zaib knew he was out.)

That, though, was the last success Lancashire were to enjoy for nearly 37 overs. Encouraged by Procter, Tom Taylor played very straight and took what luck was available for a minute short of two hours. So secure was Taylor’s defence that his dismissal seemed to surprise his opponents as much as everyone else. But then he was stumped off the 92nd ball bowled in first-class cricket by Rob Jones, a leg spinner whose enthusiasm is inversely proportionate to his success.

It should also be noted that Jones’ wicket in his only over – and his second success in the Championship following that of Tom Fell – was perfectly timed. Ten balls later the new ball became due and we readied ourselves for some last rites. Procter, in sharpest contrast, did not. He continued to resist, this time in company with Buck, whose first dozen balls brought him 13 runs, the same number Taylor had scored off 115. Four slips were posted for Mahmood and we awaited a collapse that turned out to be as quick to arrive as Billy Bunter’s postal order or the result of a public inquiry. Instead of a rapid subsidence Northamptonshire’s batsmen relaxed into obduracy. Lancashire’s cricketers became nervy, their appeals more hopeful. The new ball lost its initial shine and Vilas called up Wood, who never wants for enthusiasm.

If contests like this lie in wait for us over the next five months we shall be blessed indeed. “At last a day of real warmth, the path through the hanger wood sunlit and dry,” wrote John T White in his Country Diary piece for The Guardian in April 1983. “A time for just standing and staring and it was my good fortune that I did so.” Our good fortune, this afternoon, too. It seems we are to have another benevolent Spring and we needed one.

Leg spinners like Parkinson will enjoy that and so will their colleagues across the land. Most cricketers are born to the open air and to the lengthening days of summer. Even an indoor net confines them outrageously. This is the time of Dennis Potter’s blossomest blossom. “God knows how I adore life,” sings Beth Gibbons.

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications


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Hanuma Vihari’s network of volunteers helps out during ‘unthinkable’ Covid-19 crisis

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Vihari has used his Twitter handle to amplify appeals apart from creating a network of volunteers to help people

For India batter Hanuma Vihari, the biggest satisfaction these days comes from being able to arrange a hospital bed or an oxygen cylinder for Covid-19 patients through his network of friends.

While a number of premier Indian cricketers have helped out in various ways, Vihari, while playing for Warwickshire, created a team of around 100 volunteers – comprising friends and followers from across Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka – who have reached people with plasma and oxygen cylinders, while also arranging food and hospital beds for patients.

“I don’t want to glorify myself – I am doing it with the intention of helping people at the ground level, who actually need every help possible in these difficult times. It is just the start,” Vihari was quoted as saying by PTI.

Vihari left for England in early April to play in the County Championship, and is expected to join the India team directly in the UK when they reach on June 3 for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand (followed by a Test series against England).

“Yes, I am a cricketer, well known but I am able to help because of their untiring efforts to reach the distressed. Even my wife, sister and few of my Andhra team-mates are part of my volunteer team.”

Hanuma Vihari

“With the second wave being so strong, getting a bed became a difficulty and that is something which is unthinkable,” he said. “So, I decided to use my followers as my volunteers and help as many people as I can. My goal is to actually mainly reach out to those people who are not able to afford or arrange for plasma, beds and essential medicine. But this is not enough. I would like to do more service in the future.”

When the distress calls and messages for help started pouring in, Vihari wanted to create a network of help-givers and he found that support from common people, his own family members and Andhra team-mates like Prithviraj Yarra.

“I have around 100 people on a WhatsApp group as volunteers and it’s their hard work that we have been able to help a few people,” he explained. “Yes, I am a cricketer, well known but I am able to help because of their untiring efforts to reach the distressed. Even my wife, sister and few of my Andhra team-mates are part of my volunteer team. It’s so heartening to see their support.”



