Good morning from Emerald Headingley, where the leaders are in town to face a Yorkshire side who have had an up and down last few weeks. Loss, win, loss. Somerset, 15 points clear of Essex at the summit, have won seven of their nine games so far, and the popular opinion is that a maiden title is theirs to lose.
Having seen Yorkshire lose at Essex last week, I don’t subscribe to that view. Essex are the real deal. They ‘Simon Harmered’ the White Rose county and were nowhere near at their best. In bowling Yorkshire out for 208 on day one, Essex were apparently of the opinion that it was the worst they’d bowled all season.
One thing is for sure. It is a two horse race. Given Yorkshire, in third, were playing Essex and Somerset in succession, they had a chance with two wins. This clash throws up a couple of interesting asides. The return of Jack Brooks to Headingley will rouse the home crowd, I’m sure. A Championship winner in 2014 and 2015 with Yorkshire, he took more than 300 wickets for them in that competition in six seasons.
Then you have Dom Bess playing for Somerset against the county he is about to rejoin on loan for T20. Bess played four Championship matches for Yorkshire earlier in the season. “At least it saves me doing the trip back and forth,” he joked a couple of days ago.
Essex host Warwickshire at Chelmsford, where their 100% record stands at five fixtures this summer. But the Bears will be no pushovers, as their Houdini like escape with a draw from Hampshire away earlier this week suggests. Ninth-wicket pair Henry Brookes and Jeetan Patel batted out the best part of the last 28 overs on Tuesday to secure a draw from the jaws of defeat. They will have to do without in-form opener Dom Sibley due to the England Lions versus Australia A game at Canterbury, which starts on Sunday. Mind you, they are not alone. Most counties are affected by that game with absentees.
Hampshire are at home again, against a Kent side who beat Surrey at the Oval earlier this week, while struggling Surrey – at Trent Bridge – face a Nottinghamshire side who are having a nightmare campaign and are on course for relegation.
There are three fixtures in Division Two starting today and a fourth on Sunday – Derbyshire v Northamptonshire at Chesterfield. They are all attractive clashes too. Leaders Lancashire host fourth-placed Sussex at Old Trafford, while second-placed Glamorgan host a Middlesex side who will hope their win over Gloucestershire earlier this week sparks a drive for the promotion places. They are currently seventh and 15 points behind Derbyshire in fourth. At the Riverside, Durham host Worcestershire.
I did wonder for a moment whether there would be any alteration in scheduling of this round due to England’s World Cup final appearance.. An obvious way would be to return briefly to the old Test match rest day and have day two on Monday instead of Sunday. After all, around this time last year if you remember, Yorkshire rearranged a T20 Blast fixture with Derbyshire which clashed with England’s football World Cup semi-final against Croatia.
Yorkshire have since said a big reason for that was safety. Earlier in the competition when England beat Sweden people were dancing in the streets and climbing on top of buses celebrating for example. Instead of re-jigging this game, Yorkshire have stressed that Sunday’s World Cup game will be shown around the ground on TVs in places such as the East Stand Long Room.
The scheduling of the Vitality Blast will also be a big factor. There are counties who start that competition on Thursday and most others on Friday, so pushing the Championship back a day would eat into valuable preparation time.