The fat lady has sung and the most exciting run in for years has gone the way of…. Well read on and you’ll see.
As we entered the final week, anyone of five teams could still win the title. The two least likely met at Headingley as Yorkshire entertained Hampshire. Yorkshire’s chances went up in smoke as they were dismissed for just 195, James Bruce taking 5-fer. Mike Carberry then scored a ton as Hants reached 244 for 4. Then it rained for two days and both teams finish in the middle of the table.
Starting the week in third place, Durham were playing a Kent team who had secured their safety the week before and were a little too relaxed as they were bowled out for 212 in their first innings. Dale Benkenstein then scored a ton as Durham reached 321 before Kent were bowled out for 160 second time round. Durham knocked off the 52 to win for the loss of two wickets and went to the top of the table with their early finish.
However, it would have been the weather that most interested Durham as by that time, Sussex were well on top against relegated Worcestershire. Batting first Sussex scored 532, with Robin Martin Jenkins continuing his fine batting form with a quick-fire 99. Mushtaq then took 6 wickets as Worcester managed just 213 in their first innings. Both Mushtaq (with 7 wickets) and Worcester did better second time round, but the total of 305 wasn’t enough to make Sussex bat again. Sussex overtook Durham at the top and all eyes turned to the Oval.
Lancashire started the week in pole position, but 196 from Mark Ramprakash allowed Surrey to declare on 427 for 9, which was enough for a healthy lead as Lancs made just 234. Surrey didn’t enforce the follow on and another Ramps century set up a declaration on 295 for 5, setting Lancs a target of 488 to win the Championship. A run a ball century from VS Laxman set up the chase but despite contributions from everyone, they finished 24 runs short and the title went to Sussex with Durham second. The win also lifted Surrey to fourth, ahead of Hants and Yorks as just 27 points separated the top 6 teams.
The top two met at Taunton with Nottinghamshire needing only a point to secure promotion. However they didn’t manage this when batting first, scoring only 158. Relief came with the wicket of James Hildreth as Somerset were reduced to 54 for 3. However, tons for Marcus Trescothick, Ian Blackwell and Peter Trego led Somerset to 469 and with Michael Munday taking a career best 8 for 55 in Notts second innings as they were dismissed for just 190, Somerset ran out comfortable winners and worthy champions.
Middlesex needed a maximum points win to have any chance of catching Notts. Their young bowling attack of Rob Williams and Steve Finn (combined age – 38) bowled Essex out for 365, Grant Flower getting a ton and James Foster unbeaten on 96. However, as they were then bowled out for just 171 themselves, any chance of promotion disappeared. Following on they scored 246 and Essex scored the 53 to win without losing a wicket. Middlesex finish 3rd with Essex 4th .
In the other two games, Northants and Derbyshire played out a draw while rain ruined the Gloucestershire - Glamorgan match, although Hamish Marshall had enough time to score a ton.
England player watch
Another bad week for Andrew Strauss with just 11 and 7 runs. Michael Vaughan did little better in his innings scoring 26. On the bowling front, Matthew Hoggard took a couple of wickets and Ryan Sidebottom went wicketless, but bowled 22 overs to prove his fitness with the tour parties to be announced soon.
Player of the Week
Two standout performances this week determined the destination of the title. Mark Ramprakash finished another brilliant season by denying Lancs the win they needed, but spinning Sussex to their second successive title, this week’s Player of the Week is Mushtaq Ahmed.