Thursday, 24 July 2014

Final Weekend of the Women's County Championship

This weekend sees the final official weekend of the Women's County Championship. However the reality is that there have been a number of cancelled games in Division 1 in particular, and any of these could be played before the 17th August cut-off date. I doubt that many of them will be played, unless counties are in with a shout of promotion or in the relegation zone.

This Sunday's fixtures are

Division 1
Berkshire v Warwickshire at Wokingham CC
Middlesex v Sussex at Edmonton CC
Surrey v Kent at Reed's School
Yorkshire v Notts at Harrogate CC
Division 2
Devon v Durham at Exmouth CC
Somerset v Ireland at Brislington CC
Wales v Cheshire at St Helen's Swansea
Staffordshire v Lancashire at Meakins

In Divison 1 the stand-out game is the top of the table clash between Surrey and Kent. Victory for Kent would seal their sixth Women's County Championship, equalling Sussex who took the title last year. Standing in their way seem to be Surrey's Nat Sciver (fresh from 154 last week on this same ground) with the bat and veteran leg-spinner Sarah Clarke (14 wickets to date). But as well as their England stars Kent have a leg-spinner of their own - New Zealand's Erin Bermingham - and they should have too much power for Surrey, who have punched above their weight all season. Even a defeat might not knock Kent off the top, depending on the bonus points scored, plus they have two cancelled games that they could still try and play.

At the bottom of the league Essex do not play so look down and out (their outstanding game is a cancelled game v Kent which is unlikely to be played you would think). Warwickshire, just above them take on Berkshire, knowing they need a win to boost their chances of avoiding the relegation play-off match with the Div 2 runners-up. A win for Berkshire will make sure they are safe and probably end their season, even though they have missed three games. It is a difficult one to call but if the side batting first can put 200+ on the board then they could win the day.

Meanwhile in North London Middlesex will be hoping that their T20 success translates into some 50 over form against a Sussex team that are in the doldrums, as they are just 1 point above Warwickshire. Middlesex will certainly be up for the game and they could consign Sussex to their third league defeat in a row.

In Harrogate Yorkshire take on a visiting Nott's side. Yorkshire are not completely out of the relegation picture, so could do with a win just to keep the wolves from the door. On paper it looks like quite an even match with the Yorkies keen to avenge being beaten to the T20 Finals by Notts. Should be a good contest.

In Divison 2 Lancashire are just about home and hosed at the top, but they will want to finish with a flourish against Staffs and confirm their place in Div 1 next year. They have been the standout team in the division and should take the win, even though Staffs have been on a decent run recently.

The question is who will finish second and gain the right to play-off against the second from bottom in Div 1 for the right to play Div 1 cricket next year. Devon's loss to Ireland last week opened up the door for both Ireland and Somerset, with Somerset in the driving seat, which makes the Somerset v Ireland game a must-see. Ireland have got stronger and stronger as the season has gone on, but so have Somerset after a slow start. They have Anya Shrubsole back with ball in hand and she might just be the difference. But not only do they need to win they need to pick up as many bonus points as possible. It will be an epic battle.

Devon have faltered of late, not helped by injuries to some key players. They need to make one final effort against lowly Durham and being at home may give them just that little edge. Someone in the Devon team apart from Roslie Fairbairn needs to stand up and be counted. A full bonus point win could take them back above Somerset into the prized second slot. If they fail to get there they do have another chance if they can re-arrange their cancelled match with Wales, but a defeat would effectively end their hopes.

The final game in Div 2 is the Wales v Cheshire match. Cheshire are currently sitting in the second from bottom spot above Worcestershire, who have finished their fixtures, and desperately need a win. If they could get it they might push Durham below them if they fail to get at least five points from their game with Devon. Wins for Durham and Cheshire could put Wales in a difficult spot, so they will not roll over and die.

It could be a very tense Sunday all over the country.


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