Yorkshire lead the treble chasers

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The Independent Online
Until Warwickshire came along, the idea that one county might win three trophies in the same season seemed scarcely realistic. The precedent having been set, however, it is possible to see the achievement equalled.

Indeed, with the present season about to enter its final third, there are two counties, Yorkshire and Surrey, whose chances of matching Warwickshire's great feat cannot be dismissed lightly.

Yorkshire lead the Championship with Surrey in third place, an exact mirror of their positions in the Sunday League. Both remain contenders for the NatWest Trophy and both are fancied to win their quarter-finals next Tuesday.

How these two shape up during the next seven days may well have an important bearing on the remainder of the season. Yorkshire face Somerset in the Britannic Assurance and AXA Equity and Law competitions at Scarborough, before their NatWest engagement with Sussex at Eastbourne.

Somerset provide Surrey's opposition at The Oval in the 60-over competition, but before that they must travel to Southampton to take on Hampshire, whom Yorkshire outplayed at Harrogate last week.

Surrey have a deficit of 26 points in the Championship, a point behind second-placed Leicestershire, but although this represents a healthy lead for Yorkshire it is one that could be overturned, although neither side's remaining fixtures present any obvious banana skins.

Five of Yorkshire's seven opponents are in the bottom half of the table and four of the matches are on home territory.

Surrey have to travel four times but only Warwickshire, who must go to the Oval, can be described as fellow contenders.

In the Sunday League, similarly, matches to come offer few pointers. Interestingly, both still have to play second-placed Northamptonshire.

It would be disrespectful to others, of course, to suggest that a two- horse race is in the offing in either league competition. Only four points cover the first eight places in the Sunday League and in the Championship, equally, they could both be unseated, although genuine title contenders can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Second-placed Leicestershire have played a match fewer than both in the Championship, as have Kent and Derbyshire, fourth and fifth, who engage one another at Derby, starting tomorrow. Should Derbyshire succeed in following up their fine victory at Old Trafford, their own claims would be much strengthened.

But Leicestershire, who have beaten Yorkshire, Essex and Gloucestershire consecutively, pose a greater threat than either and they will expect to defeatSussex at Grace Road.

Middlesex, fourth in the Sunday League, retain an outside chance in the Championship but miss the next round, which should be to the benefit of Warwickshire, two points behind them with a game in hand in seventh place, who meet Gloucestershire at Cheltenham.

In the NatWest, meanwhile, it would be risky, one suspects, to predict a semi-final line-up that did not include Lancashire, the Benson and Hedges Cup holders, who will aim to avenge Derbyshire's Championship success when the two meet again at Old Trafford.

In the other quarter-final, Essex's chances of overcoming Hampshire depend considerably on their ability to contain Robin Smith, whose brilliant 158 off 151 balls against Worcestershire in the last round underlined his intention to make a trip to Lord's in September the climax of his benefit season.