Although Warwickshire hold the Royal London One-Day Cup, Somerset won the most qualifying games last season and, thanks to Roelof van der Merwe, they won miraculously in their opening game on Friday against Surrey. In their second game on Sunday, they won again, by nine runs, as Sussex’s target was lowered between the showers to 165 from 20 overs.
Van der Merwe this time featured mainly as a left-arm spinner, taking two for 20 from his four overs, although his partner in the record-breaking stand against Surrey, Dean Elgar, scored an unbeaten 131 off 127 balls against Sussex’s underpowered pace attack.
Surrey, last year’s losing finalists, recovered from this year’s opening defeat by comfortably disposing of Glamorgan in Cardiff. The home side’s batting did not amount to much apart from the third-wicket stand of 113 between two former South Africa internationals, their captain Jacques Rudolph and Colin Ingram. Glamorgan’s 239 was the lowest first-innings total of the day in the RLODC, although not as low as that by Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League, where Sam Billings did not contribute to their 67 all out – the lowest first-innings total in 10 years of the IPL.
Several counties, having started the County Championship badly, have perked up now the ball is white. Somerset were one: having lost their first two championship games, they have a different captain and different formula, based on seam, not spin, for the 50-over format.
Derbyshire also reversed a slow start to the championship with a six-wicket win against Northamptonshire, chasing down a target of 308 on the back of a maiden white-ball century by Shiv Thakor, who was England’s Under-19 captain and seemingly destined for the top until, at the start of a u-19 tour of South Africa, he broke a finger which took years to heal.
Now aged 23, he scored 130 off 113 balls as well as being Derbyshire’s most effective seamer with three for 39. No such change of luck though for Leicestershire, who were beaten again, largely by Moeen Ali’s 90 off 87 balls as Worcestershire made their highest one-day total against a county.
Middlesex’s batting strength, on the other hand, did not translate from the championship into the RLODC when they scored only 256 against Gloucestershire’s varied attack in cloudy conditions. The visitors were carried home by Iain Cockbain, with his maiden one-day hundred, and Benny Howell in a partnership of 192 from 26.5 overs, so perfectly paced they won with five balls to spare. Howell, one of the best white-ball all-rounders in county cricket, had earlier taken three for 40 with his large repertoire of medium pace.
Also in the South Group, pugnacious left-hander Ashar Zaidi pulled and punched 72 from only 40 balls for Essex to defeat Hampshire. Another left-hander, Alastair Cook, once England’s ODI as well as Test captain, scored 39 off 47 balls before being bowled by Liam Dawson. Thus the wheel turns: in Cook’s last Test Dawson was on his side, trying to exert control over India as a left-arm spinner.