The LV= County Championship will begin to hot up tomorrow despite the September chill in the air as counties embark on a crucial three weeks with promotion, relegation and the Division One title still very much up for grabs.
Two of the form teams in the top division meet in the East Midlands as seventh placed Derbyshire host table toppers Durham. The leaders have found form at the right stage of the season and have won five of their last six four-day clashes while Derby have won three of their last four games.
Despite that form the hosts are still in trouble and sit just a solitary point off the relegation zone which is currently occupied by Surrey and Somerset who actually meet each other at Taunton starting on Wednesday morning.
This is Somerset’s penultimate fixture of the season after their defeat in the YB40 semi-final away at Nottinghamshire on Monday evening but Marcus Trescothick will have to pick up his troops to attempt to stay in the top flight.
Another key fixture is title chasing Yorkshire at Sussex, the white rose county are 14.5 points behind Durham with both sides having three games remaining. The hosts are marooned in mid-table with two games left but will be doing their best to stop the Yorkshiremen.
The visitors arrive at Hove with an unchanged squad from the potentially season defining defeat to Durham at Scarborough two-weeks ago. England Test Match batsman Jonathan Bairstow is expected to keep wicket in a strong looking side which will once again be without Joe Root while Sussex will miss Luke Wright and Chris Jordan through the same international commitments.
Elsewhere, Middlesex host Nottinghamshire at Lord’s and while the third placed hosts would require a miracle to finish top of the table Nottinghamshire’s season is very much alive. They are just eight points above the relegation zone, albeit with a game in hand and face Glamorgan at the home of cricket on Saturday 21st September to become the 2013 YB40 champions.
In Division Two it is potentially a huge week for Lancashire as they can secure a swift return back to the top league with a 19-point haul at home to Leicestershire. The hosts are the only of the 18 counties not to have lost a game this season and with three games left they are assured of promotion.
Moving down south to Kent, they host Essex at Canterbury and the visitors need a win to put the pressure on Northamptonshire for the final promotion slot with the top two teams replacing the bottom two in the league above.
Northants have the week off and in the remaining fixture Hampshire travel to face Worcestershire in a match that is ultimately a ‘dead-rubber’.
Play gets under way at 10.30am on each of the four days in both divisions, 30 minutes earlier than usual due to the September weather which is looking unsettled across the majority of the country over the next four-days.