In a recent podcast, we touched upon the possibility of county cricket becoming divided. Of course physically it already is, by the two divisional system that has been in place since 2000. What we meant though was not a simple splitting of 18 into two, rather a potential trend for a handful of smaller counties becoming stuck towards the bottom of Division Two and seeing, maybe as a consequence, their best young cricketers heading elsewhere.
So we decided to start a short series of articles looking at county cricket and seeing whether there’s actual evidence for this suggestion, or if we’re just jibber jabbering a load of old tosh again. Which given that our gin stocks are seriously depleted, may well be the case.
The table below shows the finishing position of each county over the previous 13 seasons (10th place being 1st in Division Two). The vertical line after 2006 is the point when the championship changed from three being relegated to just two. This table shows impressive consistency by Derbyshire, whilst Glamorgan and Gloucestershire are similarly regular in their crapness. The final two columns show the average position over this period and these average positions ranked from Lancashire (average position 4.5th) to Derbyshire (average position 15.1st). We were going to plot these positions on a funky looking graph, but the resulting mess gave us all headaches.
This data may just appear as a load of numbers, but the main point of note is how rubbish Essex have been for ages. No wonder they’ve signed Saj Mahmood, even if his continued absence from the First XI makes us all slightly sad.
As we generally are the kind of website that prefers a pretty picture instead of a hundred words (particularly if said picture is of Mitchell Johnson looking rugged yet simultaneously camper than a pink tent), the table below shows how many seasons each county have spent in Division One since the auspicious split in 2000 (including this season).
There’s a clear distinction here – the bottom (or top, depending on how you look at it) six are basically the long-suffering crummy teams – Leicestershire included because their ongoing stint in Division Two started in 2004; Worcestershire and Middlesex could be described as yo-yo sides, whilst there are a further six counties that basically are in the top division more often than not – although Kent are noticeably worse than they used to be. There are two obvious exceptions at present: Derbyshire being in Division One and Lancashire dropping down just one year after winning the championship.
With Northamptonshire having started this season with the kind of form not normally seen in that part of the East Midlands, there may be a repeat of Derbyshire’s surprise promotion, but their batting line up still looks rather weak. Glamorgan also started well, beating Worcestershire by 10 wickets, but it would be no surprise to see them, Gloucestershire, Essex and Leicestershire all continuing to struggle in 2013.
Our next chapter in this series will look at which counties have been producing England players and which hang on to distant memories of Jon Lewis.