Please take a moment to review Hachette Book Group's updated Privacy Policy: read the updated policy here.

Cap for Livingstone, I presume

The third round of the Specsavers County Championship was the last first-class action cricket fans would be able to see until 19 May, but for some the gap will be even longer. In Birmingham, this was Warwickshire’s last home Championship game until 26 June, and 23 April was the final day of weekend first-class cricket at Edgbaston this season. It gives a pretty fair impression of the value the ECB appears to put on what should be its primary competition. The best training ground for Test cricket that we have is increasingly being marginalised, with fewer games this season and half of them shunted to the margins of the season, in April and September.
At least the crowd at Edgbaston saw some batting to linger in the memory. Visitors Surrey chose to field first, and were on the receiving end of a fine innings from Ian Westwood, who made 153 out of the home side’s 332 all out. Brothers Tom (four for 98) and Sam Curran (three for 74) did most of the damage. Saturday provided another batting masterclass from Kumar Sangakkara (105) as he and Mark Stoneman (123) put on 140 for the third wicket. Having finished the day on 299 for three, Surrey must have expected to bat Warwickshire out of the game, but they ended up being dismissed for 437. Skipper Ian Bell led the way in the hosts’ second innings before falling for 99. The rest of the line-up all contributed, and Warwickshire eventually declared on 435 for eight and the match ended as a draw, but Surrey narrowly top the table.
Champions Middlesex swiftly took charge against promoted Essex at Lord’s. After the visitors chose to field, they were made to toil for more than 63 overs before finally taking their first wicket – Nick Gubbins out for 101 after a partnership of 241 with Sam Robson, who made 149. Stevie Eskinazi, coming in at three, didn’t let up, as he also reached three figures, falling for exactly 100. James Franklin finally declared on 507 for seven, and then Middlesex bowled out the visitors for 295, Dan Lawrence top-scoring with 75, while Steve Finn took four for 51. Franklin decided not to enforce the follow-on, and instead the home side made 239 for three declared, setting a target of 452 with just over a day to bat out. Rain and bad light meant only 68 overs were possible, and Essex just held out for a draw, finishing on 160 for eight. There was one significant landmark along the way: Alastair Cook passed 20,000 first-class runs when he reached 16, eventually falling for 37.
Yorkshire were delighted to welcome back Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid and England skipper Joe Root for their visit to Southampton, but it was Hampshire who dominated for most of the match. Home captain James Vince reminded Root why it was that he had been picked for England by scoring a fine 147, and then Gareth Berg made 99 not out, his best score for the county. Brad Wheal kept him company for 68 minutes before the magic arm of Root broke the last-wicket partnership with the score on 455. Ben Coad continued his extraordinary form this summer, taking four for 71, and now has 25 wickets already. Yorkshire’s captain Gary Ballance was also required to lead from the front, compiling 108 as the rest of his side fell away for 231, Berg doing the damage with four for 62. There was a welcome return to action for Reece Topley, whose last game was more than a year ago.
Following on, Yorkshire lost both Adam Lyth and Root early on, but Ballance was again resolute and became the first this season to score a century in both innings of a match. Even that wasn’t enough, as he went past his previous top score for the county (174) and declared only when he had reached 203 not out – the highest score of the season. After 491 minutes at the crease, perhaps he felt that was enough, but he was only 7 runs behind his career best, made in Zimbabwe. As it was, he declared on 399 for six, and the match was drawn. Only five men have ever scored more runs in a match for Yorkshire than his 311: George Hirst (341 in 1905), Darren Lehmann (339 in 2006), Wilf Barber (321 in 1934), Percy Holmes (315 in 1925) and Herbert Sutcliffe (313 in 1932).
Finally in the top division, there was an extraordinary topsy-turvy game at Old Trafford, where Lancashire were rattled out for 109 in just 41.4 overs, Craig Overton taking five for 47. Yet another captain, Liam Livingstone, was the only point of resistance as he made 68 – 62.38% of the total. Dean Elgar carried his bat scoring 113 not out in 378 minutes as Somerset took charge by reaching 278 in reply. He was joined by Jack Leach in a ninth-wicket partnership of 96, of which Leach scored 52 – his maiden half-century.
Trailing by 169, the last thing Lancashire needed was to lose Haseeb Hameed early on, but the young England opener hasn’t started the season well, and was out for 7. Soon Alex Davies was joined by his skipper, and the pair began to turn the game for the home side. Davies was eventually out for 130 after putting on 245 for the third wicket, while Livingstone went on to make a career-best 168 in just over seven hours at the crease.
