April 14, 2018
1.Hampshire batsman hits rapid 75 before missing straight ball
2.Four games are washed out without a ball being bowled
The County Championship is not supposed to start with a whimper. Six games played, four called off without a ball bowled, at Headingley, Old Trafford, Edgbaston and Canterbury, and Middlesex against Northants curtailed by bad light.
The one game to last the day was at Southampton, where Hampshire met Worcestershire, and James Vince did what James Vince does best.
Fresh from a winter where he beguiled and frustrated, he beguiled and frustrated again – with the first fifty of the season and not a chance to slip, before missing a straight one from Steve Magoffin and being bowled, bails spurting in opposite directions, five minutes before lunch. His rollicking 75, at less than a run a ball, came after he had turned down Trevor Bayliss’s offer of an early-season rest. It was an innings to neither quash the doubters nor silence his supporters. To be continued.
The other fifty of the innings came not from Hampshire’s two big-name winter signings, Sam Northeast, out driving for 17, or Hashim Amla, burly in early-season layers. Instead it was Gareth Berg who shepherded the tail during his unbeaten 75.
Joe Leach, Worcestershire’s captain whose bowling led them out of Division Two last season, finished with four for 42. Worcestershire then lost two wickets in the evening gloaming.
At Lord’s, a Middlesex line-up missing the familiar faces of Dawid Malan, Nick Gubbins, Eoin Morgan and Steve Eskinazi, struggled early on against Northamptonshire. The debutant Robbie White made an unhappy duck, but Paul Stirling and John Simpson took them from 63 for four towards respectability before play came to a premature close despite the efforts of the Lord’s floodlights.
Their wonderfully named Australian, Hilton Cartwright, on his Championship debut, hit the first six of the season.
For Lancashire, it was the first time there had been a washout at Old Trafford on the first day of the season since 1999 – when the Championship also started on 13 April. At Headingley, meanwhile, where a single white rose was placed in the commentary box in memory of Dave Callaghan, conditions were, in the words of the director of cricket Martyn Moxon, “grim”. A sopping outfield means the game is unlikely to start at 11am on Saturday
At Edgbaston, Warwickshire took the opportunity of the rainy day to reveal that their captain, Jeetan Patel, has signed a contract to stay in Birmingham until the end of 2019. In the words of Ashley Giles, Warwickshire’s director of cricket: “He’s arguably the best overseas player in the country and has been for some years.” The Championship lives to fight another day – if it can only get on the pitch.