The most important match of the county season is just around the corner. TBC v TBC at Lord’s from September 28 to October 2. The Game of the Falling Leaves, they call it – The Bob Willis Trophy Final.
Quite why they call it a final is beyond us. It’s not like there are semi-finals or a league stage or anything. The Bob Willis Trophy is just one match: the county champions v the runners-up. If you need more of a refresher on how the competition fits into the sprawling domestic season, you can find it here.
Its format means the final round of County Championship fixtures doubles as the final round of Bob Willis Trophy qualifiers anyway.
Things are pretty tense.
Four teams are still in with a chance of qualifying. Thankfully, Lancashire are among them. Thankfully, Yorkshire are not. (The latter have been too tied up trying to work out the exact amount they should acknowledge and apologise for having done a bunch of racisms down the years. They need to acknowledge and apologise enough that people will stop hassling them to do so, but not so much that people see it as an indication they should investigate further or take some sort of action.)
Lancashire will be playing Hampshire next week. Hampshire are top. This is in large part thanks to Mohammad Abbas, who is basically what AI will come up with when it needs an opening bowler for a Machines v Humans fixture in English conditions in the year 3030. He will be up against a Lancashire batting line-up that can boast four players averaging over 40 this season (when did that last happen?). Josh Bohannon has been the most productive with 822 runs at 58.71.
Warwickshire are in second place and they’ll be playing Somerset, who are bottom of the top flight. Warwickshire’s top wicket-taker this season is Liam Norwell, about whom we know almost nothing. Chris Woakes reportedly wants to play, but whether he’s permitted is another matter. England don’t generally approve of Chris Woakes playing cricket.
The other match sees Yorkshire host the fourth of our contenders, Nottinghamshire. Haseeb Hameed is probably the most noteworthy Notts player at the minute, but the key to their success has been Luke Fletcher barrelling in for 63 wickets at 14.04.
Here is Luke Fletcher showcasing a look we’re calling Ram-Man Chic after what was, at the time, a career-best performance against Essex in May.
There is a new series of He-Man on Netflix, by the way. We haven’t seen it all, but as far as we can tell, Ram-Man isn’t in it, which is kind of a tragedy. (The cast list is pretty mad. Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker to you) does the voice of Skeletor. Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) voices Teela. Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones) is Evil-Lyn. There are loads of others you’ll know too (including Henry Rollins), but special mention here for Diedrich Bader who is responsible for two of our all-time favourite cinematic minor roles: Lawrence from Office Space and Rex Kwon Do from Napoleon Dynamite.)
The last round of Bob Willis Trophy qualifiers start on Tuesday.