Surrey on the up but tight at the top
Cricinfo takes a look back at the week of county action and some of the performances that caught the eye
Who should be England's reserve batsman in Australia? Owais Shah, Robert Key and Ed Joyce all have their supporters, but none have the record against Australia that Mark Butcher enjoys. His finest hour is still his unbeaten 173 at Headingley in 2001, but after an untimely shoulder injury in South Africa his international days are seemingly finished. Since then he has ploughed his efforts into Surrey and his 151 against Glamorgan put them on course for a promotion-sealing victory. The total was a potentially rocky 198 for 5 when he was joined by Azhar Mahmood, but they combined in a stand of 192 and Surrey never looked back. For good measure he notched up an unbeaten ton second time around and now has 1209 runs in the Championship
Bowling of the week - Adil Rashid and Mark Lawson v Middlesex
A joint award in honour of a feat that should hearten any English cricket fan as all ten of Middlesex's second-innings wickets went to two English legspinners. Mark Lawson, who names Shane Warne as his hero, finished with 6 for 86 and Adil Rashid, on the ground where he bowled out Warwickshire on his first-class debut, picked up 4 for 96. Lawson's scalps included Shah, one of the finest players of spin in England, while Rashid gained the notable name of Scott Stryis, who has been known to take a liking to the slow bowlers. Credit must go to Craig White, the Yorkshire skipper, who showed faith in his two young charges - so much so that Matthew Hoggard and Deon Kruis bowled just 12 overs between them. It would be very surprising, too, if Darren Lehmann has not played a major role in the development of Rashid and Lawson. After all, Australians know a thing or two about legspin.
Team of the week - Surrey
There were plenty of long faces around The Oval last year when Surrey's relegation was confirmed. Alan Butcher's first game as coach was the match against Middlesex that put the final nail in the coffin and he admitted there were plenty of problems to sort out - on and off the field. Well, the main objective has been achieved and Surrey are back in the top flight for next season - and they always looked like making it. Their batting has overpowered most second division bowling attacks as Butcher, Mark Ramprakash, Scott Newman and Co. have gorged themselves. The bowling, with the variation of Mahmood, Mohammad Akram, Ian Salisbury and briefly Anil Kumble, has knocked over teams twice even without the services of Jimmy Ormond. A few more of the youngsters now need to kick on, and the real test will be next summer, but for now they can reflect on a job well done.
Meanwhile, the race for the main prize is still neck and neck between Lancashire and Sussex. Both teams gained maximum-point draws as rain interrupted the latest round of matches. Lancashire would have fancied pulling off a win against Warwickshire, at Blackpool, after enforcing the follow-on, while Sussex would surely have used Mushtaq Ahmed more if their match against Hampshire hadn't lost so much to the weather. There are two fixtures left for each; Lancashire face Durham and Hampshire, while Sussex have Kent and Nottinghamshire. In September you can't rule out more influence from the weather, but it would be a great end to the season if the fight between the best two teams was decided on the pitch.
Plenty of hard work
It can never be said that Warne does not give his all for the Hampshire cause. After negotiating his way out of the end of Australia's pre-season camp in Queensland (but not before roughing it in the bush) he flies halfway around the world to lead his county team in a must-win Championship match. They collapse in the first innings before Warne helps out with 53, then he bowls more than 42 overs and takes six wickets to restrict Sussex's lead. However, Hampshire's lingering title hopes realistically disappeared when the match was drawn - but with Warne around anything is possible.
Monty Panesar takes two wickets against Derbyshire before the final day is washed out ... Geraint Jones continues to struggle with just 17 against Yorkshire in the Pro40 ... Graham Onions takes 2 for 38 in the Pro40 on the day he's called up by England ... Matthew Hoggard takes 3 for 92 against Middlesex.
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo