With the County Championship on an enforced break thanks to the ‘delights’ of the domestic T20 competition, we thought it was a good opportunity for us to select the Reverse Sweep’s Division 1 XI of the season so far. Our Division 2 selection will follow tomorrow.
Marcus Trescothick (Somerset, Captain): 978 runs at 81.50 – After a spluttering start, Banger more than lived up to his nickname to smash four hundreds (including a century in each innings against Yorkshire) and nearly achieve one of English cricket’s Holy Grails of a 1,000 first-class runs by the end of May. Unsurprisingly, the leading run-scorer in the country is an automatic pick.
Varun Chopra (Warwickshire): 726 runs at 55.84 – A pair of double hundreds against Somerset and Worcestershire in his first two matches suggested a rebirth after a barren 2010. Whilst he has only recorded one half century in the Championship since, he has starred in the CB40 and has done just enough in our opinion to get the nod ahead of the Sussex pair Chris Nash and Ed Joyce.
Luke Wells (Sussex): 574 runs at 52.18 – The rookie has surpassed all expectations in his first full season at Hove. His maiden hundred helped Sussex chase down over 300 against Durham, his second secured a draw at the Rose Bowl and his third came after being promoted to open against Yorkshire. Clearly a huge talent.
Ben Stokes (Durham): 609 runs at 55.36, 17 wickets at 33.00 – Promise fulfilled from one of our ones to watch in 2011. The youngster looked a good prospect in 2010 but is now clearly an exceptional one. With the bat he has three hundreds at a strike rate of over 70 and nearly achieved cricketing immortality with five sixes in one Liam Dawson over in April. He has also improved dramatically with the ball and whilst he still goes for a few, has the happy knack of taking wickets. Just don’t call him the new Flintoff.
Dale Benkenstein (Durham): 855 runs at 77.72 – South Africa’s loss continues to be Durham’s gain. Like Trescothick, he has hit four championship tons and has been the model of consistency in what has been a prolific Durham batting line-up. The second highest run scorer in the country.
Jonathan Bairstow (Yorkshire): 749 runs at 68.09 - Has shone as much as Yorkshire have been dismal. After 58 first-class innings and 17 scores of 50 plus, Bairstow finally reached three figures against Notts and promptly turned his maiden ton into a double. Having removed the monkey from his back, he scored a second century at Taunton soon after. He still has some room for improvement with the gloves, but at this rate he will be good enough to play for England as a specialist batsman.
Ian Blackwell (Durham): 558 runs at 50.72, 19 wickets at 28.42 – The balance of this XI would be better with a leg-spinner such as Adil Rashid or Steve Borthwick, but it has proved impossible for us to ignore the larger than life Blackwell. He has the best strike rate of any batsman in Division 1 with over 300 runs (78.59) and the best economy rate of any bowler with more than seven wickets (a miserly 2.06 runs per over).
Chris Woakes (Warwickshire): 24 wickets at 18.54, 262 runs at 52.40 – He may have been laid low by spin splints, but Woakes did enough in his four matches to warrant selection. After starting with nine wickets and a hundred against pre-season favourites Somerset, Woakes continued to impress with bat and ball. His strike rate of a wicket every 36 balls is the best of those that have bowled over 60 overs.
Glen Chapple (Lancashire): 23 wickets at 19.34, 116 runs at 19.33 – We suggested at the start of the season that Chapple held the key to Lancashire’s fortunes. Whilst that hasn’t proved entirely correct, the captain has more than held his end up whilst inspiring his side to second place in the table. Can he lead the Red Rose county to their first title since 1934?
Steve Kirby (Somerset): 31 wickets at 25.00 – One of the ultimate unsung heroes, Kirby has held together what is a fairly ramshackle and pedestrian Somerset bowling attack to take a steady flow of wickets even on Taunton’s batting paradise. Second to only Gary Keedy as Division 1’s leading wicket taker.
Gary Keedy (Lancashire): 34 wickets at 22.35 – Talking of unsung heroes, Keedy has been Lancashire’s undoubted star in their impressive first half of the season. Has enjoyed bowling at Aigburth, no more so when picking up ten wickets in the Roses match when he had staggering match figures of 77.3-14-177-10. Keedy has been the best spinner in the country to date ahead of supposed bigger names like Panesar and Rashid.
Cricket Heroes: Marcus Trescothick
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