Friday, 28 August 2015

Kent have seventh title within their grasp

This Bank Holiday weekend is the penultimate weekend for the Women's County Championship, with games being played on the Sunday and Monday (Wales and Durham are now playing Saturday rather than Monday). Both Div 1 & Div 2 games are previewed below.

Division One Preview & Fixtures 

Due to the way the fixtures have worked out Div 1 table-toppers Kent actually finish their season this weekend, with away games at Middlesex and Berkshire, and they will know that two wins will give them the County Championship title for a record seventh time. Kent will be without their England trio of Edwards, Greenway and Marsh, but they will have Tammy Beaumont and Tash Farrant available for selection. But Middlesex should be at full strength with Fran Wilson back on duty, plus Aussie import Julie Hunter opening the bowling. If Middlesex can get Beaumont early they should back themselves to win. Monday's game against Berkshire will be no pushover for Kent either. If Berkshire can get a full-strength team on the park, minus Heather Knight, including players such as Rogers, Macleod, Hall, Rudd, Gumbs, Morris and Gardner they will fancy themselves to upset last year's County Champions.

Should Kent lose one or both games, then they will open the door for chasers Yorkshire and Sussex. The two teams meet in a potentially massive game on Bank Holiday Monday at Harrogate CC, but before that clash they have Surrey and Lancashire, respectively, to overcome. Surrey have had a torrid season. They have just finished bottom of the Div 1 T20 table without recording a win and they have not won a game in the Championship or the T20 competition since 21st June. Yorkshire are of course without Brunt, Hazell and Winfield, so they will be relying on their youngsters to keep up their title challenge.

Sussex's Sunday opponents, Lancashire, are also struggling in the Championship without a victory in five games, but they have romped away with the Div 2 T20 title, which should instill some confidence in them. They will, of course, have Kate Cross back in their midst, so Sussex without Taylor and Elwiss again, will need to be on their toes.

If both teams can win on the Sunday then Monday's Harrogate game will be huge. The winner could go on to take the Championship. The loser can wave goodbye to any Championship ambitions. Yorkshire narrowly missed out on the Div 1 T20 title to Sussex on NRR, so they will be keen to avenge that loss, but they will be without opening bats Beth Mooney (returned to Australia) and Jess Watson (injured), so will be reliant on youngsters such as Cecilia Allen, Hannah Buck, Katie Thompson, Phoebe Austin and Bea Firth to show what they can do. It could be a tough ask against a strong Sussex bowling attack, spearheaded by the experienced Holly Colvin and with the new ball threat of Freya Davies.

At the bottom of the league Lancashire meet second-to-bottom Warwickshire on Monday at home. With two teams to be relegated it is a must-win game for both counties. Warwickshire will have met Berkshire the previous day and if they could secure two wins they would lift themselves out of the relegation zone with one game (against Middlesex) still to come. They will have been buoyed by recent T20 performances (albeit in Div 2) and with Amy Jones back in their batting line-up they could make life uncomfortable for the teams just above them in the league table at the current time, particularly Notts and Middlesex, who also meet each other on Monday at Middlesex's new home ground at Merchant Taylor's School. Middlesex must be favourites to come out on top with Notts missing Jenny Gunn and Danni Wyatt on England duties, but it is Notts' only game of the weekend so they will be fresh, whereas Middlesex will have battled it out with Kent the day before.

Sunday 30th August
Lancs v Sussex at Wigan CC
Middx v Kent at Merchant Taylor's School
Warwickshire v Berks at Wellesbourne CC
Yorkshire v Surrey at Harrogate CC

Monday 31st August
Berks v Kent at North Maidenhead CC
Lancs v Warwickshire at Urmston CC
Middx v Notts at Merchant Taylor's School
Yorkshire v Sussex at Harrogate CC

Division Two Preview and Fixtures 

Somerset and Staffs looked nailed on to take the top two promotion places in Div 2 but they can make sure this weekend. Somerset are at home to third-placed Durham on Sunday and then travel to Worcestershire on Monday. Durham have won their last three games against Ireland, Worcester and Scotland so could give Somerset something to think about. Somerset will know if they win both games with decent bonus points they will be promoted - a feat which has tantalisingly alluded them for the past couple of seasons.

Staffs meanwhile (without overseas leading run-scorer Molly Strano) have just the one game on Monday against a reinvigorated Essex. Essex lost their first four games in Div 2 after relegation from Div 1 last year, but they picked up their first County Championship win in the last round against Worcestershire and have had a decent Div 2 T20 campaign, just missing out on promotion back to Div 1. They take on Scotland the day before, who are currently rock-bottom of Div 2, and two wins could drag Essex out of the relegation zone and the possibility of dropping two divisions in two years. The game at Garon Park on Monday could be a tense affair. If Lily Reynolds can retain her form with the bat for Essex (she hit 170 against Worcestershire) they could make life very uncomfortable for Staffs.

Wales, currently third from bottom, take on Durham on Saturday and then Ireland on Sunday. They cannot rely on those around them losing, but they will have their work cut out to get much from these two games. Durham are on a roll and Ireland have had a good Div 1 T20 campaign and performed admirably against Australia in the recent T20 series in Dublin. Two wins for Ireland (who finish their season this weekend) or Durham, and a slip by Staffs, and both teams could still be in with a shout of promotion to Div 1 next year. Ireland's game on Monday is against Scotland, who will have travelled all the way down to Essex the day before and then back to the midlands for this game. It could be a long drive back home to Scotland on Monday evening if they fail to pick up a win.

Devon's only game of the weekend is against Worcestershire on Sunday. Worcestershire could do with the win with Wales and Essex only one win behind them, but mid-table Devon will want to prove they are better than recent results have suggested. They have lost their last three games to Staffs, Ireland and Somerset to end any hopes they may have had of promotion. It should be a good game.

Saturday 29th August
Wales v Durham at Llanarth CC

Sunday 30th Aug

Essex v Scotland at Billericay CC
Somerset v Durham at Midsomer Norton CC
Wales v Ireland at Newport CC
Worcs v Devon at New Road, Worcs

Mon 31st Aug
Essex v Staffs at Garon Park, Southend
Scotland v Ireland at Wellesbourne CC
Worcs v Somerset at Romsley CC


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