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County Championship 2021 – Tom Westley seeks uplift after ‘strange’ start to Essex’s twin title defence

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Halfway through the group stage of the Championship, and Essex have got it all to do. The defending champions are currently fifth in Group One – albeit only 15 points off a top-two spot – and in need of a run of good form in order to make sure of qualifying for Division One when the competition splits. If Tom Westley, Essex’s captain, had been hoping a return to Chelmsford would spark an uplift after two defeats and a draw on the road, then a washed-out first day against Derbyshire only served to dampen the mood.

Westley admits it has been a “strange start” to the season. Having scored 490 for 9 declared in their opening game, only to be held to a draw by Worcestershire, Essex then recovered from being skittled for 96 by Durham to defend their manor in the manner to which most observers have become accustomed – scrapping hard in the second innings to post a target of 168, and then defending it ruthlessly on the back of another Simon Harmer ten-for.

But defeats at Edgbaston, by seven wickets, and Trent Bridge, by an innings, either side of another stalemate away to Worcestershire have left Westley puzzling over how to get what he views as “the best team in the country” playing like they can.

“Things definitely could be going a bit better,” he tells ESPNcricinfo. “It’s been quite challenging, a bit disappointing for the standards that we set at Essex. We’re used to winning lots of games of cricket, which hasn’t been the case this year. Halfway through, still a lot of games to be played and the group is tight – if you win a couple of games all of a sudden you’re right back up there.

“It’s been quite strange, in that we’ve been bowled out for less than 100 twice, and we’ve also got 500 twice. We haven’t been able to piece the whole game together with bat and ball. Certain games we’ve batted really well and bowled not as well, and in other games we’ve bowled well and not batted well. Which is the crux of cricket, I suppose.

“It’s immensely frustrating not being able to piece it together. It’s been a reminder of how hard four-day cricket is, especially when the some of the surfaces have been either way – very flat or [doing a bit]. It’s a strange start for us.”



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Recent Match Report – Kent vs Sussex Group 3 2021

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Fast bowler confirms bid for full fitness is back on track after fiery opening gambit at Hove

Sussex 51 for 2 trail Kent 145 (Leaning 63; Robinson 3-29, Garton 3-65, Archer 2-29) by 94 runs

When Jofra Archer last played a first-class match at Hove he was not a World Cup winner nor had he played in an Ashes series. The game took place in September 2018 and was memorable for the final first-class centuries of both Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell. Trott’s hundred satisfied the technicians; Bell’s pleased the aesthetes and brings them comfort still. Archer had played 10 IPL games for Rajasthan Royals and was plainly England’s next big thing. But his four late wickets against Warwickshire hardly disturbed the universe and certainly nobody gave a monkey’s what he did with his fish tank apart, one assumes, from the fish. The age of aquaria had not yet dawned.

That era is upon us now, though, and so Archer is perhaps fortunate that he is based in Brighton, where other-worldliness is an asset and where shredding your finger cleaning up after your piscine pets is something that could happen to anyone. Even more than Britain’s metropolises this city is a shrine to the outré and the baroque. Archer is thus an extraordinary cricketer in a city filled with extraordinary people and maybe he enjoys the camouflage, even if such concealment is not always available. The news that he had recovered sufficiently from a right-elbow injury to be named in Sussex’s squad for this game against Kent brought extra photographers and journalists to the County Ground and in the first half an hour of the day we could all see why.

In Archer’s third over Daniel Bell-Drummond was beaten for pace and bounce; the catch went very fast to second slip where George Garton made it look laughably easy. Next over, though, Archer over-pitched and Zak Crawley helped himself to four runs past wide mid-on. We settled down for a duel between a couple of England’s Test cricketers, only for it to end two balls later when Crawley could do nothing with sharp lift and movement off a length except nick the ball to Ben Brown.

“Usually I bowl to Zak n the [England] nets and I have done that quite a bit,” observed Archer when our day’s cricket was done. “Obviously, you’re never out in the nets so it was good to get him out here, with umpires.”



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