Adam Hollioake leads team of the decade
Today marks a decade since the ECB launched Twenty20 cricket. Advance ticket sales are said to be bouyant, but It is a decade reached uncertainly as the counties embark on the last season of the condensed midsummer format before switching to a season-long tournament.
But as England seeks to gain full benefit from its ground-breaking format, a format that has spawned several imitators - and one hugely powerful imitator above all - it is time to mark the occasion.
Below is a selection of the best county XI of the past ten years, based on players' impacts in the tournament over time. Overseas players who have just popped in briefly have been determinedly excluded. It is important to have stuck around for a while.
Inevitably, it will create debate. Plenty of players will feel unjustly left out. Tim states that "particular apologies go to Darren Maddy, Graeme Hick, Azhar Mahmood, Danny Briggs and Chris Liddle." Chris Liddle? Let us know what you think.
No sight in English T20 has been as consistently destructive as that of Trescothick at Taunton. Bludgeoning drives and disdainful pulls have driven bowlers to despair - as well as England fans lamenting that he only played three T20 internationals. His domestic T20 strike-rate, 161, is 16 better than anyone else among the top ten county run scorers.
Yes, really. Until his England career, Trott had perfected the role of T20 anchor for Warwickshire - unobtrusively averaging 40 while scoring at seven-an-over. As he mixed deft touches, underrated power and a shrewd ability to judge a run chase, Warwickshire never had reason to complain.
Not even Chris Gayle has as many T20 runs as Hodge. Hodge, mostly using orthodox shots but hitting them with rare power and timing, hit a brilliant 77* to secure Leicestershire's T20 victory in 2004, and averaged 45 in English T20. His off-spin was also deceptively effective.
No English batsman comes within 1000 runs of the total of 4500 runs Shah has scored. The format is made for Shah's clean striking, ability to hit the ball to unusual areas and skill savaging balls out the ground - like the three consecutive legside sixes off James Tredwell in the 2008 final.
England went through a spell of picking T20 specialists, but somehow Stevens was never one of them. His power and cool temperament make Stevens a superb chaser, as when he sealed the 2007 final. Add in his canny T20 bowling and Stevens has topped the PCA's list of most valuable T20 players in the past six seasons.
Adam Hollioake (capt)
The original T20 master. Hollioake's bowling varieties and relish for joining the attack at high-octane moments were perfectly suited to the format: flummoxed batsmen lost their wickets to him less than every ten balls. Add in his destructive batting and unrelentingly aggressive captaincy, and only age precluded him from being an IPL star.
Able to stand up to the stumps even to a regular 80mph bowler, Graham Napier, Foster's measure is not just in his catches and stumpings - he has more T20 dismissals in English cricket than anyone else - but in how his presence disturbs the batsmen. In front of the wicket, his idiosyncratic foot movement - taking his stance as if the bowler is coming from square leg - helps make him a formidable finisher.
While he is more famous for his hitting ability, Mascarenhas is good enough to get into this side on bowling alone: his wickets come at 17 apiece, with an economy rate of only 6.7, for Hampshire. