Our penultimate Senior County Championships weekend got under way last weekend, with the country’s top ten counties competing to finish top of the Premiership table.
Last season saw Yorkshire crowned the champions followed by Surrey in second place, just three points behind them, and Cheshire coming third.
After this weekend the top two counties remain in their previous positions; Yorkshire on 43 points and Surrey on 40, however, Warwickshire who came fourth last season, are now in third position and just four points behind the leaders.
Buckinghamshire were promoted from the first division last season and currently stand in fourth place with 34 points, and Cheshire just one point behind them in fifth. Last season Lancashire narrowly avoided relegation but sit comfortably in the middle of the table at sixth with 31 points, followed by Avon who got themselves out of the relegation zone this weekend and now have 30 points.
The young team of Glasgow and North Strathclyde can rest easy for now as they sit in eighth position with 28 points, but going into the final weekend Nottinghamshire and Middlesex have some work to do as the two teams who may face relegation. With just two points separating them, Nottinghamshire on 27 and Middlesex, who got promoted last season, on 25, both teams will be fighting to stay in the Premiership for another season.
The first round of matches saw Surrey lead the way with a 9-2 win over Middlesex, who had England number one men’s singles player Rajiv Ouseph missing, a key player in their team. Without Ouseph, this allowed Surrey to storm into a 5-0 lead against Middlesex after they won all of their men’s and women’s singles matches. Middlesex fought back in their top men’s doubles match with Victor Liew and Dunika Karunaratne beating Ben Beckman and Aaron Cheng, however, this wasn’t enough for the Middlesex team as they only managed to get one more point on the board from their second women’s doubles players, Freya Patel-Redfearn and Lubomira Stoynova. Later on in the day, Surrey managed to continue their top form in the singles events and again went 4-0 up against Cheshire. However, Cheshire’s top male and female doubles players, Greg Mairs and Jenny Moore, both stepped up for their team and won their level doubles matches, as well as their mixed doubles match in just 20 minutes. The final match score saw Surrey win 7-4 over Cheshire.
This was Cheshire’s second loss of the day as they had suffered a close loss to Lancashire, 5-6, earlier on in the day. This proved an important win for Lancashire as they lost their top women’s doubles player, ex-England international Joanne Nicholas, to an injury during the final mixed doubles match. This injury forced Nicholas to retire and she was unable to play for the rest of the weekend. Although this was a big loss for Lancashire, they put up a fight against Yorkshire who are sat at the top of the table. Yorkshire took the lead by winning all four singles events but England doubles specialist Tom Wolfenden and Gary Fox took control and won both men’s and mixed doubles events with conviction. Yorkshire, however, had a little luck on their side and won both women’s doubles in three sets.
Yorkshire had set the tone for the weekend in the morning with a win over Glasgow and North Strathclyde, 7-4, but the young Glaswegian team put up a fight and took six of the 11 matches to three sets. For their second match, Glasgow narrowly missed out on winning their third match of the championships and lost 6-5 to Buckinghamshire. The Scott’s went 4-2 up but Buckinghamshire’s strength came from their doubles players who then stole the lead after winning both women’s doubles and second men’s doubles. Buckinghamshire also beat Nottinghamshire 6-5 who struggled to get their full squad out due to some of their top players being away for other commitments. This seemed to have an impact on the team as they then suffered an unexpected loss to Avon, going down 8-3. For Avon, however, this was a result they needed as they were in the bottom two of the table and faced relegation after losing 7-4 to Warwickshire in the morning.
Strength in depth
Another win in the afternoon for Warwickshire saw them secure their third place position going into the second day of the weekend where they seamlessly beat Cheshire 8-3. Proving they have strength in depth still, Warwickshire went 4-0 up after all singles events but once again for Cheshire doubles players Mairs and Moore won their respective events and together in the mixed. Lancashire also stepped up their level and beat Glasgow 8-3 on Sunday 13 December. After a slow start to the weekend, Nottinghamshire took on the leaders of the Premiership and narrowly missed beating Yorkshire with a 5-6 loss. For Surrey, currently sat in second place, they struggled to outperform some of the players of Buckinghamshire and lost 6-5. At the bottom of the table Middlesex needed to get some points on the board after having a number of close matches on the Saturday. They managed to do so with a close 6-5 win over Avon.
For full results please click here.
The final weekend of the Premiership will be held on 19-20th March 2016, where the Senior County Champions will be crowned.
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