With the County Championship not having been staged in 2020 and with it undertaking a re-vamp for the 2021 season this means that the two-division structure ran for exactly 20 years – from 2000 to 2019 inclusive. It is time, therefore, for Paul Dyson to assess the achievements of Yorkshire in relation to the other 17 counties during this period.
Most seasons in Division One
The highest number for this achievement is 16 and the record belongs to Yorkshire but not exclusively as both Lancashire and Warwickshire have also been in Division One for the same length of time. Somerset have had 15 seasons in the top tier with Hampshire, Nottinghamshire and Surrey clocking up 14. At the opposite end of this record come Derbyshire, Glamorgan and Gloucestershire who have all experienced no fewer than 18 seasons in Division Two. Gloucestershire were promoted at the end of 2019 but their anticipation of life in Division One was, of course, thwarted.
Most successive seasons in Division One
From 2013 to 2019 Yorkshire had its longest run yet in the top division – seven consecutive seasons but this is nowhere near the record. From 2008 until 2019 Somerset experienced 12 seasons in the top tier and from 2006 Durham were there for 11 campaigns in a row. A total of four other counties – Kent, Nottinghamshire, Sussex and Warwickshire have also had longer runs than that of Yorkshire. Again, looking at the opposite end, 2019 was Leicestershire’s 16th successive season in Division Two and that is the record for that particular low-point.
Promotions and relegations
Having twice been relegated and twice been promoted, Yorkshire have changed division on a total of four occasions. This number pales into insignificance when compared with the experience of Worcestershire who have changed division more times (12) than when they have retained their status quo. Needless to say, its six promotions and six relegations are a record for each division and its record of changing division in five successive seasons (2006-10) also places it out in front. In second place, with each county experiencing eight changes of division, come Lancashire and Nottinghamshire.
Yorkshire’s four changes of division is not the lowest number by any means. Leicestershire, having started life in Division One, were relegated at the end of 2003 and have never been promoted – a unique experience as all of the other counties have each travelled in both directions. Somerset have changed direction only twice and there are three counties who moved only three times – Derbyshire, Durham and Gloucestershire.
Most Championship titles
A total of nine different counties won the County Championship in the two-division era. By winning the County Championship in 2001, 2014 and 2015, Yorkshire can claim to have the highest number of titles but this is equalled by Durham, Surrey and Sussex. The five other counties to win the title are Essex, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire (twice each) as well as Lancashire and Middlesex (once each).
As may well be guessed, the team ending the most seasons in the runners-up spot is Somerset with a total of six frustrating season-endings. Amazing as it seems, from 1891, when it joined the Championship, through to 1999 Somerset’s highest position was third, i.e. all of its second placings have occurred in the era of two divisions, the first one being in 2001 behind Yorkshire.
At the other end of the achievement scale Leicestershire (seven times) and Derbyshire (five) have won the ‘wooden spoon’ most frequently in the two-division era.
Contrasting successive seasons
In 2002 Yorkshire, having won the title in the previous season, were relegated and three counties have since repeated this unfortunate sequence: Nottinghamshire (Champions 2005, relegation 2006), Lancashire (2011, 2012) and Middlesex (2016, 2017). Two counties have been promoted and then won the title in their first season in the top tier: Nottinghamshire (2004, 2005) and Essex (2016, 2017). Derbyshire completed the opposite journey by being relegated in 2000 and then plummeting to the wooden spoon in 2001. Sussex (2000, 2001) and Durham (2004, 2005) are the only counties to move from the wooden spoon position to promotion in successive seasons.
For some, the era of two divisions was a disadvantage in that the supporters of Yorkshire, for instance, no longer had the opportunity to see certain other counties in action. However, there is no doubt that the separation added a great deal of interest for devotees of the longer form of the game and it is to be hoped that the new format will do likewise.