County cricket talking points: Essex rise from the canvas again

Ball one: Simon harms yer
When Essex were 96 all out just after lunch on the first afternoon, you would not have put money on them being top of Group One at the end of the weekend. When Essex conceded a first-innings lead of 163, you would not have put money on them being top of Group One now. When Essex had three wickets in hand and a lead of 45, you would not have put money on them being top of Group One now.

Essex lead Group One after Simon Harmer’s 10 wickets got them over the line against a Durham side that allowed Ben Allison, playing only his third Championship match, to eke out 53 runs for the ninth wicket with Sam Cook, stretched over a couple of hours. Once Cook and Jamie Porter had bagged an opener each for nothing and Harmer had the ball in his hand, the script was written. Somehow we’re still surprised.

Ball two: Bresnan and Briggs best Broad
Warwickshire share top spot in the group after Notts did a reverse-Essex (yet again) and lost a match from a winning position. With the visitors still 149 short and Dom Sibley hors de combat, Trent Bridge looked likely to see home team celebrations for the first time in years. But Notts did the Notts thing, and lost.

That said, watching the stream of Stuart Broad bowling leg-cutters to an often baffled and grinning Tim Bresnan in the deep slanting sunlight of the fourth evening of the match with only the draw ruled out – well, it was a rare pleasure. When the winning runs were secured via leg byes, the Notts players sank to their knees, while Bresnan and Danny Briggs stood a little sheepishly in the middle, partly because they knew they’d burgled one and partly because they felt the pain of their opponents.

Surely this is a saleable commodity to sponsors because who wouldn’t want to be associated with that wondrous hour of television?

Ball three: Double Dutchy
Hampshire marmalised Middlesex to lead Group Two after Mohammad Abbas dismissed batsmen seemingly at will, the ball going hither and thither at a pace cruelly calibrated to be just slow enough to kiss the outside edge of the bat or to pass it on the inside en route to the pads. Match figures of 31–16–39–9 did not flatter the Sialkot seamer with the sleight of hand on the kind of pitch on which his own team piled up over 600 runs for the loss of 14 wickets.

It was also a fine match for USA player and British passport holder, Ian Holland, who backed up 64 and 146* opening with three handy wickets having observed Abbas’s methods. Middlesex have contrived to post just nine points – half the next lowest tally in the country – and they have the London derby up next at Lord’s. They might be glad that the members won’t be lining the walk through the Long Room.

Ball four: Bracey’s pair of innings deliver the win
Gloucestershire are nicely tucked in a couple of points behind Hampshire after a surprise (is that allowed Glaws fans?) victory over West Country rivals, Somerset.

After three runs separated first-innings scores, that most resourceful of cricketers, Ryan Higgins, led the bowling effort with four wickets, but all five in the unit chipped in with an, er, … out. With only three of the home batsmen posting double figures, a target of 153 looked in the “tricky” category, but James Bracey, making up for lost time spent not playing for England, added 83* to his first innings 118 (from No 3 after keeping wicket) and the points went to Bristol. With Sibley and Ben Stokes likely to vacate their spots in the England order, they were timely runs indeed.

Ball five: Robinson checkmates Carlson
Sussex lead a tight echelon at the top of Group Three after Glamorgan made them fight hard for the win points at Sophia Gardens.

Another one of England’s unused bubble men led the way, Ollie Robinson (Sussex’s Ollie Robinson, not Kent’s Ollie Robinson) made an early pitch for Wisden 2022 inclusion with a second innings haul of 9-78, as the hosts kept the visitors in the field for 128 overs. But Aaron Thomasen steadied the ship with his second half-century of the match and Sussex cruised home, with eight wickets in hand.

A couple of years ago, this column identified Glamorgan’s Kiran Carlson as one to watch, his lightning-fast hands cracking the ball all round The Oval like the second coming of AB de Villers. Things have not gone so well since (they seldom do for young cricketers – unless they’re AB de Villiers) but Carlson, still only 22, made 127* and 132 in the match, batting 137 overs for once out. It could be a big summer for Carlson and, if it is, the Glamorgan highlights page will be notching up the hits.

Ball six: A tale of two spinners
Simon Kerrigan had known the best of times and the worst of times as a left arm spinner. A hero of Lancashire’s Championship team in 2011, he was knocked out of the attack in his one Test in 2013 and knocked out of his stride a year or two later. After a bit of coaching and a bit of club cricket as a batsman, a loan to Northamptonshire led to a contract and, last week, a return to Old Trafford – this time not wearing the red rose. He bowled beautifully and gladdened the hearts of men and women from Ormskirk to Oswaldtwistle.

Matt Parkinson, yet another England bubbler, had been inexplicably left out of Lanky’s first match, but wasted no time in drifting, dipping and ripping his leg-breaks, trending on Twitter as far as Australia, where Shane Warne noticed similarities – and he knows about hitting the top of off stump in Manchester. See what you think.

Despite Parky even bamboozling the umpire to snare Saif Zaib, and Saqib Mahmood bowling very fast indeed, Northamptonshire made the home side work long into the last session of the match before they secured the points to send them second in Group Three.