Whilst the eyes of the world’s media were firmly on events at the Kia Oval, elsewhere in the country there were some thrilling matches with wins for Middlesex, Durham, Warwickshire, Yorkshire, Gloucestershire and Surrey. A heroic performance from injured Alex Wakely saved Northamptonshire from defeat against Derbyshire. Kent were left frustrated by David Lloyd and Michael Hogan leaving them still without a win in the 2015 season. There are four sides yet to claim a championship victory this season: Leicestershire, Kent, Hampshire and Somerset.
The T20 Blast got off with a blast (mostly) where over 455 runs were scored at the Oval, Trent Bridge saw a Halestorm and young Matthew Fisher at Yorkshire bagged a five-fer. Pre-sales for this year’s blast matches are well up on last year and it seems, despite the persistent franchise calls, the competition has a buzz around it. .
Middlesex are on top of the table
This time last year, Middlesex were also on top of the division one having made a rampant start to the season including that historic chase against Yorkshire at Lord’s. The relegation tipped north London side beat a strong Sussex side down at Hove by 79 runs to register their third win of the season. James Harris tops the list of wicket takers in division 1.
But early season form is no barometer for Middlesex. For the last two seasons, they have, like this one, got off to a flyer only to find themselves start to sink and sink towards the bottom of the table once white ball cricket gets entered into the schedule. The other complication for them is that Adam Voges, who’s scored 450 runs in four matches, has now finished his stint with them and is off to join up with the Australian National Team. They’ll be boosted by the arrival of Joe Burns and will be relieved to see that Neil Dexter took some second innings wickets after a pretty abject start to the season.
Steven Davies back to his best
It’s been a difficult few years for Steven Davies. After losing his place in the England side and managing the pressure of publicly coming out, by 2013 he was left wondering if cricket really was for him. It seems though that things have clicked back into place for him. After battering 115 runs from 69 balls to give Surrey an unlikely victory against Leicestershire amidst all the KP circus, he then hit 58 against Glamorgan on Friday evening and 53 against Essex at Chelmsford. No longer keeping wicket for Surrey, Davies is fully focused on batting and it seems to be paying off. Few men in the county game time the ball as sweetly as Davies does and 232 runs in the space of five days demonstrates how important he will be to Surrey this season.
Gloucestershire defy expectations
One of the many wonderful things about the county championship is how difficult it is to predict the winners and losers. Most commenters, however, had Gloucestershire as contenders for the wooden spoon this season. Shows what most of us know, that this week saw them register was probably the result of the round: beating promotion tipped Lancashire at Old Trafford. Only their second championship victory there in 50 years. It was Liam Norwell again who did the bulk of the damage.
He did it again. Durham’s Chris Rushworth now has five wicket hauls in each of his last five first-class matches as part of Durham’s six wicket victory over Nottinghamshire. He’s already taken 26 championship wickets this season at an average of 20 and his wicket-taking consistency has led to some discussion, including in the sky commentary box, about whether he might just be exactly the sort of nagging bowler the Aussies might not like facing. Of course, it’s highly improbable he’ll be anywhere near England’s side but it’s a theory that shouldn’t just be dismissed out of hand.
The wounded heroes
Northamptonshire battled out for a draw against Derbyshire despite having two men wounded in action. Cobb showed some true midlands grit (is there such a thing?), coming in at number 9 after being clonked by pace bowler Footit, with Northants in trouble at 182-7 and still needing to battle through the rest of the day to salvage a draw. He hung around for 75 minutes, scoring 43 in the process. Then when Rory Kleinveldt, who’d also battled admirably, was dismissed by Footit, Wakely – nursing a quite serious and painful hand injury – came out to bat. It was not thought that he’d be able to hold the bat or indeed put any gloves on, but cometh the hour cometh the man as they say. He strode to the middle and hung in there for an hour and twenty minutes to see Northamptonshire home and safe.