Most unexpectedly impressive performance – It’s not Rory Hamilton-Brown’s fault that some people take against him, though he could try looking slightly less pleased with himself. Beneath the posh name, the leapfrogging into the captaincy at The Oval and the choirboy looks, a hard cricketer is being forged. Opening, he scored over a thousand First Class runs and biffed away in one-day cricket too. But it is in his captaincy that he surprised the most, leading his team to two of their three objectives for the season – promotion and the CB 40 trophy. He shows little imagination on the field (who does) but he has forged a team who play for each other and have managed the absences of KP, Tremlett, Dernbach and even Meaker very well indeed. Only last season, RH-B was booed from the field following defeat in 29 overs – from that nadir, he has led a superb recovery.
Most unexpectedly dismal performance – Lopsy Tsotsobe pitched up at Chelmsford having played Test cricket for South Africa in which he revealed a big heart, if a less than penetrating technique. In three LVCC matches, he managed to take 5 wickets at the eye-watering average of 78, losing the heart that had marked him out as a decent punt. David Masters picked up the slack and took the most LVCC wickets in either division.
Most useful contribution over four LVCC matches – Edging out Simon Kerrigan’s 24 wickets at 18 for Lancashire and Chris Wright’s impressive 22 wickets at 24 (on loan from Essex to Warwickshire – which seems rather strange) is Pragyan Ojha’s 24 wickets at 13 – wickets that catapulted Surrey into Division One on the back of all four matches being won.
Best performance from a man who deserves a rest – Alan Richardson dragged Worcestershire from rock bottom to Division One safety on the back of a Division-leading 73 wickets flogged from 663 overs, more than 100 more than Gary Keedy, and he got through some work. Richo is a 36 year-old medium pacer who has relished a late-career blossoming and is a credit to the much-maligned species – the county pro.
Best performance in a team that didn’t deserve it – Ryan Sidebottom has never needed a second invitation to have a pop at team-mates, so I expect his ruddy features were glowing bright purple pretty much from April to September, as he toiled away to wrest 62 wickets from opponents. He contributed runs at an average of 20.5 too, just half a run short of Anthony McGrath’s average. Yorkshire were relegated.
Most heartwarming story – Michael Carberry had just broken into the England side and looked, at long last, to be fulfilling his rich promise. Then his career, even his life, was threatened by blood clots on the lungs. His recovery took time and he found himself joining a morale-free zone at rock-bottom Hampshire. In his third match back at the beginning of August, he made 300 not out, the highest score of the season and backed it up with 182 and 111 before the season was out. He’ll be playing Division Two cricket next season, but surely not for long.