Somerset will start 2020 County Championship season on -12 points


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TheLocalYokel

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They were given a warning at the end of the previous season so can't really complain. I will be surprised if they appeal.

Somerset have never won the County Championship but have finished second six times this century, including three times in the last four years. They are desperate to break their duck.

It has to be said that the gods never favour them. A few years ago they finished on the same number of points as Nottinghamshire who won the title by dint of winning more matches than Somerset. A few years before that the championship was decided when teams were equal on points at the top by the team losing fewer matches being declared champions. Had that rule not been altered Somerset would have been champions that year because they lost fewer matches than Nottinghamshire.

In 2016 Somerset won their last match of the season inside four days and sat at the top of the table. The only other sides who could catch them were Yorkshire and Middlesex who by chance happened to be playing each other in their last match. That match was heading for a draw which would have been no good for either Yorkshire or Middlesex. So the two captains agreed a strategy whereby Yorkshire put on joke bowlers to chuck up rubbish to enable Middlesex to set a target for Yorkshire to chase.

Yorkshire started badly but because of the captains' agreement kept chasing the runs instead of shutting up shop for a draw as they would have done in normal circumstances because by then they knew they had no chance of winning.

Middlesex bowled them out and won the championship. Not against the laws of the game although the authorities had intimated a year or two before that obvious attempts to manipulate a match by such tactics should be outlawed. It's still allowed.

Even when Somerset had such players as Viv Richards, Ian Botham, Joel Garner, Brian Rose and Vic Marks in their best ever side in the late 70s and early 80s they never won the championship because the Taunton pitch was such a batsman's paradise that it was near impossible to bowl both sides out twice. As recently as 2007 there were two innings (one by Somerset and one against them) that totalled over 800 runs - there have only been seven occasions where teams have scored over 800 runs in an innings in the entire 130-year old history of the County Championship.

In recent years Somerset decided to alter ther nature of their pitches, primarily to suit their strong spin bowling attack (countries such as India have done this for decades without complaint from the authorities). Somerset evidently went too far.

It's ironic that it only seems to be spin-favouring wickets that attract the attention of the cricketing authorities in this country. In the 1980s Nottinghamshire had a world-class pace attack of Richard Hadlee and Clive Rice. They regularly left a grass covering on their wickets to assist their two pace bowlers, gambling that if they lost the toss and were put in to bat their opponents would not have players of sufficient stature to get out of the green wicket what Hadlee and Rice would be able to.

Somerset's groundsman of many years has left the county to join Hampshire in a similar position. I'm not aware that it has any connection with the pitch preparation at Taunton.

As someone who has followed Somerset from a very early age when they were regularly at or near the bottom of the County Championship, this is an extremely disappointing outcome. In recent years I and a number of my peers have almost come to accept that we won't see the Championship pennant ot whatever they get (we've never won it so don't know) at Taunton in our lifetime. Somerset gets phenomenal support - regular 2,000-3,000 crowds at home in midweek at County Championship matches when other counties often see just a few hundred spectators at such times. As for 20:20 and 50-over cricket the admittedly fairly small ground (7,000 capacity) almost always sells out, and would do if the ground was bigger.

Its very sad that this enthusiasm for cricket (Somerset attracts a lot of support from Devon and Cornwall too) is given two fingers by the cricketing authorities who have denied the South West a team in the new The Hundred competition. We have been told we must support the Cardiff-based Welsh Fire as apparently the ECB has decided it's also 'our' team, even though they will play all their home matches in the Welsh capital. Personally, I'm not keen on such forms of cricket but I know that many cricket followers in the region are.
 

JENNYJET

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I think it sucks! Perhaps Somerset could simply withdraw from competing for the season making the contest more even,, same goes for Saracens. Screwing up the contest punishes everyone whilst fines are more direct.
 

TheLocalYokel

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I think it sucks! Perhaps Somerset could simply withdraw from competing for the season making the contest more even,, same goes for Saracens. Screwing up the contest punishes everyone whilst fines are more direct.
I can understand your position but points deductions might be the only thing that concentrates the minds of owners.

Cricket might be different to rugby and football in that it is not a wealthy sport in comparison, particularly when viewed against football. We know that a number of football clubs have mega-wealthy owners, and rugby too is not short of exceptionally well-off owners - Saracens is one example and Bristol with its billionaire owner (he also owns Bristol City FC) is another.

