The ECB seem to have played pin the tail on the donkey with the fixture list, so inexplicable was the sudden reappearance of the County Championship this week. Nevertheless, we are duty bound to select our XI of the week, so here goes:
Ian Westwood (Warwickshire) – With not even a 50 to his name in 2011, it didn’t need director of cricket Ashley Giles to warn that his former captain’s season had reached a “crossroads”. So by featuring in a 202 opening stand and going on to score his first Championship ton since 2009, Westwood will have hoped to have turned a very important corner.
Stephen Moore (Lancashire) – His first hundred since July 2009 and his maiden one for Lancashire couldn’t have come at a more critical time as his unbeaten 124 steered his side to a tricky victory target of 240 at Trent Bridge.
Vikram Solanki (Worcestershire) – Victories at New Road have proved to be like London buses for the home side and it was Solanki who set up their nine wicket win and second successive home triumph (and only their second in Division 1 since 2004) with a sparkling 173 against basement side Hampshire.
Paul Collingwood (Durham) – Whilst his omission from the England ODI and T20 squads confirmed the end of the international career of England’s working class hero, it was typical of the man to hit a defiant hundred in his first Championship outing of the season. Colly took a couple of wickets too for good measure.
Alex Gidman (Gloucestershire) – In the battle of the captains for the last batting slot in our XI, it is Andrew Gale who has to give way despite his unbeaten 101 steering Yorkshire to safety at the Riverside. Gidman followed up his 1st innings 43 with an unbeaten 76 to lead his side to their target of 161 at The Oval having slipped to a precarious 54/5.
Shakib Al Hasan (Worcestershire) – One of the driving forces behind Worcestershire’s promotion last season came back for a one-off Championship guest appearance. And what a cameo it was, with seven wickets and a quickfire 54 to help lift his side out of the relegation places.
Phil Mustard (Durham) – Made the most of a charmed innings against Yorkshire to crash 70 off just 67 balls to hand Durham the initiative. Now has 436 Championship runs in 2011 at an average of 109 and a strike rate just a touch under 80 as his side lead the way in Division 1.
David Lucas (Northamptonshire) – A stunning match for the left-arm seamer at Grace Road saw him follow up a haul of 4/55 with a career best 60 as nightwatchman, before taking 5/20 as Leicestershire were skittled second time around for 48.
Sajid Mahmood (Lancashire) – A feature of Lancashire’s season is the collective effort of the squad. Even the sometime malfunctioning and misfiring Mahmood stepped up at Trent Bridge with match figures of 10/186 – albeit at over five runs an over - and a handy knock of 46 to help defeat the reigning champs.
Boyd Rankin (Warwickshire) – Alan Richardson and Tim Murtagh may have bagged nine wicket hauls, but it is Rankin who gets into our XI for being acknowledged as the catalyst behind his side’s triumph over Somerset. Rankin’s pace, hostility, bounce and movement hauled his opponents back on a pristine batting wicket with his burst of three wickets for four runs being the decisive act of the game. "Rankin just blew us away," Marcus Trescothick admitted afterwards.
Ian Saxelby (Gloucestershire) – The 22 year old grabbed career best figures of 6/69 and the first ten wicket match haul of his career as Gloucestershire surprised Surrey sans walk-on girls at The Oval.
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