County Championship reaches thrilling conclusion
The final day. 3 teams. One winner.
Last week saw the culmination of this season’s County Championship Cricket tournament. After 15 games three sides still remained in contention for the title with just one fixture left to complete. From the north, The Reliables: Yorkshire looked to complete their third domination in as many years over the rest of the field. With the frequent absence of their most talented players to the England squad they would have to rely on their strength in depth to see them through. Blocking their way to yet another success, however, stood two teams equally as hungry to claim the hallowed prize of the County Championship Trophy. The novices: Somerset looked to win the championship for the first time, hoping that veteran captain Marcus Trescothick and the rest of the team would be equal to the task. The frontrunners: Middlesex matched both of these sides step for step throughout the season, bettering both on at least one occasion and losing just once coming into the final match. Which team would have the nerve, the fiercest desire, to snatch victory and immortalise themselves in the annals of cricketing history?
Fate would have it that Middlesex would host Yorkshire for the final game, adding to the already heightened tension. Somerset would host Nottinghamshire. After the usual procedures, both games were underway. A bright start from Somerset, with tons from Rogers and Hildreth, provided a solid base from which to launch their attack on the title. Nonetheless, requiring a draw between Middlesex and Yorkshire, their challenge remained the weakest. Meanwhile at Lord’s Cricket Ground Yorkshire started stronger, limiting Middlesex to just 270 with only Gubbins (125) and Franklin (48) offering any hope for the hosts. After 2 innings, the contest at Taunton already appeared to be decided. Messrs Bess and Leach ripped through the Nottinghamshire batting line-up, taking 5 and 3 wickets respectively, helping the visitors to an embarrassing 138 all out. Back in London however, things remained a little tighter. Despite an early collapse to 53-4, Yorkshire, through the illustrious efforts of Tim Bresnan (142), gained a 120 run advantage of their title rivals, finishing on 390 all out. Could Middlesex conjure up a response to snatch victory? Gubbins (93) once again performed strongly, this time supported by Malan (116) and Eskinazi (78) helping their team to 359-6 declared. Realising that a draw in their game would most likely leave neither team with the Championship Trophy in their hands, Middlesex saw that a declaration would at least force a result one way or the other. Yorkshire would require 240 runs to land their third successive title.
By the end of the third day, Somerset had done all they could to claim their first County Championship title. The response to Nottinghamshire’s dismal first innings performance was a commanding 315-5 declared with another ton from Rogers (100), supported by some solid middle order batting from Davies (59) and Trego (55). They then proceeded to condemn Nottinghamshire to defeat and subsequent relegation from the first division through yet another innings of ruthless bowling, wrapping up victory by leaving the visitors on 215 all out. With the points now confirmed all that remained was for Somerset to turn their heads towards Lord’s and pray for a draw. Yorkshire’s task was simple in theory, however any experienced cricket follower would know just how difficult it is to bat last in a 4 day game, especially given the importance of this innings. A bad start saw the visitors slip to 98-4. This galvanised Middlesex further and, with only brief resistance from Bresnan (55), saw Yorkshire’s usually reliable batting line-up swiftly collapse to 178 all out, 62 runs short of the required total. This left Middlesex as the 2016 County Champions, claiming their first trophy since 1993 and leaving them with just 1 defeat from 16 matches.
All 3 teams had outplayed the rest of the field all summer to give themselves a chance of winning the title, however in the end it could only go to one side. Confusing point calculations, high drama and fantastic cricket concluded arguably the most thrilling climax in County Championship Cricket in the history of the tournament. Who knew cricket could be this exciting?
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