It may not even be the end of May, but this is another massive weekend in the Women's County Championship with games being played on Sunday and Monday. By Monday most teams will have played more than half of their fixtures for this season and the teams in the running for the play-offs and relegation will be much clearer.
Key matches will be Kent v Sussex in Div 1 on Monday - these are the two teams that look like they are heading for the Championship play-off again this season. The side that wins will almost certainly have one foot in the play-off. The loser will not be able to afford any more slip-ups before the end of the season, with Notts and Warwickshire breathing down their necks. At the other end of the table Surrey take on Middlesex on Monday with both teams desperate to notch up their first win.
In Div 2 Monday sees the much-anticipated clash between currently unbeaten Lancashire and Somerset, and Devon take on Wales on Sunday to try and keep themselves off the bottom of the table.
I'll run through all the games on both days below, but it is perhaps just worth reiterating what happens once all the league games have been played, as it is not as straightforward as you might think.
The top two teams in Divisions 1, 2 and 3 will play off against each other. The winner of the Division 1 play-off will be the County Champions.
The bottom two teams in Divisions 1, 2 and 3 will also play-off against each other. The winner of each play-off will avoid relegation. The loser will meet the winner of the top two play-off in the division below. The winner of this match will go into the higher division and the loser will go into the lower division next season.
All of which means that it is pretty tough to get promotion (you have to finish top two and then win your play-off and then win another play-off against the relegaion battle loser from the division above), and that the bottom two teams in each of division (1,2 and 3) get two play-off chances to avoid relegation.
Division One - Matches and Preview
Sunday 26th May (11am)
Berks v Essex
Notts v Warwickshire
Surrey v Middlesex
Sussex v Yorkshire
Monday 27th May (11am)
Berks v Yorks
Kent v Sussex
Middlesex v Notts
Warwickshire v Essex
Berkshire will be hoping to pick up wins against both Essex and Yorkshire, but after their fragile batting effort against Kent last week they may come unstuck in at least one of those games.
Warwickshire finally got their season off the ground last week against Yorkshire. They have a tough game against Notts on Saturday, but I expect them to pull off a win there and then consolidate their place in the County Championship table with a further win over Essex on Sunday.
Surrey will be desperate to win their only game of the weekend against Middlesex on Sunday. Middlesex will have other ideas and if their batting can fire they may consign Surrey to the bottom spot in the league. Middlesex play Notts on Monday which should be a tight match. Notts may just nick it.
Sussex warm up for their big clash with Kent on Monday, with a tough match against Yorkshire, but they will back themselves to win both games. Much could depend on the fitness and form of their England players - Taylor, Colvin, Elwiss and Brindle - playing two games in two days. Kent have the advantage that they can rest their players on Sunday and come out all guns blazing on Monday. Charlotte Edwards batting for Kent may again be key.
Division Two - Matches and Preview
Sunday 26th May (11am)
Cheshire v Ireland
Devon v Wales
Durham v Staffs
Lancashire v Worcestershire
Monday 27th May (11am)
Cheshire v Worcestershire
Durham v Ireland
Lancashire v Somerset
Staffs v Devon
With unbeaten Somerset only playing one match over the weekend the chance is there for others to make ground on them this weekend. If Lancashire can beat Worcester on Sunday and then overcome Somerset themselves on Monday they will have won four from four and will be the only unbeaten team in Div 2. But that is a big "if". Worcester have wins over Durham and Devon under their belts already and could be a tough start to the weekend for Lancashire. Somerset will be no easier and they will be desperate to maintain their 100% record and go to the top of the league. Both games will be tense affairs.
Devon and Wales have had miserable starts to their seasons. Devon may add to Wales' woes in Wales' only game of the weekend on Sunday. They will then hope to beat Staffs on Sunday, who lost out to Lancashire last week.
Durham have a tough weekend ahead of them as they meet Staffs on Sunday and Ireland on Monday, with Isobel Joyce back in the Ireland team. It will take one or two fine individual performances for Durham to get off the mark against either team.
Ireland may be the biggest gainers of the weekend. If they can overcome Durham on Monday, they may already have another win under the belts from the previous day when they take on a young Cheshire side. Cheshire won their first match last weekend against Wales, but Ireland and Worcester this week could make it a disappointing weekend for the North Easterners.