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.


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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor