Kevin Howells' team of the season
Here is my selection of the 11 best players from the County Championship this season.
Excuses for the weather aside, I don't think it has been a vintage season and whilst it's been great to witness another close title race I wonder if that is as much to do with a set of average teams as it is exciting competition.
But there is talent out there, players worth watching and admiring. I have tried to pick the XI on impressions from viewing the players and not solely on averages. I have looked at the averages but not included them in the blog. You can check them elsewhere on the site.
I have allowed myself only two overseas players. Kolpak signings are a scourge on the game and it is a shame some counties have felt no option but to sign so many.
But it's not just about my XI. Enjoy choosing your own side, and add your comments below..
1. MARCUS TRESCOTHICK (SOMERSET)
England's loss was most certainly Somerset's gain, and was always going to be. He was the first man to 1,000 runs in Division One, albeit in August. Established a commanding presence and, with Justin Langer, provided the platform on which the Somerset resurgence was based.
2. JOE DENLY (KENT)
I'm going with youth over other other choice candidates with more experience. A 22-year-old exciting opening batsman and good fielder. Other contenders were the ever-improving Mark Wagh (Nottinghamshire), Michael Brown (Hampshire), Paul Horton (Lancashire) and Rob Key (Kent).
3. MARK RAMPRAKASH ( SURREY)
Thank goodness that tremendous milestone was passed. Now we can get on and watch the maestro at work. Other contenders at number three were Murray Goodwin (Sussex), - whose Pro40 title-winning innings at Trent Bridge will stay with me for a lifetime - Anthony McGrath (Yorkshire), Martin van Jaarsveld (Kent) and Owais Shah (Middlesex). There's another who picks up the award for most frustrating player. Michael Lumb (Hampshire) possesses such attractive shots and is strong with it but fails to get the consistent scores he and the team needs. But I'm convinced he can still make it.
4. JACQUES RUDOLPH (YORKSHIRE, captain)
A model professional, and a majestic batsman, he is intelligent, respectful of the game and those who play it and watch it. I'm convinced he would make a good captain. He's one of two overseas players I allow myself in the XI. My views on Kolpak signings are much the same as everyone else it seems.
5. SAMIT PATEL (NOTTINGHAMSHIRE)
Samit is a very good all-round player full of talent and has shown over the last weeks a big game mentality. I very much hope that Andrew Gale might fill this slot in the future, however Yorkshire are playing him as an opener right now so the jury is out. His innings of 150 at the Oval back in May was as a good as I've seen this season. Ed Joyce (Middlesex) always strikes me as player with a good cricket brain and his on-the-field composure is something I admire. A few more conversions of half-centuries into hundreds would be good.
6. RAVI BOPARA (ESSEX)
Ravi is confident, strong and a natural match winner. He's so powerful too, and to score a double-hundred in a 50-over knockout match is very special. His strength is his simple and uncomplicated style of batting. I also pick him as much for what he does and says off the field as on it.
7. MATT PRIOR (SUSSEX)
We shouldn't have seen him on the county circuit this year as he should not have been dropped by England after the Sri Lanka tour. But I suppose he has come back better and stronger on and off the field, so from that point of view it worked. A close also-ran is Chris Read (Nottinghamshire). He also has a very good case for being captain in the way he has led Nottinghamshire after the loss of Stephen Fleming and Ryan Sidebottom. From a distance I am guessing that he and director of cricket Mick Newell know how to run a dressing room and find the right players to fill it.
8. ANDREW FLINTOFF (LANCASHIRE)
He's in this team because not one other bowler has lit the county game for me during the summer like this man with his bowling. His batting with Lancashire of course was a shocker at the time and that's why he's at eight. Flintoff versus Langer in a dead game on a Saturday afternoon at Old Trafford was tremendous.
9. KABIR ALI (WORCESTERSHIRE)
Along with Kaneria and Bopara I have included three second division players in the team. There is a definite divide in talent between the divisions but I'm convinced Kabir will do a great job next year back in the top flight following Worces. His team-mate Stephen Moore is an exciting prospect as is wicket-keeper Steve Davies.
10. DANISH KANERIA (ESSEX)
Don't get me wrong, Danish is a world-class player and is worthy of a place in the side but if I could think of an English-qualified spinner to match him I would have done. The weather and pitches have not helped. Adil Rashid is still a work in progress but thankfully improving this year having stalled a bit last term. For the future Durham have a teenage leg-spinner, Scott Borthwick from Sunderland. There's also Graeme Swann (Notts), who would bat higher. Ollie Rayner (Sussex) can make good use of his height and with Mushtaq Ahmed retired he may get himself some headlines in the next 12 months.
11. STEVE HARMISON (DURHAM)
I have a great deal of time for his team-mates Mark Davies, Liam Plunkett and Will Smith but it was Harmison getting himself together again which made sure that Durham's gifted captain Dale Benkenstein could pick up and increase their challenge and make progress without the retired Ottis Gibson.
Honourable Coaches: Mushtaq Ahmed (Bowling), Graeme Hick (Batting). Retire in happiness and extreme satisfaction, with our grateful thanks.