County Championship round-up: Barker now making his mark in a whole new ball game

 

Keith Barker always reckoned he was a more natural cricketer than footballer, even after he rejected the chance to pursue a contract with Lancashire in order to join the academy at Blackburn Rovers.

Given that his football career fizzled out without a first-team appearance, aside from a loan spell at Rochdale, his progress as a Warwickshire cricketer might lead him now to wonder if he should have stuck with what he did best.

The 25-year-old made two first-class centuries last season as Warwickshire narrowly failed to pip Lancashire to the title but it is with the ball that he is making an impact now. A left-arm seamer, Barker has been given the responsibility of taking the new ball with Chris Woakes and Boyd Rankin both missing through injury but has shown the benefit of his work with bowling coach Graeme Welch by taking 12 wickets in three matches – two-thirds of his total for the whole of last season.

Last week he took the first five-wicket haul of his career against Lancashire and took the lead role again at Hove yesterday as Warwickshire took a dominant position against Sussex in the brief time allowed to them by the weather.

Barker won lbw decisions against Luke Wells and Murray Goodwin in consecutive overs, in between which Chris Wright bowled England wicketkeeper Matt Prior as Sussex slumped to 70 for 5 in reply to Warwickshire's 545, adding another 10 before rain intervened.

Lancashire, meanwhile, had time to pick up two points at Taunton in the 40 overs possible, scrambling the five runs needed for a fifth batting point before Glen Chapple removed both Somerset openers and Luke Procter trapped James Hildreth leg before. The prolific Nick Compton is unbeaten on 30, having taken his first-class runs tally beyond 700 for the season, but at 87 for 3 Somerset are 313 runs behind.

The West Country side have twice gone close to landing a first County Championship, but their prospects of a successful 2012 are suddenly looking rocky. Surgery revealed Marcus Trescothick's ankle injury to be a ruptured ligament, which could keep the opener sidelined for at least two months, and there is a doubt over whether Chris Gayle will be able to play Twenty20 for them. This is in addition to injuries to their fast bowlers. Steve Kirby, Gemaal Hussain and Adam Dibble are all ruled out. Alfonso Thomas, meanwhile, is playing IPL cricket.

No play was possible for a third consecutive day at The Oval between Surrey and Durham. Similarly, in Division Two Gloucestershire's match against Glamorgan is yet to startand rain prevented play between Essex and Northamptonshire at Chelmsford.

There were 53 balls bowled in Kent's match with Yorkshire at Canterbury. England's Tim Bresnan took back to back wickets, removing James Tredwell and Matt Coles, but with Brendan Nash unbeaten on 132 Kent have a lead of 103.

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