Last week we presented our previews of the county cricket season, divided appropriately between Division One and Division Two. Following on from these guides, some of the 51allout staff met (or did we?) for a pre-season discussion. Some of the main writers attended, as did the IT guru, the teaboy and the guy who occasionally wanders in from the street with a carry out of gin, listening to Kenickie on his Walkman and muttering about Knightmare.
So we sat down around coffee, orange juice and croissants in a manner not dissimilar to Cricket Writers on TV; in fact all that was missing was Paul Allott and a big pile of badly folded broadsheet newspapers.
We started off by discussing the County Championship. One thing that we agree on is that Division One looks strong, as evident by the variations in our predictions. Both Matt H and Steve fancy Durham and their legion of ex-England players, but the rest of the team all had differing views. Dicko plumped for Surrey, but as he was drinking from a Keith Medlycott benefit mug there may be a touch of bias in his reasoning. James meanwhile has chosen Nottinghamshire, citing strength in depth and quality in all departments. Matt L has shown a lack of originality by nominating Lancashire; in an equally surprising move Steve has actually backed the current champions to be relegated. Further proof of the closeness of the division is provided by the selection of Warwickshire as champions by Nichael (albeit with the caveat that this would only occur if Chris Woakes is fit for long enough to score 1000 runs and take 100 wickets – so about as likely as someone not enjoying their holiday in Pune); whereas both Matt H and James believe the West Midlanders will be relegated.
There is however a bit more consensus about relegation from the division. All of us, even the ones who live in Australia and Wales, predict Worcestershire to go down. Indeed, we barely expect them to get a point. Of course we should point out that everyone thought they’d fall last season, so they could survive again. The other county that were predicted to be relegated were Middlesex (Nichael, Matt L and Dicko).
Turning to division two (“much more exciting than division one,” according to the bitter Hampshire supporters), where both Matts think Essex will triumph, and Nichael and James suggest Yorkshire as likely winners. In a surprising move, Dicko doesn’t say Surrey but opts for Kent instead, noting that their transfer philosophy has been similar to that baseball film with Brad Pitt. Other teams that we think will be promoted are Hampshire (Matt H, Nichael, Steve), Northants (Dicko) and Glamorgan (
Huw Matt L). It will certainly be interesting to see if the smaller counties in this division can compete with those playing at international-sized grounds. And speaking of the smaller counties, we might lose a few readers from the East Midlands, because Dicko thinks Derbyshire will finish last and the rest of us all go for Leicestershire to claim the wooden spoon.
There is also worrying consistency in the predictions for the T20 tournament: only Matt H went away from Somerset (he made up for his Nottinghamshire choice by subsequently naming Somerset as Pro40 champions). Furthermore, Nichael thinks Somerset will do a limited over double, winning the Pro40 at Lord’s as well as the T20 at Cardiff. Steve and Dicko both reckon that Surrey will win back-to-back Pro40 trophies, James votes for Sussex for an unknown reason and Matt L goes for Durham.
In terms of personnel, there are few surprises amongst our predictions for players of the year, although only Steve and Matt L are boring enough to name Marcus Trescothick. Youngsters suggested include Will Gidman (Matt H), James Harris (Matts H and L), Simon Kerrigan and Rory Hamilton-Brown (Nichael), James Taylor (Steve), Joe Root (Matt L) and Tom Maynard (Dicko). Meanwhile, some of the older generation to get mentioned are Paul Collingwood (James), Michael Carberry (Matt H, Steve), Graham Onions (Steve) and Joe Denly (Matt H).
The predicted flops of the year make for an interesting bunch. Matt L nominates Eoin Morgan, though he doesn’t state whether that will be in an England shirt or a Middlesex shirt. Actually, on the subject of the squatty-arsed one, James has declared than Morgan will score 1000 first-class runs. Nichael thinks James Taylor will be a flop, and in worrying news for Nottinghamshire, his new teammate Michael Lumb is nominated by Steve. James boldly votes for “Big” Vernon Philander, whilst Dicko names Andrew Strauss. Matt H meanwhile casts his eyes over the transfers and states that “most of Kent’s signings” will be flops, “but especially Brendan Nash.” Sometimes, even 51allout get distracted by a tour of the West Indies in 2009.
Finally, we got to the A.O.B. section of the agenda. To make up for not thinking Somerset would win the T20, Matt H says they’ll make a record score in the tournament instead. Nichael looks sorrowful as he explains that he thinks another spotfixing scandal will emerge; Dicko looks mischievous as he explains that England will beat the West Indies 3-0, South Africa 2-0 and Australia 4-1. And to bring the meeting to a conclusion, Steve offers a thought that gets the table nodding in agreement: “the ECB,” he says, pinching the last pastry from the centre of the table as if he were the fat one from Last of the Summer Wine, “will make a ridiculous decision about the future of county cricket.” Sometimes, even numpties like us can make correct predictions.
We’ll be covering the county season via the usual means: @51allout, www.facebook.com/51allout and on this very website. Look out for England Watch / England Ladder, plenty of charts and stats, the occasional picture of faded pop groups and regular updates and round-ups. We might even try live blogging again, but only if someone can send us some free gin.
Seriously, send us some free gin.