The County Championship has officially gone into a one-month break, and Round 9 served as one last shot at redemption for those who’d failed to hit the ground running. Some, such as Marnus Labuschagne, made full use of the opportunity, while others (read: Travis Head) continued to disappoint.
Leicestershire vs Gloucestershire
Marcus Harris - 148
By some distance the best overseas batsman this season, Marcus Harris continued his outrageous run of form by backing up the 185 in the previous game with a stunning 148. Harris walked in with Leicestershire in a spot of bother at 10/1, but remained unfazed by the situation to strike his third ton of the season. The ‘number three’ batsman struck an astonishing 21 fours en route 148, before being trapped in front by New Zealand’s Glenn Phillips. Harris has now scored a ton in each of his last three games at Grace Road.
Glenn Phillips - 16 & 8; 2/77
In his first game of the County season, the Kiwi batsman saw himself get overwhelmed by the occasion. Batting at 3, Phillips posted just 16 and 8, dismissed by the left-arm spin of Callum Parkinson twice, and failed to do justice the #3 spot that was earlier held by James Bracey. Phillips did, however, showcase his skills with the ball, dismissing two of Leicestershire’s Top 3 batters, including Marcus Harris.
Other notable names: Dan Worrall (2/57)
Somerset vs Hampshire
James Vince - 29
For the third match in a row, James Vince batted just once, and for the third match in a row, the Hampshire skipper had a forgettable outing. With Hampshire 31/3, Vince did exceedingly well to bail his side out of trouble by stringing a 61-run partnership with Sam Northeast, but, in trademark fashion, threw his wicket away after doing all the hard work. Vince, well set, hit an innocuous Josh Davey half-tracker straight to backward point to yet again perish in the 20s. As things stand, the 231 the right-hander struck in Round 1 remains his only ton of the season.
Tom Banton - 45 & 51*
Moved down the order after a horror run as an opener, Banton endured his best game of the season. Not taking the gloves, Banton, batting at 7 (and also 8), played two high-octane knocks - albeit in completely different situations - to ensure Somerset walked away with a draw. After walking in to bat at 43/5 in the morning of Day 1, a counter-attacking 45 (50) from Banton helped Somerset blunt the Hampshire bowlers, while an unbeaten 51 (55) in the second secured the draw for his side. By the looks of things, perhaps #7 is where he belongs in the longest format.
Other notable names: Sam Northeast (67 and 19*), Kyle Abbott (1/90 and 1/132)
Glamorgan vs Lancashire
Marnus Labuschagne - 44 & 63*
After failing uncharacteristically in the first half of the season, Labuschagne rediscovered his touch against Lancashire - and boy he looked unstoppable. In a game that saw no side pass 200 in 4 attempts, Labuschagne top-scored for Glamorgan in both the innings. In the first innings, a counter-punching 44 (55) from the Australian turned out to be the highest score in the innings, while in the second he struck an even aggressive 63* (72) to help his side successfully chase down 188. The knock will be bittersweet for Labuschagne, though, as the County Championship will now take a one-month break, just days after he rediscovered his form.
Michael Neser - 3/46 and 4/53
Michael Neser continued being the best overseas recruit of the season as the Australian added another 7 wickets to his tally to further strengthen his case for national selection. On a bowler-friendly wicket that had variable bounce, Neser stuck to his guns and bowled stump-to-stump to make life hell for the Lancashire batters. 5 of the Queenslander’s 7 wickets were either bowled or LBW, and his immaculate accuracy turned out to be unplayable on a Sophia Gardens wicket that batsmen loathed.
Matt Parkinson - 1/22
The Sophia Gardens wicket being seam-friendly meant that Matt Parkinson bowled no more than 6 overs across two innings. The leggie did make the breakthrough in the second innings, dismissing opener Joe Cooke, but ultimately had all but no impact in the contest. He would certainly be hoping for more balanced wickets as the season progresses.
Saqib Mahmood - 3/34 & 1/27
Young Saqib Mahmood continued to impress as he backed up his 5-fer against Yorkshire with a three-fer against a very strong Glamorgan batting unit. A bowler programmed to thrive on batsmen friendly wickets, Mahmood adapted to the conditions in no time and struck the very first blow in Glamorgan’s first innings by castling David Lloyd. He did not have quite the same impact in the second dig, but it goes unsaid that he already has made heads turn with his fearless displays. As things stand, Mahmood has 23 wickets at 21.56 this season.
Other notable names: Keaton Jennings (3 and 12), Liam Livingstone (17 and 14)
Kent vs Northamptonshire
Ollie Robinson - 120
Ollie Robinson released a statement on Twitter last week, clarifying that he was not the Ollie Robinson who everyone wanted a piece of, but he also sent out an even better statement on the field. Opening the batting, the wicket-keeper struck a stunning 120 off just 119 balls to further add to his reputation as one of the brightest prospects in the country. Not just with the bat, Robinson also was mighty impressive with the gloves, taking 8 catches, including a few ludicrous ones like this. The only Robinson whose name is not tainted, Ollie is growing from strength to strength with every passing match; he now is the highest run-getter for Kent this season.
Darren Stevens - 5/73 and 2/42; 3*
Ollie Robinson and friends denied Darren Stevens the opportunity to bat, but the 45-year-old youngster, nevertheless, like he always does, made batsmen dance to his tunes with the ball in hand. Taking the new ball, Stevens made frequent inroads to claim his second five-wicket haul of the season. The veteran remarkably now has taken 26 wickets in the ongoing season at a scarcely believable average of 19.65.
Other notable names: Joe Denly (63)
Derbyshire vs Warwickshire
Ben McDermott - 2 & 21
In England to play the Royal London Cup, McDermott got his first taste of County cricket - and it turned out to be a humbling experience. The Australian was dismissed cheaply twice, prodding the ball to third slip on both occasions. He did, however, show glimpses of his potential in the second innings, where he struck 3 fours in 4 deliveries to put the Warwickshire bowlers under pressure. A learning curve for the youngster.
Matt Critchley - 5 & 0; 0/41 & 0/9
The most impressive youngster of the 2021 County Championship had a game to forget. For the first time in the season, Critchley went wicketless with the ball but worse, also scored a total of just 5 runs in the match. The 24-year-old synced with the drab mood of the rest of the Derbyshire players as his underwhelming showing contributed to his side slumping to a 191-run defeat.
Other notable names: Pieter Malan (0 and 0)
Essex vs Nottinghamshire
Ben Duckett - 2 & 16
Nottinghamshire’s clash against Essex confirmed the suspicion that Duckett’s 177* versus Worcestershire was a false dawn as the aggressive left-hander endured a fourth failure in a row. Coming on the back of scores of 4 and 23, Duckett needed to step up in the absence of Haseeb Hameed but the southpaw got caught in his crease in both the innings to head into the month-long break in underwhelming fashion. The twin failures in Chelmsford reduced Duckett’s average for the season to 33.83.
Simon Harmer - 4/71 and 0/11
After uncharacteristically going wicketless three innings in a row, Simon Harmer did Simon Harmer things against Notts. At 171/3 Notts looked on course to post a 350+ total, but, after Peter Siddle broke the Lyndon James-Joe Clarke partnership, Harmer ran through the lower-order to restrict the Notts to 292. Despite blowing hot and cold, Harmer is currently the joint second-highest wicket-taker in the championship, with 38 scalps in nine matches.
Other notable names: Alastair Cook (5), Peter Siddle (3/87 and 1/10), Dane Paterson (0/34), Tom Westley (71)
Worcestershire vs Durham
Cameron Bancroft - 18 and 46*
Cameron Bancroft, all season, has threatened to post a big one, and the Western Australian opener looked at his very best in the second innings against Worcestershire. The right-hander, rather disappointingly, nicked one to first slip in the first innings, but made amends in the second by asserting his dominance to take Durham home. Bancroft’s unbeaten 46 in the second was his most fluent innings of the season, a knock that included seven fours and a six. Like Labuschagne, Bancroft too would be disappointed that the season is now headed towards a month-long break.
David Bedingham - 121
Find of the season for Durham, South Africa-born David Bedingham struck his third ton of the season to soar back to the top of the run-scoring charts. Compact as ever, Bedingham, batting at No.5, inhibited a potential collapse, blunted the Worcestershire attack and then got on top of the bowlers to help Durham take a 250-run lead. Bedingham’s effort proved enough for Durham to register a handsome 10-wicket victory.
Yorkshire vs Sussex
Travis Head - 14 & 18
The month-long break couldn’t have come at a better time for Travis Head, who at the moment cannot seem to put a foot right. After posting scores of 1 and 0 against the Northants, the South Australia skipper endured two more failures to establish himself as the worst overseas signing of the season. The southpaw has now scored just 70 runs across 7 innings this season at an average of 10.00, with his highest score being a mere 20.
Dawid Malan - 199
Dawid Malan saw himself get castled on 199, but, barring a moment of madness, the southpaw was flawless. Playing his first county game of the season, Malan showed exactly why the English management perhaps moved on from him too soon in the longest format. Sussex had posted a competitive first-innings total of 313, but Malan batted like a man on a mission. In his 289-run ball stay, the southpaw struck 22 fours and 2 sixes and manipulated the field to perfection. Should he have scored just one more run, Malan would have joined the likes of Don Bradman, Virat Kohli and Wally Hammond in achieving a special feat - scoring back-to-back first-class double hundreds.
Dom Bess - 0/28 and 4/51
11 overs was all Dom Bess bowled in the first innings, but in the second, though, he did what was asked of him: to spin the side to victory. With Yorkshire needing to take 10 wickets on the final day to win the contest, Bess remarkably dismissed three of the top four batters - all well set - to carve the Sussex batting line-up open. That paved way for Willey to wreak havoc, post which Yorkshire ran through the lower-order. A hugely impressive performance, and a much-needed game for Bess.
Other notable names: Gary Ballance (77)