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

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own