The England opening race heats up… Four talking points from the County Championship

Hampshire Break Records And A Late Lord's Thriller - Key Talking Points From Round Three Of The County Championship

The third round of the 2023 County Championship came to a close yesterday, with rain disrupting most of the matches up and down the country – here’s the main talking points from this round of play.

Hampshire’s bowling attack makes them title contenders

Hampshire registered their biggest-ever first class win on Saturday, as they beat Northants by an innings and 270 runs. While James Vince starred with the bat, scoring 186 with Nick Gubbins also putting on his first century of the season, their bowlers were dominant on the final day of play. While, at this point, we’re used to watching Mohammad Abbas dominate whatever batting line-up is put in front of him, it was an all-round performance from the formidable-looking attack that turned heads.

James Fuller took six-for in Northants’ first innings, picking up some beautiful stump cartwheels as he went. Kyle Abbott took four in the match and ensured Northants went nowhere when they were sent out to bat again on Day Three. Together, the three-pronged attack wrought havoc at the County Ground, bowling out their opposition within 72 overs in each innings, and conceding just 62 runs in the second. Smarting from a stinging loss at The Oval to their main title rivals last week, a complete performance going into a fourth-round rest is an emphatic end to the first phase of their campaign.

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A thriller at Lord’s lights up the clouds

On a bleak Sunday afternoon in North London, the players finally took to the field after tea to see if a result could be reached. Steven Mullaney’s declaration gave those spectators who had stuck through two sessions of drizzle a thrilling finish between last year’s promoted Division Two sides.

Set 249 off a possible 40 overs in the fading light and having been a step behind Notts for most of the game, Middlesex pulled off a blinder. Half-centuries from Pieter Malan and Max Holden took care of the bulk of the runs after Stephen Eskinazi was promoted up to open alongside Mark Stoneman – a Bazball/Stone-wall hybrid. Although that experiment didn’t pay-off with Stuart Broad into the wickets after just 14 balls, a run-rate of 6.38 brought Middlesex home six wickets down. Chalking up one in the wins column in front of their home crowd, this was a scintillating way for Middlesex to get up and running back in Division One.

The England opener battle is heating up

Just as the scales were beginning to tip against Zak Crawley’s England place, he put out a knock to weigh them back towards him again. A century off 96 balls and he made it a big one, finishing on 170. It was a high-scoring match, three hundreds coming in the two innings that were possible, with neither side bowled out. But, it was the kind of innings that reminded those watching what separates him from the rest.

Elsewhere in the country, Ben Duckett scored his first hundred of the season, as did Keaton Jennings before going off injured with a hamstring problem. There’s little leeway for a bad week for those hoping to open for England this summer.

Yorkshire’s promotion push hits the skids early

Despite putting themselves into a winning position at Hove, Yorkshire head back up the M1 still winless. After picking up a first innings lead, Sussex were bowled out for 137 in their second. Yorkshire needed 200 and made significant progress towards that target at the end of Day Three, finishing on 138-3. There was niggle as well. Shai Hope could’ve been run out wandering out of his crease but, much to Sussex head coach Grant Flower’s dissatisfaction, the umpire called the ball dead.

Nevertheless, rain meant there was no play possible on the final day and Yorkshire are still yet to record a win in Division Two. Fittingly, it doesn’t rain, it pours at the minute.

The post The England opening race heats up… Four talking points from the County Championship appeared first on Wisden.

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