Ben Stokes criticises umpiring decision in County Championship

Ben Stokes during Durham training earlier this month
Ben Stokes during Durham training earlier this month

England Test captain Ben Stokes questioned a piece of County Championship umpiring on social media as resurgent Sussex saw off Gloucestershire to move top of Division Two.

Stokes is set to return to action for Durham next month – likely against Lancashire at Blackpool on May 17 – as he gears up for his return to full all-rounder status in the first Test of the summer against West Indies on July 10.

But he has shown previously that he is a keen follower of the Championship on social media, famously deciding to select spinner Shoaib Bashir for the Test team on the basis of a short clip of the Somerset youngster bowling to Sir Alastair Cook last summer.

This time, he reacted to a clip of the Sussex batsman Tom Alsop being given out lbw to Gloucestershire left-arm spinner Zafar Gohar with the comment “closer to hitting leg slip on the foot than the stumps” and a facepalm emoji, to suggest that the turning delivery would have missed leg stump and should not have been given out. Stokes was in Manchester, where he is waiting to fly to Florida with his family to support his daughter, who is competing in a cheerleading competition, having been delayed by a visa issue.

Fortunately for Sussex, the decision Stokes appeared to criticise did not prevent them securing a four-wicket victory in a jittery chase of 144, which takes them top of Division Two, nine points ahead of Middlesex, the only other second tier team to win in this round of matches.

Gloucestershire, who have not won a Championship match since 2022, fought hard on the final day, with Gohar leading the resistance, but it was not enough. His 52, in a partnership of 87 with Miles Hammond (77), helped set Sussex 144, which never looked a winning score. But Gohar, who took the new ball, picked up five for 56 to keep Gloucestershire’s hopes alive. Sussex’s Indian maestro Cheteshwar Pujara, who made an unbeaten 44 to steer the home side to their first victory of the season.

In Division One, champions Surrey also recorded their first win of the season. They picked up the final five Kent wickets they required for victory, although not without considerable resistance from the hosts’ lower order, including a 147-ball vigil from Matt Parkinson. Dan Worrall was Surrey’s spearhead, picking up four for 31, while Cameron Steel continued his sensational start to the season with three for 38. The leg-spinner is the unlikely leader of the Championship wicket-taking charts with 20 in a season so far dominated by the bat (thanks to the use of the Dukes ball in the first two rounds of action).

The first two rounds of the season drew just one result in 18 matches, and the poor spring weather contributed to four more draws this time, with escapes for Derbyshire at home to Leicestershire and Glamorgan at Northampton. There were just nine overs on the final day at Taunton, where Joe Clarke’s unbeaten 213 was the highest-ever second innings score by a County Championship wicketkeeper, and guided Nottinghamshire to safety against Somerset. And at the Utilita Bowl, rain and a flat pitch contrived to set up a draw between Hampshire and Warwickshire.

Meanwhile, Stokes’s Durham team-mate, Scott Boland, has been ruled out for more than two months with a foot injury he picked up on his debut for the county, and has been replaced for the next six matches by fellow Australian Peter Siddle.