Friday 4 April 2014 

County Championship Division One - A Statistical Preview

Durham celebrate the title
Durham won the title in 2013, but how will they fare this year?
© REUTERS / Action Images
 

Matt Carter takes a detailed statistical look ahead to the LV= County Championship, which gets underway this weekend, starting with Division One.

AVERAGE POSITION

Taking into account the results of the last three years, Warwickshire can boast the highest average position, having not finished outside the top four in each of the seasons in questions – a run which includes lifting the trophy in 2012 and finishing second a year earlier.

Last year’s champions Durham also score favourably in this area, coming in just behind Warwickshire with an average position of third. Sussex, boosted by three consistent seasons in which they have never ended below fifth average fourth place, a number which they shared with Somerset however a sixth place finish in 2013 somewhat counts against them.

Last season’s relegation near miss coupled with two previous campaigns in which they failed to challenge the top pack sees Nottinghamshire average a sixth place finish they will be keen to improve upon.

At the other end of the scale Northamptonshire are hampered by this being their first season in Division One for a significant period, whilst Lancashire and Yorkshire are hindered by a relegation campaign during this period.

Middlesex, despite spending 2011 in the second tier can still proclaim an average finish of sixth.

TOTAL WINS

Durham, heavily enhanced by a staggering 10 victories last season, have won more games than any other county during this time period (20) – with  conditions at Chester-le-Street conductive to results and their excellent seam attack being factors in this statistic. Warwickshire have also fared well with 20 victories, although 45% of those did come during the title winning campaign of 2011.

Both Lancashire and Middlesex can boast 19 wins, although both are arguably inflated by a year in Division Two – The Red Rose’s last stay in Division One resulting in just a single success.

Yorkshire also tasted a season outside the top flight in 2012 yet can only claim 15 wins, however encouragingly 47% of those were achieved last year.

Somerset can both claim a respectable tally of 14, however for Somerset just 21% came last year, whilst only Durham and Warwickshire have won more top division games than Sussex - nonetheless in the last three years they have not won more than six in a season and that must be improved upon if they are to push for the title.

Nottinghamshire will be concerned that both Lancashire and Middlesex can equal their number of wins in Division One and Yorkshire have won only one less over the last three years, with last season’s tally of just two particularly worrying.

Newly promoted Northamptonshire, despite spending the last three seasons in Division Two have won the joint second lowest amount of games over this period.

Four counties could brag two players in the 1,000 runs club; Durham (Scott Borthwick & Mark Stoneman), Middlesex (Sam Robson & Chris Rogers), Sussex (Ed Joyce & Chris Nash) and Yorkshire (Andrew Gale & Gary Ballance).  

Not only could Yorkshire claim that accolade but also a total of five players who scored at least 500 runs while averaging 40 plus, with Adil Rashid, Alex Lees and Jonathan Bairstow together with Gale and Balance all achieving this feat. For large parts of the season Yorkshire will be able call on Kiwi Kane Williamson and with a first-class average of 42.3 he should soften the blow of possible England calls for Joe Root and Ballance.

Warwickshire may only have Varun Chopra on the 1,000 run list; however four players averaged in excess of 40 including Laurie Evans who only fell short of the golden 1,000 by 57 runs – only Yorkshire boasted more players who filled these criteria.

This was also the second successive season where Warwickshire have had four players in this group and with Jonathan Trott available for the early season at least, runs shouldn’t be an issue.

Concerning for Middlesex is that aside from Robson and Rogers no batsman averaged higher than 33, they will be looking to Eoin Morgan’s early season availability to assist them in this regard especially should Robson earn England recognition.

Durham did not have a single batsmen average above 40; however the tricky conditions at Chester-le-Street do play a part in this, nonetheless the pressure will again be on Stoneman and Borthwick to deliver enough runs for their excellent seam attack to work off with Durham’s predicted line-up possessing the lowest combined first-class average.

Alarmingly for Northants despite promotion, nobody reached 1,000 runs. On a more encouraging note they can boast great depth given that five players averaged over 40 with run tally of at least 450 including Stephen Peters and Andrew Hall who averaged over 50, whilst they could also count a total of seven who averaged over 35.

Even with the loss of Simon Katich, Lancashire, in Ashwell Prince, Luis Reece and Paul Horton still have three players who averaged over 40, albeit in Division Two where runs came significantly easier in 2013.

With Lancashire’s predicted XI’s combined average only superior to Durham (although like Durham, their home surfaces do affect this stat) that top three together with Jos Buttler must again fire, Prince does have past history in Division One where in 2012 he was one of only four men to pass the 1,000 run mark.

