Welcome back to the cricket season in 2021 and welcome back to the County Championship Team of the Week. Here we look at who deserves the highly sought after accolade of being selected to DEC’s dream team based on their performances over the last four days.
In a week that saw only three victories, and the weather play a huge part in some of those games – snow stopped play appeared on several scorecards at one point or the other – it was hard to select a side, but we’ve done it. Here is the first team of the week for 2021:
1 – Jake Libby Worcestershire 180*
Every opening batter dreams of carrying their bat and Jake Libby did exactly that for Worcestershire this week, batting for 681 minutes and 496 balls to ensure his side found parity with Essex. His is the second longest recorded innings in County Championship history, falling short of the record set by Jason Gallian by just two minutes. Without him, and all those minutes eaten up, the result may have been very different.
2- Sam Robson Middlesex 165, 13
On Thursday morning, as wickets tumbled up and down the country, one man stood firm and stood out. That man was Sam Robson, who became the first player to make a century this season, and he looked good – so good some were even whispering the words “England recall”. He may be some way from that, but his first innings score was a perfect start to the season for him, if not for Middlesex on the whole.
3 – Tom Westley Essex 213
It wasn’t that long ago that Tom Westley was in the England squad, and with performances like this it is easy to see why. No other batter reached three figures in the Essex innings and without Westley’s 213 runs and three 100 partnerships in the innings, the Essex total would have been much lower and may have allowed Worcestershire to gain a lead. He gave his side the perfect start to the game and ensured they didn’t lose.
4 – David Bedingham Durham 57, 180*
Identified as a player to watch in Deep Extra Cover’s season preview, Bedingham has certainly justified our decision this week. A composed 57 in the first innings helped Durham to amass a score, and then his unbeaten 180 in the second innings, which punished a depleted Nottinghamshire attack, allowed his side to post a total with which they could declare and push for victory.
5 – James Vince* Hampshire 231
When James Vince is on song, there is no more attractive batter to watch in County Cricket. His off drives are a thing of beauty and good enough to grace any cricket field in the world. This week we saw an innings full of those drives, during which he piled up 231 runs. It was more than Leicestershire managed as an entire team in their first innings.
6 – Liam Dawson Hampshire 152*, 0-24, 1-30
Every side needs an all rounder and Liam Dawson offers that for Hants. While his bowling figures do not appear that impressive, there wasn’t much need for him with Hampshire’s battery of seamers, anyhow. His 152 not out performance with the bat, however, was nothing short of impressive. If nothing else, it showed why England rate him so highly. In addition, his partnership of 196 with Vince allowed their side to bat once, bat big and claim victory.
7 – Ben Foakes Surrey 26 and 133, 2 catches
Flakes is an exceptional keeper, of that there is no doubt. The question mark around him, as compared to other keeper/batters, is his batting. Particularly his batting against pace. This innings may have gone some way to appease any concerns, and without this innings Surrey may well have lost sooner.
8 – Darren Stevens Kent 116*, 2-59
What more can be said about Darren Stevens? “Legend” and “icon” are terms bandied around far too easily these days. Stevens, however, has now scored a century in four different decades and only a fool would bet against him adding to his century haul again this season. When you consider his wicket taking prowess as well, he is an asset to any side. His unbeaten 116 this week ensured parity with Northants and a draw in the first game of the season.
9 – Lewis Gregory Somerset 5-68, 10, 1-47. 62*
Lewis Gregory is a prodigious talent, a genuine wicket taking threat. That was shown only too clearly by his figures in this game, taking 5 in the first innings and one in the second, ensuring Middlesex did not garner too high a lead. Then, in the fourth innings when the game was in the balance, Gregory played a beautifully paced innings of 62 not out in a partnership of 98 with George Bartlett, helping to see his side home to a first victory of the season.
10 – Ben Coad Yorkshire 4-94, 5, 3-18
People say if you haven’t got express pace you cannot take wickets. Ben Coad is no slouch, but he is not what you would call express. What he is, though, is skilful and persistent. HE bowls an excellent line and length, and moves the ball just enough. Being responsible for seven of the fourteen Glamorgan wickets to fall is impressive, and Coad ensured that Glamorgan never got too far ahead of home side thus enabling a draw.
11 – Oliver Hannon-Dalby Warwickshire 2-45, 0*, 5-76
Like Coad, Hannon-Dalby is not express paced, but again he is skilful and bowls an excellent line and length, taking wickets on a regular basis. His second innings five wicket haul were the first five wickets to fall, which shows that he takes top order batter’s wickets. In the first innings, he again took two of the top five wickets.