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Hales Storms Durham to Defeat

Tuesday provided two thrillers in the NatWest t20 Blast. At Northampton, Warwickshire won by 2 runs as the hosts narrowly failed to chase down 172 for nine, while at Southampton, Hampshire were five short of Kent’s total of 159 for six. Shahid Afridi took four for 26, but strangely wasn’t used in the run chase, when he might have come in with 13 balls left and 22 required. There was just one game on Wednesday, where Nottinghamshire were again in good form with the bat, reaching 210 for eight before the rain came between the innings and ended the match.
Thursday’s fixtures saw an easy win for Hampshire over Middlesex, where Ian Holland and Thomas Barber made their debuts, each taking a wicket. Lancashire were beaten after losing too many early wickets in their chase at Northampton. Derbyshire run a tense run chase at Leeds with two balls to spare, as skipper Gary Wilson hit 33 not out off 16 balls to see his side home after Yorkshire had scored 180 for five. Thomas Wood made 9 on his debut for the visitors. Rain restricted Glamorgan’s run chase to just five overs after Gloucestershire scored 150 for nine. The Welsh outfit was on 32 for two by then and lost out by 5 runs according to Duckworth/Lewis. And at Hove, Tymal Mills set up Sussex’s easy victory over Surrey when he took three for 20.
Friday was a busy day, and there was a cracker at Chester-le-Street. In-form Paul Collingwood made 88 not out off 54 balls to help Durham to 157 for three. No one for Yorkshire could make the same sort of contribution, and by the last over the visitors needed 10 for victory but fell one short. It was almost as close at Leicester where Lancashire made 173 for five, and despite Mark Cosgrove’s 77 not out the hosts finished on 169 for three. The Parkinson twins lined up against each other in this game, Matt triumphing over Callum. Warwickshire were beaten by 5 runs at Edgbaston after Worcestershire scored 190 for seven, having been given a flying start by John Hastings (51 in 20 balls, including five sixes).
Surrey’s loss by 6 runs at The Oval was comparatively emphatic. Aneurin Donald led the way for Glamorgan with 76 off 40 balls, but none of the Surrey batsmen could make a significant score. Derbyshire compiled 181 for seven, but were still 8 runs short of Nottinghamshire’s total where Thomas Moores made 57. Gloucestershire were hurried to victory over Somerset by a 12-ball 33 from Kieran Noema-Barnett that included four sixes. Essex chased down Hampshire’s 168 for six with just two balls to spare at Southampton. George Bailey was the mainstay of the hosts’ innings, making 89 not out, but Adam Wheater and Varun Chopra gave Essex early impetus so they needed just 21 from the last three overs. At Canterbury, Sussex chased 163 for nine, winning by five wickets with an over to spare.
There were just two games on the Saturday. Durham’s 183 for seven was never likely to be enough – especially when Alex Hales hit a blistering 95 in reply off just 30 balls, featuring nine fours and nine sixes (the equal most in an innings this year), and the highest strike rate this summer (316.66). Hales is now the tournament’s leading runscorer, with 445, just ahead of Wayne Madsen (433) and Riki Wessels (425). The fact that Hales scores his runs at a strike rate of 212 puts him ahead of anyone with 200 or more runs so far.  Cameron Steel was hit for 60 runs in his four overs, the most conceded by any bowler this season. Nottinghamshire won with five wickets and 37 balls in hand. Ben Duckett gave a timely reminder of his skills as he hit 92 off 54 for Northamptonshire to help them up to 195 for four, which proved too much for Worcestershire, who fielded two debutants in George Scrimshaw and Alex Hepburn. Scrimshaw had a painful baptism as his only over went for 19, while Hepburn’s two cost him 18. And in the only game on Sunday, Somerset chased Surrey’s 157 for six with ten balls and four wickets in hand.
The position is becoming clearer in the race for the play-offs. In the North Group, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire are joint top with 14 points from 11 games, just one point ahead of Derbyshire and Warwickshire. Yorkshire and Lancashire are two points behind them. In the South Group, Glamorgan are top on 14 points after 11 games, with Somerset and Gloucestershire two behind, though the latter have a game in hand. Then came Hampshire 11 from 11, Surrey 10 from 11, and Sussex 10 from 10. Even bottom-placed Essex, with 8 from 10, could still catch up – it should be a dramatic finale. Among the bowlers, Clint McKay and Jeetan Patel are the top wicket-takers, each with 16.
Before the Specsavers County Championship got back under way on the Sunday, Essex had the chance to play some red-ball cricket again as they took on the West Indians at the beginning of their tour. The tourists batted first and made 338 for eight declared, with Roston Chase top-scoring with 81. Essex replied with 185 for nine declared, Paul Walter making a career-best 68 not out. Kemar Roach was the most successful bowler, taking five for 43 and blowing away the top order. There was only time for the West Indians to score 135 for four before the match ended as a draw.