Outside edge: County game’s climax makes for some of the season’s best weeks

Yorkshire’s side would give most international teams a run for their money

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It has been a funny old summer of cricket really. England’s men were awful, brilliant, then terrible again – before a last wonderful T20 hurrah. India, for their part, appeared as keen on Test match cricket as Ian Botham is on the IPL. Perhaps their long-form salvation will rely on the women’s team, who surprised their English counterparts with victory in the one-off Test at wonderful Wormsley.

Alastair Cook’s personal roller coaster showed no sign of slowing down until he finally got off it for a while after the last ODI; and his verbal spats with provocateur-in-chief Shane Warne and “so-called” friend Graeme Swann added to the merriment. Having had the last laugh when it came to success in the summer’s second Test series, nobody should bank on Cook not pulling off the same trick at the World Cup.

As for Kevin Pietersen, he went from England’s potential saviour in all formats to being a middling T20 specialist in domestic tournaments.

As always, the end of the international programme heralds a diminishment of interest in cricket for many. That is a shame, since in many respects the final weeks of the County Championship are the best part of the season. Indeed, the current round of matches demonstrates how strong the first-class game is in this country. Even without their England stars, the best teams in the First Division can turn out impressive line-ups. Yorkshire’s side, bolstered by the return of Gary Ballance and Joe Root, would give most international teams a run for their money. I was far from the only person to pick them as potential champions back in April: sure enough, their march to glory has been inexorable.

Life is hectic in the 21st century so perhaps it is no surprise that county cricket has become a niche interest. The BBC, thank goodness, keeps alive commentary from grounds around the country. But there is nothing like the real thing. I’ll be at the Oval next week, under a rug or a hat. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

Troughton was a great Bear

The retirement of sportsmen can act as a jolt to the senses, a fearsome reminder that time is moving on. When the truly great cricketers hang up their pads, you think back to the performances you were lucky enough to witness. Warwickshire’s former captain Jim Troughton, whose back problems made this season his last, did not end up in the category of global superstar. Twenty years ago I played against him when he was a teenage cricketing celebrity for Warwickshire’s Under-15s. He was easily the best player I ever came across in those county age-group games; his cover-driving was effortless and mesmerising. While his England career was all too brief, Troughton became a brilliant leader at Edgbaston, taking his side to the title in 2012. I will miss his presence in the Championship. So will Warwickshire.

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