Gloucestershire 19 for 1 trail Middlesex 210 (White 76*, Payne 5-31) by 191 runs
This wasn’t exactly an advert for Championship cricket. More a case of Championship cricket for adverts (specifically of the erectile dysfunction variety, as it happens) as Sky Sports cobbled together a lo-fi means to fill an IPL-shaped void in their scheduling. The solution? The dispatching of their heavies – Athers, Nasser, Keysy and Wardy – to HQ, to see what the Middlesex live stream had to offer their cricketainment-starved masses.
The answer “Robbie White” might not have been top of anyone’s list, to be fair. Nor a run-rate that protested, like a two-stroke moped, whenever it got close to 2.5 an over. Nor a dank and confused day that started as black as midnight and erupted, via two half-hearted rain-breaks, into the sort of hypothermic blue skies that cause accidental picnickers to stammer “isn’t this lovely?” through chattering teeth.
But at least there was David Payne, bending his left-arm bananas around a series of skittish defensive techniques, to claim the day’s outstanding figures of 5 for 31 in 18.5 overs. And at least there was the chance, too, for the under-sung Ryan Higgins to seize this unlikely version of the limelight. By picking off two well-crafted wickets, including the in-form Sam Robson for the day’s first scalp, Higgins took his season’s tally to 26 at 17.34, and with his batting yet to come, he could yet reinforce the sense that his numbers are more than just a trick of the Bristol light.
But overall, this was a day on which Middlesex stared their recent batting failures in the mirror, like a self-motivating drunk in a pub toilet, and ended up decorating the dancefloor once again in spite of resolving to hold it all in this time. Their innings of 210 in 80.5 overs was attritional in outlook, but lacked attrition in execution – with the honourable exception of White, who remained high and dry on 76 not out from 149 balls, as the rest of Middlesex’s top seven reached double figures without getting past 20.
White is still waiting for that elusive first-class century – he made a career-best 99 in last season’s Bob Willis Trophy, and has now passed 70 in the last four of this season’s five matches. His nine boundaries were cherry-picked at first, as he focussed on punishing the ball in his eyeline, but his confidence was beginning to flow as he eased to his fifty with a brace of fours off Daniel Worrall – a liberated cut and a pumped drive through the covers. With a bit more support at the other end, he’ll reach his promised land soon enough.
Gloucestershire, top of Group 2 after a startlingly composed start to their campaign, have leant heavily on their batting in their three wins from four, not least in their 348-run chase against Leicestershire in the last round of matches. But when given the chance to bowl first on a stereotypically “look up, not down” morning at Lord’s, Chris Dent seized the chance, and was vindicated in the final analysis, even if for long periods of their innings, Middlesex seemed to be toughing their way through to better times.
Their frailties, however, were rarely far from the surface. Robson and Max Holden peered through the gloom of the first hour to reach 23 for no loss when rain stopped play for the first time, only for Higgins to bend his second ball of the resumption down the slope and into Robson’s planted front pad for 13.
Max Holden was then suckered by a zippy nipbacker from Matt Taylor, the second left-armer in Gloucestershire’s ranks – his lack of intent condemning him for offering no shot as the ball speared back down the slope. And though Peter Handscomb avoided his third duck since arriving as Middlesex’s new captain, his dismissal was not that of a man at ease with his game. A grotesque leave as Payne curled an inswinger into his off-stump for 10 left him nursing a tally of 27 runs in five innings.
Middlesex by now were going nowhere fast, unable to stick and not daring to twist as Gloucestershire’s seamers hounded their techniques with increasing frequency. Nick Gubbins was another to succumb to Payne’s natural bend through the air, as he jabbed with hard hands for George Hankins to cling on at the second attempt at second slip, and though John Simpson showed signs of fluency with three well-timed fours in his 17, he was done like a rookie by the spin of Tom Smith. A flat tonk through mid-on one ball as Smith gave him oodles of air to chase, a confused thud of the pad the next, as Smith slipped a faster, flatter one down the slope.
Martin Andersson, not quite at the races in either of his two disciplines this season, hung around with White for a while in a 42-run stand for the sixth wicket, the best of the innings. But Taylor switched his angle to round the wicket to crash into his thrusting front pad for 20, before James Harris received the best ball of the day, a wicked full-length inswinger that burst through his gate from over the wicket before his technique could respond.
The tail came meekly – Higgins bagged his second to dislodge Ethan Bamber with an inswinger, before Payne fittingly sealed his five-for with two in three balls, as Thilan Wallalawita and Tim Murtagh were rounded up with only Wallalawita’s calypso cover drive for four to show for their efforts.
The only saving grace of a day that started terribly for Middlesex with the news of Toby Roland-Jones’ latest injury setback came in the closing minutes, as Dent and Kraigg Brathwaite got into a fearful muddle on a quick single to midwicket. Dent was run out for 10 as he scurried back whence he came, trapping his bat in the turf to hamper his progress. With the forecast set to be mixed for the coming days, the atmospherics around Lord’s could yet assist a fightback from Middlesex’s own seamers. But they’ll need to find greater resolve when their own second innings comes.
