Why the County Championship is like a good Test match

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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.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. You’re right, KC, we will win! It’s very clear now you’ve explained it. Before you’d said all that I’d mistakenly thought that Lancs’ early season form was due to them being just bloody rubbish and a useless bunch of tossers at the same time. I can see that I was wrong.

    The only remaining question is which of Warwickshire and Notts will be relegated.

  2. Nice piece KC. But I could have saved you a lot of time by condensing it thusly:

    Who wins the County Championship? Warwickshire.

    Who doesn’t win the County Championship? Everybody else.

    You’re welcome.

  3. Clearly, you are not among Englishmen who believe that runs made in the sub-continent dont count because of easy batting conditions there. You still have to score more runs than the opposition. With your permission, will use that sentence elsewhere in the internet.

    1. Feel free, although easier runs do of course have an impact on batting averages, which is why we don’t generally like to compare players in that way.

  4. Just to say, I think Nick Knight is a fine and incisive commentator who was also not a run-of-the-mill mid-nineties batsman from a time when anyone could get a bat for England like John Crawley. His test batting average of 23 is a reflection of what were very difficult times for test batsmen worldwide from that transitional period when nobody had a decent bowler except Australia who he never played against. Who could ever forget his magnificent 42-ball 6 opening the batting against Zimbabwe in 2000, or the way he accumulated 56 runs in three tests against the extreme pace of Danny Morrison and Chris Cairns in 1997. Nobody could conceivably think that he isn’t the most supremely qualified person to suggest that players who average more than twice what he did should be dropped from the team because this is not in any way jealousy and he isn’t rubbish at commentary.

  5. Bert, I was with you until you pulled the rug out from under my feet.

    Knight was a very good county and one-day international batsman who carried Warwickshire almost single-handedly through the post-Woolmer early 90s.

    But that shouldn’t have anything to do with his commentary skills.

    Ian Botham, Bob Willis, Alec Stewart – class players, crap commentators.

    Jon Agnew, Vic Marks – average players, top commentators.

    Only rarely – Atherton – do you get a top player who is a top commentator.

    Mark Nicholas probably falls into a category all of his own.

    Anyway, I’ve lost my original point.

    Knight is a legend.

    Shut up.

    1. Knight is a COUNTY legend. That’s not the same thing as being a legend (see Flat Jack Simmons).

      Anyway, my only actual point is that whether or not he is a good commentator or player is irrelevant to the question of whether or not the ECB should be able to say whether or not current England players are allowed to comment on whether or not he is in a position to say whether or not they are worth their place in the team. They are, he wasn’t, they shouldn’t be, he always was and he always wasn’t.

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