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Curran departure leads frustrated Stewart to call for IPL cut-off date



Alec Stewart, Surrey’s director of cricket, has lent his weight to calls for the ECB to consider a cut-off date for future call-ups to the IPL, after his team’s early-season plans were thrown “out of the window” due to the last-minute departure of Tom Curran to Kolkata Knight Riders.

Though Curran went unsold at his base price of USD156,000 during the IPL auction in February, his stock as a limited-overs allrounder rose considerably during England’s subsequent ODI series win in New Zealand.

And, when Mitchell Starc was ruled out of this year’s campaign due to a shin injury, KKR swooped for Curran in a USD253,000 deal. Barely a week later, he made his debut against Chennai Super Kings at Chepauk, and has impressed his new employers with three wickets in two appearances to date.

While Stewart did not begrudge his player either the pay packet or the high-pressure experience that he accepts will help mould Curran into a better player, he bridled at the timing of his departure, just days before the start of a County Championship campaign in which he had been expected to be a pivotal player.

Curran’s departure was one of three high-profile call-ups from the county circuit this month, preceding Yorkshire’s twin losses of David Willey and Liam Plunkett to Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Daredevils respectively, and the subject was the hot topic of discussion at last week’s crisis meeting of county coaches at Edgbaston.

“It’s far from ideal losing Tom so late,” Stewart said. “I hope in time this will be looked at. The IPL is not going anywhere – I fully understand players wanting to be part of it because, one, it’s a good competition and, second, it helps your bank balance.

“The problem is when you get the phone calls I got for Tom, and Martyn Moxon [Yorkshire’s director of cricket] got for Willey and Plunkett. Your planning goes out of the window.”

“Tom will come back a better player so I don’t have a real issue with it, but the issue is who controls the players – are they our players or are they IPL players?”

Alec Stewart, Surrey director of cricket

The fact that the IPL overlaps with the start of the county season has long been a bone of contention for the ECB, who were resistant to allowing their players to take part in the tournament for most of the first decade of its existence.

But now, having relaxed their attitude towards English involvement, an alternative problem is rearing its head – given that the players’ efforts to get ready for the English season make them obvious oven-ready replacements for IPL franchises seeking to replace injured players.

“All I think needs to be looked at is a cut-off, ideally a month before the championship starts,” Stewart said. “If you get picked up in the auction, that’s fine – it’s at the end of February, so that’s six or seven weeks before the start of the season.

“Then everyone knows that, even if you don’t get picked up in the auction, there’s a three- or four-week window, but once that has gone, you can’t then go and play.”

Stewart believes that the matter has been complicated by blurred lines of communication between the players, the counties, the ECB and the franchises, and says that a redrafting of the No Objection Certificate is the only way to prevent the situation being presented to the counties as a fait accompli.

“How it should work is that IPL phone the ECB to ask about a player, and the ECB talk to the county. That’s how it is meant to work – but it doesn’t, though, because the franchise will ring the player or agent direct to see if they are interested and, once they are told the money, they always are – so you have to let them go.”

“That needs to go on the No Objection Certificate, so that the IPL know and the franchises know that’s the deal and the players understand as well. Otherwise it leaves us in a bit of a mess.

“Tom will come back a better player so I don’t have a real issue with it, but the issue is who controls the players – are they our players or are they IPL players? They are under contract [to the counties] for 12 months, so I would argue they are ours. We should have more control than just saying ‘I guess you are going then’.”

A further complication stems from what Stewart believes is insufficient compensation to those counties who lose out when their star players are snapped up by the IPL – an issue that came to light when Plunkett, who is on an ECB white-ball contract, was approached by Delhi earlier this month.

“We have discovered that the ECB have been receiving 10% of the overall contract a player gets from IPL for a number of years and this year it is 20%,” he said. “I hope that it will now be looked at – now that we are aware that this has been happening, which we weren’t before.

“Should the ECB be keeping that? Or should that money come back to the county, who are the ones who miss out? I personally believe all that money should come back to the county if you are not an ECB contracted player because of the money that has been invested.”

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Ryan Higgins shows his class as Ben Stokes finds his bowling boots



Gloucestershire 315 for 7 (Higgins 105, Roderick 67) v Durham

A maiden first-class century from Ryan Higgins put Gloucestershire in a decent position on the opening day of the Specasavers County Championship match with Durham at Cheltenham.

