Youngsters today eh? When they’re not getting smashed on cheap cider or lying in bed watching Saved By The Bell, they are scoring first-class double hundreds. Alex Lees hit the Championship’s highest score with 275* against Derbyshire and Dominic Sibley’s 242 at the age of 18 made him the youngest English double-centurion since WG Grace. Northamptonshire’s Rob Keogh was another young player who bagged more than 200 in one knock.
At the other end of the scale, there were the usual old-timers making significant and regular contributions. Alan Richardson and Graham Napier were amongst their respective county’s best players; Darren Stevens hit 205* to secure a victory on the final day of the season against Lancashire. Glen Chapple took more than 50 wickets – again – at an average under 21. Basically, this paragraph could refer to any of the past dozen seasons. It’s the sort of thing that gets George Dobell moist.
There were a host of players from the smaller counties who excelled – and not all of them from overseas. Moeen Ali finished atop the ‘most valuable player’ rankings (Samit Patel was second) and Joshua Cobb starred for Leicestershire in the YB40. Elsewhere, overseas players such as Michael Hogan, Michael Klinger and Steve Magoffin – none of whom are talked of as prospective Australia players – all showed the value of a decent, hard-working and – we assume – relatively cheap overseas pro. Their contributions proved better value than higher profile recruits such as Ricky Ponting (notwithstanding his final two first-class centuries) and Gautam Gambhir. Glamorgan’s Jim Allenby was another Australian (or rather ex-Australian) who had a fantastic year. It should be noted though, that Klinger’s Gloucestershire and Allenby / Hogan’s Glamorgan were rubbish in the Championship.
Durham however coped without an overseas player. At the start of the season their batting looked weak, they started on negative points and in mid-summer Director of Cricket Geoff Cook suffered a heart attack which placed him in a coma for several days. But under Paul Collingwood’s leadership and with an attack spearheaded by Graham Onions and Chris Rushworth, they stormed through the second half of the season to win Division One with a week to spare. The county’s home-grown squad and significant success – three Championships in six years – is one of the most remarkable sporting stories of recent years and one that deserves more plaudits outside of the cricketing world.
Northamptonshire though, were the team of the season. Not only did they surprisingly win promotion, but they also won the T20, their first trophy since 1992 (bar Divison Two in 2000). David Willey proved an exciting and entertaining player who is rapidly approaching international honours and their success in a team without stars echoes the Durham model, albeit with more help from overseas players.
Two players worth discussing are Scott Borthwick and Adil Rashid. Both ostensibly leg-spinners, one reinvented himself as a top-order batsman whilst the other made telling contributions from lower down. Borthwick managed 34 wickets alongside his 1,121 runs and was unlucky not to be selected for a winter tour. Perhaps he can play some cricket elsewhere to continue his learning. Meanwhile the Yorkshireman took 29 wickets (at a poor average of 46.82) but hit three centuries and scored more than 800 runs.
So who were your stars of the county year? Let us know via the comments below or @51allout. We may even mention you in our forthcoming podcast, if we can be bothered. Meanwhile, we’ll be back soon with a look at some of the less successful players and teams this year.