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Monday September 10 2012

As earlier reported here, Surrey were this year in definite danger of being relegated from Division One of the County Championship.  They are out of danger now, but while the battle lasted, it was quite a battle.

Promotion is one thing.  Relegation is something else again.  It is one thing to hope that rival teams to yours will merely fail to win.  It is something rather nastier to hope, as I was hoping last week, that two particular other teams would both lose and be relegated, as they now have been.  These mean-spirited emotions are surely familiar to English football fans.  They were new to me.  My preferred football team, Spurs, seldom gets threatened with relegation, from the Premier League.  Their default finishing position used to be eleventh and is now more like fifth.  Never in my recent recollection have Spurs been something like nineteenth with only a fortnight to go.  Besides which, that’s only football.  Cricket is cricket.

As the penultimate round of games got started last Wednesday Sept 4th, Surrey were well placed to escape the drop, being a dozen or so points ahead of Worcestershire and last year’s surprise Championship winners, Lancashire.  Oddly, the weather all over England, so vile for much of the summer, was perfect and remained so for the next four days.  Result weather.  Nobody was going to be relegated while being denied the chance to avoid it by rain.

Worcester played Warwickshire.  Victory for Warks would guarantee them the championship, and on that first morning, they destroyed the Worcester first innings.  By the end of day one, Warks basically had the game won, and they duly did win inside three days. Warks County Champs.  But screw that, the important thing was: Worcester couldn’t now catch Surrey, no matter what Surrey did, so goodbye Worcester.

The serious battle, then, was between Surrey and Lancs, and it looked highly likely that they would only settle their differences in the Lancs v Surrey game that is due to start tomorrow, in Liverpool. Meanwhile, Lancs played Middlesex at Lord’s.  (Go Middx!) Surrey played Nottinghamshire at the Oval.

In both these games, the difference between the first innings was small.  Surrey, batting first, got a small but still worthwhile lead of 42.  Middx and Lancs both got bigger but almost exactly equal first innings scores.  This meant Lancs got more batting points than Surrey, but had less time than Surrey to force a win.

On the third day, Friday of last week, Surrey and Middlesex both batted nervously, both trying to build a safe lead that they could defend the following day.  Both eventually succeeded, but we fans were not to know this before they had accomplished it.  And half way through Saturday it was nearly over.  The numerous Surrey spinners (including a certain Kevin Pietersen, who got two top order wickets) knocked over Notts, Surrey winning by 195.

Meanwhile, Lancs just couldn’t finish off the Middlx second innings.

At which point, a big difference between football and cricket suddenly loomed large.  Football matches in such circumstances all end within minutes of one another.  But cricket matches end when they end.  Once Surrey had won against Notts, Lancs knew that only a frantic victory slog, following a Middx safety first declaration, could save them.  They had to beat Middx.  They had to make 300 in just under 40 overs, or die trying.  A draw was now no good to them.  So, they flailed away, lost wickets at regular intervals, and lost.  Goodbye Lancs.  Had Surrey not won, Lancs could have drawn their game against Middx, and then gone back to Liverpool, and bet everything on beating Surrey, in what would have been a classic relegation decider.  As it is, this game will still go ahead, but everything is now decided.

Meanwhile, Middx, flush with the points they got handed to them by a desperate Lancs, leepfrogged up to second in the county championship.  That won’t last.  Their season is over, and rival counties will overtake them.  But even so, thank you Surrey!  By winning your game with hours to spare, you handed us another dozen points!

Imagine Spurs and Arsenal being so gracious towards one another.

In the midst of all this, on the Wednesday I think it was, there was also an England South Africa one day game going on.  I did know this, but for several hours completely forgot about it.

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