Read Rob Keyís latest column from All Out Cricket magazine

Tuesday 13th October 2009

Promoted from the second division at the first time of asking, but what has skipper Rob Key learnt from the team“s sabbatical?

It“s tough to make a call as to whether we have improved as a Championship side this year. Sure, more of the batsmen have passed 1,000 runs than they did last year, and James Tredwell has been in a class of his own with the ball – at time of writing he has over 60 wickets – 30-odd more than any other English spinner.

The reason it“s hard to call how we compare as a side is that in my opinion there is a fairly large difference in standard between the first and second divisions. This will come as no surprise to many and put simply, in the first division you play eight out of 16 games against the top four teams in the country where in the second division you play eight games against the four worst.

In the top flight the pressure is always on. If you“re not in with a chance of winning the competition you are more than likely fighting for survival. Last year we lost the last two games to be relegated after playing that penultimate game with the potential of going second. In the second division, and no danger of relegation, the intensity drops off markedly.

And the specific differences? Scoring rates are quite a bit slower. Derbyshire“s Chris Rogers is really the only batsman that has sent our bowlers to all parts. Most teams – with a few exceptions – have a new-ball pairing that would be a first and second change option in the first division, meaning the first and second change bowlers below the opening bowlers aren“t always of the best standard.

With the cutting of Kolpaks I think there will be an ongoing drop in the standard. The best players that we have come up against have generally been those Kolpaks or overseas. Whether the drop in standard will be worthwhile in the long-term only time will tell. Overall, it does seem to me as though we are at present struggling to produce enough quality English talent to fill 18 counties.

Issue 61 of All Out Cricket is available now and can be purchased from the Eleventh Wicket club shop at the St Lawrence Ground.