County Championship

Three-way title race sets up thrilling finish

Andrew McGlashan

September 12, 2010

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Ryan Sidebottom struck in the first over against Durham, Durham v Nottinghamshire, County Championship, Division One, August 31, 2010
Ryan Sidebottom is back for Nottinghamshire but will it be enough for a side that has stuttered badly near the finish line? © PA Photos

Three weeks ago the chances of a thrilling conclusion to the County Championship looked highly unlikely. Nottinghamshire were perched comfortably ahead of their nearest rivals, but their form has disintegrated over the last two matches to such an extent that, even though they still have a two-point lead over Somerset and a seven-point cushion to Yorkshire, to many they are now the outsiders.

The final round of matches pits Nottinghamshire against Lancashire at Old Trafford, Somerset travel to Durham and Yorkshire host Kent at Headingley. It's a northern finale, which means the weather could well play its part, while the ECB would do well to have the trophy in a high-speed car. That just adds to the potential drama. It's a finish to match 2008 when Durham surged to their first title - something Somerset are looking to match this year - after Nottinghamshire bottled their chance. Chris Read's team are clearly susceptible to vertigo.

Even victory for Nottinghamshire may not be enough. Anything less than 22 points from their match brings Somerset and Yorkshire into the equation if they gain a maximum 24 points. Given the batting form of Nottinghamshire, passing 300 at Old Trafford to gain three bonus points may be too much, especially if the surface aids spin which is a strength of Lancashire's and not of the visitors. Nottinghamshire, though, have been boosted by the release of Ryan Sidebottom from England duty.

"The standings mean that every point counts and it's very important that we take as many bonus points as we can," Mick Newell, the Nottinghamshire coach, said. "We can't influence what happens elsewhere but we have control of our own performance."

Both the challengers enter the last set of games on the high of impressive victories last week; Yorkshire beat Nottinghamshire after bowling them out for 59 in the first innings at Trent Bridge and Somerset crushed Lancashire by nine wickets on home soil. Somerset will have to win away to secure their first Championship title, but Chester-le-Street is usually a result wicket and Durham only have the bare bones of a bowling attack.

Marcus Trescothick has had another prolific season and Somerset's batting is overflowing with talent. Craig Kieswetter isn't wanted by England, James Hildreth is pushing for higher honours and Jos Buttler already looks like an international cricketer of the near future. The pace bowling is workmanlike, led by Charl Willoughby, but even though it's September the trump card could be Murali Kartik.

Yorkshire, with their young team, were many people's tips for relegation this year but have defied the odds with impressive style. In Andrew Gale they have a strong captain, Adam Lyth is a future England batsman and Jonathan Bairstow a high-quality keeper. Meanwhile, Oliver Hannon-Dalby's emergence has helped cover for the absence of Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad with England and Tino Best's disappearance.

An advantage for Yorkshire in pursuit of a positive result is that Kent are equally desperate to win to maintain any chance of staying in Division One unless, or until, Hampshire secure the required points against Warwickshire to condemn Kent to the drop. So long as there is a chance of staying up Robert Key, Kent's captain, will have to chase victory at all costs, which will keep Yorkshire in the match.

One of the teams coming up to the top division is already known after Sussex's expected return, but the second promotion slot is up for grabs with Worcestershire having a chance of overtaking Glamorgan, which would be a remarkable story given Steve Rhodes' meagre resources. Leicestershire, with problems of their own, retain an outside chance but need huge favours from the other two sides. While that race will be interesting, it's the sides vying for the £500,000 main prize that will take top billing.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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Posted by Aisha_Malik on (September 13, 2010, 9:33 GMT)

It will rain in manchester like it always does so notts will draw, yorkshire will be unable to beat kent so somerset will take the title after winning durham

Posted by george204 on (September 13, 2010, 9:22 GMT)

Whatever the result, I hope there's a strong performance from Sidebottom to grab an Ashes spot...

Posted by Lloydy on (September 13, 2010, 9:04 GMT)

Hampshire already have enough points to finish above Kent (by virtue of their better record over them - 2 wins), Kent though do need Hampshire to do them a major favour over Warks.

Posted by Ummers on (September 13, 2010, 6:35 GMT)

Yorkshire & Somerset will win, Notts will lose and Somerset will take the trophy!!!! Go on Somerset!!

Posted by Jose_Cyriac on (September 13, 2010, 5:05 GMT)

Hope Notts wins the Trophy ;)

Posted by TheSmudge on (September 12, 2010, 22:06 GMT)

Johnny Bairstow may be a "high quality keeper" but he has been playing as a specialist batsman with Bophry behind the stumps for the last few games.

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
County Results
Somerset v Warwickshire at Lord's - Sep 18, 2010
Warwickshire won by 3 wickets (with 6 balls remaining)
Durham v Somerset at Chester-le-Street - Sep 13-16, 2010
Match drawn
Glamorgan v Derbyshire at Cardiff - Sep 13-16, 2010
Match drawn
Gloucs v Surrey at Bristol - Sep 13-16, 2010
Surrey won by 10 runs
Hampshire v Warwickshire at Southampton - Sep 13-16, 2010
Warwickshire won by 10 wickets
Lancashire v Notts at Manchester - Sep 13-16, 2010
Match drawn
Northants v Leics at Northampton - Sep 13-16, 2010
Leics won by 10 wickets
Worcs v Sussex at Worcester - Sep 13-16, 2010
Worcs won by 4 wickets
Yorkshire v Kent at Leeds - Sep 13-16, 2010
Kent won by 4 wickets
All recent results »
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