New County Championship needs ‘tweaking’, says Yorkshire captain Steve Patterson

STEVE PATTERSON has given a thumbs-up to the new County Championship format but believes that it could be improved as Yorkshire attempt to win the competition for the first time since 2015.

Yorkshire's Steve Patterson. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
Yorkshire's Steve Patterson. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Speaking after the end of the group stages yesterday, the Yorkshire captain said that he had enjoyed the diversity of the new format and the chance to play at new grounds.

Patterson had not played at Cardiff, for example, in a 16-year first-class career prior to the game against Glamorgan in May.

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But after guiding Yorkshire to a second-place finish in Group Three, with the 18 counties having been seeded into three groups of six playing 10 games (five home, five away), Patterson said the next stage of the tournament could be better designed.

Umpires inspect the Headingley wicket, but the Roses match was abandoned as a draw.

For not only do the top-two from each group go into Division One, the third and fourth-placed sides into Division Two, and the fifth and sixth-placed teams into Division Three, where they will play a further four fixtures (two home, two away), avoiding their opponents from the group stage, they also carry forward half the points they took against those group opponents.

In other words, Yorkshire, who advanced with Group Three winners Lancashire into Division One, earned a combined nine points from the two Roses games against Lancashire’s combined 33. Yorkshire now take forward half of their points (4.5) and Lancashire half of theirs (16.5). It means Yorkshire will start bottom of Division One when the divisional stage begins on August 30 – 16.5 points behind leaders Warwickshire.

However, there is an obvious anomaly in that Warwickshire finished second in Group One behind Nottinghamshire, who in contrast take five points forward as they lost both group games against Warwickshire.

“I think there needs to be some tweaking in terms of the points you take through to the divisional stage,” said Patterson, “but the general principle is pretty good.

“The other thing that only time will tell is what the standard of cricket is like in Divisions Two and Three, and what there is to play for.

“It’s only the Division One teams who can compete for the title (the winner of Division One is crowned champion and then plays off against the runner-up for the separate Bob Willis Trophy), but, for us in that top division, there’s obviously everything to play for.”

Patterson offered some possible suggestions. “There’s different ways you could do it,” he added. “You could go through into the divisional stage and have a clean slate points-wise. You could play an extra game – five games in all – so that you play against each team as you do in the group stage, which would obviously mean one more Championship game a season. Or you could take all your points through from the group stage perhaps.

“I think it needs to be looked at because if you win your group and start your next phase 20-odd points behind the team who came second, it doesn’t seem quite right to me, but that’s for people in higher places to sort out.

“From our perspective, we’re delighted that come August/September we’ve got a chance of being able to win the Championship. We know we’ll have to raise our game against the top teams but, if we play to the level we’re capable of, we’ve got every chance.”

Yorkshire and Lancashire had confirmed Division One status prior to their meeting at Headingley this week, where yesterday’s final day was abandoned.

Conditions at the Emerald Stand end had not improved from day three, which was dramatically cut short during the afternoon session when umpires Ian Gould and Nigel Llong decided the outfield had become unfit and unsafe for play after the heavy rain that washed out day two.

“The umpires made their decision on the grounds of player safety and we respect that,” said Patterson of yesterday’s abandonment. “As frustrating as it was when we had blue skies up above, I believe they made the right call and we fully support them.

“I feel sorry for our supporters because they’d been looking forward to some cricket. We know that end of the ground has been a problem, which is why the club is relaying the outfield at the end of the season.”

Yorkshire are confident that Sunday’s T20 international between England and Pakistan will proceed as planned and are refunding ticket-holders for the last three days of the Roses match.

They have also announced that pace bowler Dominic Leech, who collided with the concrete base of the West Stand while fielding on day three, will see a specialist today after dislocating a joint at the side of his left knee.

Meanwhile, Yorkshire are now through to the quarter-finals of the T20 Blast for the first time since 2016 after the cancellation of Sunday’s final group match at Derbyshire, who have 14 players self-isolating after an unnamed team-mate tested positive for Covid-19, plus six injuries.