First-class county cricket is back, and it returned with a bang this week with eight of the nine games ending with a positive result. Only Warwickshire and Northamptonshire shared the spoils with each team taking their share of the points. We had some superb centuries, some last day heroics, some bowling brilliance and a positive start for an old English opener looking to get his career back on track. Lets get into it:
Sussex beat Hampshire by 94 runs
Sussex - 176 & 221
Hampshire - 153 & 150
The only game not to go the full four days, Sussex started their campaign at Hove with a victory, thanks in large part to their bowling unit. It was a low-scoring affair in East Sussex, with England hopeful Ollie Robinson taking 8 wickets for just 65 runs. 23-year-old Phil Salt was the pick of the batsmen for the home side, scoring 68 & 80 while George Garton chipped in with some valuable lower-order runs.
Hampshire struggled with the bat with their top-score over both innings coming in at a paltry 30. However they will be encouraged by the performance of Mason Crane who took 6 wickets for 69 runs, as well as young English pacer Ajeet Dale taking 3 wickets on his debut.
Derbyshire beat Nottinghamshire by 3 wickets
Derbyshire - 239 & 365-7
Nottinghamshire - 324 & 279
I imagine when Nottingham set Derbyshire 364 to win on the final day, they were quietly confident that they had the bowling to pull off the win. However thanks to an inspired performance from captain Billy Godleman (86) and all-rounder Fynn Hudson-Prentice (91*) seeing the Derbyshire home in the final over of the day. Credit also to South African Leus du Plooy who hit a century (130) in the first inning to see Derbyshire through.
It's not all bad news for Nottinghamshire, former England opener Haseeb Hameed got his Notts career off to a flying start with two half-centuries (59 & 52). Hameed looked more like his old self this week, leaving well outside off and putting away the bad balls, it's early days but at just 23 years of age, Haseeb has all the time in the world to get his career back on track following a horror three years at Lancashire. Jake Ball was the pick of the Nottinghamshire bowlers with 6 wickets.
Yorkshire beat Durham by 6 wickets
Yorkshire - 199 & 172-4
Durham - 103 & 266
In the end this was a largely straight-forward victory for Yorkshire. Durham were blown away by Ben Coad in the first inning and then Matt Fisher in the second inning. Yorkshire may be a little disappointed with their batting display in the first inning, however their big summer recruit Dawid Malan showed his class in the second inning with an excellent 73. Young Harry Brook (21), hit a composed 66* to see Yorkshire home, following his 41 in the first inning, it's a great start for the young English right-hander.
There was a century to celebrate for Durham as opener Alex Lees hit 106. They will also be encouraged by the 77 scored by new South African recruit David Bedingham and the 6 wickets for veteran Chris Rushworth. Yorkshire are tipped as one of the favourites this year, so we'll need to wait to see Durham fit in the power-rankings after their round 2 game.
Leicestershire beat Lancashire by 7 wickets
Lancashire - 322 & 236
Leicestershire - 409-8 (declared) & 150-3
This was my game of the week. Leicestershire were set 150 in just 17 overs, and they reached it with 8 balls to spare. Instead of settle for the draw, Leicestershire re-jigged their lineup and attacked from ball one, putting pressure on Lancashire and eventually securing the victory to go with their batting bonus points from the first inning. There were half-centuries for Hassan Azad and captain Colin Ackermann. However, the star man was Ben Slater, currently on loan from Nottinghamshire, the opener hit a superb 172 in the first inning to set the foxes up.
If Keaton Jennings is hoping for a recall this winter, he'll need to do better than 5 & 8. The former England opener looked out of sorts and was unable to contribute in week one. Captain Dane Vilas top-scored for Lancashire with 90, but in the end it just wasn't enough.
Worcestershire beat Gloucestershire by 8 wickets
Gloucestershire - 267 & 270
Worcestershire - 428-5 & 113-2
Worcestershire put in an unbelievably rounded team performance to canter home against Gloucestershire. The top order for Worcestershire made the difference in this contest with Mitchell (80) and Libby (77) putting on 152 for the first wicket. They were then followed by contributions from Fell (39), Haynes (51) and Brett D'Oliveira (91*) grandson of the former England player Basil.
