The Changing Face Of Cricket: Two Divisions Finally Taking Its Shape

Greg SiddellCorrespondent IAugust 4, 2008

After watching plenty of county cricket over the summer so far, it has become evident that the second division is falling behind the first division of the county championship.

It was the 20/20 competition that highlighted it to me when Durham came up against Leicestershire. In that game, Durham fielded a side that on paper looked like a stronger side, and then as the players walked onto the pitch just looked a more professional unit.

The same can be said for the other first division counties. This was again shown up in the huge gap in class, and it has to be said fitness, between the Durham and Glamorgan players in the 20/20 cup quarter final. 

Obviously there are players who are above the standard of division two, but when you take a deeper look at it, there is a widening gap.

Although Essex have shown they are a fine one day unit by reaching the semi-finals of the 20/20 competition and the final of the Friends Provident trophy, and Middlesex winning the 20/20 cup shows that it is possible for division two teams to match up with division one teams. 

A perfect example of the gap is Steve Harmison, who I believe is bowling better, and faster than he ever has, making batsmen jump around the crease and causing problems. Yet he has only taken 43 wickets this season.

However, when you look at division two's leading wicket takers, Murtagh, Ali and Langavelt, none have made an impact at an international level, only playing a handful of matches each with Murtagh not playing at all.

Whereas Harmison has been world number one, and has out done many a test batsmen. His current form surely is worthy of a recall at the Oval on thursday, and it shows the gap amply.

There are some high quality players in division two with Owais Shah, Danesh Kaneria and Ravi Bopara. Ravi Bopara has been found wanting a little bit when he has stepped up to international level with an average of 27 from 26 matches, as well as a test average of 8 from his 3 matches in Sri Lanka. 

I believe that calls for some of the players performing well in division two to be called up for England should be looked at more carefully, and the bowling attacks that their runs were scored against, and who the bowlers have been getting out.

Taking nothing away from Vikram Solanki's 270 last week, as scoring so many runs takes a huge amount of concentration and talent, no matter who you are playing against, but when you take a close look at the Gloucestershire attack, it doesn't really strike you with fear.

As for Simon Jones, he may be able to muster up the odd quick spell, which will be too much for batsmen in division two, but I don't believe the Welsh pace-man is fully fit.

Just on appearance, Jones looks very top heavy, and with Worcestershire resting him for a lot of games, it makes me wonder whether he is ready for a recall to the test arena. I hope for England's sake he does get himself fit, because a fit Simon Jones can only be a good thing as he is the best at extracting the reverse swing that is so hard to play.

To round off, the standard of the simple things in cricket, that are usually solved by hard work rather than talent, i.e. fitness and fielding, and why the gap is getting bigger between the likes of Durham, Lancashire, Kent and Nottinghamshire compared to Gloucestershire, Glamorgan, Leicestershire and Derbyshire.