Good morning from Emerald Headingley for the penultimate round of the season. It’s a bright start to the morning. The sun is yet to burn through, but we’re all set to get going at 10.30am BST.
The drama of the international summer may have finished, but there’s plenty more to come in the last fortnight of Championship action across the two divisions.
This round will provide a mixture of games which mean everything and others which are more of a fact-finding mission. Here at Headingley for example, Yorkshire will hand a debut to 17-year-old top order batsman Matthew Revis given Will Fraine is on the sidelines having dislocated his knee last week.
The White Rose v Kent is nothing more than a battle for third place, so it seems a bit strange that both counties are fielding overseas debutants. New Zealand left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel is playing for Yorkshire, while South Africa captain Francois du Plessis is making his red ball bow for Kent having played for them in the recent T20 Blast.
The only Division One matches which contribute to prizes are those involving title rivals Somerset and Essex. Leaders Somerset travel to face Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl holding an eight-point lead over Essex in second, who host outgoing champions Surrey at Chelmsford.
Bottom side and relegated Nottinghamshire face Warwickshire at Trent Bridge.
The weight of ‘live’ matches comes in Division Two, without a doubt.
Runaway leaders Lancashire are promoted and require a maximum of five points from their home clash with Middlesex to secure the title. But, realistically, there are five other teams chasing the other two promotion places.
With 48 points available during the next two weeks, Northamptonshire are second on 161 and Glamorgan are sixth on 136. Gloucestershire, Durham and Sussex are sandwiches in between. Even Middlesex, Derbyshire and second-bottom Worcestershire aren’t mathematically out of the equation for a top three finish, but it would take something remarkable to see them playing in the top flight in 2020.
Derbyshire host Sussex at Derby, Leicestershire visit Cardiff to tackle Glamorgan, Northamptonshire host Durham at Wantage Road and Gloucestershire have made the short trip up the M5 to New Road to face Worcestershire.
It’s going to be a hectic and no doubt nervous four days, and it wouldn’t even surprise me to see a contrivance or two along the way. Enjoy the day and the next few as well.