COUNTY ROUND-UP: Students fare better in spring sunshine

The second batch of MCC University fixtures began across the country today under predominantly blue skies and glorious spring sunshine.

The university sides had again come in for criticism after a poor opening round showing last week - with questions again asked over the first-class status of the matches - but were today able to hit back at their critics to some extent.

Leicestershire were bowled out for 303 by Cambridge MCCU at Fenner’s as Zain Shahzad, a 23 year-old seam bowler originally from Sialkot in Pakistan, took three wickets and skipper Alasdair Pollock a couple of early ones. At one stage, Leicestershire were 22 for three, but new captain Mark Cosgrove, batting at number four, hit a typically rambunctious 92 off 90 balls to begin a recovery.

However, more wickets fell and when Cosgrove was seventh man out the scoreboard read only 161. Fortunately for the visitors, Jigar Naik was on hand to lift the total. He made 75 – his fifth first-class fifty – and added 88 with Ben Raine (44) for the eighth-wicket and 49 with Ollie Freckingham (15) for the ninth.

Cambridge then also lost early wickets in their reply. Atif Sheikh dispensed with Jamie Abbott, while Raine picked up Andrew Wright and Philip Hughes in relatively quick succession to make it 16 for three. Joe Tetley and Harry Ellison did manage a brief rally, but Tom Wells dismissed Tetley for 21 and the students closed on 64 for four.

Nottinghamshire could muster just 308 against Loughborough MCCU despite a century from opener Steven Mullaney. Brendan Taylor, asked to open, made just nine on his Notts debut before Mullaney shared partnerships of 78 with Alex Hales (46) and exactly 100 with James Taylor prior to departing for 118. His was the first of three wickets for Robert McKinley who helped wrap up the tail, leaving Will Gidman stranded on 28 at number eight. Loughborough then closed on 36 for one, with Harry Gurney removing Mark Best for four in the 10th over.

Zimbabwean Malcolm Lake shored up an otherwise dismal Oxford MCCU batting effort at The Parks with a maiden half-century. Steven Finn and Tim Murtagh had reduced the home side to 15 for four after they had opted to bat, but Lake at least ensured that his side would reach three figures. He was eighth man out for 66 off 81 balls, with Oxford all out for 124 soon afterwards. Finn and Murtagh ended with three wickets apiece, while James Harris (2-35), Tom Helm (1-34) and Paul Stirling (1-0) were the other wicket-takers.

The home side’s bowlers, though, fought back and had Middlesex 98 for six after 44 overs at stumps. Openers Nick Gubbins and Sam Robson began well by adding 54, but a collapse of five for 18 followed Robson’s departure. Seamers Abidine Sakande and Sam Weller picked up a brace of wickets each, while Lake and Jack Grundy also chipped in.

Gloucestershire racked up 377 for six before declaring against Cardiff MCCU, who then closed on 18 for one. Openers Will Tavare and Chris Dent each hit half-centuries and shared 94 prior to Dent’s departure for 50. The middle-order all got starts – overseas player Peter Handscomb making 32, wicket-keeper Gareth Roderick 28 and Ian Cockbain 39 – before new skipper Geraint Jones took over and ended unbeaten on 72 with James Fuller on 43 off only 31 balls.

Centuries from Keaton Jennings and Scott Borthwick allowed Durham to cruise to 448 for four before declaring against Durham MCCU. Captain Mark Stoneman fell early, but Jennings and Borthwick put on 186 for the second-wicket. Borthwick was finally removed by Sri Lankan Dimitri Ratnayake (3-72) for 104, but Jennings remained and shared further partnerships with Calum Macleod (67) and Paul Collingwood (55 not out off 42 balls) to finish on 177. Durham MCCU then closed on 39 without loss after 13 overs.

Leeds/Bradford MCCU closed on 46 for none after restricting Yorkshire to 329 for nine at Headingley. Former Yorkshire left-arm seamer Alex Lilley made the most of playing against his former employers and took four for 65 off 20 overs to lead a spirited student bowling display. Opener Alex Lees made 63 for the defending county champions, while Richard Pyrah and Andrew Hodd also passed 50 and added 116 for the sixth-wicket to arrest a mid-innings wobble.

Daniel Grummitt

Cricket Writer at World Cricket Badger
Daniel first began writing about cricket in 2011, having been a fan of the game ever since his Grandad introduced him to it at the age of 10.

He worked for CricketWorld.com for almost three years, leading their county and domestic cricket coverage and contributing to a book about the 2012 ICC World Twenty20, before joining the hugely ambitious World Cricket Badger early in 2014.

The first Test that he remembers watching was on Channel 4 - back before the ECB marginalised potential future fans by selling the TV rights to Sky Sports - when England beat Pakistan by an innings and nine runs at Lord’s.

Besides a passion for domestic cricket, he also has an unexplainable interest in all things Zimbabwe cricket!

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