Similar to Division One, draws have dominated in the second Division. Batting has dominated, to the extent that just ten games have reached a result. The table is tight, with any team from first to sixth or so capable of promotion. And that’s even harder this year with just one spot available with the divisions changing shape next year.
Essex, revitalised by new head coach Chris Silverwood, top Division Two. Two young top order batsmen – Tom Westley and Nick Browne – have been important, with talk of possible England call-ups for both. With most of their other batsmen contributing too, runs have not been a problem. Graham Napier and Jamie Porter lead the way with the ball, having taken 33 wickets apiece.
Kent are having a strong County Championship season, led by two home-grown talents with the bat – Daniel Bell-Drummond and Sam Northeast. After many years of promise from players such as these, Alex Blake, Adam Ball et al., this could finally be their promotion year. However, Matt Coles’ Kent future is in doubt, which could hinder their progress.
Leicestershire, who finished bottom of the pile in both of the last three seasons, are firmly in the promotion race this time. They have lost just once and look a far more consistent unit. New recruits Neil Dexter, Paul Horton and Mark Pettini have played important roles, as has Australian bowler Clint McKay. Ben Raine has also impressed with the ball.
Gloucestershire are just ten points off the top with games in hand. Chris Dent is fulfilling his vast potential with 712 runs, while Graeme van Buuren has proved an astute signing. Hamish Marshall, in his final season with the county, is batting well and would love a promotion to finish his Gloucestershire career. Liam Norwell and Craig Miles have led the way with the ball, with 25 and 22 wickets respectively.
Worcestershire are a little adrift but are a win away from the top. Their team is based around home-grown talent – Basil D’Oliveira is settling into his role opening the batting, while Joe Clarke and Tom Kohler-Cadmore continue to impress. Joe Leach is having an excellent season with the ball, leading Worcestershire’s wicket-taking charts with 31.
Sussex, relegated from Division One last season, are sixth. They would have hoped to be higher at this stage of the season but they are just a win away from the top. They are unbeaten but have won just once – partly due to a lack of bowlers able to support leading wicket-taker Steve Magoffin. Batting has not been a problem – Ed Joyce has been on fire with 838 runs, while Chris Nash and Luke Wells have also made significant contributions.
Derbyshire are struggling, having yet to win a match, but have lost only twice and a promotion challenge isn’t out of the question. Shiv Thakor, after a middling first season at the club, is having a good season, as is the dependable Wayne Madsen. Thakor, alongside Tony Palladino, has been reasonable with the ball, but desperately need more from their bowlers in order to force valuable wins.
Northants, with an incredibly small squad, are unsurprisingly struggling in eighth with no wins. Ben Duckett is having an excellent year, including the season’s highest score of 282*. Adam Rossington has been the only other significant contributor with the bat, and the bowling has struggled too. Ben Sanderson and Rory Kleinveldt have performed reasonably but they don’t appear to have enough firepower to mount a promotion challenge.
Glamorgan are bottom of Division Two, being the only team to have lost three times. There is some encouragement from the form of youngsters David Lloyd and Aneurin Donald but they have struggled to score enough runs. Michael Hogan and Timm van der Gugten have bowled decently but the attack has not been penetrative enough.
Written by Dan Kingdom (@DanKingdom96)
7/2/2016 1 Comment
The County Championship this year is the last of its kind – next year teams will play two fewer matches and the divisions will be uneven – but a new element has been added too, with the introduction of the new toss rules. Unsurprisingly, the rule, which allows the away side the chance to bowl first, has caused groundsmen to produce flat pitches, contributing to the high number of draws. Of the 71 games played across both divisions, just 23 have reached a result. Rain has also been a factor, however, with plenty of matches ruined by the weather in what has so far been a wet summer.
Lancashire are the surprise leaders of Division One. Having been promoted last season, expectations weren’t high, but they top the table as the only team in the division to have won three matches. Neil Wagner has proved an inspired signing, Kyle Jarvis has bowled well, Liam Livingstone has been a revelation and Alviro Petersen is churning out the runs.
Yorkshire, in second, remain unbeaten and are firmly in the title race, but have not looked as strong as they were during their previous two title-winning seasons. They are perhaps a tad vulnerable with the bat when they lack Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow – players like Alex Lees, Adam Lyth, Andrew Gale and Jack Leaning have all underperformed to some extent. With the ball, only Steve Patterson has really stood out. They aren’t doing badly, though – after all, they beat their rivals Lancashire by 175 runs and thrashed Surrey by an innings.
Middlesex are unbeaten but have won just once, by an innings over Hampshire. Runs haven’t been a problem for them, with Adam Voges, Sam Robson, Dawid Malan, Nick Gubbins and John Simpson scoring plenty. The bowling will need to improve if a serious title challenge is to be mounted – Steven Finn, James Harris and James Franklin have all been below par.
Durham are also unbeaten, winning two and drawing five. Keaton Jennings has scored four centuries and has scored the most runs in Division One, while Scott Borthwick has churned out plenty as well. However, the notorious new-ball pairing of Graham Onions and Chris Rushworth has not been as devastating to opposition line-ups as usual, with both averaging over 30.
Warwickshire have lost just once but have won just once. Their batting has been led by Jonathan Trott, who is averaging 62, while Varun Chopra has been solid. Ian Bell’s returns have been a little disappointing, with just one century, but there is plenty of time to rectify that. Their bowling has been good as always, with Chris Woakes and Keith Barker starring, but more needs to be done if they are to regain the Championship title.
Somerset currently lie sixth – the position they’ve finished in each of the last three seasons. There are signs of improvement on last season, though – James Hildreth continues to churn out big scores while Marcus Trescothick, Peter Trego and Chris Rogers are on track for 1000 runs. Tim Groenewald has led the bowling attack effectively, and Lewis Gregory, Jamie Overton and Jack Leach have shone alongside him. They are unbeaten with one win, although if it wasn’t for rain they may well have a few more wins, and a few losses, under their belt.
Nottinghamshire have a quality team on paper, but have lost four games and won just once. Batsmen like Michael Lumb, Steven Mullaney and Riki Wessels have been below par. Their bowling has been a problem for a while now, and that hasn’t changed this season – only Jake Ball has contributed significantly. Overseas signing Jackson Bird flattered to deceive in his short stint.
Surrey will be disappointed with their current position of eighth but they have played well enough to indicate that survival is possible. Stuart Meaker, after a tough 2015, is having a good year with the ball, and Ravi Rampaul has been effective in the games he’s played. Sam Curran has been busy with A-Levels but now they are done he will have a chance to make a mark during the second half of the season. Scoring enough runs has been a problem, with just three centuries scored so far. More is needed from players like Jason Roy, Rory Burns and Ben Foakes.
Hampshire are bottom of the table and struggling, despite having lost only twice. Their batsmen have scored just three centuries between them and have had their job made harder by the loss of James Vince to England duty for a long period. Their pace bowling attack has been hit by injuries, most significantly to Reece Topley and Fidel Edwards.
But literally anyone could still win and anyone could go down. The table is incredibly tight – just six points separate second and sixth. With all the draws it’s tough to predict who will take the title, and wins are more valuable than ever. Hampshire seem likely to go down but one win and they’ll catch up again. It’s all to play for going into the second half of this tight season.
By Dan Kingdom (@DanKingdom96)
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