County round up
With all the major limited-overs trophies being proudly displayed by Gloucestershire and Surrey having walked away with the Championship, this last round, with the relegation issue now settled, is well on the way to deciding the matter of promotion for the second division teams.
Although their current match with Lancashire has little meaning for Surrey, having taken the one point they needed to retain the championship title, a victory for Lancashire will ensure they finish in second position. But should they go down to Surrey without getting enough bonus points, they could be overtaken by Yorkshire who will need to beat Hampshire with the required bonus points.
With Durham and Derbyshire relegated before the start of this last round of matches, Hampshire joined them yesterday. Despite the presence of pace bowler Alan Mullally and the world-class spinner Shane Warne, Hampshire had weaknesses in other areas. There batting lacked depth and there was little support for their two main bowlers. Hopefully, the move to their new ground next season will bring them better luck.
Northamptonshire, having been assured promotion as the top second division team, have made it difficult for Worcestershire in their fight for promotion. Having hit 260, they grabbed five Worcestershire wickets for 50 by the end of the first day's play.
It would be most remarkable if Gloucestershire could add promotion to their triumph in all one-day competitions. They helped their chance by dismissing Nottinghamshire - who are also in the promotion struggle - by dismissing them for 216.
Among the half-dozen sides that are battling it out for promotion to the first division are Essex and Warwickshire. The latter made a fine start with 348 for 5 after being asked to bat first. Michael Powell and Mark Wagh both hit centuries in a stand of 230, a record for the first wicket between the two sides.
Middlesex will do well to lift themselves from the bottom of the division two table after Glamorgan began well, scoring 325 in the first innings with the help of a century from Mike Powell. The north London team has much to think and plan about for next season, not least of a coach to replace the sacked Mike Gatting.
The Australians playing for their counties have all done well with seven of them hitting over a thousand runs while Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne have been the pick of the bowlers. With the Ashes next year, some of these counties will be looking for overseas replacements this winter. But for now, all eyes are on the championship's second division where places are still open for two teams to join Northamptonshire in the first division next summer.