Who are the contenders in the race to 1,000 first-class runs before the end of May?
David Bedingham, Adam Lyth and Ollie Pope are in with a chance of reaching the landmark
Only eight batters have scored 1,000 first-class runs in the English summer before the end of May, and none since Graeme Hick in 1988 - though Nick Compton was a day away in 2012. But with eight rounds of County Championship fixtures packed into the first two months of this season, the race is very much on to become the ninth member of an exclusive club. Here, we run you through the men in with a shout - so long as the rain stays away…
David Bedingham (Durham)Runs: 567
Fixtures: May 13: Worcestershire (h), May 20: Derbyshire (a), May 27: Essex (h)
Bedingham arrived at Durham last season as a local player but has been retained as an overseas signing this summer following changes to the ECB's registration regulations. He started the season with 57 and a match-saving 180 not out against Nottinghamshire, and piled on a career-best 257 at Chester-le-Street against Derbyshire in the third round of games before adding 53 not out in the second innings to make himself the front-runner to break the 1,000 mark.
But his contribution to an innings win against Warwickshire last week was a score of 2, and Durham do not have a fixture in the round of matches starting May 6. The result is that he will need to fill his boots in his next few innings, or take down one of the best attacks in the country when Essex visit the Riverside in the final round of games before June.
Ollie Pope (Surrey)Runs: 452
Fixtures: May 6: Leicestershire (a), May 13: Somerset (a), May 20: Middlesex (h), May 27: Gloucestershire (h)
Seventh in the run charts, but quite possibly the favourite in the race to 1,000. Pope has made two scores of note this season - 245 against Leicestershire and 131 against Hampshire - and is the leading scorer among players with four fixtures to play before the end of the month.
There have been a couple of soft dismissals this season - "some pretty average cover drives" in his own words - but he has a staggering record at this level, averaging 72.00 in first-class cricket for Surrey and 105.61 at The Oval. Consecutive home games in the final weeks of May should provide him with a real chance.
Adam Lyth (Yorkshire)Runs: 515
Fixtures: May 6: Kent (h), May 13: Glamorgan (a), May 27: Lancashire (a)
Lyth was the picture of consistency in Yorkshire's first three Championship games of the season, with eight scores between 42 and 116, including hundreds against Glamorgan and Kent, but could only manage 0 and 27 in a low-scoring thriller against Northamptonshire last week.
The fixture list has been relatively kind, with a home match against surprise strugglers Kent in this round, but Lyth may rue the fact that university fixtures no longer carry first-class status: his twin half-centuries in a pre-season contest against Durham UCCE did not count towards his record.
Jake Libby (Worcestershire)Runs: 411
Fixtures: May 6: Warwickshire (a), May 13: Durham (a), May 20: Nottinghamshire (a), May 27: Derbyshire (h)
The only man to have broached the 1,000 mark in terms of balls faced this season, Libby, an obdurate opening batter, joined Worcestershire at the end of 2019 and has already been appointed vice-captain. He started his season by carrying his bat for 180 against the champions Essex at Chelmsford, and he too has the chance to play up to eight innings, rather than six, before the end of the month. He only plays one more fixture at home on the batting-friendly New Road pitch, but the other three are at international venues which may be an indication of true surfaces.
Ricardo Vasconcelos (Northamptonshire)Runs: 485
Fixtures: May 6: Sussex (h), May 20: Lancashire (h), May 27: Sussex (a)
Vasconcelos, the diminutive wicketkeeper-batter, started the season with 154 in Northants' draw with Kent and added 185 not out in a breath-taking chase against Glamorgan at Wantage Road two weeks later. So far, 347 of his 485 Championship runs have come at home, but the fixture list for May has also been kind. Two more home games against Sussex and Lancashire could present another opportunity to fill his boots.
Adam Rossington's finger injury forced Vasconcelos to captain, keep wicket and open the batting at Headingley last week, and his chances of reaching the landmark will be helped by a swift return to health for the club captain.
Matt Critchley (Derbyshire)Runs: 483
Fixtures: May 13: Essex (a), May 20: Durham (h), May 27: Worcestershire (a)
Critchley, the legspinning allrounder, has enjoyed a breakthrough year in the Derbyshire middle order but laughed off the prospect of reaching 1,000 runs by the end of May when asked by The Cricketer if he thought it was a realistic possibility. He has been very consistent, scoring between 33 and 109 in his first seven innings, and is one of a handful of contenders to have benefited from the extended ban on using saliva, making runs easier to come by against the old ball.
Tom Westley (385), Dan Lawrence (304) and Sam Robson (341), all have four fixtures remaining, as does Hashim Amla (293) who found form with 215 not out last week after a lean start to the season. Amla appeared to make his trigger movement more pronounced and ended a run of lbw dismissals, and if he has found his groove after a quiet run, it would be brave to write him off.
Of those with three fixtures - and up to six innings - remaining, Lewis Hill, Tom Haines, Kiran Carlson and Haseeb Hameed have all breached the 400-run mark while James Bracey, Ian Holland and Ben Slater are in the 350-400 region.
Among the real outsiders, Alastair Cook made his first hundred of the season last week after a quiet start and could have another eight innings. Marnus Labuschagne is still 989 runs short following his first appearance of the season, but given his recent first-class record, would you really want to bet against him?
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98