The Day of the Underdogs

A pulsating final day of the first round of the Bob Willis Trophy suggested that the divide lies somewhere around the middle of Division One.

Bob Willis Trophy first round

While Somerset have been demonstrating over the last two weeks that there is a huge gulf between divisions one and two, a pulsating final day of the first round of the Bob Willis Trophy suggested that the divide lies somewhere around the middle of Division One.

Wins for the teams that finished in the bottom four places in division two last season over sixth and eight in division one and first and third in division two offered some encouragement to those who advocate either this format or a one division competition. And while I’ll suspend judgement on that until the competition has run a couple of weeks more, but it certainly provided a great afternoon’s entertainment.

By the time Somerset completed their victory over Glamorgan in the first few minutes of Tuesday afternoon four of the remaining games in the competition had all taken very interesting turns. 

While they did not force a win Northants probably deserve the two individual performances of the day. The overnight pair of skipper Adam Rossington and the wonderful Luke Procter were in the process of batting throughout the day. From mid-Monday afternoon at 148-5 still 79 behind Rossington 135*, Proctor 112* and Charlie Thurston 96 combined for 352-1 in 131 overs. When the two teams shook hands around 5pm on Tuesday the seventh wicket pair were still together having batted through the day taking their side to 507-6.  The absence of Olly Stone, injured after bowling only three second innings overs, left the Bears attack was completely toothless. After such a strange pre-season the work put on the rest of the Birmingham attack could have a significant impact on the rest of the campaign.

For me the team of the day were Derbyshire. Requiring an improbable 365 to beat Peter Trego’s Notts they spent the day putting their supporters through the ringer, inching closer to the target but always losing wickets at crucial times. By tea Derbyshire were hanging in there but continuing to lose wickets. 255-6 needing 110 to win. The loss of their seventh wicket on 299 with just 12 overs to go and 66 still required looked to be too much but into the last hour all four results were still possible.

Almost unbelievably Finn Hudson Prentice and Michael Cohen, with 91 and 30 respectively, kept up with the required run rate and, with just a ball to spare got their side home in a pulsating finish.

At Worcester 9?) another game went to the final over with Leicestershire needing 149 in 16 overs to achieve a win for bottom over top of last season’s division two. The Foxes got home with seventh wickets to spare thanks to Colin Ackerman 73* and Harry Dearden 33 against a very inexperienced Lancashire attack. 

Surrey, who were only been able to take six wickets in each Middlesex innings (they could do with a hostile fast bowler couldn’t they?) in just over two sessions. By lunch they were 20-3, Stoneman, Borthwick and Jacks all dismissed for a combined 5 runs. A game that seemed destined for a dull draw at 11 had suddenly come to life thanks to Tim Murtagh. Surrey’s middle order showed a little more fight in the afternoon losing only two wickets. But 118-5 became 123 all out with Sam Robson (3-3-0-2) the unlikely finisher.

And at good old Chelmsford, Essex needing 201 to beat Kent lurched to 73-4 by lunch. Sir Cook ominously still there on 32 with ten Doeschate still to come. By tea Essex were stumbling but very close on 187-8 needing another 14 but that didn’t tell the full story as they had lost wickets steadily and were in need of Adam Wheater’s 26 and Sam Cook’s 15 in a ninth wicket stand of 31 to get the job done. In truth Kent’s second innings capitulation amply demonstrating their weaknesses was the key phase of the game.