Yesterday we summarised the county cricket goodness, but now it’s time to get out the red ink and enscribe ‘must bat better’ all over pictures of Paul Grayson.
It was glaringly obvious that Division Two was a massive let-down this year. Lancashire dominated and Northamptonshire exceeded all expectations, but the counties who finished from third to eighth (the wooden spoon went to Leicestershire who fall into a different bracket altogether) were all much the same: mostly struggling. That Essex still had a chance of promotion come the final round of matches was just bizarre, because all year they have been frankly about as good as a wet weekend in Shoeburyness. The difference in points between Essex and eight-place Glamorgan was just 33, demonstrating how these teams are all part of the same mediocre sludge. Essex also won the award for worst innings of the season, managing a massive 20 all out against Lancashire and being bowled out in 86 balls, a wicket every over and a half!
The top division was also characterised by teams regularly misfiring: Nottinghamshire, Somerset and Warwickshire in particular (even if the Bears eventually finished fourth). As for Derbyshire, they proved those who said they would get zilch points wrong (i.e. us), but were still relegated even if they gave Somerset the heebie-jeebies along the way. Warwickshire also did their bit for EU relations by letting the Netherlands finish above them in the YB40.
The year also saw a load of once-promising ex-England players further declining. Joe Denly averaged fewer than 25.00 in the Championship; Owais Shah scored 307 first-class runs in what has turned out to be his final season. Matthew Hoggard also retired, whilst fellow Class of 2005 hero Simon Jones will only continue in the T20s next year. James Tredwell’s haul of 17 wickets at more than 56 hardly inspires; hence the recall of Monty Panesar to the Ashes squad and the ongoing search for young potential replacements for Graeme Swann.
But in truth, these failings are only the start of the story, for the really really bad is still to come. Look out for it tomorrow.