TCP County Championship Team of the Year – Division One

By Charlie Talbot-Smith

Unsurprisingly, it is runaway champions Surrey who dominate the Team of the Year in Division One with skipper Rory Burns leading four inclusions in the side and a number of others unlucky to miss out.

What might surprise readers more however, is the decision to select two players from relegated Lancashire.

Worcestershire, Hampshire, Somerset, Yorkshire and Essex have one each with Nottinghamshire the only side without a player in the team of the year.

Top-order batsmen are slightly thinner on the ground than seamers who are two a penny in a summer that saw ball firmly dominate bat.

Rory Burns – Surrey

Matches: 14

Runs/Average: 1359/65.33

Surely the most obvious selection of all. Captain of the champions, a fifth year in succession passing the 1,000-run barrier and a first England call-up for this winter’s tour to Sri Lanka.

Burns’ idiosyncratic technique might have counted against him for a while – but his weight of runs simply could not be ignored any more.

A stunning season – his first as skipper – has helped Surrey reclaim a first County Championship crown in 16 years and with Alastair Cook now retired – an England opening spot is his for the taking.

Daryl Mitchell – Worcestershire

Matches: 14

Runs/Average: 957/36.81

He turns 35 next month, had to step in as stand-in skipper at New Road this summer and is the PCA chairman at one of the most seismic times in the county game.

But Daryl Mitchell continues to produce the goods, with 957 runs this summer – plus four centuries, with no one in Division One managing more.

That Worcestershire’s season ended in relegation was little to do with him as he gave his all once again.

And the Rapids can console themselves with a T20 Blast title that saw Mitchell’s right-arm medium come in extremely useful during the campaign.

James Vince – Hampshire

Matches: 14

Runs/Average: 962/40.08

James Vince can count himself unlucky not to be on the plane to Sri Lanka this winter with England.

That he did not even crack the Lions squad seems harsh on a man who scored damn near 1,000 runs (962) again this summer for Hampshire in Division One.

After being dropped by England following their Ashes debacle last winter, only Burns, James Hildreth and Ollie Pope scored more runs in red-ball cricket than him this summer.

He also captained Hampshire to a first white-ball trophy in six years with some dominant displays in the one-day cup.

James Hildreth – Somerset

Matches: 14

Runs/Average: 1089/45.38

Ignored by England, but inspired for Somerset.

James Hildreth will be very unfortunate to finish his career without an international call-up – such is the consistency of his brilliance.

The 34-year-old was one of only two batsmen this summer, alongside Burns, to pass 1,000 runs in the County Championship.

He compiled three centuries and six more half-centuries for a Somerset side whose title challenge faltered late on after a strong first two-thirds of the campaign.

And his experience, alongside Marcus Trescothick, in the top order provides the platform for the Taunton young guns to build their innings around.

Ollie Pope – Surrey

Matches: 13

Runs/Average: 986/70.43

Still only 20 years old, Ollie Pope enjoyed a breakout summer.

The youngster is now a county champion, an England international and heading to Sri Lanka this summer with a spring in his step.

Harshly treated by England this summer, he was parachuted in at No.4 against India having scored all his runs at No.6 for Surrey, he looks a surefire star for the next decade to come.

In the red ball he just racked up the runs with four centuries and an average north of 70, while he can also produce magic in the white-ball variations of the game as well.

Digging in: Lancashire’s Dane Vilas (Photo: Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Dane Vilas – Lancs

Matches: 14

Runs/Average: 792/37.71

Stumpings/Catches: 4/59

Ben Foakes can count himself unlucky here while we could also have given the gloves to Pope and found room for someone like Gary Ballance who finished the summer like a train.

But Vilas deserves reward for his backs-to-the-wall efforts with the bat for a Lancashire side whose top order failed to fire all summer long.

The South African’s 235 not out against Somerset in May was a triumph of determination and he also added two other tons.

His work behind the stumps also caught the eye, he claimed six dismissals in an innings in the Roses match and gave his all in an ultimately futile Lancashire cause.

Rikki Clarke – Surrey

Matches: 13

Runs/Ave: 500/31.25

Wickets/Ave: 47/21.53

What a fantastic decision it was for Rikki Clarke to come home to Surrey.

He showed flashes in the second half of last season after his swap deal with Dominic Sibley who headed to Warwickshire.

But this year he has been a rock for Surrey and his all-round talents have seen them storm to a first title since he was last at the club back in 2002.

He might be 37 now, but he played 13 red-ball games for Surrey, took 47 wickets at 21 and managed 500 runs with the bat. It was only fitting that he was out in the middle when Surrey clinched the crown at New Road.

Morne Morkel – Surrey

Matches: 10

Wickets/Ave: 59/14.32

Alongside Clarke when the title was secured was Morne Morkel.

The South African might have hit the winning runs, but it is his bowling that has made the difference.

He took 59 wickets in only ten games, at an average of 14 and led from the front both on and off the pitch for a Surrey side packed with young talent but somewhat light on international experience.

He turns 34 later this month, but still packs a punch as his terrific spells to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against both Lancashire and Yorkshire proved.

And he nearly did it again on the final day of the summer as Essex fell over the line in an instant classic.

Tom Bailey – Lancashire

Matches: 14

Wickets/Average: 64/19.66

It could have been Graham Onions getting the nod here as he has excelled in tandem with Tom Bailey with the new ball this summer for Lancashire.

But Bailey deserves his spot as the top wicket-taker in the division with 64 – comfortably his best ever season for the Red Rose and a real highlight in an otherwise disappointing campaign at Old Trafford.

After seasons where form and then fitness have betrayed him, Bailey stepped up to the mark this summer, playing all 14 games and routinely knocking over top orders all over the country.

Second year running: Simon Harmer makes our Team of the Year again after two great years with Essex (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Simon Harmer – Essex

Matches: 13

Wickets/Average: 57/24.46

Matching last year’s historic effort in Essex’s surprise title was always going to be a tough ask for Simon Harmer.

But the South African spinner has certainly not suffered from second-season syndrome.

He has bowled more overs than anyone else in the country – and it is not even that close – and managed 57 more first-class scalps at an average below 25.

He even chipped in with a ton with the bat in the final game of the summer as Essex ended Surrey’s hopes of an unbeaten season.

Ben Coad – Yorkshire

Matches: 9

Wickets/Average: 48/16.33

Onions again could have been included here – he has settled into life post-Durham with consummate ease.

But Ben Coad has claimed 48 wickets this summer in only nine County Championship games as injury hindered his progress in the middle of the season.

His average and strike rate are only beaten by Morkel amongst fast bowlers and he takes his wickets in bunches with three five-wicket hauls and one ten-fer this summer.

An England call cannot be far away for the 24-year-old who started last summer impressively as well but this year has learned to kick on.

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