Ahead of the 2018 County Championship season, CricViz analyst Ben Jones takes a statistical glance over what’s to come this summer.
Nobody took more wickets in the 2017 County Championship than Jamie Porter, as he lead Essex to the Division One title. 75 dismissals was a totemic performance, but it was his performance against right-handers which drew the eye. He took 53 wickets at 14.39 when facing right-handed batsmen, tormenting visitors down at Chelmsford, and he’ll be desperate to maintain that form into what could be a defining season in his career. A good start to the summer could easily see him lining up in England colours before the school holidays begin – though Essex would be loathe to lose him.
With last season seeing all-conquering Kumar Sangakarra lead the scoring charts before wandering off into the sunset, Luke Wells will be the most prolific man of last summer returning this year. 2429 runs represented an incredible achievement for the Sussex opener, who will no doubt be looking to kick on again under the stewardship of Jason Gillespie.
TURNING THEIR LUCK AROUND
In 2017, no bowler beat the bat more regularly than Yorkshire’s Liam Plunkett. 12.5% of his deliveries drew misses from opposition batsmen, and astounding figure that is over double the historic average. An international class bowler who remains ignored by England’s selectors in the longer form of the game, Plunkett could be a significant weapon for the Headingley men if they are going to regain their title. Whilst Hampshire’s overseas signings gather a lot of attention, the homespun abilities of Liam Dawson shouldn’t go unnoticed. He may have only averaged 37.11 with the bat in domestic FC cricket last summer, but he missed just 2.2% of his deliveries – the lowest of any player to pass 200 runs. That is astonishingly unlucky, and if his fortune regresses to the mean, we could see a bumper summer for the spin-bowling all-rounder.
By contrast, some players will be praying their luck doesn’t change. Rory Burns, Surrey opener and another potential England contender, missed the ball 208 times in the 2017 season, more than anyone else – yet was only dismissed every 67 times he missed the ball, much higher than the competition average of a wicket every 15 misses. Another streak of good fortune could land him in the national team, at which point England fans will be crossing their fingers that he hasn’t used it all up.
Whilst county crowds are often made up of those who passionately support their side, and wouldn’t dream of turning up to see their local rivals, others see the Championship as a summer long festival of the game, and will go wherever the best chance of a contest will take them. For those of you who fall into the latter camp, the place to be this summer is Worcestershire’s charming New Road. Over the past three summers, no ground to host five or more matches has seen more “results”, that is to say wins/defeats. Just 13% of County Championship matches in the shadow of the cathedral have been drawn, with the home side either battling relegation or pushing for promotion. With many expecting a difficult summer for Joe Leach’s team, this is unlikely to change, and New Road’s surfaces will continue to see a healthy dose of spice. By contrast, nowhere has seen more draws than the County Ground in Northampton, with 31% of matches there ending in a draw – not the place to go for your cricketing day out.
Ahead of the new T20 reforms, it’s easy to forget that the Championship can contain it’s fair share of pyrotechnics. Last year, the 32% attacking shots played by Kent was the most by any team in either division. Fuelled by a tilt at promotion, Kent’s intent was unsurpassed, though the highest scoring rate came further north up at Trent Bridge, where Nottinghamshire scored at 3.65rpo across the summer, bringing their white ball form into the red ball arena. For those who want purely thrills and spills, Nottingham could still be the place to be – though the retirement of Alex Hales from the longer form may have dimmed the fire somewhat.