Despite leading the league all season, Hampshire still needed to take close-to maximum points from their final match against Middlesex to make sure of securing a maiden Women’s County Championship; but they did it… and they did it in style – taking all 18 points, and consigning unlucky Middlesex to relegation in the process.
Batting first, Hampshire were wobbling slightly at 64-4, but a century partnership between Ella Chandler (56) and Fi Morris (45) took them to within touching-distance of the 200 they needed for maximum bonus points, and Charlotte Edwards (20) did the rest.
With Yorkshire having already dropped a bonus point batting against Notts, the question then was whether Hampshire could win the game and take 5 wickets in the process. But in the end only Beth Morgan (43) made a significant dent in the scorebook, as Middlesex were bowled out for 144 and Hampshire celebrated without even needing to look at Yorkshire’s result.
Not that Yorkshire really had a bad day – New Zealand’s Leigh Kasperek top-scored with 68 and took 3-19 as they beat Notts by 74 runs; but by taking 7 wickets and scoring 96 for 4 bonus points, Notts did just enough to stay ahead of Middlesex and avoid relegation.
With Somerset already relegated, there were in fact four teams who could theoretically have joined them along with Notts and Middlesex. Lancashire would have to have been very, very unlucky with other results to be relegated; but Warwickshire were in 7th place going into the final day, without a win, but with two ties.
The Bears needed a big win, and they got one, posting 205 v Lancashire, thanks to Sophie Devine (50) and captain Marie Kelly (64). They then bowled Lancs out for 121 to live to fight another season in Div 1 in 2019.
So in the end it was Middlesex who went down to Div 2. Did they deserve relegation? Probably not, but then nor did Notts or Warwickshire – as the teams stand right now, Div 1 is one side too small; but unfortunately that’s the way things are, and although it will be of little consolation to Middlesex, I’d bet my last penny that they will be straight back up again next season.
Finally, at the very foot of the table, Somerset achieved a final day consolation win versus Kent, bowling them out for 126 and chasing the runs thanks to (who else?) Sophie Luff, who hit 76*.
So that’s that for another year! Congratulations to Hampshire; and commiserations to Somerset and Middlesex.
Next on the agenda for the counties is the T20 Cup (without all the England players), and then of course the Super League – so stay tuned and we’ll keep you covered!