Lancashire have qualified for the 2021 Bob Willis Trophy

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The groups-then-divisions format of this year’s County Championship achieves a couple of significant things. (1) It creates a magnificent climax where the top teams are all pitted against each other and vying for overall glory. (2) It creates a great morass of meaningless fixtures where everyone else is vying for nothing much at all really.

Three divisions with promotion and relegation – that’s the format they need. But for now we have this, so let’s focus on the interesting bit.

Lancashire’s match against Hampshire was indeed shaped by the contribution of The Machines’ Mohammad Abbas, as we predicted last week. He took 5-48 in Lancashire’s first innings, but it was construction-machinery-monikered leg-spinner Mason Crane who took centre stage in their second.

Not wanting to give themselves a chance of winning the County Championship/qualifying for the Bob Willis Trophy without a struggle, Lancashire concluded that the best thing to do would be to plummet from 151-4 to 194-9 in pursuit of 196 to win.

Paul Edwards suggests Matt Parkinson might be nominated for an award for defending the two balls before Dane Vilas then swept the winning runs.

If Warwickshire beat Somerset today, they’ll win the County Championship and qualify for the Bob Willis Trophy. If they don’t, Lancashire will win the Championship. We reckon a draw would get Warwickshire into the Bob Willis Trophy while defeat wouldn’t – but it would be inadvisable to trust us on that.

There was talk in the comments yesterday that the County Championship outranks the Bob Willis Trophy with the latter a Community Shield style contrivance. We’re not so sure. Following directly on from the Championship and contested by the top two teams, it’s more of a continuation and perhaps more akin to the Sheffield Shield or Ranji Trophy finals.

We may form a firmer editorial stance on this matter if Lancashire happen to win one of the two competitions.

Update: Currently erring on the side of The Bob being the bigger ‘un.

27 comments

  1. I think if Notts beat Yorkshire, and Warwickshire fail to win, Notts qualify for the final. But can’t be sure.

      1. I must say the climax of that Lancs match was the most thrilling bit of cricket I’ve followed in quite some time. I wonder if any of the ECB’s bonus brigade were watching?

  2. Somerset’s turn to be kingmakers rather than bridesmaids and I understand some of the Old Trafford faithful are currently having difficulty spaking at the ease with which the UBears were able to set a target this morning. We have only used proper bowlers though, and it’s not our fault that Jack Leach is rubbish now, having been ruined by the ECB through two seasons of largely watching others play cricket.

    Media coverage seems to consider the County Championship the top prize in the absence of official guidance, and I would be inclined to agree because I think the BWT was only organised this season because *someone* won it last year and they felt they had to give them a chance to retain it. I hope it’s dropped next year.

      1. I feel this is just, after that time Shiv and co couldn’t be arsed seeing out about 6 overs and handed Notts the title on number of wins. 2010 probably. I’m not bitter. Enjoy, Sam!

  3. * Looks at score from Edgbaston *

    We’re all agreeing, aren’t we, that winning the Bob Willis Trophy is the main thing and the County Championship is a sort of ‘League Leaders’ Shield’, as opposed to the BWT being a sort of ‘Super Cup’/’Community Shield’?

  4. A quite brilliant performance from Warwickshire. Scoring at five an over to set a total, Dom ‘blocker’ Sibley hitting sixes, Yates playing like God, and then superb bowling from Woakes, Norwell and Miles against a Somerset side which has admittedly been on its winter break since about mid-August.

    You Bears.

  5. I’m going to be a little bit serious here and by the looks of it somewhat against the grain in this group.

    I really like this trial format.

    The conference basis for the first/main part of the first class season means that, at the start, every county has a chance of winning the county championship. While that hope might wane for some counties quite quickly, nevertheless there is something up for grabs for one team or the other or both for the vast majority of those conference matches.

    Then the divisions.

    While I agree that the first division naturally and deservedly gets most of the attention, nevertheless there is the lure of winning the division you are in over those four matches. I found the Kent v Middlesex match this week compelling, even though it was third division.

    Further, those four end of season games give teams (especially those in the second and third divisions) the opportunity to try some emerging players in the first class competition as part of the planning for the next season. Twenty years ago, when the whole schedule was divisional or knockout cricket, there was hardly any opportunity to blood young players in the first team in any format.

    Finally, the Bob Willis Trophy match. If we really do love and want to cherish first class cricket, what better way to bring the curtain down on a season than having a first class trophy match between the top two counties of the season.

    Well done UBEARS for winning the County Championship this year – well deserved. Good luck to yon Bears and yon Lankeys in next week’s final. I had quietly been rooting for the final to be between those two teams for the last week or so.

    1. Don’t forget the pre-match favourite Ged: October weather. Looks to be in with a great chance of besting both of the other contenders.

      1. Five days at quick-drying, tough-batting Lord’s should be enough time, even with a bit of weather around.

        I’ll be popping in and out during the week and will keep you posted.

        I might even dash off a quick match report, for publication here, in 2023.

  6. Just catching up on this from Jonathan Liew:

    https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2021/sep/21/kents-blast-triumph-a-rare-authentic-moment-in-an-endless-sprawl-of-cricket?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

    On Darren Stevens: ‘A man who looks like he’s just thrown a shoe over a pub and can’t wait to do it again.’

    On the IPL: ‘The gravity of an entire sport warped just so we can watch Suresh Raina waddling around trying to burn off his breakfast.’

    On franchise cricket: ‘Who does Chris Jordan play for right now? There are at least four answers, none of them wrong.’

    Chef’s kiss emoji, as the kids don’t say.

  7. The “endless sprawl of cricket” was commercially inevitable given the financial shit-shower that was the first 15-18 months of the pandemic and the resulting need for boards everywhere to meet broadcasting commitments or accept even bigger losses.

    The worry is that they acquire a taste for endless sprawl and we are stuck with it for all eternity.

    Meanwhile, returning to the main theme of KC’s piece (rather than the comment section), I am excitedly awaiting the arrival of my old mate Frank, whom I shall be seeing for the first time since his appearance at Southport when Daisy and I were there with Escamillo-Escapillo and Lavender:

    https://ianlouisharris.com/2017/06/11/southport-day-three-county-cricket-en-famille-plus-a-blast-from-my-keele-past-11-june-2017/

    Frank was at Liverpool this week, so I shall enjoy an eye-witness report from the Lancashire v Hampshire match. Anything repeatable and worth repeating I’ll report back here later today or tomorrow.

    1. A consequence, but that’s also how he came to be a Test player in the first place and how he came to play quite a lot of those matches.

      We’ll probably write something about this when we’re much less tired.

      1. ‘We’ll probably write something about this when we’re much less tired’.
        I’m going to try this line in my morning conference at work tomorrow.

      1. I think one of the more interesting things said in that article is

        “after a couple of years playing short-format cricket, he found he no longer had what it took to flourish in Test cricket. He just couldn’t, as he puts it, “get in the zone” anymore”

        This might be one for anyone who is worried that The Hundred/The IPL Is Killing Test Cricket to get their teeth into….

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