Ball One – From many weeks of starting these columns with a rousing chorus of “Oh Lanky, Lanky… Lanky, Lanky, Lanky, Lanky, Lankysher” to a column that starts “Oh dear Lanky, Lanky.” Pitiful batting against the straight bowling of Worcestershire’s seam attack saw Glen Chapple’s men tumble to a ten wicket defeat well inside two days. Perhaps the not so super over that saw them crash out of the Twenty20 semi-finals last Saturday did even more harm than it appeared. T20 may have plenty of hits and make the CFO giggle, but the LVCC is where history is written and where Lancashire minds, with just two matches to play, must be focused.
Ball Two – Having looked dead and buried in the race for the title, Durham put plenty of runs on the board, and bowled Sussex out twice to go back to the top of the table. With the potential of Scott Borthwick removing half the Sussex wickets in the first innings and Ian Blackwell’s weight of experience doing the same thing in the second dig, the twice champions of the last three years will go into their last match knowing they have the weaponry to force a win and, with rain possible at any time late in the season, the 20-odd points that a victory attracts will make them difficult to catch.
Ball Three – And catching them is the goal of Warwickshire, who couldn’t get through Yorkshire’s deep, if inconsistent, batting order in time to give themselves a realistic chance of getting over the line against the plummeting Northerners. As things strand now, the Bears are second to Durham, three points ahead of Lancashire who have exactly the same record as Warwickshire. Wouldn’t it be fun if the title were decided on bonus points? Which it will be if Durham win their last match (home vs Worcestershire) and Lancashire (home vs Hampshire and away vs Somerset) and Warwickshire (home vs Nottinghamshire and away vs Hampshire) draw theirs. There’s plenty of cricket to be played yet, but this column won’t be alone in decrying a title decided on bonus points after so pulsating a season.
Ball Four – If Durham were dead and buried in the race for the title, Hampshire were similarly interred and deceased at the other end of the table. But no more! They are now within touching distance of handing the wooden spoon to Yorkshire and have Worcestershire and Sussex eyeing the second chair on the trap door nervously. Key to Hampshire’s sudden run of form has been the return to the colours of Michael Carberry, who not so long ago was worrying about getting back into the England side before getting the reality check of a life-threatening diagnosis – blood clots on the lung. With his international career almost certainly finished, the mental recovery must have been as challenging as the physical rehabilitation, so his involvement in a second record stand in a matter of weeks speaks volumes for the man. It’s already a great story – if Hampshire stay up, it’s the story of the season.
Ball Five – In Division Two, Middlesex welcomed back an old friend from the Test summer who promptly gorged on an attack even more threadbare than India’s. Chris Rogers declared with Andrew Strauss on 241* – if he hadn’t, Strauss might still be batting now. Though Leicestershire put up a bit more of a fight in the second dig, they lost by an innings and can get back to thinking about Champions League booty – Middlesex can think of Division One.
Ball Six – Fellow Londoners Surrey welcomed a man who perhaps should have played a part in the Test summer. No Indian spinner looked likely to take six wickets in the series never mind in an innings, which is what Pragyan Ojha did to roll second placed Northants for 152. With Steve Davies suddenly finding form and a threat from an overseas player (for once), Chris Adams might fancy a tilt at mid-table Essex and Derbyshire in the last two games, knowing that Northants will face a Gloucestershire side with an outside sniff of promotion themselves in their last match. Division One cricket at Lord’s and The Oval in 2012? National newspapers might even report it…
With less than two weeks left of a five month season, 12 of 18 counties have everything to play for. Anyone who tells you that there’s much wrong with the structure of the County Championship that a more sympathetic scheduling couldn’t fix, is plain wrong.
The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket will also appear at Spin Cricket through the season.