|LVCC coming to Headingley this year?|
Yorkshire are in prime position with 158 from 11 matches played and sit on top of the table. Skipper Andrew Gale and Gary Ballance both average above 50 with the bat this year, as does young opening batsman Alex Lees who looks a fine prospect. After you have got through that lot you have the mere problem of shifting Adil Rashid who is averaging a shade over 70. With the ball any side with Jack Brooks in it is a right handful, and backed up by Plunkett, Sidebottom and Patterson they have the ability to bowl sides out twice. Surely a knighthood or even canonisation beckons if these guys bring back the Championship to Headingley?
|Brooks...a right handful|
In second place having played a game more but on 148 points lie Sussex. Ed Joyce is just shy of a thousand runs at over 75. The real stars have been seamers Chris Jordan and Steve Magoffin with a hundred wickets between them, and it remains to be seen whether Monty Panesar can sprinkle his magic over Hove in the last few weeks!
Middlesex are also looking strong. Now being a North Londoner I am completely biased writing this, but Tim Murtagh has become a legend since he crossed the Thames. The seam attack has been spoken about lots, and the parsimonious Gareth Berg and Murtagh give them the control needed when the runs are flowing. Charles Saatchi couldn't strangle sides more! Voges and Robson are both quality acts, and John Simpson is the most under rated keeper/batsman in the country.
|The Middx seam attack...where's Nigella?|
Don't discount Durham in fourth. Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick have both had decent seasons on wickets that batting is never easy on. Onions, Thorp and Stokes are enjoying themselves with the ball and it is great to see a side full of home grown talent. Normally when we discuss North East talent on these pages it involves scantily clad ladies in various shades of orange parading around the Bigg Market, but can this trinity of bowlers bring back the title?
Another side never to write off are Warwickshire. I would like to see Varun Chopra rewarded with a flight to Australia this year and he is not far away from a thousand runs. Laurie Evans is another who has had a great year, and their all rounders, Keith Barker, Chris Woakes and Rikki Clarke all have the ability to be match winners. Will the champagne be flowing in the city that amazingly has more canals than Venice? Their season is at a crossroads, and I'm not talking about the crappy 70's soap filmed in Birmingham.
The side who are looking at mid table obscurity are Nottinghamshire. Bowling has been the problem on flat Trent Bridge decks, although Michael Lumb and James Taylor with over eight hundred runs apiece have enjoyed it. 2013 will go down as one of under achievement in the East Midlands for a county we thought would do better and could be described as the middle of the road. Which ironically is very different from where Nottingham resident David Pleat used to drive his car back in the 1980's!
The three sides battling it out for the bottom two who will go down, are rank outsiders Derbyshire, Surrey and the side we tipped to win it this year, in Somerset.
Derbyshire on just 68 points look doomed. Wayne Madsen is a decent player averaging over 50 and Chanderpaul chips in with a few. Derbyshire's stay was always going to be brief in the top flight, although if you have ever spent a night in Derby, you'd want a brief stay too!
Somerset have been the surprise package. Never trust a Middle Stump tip! I think they will stay up just. Buttler, Petersen and Compo will get them the runs required and surely Trescothick has one final run glut left in him? With church spires over looking Taunton, the locals will be praying but the young talent, and the ever green (or should that be orange) Steve Kirby should get them out of trouble.
|Tres...one last hurrah?|
Surrey have also been a disappointment. After a horrendous 2012, big things were expected south of the river this year, and Chris Adams paid for it with his job. The runs have come easily at the Oval but the front line bowlers averaging between 30 and 40 tells a story. A nerve wracking end to the season awaits in Kennington and the fans trousers could be as brown as the team cap!
So there you go. There is still lots of cricket to be played in this wonderful summer, and we can't wait to see how it all unfolds. Who is your money on? Tell us on twitter @themiddlestump or on our Facebook page.