By securing 10 wins in the English County Championship during 2013, Durham were able to claim the title at the expensive of neighbouring team Yorkshire who were forced to settle for the runners-up position. Twelve months further ahead, it is Yorkshire emerging as County Champions with Durham only just securing their top flight status with two games remaining. Whereas Yorkshire have surpassed last season’s results, the Durham team has only notched four victories to date in this campaign which helps to explain the contrasting fortunes of the leading two counties from last summer.
Yorkshire have been without the services of England regular Joe Root for much of this season but have only lost one County Championship match all season, that being a seven wicket loss at Middlesex. Although Gary Balance and Jonny Bairstow have been afforded more batting time with their county during the summer, it is the opening and often unsung pairing of Adam Lyth and Alex Lees which has earned many accolades arising from several productive partnerships.
On four occasions this season, Lyth and Lees have added at least 100 for the first wicket and Lyth has completed six championship centuries during a prolific summer. In 21 innings to date, he has compiled an average in excess of 70 runs for a team which is not just stocked with excellent batting talent.
Merely compiling impressive batting statistics does not guarantee winning County Championship matches and Yorkshire have been indebted to several bowlers for claiming those vital wickets. Ryan Sidebottom and Jack Brooks would never win trophies for style but they have accumulated over 100 county wickets as a pair this season in a well-balanced attack which has also included former England pace bowler Liam Plunkett on occasions.
Contrast their ability to win matches with that of a Durham team which lost their way in mid-season and were in second bottom position at one stage last month. Captain Paul Collingwood has bemoaned their failure to dislodge opponents during the final innings and their Friday victory against Middlesex is a case in point with the last three wickets for their opponents netting 115 runs. Northants and Somerset were able to earn draws during late spring when more decisive bowling by Durham would have secured victory.
There have been occasions when Durham have not been helped by the weather but with Yorkshire topping both the batting and bowling bonus points statistics, it is evident that it is the latter team which has progressed further from last season.
Durham will have the consolation of contesting the final of the Royal London One-Day Cup at Lords later this month and may also earn another Championship victory against hapless Northants in the coming days but this season belongs to a Yorkshire team which has sealed only their second County Championship title in 45 years.
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