Friday 4 April 2014 

County Championship Division Two - A Statistical Preview

Surrey team photo
Can Surrey bounce back following relegation in 2013?
© REUTERS / Action Images
 

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

AVERAGE POSITION

Unsurprisingly the four counties who have participated in Division One during the last three years (Surrey, Worcestershire, Derbyshire and Hampshire) can boast the highest average position, taking the last three years into account.

For Surrey it is difficult to ascertain an average position given they haven’t competed at this level since 2011, at which point they were promoted. Similarly 2013 was Worcestershire’s only season in Division Two over the last three years.

Hampshire who have been in the second tier for the last two years have finished fourth on both occasion, whist either side of relegation Derbyshire can boast an average finish of third.

Essex can only muster an average finish of fifth, however last season’s third place does hint to improvement. Both Kent and Gloucestershire disappointingly average sixth place, this even with the former having finished third in 2012. Having not finished higher than fifth in the previous three years Glamorgan average seventh place and Leicestershire bottom in two of those seasons a dismal eighth.  

MOST WINS

Despite enduring a difficult season in Division last year, no side can topple Derbyshire’s record of 14 victories over the last three years.

Gloucestershire are next with 13, although 54% of those came back in 2011. Surrey, like Derbyshire, were relegated in 2013 and in spite of two successive years in the top flight their 12 wins is equal third alongside Kent.

Having been relegated in 2012, 55% of Worcestershire’s wins over the last three years came last season, with their six wins more than promoted Northamptonshire achieved.

Both Essex and Glamorgan are averaging just 3.6 wins per year over this period, something they must improve if they are to make any kind of promotion push.

Hampshire’s ability to flatter to deceive in recent years is rammed home by the point that only Leicestershire have won fewer games than them during this period. Last year’s bottom club have incidently won just a mere four games during this time frame, of which 75% came in 2012.

Scoring runs for the majority of sides was not a problem in 2013. In spite of finishing in sixth Gloucestershire boasted a remarkable four players who passed 1,000 runs (Chris Dent, Hamish Marshall, Alex Gidman & Michael Klinger), similarly Kent despite a disappointing season in which only Leicestershire finished below them had three batsman (Brendan Nash, Darren Stevens & Robert Key) who scored in excess of 1,000.

Glamorgan, another relative struggler, saw Murray Goodwin and Jim Allenby score clear of 1,000; the arrival of Jacques Rudolph will only strengthens them further in this department.

Fourth-placed Hampshire could claim James Vince and Liam Dawson who passed the golden landmark, whilst Michael Carberry also averaged clear of 40.

Remarkably only one player from the top three (Ashwell Prince, Lancashire) passed the milestone last season, perhaps indicating the vitality of a wicket-taking bowling attack. Nevertheless for third place Essex to take the next step this is an area that requires improvement, given that of their batsman only Jaik Mickleburgh averaged in excess of 40.

In Essex’s favour is that they will have the rare luxury of Alastair Cook being available early season and that could allow them to steal a march on the rest, as we’ve seen from Northants and Derbyshire in recent years sides who hit the ground running can be tough to catch.

Worcestershire must also improve in this field; Moeen Ali was the country’s leading run scorer in 2013 but was afforded precious little other support with no other player scoring more than a single century. An absence of senior players is a major issue throughout their side and the batting is no different with Daryl Mitchell and Ali the only seasoned campaigners in the top order.

Wayne Madsen was a fighting a similarly lone stand for Derbyshire in 2013 and although life should be more comfortable in the second tier, that only three players averaged in excess of 30 and one of those was heavily inflated by a single score of 270 will be of some concern – even if it is hard to see Shivnarine Chanderpaul not scoring heavily this time around.

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Surrey’s batsman, none of whom scored over a 1,000 runs last year should also enjoy the drop in level and the likes of Vikram Solanki, Steve Davies and Rory Burns who were all within 150 of the 1,000 mark in 2013 should excel, whilst Graeme Smith will bring a constant run source.

Leicestershire are another side where one man accounted for a significant bulk of the runs with rising star Ned Eckersley their only player to pass 1,000 and to average above 40. The availability of Ramnaresh Sarwan for the entire campaign will help in this regard, not only in runs but the experience The West Indian will bring to a youthful side. 

© Cricket World 2014

Excluding the promoted sides only six bowlers claimed 45 wickets or more in 2013, of which three (David Masters, Reece Topley & Graham Napier) are accounted for by Essex and again wickets should not be a problem for the Chelmsford club, especially if they can get Monty Panesar back on track.

James Tomlinson took 53 for Hampshire; although their second leading wicket-taker offered just 22 and The Ageas Bowl club will be looking for new recruits Matt Coles and Kyle Abbott to address this. Further to that if David Balcombe can rediscover the form of 2012 in which he topped the wicket taking charts then Hampshire’s sole issue looks to be the lack of a dependable spinner.

Gloucestershire were again indebted to the wickets of Will Gidman, however besides young Craig Miles he was afforded little consistent support and a worrying there was as huge spin bowling void.

It was a similar story for Paul Hogan at Glamorgan who took 67 wickets yet nobody else could manage over 40, although Dean Cosker’s 37 were the second highest for a spin bowler. Both counties though possess young attacks who they will hope improve following the experience of last year.

Worcestershire's long time spearhead and 2013’s leading wicket taker Alan Richardson has retired to leave a huge void and of their current squad nobody claimed more than Jack Shantry’s paltry 34 wickets. The signing of Saeed Ajmal to drive the bowling is likely to prompt a change of tact, which should bring fellow spinners Moeen and Shaaiq Choudhry to the fore.

Worryingly for Leicestershire no bowler took consistent wickets at under 40, again though their bowling unit is largely inexperienced and the hope will be that Ollie Freckingham (36 wickets at 44) and Alex Wyatt (20 wickets at 45.2) can progress in 2014.

Kent’s bowlers endured a nightmare 2013, with their highest wicket-taker who remains on their books Darren Stevens picking up just 32 – the lowest of any other county in the division. Overseas player Doug Bollinger is the man tasked with addressing these issues and should he stay fit looks will provide a focal point for the rest to work off.

In Division One bowling was Surrey’s main issue with Tim Linley’s 37 wickets their best return, whilst Jade Dernbach’s 34 wicket at 30.7 was as close as they got to anybody averaging under 30. For Surrey to succeed they be looking to Stuart Meaker to generate the sort of form that saw him claim 44 wickets at 22.6 in 2012.

Derbyshire’s attack which was a major contributor to their promotion in 2012 fared somewhat better, as Tim Groenewald passed the 45 wicket mark and despite missing a large chunk of the season through injury Tony Palladino took 23 at 28. During that 2012 campaign Palladino and Groenewald were ranked in the top 12 wicket takers together with David Wainwright and Derbyshire will be looking for more of the same.

It is worth noting that no spin bowler in Division Two with the exception of Lancashire’s Simon Kerrigan picked up wickets at under 30 or claimed at least 45 wickets in 2013.

Essex will hope the acquisition of Panesar can give them an advantage in this aspect, although for Worcestershire, Ajmal with a Test bowling average of 27.5 brings a unique match winning threat.

© Cricket World 2014