Who will initially be named as a County Championship title contender but actually end up getting relegated?

Essex celebrate 2017 survival (via ECB)

The first week of the County Championship is a great time for predictions. We’ve gone through a whole bunch of previews to pick out the three teams who have most often been mentioned as favourites this year and we’re now going to try and predict which of those favourites will actually end up getting relegated.

This is an odd feature of county cricket. For some reason teams’ performances vary enormously from year to year. Twice in recent memory the champions have been relegated the following season (Lancashire in 2012, Middlesex last year).

Who will it be this year?

Essex

Essex are reigning champions but it still isn’t all that easy to work out how they ever manage to win a game. Thanks largely to Jamie Porter, Simon Harmer and Neil Wagner, they are favourites to win the Championship (which to be honest only compounds the feeling that they absolutely won’t).

Surprise relegation rating: All but guaranteed to go down.

Lancashire

Lancashire have form in being relegated when no-one really expects them to be relegated. They have also strengthened their team over the winter by signing a couple of Durham’s best players (Keaton Jennings and Graham Onions), which would make relegation even more of a surprise and therefore even more likely. Throw in the fact that we support them and things really don’t look good. (We’d also like to point out that Shivnarine Chanderpaul will play for Lancashire again this season, encouraging the notion that he’s just going to carry on playing cricket until his age meets his batting average.)

Surprise relegation rating: Highly likely to go down.

Surrey

Surrey seasons are now routinely split into two or three phases. The first phase is when they’re talked up as potential champions, overrated young talent and big name old-timers having encouraged the notion that the county is ‘back’. The second phase is when an equally unjustifiable number of columns discuss why the things predicted in phase one haven’t actually happened. Phase three, if it happens, coincides with a late season resurgence as the county narrowly avoids relegation and in terms of media coverage is basically the same as phase one. In terms of playing staff, Kumar Sangakkara has sauntered off and Morne Morkel has turned up to wonder why the hell they need a seam bowler like him for all these nibbly green Championship pitches.

Surprise relegation rating: Pretty likely to go down.

Conclusion

All three favourites, simply by dint of being favourites, are in with a very good chance of being relegated – but county cricket being county cricket, the very fact that we’ve now weighed up the likelihood and made a prediction probably means that none of them will be relegated.

Additional conclusion

The County Championship is mental.


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28 Appeals

  1. I looked up some top runscorer odds last weekend. Sangakkara was near the top, despite having retired. Might be worth a flutter.

    • King Cricket

      April 12, 2018 at 11:23 am

      [Slams fiver down on desk. Realises he’s alone. Puts fiver back in wallet.]

  2. Morne Morkel now: ‘Why do they need a seam bowler like me for all these nibbly green Championship pitches?’

    Morne Morkel after a few months of bowling at the Oval: ‘Ah. That’s why.’

    • King Cricket

      April 12, 2018 at 11:22 am

      True. If he was going to play for any county, Surrey’s probably the one (and this is without even considering the matter of remuneration).

  3. Essex surprised so much on the upside last year that regression to the mean is highly likely. I’m not sure whether the mean is relegation but on the grounds that several informed pundits were expecting it last year I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens this year instead.

    Perhaps there’s some safety margin for a worse performance given the astonishingly stonking points difference they won the Championship by, but it does have a bit of a Leicester City feel to it.

  4. Another key factor for Lancashire – they neither got promoted nor relegated last year, which means they are clearly due a change in division.

    Further reasons Lancs are potentially doomed:
    (1) they’ve made the mistake of having too many good players that could end up getting picked for England (Jennings, Buttler, Livingstone, Hameed, Anderson…)

    (2) all the home games they take a convincing lead in will inevitably be rained off

    (3) Graham Onions, despite being at least 50% grey now, facially, isn’t even one of their oldest two players

    • King Cricket

      April 12, 2018 at 12:02 pm

      But on the plus side, all but one of their home games are in the April-July period when Manchester isn’t actually enormously wetter than elsewhere in the country.

      They’ll be away from home during the disproportionately rainy August-September period.

      (For some reason a lot of people think spring is the wetter period. We have no idea why this is.)