Given the expense that Sky have spared in their production, they could have picked pretty much any ground in the country this week. They could have spirited themselves to Trent Bridge, to watch the champions Essex fold for 99 as Stuart Broad got the better of Alastair Cook; to Northampton, to watch Sussex slump to 25 for 7 on a 15-wicket day, or the Ageas Bowl, where Hampshire’s April run-harvesting already feels as much of a bygone era as warm hugs and finger buffets.
But they’ve settled for the hallowed turf, with its building works and statue rumpuses, and misfiring home batters. And they’ll take what they’ve been given, come what may.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
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Recent Match Report – Warwickshire vs Derbyshire Group 1 2021
Home side crumbles for second time in match as Hannon-Dalby claims 4 for 24
Warwickshire 274 (Hain 77, Burgess 71) and 155 (Hain 46, Cohen 5-43) beat Derbyshire 121 (Miles 5-30, Norwell 4-24) and 117 (Madsen 29, Hannon-Dalby 4-24) by 191 runs
Faced with a target of 309, Derbyshire crumbled for the second time in the match and were bowled out for 117 before tea on the third afternoon with Hannon-Dalby claiming 4 for 24.
The home side had a chance when they bowled Warwickshire out for 155 with Michael Cohen taking 5 for 43 but a post lunch collapse condemned them to a fourth defeat of the season.
Warwickshire’s fourth victory takes them to the top of Group 1 and boosts their chances of qualifying for Division One with two games to play.
Derbyshire have yet to win a match but they were in with a slim chance of ending that run when they took the last three Warwickshire wickets for only 23.
Cohen and Sam Conners both got lavish swing to restrict Warwickshire’s lead to 308 but their hopes quickly faded as Hannon-Dalby removed both openers in the first five overs.
Billy Godleman edged a good delivery to first slip, where Tim Bresnan took a sharp catch, and Luis Reece was caught down the leg side trying to pull.
Craig Miles delivered another body blow with the last ball before lunch when Brook Guest was caught behind off an inside edge.
Wayne Madsen and Ben McDermott briefly lifted the spirits of the home supporters before the wheels came off again with four wickets falling for eight runs in five overs.
Will Rhodes brought himself on at the Racecourse End and was immediately rewarded when Madsen gave him a return catch off a leading edge and in the nex over, Hannon-Dalby returned to pin Matt Critchley lbw.
McDermott went in his next over when he pushed forward and edged low to third slip and Alex Hughes was beaten by a full, swinging delivery from Rhodes.
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Anuj Dal drove and cut Liam Norwell for two fours before he edged to third slip and a 21 point victory was sealed when Ben Aitchison skied Briggs to mid off.
Recent Match Report – Leics vs Gloucs Group 2 2021
Leicestershire win by an innings and 93 runs as Parkinson claims career-best match figures of 10 for 108
Leicestershire 451 (Harris 148, Ackermann 57, Hill 56) beat Gloucestershire 158 (Hammond 67, Parkinson 5-45) and 200 (Cockbain 57, Tattersall 51, Parkinson 5-63) by in innings and 93 runs
Leicestershire crushed group leaders Gloucestershire by an innings and 93 runs as a one-sided LV=Insurance County Championship match ended before tea on the third day with Gloucestershire bowled out for 200 following on.
Gloucestershire won four of their first five Group Two matches but have now suffered back-to-back defeats, each by an innings, having been beaten by Surrey in the last round.
The Foxes, who failed to win any of their first six matches but chased down 378 in the fourth innings to beat Middlesex last Sunday, recorded consecutive victories in first-class games for the first time since 2018 and the first back-to-back wins in home matches since 2006.
Leicestershire sensed they could finish the job rapidly as they took four wickets in the first 52 minutes of the day after Gloucestershire resumed, needing to reach 293 just to make the home side bat again.
Chris Wright, getting movement off the seam, had Miles Hammond caught at first slip and Tom Lace behind the stumps in consecutive overs.
Parkinson picked up his first of the day when Glenn Phillips, who had been much more watchful than in the first innings, stepped across his stumps in trying to work to leg and was given out leg before, making his unhappiness with the decision obvious to umpire Nick Cook.
Ryan Higgins fell to an unwise slog-sweep to his second that saw him caught at mid-wicket, but Cockbain and Tattersall frustrated Leicestershire until midway through the afternoon session, both hitting seven fours.
Tattersall played well against the spin but eventually edged a slightly wide ball from Parkinson to Colin Ackermann at first slip, and soon afterwards Cockbain reached to defend one outside off stump, falling to a smart, one-handed catch to his left by Ackermann at second slip as Parkinson completed his second five-for in the match.
With his off spin, Ackermann then bowled David Payne and had Tom Smith leg before and, after a brief flourish of big hitting by Dan Worrall and Josh Shaw, bowled Worrall to finish the job.
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