A new cricket season is upon us – or, as the ECB prefers, "The Great Exhibition", a marketing wheeze which hopes the lucrative attractions of the World Twenty20 in June and the Ashes in July and August will enrich and inspire the game as a whole.
The domestic Twenty20, soon to become a mini-championship, can hold its own, but the 40-over game expires this season, while the County Championship is on life support. How about a return to the three-day format, with a spare day for weather catch-ups; North and South Divisions to exploit regional rivalries; a County Championship play-off at Lord's?
The Championship begins on Wednesday with Durham 9-2 favourites to retain their First Division title, while Kent are 2-1 favourites to bounce back from relegation by winning the Second Division. My usual bet on Lancashire (8-1 Boylesports) is a private fetish – Peter Moores is coach, V V S Laxman and Ashwell Prince are overseas players. But Andrew Flintoff is a Chennai Super King and England player.
The key to a Championship side is to be good, but not good enough to get plundered by England or the IPL. Sussex managed the trick and it is Nottinghamshire's turn now – Mark Wagh and Will Jefferson can get runs, while England rejects Samit Patel and Darren Pattinson can get wickets. £10 win at 5-1, with £5 each-way on an underrated Worcestershire (14-1 Totesport). Middlesex can take the Second Division, £10 win, 5-1 (Skybet).Reuse content