It seems barely a week or two since we were making wild predictions at the start of the County season: Alan Richardson will bowl Worcestershire to safety! Saj Mahmood will grab hundreds of wickets to lead Lancashire to another title! Other stuff will happen that appears humorous!
Actually those might not be our predictions. The minutes from our meeting may be lost now, but we’re pretty sure they massively bigged up Warwickshire for the title and Worcestershire and Lancashire to go down. But would they turn out to be correct? The latest round of County Championship fixtures would go a long way to determining the truth…
(For the benefit of those of our readers with a heart condition, we should reduce the tension and stress involved with reading this article by pointing out that yes, we were right – Warwickshire did win the title, with Worcestershire and Lancashire both relegated. Hope that helps)
Top against bottom at New Road. A must win game for both sides. The setup for a truly titanic struggle as two local rivals went head to head?
Nope. Worcestershire were bowled out for 60 and the game was all over bar the drinking by lunch on the first day. Warwickshire then piled up 471/8 with Varun Chopra making 195 before bowling Worcestershire out for 209 to win by an innings and a country mile.
The enormous victory was enough to guarantee the title for Warwickshire, and it’s hard to argue that they didn’t deserve it. For sheer consistency of performance they sit head and shoulders above all the other sides, even though they’ve missed Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott and Chris Woakes for decent chunks of the season. Plus they even carried the considerable weight of Ian Blackwell in their last two games, an achievement which deserves a trophy by itself.
For Worcestershire it was a sorry end to a sorry season, with just one win in their 15 matches. Last season saw them stay up in miraculous fashion but there will be no such celebrations this time, merely a swift sip from the glass of gin marked ‘Division Two’.
Warwickshire’s supposed title-defining final round clash at Trent Bridge will now be a gin-based party. Worcestershire travel to Taunton and an inevitable steamrollering from Saj Mahmood.
Joining Worcestershire in climbing down the well to level two will be Lancashire who completed the ultimate fall from grace; last season’s title winners finding themselves staring at fixtures against Glamorgan and Leicestershire in 2013. The final nail in the coffin was a 109 run defeat to Middlesex, whose final game of the season saw them move up to second place.
This was despite the best efforts of Glen Chapple, who took five wicket hauls in both innings, but yet again it was the batting that let Lancashire down, with the side bundled out for 194 in their second innings by Steven Crook (5/48), a man perhaps better known for being in the band Juliet the Sun, rather than for his bowling.
Lancashire wave goodbye to the first division with a game at home to Surrey. Luckily, they don’t have to play Somerset, where the sight of our Saj strutting around like he owns the top flight might have been too much to bear.
It’s only been a few weeks since Nottinghamshire were many people’s tip for the title. And yet their season has disintegrated like a blackberry crumble cake under persistent attack from Samit Patel. This reached its logical conclusion with a beating at the hands of Surrey, confirming the latter’s status in next season’s top flight after a difficult season.
It wasn’t a classic match, with the two sides trading mediocre first innings scores before Nottinghamshire collapsed in the face of a challenging target of 347, being bowled out for just 151 by Gareth Batty and one Kevin Pietersen, who picked up a couple of wickets, while presumably indulging in some friendly banter with James Taylor.
Surrey’s season winds up with a gloating opportunity against Lancashire while Nottinghamshire, now in fifth place, have the pleasure of entertaining the Warwickshire party bus.
Perhaps the performance of the round came at Hove where Somerset chased down just under 400 to win a game that appeared out of reach for the majority of the match, scuppering Sussex’s recent charge up the table.
Stars of the show were James Hildreth (101*) and Peter Trego (89* from 72 balls) as a rather deflated Sussex fell to fourth in the table, a point behind their conquerors, but the public (i.e. us) were gripped, as always, by the Saj Mahmood story. After actually bowling quite well in the first innings (2/31 in 15 surprisingly economical overs) things fell back into a more traditional groove, Saj making just five with the bat before bowling nine overs of utter filth (0/53) in Sussex’s 102 over second innings.
These two sides will compete for second place in their final games, Somerset at home to Worcestershire and Sussex away to Durham. After that presumably Saj’s loan move will be made permanent, along with him being given the key to Taunton.
Sometimes (i.e. when eight games are going on at once) something has to give. In this case it’s Division Two, which can have a couple of paragraphs and no more.
In the most important game of the round Kent beat leaders Derbyshire by a massive 222 runs (Sam Northeast making 165) to move just six points behind Wayne Madsen’s men who are doing their best Devon Loch. And yet Kent are still only in third, five points behind Yorkshire who comfortably beat wooden-spooners Glamorgan. Maths fans should be able to figure out that all that leaves Yorkshire one point behind Derbyshire. It’s tight at the top.
In the final round of games Derbyshire host Hampshire who saw their promotion challenge halted by defeat to Essex. Yorkshire travel to Gloucestershire and Kent visit Glamorgan, which presumably makes the men from Canterbury favourites at this stage.
In the other game of the round Gloucestershire beat Northants. Literally no-one cared.