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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