Let’s start at the bottom – by my reckoning five of the six places in division three are sorted, Worcestershire, Derbyshire, Middlesex, Kent and Sussex will have the ignominy of being the first ever basement dwellers in this new format.
The one group where the second bottom place is still undecided is Somerset’s group, group 2. Leicestershire’s recent resurgence and the fact that they still have to play Middlesex suggests to me that they still have a chance to move up. I don’t think they will make it into division one but there is a distinct possibility that they could overtake either Surrey or Gloucestershire.
Surrey are the enigma, they have yet to play Hampshire and Somerset so could conceivably move up from their current fourth but equally they could pick up virtually nothing from those two games and drop into the bottom two. The game of the group is surely Hampshire v Surrey starting on July 3rd in the penultimate round. Somerset supporters will be hoping Hampshire prevail both for the reasons of points carry forward into division one but also to put Surrey out contention before our trip to the Oval.
Leicestershire’s win, by an innings, over Gloucestershire at the weekend was their last at home and realistically you can’t see them winning at Taunton so that leaves them battling Surrey and Gloucestershire for a place in division 2. I’m going with Somerset and Hampshire to division one and, sorry foxes, Surrey and Gloucestershire in division two.
Division 3 is much more straightforward despite Glamorgan’s comfortable win over leaders Lancashire on Saturday. Lancashire will qualify they host Kent next and a win there will be enough. Yorkshire should join them, but they will have to avoid defeat at the surprise package Northants in the next round. There is conceivably a scenario where Glamorgan could sneak in to the top group but I’m sticking with the two roses for division one with Glamorgan and Northants going into division two.
Which leaves us with the champions group. Essex currently sit second but they only have one game left, albeit against bottom of the group, winless Derbyshire at Derby. With only 9 points covering the top 4 and with Warwickshire, Notts and Durham having two games to play it looks highly likely that Essex will find themselves in division 2.
Durham have to play both Notts and Warwickshire and for that reason I’m picking them to miss out on the top division, although I’d prefer a trip to the Riverside than Edgbaston! But after crushing Worcestershire at New Road in three days by 10 wickets Durham will believe they can win at least one of their remaining games and leapfrog both Essex and one of the other two.
Somerset could see themselves in some very northern company, and almost certainly the only non-test hosting side, come September, Old Trafford, Headingley, Trent Bridge and Edgbaston anyone?