      • As I type this I am in Manchester, it is April, and it is not raining (although there is some forecast for tonight, and tomorrow morning, and Sunday).

        QED.

  5. I forget that there’s also a first division to the County Championship. It’s good to be reminded occasionally.

    Yorkshire are going to be relegated.

    • I support Middlesex and Durham.

      I’ll pop in here from time to time over the summer for the exploding tigers.

      • King Cricket

        April 12, 2018 at 3:36 pm

        They come for the exploding tigers. They stay for the additional exploding tigers.

      • Much like the IPL, the spectacle of the exploding tigers will create a need for ever more exploding mammals, until eventually the exploding animals reach an unsurmountable peak…..

        Picture it: <a href="https://www.kingcricket.co.uk/the-greatest-rob-key-picture/2009/06/05/Rob Key, riding a capybara, caught in an unavoidable head-on collision with his mirror image, a Bizarro Rob Key riding a facsilmie capybara with equal but opposite panache in the opposite direction at identical speed… neither Rob willing to divert their course, slow their rodent steed with a ‘whoa’, or generally give any quarter whatsoever to their doppelganger….culminating in an inevitable explosion in the shape of a pie.

      • Argh, the poetry of that mental image is rather undermined by my poor tag management – I was, of course, intending to link here.

  6. Anyone here fancy playing Telegraph fantasy cricket? £8 to register a team. I might create a mini league. https://fantasycricket.telegraph.co.uk/county/mobile/how-to-play/

  7. At last, the season is upon us.

    Charley the Gent and I shall spend a day at Lord’s today watching the fixture that really matters: Middlesex v Northamptonshire.

    Gloomy weather is forecast but I can exclusively reveal that the MCC now has permission to use the floodlights for day matches so I am hopeful we’ll get lots of play.

    I can also exclusively reveal that the pitch looks like one of those green sponge pudding things. Everyone in the ground will be bought a free drink if Middlesex win the toss and elect to bowl…i.e. we’re not expecting there to be a toss.

    Here is an Ogblog I upped recently from a similar fixture, back in the days of yore:

    http://ianlouisharris.com/2007/04/27/middlesex-v-northants-day-two-with-geoff-young-day-three-with-michael-mainelli-lords-26-27-april-2007/

    Might whet your appetites a little.

  8. According to the Guardian live blog, Shiv has played at 116 first-class grounds.

    116!

    116 was of course also the number of runs he made in an Edgbaston ODI in 2007, one of the many tours where he was frustrating England’s bowlers with his unwillingness to ever get out, ever.

    116 grounds, though.

    • Interestingly I have also had approximately that many geographical places of work but I think his set have been more scenic than mine.

  9. Any hopes of improving the national team via this season’s Championship?

  10. I’ll always have a lookout for Lancashire though – a side that played Akram, Murali, Lloyd, Flintoff, Shiv, Laxman, Holding, Sanath, Atherton, Hooper, Barnes, Farokh, and Anderson and found a place for Ganguly and Kerrigan in the dark places of Manchester.

    • King Cricket

      April 14, 2018 at 9:16 am

      You missed Austin.

      • We all miss Austin. However, if you can bear to look at the second division, Paul Stirling is being live-streamed being the archetypal chunky cricketer. He even bowls a bit of shod. It’s wonderful.

      • I don’t think we should even try to compare Paul Stirling’s off-spin (ball delivered by a heavy) with Ian Austin’s heavy ball.

        Neither bowls/bowled shod in my view, btw.

      • You have me to rights, Ged. I never saw Austin bowl, but Stirling’s offies are definitely above shod level, which is a shame.

        I suspect no spin, shod or otherwise, will be required in this game though.

  11. Excellent, another county championship preview that makes no mention of Somerset whatsoever (except the BBC who saw fit to mention a player who played for us throughout the last two years and did very well, and might do well again if he continues to play for us as often; except that he won’t do as well because our spinny pitches were sub-optimal, compared to these green-top 26-wickets-in-a-day affairs which are fine as it’s the Right Sort of Bowlers (RMF) getting bags of wickets for sod-all).

    Conclusion: all well with English cricket once again.

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