Six County Championship talking points: Durham and Surrey dominate, while Worcestershire pull-off their great escape
The final round of the 2023 County Championship before the Test match summer takes over reached its conclusion this weekend.
Aside from a last chance to see England hopefuls state their case for the challenge ahead, it was the final bit of first-class county action for almost a month. The T20 Blast and international cricket now fill that void as the English summer gets into full flow.
Nevertheless, there were plenty of talking points to delve into as the first stage of this year’s Division One and Two competitions wrapped themselves up.
Surrey’s domination continues
The defending champions now have a 25-point lead at the top of the Division One table after six rounds of competition, though Warwickshire do have a game in hand. They have yet to lose a match and their effort to win back-to-back titles could not be going more smoothly.
In a clash at The Kia Oval featuring both Zak Crawley and Ben Foakes two days after the latter was dropped from England’s Test squad, Surrey secured another dominant 10-wicket victory. Illustrating the completeness of their squad, despite slumping to 211-7 having bowled Kent out for 278, Surrey’s tail-end fired to give them an 84-run first innings lead. Gus Atkinson and Sean Abbott both scored rapid half-centuries to push the home side past 300.
In another show of their enviable depth, 20-year-old Tom Lawes stepped in for Kemar Roach – who returned to Barbados for personal reasons last week – and took a maiden five-for in Kent’s second innings. His victims included Crawley and Sam Billings, who was out for his second duck of the match.
Northants’ dismal batting effort
At the other end of the Division One table, Northants were bowled out for 56 – the second time this century they have lost all ten wickets before reaching 60. Five ducks were recorded in the innings, including Hassan Azad who was runout before facing a ball in the first over. A half-century from Saif Zaib after Northants followed on was the only bright spark in another dismal week for the county.
Durham’s winning formula strikes again
Durham have been the chief adopters of England’s ultra-positive approach to Test cricket at the county level. They are currently tied with Sussex on 21 batting points – the most across both divisions – and followed through on another optimistic declaration against Gloucestershire this week. After they romped to an 153-run first innings lead, Durham came out all guns blazing to set up the declaration in the second. Michael Jones scored an aggressive century while Ollie Robinson whacked 67 off 36 balls as Durham scored at well over five an over.
They declared with a 425 lead before Matt Potts restated his case for England’s Ashes attack. He took 3-52 as Gloucestershire fell short in a valiant final innings effort of 300 all-out. Ajaz Patel took two five-fors in the match in his second game for Durham since he was signed as Matt Kuhnemann’s replacement. The success of their high-risk, high-reward strategy means Durham have a 29-point lead at the top of Division Two.
Glamorgan pile on the runs
The difference between Glamorgan’s first innings at Hove and their second could not have been more stark. After they were bowled out for 123 on the first day, they went on to score an almighty 737 to kill the game against Sussex. Marnus Labuschagne’s second century of the summer along with Michael Neser’s lower-order hundred made it a good game for Australia’s Ashes hopefuls – not to mention 89 for Steve Smith in Sussex’s first innings. But Kiran Carlson’s 192 took the award for the highest score of the match.
Sussex managed one run from their only over of batting in the second innings before the draw was declared.
Worcestershire’s almighty comeback
From 83 all-out, to a three-wicket win, a rollercoaster match at New Road just swung in the home side’s favour. With neither side managing to cross the 200 mark in any of the first three innings of the game, a fourth-innings chase of 270 looked like it may well be beyond Worcestershire after their first innings collapse.
But, 84 from Adam Hose and calm guidance from Brett D’Oliveira meant Worcestershire crept over the line. A handy win in what looks to be a tight fight for the second promotion spot.
England’s bowling worries mount up
The biggest talking point from England’s Ashes perspective after the matches wrapped up this weekend was what their preparation for the upcoming summer had cost them. Ollie Robinson played no part in the final day of Sussex’s fixture and was seen walking with crutches and a protective boot before he undergoes a scan on his ankle today (Monday, May 22). James Anderson picked up an injury in last week’s Championship action. Although there is no news as of yet on the extent of their injuries, that’s two of England’s first-choice bowlers who were unable to get through their county international prep unscathed.