County cricket and nail-biting excitement are not terms that are generally used together. The County Championship is old-fashioned cricket played the way God intended before she realized that T20 games could be a whole lot of fun. Matches are played over four days and often end in draws. It is enough to send your average American sports fan into a coma.
This year, however, is different. As we entered the final week of matches, three teams were in with a shot at the title. Excitingly the top two teams, Middlesex and Yorkshire, were due to play each other at the “Home of Cricket”, Lord’s Cricket Ground in London. Lord’s is the home ground of Middlesex, and Yorkshire are the defending champions. It was a perfect set up.
Except that there was a joker in the pack. Way out in Taunton, tiny Somerset had a game against a hapless and already relegated Nottinghamshire side. It looked like an easy win for the cider boys, and if the two titans of the game slugging it out in London fought each other to a draw, then the cheeky West Country lads could sneak off with the title.
Today was day 3 of the matches. There was much excitement during the day regarding matters of bonus points, but I will spare you the neepery and cut to the chase.
As expected, Somerset wrapped up a victory easily — with a day to spare, in fact. They missed out on only a single bonus point and so racked up a lot of points. They now sit happily on top of the table.
Meanwhile in London fortunes swung back and fore. Yorkshire currently have the upper hand, but there’s a whole day to play and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Middlesex could get a win. Sides have come back from worse positions before. A win for either side will net enough points for the title.
Or it could rain all day. Who knows?
We’ll find out tomorrow. The bookmakers have Yorkshire as firm favorites. They are they reigning champions. They know how to win. And there is enough playing time for them to get there. But Somerset have points in the bag. If Yorkshire slip up tomorrow, something momentous might happen.
In thinking of how to explain this to Americans, my first thought was to talk about the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs were founder members of Major League Baseball and have a history dating back to 1876. They haven’t won the World Series since 1908 (though this year they look to be hot favorites). But they have won, twice.
Somerset’s cricket club was founded in 1875. County cricket was started by Yorkshire and Gloucestershire in 1890, and Somerset was the third team to join the tournament in 1891. In all of that time they have never won the championship.
Tomorrow we could see a little bit of cricketing history being made.