By the close of the third day, Lancashire were on 423 for seven, a lead of 254. The next morning Stephen Parry reached 44, his highest score in a career that dates back to 2007, as they made it to 463 all out. Lewis Gregory took five for 74. A draw seemed the most likely outcome as Somerset reached 78 for two, but when Jimmy Anderson removed Marcus Trescothick for 36, suddenly the whole edifice came tumbling down, with the next seven wickets falling in under 22 overs as Lancashire seized a dramatic victory by 164 runs, with Ryan McLaren wrapping up victory to end the match with figures of eight for 113. After the match, Livingstone was awarded his county cap, but one feels that it may not be long before he is donning an England cap as well.
In the Second Division, Nottinghamshire have been setting the early pace with three wins out of three, and they destroyed Sussex inside two days at Trent Bridge. It was Riki Wessels who took complete control of the visitors’ attack, scoring a career-best 202 not out in just 177 balls, with 22 fours and seven sixes. With Stuart Broad (57 in 46 balls), he added 132 for the eighth wicket in 15.4 overs of carnage. Adam Barton, who had impressed for Cambridge MCCU, taking five for 31 against Lancashire, had a county debut to forget as he went for 81 runs in 11 overs. Steve Magoffin did take five for 81 in the midst of it all, but picked up an injury as Nottinghamshire were eventually all out for 447.
Nottinghamshire have a pace attack of First Division quality in Broad, James Pattinson (four for 22), Luke Fletcher and Jake Ball, and they made it count as Sussex were rolled over for 155 in 37.5 overs. They followed on, and thing got little better in the second innings. Sussex were dismissed for 204 and lost by an innings and 88 runs, with not one batsman making a half-century in the match.
There was also a two-day finish at Worcester, but it was a tense, low-scoring affair. Northamptonshire chose to field and will have been delighted to bowl out the hosts for 188, despite 50 from the returning Moeen Ali. Andy Carter was given his debut for the visitors and will have been pleased to pick up three for 51. Joe Leach led the Worcestershire attack, taking five for 60, as the away side were all out for 157, a deficit of 29 runs. When the hosts fell to 3 for three, it was all up for grabs. In the end, it was a last-wicket partnership of 45 between Ed Barnard (26 not out) and Josh Tongue (a career-best 15) that took them up to 153, setting a target of 185. Leach was again the fulcrum of the attack, finishing with five for 62 to complete match figures of ten for 122, the best of his career. He was well supported by Tongue’s four for 45. It was left to the last pair to score 36 for victory, but Leach trapped Carter in front and Worcestershire could celebrate victory by 20 runs.
Kent took three days to complete a comprehensive victory over Derbyshire at Canterbury to maintain their 100 per cent record. Put in to bat, they scored 259 in their first innings, Will Davis taking four for 75. For the third successive match this season, Darren Stevens took five or more wickets in an innings, finishing with figures of six for 47 as the visitors crumbled to 159 in reply. He wasn’t done there, either, clobbering 90 in just 86 balls to enhance his side’s control of the tie. But it was No 9 Adam Rouse, with a career-best 95 not out, who provided the final nail in the coffin to take Kent up to 308, setting a target of 409 for Derbyshire. Gary Wilson (97) was the only one to provide significant resistance as Stevens (three for 63) and James Harris (four for 56) bowled them out for 239.
At Bristol, Durham had the better of things after Gloucestershire were bowled out for 303 in their first innings. Skipper Paul Collingwood fell three short of a record-extending 23rd century for the visitors, and his was the most significant contribution to their reply of 419. Craig Miles took five for 99. Trailing by 116, the hosts needed someone to bat them to safety, and opener Chris Dent was up for the challenge, making his 12th century before falling for 101. They made 320, setting a target of 205, but only 23 overs remained to be played and the match ended as a draw with Durham on 85 for four. On his debut for Durham, Cameron Steel made 31 and 17 not out, and picked up his maiden Championship wicket: Will Tavaré.
Things remained evenly poised at Grace Road, albeit without any hope of a decisive result. Harry Dearden made 87, his maiden half-century, as Leicestershire reached 420 all out. Glamorgan replied by taking the narrowest of first-innings leads, finishing on 426. Nicholas Selman scored 117 of them, falling five short of his own personal best, while Colin Ingram went on to make 137, his best for Glamorgan. Mark Pettini’s 15th century (110 not out) was the highlight of Leicestershire’s second-innings score of 360 for six declared. Glamorgan were 144 for four when the match ended in a draw.