June 26, 2002

Frizzell County Championship Division Two - 26-29 June Preview

Glamorgan v Middlesex - Cardiff

With Glamorgan improving after a poor start to the season, and Middlesex anxious to take full advantage of their game in hand during Derbyshire's week off, this promises to be an interesting contest.

Glamorgan's batting has improved in recent games, including their magnificent attempt to pass Surrey's record one-day total in the C&G Trophy, but that improvement is from a very low point indeed. They come up against a Middlesex side that after Gus Fraser's retirement was dependent on Ashley Noffke for wickets Now that Abdur Razzaq has taken over as overseas player results have slipped. Of the remaining attack Simon Cook has taken 20 wickets and Aaron Laraman has shown potential.

Middlesex's batting, unlike that of their hosts, has been immensely productive this summer with 22 of a possible 25 points to date with no less than seven players averaging over 40. Only Mike Powell can match that for the Welsh side. That strong batting line-up will provide a test for Test hopeful Simon Jones.

Round seven saw these sides battle out a high-scoring, rain-interrupted draw in which Glamorgan gained over half of their season's batting points. Why this game and that in the previous round are played in the order they are bemuses me. Then three games took place in London, now none.

Gloucestershire v Essex - Gloucester

Essex, riding high in the table, come into this game having lost the services of captain, leading bowler and top run scorer Ronnie Irani, and will be more heavily dependent than previously on secret weapons, the demon bowler John Stephenson and stand in wicket keeper and Zimbabwean test hero Andy Flower who at 37 and 34 are showing the youngsters a thing or two.

Their hosts present a rare challenge to this pair of veterans, as their own stalwarts, Kim Barnett and Jack Russell, weighing in at 41 and 38, bring even more experience to the game. It is sometimes suggested that there are too many older players on the county circuit, but in fact stalwarts such as these succeed, and provide entertainment, while being instrumental in helping to develop younger talents, providing an yardsticks against which they can be measured.

Both teams are heavily dependent on medium paced bowling, which profits at the Gloucester ground. When these sides met in round one Alleyne, Barnett and Essex's Darren Robinson all scored centuries while Ian Harvey claimed 6-68.

Northamptonshire v Nottinghamshire - Northampton

A home derby provides the ideal motivation to kick start a stalled season, and Northants, demoted last season and the only side in either division with less points than Yorkshire, need all the motivation they can get coming in to this game off the back of five straight defeats - including one by seven wickets at the hands of their guests.

For the home team, the principal difficulty is in the bowling department. Only Carl Greenidge averages under 30, or even under fifty. When all your opponents score 500 plus, it puts unbearable strain on the batting. Even an average of one century and two half tons a game has offered no salvation.

For Nottinghamshire this first game without Clive Rice is a chance for a fresh batting start on a placid track. They will also be looking forward to registering their first away batting points.

Worcestershire v Durham - Worcester

For Worcestershire nine regular players have so far passed the fifty mark and four bowlers (not including Alan Donald) have passed a dozen wickets, but they have lost their last two home games in the championship.

The previous game at the Riverside was ruined by the weather. On paper Worcestershire should prosper against the youngest county, but Durham's batting has shown increasing resilience. Three draws have followed the three losses with which they opened the season.

Durham's bowling is led by Davies, Killeen and Collingwood (who is with the England one-day squad this week), but no player has yet turned in a five-fer this summer. Aussie Martin Love has plundered runs in recent weeks, including 251 in their Lord's run fest. Collingwood's absence leaves a hole in both the batting and bowling for Durham.