County Championship wrap: England hopefuls prove their worth
County Championship wrap: Ryan Bailey takes a look at four talking points from the third round of matches
Hampshire mean business in Division Two
Over the past couple of years, Hampshire have established themselves as one-day kings, claiming a T20 and CB40 double in 2012. However, their success in the limited overs format in recent seasons has hindered and restricted their performances in the Championship as they missed out on promotion after results tailed away towards the end of last season. Head coach Giles Whites has put four-day cricket at the top of the priorities list for 2013 as they aim to return to the top-flight. With a side jam-packed full of quality from top to bottom, there is no reason why Hants shouldn’t gain promotion but with expectancy comes pressure and some poor early season results can derail any title ambitions. However, the Royals have started as they mean to go on and this week’s annihilation of Worcestershire has only highlighted their quality. With a batting order including the likes of Michael Carberry, Sean Ervine, James Adams and George Bailey, as well as talented youngsters James Vince and Adam Wheater, things are looking very rosy at the Ageas Bowl both on and off the field and there is no doubt they are a club going places.
Life in the top-flight is tough
If Derbyshire didn’t realise that they faced an uphill challenge to avoid being dragged into a relegation scrap, they certainly do after their first three games back in the top-flight. Karl Krikken’s side took the Second Division by storm last year but they are now facing up to the reality that the difference in standard is vast. A rain-affected opening game draw was perhaps deserved considering their efforts but comprehensive defeats by Middlesex and Nottinghamshire have followed, leaving all at the County Ground fearing the worst. Many tipped Derbyshire to go straight back down with their batting looking particularly weak against the best attacks in the country. Of course, it’s very early days but the Falcons will need to improve their batting performances considerably if they are to have any chance of retaining their Division One status for next season and avoid being the whipping boys this term. They will rely heavily on Shiv Chanderpaul but the West Indian will need others to bat around him and thus far nobody has stepped up to the mark. Meanwhile, their bowling attack is very workman like and seems to lack the cutting edge to take twenty wickets. However, they have proved many people wrong before and will be eager to do this same in 2013 but they haven’t got off to the start everyone was dreaming of.
England hopefuls prove their worth to selectors
Competition for places in the England squads for all three formats is as competitive as ever with places seemingly up for grabs ahead of a busy summer of international cricket. The emergence of the likes of Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler in recent seasons from the domestic game onto the international stage highlights the value of performing in the Championship and this week saw a number of players serve a timely reminder of their ability to the selectors. James Taylor has seemingly dropped down the England pecking order but his century put to bed any lingering thoughts of his form going downhill. Elsewhere, Buttler impressed with a mature innings against the defending champions to score his third first-class ton and Meanwhile, there were wickets for Surrey duo Jade Dernbach and Chris Tremlett and Graham Onions continues to knock on the door thanks to outstanding spells of seam bowling for Durham. With Kevin Pietersen ruled out of the upcoming series with New Zealand and the Champions Trophy, there is a place up for grabs and if this week is to go by, there are plenty of candidates to choose from.
County Cricket is excellent preparation for international stars
England have an extremely busy twelve months ahead in both Test and limited-overs cricket and it will be key that all the players are fit and raring to go as well as being in prime form. And, if this week has taught us anything, it’s that the County Championship is still the best way to prepare for the international game. Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan and James Anderson were all in the wickets as they returned to bowling in English conditions ahead of the fast-approaching series with the Black Cats while Graeme Swann is expected to line-out for Notts next week. After a winter in India and New Zealand, batsman will need to re-acclimatise themselves to home conditions and both Root and Nick Compton continued their fine form with the bat as they both scored centuries for Yorkshire and Somerset respectively. However, it’s not just the English players who seem to be benefiting from playing in the County Championship – South African duo Alviro Petersen and Graeme Smith were both in the runs over the past four days while Ed Cowan continues to prepare for the Ashes by impressing yet again for Notts.