The final round of the Bob Willis Trophy group stages is almost upon us, and the race for the place in a Lord’s final is hotting up.
With only two spots available, simply topping the group won’t be enough; it’s the two group winners with the most points that will make it to the Home of Cricket.
How things stand
Teams can get at most 24 points from each game, if they win while scoring 400 or more runs and claiming nine or 10 wickets in the first 110 overs of the first innings. With Somerset already on 76 points and Derbyshire on 71, all teams with fewer than 47 points are already out of contention.
Those still theoretically in with a chance are the aforementioned Somerset and Derbyshire, as well as Worcestershire (70 points), Yorkshire (66), and four teams from the South Group, Essex (70), Kent (63), Middlesex (59), and Hampshire (54).
The fixtures that matter
Who needs what to top each group?
The clash between Somerset and Worcestershire is a virtual semi-final; the winner will top the group and be in a strong position to qualify for the final. If it’s a draw, Somerset’s six-point advantage will mean that unless the Pears dominate the bonus points, it will be the Cidermen who progress. Given no side has taken a batting point of Craig Overton and co. so far, that seems unlikely.
Yorkshire are looking for their rivals Lancashire to do them a favour. If Derbyshire win and take four or more bonus points, they will top the group regardless of what the White Rose do. A draw or even a loss for Yorkshire could still be enough, as long as they match Derbyshire’s result and claim enough bonus points to close the five-point gap to the top of the North Group table.
Here is where it gets complicated, with four teams in contention and all playing one of the other. If Essex win and claim a bonus point, they will top the group, even though Kent could draw level with them on points; Essex will have lost no games, while Kent will have lost one, in this scenario.
Should Essex draw, even with maximum bonus points, a Kent win and two bonus points will see them leapfrog the Chelmsford side.
If Essex lose, they won’t necessarily be eliminated, though it would need something odd to happen with the bonus points to keep them ahead of the Seaxes, who would come strongly into contention. Should Kent win, Middlesex would need to claim four more bonus points than Sam Billings’ side to draw level at the top of the table. A draw between Kent and Hampshire would mean Middlesex need four fewer bonus points than Kent to be sure of progression; in this scenario, they would progress by virtue of more wins.
Hampshire need Middlesex to win and to win themselves and claim five more bonus points than the Seaxes do. They would then progress by virtue of having beaten Middlesex in the fixture between the sides.
Beyond that, with so many teams on a similar number of points and only the top two table-toppers progressing, the permutations are almost innumerable. Somerset could win and go out; Essex could lose and go through. What is worth bearing in mind, however, is that with the top two teams in the Central Group playing each other, the winner of that group will end up with at least 84 points to their name. The clingers-on in the South Group – Hampshire, Middlesex, and to a lesser extent Kent – will be hoping for both Yorkshire and Derbyshire to slip up if they are to progress.
What happens if it’s a tie?
Should two teams end up level on points, a series of tie-breakers will come into play in the following order: most wins, fewest losses, the result between the sides in the group stage, most wickets taken, most runs scored.
Since we should by now be too wise to think tie-breakers won’t come into play, here’s how things stand on those fronts:
Somerset, Essex (3)
Derbyshire, Worcestershire, Yorkshire, Kent, Middlesex, Hampshire (2)
Somerset, Worcestershire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Essex (0)
Kent, Middlesex, Hampshire (1)
Results between sides
Somerset v Worcestershire: TBD
Derbyshire v Yorkshire: Match drawn
Essex v Hampshire: Match drawn
Middlesex v Kent: Match drawn
Middlesex v Hampshire: Hampshire won by three wickets
Essex v Kent: Essex won by two wickets
Essex v Middlesex: TBD
Kent v Hampshire: TBD
Worcestershire: 2,156 runs
Middlesex: 1,882 runs
Somerset: 1,847 runs
Kent: 1,759 runs
Derbyshire: 1,679 runs
Essex: 1,611 runs
Yorkshire: 1,573 runs
Hampshire: 1,058 runs