High drama in offing as title goes to wire

 

Of course, it could be straightforward with barely a twist or turn before Warwickshire, leaders of the County Championship this morning by three points, step forward to receive their prize on Thursday evening. But then pigs might fly.

Straightforward? How can it be, given what we remember about the end of last season when the situation, going into the final round of matches, was remarkably similar to the one which tantalises us now? And how can it be, after the high drama of Saturday afternoon just gone, when Lancashire snatched a vital win from the depths of despair?

No, the good old County Championship seems hell-bent on coming up with another cliff-hanger. And, although no one would have hinted at this possibility 12 months ago while perspiration was being wiped from countless brows, the finish of 2011 could be even closer than that of 2010.

A year back, Nottinghamshire were two points ahead of Somerset and seven clear of Yorkshire. By the end of a breathtaking final day, Notts claimed the bowling bonus point they needed (against Lancashire) to finish level with Somerset and claim the title by virtue of being on the right end of the competition's first tie-breaker: most wins in the season.

This year, Warwickshire lead Lancashire by three points with Durham a further 12 adrift. And while just about anything could still happen, if the top two end up all square on points again then neither of the first two tie-breakers (most wins followed by fewest losses) will be able to separate them as things stand.

So another shared title for Lancashire, like their last, in 1950, when Surrey joined them as joint winners? No, those days are long gone. The third tie-breaker (and there are five in all) stipulates that the team gathering most points in matches between counties locked together will be crowned champions. And that, it can be revealed, is good news for Lancashire and their fans who dream of a first outright title for 77 years, thanks to the Red Rose having won at Edgbaston and drawn on home turf.

Of course, Warwickshire will be hoping to take all the heat out of this week by doing to Hampshire at the Rose Bowl what they have done four times already this season: score big and win by an innings. The Bears call it "Route One" and they have an ideal team for the tactic because they bat long and bowl hard, with all-rounders like Rikki Clarke, Chris Woakes and Keith Barker to support pacemen Chris Wright and Boyd Rankin.

The bad news for the leaders is that while Lancashire's opponents, Somerset, may be turning their thoughts to Saturday's CB40 final at Lord's, Hampshire could claw their way off the bottom of the table and up to safety by beating Warwickshire.

Yorkshire, whose season is over, will be relegated if Worcestershire earn even a point against Durham. But Worcester may need as many as eight to guarantee their survival in the event of Hampshire thumping Warwickshire.

And Durham? Outsiders for the title, certainly, but they are not out of it. A good win for them and bad results for the other two contenders will see the title heading to Chester-le-Street for the third time in four years.

As for the Second Division promotion picture, rain rather than the opposition (rock-bottom Leicestershire) should be the only worry for leaders Middlesex. And Surrey can make it a London double by beating Derbyshire while the other hopefuls, Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire, do each other down when they meet at Wantage Road.

How the title will be decided

Who can win the title?

Warwickshire will be champions if they beat Hampshire and take 22 or more points.

Lancashire need to earn at least three more points than Warwickshire to finish ahead of the current leaders.

Durham will be crowned champions if they beat Worcestershire while both Warwickshire and Lancashire fail to win their games, provided they take 16 more points than Warwickshire and 13 more than Lancashire.



How the points system works

A team can take a maximum of 24 points: 16 for a win, plus up to eight bonus points (five batting, three bowling). There are eight points for a tie and three for a draw. If teams are level on points at the end of the season, tie-breakers in the following order decide placings: 1 Most wins 2 Fewest losses 3 Most points in matches between level teams 4 Most wickets taken 5 Most runs scored.



<<p>

Today's key games

Durham v Worcestershire, Emirates Durham ICG, 10:30

Hampshire v Warwickshire, The Rose Bowl, 10:30

Somerset v Lancashire, Taunton, 10:30

Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy