Let’s have a 2023 County Championship catch-up

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Like many people, we haven’t paid much attention to the County Championship since the first batch of matches finished in May. This was not unexpected. It was, in fact, the plan – as drawn out in our 2023 “essentials” calendar. Back then, table-toppers Surrey had only played six games and going into this final stretch of games, they’ve played 11. We’ve some catching up to do…

Last time we reported on the Championship, Surrey were 25 points ahead of second-placed Warwickshire, who had a game in hand.

Surrey are still top, but Warwickshire are no longer second.

The obvious questions here are ‘what’s happened with Warwickshire?’ and ‘what’s happened with Essex?’

The short answers are that the former won one of their five games, while the latter won five out of five. That second one seems more interesting, so let’s focus on that.

The Essex Five

The first game of Essex’s that we didn’t pay any attention to was against Somerset. Reinforcing some of the things we wrote after the very first match of the season, this one highlighted how they’re an easy team to catch up with because it’s usually pretty easy to predict who’s performed for them. After a first innings hundred from Alastair Cook and, less predictably, one from Matt Critchley, Simon Harmer took eight wickets and Jamie Porter six.

The next win was over Warwickshire. On this occasion, Tom Westley and Dan Lawrence – their other two batters who have played Test cricket – made first innings hundreds. Harmer then took 10 wickets, while Porter took five of the remainder for next to nothing. You’re getting the vibe here, aren’t you?

What’s notable about the previous result is that it was achieved with the Kookaburra ball – as was the next one over Lancashire. (Here’s a short piece about why using the Kookaburra ball is a big deal.) This game again featured hundreds from Westley and Lawrence (albeit not in the same innings this time). Things were still pretty predictable when Essex’s other bowling banker, Sam Cook, took four wickets in the first innings, but then the team went wild, allowing New Zealand’s Doug Bracewell to take three second innings wickets and Critchley another three with his hit and miss leg-spin. Harmer took 0-103 after also failing to take a wicket in the three overs he got in the first innings. Bonkers.

It was back to the Duke ball and back to normality for the game against Kent though. Porter and Bowling Cook took three wickets each in the first innings; Bowling Cook and Harmer each took four in the second. Critchley hit a first innings hundred, Batting Cook made 87, and Harmer made 83 not out.

So many familiar names. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid the feeling that Essex must be going into games with three specialist fielders.

Finally, bringing us back up to date, was the win over Hampshire, in which Porter took 10-83 and the batters cobbled together enough runs to win by six wickets despite no-one reaching 40 in either innings. Yeah, one of those games.

What’s next?

With just three games to go, it’s hard to look past the top two. Surrey host Warwickshire from Sunday; Essex’s game against Middlesex doesn’t start until the following day for reasons that escape us in large part because we have not even considered pursuing them.

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  1. Only a guess, but this is probably the reason why Essex v Middlesex started at Chelmsford today rather than on Sunday:


    Atherton Minor has taken 7 wickets on Day One with what used to be his secondary skill but which seems to be settling down as his primary skill. Remember where you first saw photographic evidence of Atherton Minor’s bowling.

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