Gloucestershire will be happy with the performance of captain Chris Dent (92 & 67) but they will be slightly concerned that their bowlers struggled to take wickets, with only 7 wickets falling over the four days. Three of their bowlers had economy rates over 4 in the first-inning and they'll look to improve on that in round 2.
Somerset beat Glamorgan by 289 runs
Somerset - 296 & 290-8 (declared)
Glamorgan - 131 & 166
Unfortunately for the neutral spectator, this was largely a non-contest as Somerset dominated throughout at beautiful Taunton. Somerset got a first-hand view of what they'll be losing as Jamie Overton took 5 wickets for 48 runs in the first inning. It was revealed on the night before the game that Jamie would be leaving Tanton for the Oval at the end of the season, deciding to join Surrey. However his brother Craig also took a 5-wicket-haul in the second inning. There was also a hundred for captain Tom Abell (119), a player who will be looking to push for an England place ahead of the winter tour.
For Glamorgan, they'll be disappointed with their batting performance. With COVID preventing Marnus Labuschagne from joining the welsh club, it was clear early that they did not have the players to challenge the impressive Somerset bowling unit. One bright spot was captain Chris Cooke's 82 during the 2nd inning, although he was the only one to put up a fight.
Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Draw
Warwickshire - 369-8
Northamptonshire - 142 & 507-6 (declared)
It was a good batting surface at Edgbaston and both teams enjoyed that over the course of the 4 days. I thought Northamptonshire may have declared a little earlier to try and entice Warwickshire to chase down a tough total, however at the declaration the match was officially ruled a draw. 20 year-old English opener Rob Yates got his season off to a good start with a solid 88 off 262 balls, and Tim Bresnam scored a century making his debut for Warwickshire (105).
Northamptonshire came up short in the first inning but centuries with wicket-keeper Adam Rossington (135) and Luke Procter (112) meant that they took home their share of the points and also achieved the maximm batting bonus points. Promising batsmen Charlie Thurston (23) came up just four runs short of hitting his 2nd century in his short first-class career.
Essex beat Kent by 2 wickets
Essex - 298 & 202-8
Kent - 387 & 112
It was a tense finish at Chelmsford as Essex held on after tea to secure a victory with just 2 wickets to spare. With Alastair Cook coasting on the final day, it did look as though Essex would canter to victory, however thanks to the bowling of veteran Ivan Thomas and the control of young English spinner Hamidullah Qadri, essex were made to toil for their victory, eventually being seen over the line by the composed performance of keeper Adam Wheater.
Ollie Robinson scored a classy 78 in the first inning to support the century of South African Heino Kuhn (140). There was plenty of star players missing for Kent and you believe had they had the veteran head of Sam Billings (currently with the England ODI team), we may have seen a different result. However, Essex's bowling unit of Jamie Porter, Sam Cooke and Simon Harmer was just too strong. The 2019 county champions starting their season off with a victory.
Middlesex beat Surrey by 190 runs
Surrey - 282 & 123
Middlesex - 347-6 (declared) & 248-6 (declared)
Middlesex have rarely been in a position to declare twice in an inning recently, so they'll be feeling quite smug this evening having gotten one over on their London neighbours. With no Morkle the Surrey bowling lineup looked devoid of threat throughout, and they may be asking Somerset if they can have Jamie Porter this year instead of next. Daniel Moriarty did perform well in the 2nd inning, taking 5 wickets for 64 runs, but the damage had been done. With no Morkel, no Amla, no Pope and no Foakes, Surrey were completely outplayed.
Middlesex will be delighted with their opening victory. Nick Gubbins who has previously been tipped for an England call-up looked back to his best hitting a 192 and 60 in two innings. They'll also be happy with the performance of their young opener Max Holden (22) who hit 48 & 43 too. Former Irish seamer Tim Murtagh started his season with a 5-wicket-haul in the first inning, and was supported by Barbadian Miguel Cummins in the 2nd inning.