Wednesday, 16 September 2015

County Championship Wrap Up

It is always sad when a cricket season comes to an end, as the 2015 season here in England has just done. It is usually made worse by the fact that the sun continues to shine until the end of September, but this year Autumn seems to have arrived early in the UK, with plenty of rain falling from the sky.

Unfortunately that rain arrived a couple of weeks ago, and wrecked the end of the Women's County Championship season, when the Yorkshire v Sussex game was called off. It would have been a pivotal game, but the rules say that it does not have to be played, so it wasn't. Yorkshire went on to annihilate Lancashire in their last game of the season and the County Championship title was theirs for the first time since 2002, when the league had just six teams and five games were played in a week. Kent finished in the runners-up spot. 

At the bottom Lancashire have discovered that life in Div 1 is pretty tough. They have lost all of their eight games and have managed to pick up just six bowling bonus points. That equates to just 26 wickets taken in those eight games, not helped by batting first in seven of their fixtures, including games where they won the toss. They were also missing Kate Cross for four of their games, although she only took three wickets in the four games she did play. Will she be happy to play Division 2 cricket again next year? I am guessing she will, if the ECB will let her.

So the question was who would make the drop with Lancashire? It was between Warwickshire (the Harry Houdini's of Div 1) and Notts. Notts did what they could by beating Surrey and claiming 17 points, but Warwickshire pulled off the great escape yet again by beating Middlesex and claiming the full 18 points on offer. It meant that they finished three points above Notts. Will Notts be able to hold on to Jenny Gunn and Danni Wyatt for the 2016 season? With the promotion of Wyatt's former county, Staffordshire, to Division One next year, it may be a tough call. There is little doubt that Staffs would love to have her back. 

Coming up with Staffs, who finished runners-up in Division Two, will be Somerset. They have been so close to Division One status for the past two years, so it was good to see them get it spot on this year with an undefeated season. Sophie Luff hit a couple of important hundreds and Welsh import Gwenan Davies meant that they did not miss Fran Wilson (who left to play at Middlesex) too much at the top of the order. It will be good to see how they go in Division One next year, and whether they can entice South African Lizelle Lee back to play in the top division.

Looking forward to 2016 the ECB must change the rules on cancelled and abandoned games. They are currently a nonsense. Abandoned games (ie games that are started and not finished) cannot be replayed, and cancelled games do not have to be replayed if one team does not want to. This has always allowed teams to manipulate who they do or do not want to play if the weather intervenes. The rule has to be that abandoned and cancelled games MUST be played. If not then they are conceded and the willing team gets a full bonus points win. I would also like to see the season extended to 12 games. With the current nine teams in the league this would mean eight regular games and then four additional games (there are various formulae that can be used to make these as fair as possible). In 2017 it would be easier to reduce the league to seven teams, playing home and away, perhaps with the goal of having four divisions of seven teams ultimately, which might keep things fresh.

Certainly the County Championship will need some spicing up. Next season the inaugural Women's Cricket Super League T20 competition is due to start, and the season after that there is due to be a 50 over competition, which will undoubtedly impact on the standard of county cricket. Basically the more senior players will not be playing it. But the ECB cannot afford to let it wither on the vine. It needs to be supported, encouraged and properly financed, albeit perhaps reduced from the current 38 teams. It will be the proving ground for up and coming players and the home to those that want to play at a good level, but do not have the time or the ambition to play in the Super League or beyond. 



  1. Thanks for the summary.

    My overriding question is why would counties outside continue to develop players for the WSL and England when there is no financial benefit? Maybe they could become academies and be funded by the franchises? But once the franchises are established the counties outside the WSL may find themselves at a significant disadvantage in attracting sponsors and retaining players.

  2. The current points system only really works if all matches must be played (as MD has suggested above) – and not only is that a challenge from a player commitment point of view but there seems to be various problems getting pitches in the 2nd half of September. That said it would be good if all team were forced to play the same number of matches and then the very strange percentage points per match determiner can be scrapped.
    This season raised an interesting question. Was Notts’ record worse than that of Surrey ? Notts won 3 from 7 and lost 4. Surrey won 3 from 8 and lost 5. They both won the same number of matches, Notts lost one less but were relegated.
    It has always seemed odd to me that the bonus point system from the multi-day county championship has been applied as the prime determiner to a one day limited over competition. Yes in theory one gets a whole match performance measure but you’ve got to play every match to make it really work. Should not the ethos of a one day limited over match be to simply beat the team in front of you ?
    If it not possible to force every match to be played there seems to be some merit in having as the prime determiner the match points, in which 2 pts are gained for a victory, 1 pt for a tie, abandoned (not replayed) or cancelled (not replayed) match and 0 pts for a loss. Bonus points can still be awarded but they are only used to differentiate between two teams on the same match pts. This system would be especially helpful if the rule was that abandoned and cancelled must not be replayed – at least teams can’t manipulate the system. Anyway, if applied to this season’s results one would have got :-

    Pos Team M Pts BPs
    1 Yorks 8 13 47
    2 Kent 8 12 50
    3 Sussex 8 10 50
    4 Berks 8 10 41
    5 Middlesex 8 7 44
    6 Warks 8 7 41
    7 Notts 8 7 38
    8 Surrey 8 6 53
    9 Lancs 8 0 23

    Is it fairer ?