AFTER another season of county cricket, the cricket purests were rewarded with one of the closest finishes in recent memory as Middlesex took the Division One title by beating Yorkshire on the last day of the season, leaving Somerset stranded in second.
Nottinghamshire will be relegated from Div One after a monumentally disappointing season for them as they finished rock bottom by some distance.
Whilst in Division Two Essex stormed to the title and Kent took second after a fantastic season of their own and Notts’ East Midlands neighbours Derbyshire also finished bottom of the pile.
So let’s take a look at the best performers from the two divisions…
Haseeb Hameed (Lancashire) – 1198 runs @ 49.91
At just 19-years-old Hameed showed remarkable maturity and consistency throughout his first full season to finish with over 1000 runs at the top of the order with an average a smidge under 50.
He’s been called the modern day Geoffrey Boycott on account of his watchful style and slow strike rate, but his exploits in the Championship have done enough to earn him a well-deserved England call up.
Nick Gubbins (Middlesex) – 1409 runs @ 61.26
Gubbins was the second top run scorer in Div One this season hitting four centuries and nine 50s helping Middlesex to the title.
Another man relatively new on the scene at just 22, he acquitted himself well against some testing bowling in Div One, including a 125 and 93 against a serious Yorkshire attack in the final match of the year, which arguably set up the win.
Keaton Jennings (Durham) – 1548 runs @ 64.5
Jennings is by far the leading scorer from both divisions, having scored over 200 more runs than Division Two’s leading scorer.
Jennings has been a revelation at the top of the order for Durham this season and he confirmed his class with an unbeaten 201 versus Surrey in the penultimate match of the season.
And having originally hailed from South Africa, Jennings should fit nicely into the England set up in the future.
Ben Duckett (Northamptonshire) – 1338 runs @ 60.81
Duckett is Div Two’s top run maker and it’s easy to see why he has caught the England selector’s eye for his range of expansive shots which enables him to take bowling attacks apart.
Scoring at a strike rate of just under 80 its clear that he takes some of the ingenuity and raw power from his one day exploits into his four day game.
Not only did he smash a double century for the Lions recently he also had a top score of 282* versus Sussex in the Championship this year.
Sam Northeast (Kent, captain) – 1337 runs @ 83.56
Having finished second in Div Two as Kent’s captain and the second top run scorer in the division, Sam Northeast has had a season to remember.
But it is the average here that is most impressive – having struck five centuries and three 50s in 22 innings Northeast also managed six not outs.
Rob Key said his only criticism of Northeast is that he has a problem with getting out in the 190s – and that says it all really.
Ben Foakes (Surrey, wicketkeeper) – 759 @ 42.16 and 46 dismissals.
Ben Foakes is another man to really have a breakthrough year scoring plenty of runs down the order and at important times for Surrey, most notably a 90 versus last year’s champions Yorkshire and 141* versus Hampshire.
Though it is his glovework which he is in the side for and it is fair to say he impressed – helping himself to 43 catches behind the stumps and three stumpings, giving him the second most dismissals in Div One behind Warwickshire’s Tim Ambrose.
Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire) – 722 runs @ 48.13 and 31 wickets @ 30.12
The former England man and veteran campaigner has had another exceptional season for Yorkshire.
This season he has shown he still has quality with the ball by taking 31 scalps but also that he is a more than capable batsman.
Having been given the chance to bat at five he has repaid Jason Gillespie’s faith with one century and five 50s at an average of 48.
He also did his best to drag Yorkshire over the line against Middlesex in the final game too with 142* and 3-38 in the first innings and a brisk 55 in the second.
Keith Barker (Warwickshire) – 59 wickets @ 23.13 and 608 runs @ 32.00
There was no way this man isn’t in the Team of the Season, boasting an impressive number of wickets at a good average, as well as well over 600 runs down the order.
Barker took the second most wickets in the division by a seamer but incredibly only took one five-fee (also known as a five-wicket haul) – showing he was consistently picking up wickets throughout the year, as well as some handy lower order runs.
Jack Leach (Somerset) – 65 wickets @ 21.87
Jack Leach is another man who made his breakthrough season in 2016, by claiming 65 Div One victims – making him the second highest wicket taker in the division.
The left arm spinner managed to take five five-fers in his first full season including a stunning 6-42 versus Warwickshire on a turning Taunton wicket.
He can count himself very unlucky to not to be included in England’s winter touring squad.
Toby Roland- Jones (Middlesex) – 54 wickets @ 28.22
Roland-Jones sealed Middlesex’s Championship win in style, taking Yorkshire’s three final wickets in a hattrick to wrap up victory.
Roland-Jones has been picking up wickets regularly all year and he capped off his season with an incredible 10-127 versus Yorkshire in the final match.
He is well and truly on England’s radar having been included in the Test squad versus Pakistan, though he is yet to make his international debut.
Jake Ball (Nottinghamshire) – 49 wickets @ 23.12
Jake Ball had an incredible season for Notts despite their struggles as he took three five-fers on the way to 49 wickets including a hattrick versus Somerset, as well as making his England Test debut versus Pakistan.
The 25-year-old has impressed selectors and pundits alike with his ability to bowl good line and lengths at paces upwards of 90mph.
The Notts man is well worth his place in the England winter touring squad.
By Matt Bullin