The 23-year-old former Middlesex all-rounder was out in the last over of the day for 105 as his side ran up 315 for seven after winning the toss. Miles Hammond (51) and Gareth Roderick (67) were the other main contributors.

Chris Rushworth and Ben Stokes each claimed three of the wickets, Stokes beginning with a seven-over spell that brought him 2 for 10. But Durham’s other England bowler Mark Wood was off the field having physiotherapy during the afternoon and, although he returned to the field, he bowled only six overs in the day.

Stokes was the star of the early exchanges, generating pace and bounce from the Chapel End after coming on first change.

He pinned Chris Dent lbw for 19 and had Benny Howell taken at gully off a sharply lifting delivery for four after Gloucestershire had elected to bat in bright sunshine.

In between the two wickets Stokes struck James Bracey a painful blow on an elbow. After treatment the 21-year-old batsman headed off to hospital for a more extensive examination.

Hammond, already a centurion at the Festival, again looked in fine form, putting on 40 with Dent for the first wicket. The left-hander was unbeaten on 36 at lunch, which was taken with Gloucestershire 80 for two off 28 overs.

Hammond went on to a half-century off 97 balls, with 9 fours. But he fell early in the afternoon session, bowled by Rushworth, who beat his defensive shot.

Roderick survived a couple of blows to the helmet on the lively pitch to post fifty off 93 deliveries, with 8 fours, and shared a fourth-wicket stand of 107 with Higgins to put their side on top.

Tea was taken at 218 for three, with Higgins having brought up his half-century off 67 balls, hitting six fours. It was an untimely interval for Roderick, who in the first over after the resumption fell lbw to Salisbury on the back foot.

Higgins went past his previous best score of 63 and set his sights on three figures. The injured Bracey returned to help add 64 before departing to the second new ball, an lbw victim for Rushworth.

Kieran Noema-Barnett fell cheaply to the same bowler, but Higgins punched the air at reaching his ton off 141 balls, having increased his boundary count to 12.

He was caught at backward point off what proved the final delivery of the day to his intense frustration, Stokes claiming a third wicket. He ended the day with three for 40 from an impressive 18.4 overs, while Rushworth had three for 82 off 20.

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Surrey dominate as green Trent Bridge pitch backfires



Surrey 223 for 1 (Burns 97*, Stoneman 93) lead Nottinghamshire 210 (Morkel 4-60) by 13 runs

Your front lawn may be the colour of straw but the well-watered cricket fields of England remain a luxuriant green, even down to the pitch for the clash of first and second in the Championship.

It was perhaps not what you would expect to see in the third week of July in a summer as scorching as this one but from Nottinghamshire’s standpoint there was logic behind their instructions to the groundsman. No team had accrued more bowling points in the first eight matches of the season and with Stuart Broad and Jake Ball available it was clear where they considered their best chance of winning lay.

There were two or three flies in the ointment, however; bluebottle-sized ones, in fact. First of all, Steve Birks’s verdant strip is as close to the boundary on the Bridgford Road side of the ground as any of Trent Bridge’s Championship pitches, so close that a judiciously placed nudge brings four.

Second, this Surrey side contains the two most prolific batsmen in the top division so far in Rory Burns and Ollie Pope.

And third, with the kind of early cloud cover that has not been seen for several weeks, there was never much likelihood that Surrey would not bowl first, which meant that a Nottinghamshire batting line-up short on experience would be exposed to Jade Dernbach, Sam Curran, Morne Morkel and Rikki Clarke in the most testing atmospheric conditions, while Broad, back in action after recovering from a sore ankle, could only preen his new haircut in the dressing room. As calculated risks go, this one seemed to have a decent chance of backfiring spectacularly.

And so it did. Steven Mullaney, the Nottinghamshire captain, was out to the second ball of the day, edging Dernbach into the wicketkeeper’s gloves, and even a solitary batting point would have eluded his side but for an unlikely partnership for the 10th wicket that saw Jake Ball smash Morkel over cover for six and Harry Gurney, a number eleven in cricket’s best traditions, carve out an inventive unbeaten 29, the second biggest score of his career.

