Cricket: Rainy days heat up county championship finale

With the County Championship approaching its conclusion this week, the final positions could still change radically

Just one round to go and, like Manuel, under interrogation from Basil, we know nothing. All eight of the First Division sides lining up for their last Championship matches of the season on Wednesday will be contemplating winning the pennant or avoiding relegation. Some will even be aware of both possibilities.

Actually we do know one thing for certain: Surrey are relegated. If we needed a sign of a club in disarray, it was the desperate signing of Shoaib Akhtar, an expensive gamble that paid absolutely no dividend and only served to make the club look stupid. At least a club like Surrey can afford such extravagances. Currently they are much better at making money than playing cricket.

Mathematically there are only two sides certain of avoiding relegation, Nottinghamshire, the leaders by eight points, and Somerset. Realistically Durham are also safe. The rest will be scrapping furiously for survival.

Mathematically there are four sides, which could still win the pennant, the three mentioned above plus Hampshire. They will be at Trent Bridge. If they were to thrash the home side, Hampshire may just have a chance to sneak off with the title. But if Nottinghamshire win that game, no team can catch them. A result is likely since it seems to have stopped raining and Trent Bridge has been a fruitful ground for swing bowlers all year. Hampshire will surely provide sterner opposition than Surrey did at The Oval last week. Somerset, who play Lancashire at Taunton, will be willing Hampshire on and so will Durham, who face Kent at Canterbury. Meanwhile the fixture at Hove between Sussex and Yorkshire is a genuine relegation clash.

If Somerset were to win their first Championship, they would do it with the lowest percentage of wins ever. They can win at most four Championship games this summer. It has been horribly wet, but this statistic suggests a minor tinkering to the points system might be helpful. The incentive to win could be increased a little, perhaps to 16 points from 14.

There were not too many melodramas in the First Division yesterday- they had happened earlier in the week when Lancashire came from behind to defeat Kent. Somerset managed to bat long enough at Scarborough to ensure the draw.

For the second time in the match they were indebted to Ian Blackwell. He can be an infuriating cricketer - not in the right shape and his left-arm spin has not developed greatly. But he scores his quota of runs - he has now passed 1,000 for the season. In the morning, in what we assume to be his penultimate first-class appearance, Darren Gough conjured two quick wickets. He will have enjoyed dispatching Justin Langer with a beauty. He might even tell you about it. Thanks for everything, and surely he can't resist the odd Twenty20 outing next summer?

There was an even duller draw at Chester-le-Street, where Durham batted out the day. Meanwhile everything is becoming much clearer in the Second Division. Essex had to beat Warwickshire at Chelmsford to disturb the midlands monopoly. There were centuries for John Maunders and Ravi Bopara, whereupon Ian Salisbury, now 38, intervened and took six wickets.

Warwickshire knocked off the 144 needed for victory without much bother, so we know this much for certain: Worcestershire and Warwickshire will be playing First Division cricket next summer. So will Nottinghamshire and Somerset. We are just not quite sure who they will be playing against.


Vic Marks

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

County cricket: First class bowling averages

County cricket first class bowling averages

Staff and agencies

28, Sep, 2008 @3:30 PM

County cricket: First class batting averages

County cricket first class batting averages

Staff and agencies

28, Sep, 2008 @3:57 PM

Article image
County Championship 2015 guide: Yorkshire still the side to beat | Ali Martin
Despite the early-season absence of their England absentees, it is hard to see past the reigning champions retaining their crown. But watch out for Derbyshire

Ali Martin

10, Apr, 2015 @9:00 AM

Article image
County Cricket 2011: Preview

Make your predictions for the season after reading the Guardian's extensive previews of the counties for 2011

David Hopps, Andy Wilson, Barney Ronay, Mike Averis, Paul Rees and Steve Busfield

07, Apr, 2011 @10:39 AM

Article image
County Championship 2019: Divisions One and Two team-by-team guide
Somerset and Surrey look best equipped to battle for the title while Division Two features an intriguing race to make the top three promotion places

Ali Martin

03, Apr, 2019 @10:07 AM

Article image
County cricket fixtures 2016: team by team guide
All the county championship, T20 and 50 over matches for next year

Guardian sport

02, Dec, 2015 @9:00 AM

Article image
County Championship 2017: how has your team fared this season?
Newly promoted Essex won their first title since 1992 as last year’s challengers fell away. How has it been for your team?

Tom Stevens

25, Sep, 2017 @11:35 AM

Article image
County Championship roundup: Ed Smith sees Surrey’s batsmen find form
Ryan Patel, Ben Foakes and Will Jacks all passed 50 while Gary Ballance and Joe Root were in the runs again for Yorkshire

Tanya Aldred at The Oval

11, Apr, 2019 @7:32 PM

Article image
County Championship 2017: Divisions One and Two team-by-team guide
Surrey’s signings make them a good bet for the title though Middlesex and Somerset should challenge again while Sussex have strengthened enough to gain promotion

Ali Martin

06, Apr, 2017 @10:14 AM

Article image
County cricket round-up: Alastair Cook’s return powers Essex past Somerset
Alastair Cook hit a century for Essex in his first competitive match since resigning the England captaincy while Yorkshire’s Ben Coad has taken 10 wickets against Warwickshire

Will Macpherson at the Ageas Bowl

16, Apr, 2017 @7:30 PM