The County Championship Team of the Season
The 2014 LV= County Championship is over. 144 matches were played, 139,382 runs scored and 4,380 wickets taken. The season will live long in the memory for many reasons – Rushworth’s nine-wicket haul, Lyth’s lustrous batting, Rogers’ resilience, Leicestershire’s miseries, the emergence of an abundance of English talent and, above all else, Yorkshire’s utter dominance.
Tears were shed, landmarks celebrated, umpires criticised, spectators captivated and, particularly in the victorious Yorkshire and Hampshire camps, alcohol consumed. But what players across the eighteen counties deserve a place in the Sports Gazette’s County Championship team of the season?
1. ADAM LYTH, Yorkshire (1489 runs @ 67.78, 6x100)
The stand-out batsman of the campaign. Yorkshire’s prolific opener led from the front and was instrumental to the county’s success in white ball cricket. Six centuries, including two double tons, earned Lyth a call-up into England’s Performance Programme that will travel to Sri Lanka this winter, and many tip the 27-year-old to accompany Alastair Cook at the top of England’s batting order in the not too distant future.
2. CHRIS ROGERS, Middlesex (1333 runs @ 55.54, 4x100)
Gritty, determined, patient and competent in all conditions. Chris Rogers almost single-handedly fuelled Middlesex’s relegation battle. The Panthers endured a dismal season and if it had not been for a match-winning 241* and a match-saving 203* from the Australian opener, second tier cricket would have been on the horizon for the London-based side. The former innings (coming from just 290 balls) guided Middlesex to the third highest run chase in county cricket history after they were set 472 to win by high-flyers Yorkshire.
3. ED JOYCE, Sussex (1398 runs @ 66.57, 7x100)
One of the most consistent county batsman in recent years enjoyed another productive season in the top flight. Ed Joyce scored more centuries than anyone else on the circuit and was a vital component of Sussex’s title challenge. The Irishman will be hoping to carry his fine form into the World Cup which begins in February.
4. JAMES VINCE, Hampshire (1525 runs @ 61.00, 4x100)
Hampshire’s Players’ Player of the Year for 2013 demonstrated his boundless potential with another triumphant campaign. Without Vince’s substantial runs Hants’ push for promotion may not have concluded with the jubilant celebrations witnessed on the South Coast. A colossal knock of 240, coming from just 222 balls, was one of the innings of the season.
5. JASON ROY, Surrey (1042 runs @ 52.10, 3x100)
Given Jason Roy’s rapid rise to prominence in Twenty20 cricket, it is easy to forget his ability in the longer form of the game. The South African-born England international failed to score the volume of runs as some others, but with a strike rate that frequently touches three figures, Roy possesses a rare ability to change the shape of a match within just a few overs.
6. DARREN STEVENS, Kent (56 wickets @ 27.08 | 859 runs @ 35.79)
The majority of allrounders would be content with 850 runs in a season, but compared to Darren Stevens' recent exploits, 2014 represents a lean spell with the bat. It was with the ball that the Kent veteran excelled, bowling with great skill and guile and taking almost 60 wickets, 31 of whom were opposition opening batsman. As a regular producer of runs, wickets and catches (25), Stevens remains one of the most effective allrounders in the English game.
7. JAMES FOSTER, Essex (976 runs @ 44.36, 2x100 | 57 catches)
There are few wicketkeepers on the planet that can match James Foster’s majestic glove work. In an age where keepers are expected to score significant runs, the 34-year-old's batting has, however, often let his overall game down. That has not been the case this year – almost 1000 runs at an average of 44, along with 60 dismissals with the gloves, denotes a fine season for the Essex captain.
8. ADIL RASHID, Yorkshire (49 wickets @ 24.81 | 577 runs @ 38.47)
After a superb season with both ball and bat, Adil Rashid is once again on the England selectors’ radar. The leg spinner proved an integral member of Yorkshire’s title-winning side, claiming regular wickets (especially during the latter part of the summer) and scoring invaluable runs. Five years after briefly appearing in the national side, Rashid looks more than ready for a return to the England fold.
9. STEVE MAGOFFIN, Sussex (72 wickets @ 19.51, BBM 8/40)
In 2013 Steve Magoffin finished with 63 scalps and second in the list of leading wicket-takers in Division One. This season the Australian went one better, taking the most wickets (72), bowling the most overs (539) and producing the most maidens (144). It was a truly herculean effort and one that earned the seamer a two-year extension of his contract at Sussex.
10. CHRIS RUSHWORTH, Durham (64 wickets @ 24.65, BBM 15/95)
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about a 10-for, but I’ll take nine.” Chris Rushworth came agonisingly close to becoming only the fifth player in the 21st century to record a 10-wicket-haul. The Durham bowler tore through a struggling Northamptonshire batting unit in a remarkable spell, taking 9 wickets in 12 overs. A further 6 wickets in the second innings saw the 28-year-old register 15 wickets in just 18 overs and entrench his name into county cricket folklore.
11. MARK FOOTITT, Derbyshire (82 wickets @ 19.12, BBM 9/122)
In eight years as a county cricketer, Mark Footitt had taken 139 wickets in all formats. This year, the paceman recorded 104 dismissals. Derbyshire’s strike bowler finished the season with the most first-class wickets in the country, and consistent and impressive displays of pace and hostility has attracted the attention of England. A bouncer which broke the arm of Gloucestershire captain Michael Klinger was particularly striking and indicative of Footitt’s raw pace.
*Only players that participated in a minimum of 12 County Championship matches were considered
@ – at an average of
BBM – best bowling figures in a match