Why Essex aren’t quite in the Bob Willis Trophy final yet
When Derbyshire were bowled out for 195 in their final group game against Lancashire, most, including Wisden.com and the official County Championship Twitter account, assumed that Essex had reached the Bob Willis Trophy final.
With 90 points after their win over Middlesex and only one other team able to clear that marker, their four wins – the first tiebreaker listed in the ECB’s playing conditions – meant, by the playing regulations, no team could overtake them.
It turns out the situation isn’t quite so simple, and actually depends on the outcome of a meeting of the Cricket Technical Committee to determine the status of the game between Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire, abandoned after a Northants player tested positive for Covid-19.
If the match is deemed ‘incomplete’, the tiebreaker used will change to net run rate – the runs scored per over by a team minus the runs scored per over against them. As it stands, at the close of day three, Essex’s NRR is the best, at 0.45 and Derbyshire’s net run rate is 0.045. Worcestershire’s lags behind on -0.639.
Derbyshire don’t yet know how much they will be chasing, with Lancashire six down and leading by 329, but with Derbyshire’s batting run rate at 3.11, they will need to score quicker than that to raise their net run rate. For example, a chase of 450 would need to be completed in 57 overs to lift their run rate high enough to overtake Essex. If that were to happen, and Somerset were to beat Worcestershire, Essex would be out.
Essex needn’t worry about Worcestershire. Even if they were to smash a six a ball from now in their chase against Somerset, who bowled exclusively no-balls, their net run rate would only reach -0.460. The Pears therefore need to beat Somerset, and hope that Derbyshire fail to win, or that the Cricket Technical Committee doesn’t rule the Northants game incomplete.
Essex are therefore almost certain to qualify, but it isn’t quite a done deal yet.