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Thursday 23 August 2018 17:11, UK
With England’s top-order Test problems on-going, firm focus fell on the form of batsmen in this week’s County Championship clashes.
England's top-order are on a slippery slope, so could Salt be the answer? The 21-year-old found an unlikely ally after blasting 14 fours and five sixes in a powerful 148 against Derbyshire in Ian Botham, who said: "A right-hand, left-hand combination would help England at the top because of the threat Ishant Sharma poses to left-handers. Why not go completely left-field? Young Philip is an aggressive batsman - someone who comes in with no baggage. Why not try it?"
Also mentioned in despatches for future Test honours, Mitchell weighed in with a season's best 178 against struggling Yorkshire - rather putting Adam Lyth and Harry Brook in the shade - swelling his season's average to 46 and sharing a new second-wicket record stand of 294 with Moeen Ali in the process. More of him in a minute.
The 23-year-old rammed home Warwickshire's advantage after the bowlers skittled Gloucestershire for 127, striking a career-best 137 off 233 balls - and sharing an opening stand of 161 with Dominic Sibley. Beats off competition from Kent's Sean Dickson (134no) this time around by dint of getting the chance to bat just once.
Challenged by England to score a shedload of runs after being discarded following the winter tour, Vince has responded with a warehouse-full - his scores of 74 and 147 in Hampshire's crushing 270-run win over Nottinghamshire earning him a recall to the Test squad. For the record, he now has 847 Championship runs to his name at 56.46 apiece.
Hats off to wicketkeeper Vasconcelos, who rather stole the show against Middlesex with a brilliant 140 - almost 100 more than any other batsman managed and his first century for the county. The 20-year-old, born in Johannesburg, rode his luck a little but struck 20 fours in a vital knock before following up with a second-innings 52 to top-score for Northants once more. Tough to take, but he ended up on the losing side.
It has been nothing but a stunning week for Moeen, who struck a brilliant 219 against Yorkshire before rattling off 6-49 in the second innings to cap a stirring all-round display in only his second Championship match of the summer. Should he fail to catch the eye of national selector Ed Smith, he'll prove a vital cog in Worcestershire's battle against the drop.
Vasconcelos reckoned it was doing a bit during his 140 and that was in no small part down to the skill of Harris, who rattled off 7-83 in the first dig against Northants before bolstering Middlesex's second innings (following on) with an unbeaten 79 having come in with his side in some trouble at 166-6, helping to set a target that proved some 31 runs out of Northants' reach.
With England firmly fixed on Adil Rashid - especially if he can keep picking up the wicket of Virat Kohli - the spinner's spot seems sewn up for now, which remains tough on Jack Leach in particular. The Somerset slowie helped himself to 10-112 in the victory over Essex off the back of career-best figures of 8-85 in the second innings, twirling through no less than 48 overs.
Run out by compatriot Kragg Braithwaite in the first innings, Edwards quickly hit back by removing the opener on his way to figures of 6-50 off 16 overs - his initial burst of three wickets in six overs reducing Notts to 46-5. With a sizeable first-innings lead in the bank, Hampshire had too much firepower as Kyle Abbott and Liam Dawson picked up four apiece after Edwards nipped out Samit Patel for nine.
Thomas stood out as Kent regained their momentum with an eight-wicket victory over Leicestershire, the 6ft 4in seamer following up first-innings figures of 4-35 with his first five-wicket haul - decimating the middle-order second time around to claim 5-91.
The South African's 6-57 clinched the most dramatic of victories for Surrey over Lancashire - the Oval outfit maintaining their trophy charge with a six-run win - taking his wicket-haul to 33 at 14 apiece. At 203-5 chasing 271 for victory, Lancashire looked well set only for Morkel to produce a three-wicket salvo before returning to snuff out a counter-attack from Graham Onions and seal victory with the wicket of Matt Parkinson, thanks to a superb short-leg catch by sub Matt Parkinson.
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