County Championship round-up: Steven Crook hits Northants record against Essex

Batsman of the day

Steven Crook, Northamptonshire's 29-year-old Australian, is far too good a lower-order batsman to find himself batting at No 10. That's where he came in today with his side 282 for 9, 22 overs later he was still there, unbeaten on 88, just nine runs shy of his highest first-class score. In partnership with compatriot Trent Copeland, he stroked 10 fours and a six and put on 117 runs for the last wicket, a Northants record against Essex. Although their efforts were somewhat shy of the county's 10th-wicket record partnership of 148, which belongs to Benjamin Bellamy and John Murdin and was achieved back in 1925.

Bowler of the day

Keith Barker, Warwickshire's 26-year-old left-arm swing bowler, swapped the blood, thunder and studs-up tackles of football for the life of a cricketer – and a day like today will have proved his decision the correct one. Barker signed for Blackburn Rovers – some would say he had a lucky escape – and represented England at Under-18, 19 and 20 level. At one point at Edgbaston, he had figures of 3 for 14 to leave the county champions in a strong position against Durham. Barker has impressive pedigree, he is the son of a former British Guiana cricketer and the godson of former West Indies captain, Clive Lloyd.

Ashes watch

Chris Woakes, Warwickshire's 24-year-old all-rounder, has been making tsunami-sized waves in the cricket world over the past three years and is very much in the Test selectors' thoughts. Today he showed why. Just as Durham were threatening to get back into the match, he struck with the three key wickets of Ben Stokes, Phil Mustard and, most significantly, Paul Collingwood.

Extras

No two England players have occupied as many column inches over the past decade as Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen. Today, the former used the game's obsession with the latter to make sure that, in Ashes year, he would not be ignored. Flintoff, convinced that Pietersen will be fit, is not so sure that we will see him in England whites much beyond next winter. "There are 10 Tests against Australia in the next few months," said England's second-favourite all-rounder of all time, "I expect Kevin to be part of that. But I've got a sneaking suspicion he'll be looking at those 10 Tests and then consider his future."

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