It defies all logic to come up with a Division Two Team of the Season that doesn’t include such starring performers as James Pattinson, Jeevan Mendis or Ravi Ashwin, but as none of them played in more than half of the season’s matches, they all miss out.
Gloucestershire’s Liam Norwell is particularly unfortunate to not grab a place, especially after taking 59 wickets in only 11 matches, and Hardus Viljoen and Colin Ingram would walk into most county XIs.
Seven counties have representations, including two players from champions Worcestershire and a pair from runners-up Notts. too.
Daryl Mitchell – Worcestershire
Matches: 14 Runs/Average: 1,266/55.04
Mitchell was the second top scorer in Division Two this season and his seven centuries was only bettered by Kumar Sangakkara, who made eight in the top flight.
The opener reeled off a total of 1,266 runs, at an average of 55.04, with a best score of 161, and his solidity at the top of the order was instrumental in many a successful run chase for Worcestershire.
His stand-out knocks were 142 to help his side chase down 399 to beat Kent and then an unbeaten 139 against Notts, an innings that toppled the previously unbeaten league leaders and altered the destiny of the title.
Nick Selman – Glamorgan
Matches: 14 Runs/Average: 872/36.33
Selman was the only Glamorgan player to appear in all 14 championship matches, displaying the sort of consistency that would suggest he made the correct decision to stick with cricket, rather than opt for a career in Aussie Rules Football, a sport in which he won youth representative honours.
Born in Brisbane, the right-hander scored four centuries this summer, none better than the unbeaten 116 he scored in Swansea to help his side chase down a victory target of 266 in 51 overs against Durham. A see-saw contest was finally concluded when Selman hit a couple of sixes at the start of the final over to steer his side to a seven-wicket win.
Joe Denly – Kent
Matches: 13 Runs/Average: 1,165/55.47
it is over seven years since Denly made the last of his 14 international appearances for England. His performances this summer have raised the prospect that the Canterbury-born batsman may yet again feature on the radar of the national selectors.
The tall stroke-player scored 1,266 first class runs this summer, with 1,165 of them coming in the championship, a personal best.
The highest of his four three-figure scores came at New Road, where he batted for 468 minutes in compiling 227 against Worcestershire, the best score of his career.
Averaging over 55, every time he came to the wicket, Denly’s best days may still lie ahead of him.
Luke Wells – Sussex
Matches: 12 Runs/Average: 1,292/64.60
Many wondered if Wells would ever find the consistency to take his game to the next level but their concerns were answered in full in 2017, with the tall left-hander enjoying the best season of his career.
Now 26, he topped 1,000 first class runs for the first time, before going on to become Division Two’s leading run scorer, with 1,292 runs, scored at an average of over 64.
His tally included four centuries, with a career best 258 coming against Durham in his opening knock of the season and it ended with a sparkling 103 from 98 balls against Notts.
Cameron Steel – Durham
Matches: 13 Runs/Average: 899/40.86
Whisper it quietly, Durham have yet another talented young starlet in their midst. Steel made his championship debut in the second round of matches and stayed in the side for the remainder of the campaign.
The right-handed batsman scored a ton in just his fourth match for the county and he went even further in his eighth. At Leicestershire, in June, he became the first player to be born in California (where his parents were living at the time) to score a double hundred in the county championship.
His 224 contributed a hefty part of his 899 runs, made at an average of just over 40. Additionally, his fast-improving leg breaks accounted for eight victims.
Samit Patel – Nottinghamshire
Matches: 14 Runs/Average: 906/53.29 Wickets/Average: 19/35.89
For the fifth season in a row, Patel appeared in every single match across all three formats and the all-rounder’s consistency helped him win the PCA’s MVP award for the first time, scooping the £10,000 prize for his efforts.
He was the leading English spinner in the second division, picking up 19 wickets in support of Nottinghamshire’s seam attack.
With bat in hand, he reeled off 906 runs and during a golden spell in June he became the first Notts batsman to score a double-hundred in consecutive matches, hitting a career best 257 versus Gloucs at Bristol and following it up at home with 247 against Leics.
Darren Stevens – Kent
Matches: 12 Runs/Average: 7.7/41.58 Wickets/Average: 62/18.08
The ever-green all-rounder proved that age is just a number, as 2017 saw Stevens deliver the best bowling return of his entire career.
Turning 41 in April, he bagged 62 wickets from his 12 championship appearances, all taken at an average of 18.08. Two matches were missed after being clonked on the head by a Harry Gurney bouncer against Notts but he still scored 707 runs at 41.58, including a century against former county, Leicestershire. He also shone against the Foxes in the return at Canterbury by taking a career best 8-75.
Chris Read – Nottinghamshire
Matches: 14 Runs/Average: 622/38.87 Catches/Stumpings: 53/0
Nottinghamshire’s ‘Captain Fantastic’ rides off into the sunset (to become Cricket Master at Uppingham School), having completed his mission of guiding Notts straight back up to the First Division.
The 39-year old couldn’t have scripted a better finale for himself than by hitting a swashbuckling century in his last first class innings, a knock that all but sealed promotion for his side.
Read bowed out at the end of a season that saw him lift aloft the Royal London One-Day Cup at Lord’s, reach 1,000 wicket-keeping dismissals and pass 15,000 first class runs for his county and finish with most catches in the division.
Rory Kleinveldt – Northamptonshire
Matches: 12 Runs/Average: 394/21.88 Wickets/Average: 50/23.06
Northamptonshire narrowly missed out on promotion but got as close as they did thanks to some inspirational performances from several sources. Richard Gleeson, Ben Sanderson and Nathan Buck took 118 championship wickets between them but all were outdone by their strapping South African team-mate.
Kleinveldt took 50 wickets at an average of 23, a collection that included a stunning performance late in the season against Notts.
The 34-year old took nine for 65 in the first innings and match figures of 13 for 98.
He also clouts a long ball and is capable of producing innings as destructive as his 58-ball 86 against Glamorgan.
Jofra Archer – Sussex
Matches: 13 Wickets/Average: 61/25.29
When two international sides openly admit to wanting a talent, you know the player involved is something special.
Whether the Barbados-born Archer ultimately forces his way into the England set-up or is persuaded to represent the region of his birth remains to be seen.
Either way, it seems like he will go right to the very top of the game and his performances this season backed that up.
The loose-limbed all-rounder picked up 61 wickets for Sussex this season, with a best of 7-67.
He also clubbed 21 sixes, the most by any batsman in the land, on his way to a tally of 638 runs at 45 apiece.
Joe Leach – Worcestershire
Matches: 14 Wickets/Average: 69/19.39
The captain of Division Two champions Worcestershire enjoyed a hugely successful season on a personal level, both as inspirational leader and as new ball spearhead.
Leach ended the campaign as the leading wicket-taker in the division, taking 69 wickets, with four five-wicket hauls.
His best haul came at Derby, when he picked up 5-32 in an innings victory but the eight wickets he took at Trent Bridge, late in the season, helped topple Nottinghamshire for the first time and went a long way to determine the final finishing positions between the two promoted sides.