My County XI of the season
This job I hate. Whoever I pick in a County XI will upset somebody and I'm sure they will let me know.
It is a difficult job when you factor in how many games each player played, on what surfaces and what sort of form their respective sides were in.
I have little opportunity to watch Division Two cricket, so that had to be taken into account. This was the XI I first drew up. Can I stick with it?
1) Marcus Trescothick (Somerset): He's about the only one I think I can get away with without anyone coming back at me. More than 1,600 runs with six hundreds. Moving along now...
2) Michael Carberry (Hampshire): Played in only nine games because of his well-doumented health scare, but look at his three hundreds and the team's turn-around in form after his return, which roughly coincides with that amazing late run they embarked on. I acknowledge it was more the Hampshire middle order and bowling, rather than the top order which didn't fire early in the season. Carberry also has a presence in the field and I don't think there is a better opener, aside from Trescothick, turning out in the county game.
Jonathan Bairstow topped Yorkshire's County Championship averages, scoring 1,015 runs at 46.13 (Getty Images)
3) Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire): Averaged 51 with three hundreds, and has been elevated to open with Nottinghamshire. Exciting talent and he's in at three for me.
4) Dale Benkenstein (Durham): Gets the No.4 position based on averages and reliability. Four centuries and an average of 61 will do me. A terrific performer and bloke. I love watching him go about his cricket. James Taylor ran him close. The Leicestershire batsman struck only one hundred and averaged 38 in Division Two, but he's a good character with a bit of spirit to him. I think he is the best No.4 playing in county cricket and I would have selected him for his performances for the England Lions more than Leicestershire, so he just misses out. Samit Patel, of Notts, also has a case. His stats are good - a couple of hundreds and an average of 42. His bowling can be useful too.
5) Jonathan Bairstow (Yorkshire): Won the Cricket Writers’ Club Young Cricketer of the Year award for 2011 with an average of 46 and 1,000 runs. He's not blameless for Yorkshire's relegation this year but he is a powerful and entertaining player. His only possible danger is getting ahead of himself but futher good guidance will stop that. With that, there will be years of fun cricket to come from him.
6) Ben Stokes (Durham): He's in because those who know him best say we won't see too much more of him in county cricket. So much of his season was lost to injury but the way he started the campaign was exceptional, including the episode of five sixes in one over at Southampton. His inclusion in the England one-day team was poor timing. His confidence was still returning after a serious finger injury and he should have stayed where he was, with Durham. Jos Buttler, of Somerset, didn't fire throughout the whole season so he misses out and he's in need of a full year of consistent performances.
7) Phil Mustard (Durham, wkt): Scored good runs and a very good keeper. He and Chris Read are the best in the country but Mustard gets the nod because of his runs - the Durham man averaged 51 this season, compared to 37 for the Notts captain. Maybe Read's record would be the same at Chester-le-Street but I don't know. Lancashire's Gareth Cross and Ben Scott at Worcestershire are good players but I stick with the Colonel.
8) Chris Woakes (Warwickshire): Reported to have an extra yard of pace this season and capable of match-winning bowling and both match-saving and match-winning batting. He has some impressive figures to show off, taking 56 wickets and averaging 48 with the bat. He couldn't help finish it all off for Warwickshire this season but I know they're concerned about how much work he has had to get through over the last 12 months. Let's hope he gets a break. Watch pigs fly at a cinema near you. Can I find a place for Gloucestershire's Will Gidman for his 1,000 runs and 50 wickets? He had an outstanding season but I can't be certain he is better than those chosen. However, he is a name that is generating a great deal of interest.
9) Glen Chapple (Lancashire, capt): Led Lancashire to their first outright County Championship title since 1934, taking 55 wickets and scoring vital runs late on with the bat. One of the game's most naturally gifted match-changers. Nobody works harder on a cricket field. The other candidate was Nottinghamshire's Andre Adams after another year of wicket taking - 67 for the season and seven five-wicket hauls. Another very close call.
10) Ryan Sidebottom (Yorkshire): Finished with 62 wickets for a relegated side. He is still one of the country's most skillful bowlers and would enhance any of the teams that were succesful this year. My attack is short of a big bruiser but, on the sort of pitches we've seen this year, does that matter? Warwickshire all-rounder Rikki Clarke is a story of vast improvement, while Nottinghamshire's Luke Fletcher has a big winter ahead of him. Whatever shape we find him in next April will tell us if he has what it takes to be a top performer. James Anyon of Sussex couldn't sufficiently build on a fantastic performance in front the TV cameras early in the season against Notts. Kyle Hogg had an excellent season for Lancashire and I would love to have found a place for Durham's Graham Onions. Worcestershire's Alan Richardson and David Masters of Essex deserve mentions. With so many wickets between them, how can I leave them out? It's very difficult because both of them are match-winners but I can't pick either ahead of the ones I've chosen. I stick with Sidebottom.
11) Gary Keedy (Lancashire): How difficult is this one? Sussex's Monty Panesar took eight more wickets but having bowled many more overs. As batsmen and fielders they each have their moments of worth to a team, even if it's a supporting role. There are plenty of exciting spinners around, of which Lancashire's Simon Kerrigan is right up there. He took 24 wickets in just four matches, including two match-winning performances and one at Liverpool in the penultimate round which kept alive their title hopes. There is Durham's Scott Borthwick and Hampshire's Danny Briggs but I stick with Keedy for services already given and for being part of the Championship-winning side. He just, and I mean just, edges it for me.
So, that XI includes three players from teams relegated and only two from the county champions. Durham finished third, so picking three of their lads is fine, as is selecting Woakes from second-placed Warwickshire. I know Lancashire won the prized title but do any of their top six stand out above the men named above? I couldn't be certain that one does right now.
Please post your own teams and I look forward to reading the arguments for and against. I'm especially keen on hearing your Division Two reviews.