Much Ado About Nothing

Barely any play over the last two days. So after a little bit of Shakespearian mind-wandering thoughts turned to what Division One will look like come September

Somerset v Surrey, County Championship Group 2, Taunton, May 14th to 17th Surrey Days 3 & 4 Surrey 206-4 (Foakes 18*, Smith 27*, Gregory 2-64)  No play after lunch on Saturday

The problem for me when there is no play is that my mind wanders – often down weird paths and I have no idea how it gets there. 

When I saw the pictures of the outfield on Saturday my initial reaction was to follow the commentary of whichever game was dodging the rain – although not Essex. I have an aversion to one of their commentators in particular and honestly have had quite enough of Harmer and Co for now. But, despite variously the games at Lord’s Hove, Cardiff and Durham my mind flicked to Shakespeare plays! 

I’m pretty certain the connection in my brain came from the wonderful Twitter correspondent on Friday who christened Marchant de Lange “The Marchant of Menace” although there were some equally clever though less kind reposts along the lines of more like a “Comedy of Errors”. The truth for our big South African is somewhere in between at the moment but like the rest of his colleagues in this game is that they didn’t get the chance to do much over the last two days, thanks principally to ….. The Tempest.

The ECB determined that even if the weather had been kinder we weren’t going to see Craig v Jamie. You don’t want the followers of four-day cricket having anything to stimulate interest or excitement do you? Now if this was The Hundred the ECB marketing machine would have been cranked up to full power to promote the first ever competitive contest between the twins but this is just “that competition” so it doesn’t merit any attention with the powers that be. 

There is nothing worse for cricket lovers than watching the rain fall. On this occasion we can all be thankful that spectators weren’t allowed back a week early just to watch the puddles form on the outfield. 

But as ever with bad weather there were winners and losers. The Bristolians benefitted from having an off week as did Hampshire who were able to wrap up victory on the third evening in St John’s Wood thanks not just the weather but a dreadful display by Middlesex (again). Hampshire were allowed to recover from 37-4 and 73-6 to post a first innings lead of 36 and then capitulated for 101 in a ball under 30 overs.

Hampshire have closed to within 9 points of Somerset who were unable to overhaul their next opponents and now trail them by 4 points having played a game more.

You can look at this in one of two ways. Hampshire are back in the running in the group and as they still have to play both the teams ahead of them still have their destiny in their own hands. A win against Leicestershire in their next game which starts on Wednesday would propel them right back into the mix.

Somerset would, at present prefer to go through with Hampshire, by virtue of the points they have “in the bank” from last week’s win at the Ageas rather than the defeat to The Glosters, especially if they are unable to force a result given the continuing poor weather forecast for the next week. Carrying minimal points into Division One would not make winning it all impossible but much harder than a healthy 20+.

Of course there is a lot of cricket to play in all three groups until we know who will be in what division come September, let alone what points they will carry forward but as we are just past halfway it is worth looking ahead and speculating.

In our group I still think it will be Somerset and Hampshire. I am convinced Gloucestershire have out-performed and will revert to the mean and finish third. Surrey, even if they beat the hapless Middlesex this week have a mountain to climb but may be a factor as they still have to play the top three.

In group 3 it is looking like a procession for Yorkshire and Lancashire even though there are two Roses matches still to go. From Somerset’s point of view a couple of draws in those games would help the task in Division One.

The real unknown is group 1 with only Derbyshire out of it. Nine points cover the other five teams so although Essex now lead the gap is only three points over Durham and Notts who both have a game in hand. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see two “Division 2” teams pip the reigning champions?

But that is hear ruling head so my Division One line up is: Somerset, Hampshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Essex and one of Durham or Notts.