The latest round of the LV County Championship produced three convincing victories in the first division, and has given some definition to a previously tight table. Somerset were the first to wrap things up, dismissing Kent to win by 246 runs on the final day at Taunton. It was a particularly vindicating performance for a Somerset bowling attack (with Andy Caddick absent) who are often overshadowed by a classy batting line up. Stefan Jones stood out (finishing with 8-121), but Charl Willoughby, Ben Phillips and Alfonso Thomas all contributed in a victory that puts Somerset back up to second place. Only promoted last season, the South-Westerners have performed above expectations in the top flight, and have a superb opportunity to grab the title for the first time should their form shown in this match continue.
Durham, however, will have other ideas, rocketing to the top of the table with a 10-wicket victory over Surrey at Guildford. The variable Will Smith chalked up a superb double century in Durham’s first innings, whose 190-run lead always looked too big an obstacle for Surrey to overcome. Offering more resistance than in the first innings, Surrey managed to post 323, Uzman Afzaal top-scoring with 73 and Steve Harmison finishing on 4-102. The Durham openers made light work of knocking of the 134 runs required for victory, taking the North-East outfit to the summit of Division 1. It is a worrying result for Surrey who will be desperate to avoid relegation after only two seasons in the upper tier. Particularly concerning was the frustrating inconsistency of the batsman, with the exception of opener Scott Newman. Distinctly off the pace, Surrey now face two tricky away games at Yorkshire and Somerset that they must perform strongly in if they are to survive.
The final Div 1 game saw Sussex take maximum points at Arundel against a lacklustre Hampshire stuck at the bottom of the table. The foundation of Sussex’s 10-wicket triumph were first-innings centuries by the ever-excellent Murray Goodwin (184) and Carl Hopkinson (106), who has been experiencing a fairly lean season so far. Hampshire’s 257 in the first innings was not enough to avoid the follow-on, and they were duly dismissed in the second for 179, with off-spinner Ollie Raynor finishing with match figures of 8-70. Sussex needed just 11 second-innings runs to secure only their second victory of the campaign. The defending champions are certainly still in the hunt for what would be their fourth title in six years, although they have played a game more than most of the teams currently above them.
A great set of games and a good advert for a rejuvinated county cricket scene, we wait with anticipation for what should be a highly competitve second half of the season.