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BBC to extend county coverage

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Adam Mountford | 14:42 UK time, Monday, 2 April 2012

I am very fortunate in my job to watch some fantastic cricket around the world, but perhaps my favourite moment of last season actually took place whilst I was in a BBC studio locked in the bowels of Television Centre in London.

It was at 13 minutes past five on 15 September when Lancashire supporters were finally able to celebrate a first outright Championship title for 77 years.

A county campaign which began in April was decided in the last few minutes of the final day of the season. It was one of the most dramatic climaxes in the long history of the Championship and will live long in the memory.

The title headed the way of the Red Rose county courtesy of a last-gasp victory at Somerset. A few moments before the winning runs were struck at Taunton, news filtered in from the Rose Bowl that closest rivals Warwickshire had only drawn their match with Hampshire, so the champagne could be put on ice.

I was in the Radio 5 live sports extra studio helping to produce our coverage as we switched between commentary teams at Taunton, the Rose Bowl and also in Durham - where the home side started the final round of games with an outside chance of the title. We also had reporters keeping their eye on promotion and relegation issues on what proved to be an absolutely thrilling four days of action.

It again showed that despite its detractors and despite the endless reforms, reports and reviews of the county game the product can still be gripping. The 2011 attendance figures show almost a 10% increase through the turnstiles with more than 500,000 people watching Championship cricket last year. Not really the "one man and his dog" cliche.

Lancashire won last year's County Championship for the first time since 1934. Photo; Getty

It's also true that just because crowds aren't always enormous for every game, it doesn't mean people are not interested.

This is shown week in, week out by the phenomenal success of the BBC local radio cricket commentaries which cover the majority of matches through the season. On Thursday, when the 2012 Championship season gets under way, commentary teams up and down the UK will swing back into action bringing loyal listeners all the latest news of their teams. It's an incredible service that is provided and I am delighted to say this year there are going to be greater efforts to spread the word.

Radio 5 live sports extra is joining forces with BBC local radio to broadcast the best of the action on digital radio, digital television and online worldwide.

When possible, county commentary is going to be carried on Radio 5 live sports extra this season with regular updates and scores from all the games, plus features and interviews showcasing the domestic game.

This will start on Thursday 12 April, where there will be commentary on the London derby between the two newly promoted sides Middlesex and Surrey at Lord's. You'll be able to hear your BBC London favourites Mark Church, Kevin Hand and Johnny Barran, while Alison Mitchell and Kevin Howells will keep listeners up to date with matches elsewhere. Plus, expect the odd famous name to pop in over the four days to join in the fun.

Of course from time to time Radio 5 live sports extra will have to leave for coverage of other major sporting events - but the commentary will continue online so you hopefully won't miss any of the action.

All the details of which games will be covered will be at as normal. This will also be the site to check out regularly for scores, interviews and features. Kevin Howells and the team will continue to report regularly over on Radio 5 live and it is worth following Kevin on Twitter @kevinhowellsbbc to help keep across the latest county stories.

And listen out for some further announcements about more live cricket coming your way this summer - not to mention the new year-long TMS Podcast which will feature the domestic game as well as all the international action.

I can't promise the same sort of exciting county season as last year with a final day climax - but I can promise if it happens the BBC will be there to cover it.



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