With the World T20 just a couple of days away, there’s barely time to reflect on the end of the County Championship season before everyone rushes off to something distinctly less subtle, but more immediately satisfying. It’s like stopping for a McFlurry on the way home from a nice meal at Dorsia, perhaps after stabbing a homeless to death.
With the title and relegation from the top flight already decided last week, this week saw the promotion places decided in Division Two, plus the small matter of the CB40 final (which we’ll have to talk about here, otherwise there isn’t space on the schedule for about a month, by which time even the players involved won’t remember it).
The only question to be answered in the top flight was around the much-coveted second place. In the end it went to Somerset, who crushed Worcestershire by an innings and 148 runs, thanks to 9/65 and 5/36 from Abdur Rehman, 146 from Marcus Trescothick and 155* from Nick Compton, who finished the season with 1,191 runs at 99.25. It completed another season of what might have been for Somerset – had they turned just one of their ten draws into a win they would have finished with the exact same record as champions Warwickshire.
Speaking of the champions, they dragged their hungover bodies to Trent Bridge where they eventually clung on for a draw, reaching 290/8 in a vain pursuit of 421, thanks to 80 from Chris Woakes. It completed a fine season for the allrounder, who finished with 431 runs at 72 and 27 wickets at 25, having missed the first couple of months through injury.
Just a couple of weeks ago Sussex had looked like an outside bet for the title but they had to settle for fourth place after defeat at Durham in their final game. Graham Onions picked up two more wickets to finish with 64 at just under 15, two ahead of Chris Wright in the race for the Golden Ball.
In the other game Lancashire shared a rain affected draw with Surrey, concluding a season to forget for both sides.
Going into the final round of fixtures just six points separated Kent (in third) from leaders Derbyshire. The obvious assumption was that Kent would beat Glamorgan, the Welsh side having been dismal all year, leading to a mad scramble for both Derbyshire and Yorkshire to win their games.
It didn’t quite turn out like that. Glamorgan chose the last game of the season to finally turn up, forcing Kent to follow on before winning comfortably by seven wickets, exactly the number taken by the retiring Robert Croft. That defeat took all the tension out of the final two days, allowing both Yorkshire and Derbyshire to complete comfortable wins, the former beating Essex by 239 runs, the latter beating Hampshire by six wickets.
The end result of all this was that both sides finished on 194 points, with Derbyshire taking first place due to their winning of the annual chainsaw challenge:
In the other game, Leicestershire nervously chased down 236 to beat Gloucestershire by two wickets, thereby condeming the Bristol side to the wooden spoon, a remarkably bad achievement given that they share a division with the likes of Glamorgan and Northamptonshire. A division where, we feel it should be noted, not a single batsman made a thousand runs and only four bowlers made it to 50 wickets.
In the final ironic twist, the very last game of the county season produced perhaps the most exciting finish, with Hampshire winning by virtue of losing fewer wickets after Warwickshire finished on 244/7. Neil Carter, selected for what appeared to be sentimental reasons (i.e. his final game for the Bears), eventually proved to be the villain. Having conceded 64 from his eight overs, he then failed to get any bat on the final delivery, a juicy full toss from Kabir Ali. It was cruel luck on Ian Bell, who made a fine 81 but holed out at the crucial juncture, with just three overs remaining.
Hampshire were indebted to Chris Wood (3/39) with the ball and Jimmy Adams (66) and Sean Ervine (57*) with the bat, the side from the south coast completing what was described (in advance) by us as ‘the worst double won by any team in any level of sport ever’.
The sad thing was that Lord’s wasn’t even completely full for what was supposed to be the showpiece finale of the English season, summing up an incredibly difficult year for our favourite non-Olympic sport. We could talk in depth about the problems with the domestic game but there’s something we’d much rather talk about: Genesis.
Do you like Phil Collins? We’ve been big Genesis fans ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke. Before that, we really didn’t understand any of their work. Too artsy, too intellectual. It was on Duke where Phil Collins’ presence became more apparent. We think Invisible Touch was the group’s undisputed masterpiece. It’s an epic meditation on intangibility. At the same time, it deepens and enriches the meaning of the preceding three albums. Christy, take off your robe. Listen to the brilliant ensemble playing of Banks, Collins and Rutherford. You can practically hear every nuance of every instrument. Sabrina, remove your dress. In terms of lyrical craftsmanship, the sheer songwriting, this album hits a new peak of professionalism. Sabrina, why don’t you, uh, dance a little. Take the lyrics to Land of Confusion. In this song, Phil Collins addresses the problems of abusive political authority. In Too Deep is the most moving pop song of the 1980s, about monogamy and commitment. The song is extremely uplifting. Their lyrics are as positive and affirmative as anything I’ve heard in rock. Christy, get down on your knees so Sabrina can see your asshole. Phil Collins’ solo career seems to be more commercial and therefore more satisfying, in a narrower way. Especially songs like In the Air Tonight and Against All Odds. Sabrina, don’t just stare at it, eat it. But we also think Phil Collins works best within the confines of the group, than as a solo artist, and I stress the word artist. This is Sussudio, a great, great song, a personal favorite.
See you next year!