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Broadhalfpenny Down, very much not a level playing field! Where the Hambledon Club [Hampshire] played their matches in the 18th century.

Cricket in England, the type played in whites with a red ball, has that idyllic connection with long warm summer days. A lazy way to spend a weekend day…..Not if we are talking An LV County Championship match – Get real people!   If you are lucky the last day of a four day match may fall on a Saturday.  [But when watching Durham you can’t always guarantee a fourth day.]  It can be quite challenging to fit in the time to see any first class county cricket in England now, and it is rarely shown even on subscription channels.  So unless you are successfully self employed, moneyed unemployed, retired, a housewife, have an odd shift work job, you can forget it.  If you do, increasingly you will find yourself freezing to death, as these weekday matches are pushed ever further into the unsuitable parts of April, and September, where the equinoctial light does not tend to be great on a dull afternoon.  Check out the 2010 fixtures for yourself.

I’m not selling it very well am I?  But that’s not my job.  The England and Wales Cricket Board are charged with the responsibility of promoting and developing the game.   Do they impress you?  There is also apparently a womens competition but the ECB likes to keep that very much under wraps [even more so than the mens game] here.  Do I think their website is a mess?  Yes.

The County Championship is the first class cricket competition in England and Wales.  English counties have been playing each other since 1709, and the concept of  a Champion County has existed since 1837. The official version has been around since the 1890 season, when the teams played 14 matches [one home and away].

Since 1993 the games have been four day, before that they were three. A two division structure was introduced in the late 90’s,  Nine teams in each division, each team playing its opponents at home and away.  There is a points system for wins, draws and performance.  At the season’s end, in the first division, the bottom two teams are relegated.  The top two finishers in division 2 progress to  compete in the first division the next season.  The 2009 season saw the winning County awarded 500,000 UK sterling for the first time.

At present the British interest in Test cricket is  keeping the championship going.  It is largely funded by subscription TV revenue.   The future and format of the competition is always a topic of debate.  The ECB has undertaken to keep the current format until at least 2013.  Rules on the match points system, player qualification and incentives to encourage young home grown talent by the counties are also ongoing.  At this point in time the shorter forms of cricket, Twenty20 and the 40 and 50 over matches,  Indian entrepreneurialism and the insatiable force of the Indian fan market  are driving the development of the sport as a whole, and it is very much in flux.

In 1992 Durham joined the ranks of the first class counties, the new boys of the County Competition.  They struggled initially and were accused of lowering the standard.

But through being well run, taking the initiative and encouraging local talent Durham, through the years have gone from strength to strength becoming not only twice county champions but one of the regular teams to provide players for the England cricket team.  So much so that Peter Roebuck in the Aussie press attributed the English 2009 Ashes victory to ‘Durham and the Dominions‘.

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