One of the two Roses rivals was tipped to challenge for the title this season, but it wasn't Lancashire. Peter Moores' side finished mid-table last season, some way from the struggle for the pennant, but they've looked a different team this year at their temporary home of Aigburth. Yorkshire, by contrast, are in trouble, having only escaped the relegation zone with last week's victory over Worcestershire.
Yorkshire's problems have led them to send out an SOS to Jacques Rudolph and they're optimistic that despite problems with a work permit he'll be able to play in the Roses match today at Headingley, the 3,000th Championship match to be played at that ground. Lancashire's captain Glen Chapple will certainly be available, having spent over a month out with a hip injury until his return in a Twenty20 game last week.
Lancashire, as is their right given a Championship drought that stretches back to 1950, are taking nothing for granted. "It's still tight; if you win the game in hand then you're back to within a few points," Moores told the ECB's website. "It's going to be about how well you play in the next two months. We've got some big games. If we win some of those games we're going to be right in the mix to win it. We've got to knuckle down." Second-placed Lancashire have one game in hand over Durham, who lead the Championship by 23 points.
The return of Rudolph, who was Yorkshire's overseas player between 2007 and last season, represents something of a volte-face for the Tykes. At the start of the season, they committed themselves to playing a wholly home-grown team, give or take Gerard Brophy.
Coach Martyn Moxon, a great believer in bringing through young players, said then: "We've no plans to bring anyone in. The plan is to use home-grown players. We've got to see gaps that appear as opportunities for other players, you have to see it as a win-win situation." The view at Headingley has understandably changed since then.
Yorkshire's problems, though, are as nothing compared to those of Hampshire, at least in this longest form of the county game. They're rock bottom, having garnered a frankly feeble 40 points from their eight games this season. Relegation looks a probability this year, barring miracles.
Today, they welcome Nottinghamshire, another club where things are looking rather less rosy than they did last September. Then they were champions on a thrilling final day; now, they're fourth from the bottom without looking particularly threatened by relegation. Batting weaknesses – particularly at the top of the order – which have been a problem for a while, have proven fatal to their title hopes this year.
What unites Hampshire and Notts is that, despite their poor Championship form, they're still in the hunt for the Twenty20 title. So are Sussex, who travel to Birmingham for their Championship game against Warwickshire today. The hosts have more to play for but Sussex will be buoyed by their win over Hampshire last week. Michael Yardy returns to captain the visitors.Reuse content