It is mid-April, the weather has largely been awful and the County Championship season is underway – much to the delight of seam bowlers across the country!
Conditions have dictated that it was essentially green-seamers all round for the opening round of fixtures with just one century scored across the five matches in which a ball was actually bowled.
Credit must go to Liams Livingstone and Dawson as the only spinners to take wickets in either division – presumably having had to forcibly remove the ball from the hands of a medium-pacer – but neither make our first county team of the week as the seamers dominate…
Rajasthan vs Kolkata
April 18, 2018, 3:00pm
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Daniel Bell-Drummond (Kent)
With the new ball doing all sorts across the country, it was not a good week to be an opening batsman. Having been dismissed for four in the first innings, Bell-Drummond made 61 off just 63 balls in the second. A rare highlight for Kent as they slipped to a five-wicket defeat to Gloucestershire.
Benny Howell (Gloucestershire)
Having been trapped lbw for a third-ball duck in the first innings, in any other week Howell would be seen as an unusual choice to make our team of the week. However, with Daryl Mitchell’s 35 the best any opener in Division One could muster and, Bell-Drummond aside, no other opener in the second tier able to reach 50 either, Howell’s unbeaten 52 in Gloucestershire’s successful chase against Kent gets him the nod.
Ian Bell (Warwickshire)
James Vince (Hampshire, captain)
After a decidedly mixed winter for England, Vince showed all of his class with a fine 74-ball 75 on the opening day of the campaign. A good week for the Hampshire captain was capped off as he took the catch to seal a comprehensive win over Worcestershire.
Ben Brown (Sussex, wicketkeeper)
Having been appointed Sussex’s new club captain prior to the start of the season, Brown made the ideal start as he hit a patient 91 against Warwickshire and also snaffled four catches. He takes the gloves ahead of Tim Ambrose who is unfortunate to miss out after scoring 81 and taking six catches in the same game.
David Wiese (Sussex)
Wiese came in at nine for Sussex at Edgbaston but after scoring the only hundred of the opening round of fixtures, he has earned himself a promotion to the dizzy heights of No 6. The all-rounder scored 106 at a shade over a run-a-ball as the visitors racked up 374 and also chipped in with four first-innings wickets.
James Harris (Middlesex)
Middlesex made a winning start in their bid to return to the top flight at the first time of asking and Harris was instrumental to that. He hit an unbeaten 46 to help the home side past 200 and then produced a brilliant spell with the bowl, taking 5-9 in 5.2 overs as Northants were skittled for 71. He wasn’t done there though and added another four wickets in Northants’ second innings to help Middlesex wrap up victory inside three days.
Kyle Abbott (Hampshire)
Seven wickets in the match sees the South African edge out his Hampshire team-mate Gareth Berg (75no and three wickets) to take his place in our XI. After three in the first innings, Abbott dismantled the Worcestershire top order in their second and struck a more-than-useful 51 with the bat as well.
Olly Stone (Warwickshire)
Jake Ball (Nottinghamshire)
After playing the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, Ball became the invisible man for the rest of the tour and was left out of the squad for the New Zealand series. However, in county cricket with conditions providing more assistance to the bowlers, he remains a quality performer. He removed Haseeb Hameed cheaply and tore through Lancashire’s lower order in their first innings at Old Trafford, taking 5-43, and followed it up with 4-14 in the hosts’ remarkable second innings.
Harry Gurney (Nottinghamshire)
Having removed Hameed and Alex Davies late on day three, Gurney set the tone for a manic final morning at Old Trafford when he trapped Keaton Jennings lbw in the first over of the day. From there, Lancashire capitulated from 58-2 to 73 all out and Gurney took 6-25. That was added to his 2-18 in the first innings and although Notts made incredibly hard work of their 10-run chase, the left-armer and his side were able to celebrate a stunning victory in their first game back in Division One.