Will Hawkes: Hampshire a bigger club than Essex? That's a bit rich...

County Focus: Incredibly, Chris Tremlett is the first Hampshire-born Hampshire cricketer to have played Test cricket for England in England

English football has much to teach county cricket, but the summer game persists in learning the wrong lessons. Instead of taking a few tips on how to attract bigger crowds, cricket seems intent on importing that most anti-competitive aspect of football: the idea of the "big club". In football, it means only a few teams can ever really aspire to win trophies or even to hold on to their best players. Cricket may soon find itself in the same boat.

At least in football, though, most of the "big" clubs have earned their place at the top table with performances on the field. This week's news about Hampshire's move for the Essex captain, James Foster, suggests that, in county cricket, it is not producing good players or winning Championships that matters. Instead, a rich benefactor is what separates the haves from the have-nots.

The most depressing aspect of the possible capture of Foster by Hampshire is not the fact that he might move clubs – plenty of cricketers have done so before. It is the belief that he would be moving to a bigger club, purely because Hampshire have more money and host international cricket – which, inevitably, makes them potential members of a still-possible breakaway nine-team T20 league. The Essex coach, Paul Grayson, told Cricinfo that "these big clubs come along with a pot of gold and it can turn a player's head".

Hampshire are undoubtedly richer than Essex, but a bigger club? In the last 30 years, Essex have provided England with Graham Gooch, Nasser Hussain and Alastair Cook, three of the country's finest recent talents. Hampshire have produced the potentially brilliant Chris Tremlett, although it appears to have taken a move to Surrey to unlock his ability. Incredibly, he is the first Hampshire-born Hampshire cricketer to have played Test cricket for England in England. In that context, Hampshire's place in that frequently mooted breakaway league looks quixotic at best.

Essex, too, have the advantage in title terms. Hampshire's last (their second) came in 1973, since when Essex have carried off English cricket's greatest prize six times. And though Hampshire may be in the top flight while Grayson's side languish in the Second Division, that state of affairs may not last longer than this season. They travel to Durham (a county that, despite being first-class for less than 20 years, has a real claim on big club status) today bottom of the table, having taken just 48 points from 10 games. They are yet to win a match.

Which makes it all the more important that they find some form today, but Durham too have good reason to want to win. With four games left to play, four teams – Durham, Lancashire, Somerset and Warwickshire (with a game in hand) – are still in the title chase. Durham have led the way in recent weeks and they should prove too good for Hampshire.

The match at Chester-le-Street today gives Durham a chance to steal a march on their rivals, who do not play this week (it also represents a chance to gain revenge for their defeat in a T20 quarter-final at the Rose Bowl: whatever Hampshire's shortcomings, they are one hell of a T20 side). Durham's success this season has been built on the batting of Dale Benkenstein and a gaggle of local players, the sometimes thrilling Ben Stokes among them, and a deep bowling attack led by England's forgotten man, Graham Onions.

Will it be enough to secure them the title? They look the best-equipped but, whatever happens, at least the county game should have a thrilling finale. Now that's something that football could certainly copy from cricket.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959
voicesWard committed no crime, and the truth is still being covered up, writes Geoffrey Robertson QC
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas