Bob Willis Trophy: Stone & Coad get delayed county cricket season off to bright start

The match between Leicestershire and Lancashire was played at a picturesque, but empty, New Road in Worcestershire

England’s Olly Stone took 4-39 as Warwickshire bowled out Northants for 142 in the Bob Willis Trophy on the long-awaited first day of the season.

Yorkshire’s Ben Coad then weighed in with 4-20 to help bowl out Durham cheaply at Chester-le-Street.

Kent’s Heino Kuhn hit the first century of the county summer, while Middlesex’s Nick Gubbins also made 150 not out.

Gubbins, who did not manage a single first-class century in 2019, led his side to 264-4 against Surrey.

Kuhn’s effort, an unbeaten 140, helped Kent reach 344-6 against 2019 county champions Essex at Chelmsford.

The first two centurions of the new season in this new trophy both came in the South Group, South African Kuhn reaching his first first-class ton for Kent a quarter of an hour ahead of Gubbins reaching three figures against Surrey.

Lancashire captain Dane Vilas maintained last summer’s superb form in the game with Leicestershire – which had been switched for safety reasons to Worcester – but he fell on 90, just short of becoming the day’s third centurion.

Sunday, 12 April was the date when the 2020 County Championship should have got under way to launch the English domestic season, but the coronavirus pandemic meant the start of the campaign had to be delayed.

It has taken a further 111 days to get the season going – in a new red-ball competition featuring all 18 counties split into three regional groups of six.

There had been hope that two of the day’s opening matches – Surrey’s South Group game at home to Middlesex and Warwickshire’s Central Group meeting with Northants – might be played in front of limited 2,500 crowds.

But that option was taken away by the government’s decision on Friday to cancel the various planned pilot events to get crowds back in sports stadiums.

North Group

Coad conceded just 23 runs during his 16.4 overs for Yorkshire

Yorkshire have been touted as favourites to win the North Group after being paired with five of last season’s County Championship Division Two sides, admittedly one of them being promoted Lancashire.

But the Tykes made a solid start, bowling out Durham for just 103 before ending the first day on 84-4, of which Tom Kohler-Cadmore made 41.

Lancashire owed most in their total of 265-6 against Leicestershire at Worcester to a fifth-wicket stand of 130 between Vilas and Steven Croft (63), after Josh Bohannon had earlier made 44.

After being reduced to 97-4 shortly after lunch, Vilas led the way with 14 fours from his 126 deliveries, before edging a drive off Tom Taylor to Hassan Azad at slip.

Azad had earlier failed to hang onto an earlier chance by Vilas on 28, also off Taylor – a costly miss.

Lancashire old boy Haseeb Hameed had a happier first game for his new county Nottinghamshire with 68 on his debut against Derbyshire.

He shared an opening stand of 111 with Chris Nash (59) before Samit Patel (63) helped the Notts tail wag.

From 192-7, Joey Evison (38) and Jake Ball (34) helped their side reach 324 all out, before Derbyshire closed on 9-0.

Central Group

Stone made the headlines for Warwickshire with the first four-wicket haul in the completion named after former Bears fast bowler Willis. But another man making his return after injury, Australian Ryan Sidebottom, took two wickets, while there was one for Tim Bresnan too on his debut for his new team.

Having bowled out Northamptonshire for 142, the Bears slumped to 85-4 before closing on 130-4 thanks to an unbroken 45-run stand between opener Rob Yates (63 not out) and Michael Burgess (30 not out).

It was also slow progress at Bristol, where Gloucestershire reached only 246-8 in 91 overs against Worcestershire – a disappointment for the hosts having been 205-2.

Charlie Morris battled back to finish with 3-35 for the Pears from 20 miserly overs after an earlier 127-run stand between captain Chris Bent and Graeme van Buuren (60).

Somerset paceman Jack Brooks came to the rescue with his side on 189-9 against Glamorgan.

The last man, who has a first-class century to his name (for Yorkshire in a Roses Match), smashed 72 out of a stand of 107 with Steven Davies (81 not out) before returning a catch to Graeme Wagg.

That helped Somerset reach a far healthier 296, Ruaidhri Smith taking 3-41, before Glamorgan saw out the final seven overs of the day on 8-0.

South Group

Gubbins struck 17 fours and one six during his unbeaten knock of 150

Hampshire debutant Ajeet Dale and Mason Crane each took three wickets to help bowl out Sussex for 176, of which George Garton made an unbeaten 54.

England squad member Ollie Robinson then took two wickets as Hampshire closed on 77-4.

Middlesex owed most to the unbeaten Gubbins at The Kia Oval but he enjoyed his most prolific partnership with Max Holden, who made 48 in a second-wicket stand of 111, while the ageless Rikki Clarke took 2-33 for Surrey.

But the day’s best collective batting performance was Kent piling up 344-6 against Essex.

From 23-3, Ollie Robinson (78) put on 150 with Kuhn, who was then further backed by solid efforts from Grant Stewart (37) and 44-year-old Darren Stevens (36).

BBC News