Why Lancashire are worthy champions
Congratulations Lancashire. Writing the morning after they won the Championship, I'm thinking back to what took place at the end of their victory in Taunton.
Malcolm Lorimer, the club chaplain and historian, was bursting with pride and happiness. As he and I were standing on the Somerset ground surrounded by supporters, players and coaches celebrating he said: "Those 77 years are tangible". He was right.
As the Blackpool and Bolton lads Steven Croft and Karl Brown saw them home, the players did all the expected things - singing, jumping and hugging one another.
It was done with smiling faces but the eyes told a different story. One of shock.
Some were tearful, such as director of cricket Mike Watkinson and Gary Keedy. Several of them had tasted defeat and misery too often before and came across as dignified winners from whom the millstone was lifted.
Glen Chapple is a greatly talented all-round cricketer. He is also one of the hardest working. His performance in that final match with such a serious hamstring injury is beyond the understanding of an sidelines observer like myself.
Much is rightly made of the young nature of the side but that collective who have come through the ranks of the second XI together needed the experience of the skipper, along with Keedy, Saj Mahmood, Mark Chilton and, on occasions, James Anderson.
Sri Lankan Farveez Maharoof made himself a popular signing. Kyle Hogg showed us what we've missed through injury and was able to perform on surfaces and grounds which better suited him.
Stephen Moore is one very talented batsman who scored vital runs, none more so than in the last two weeks of the campaign.
Glen Chapple led Lancashire to their first outright County Championship win since 1934
This Championship-winning success owes something to playing away from Manchester but I only have to think back to the Roses match in Leeds and the sheer nerve and application they produced there to be convinced that the story does not belong to the outgrounds.
It belongs to a squad of players with good guidance who can progress from here and do it again.
I can't feel too sorry for Warwickshire. Twelve months ago they were all but relegated. To enter the final day this year as the favourites to become champions deserves a trophy in itself.
They need another batsman and another spinner, but even accounting for the likely loss of Chris Woakes more often next season, to speak now of a developing squad of players is not paying lip service to their chances of being in the mix again next September.
Durham were too inconsistent in the later stages to be too miffed about their third position. Short of another good seam bowler and maybe some stronger batting long term, they are moving in the right direction and Mark Stoneman was encouraging this time.
If the pre-season pundits by and large failed to spot the eventual top two, then the predictions of Durham imploding in the north east were way off the mark.
It's pleasing to see a descending number wins from top to bottom as well. For the champions, 10 victories in 16 matches is good going.
Worcestershire can be excused if they fancy picking up a couple more draws next season, or they can continue to keep us all on our toes. They took the idea of crazy cricket to new extremes at times.
I wonder if they might look at Lancashire and believe they might turn their group of local lads into something similar. Some additions would be required but they were as competitive as most for all bar two or three hours in nearly every game they played.
It was a difficult year for Sussex, who like Worcestershire, can feel very satisfied with staying up.
Somerset missed Zander de Bruyn and this time they couldn't recover as well from a poor start as they they did in 2010. Supporters in the south west are concerned that unless a couple of experienced players, ideally all-rounders, are brought in next year it might be a struggle.
Outgoing champions Nottinghamshire need runs. Michael Lumb is signed and Alex Hales should be around for another season at least before he gets heavily involved with England.
If bowler Luke Fletcher gets his head down as, for example, Ben Stokes did last winter, 2012 could be the year for him to really move on.
Yorkshire's demise is something else. Their chairman Colin Graves, who having become the life support machine of the club, has every right to say what he wants and where he wants about it, and indeed he has.
I don't doubt the players have let them down but I wrote before the season began that international disruptions could be key and a good start was essential.
They didn't get it, and I agree with Ryan Sidebottom when he mentioned the early defeat by Nottinghamshire as being key.
As then champions Notts were tough opponents, but Yorkshire got into position to win that game in Leeds and the panic button was pressed.
They needed more 'know how' out on the park and they were short of a steady 'been there, done that' character when things started to fold. To underestimate the challenge to come back up will be an even bigger mistake.
Hampshire's end-of-season run in losing one match in eight must be a real sickner at The Rose Bowl.
I'm starting to see that the end of one season can have a big impact on the start of the next no matter the six months in between and they will come straight back up. Jimmy Adams looks a good captain in the making.
Lack of time means I get to see vey little second division cricket but I would imagine both Middlesex and Surrey will provide new tough opposition to the top flight, which in turn could mean an even closer, more unpredictable season. No, no, and please again, no. I can't take much more of this.