BBC BLOGS - Kevin Howells' blog

Time for three divisions?

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Kevin Howells | 11:30 UK time, Tuesday, 15 November 2011

I have been persuaded that a radical shake-up of county cricket is needed.

After talking to several people involved at ECB and county level, I have decided to write down what I think should happen to the County Championship.

To accept this idea you do have to either agree that there are too many matches played at present or you are at least as fed up as I am about the number of times changes are discussed.

I don't like the idea that the Championship should be reduced to create space in the schedule, but I do concede that whilst protecting the first-class game one cannot ignore the money which the shorter formats - most notably T20 - brings in.

What is wrong with two divisions? Not a lot in my opinion and the most recent seasons have created some terrific stories.

However, those of us who like to think of the Championship as being more than just a set of trial matches need to lead the debate and not follow it.

So here goes with my solution.

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My County XI of the season

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Kevin Howells | 11:55 UK time, Tuesday, 20 September 2011

This job I hate. Whoever I pick in a County XI will upset somebody and I'm sure they will let me know.

It is a difficult job when you factor in how many games each player played, on what surfaces and what sort of form their respective sides were in.

I have little opportunity to watch Division Two cricket, so that had to be taken into account. This was the XI I first drew up. Can I stick with it?

1) Marcus Trescothick (Somerset): He's about the only one I think I can get away with without anyone coming back at me. More than 1,600 runs with six hundreds. Moving along now...

2) Michael Carberry (Hampshire): Played in only nine games because of his well-doumented health scare, but look at his three hundreds and the team's turn-around in form after his return, which roughly coincides with that amazing late run they embarked on. I acknowledge it was more the Hampshire middle order and bowling, rather than the top order which didn't fire early in the season. Carberry also has a presence in the field and I don't think there is a better opener, aside from Trescothick, turning out in the county game.

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Why Lancashire are worthy champions

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Kevin Howells | 11:10 UK time, Friday, 16 September 2011

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.

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