The Cricket Paper’s experts offer their team of the season from Division Two
As Yorkshire again romped to the Division One title, Surrey and Lancashire battled it out to be crowned champions of the second tier.
No other team really ran the pair close in terms of the Championship, and it took until the final week for Surrey to be confirmed table-toppers.
Both sides have two players in our team of the year, as do Derbyshire despite finishing second bottom with Mark Footitt again impressing.
Glamorgan are perhaps unfortunate to have no representatives, but it was such a team effort in Cardiff with Colin Ingram and Jacques Rudolph both passing 900 runs for the season, while Michael Hogan again impressed, taking 48 wickets.
The crowds would definitely flock in to see the Division One team against this team as next year’s County Championship curtain raiser…
1: Ben Duckett – Northamptonshire
A controversial summer for the youngster, being banned from driving for a year.
That came after he missed Northants’ pre-season tour after head coach David Ripley said he needed to improve his fitness, this after he was previously dropped from the England U19 squad for similar reasons.
The opener, still only 20, didn’t let this mess with his ability and form with the bat, though. He missed five Championship matches but still racked up over 850 runs, including four centuries.
His 47.27 average for the season was the fourth best for the 18 batsmen who hit more than 850 runs this campaign, while his strike rate of 72.48 was top for that same number.
2: Billy Godleman – Derbyshire
It’s no surprise that Godleman swept up at Derbyshire’s awards, claiming the supporters player, most improved player and player of the year for the county.
After a tough start to his Derbyshire career, Godleman finally showed what he is capable of as he scored over 1,000 runs this year at an average of 44.54.
He had to miss two games after being banned for throwing the ball in an ‘inappropriate and dangerous manner’ against Gloucestershire but his form with the bat never dwindled.
3: Nick Browne – Essex
Although an opener, we feel he would comfortably slot in at three, and he can’t be left out of this XI, especially after scoring 1,157 runs. The 24-year-old racked up five centuries in 2015 at an average of 42.85, filling the boots left by Alastair Cook at the top of Essex’s order and becoming the first player from the county to pass the 1,000 mark since Ravi Bopara in 2008.
An injured finger prevented him from showing his class against the touring Australia team but he was still the Division’s third highest run scorer.
It’s no surprise captain James Foster was disappointed that Browne was overlooked for the upcoming England Lions tour.
4: Ashwell Prince – Lancashire
With a remarkable tally of 1,478, Ashwell Prince was the highest run-scorer across both divisions.
An average of 67.18 with five tons and a career-best high score of 261, which came in that incredible record partnership of 501 with Alviro Petersen against Glamorgan at Colwyn Bay.
His retirement, which came at the end of the campaign, leaves a very large hole for Ashley Giles to fill, especially with the step up in divisions.
He hangs up his spikes having represented South Africa in 66 Test matches and with a first-class average of 44.43.
5: Mark Cosgrove – Leicestershire
A much-improved season for Leicestershire, as they broke their long winless run, finishing with two victories in 2015, and Cosgrove was at the heart of things.
The big Australian smashed 1,093 runs, at an average a touch above 40, as skipper and his friendship with head coach Andrew McDonald is surely a key reason behind his imperious form.
McDonald will be thankful that he snapped Cosgrove up on a two-year deal and if he stays in form next year, perhaps Leicestershire could be back at the right end of the table.
6: Zafar Ansari – Surrey
Cruelly denied a touring spot with England to the UAE thanks to a thumb injury, but it was another stellar year for the Surrey all-rounder.
Over 770 runs, combined with 44 wickets, he was at the heart of the Surrey team that went up as champions.
Seemingly able to bat in any position, he made four scores over 50, and one in triple figures but took 20 wickets more than last season which is what caught the selectors eyes.
At just 23, the future is definitely bright for Surrey, but Division One is where the test truly lies.
7: Gareth Roderick – Gloucestershire
Gone are the days when wicketkeepers were expected to just stand behind the stumps – runs are now a crucial part of any gloveman’s repertoire.
Roderick scored 663 as a rock in Gloucestershire’s middle order, passing 50 six times despite not making a ton, while his keeping was special, too.
He took 48 catches as Gloucestershire gained 14 more points this year than they did in 2014.
No doubt his highlight from this year will be winning the Royal London Cup but with Geraint Jones retiring the 24-year-old has surely ensured he stays as Gloucestershire’s No.1 wickie.
8: Matt Coles – Kent
When Coles returned to his home county following two years at Hampshire, many Canterbury regulars were sceptical to say the least.
Well, Coles certainly proved the doubters wrong, leading Kent’s attack and taking 67 Championship scalps at an average of 23.49, and he finished with exactly 100 in all forms.
The 25-year-old bowled over 100 fewer overs to Tom Curran and Mark Footitt, who each took 76 wickets, as he missed two matches.
Also proved he is no mug with the bat, with a high score of 66 against Gloucestershire, and who can forget his ton in the Royal London Cup quarter-final at Surrey?
9: Tom Curran – Surrey
At least one of the brothers had to get in, didn’t they? Sam only played six Championship games, taking an honourable 22 wickets but older brother Tom topped the charts.
Tom, remarkably still only 20, took 76 wickets as Surrey beat Lancashire to the title and this at an astonishing average of 23.07.
The future is definitely bright at Surrey with the two Currans bowling in tandem, and with the retirement of Chris Tremlett, they will be at the helm for years to come.
That is as long as England don’t come calling, although younger sibling Sam has already been named in the England U19 squad, despite being just 17 years of age.
10: Kyle Jarvis – Lancashire
Lancashire’s go-to man with the ball, the 26-year-old Zimbabwean did not disappoint. Jarvis took 62 Championship scalps at 24.72, despite missing three games as he took the wickets that gained the Red Rose promotion.
He’ll perhaps be disappointed to only finish with 62, having raced to 55, but his broken hand while warming up at t20 Finals Day paid dividends to that.
His side went on to win the trophy later that day, and if Jarvis was fit for the final few games, perhaps they would have edged Surrey out to make it a double.
11: Mark Footitt – Derbyshire
The top wicket-taker in first class cricket in 2014, the 29-year-old continued his fine form this season, with 76 Championship wickets, including five five-wicket hauls.
Seemingly on the verge of an England call up every time the Three Lions name a squad, he really is getting better with age.
Before the 2014 season, Footitt had just 139 wickets in all forms of the game, with 114 first-class wickets in eight seasons as a County Championship pro.
He now has 158 Championship wickets in two years and being a left-armer, surely it’s only a matter of time before Strauss et al come calling.
12th man: Sam Northeast – Kent
Can perhaps count himself unlucky in missing out on the XI, finishing the season as the second highest scorer in the division. Still only 25, and he’s sure to make an appearance in a Team of the Year over the next few campaigns.
Other honourable mentions:
Kumar Sangakkara – Surrey
Chris Dent – Gloucestershire
Wayne Madsen – Derbyshire
Niall O’Brien – Leicestershire
This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper on Friday October 2, 2015
Click here to see the Division One Team of the Year