By now it matters deeply to all the contenders, but for two players the climactic fortnight ahead will hold a special place. It may be some distance removed from their greatest triumph, but the 2008 County Championship offered Marcus Trescothick and Stephen Harmison a shot at redemption. They will be trying their socks off.
Ashes heroes both in 2005, they had fallen far at the start of this summer. Trescothick has finally quit international cricket, accepting that his fragile mental state when far from home on tour would not improve.
It might have been that only playing for Somerset, and knowing that was all he had, would lead to inexorable decline. But he responded with the unmistakable sledgehammer of his bat. His 1,238 runs, making him the leading scorer in the competition, have taken Somerset to the brink of their first title. He is at home again in every sense.
Harmison needed county cricket badly. He had to learn to bowl again and has taken 50 wickets for Durham. It has been the remaking of him. He recognised it by insisting he play in the last round of matches. He is a sensitive man and he knew he owed it to himself and to Durham to play. Both men realised what their counties had done for them.
Somerset, with fixtures against Yorkshire and Lancashire, one of whom will go down, have the easier pair of matches. Durham have a tough finish – Sussex and fellow contenders Kent. Nottinghamshire have Surrey and a revitalised Hampshire.
Never has the season finished later. Somerset and Durham are the two counties left in it never to have won the title. Perhaps they deserve support for another reason. All the sides competing for glory are reliant on foreign talent but both Somerset and Durham have nurtured plenty of their own as well.
In Somerset's case that includes Trescothick, James Hildreth, Peter Trego and Will Durston. Most of Durham's seam attack were nurtured by the Tees, Mark Davies and Liam Plunkett complementing Harmison and his brother Ben.
Contrast this with Kent, who have on occasion played six non-qualified players this summer and have only three players born in the county. They are led at least by homegrown Rob Key while Notts, for whom only Samit Patel and Bilal Shafayat could be considered truly local lads, have Chris Read, who moved there long ago, as captain.
Such considerations count. Somerset to win, if the snow has not fallen.Reuse content