Outside Edge: A long tail-end has given this season a chance to shine

Diary of a cricket obsessive

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Yorkshire have been worthy champions in a fascinating summer

The end part of the season feels as if it has been stretched; a series of climaxes, rather than a single finale. And it has been none the worse for that.

Today the very final, concluding episode is upon us at last with all but one matter decided. The outstanding business at Old Trafford where Lancashire and Middlesex battle to avoid the second relegation spot could be compelling.

At the top of the Championship pile, Yorkshire have been worthy winners. Warwickshire should challenge them again next year, especially if Jonathan Trott isn’t recalled to England's colours. Durham were also hugely impressive; their performances made all the more remarkable by Graham Onions' absence. Silverware in the form of the Royal London Cup was thoroughly deserved.

Having predicted Yorkshire’s success in division one, I began the week hoping that my pick for the second division, Essex, would pip Hampshire and allow me a smug glow. Alas, their extraordinary run-in couldn't compensate mediocrity in the first half of the season. Can Paul Grayson survive as coach - again - next year?


Ryder’s renaissance puts him in line to be an overseas great for Essex

That Essex won six of their last seven games in the Championship owed much to the all-round skill of Jesse Ryder.  Scoring over six hundred runs in twelve matches would have been a satisfactoryish return.  To top the wicket-taking list, with 44 at just over 18 runs each, was completely unexpected. 

Ryder’s well-documented problems with alcohol and all sorts of ensuing trouble suggested he might have been something of gamble as a county's overseas player. The fact that he has thrived and stayed firmly on the straight and narrow is a testament to Essex but mainly to Ryder himself.

A man with a test batting average of more than 40 ought not to have much to prove. Ryder certainly did and has more than done so. He could, if he has the appetite and Essex have the wherewithal, become one of the county's great antipodean stars, following in the glorious footsteps of Alan Border, Mark Waugh and Stuart Law.


A welcome recall for Ravi

The announcement of England's squad for the pre-World Cup ODIs against Sri Lanka rammed home the slightly depressing fact that we are heading into a winter bereft of test matches (involving England at any rate). It might, just might, also be the last chance for the fifty-over format to show that it still has a place at the international table. There are plenty who would be pretty equable about its demise.

Ravi Bopara's recall was notable for highlighting the oddness of his previous omission. He has been highly effective in the last couple of years and, although it might be thought that his medium pacers aren't designed for Australian pitches, the last Ashes disaster should be reminder enough that ideas about which types of bowler will do well in particular conditions do not always come off. In any case, given that the tournament takes England as frequently to New Zealand as to Australia, they need to keep their options open.


Cricketers and courtrooms are an unwelcome combination

The decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to charge Chris Cairns with perjury, in connection with the libel case he previously won against Lalit Modi, is naturally depressing given the spotlight it will throw once again on the murky allegations of match-fixing to which Cairns has been subjected.

Ultimately, of course, any proceedings that weedle out from dark corners information about the way fixing has corrupted the game are a good thing. It is also important that allegations are dealt with rigorously so that the guilt or innocence of individuals can be properly established. Cairns himself has noted that the case at least gives him “an opportunity to face my accusers in an open forum”.

Nonetheless, after a fascinating summer of cricket, it is desperately sad that the next action the sport may see in London will be in a courtroom. Perhaps the best that can be said is that it might reduce football’s dominance of newspaper column inches.