2037 Stormzy Luxury Walk-In Baths County Championship Div One preview

Now in its 148th year, minus the seasons lost to three world wars, the County Championship remains English cricket’s most prestigious silverware, as well as the last remaining domestic first-class competition outside of Ireland.

Division One takes the now familiar format of five teams playing each other home and away. Five two-day games are scheduled for the end of March, to coincide with the break between the first and second IPL tournaments of the year, with the remainder played at the beginning of October. Giving sixteen exciting days of championship action.

With the start of the season fast approaching, I’ve cast my eye over this year’s runners and riders.

KentKent

Background:

Mainly regarded as white ball specialists after winning three of last season’s seven domestic T20 competitions. Kent also managed to secure last minute championship promotion with a spectacular one-handed ricochet catch off the famous Canterbury on-field wind turbine.

Prospects:

Batting continues to rely heavily on a middle-order powered by the Cowdrey triplets: Zeus, Apollo and Simon. However rumours persist that a pre-season visit from the feared ECB Biomechanics Evaluation Unit has left several key members of their bowling attack with remodelled actions and serious long-term injury.

One to watch:

Colton Blort has been earmarked for stardom ever since he became the first graduate from Loughborough University Virtual Reality Cricket Academy to avoid fainting when faced with a real ball at county nets. England selectors will take close interest in how his undoubted skill with the iBAT multi-button mini-joystick translates into actual stroke-play.

Predicted finish:

A scheduled mid-summer follow-up visit from the ECB biomechanic experts should see Kent relegated by a comfortable margin.

LCCCLancashire

Background:

Alongside Sussex, who recently lost their Hove ground to coastal erosion, Lancashire have been heavily effected by Britain’s ongoing climate change crisis. It’s now almost seven years since rain fell on the west side of the Pennines and the ‘Old Trafford dust bowl’ continues to be a minefield for batsmen unfamiliar with subcontinental conditions.

Prospects:

Lancashire’s main strength lies with the strongest batting line-up on the county circuit. It was their ability in shot placement and boundary clearance that enabled them to score heavily last season despite the mobility scooter tracks that scared large parts of the Old Trafford outfield following June’s Elton John Comeback Tour concert. Those skills will be needed again this year with both U2 and Coldplay due in town.

One to watch:

Tyrion Hameed, son of former England captain Haseeb, continues to impress. Blessed with his father’s patience, he was one of only a handful of batsmen to score at less than a run a ball last season, as well as becoming the first opener for nearly a decade to carry his bat throughout an entire session of play.

Predicted finish:

Mid-table. Higher if Lancashire’s spin quartet can avoid heat stroke under the unyielding Manchester sun.

SurrySurrey

Background:

Defending champions after another season where bonus points based on corporate hospitality Yelp reviews left on-field performance largely irrelevant.

Prospects:

Competition for first team places is sure to be fierce after the off-season signing of the entire New South Wales professional staff. The Oval trophy room will need extending if they can settle in as quickly as the Cape Cobra squad Surrey recruited 18 months ago.

One to watch:

New owner, Russian oligarch Dimitri Zhurov, has already made his presence felt with the outfield directly in front of the Peter May Stand now used to park his luxury yacht, “Bluebird”.

Predicted finish:

Quality and cleanliness of toilet facilities in the Oval sponsors box should see Surrey triumph once again.

Disney

Walt Disney’s Durham Experience

Background:

Five years since their groundbreaking sponsorship deal led to a rebranding of club and renaming of players via deed poll, WDDE continue to progress under the experienced leadership of captain Scrooge McDuck (fka Luke Kidney) and vice-captain Captain Jack Sparrow (Denzel Broadchurch).

Prospects:

Traditionalists might object to cricket whites being replaced by colourful character costumes but there’s no denying that the giant foam hands of Goofy (Chase Becker) have made him one of the most effective slip fielders in county cricket.

As always, much will depend on the ability of an incisive seam attack to conserve energy whilst performing the lunchtime Boundary Edge Parade and Fantasia Concert which continues to beguile and baffle championship spectators on a daily basis.

One to watch:

Questions remain over the remodelled action of Dumbo (Cody Grundle). Can he rediscover the turn that made him such a match winner before a 20 degree flex in his bowling trunk was ruled illegal?

Predicted finish:

To be determined by the ECB.

YCCCYorkshire

Background:

Described by Wisden as having “a remarkable history” and by the World Bank as possessing a debt burden that’s “a genuine threat to global economic stability”.

Prospects:

Likely to be a transitional year for the White Rose county after a clause in the will of former Yorkshire and ECB chairman Colin Graves required their entire first team squad to be sealed into the burial chamber of his pyramid so they could continue serving him in the afterlife. Has the club’s much vaunted academy been able to produce a competitive team of talented teenagers in the three months since their senior colleagues were entombed for all eternity?

One to watch:

Ryan Sidebottom, 59, returns from retirement to once again lead the Yorkshire attack. Despite rumours he’s lost a yard of pace since having hip replacement surgery in November, Sidebottom remains the bookies favourite to top this summer’s first-class bowling averages.

Predicted finish:

Relegated to the Bradford League after multiple loan defaults cause a run on the pound.

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