Despite what is on paper a powerful batting line up in which five men average above 39 only Nick Compton and Alviro Petersen could boast 2013 averages surplus of 40 for Somerset, with the former the only player of that prestigious line-up to reach the 1,000 run landmark.

Two years previous Somerset could call on three players whose averaged soared over 40 in a dire summer for batting, that year they finished second and a similar show of prowess is needed to ensure there is no repeat of 2013’s relegation scrap.

It was a similar story of frustration for Nottinghamshire in 2013, who were indebted to the efforts of Michael Lumb and James Taylor, with these the only two Notts batsman to average over 40.  Notts will be sweating over any possible England call for Taylor given he is the only player in their side to average over 40. Their long search for a reliable opener showed little sign of let up with Alex Hales averaging just 14.9.

After Warwickshire and Yorkshire it is Sussex who can proclaim the highest combined team average with Ed Joyce and Chris Nash ranked in the top 10 run scorers in both 2013 and 2012. Further to that with Luke Wright also averaging over 40 last year and Luke Wells just under Sussex should have no problems scoring heavily in 2014, particularly if they see a significant amount of Matt Prior and new capture Ashar Zaidi lives up to a first-class average of 38.2.

© Cricket World 2014

Lancashire were one of only two counties who could vaunt three bowlers who captured over 45 wickets in 2013, with Glenn Chapple, Kyle Hogg and Simon Kerrigan all passing this landmark.

Time will tell whether such impressive returns can be transferred to a higher level; however the acquisition of Kyle Jarvis who has 30 wickets in eight Tests and the early availability of James Anderson bolster an attack whose combined average runs per wicket even without Anderson (26.4) can only be bettered by Durham.

The base for the 2013 champions success was a fearsome bowling attack, in particular Graham Onions (70 wickets) and Chris Rushworth (54 wickets) who sat first and fifth on the wicket taking list respectively.

With Chester-le-Street likely to be as conductive as ever to seam bowling Durham should again shine with the ball, such is their depth that even if Onions is handed England recognition they can still roll out a four man seam attack whose combined average per wicket is under 25.

The only other county who could claim three bowlers in the 45 wickets club are Sussex, with Steve Magoffin, Chris Jordan and James Anyon all achieving this – this somewhat belittling the first-class stats which indicate Sussex have the second most toothless attack with a combined average of 30 runs per wicket. Whether they can continue in a successful vein could hinge on whether England opt for Jordan in all formats, who disparaged his career record more than most.

Trent Copeland was Northants’ leading wicket taker in 2013 and without him only David Willey of their current crop took 45 or more scalps, although a further three players did claim at least 25 wickets under 30 – nevertheless with injury ruling Jackson Bird out of a spell as overseas player the newly promoted outfit will worry where consistent wickets will come from.

Middlesex were overly reliant on Tim Murtagh last year, given he was their only bowler to pick up more than 45 wickets – they will hope Toby Roland-Jones can regain the form that saw him capture 61 wickets at 19.1 in 2012 and to benefit from Steve Finn’s attempts to rediscover his best form.

In Ollie Rayner Middlesex possess last year’s leading spinner with 43 wickets, with successful slow bowlers a rare breed that could be a pivotal advantage.

Warwickshire can back up their imposing batting prowess with a reliable balanced bowling attack, both Keith Barker and Jeetan Patel took over 45 wickets in 2013 whilst their three-pronged seam attack of Barker, Boyd Rankin and Chris Woakes possess an impressive combined bowling average of 26.3.

The success they enjoyed with the ball in 2013 was no one off, with the title campaign of 2012 built on five bowlers claiming regular wickets at under 30.

Another side who can back up a strong batting with impressive bowling are Yorkshire, however a lack of a reliable spinner could hold them back in going further than last season’s second place – without question Adil Rashid must improve on a return of 29 wickets at 46.2 apiece.

There are no qualms with their seamers given Ryan Sidebottom and Steve Patterson took 49 and 46 wickets respectively last year, at the same time Jack Brookes and Liam Plunkett offered support at fewer than 30 runs per scalp.

Wickets were an issue for Nottinghamshire in 2013, with nobody able to take more than 45 – Luke Fletcher (44) and Harry Gurney (43) coming closest. Andre Adams for a prolonged period Notts’ spearhead began to show signs of ages and the hope will be that Peter Siddle can step into this void.

Like many counties the absence of a major spinner is a real issue and it is asking a lot of Samit Patel with a first-class average of 40.1 to undertake this role.

Alongside Notts, Somerset were the only side not to have a bowler who took 45 wickets or more in 2013 and only Alfonso Thomas made regular breakthroughs at under 30. In Somerset’s favour is that their attack is youthful and the likes of Jamie Overton, Craig Meschede and Lewis Gregory showed enough promise last year to suggest brighter returns in 2014.

© Cricket World 2014