Surrey had 42 overs to negotiate themselves but by the time they began the clouds were clearing and the menace the Surrey quartet had been able to generate eluded Broad and company. The excellent Burns, now past 850 runs for the season, needs three more for a third century. Mark Stoneman, at last looking more like the player who scored almost 1,500 runs last summer, emerged from his troubles with a fine 86, taking him past 10,000 in his career. Unless something very different happens on day two, Surrey can already anticipate a handsome lead.

The first five Nottinghamshire wickets fell before lunch, the other five before tea as the ball jagged around. At times it was a struggle even to lay bat on ball, let alone take advantage of the short route to the fence. Of the first six wickets, three were caught at gully, one at slip and one by the wicketkeeper; the other was to an inswinger from Curran that trapped Samit Patel on the back foot.

Surrey’s catching, for the most part, was outstanding. Rikki Clarke, apart from bowling superbly, took one over his head at slip that required an exceptional leap even for a man of his 6ft 4ins; Ryan Patel, on briefly as substitute fielder at gully with Pope needing attention after catching Will Fraine a couple of balls earlier, held a blinder, diving to his right, to dismiss Jake Libby, as Morkel claimed two of his four wickets in three deliveries. Fraine, the former Durham MCCU batsman, acquitted himself pretty well in the circumstances, thrown in for his Championship debut with Chris Nash still sidelined and Ross Taylor’s stint here finished.

Some 22 points separated these sides at the start of play. Right now the gap feels wider than that and Surrey might well be about to put themselves out of reach.

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Sussex plot haphazard route to promotion-chasing victory



Sussex 327 (Wells 71, Hogan 4-39, Lawlor 3-59) vs Glamorgan

Sussex, attempting to boost their promotion ambitions with a third straight win against bottom of the table Glamorgan, needed a spirited last wicket partnership between Jofra Archer and Danny Briggs to gain the upper hand on the opening day of their day-night Specsavers County Championship Division Two fixture at Hove.

Sussex had the better of the opening session but the Glamorgan bowlers proved tenacious and took five wickets in a 20-over spell, assisted by a pink ball that swung after lunch. Sussex, however, have a Manx cat’s tail and the partnership of 61 between Archer (19) and Briggs (46) saw them to a third batting point for passing 300.

Openers Luke Wells and Phil Salt built a decent foundation to the innings, with an opening stand of 73. Salt was in particularly impressive form, striking eight fours in his 52-ball 48 before he was dismissed by a fine delivery from Michael Hogan, which straightened and lifted to have him caught behind in the 19th over.

Sussex were still well set at 114 for 1 at lunch. But they lost Tom Haines to the first delivery after the interval and the Glamorgan bowlers remained on top for the rest of the session. Haines, playing his first championship game since scoring a century on debut against Durham at Arundel last month, came into the side for the rested Luke Wright. But, attempting to work the ball to leg, he edged Lukas Carey to Nick Selman at second slip.

Wells, who had been more sedate than his opening partner, leg-glanced Michael Hogan to reach his fifty from 100 deliveries. But Sussex lost third wicket at 139 when the in-form Harry Finch, driving without any foot movement, was caught behind off Hogan. Finch’s solitary run occupied 32 balls. And one run later Wells hooked Hogan to long-leg for 71 from 142 balls.

Michael Burgess was dropped first ball at third slip but Glamorgan were not made to pay for their aberration. The batsman was caught behind having a swing at a wide delivery from Jeremy Lawlor for 13 – the first of three wickets for Lawlor as he acieved a career-best. And it became 171 for 6 when David Wiese swung wildly to give the busy keeper Chris Cooke another catch.

Ben Brown and Chris Jordan revived the faltering innings with a seventh wicket stand of 83 in 24 overs. Both batsmen failed to reach deserved half-centuries. Brown (49) was caught behind attempting to cut a ball that was too pitched up for the stroke, and in the next over Jordan (46) was bowled by Hogan.

Sussex were 254 for 8 and Glamorgan were on top once more, even more so when Ollie Robinson was caught at second slip at 266 in the first over with the new ball.

But in Briggs Sussex have a first-class century maker batting at No 11 and he and Archer hit merrily under the floodlights until Briggs fell in the last over of the day.

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