There is no rich owner of a county cricket club - as far as I'm aware they are still all members clubs.

Even if the relative lack of money in cricket doesn't present the same opportunity to try to buy success, the principle remains the same as with football and rugby.

There are football club owners who would willingly break or severely bend the rules to secure promotion or avoid relegation if the only penalty was a fine. In some ways it would be like fining a thief but letting him keep the goods he stole. Selling a football club's stadium to the club owner who then leases it back in order to remain within the club's financial fair play limits is one questionable practice and I believe that it is now being investigated by the football authorities.

It does seem then that docking points is the only real sanction the football and rugby authorities possess, and cricket is in the same position. I'm not averse to the principle of removing points. It's just that in cricket the policy does not seem to be followed evenly.

As I pointed out in an earlier post, county clubs have got away with producing green wickets to assist their strong pace bowling attack without let or hindrance on the part of the authorities. However, if a club does the same to help its strong spin bowling contingent that is viewed entirely diffferently.

It's the same with batting. A county might have a very strong batting line-up and a pitch that can be prepared as a 'feather bed'. If they need to avoid defeat in a game to be promoted or escape relegation and produce a batsman's paradise of a wicket where neither side would be able to bowl the other out twice within the days allotted, nothing is ever said, still less punished by the authorities.
 

JENNYJET

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Docking points would be fine if said points won were awarded to the opposing team that lost the game. Automatic demotion as was given to Glasgow Rangers might be a better sanction as it offers restructuring an renewal into a better entity, rehabilitation matters after punishment.
 

TheLocalYokel

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Docking points would be fine if said points won were awarded to the opposing team that lost the game. Automatic demotion as was given to Glasgow Rangers might be a better sanction as it offers restructuring an renewal into a better entity, rehabilitation matters after punishment.
I would not be against the principle of demotion or a denial of promotion if an aspiring team from a lower division was guilty of malpractice.

In Somerset's case their last match of the season was at home (Taunton) against Essex. Essex were leading the Championhip with Somerset in second place and the only county that could overtake Essex to become champions. However, to do so Somerset needed to win the match, hence their less than satisfactory attention to pitch preparation, with a poor pitch - one that would quickly break up and assist the spin bowlers, of whom Somerset fielded three very good ones in that match - much more likely to bring about a positive result.

Somerset's plan worked out well for them but they couldn't beat the weather which intervened to such an extent that less than two of the allotted four days play were possible. Even then, the pitch and their able spin bowlers had put Somerset in such a commanding position that they would surely have won the match had they been able to play for just one more half day. The result was therefore a draw leaving Essex to take the title.

Had Somerset won the match and become champions I presume that the points deduction would have taken effect for last season rather than next season. To have done otherwise would have left Somerset champions and thus rewarded for what the cricket authorities decided was improper conduct.

I have no argument with Somerset being sanctioned but it does irk me that only spin bowling improprieties seem to attract the attention of the authorities. Had the positon been that Somerset had gone into the last match top of the table with Essex in second place and needing to win to overtake Somerset, and had Somerset decided that they could not afford to take a chance on losing and prepared a batting-friendly wicket where it would be near impossibe to be bowled out twice in the match nothing would have been said.

It's the uneveness that I find hard to understand. If you have a strong pace bowling or strong batting line-up and prepare pitches to suit that the authorities don't even blink. If you have a strong spin bowling complement and try to take advantage of that the book is thrown at you.

Under-preparing a wicket to try to win is no different to my eyes than leaving grass on it for your fast bowlers or making sure that it is so benign that it's impossible to bowl teams out twice when you have a strong set of batsmen, or batswomen now that women's cricket is making leaps and bounds.
 

JENNYJET

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.....Thus proving non playing rules are inadequate. Equally keeping lawyers busy. The governing bodies create the framework for competition but not the game laws since those were before governance. e.g., How was Rugby football created? How did two rugby codes evolve? Result......wing and prayer governance!
 

TheLocalYokel

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.....Thus proving non playing rules are inadequate. Equally keeping lawyers busy. The governing bodies create the framework for competition but not the game laws since those were before governance. e.g., How was Rugby football created? How did two rugby codes evolve? Result......wing and prayer governance!
I think former England rugby union captain Will Carling's comments about the men who ran rugby union in the 1990s when he described them as 'old farts' probably still holds good today and not just with rugby.
 
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