And so another thrilling season ends, with issues at the top and the bottom of Division 1 going right down to the wire. In another shock move, my predictions from last week turn out to be spot on. And congratulations to Warwickshire, who pip Worcestershire to the 2nd division title
Durham started the week in second position and needed a win against struggling Kent, who also needed good points in their battle against relegation. Putting Kent into bat, Durham made a great start, Steve Harmison taking four wickets as Kent made just 225. In reply, Durham declared on 500 for 8, with Mike di Venuto scoring 90 and Gareth Breese an unbeaten 121. Kent were quickly reduced to 17 for 3 in reply and with Callum Thorp getting the first seven wickets to fall, never looked like making Durham bat again. Harmison cleaned up the tail and Durham won by an innings and were now waiting on the Nottinghamshire result. Kent took just two points from the game and were reliant on a positive result between Yorkshire and Sussex to stay up.
Nottinghamshire were entertaining Hampshire, who also started the week with their eyes on the title. Durham’s haul of bonus points put paid to that, but they started match very much on an even keel, with their 203 being only slightly bettered by Notts 211, Notts losing their last five wickets for just 9 runs, thanks largely to Imran Tahir. Second time round, Hants found batting easier, amassing 449 for 5, with 93 from Michael Brown and unbeaten centuries from Nic Pothas and Liam Dawson. Notts thus needed 442 to win at a run rate of around 6 an over to take the title. They gambled in opening with Graeme Swann. However, the task was too great for them and they were bowled out for 238 to give Durham the title.
Meanwhile at Sussex, the relegation battle between the home team and Yorkshire was twisting and turning day after day. Yorkshire, who started the week in the relegation zone, batted first and were 80 for 6 at the end of Day 1. However, centuries from spin duo Adil Rashid and David Wainwright, with support from Tim Bresnan and Matthew Hoggard got Yorkshire to 400 for 9 and maximum batting points. Sussex were then reduced to 207 all out, despite a century from Chris Nash. Second time round, batting was easier for Sussex with a Murray Goodwin century leading Sussex to a draw on 397 for 9, despite Rashid taking seven wickets. Both teams stay in Division 1 and will look to build on seasons that promised more.
At Taunton, the home team still had hopes of the title, while Lancashire were still in danger of relegation. However, the goings on between Durham and Kent soon put paid to both eventualities. Somerset struggled to 202 all out in their first innings, conceding a lead of 46 to Lancs who made 248. Somerset then made 227 second time round, with Gary Keedy taking 5 wickets. Lancs knocked off the 183 to win for the loss of two wickets, with Mark Chilton making 93.
In a spirit of disbelief rather than anything else, last week I wrote:
Prediction time: Very rarely this season has a team stayed at the top for more than a week (and most teams have topped the table at some point). I am therefore going to predict a Hants win over Notts, opening the door for Durham to take the title, whose win will relegate Kent, as Sussex and Yorks play out a draw.
I just wish I’d put some money on it!
Congratulations to Durham, whose mix of local talent and Kolpak experience has taken them to their first title, despite the loss of Paul Collingwood for most of the season and Steve Harmison for parts of it. Commiserations to Notts and to Kent, who were the only ever-present team in Division 1.
The only unfinished business was whether Warwickshire could take the title and they started with 315 against Glamorgan, despite Adam Shantry taking five wickets. Glamorgan, who have had a much more promising 2008, then subsided to 193, with the 18 year old Chris Woakes taking 6 wickets. Second time round, the Bears made 280, with Shantry taking another five wickets. Not to be outdone, Woakes also took his tally to ten in the match and with Neil Carter taking five wickets Glamorgan made 223 to give Warwickshire a win by 179 runs and the Division 2 title.
Essex’s title hopes were finished by Warwicks last week, but they put that disappointment behind them to make 510 against bottom club Gloucestershire, Varun Chopra getting his first ton of the season and James Foster continuing his recent good run with another century. Gloucester made just 195 in reply. Second time round a century from Kadeer Ali and an obdurate unbeaten 70 from Steve Snell saw Gloucester to a draw.
Middlesex have finished the season well and scored 545 for 7 against previously challenging Northamptonshire. Centuries for Andrew Strauss, Owais Shah and Eoin Morgan, with Monty Panear taking five wickets. Northants made 256 in reply, with Shaun Udal taking 5 wickets and after Middlesex had declared on 171 for 2 second time round, Northants needed 461 to win. A century from Rob White and 95 from Riki Wessels took Northants to within a hundred runs. However, with the last four wickets falling for 6 runs Middlesex ran out victors.
Finally, Derbyshire opened up with 194 against Leicestershire, Garnett Kruger taking five wickets. In reply, Jake Needham took 6 wickets as Leicester made 208. Derby managed 203 second time round, leaving Leicester needing 193 for victory, which they made with the loss of just 2 wickets thanks to an unbeaten 84 from Boata Dippenaar.
So Warwickshire and Worcestershire go up, while Middlesex must be wondering what would have happened if they had found their end of season form a couple of weeks earlier. At the bottom, Gloucestershire finish winless.
England Player watch
The last chace to make an impression before the winter tour is announced and centuries for Andrew Strauss, Owais Shah, James Foster and Adil Rashid will advance their cases while Eoin Morgan will surely make at least the Lions tour. Ravi Bopara missed out on the Essex run-fest.
Steve Harmison took seven wickets, as did Monty Panesar while Adil Rashid went two better with nine.
Player of the Week
All of the important action was in Division 1, so while Chris Woakes and Adam Shantry bowled well, the main contenders come from the top flight. Bowling brilliantly to take Durham to the title was Callum Thorp. However, coming into bat at 80 for 6 with relegation looking certain and marshalling the tail to get to 400, then taking nine wickets to almost force a victory, the Player of the Week is Adil Rashid.