A good Test match should change in character as the pitch changes character. Early on, there might be a bit of moisture for seam bowlers to exploit; then it might flatten out, favouring the patient batsmen; and eventually the pitch should deteriorate so that there’s uneven bounce and plenty of turn for the spinners.
The point is, every player should have a chance of coming to the fore at different times of the match. It never really works like this exactly, but that’s the general principle. A similar thing applies to the County Championship.
Who wins the County Championship?
To win the County Championship, you need to be the best all-round team. If you have strong seam bowling and batsmen with good technique, you can get to the top of the table early in the season. However, if you don’t have a decent spinner or your batsmen are impatient, you can trip up when pitches are drier later on in the tournament.
To use Lancashire’s thus far disastrous title defence as an example, it is pretty clear that the batsmen can’t cope with early season conditions, even if the bowlers have performed reasonably well for the most part. It’s tempting to say the batsmen are terrible, but they have generally been faced with similar conditions in every match. Maybe they just have an unusually high percentage of batsmen who are crap at that particular style of batting. They’re pretty young as batting line-ups go.
We make no promises, but it’ll be interesting to see how they fare when batting conditions improve and different skills come to the fore. Just because batting’s ‘easier’ doesn’t change the fact that you still have to score more runs than the opposition – that’s the most important measure of performance.
Who doesn’t win the County Championship?
Conversely, there might be an anti-Lancashire currently lurking near the top of the table; a side without a decent spinner who can’t face spin either. One of the reasons why the County Championship is currently such a good competition is because such weaknesses are generally exposed.
This season, there is a very large proportion of early season matches, which has perhaps tipped the balance in favour of certain sides. However, that’s the nature of the competition. Everyone knew that in advance. The Tour de France route is different every year. Some years it favours climbers, other years are better for time trialists. Teams are constructed accordingly.
In cricket, there’s also a certain amount of luck involved with regards to the weather, but that’s part of it too. The champion county is the one that copes best with all that comes its way.