Hampshire backed to end 50 years of Championship hurt

One round down, 13 to go. The County Championship is up and running for the 2023 season, and to judge by Hampshire’s opening-week crushing of newly-promoted Nottinghamshire, they are primed to put 50 years of history behind them, and gun for their first title since 1973.

According to the odds-setters at Bet365, Hampshire are the favourites to claim only the third Championship in their history, after a three-day win at the Ageas Bowl that was powered by Mohammad Abbas’s nine-wicket match haul, and sealed by Fletcha Middleton’s twin half-centuries.

After finishing third in a strong campaign in 2022, Hampshire are now 3/1 to take this year’s title, just ahead of reigning champions Surrey, on 7/2, whom they face in the competition’s second round at the Kia Oval, starting on Thursday.

Surrey dominated last week’s drawn game against another fancied outfit, Lancashire, who remain 6/1 for the title, just behind the outstanding red-ball team of the decade, Essex, who crushed Middlesex in their season opener at Lord’s, and remain well fancied at 4/1.

At the opposite end of the standings, Northamptonshire are the top flight’s long-shot, at a distant 33/1 after losing to Kent in their opening round at Canterbury. Middlesex, another promoted team, aren’t impressing anyone after losing their top four all made ducks last week and are also unfancied at 25/1.

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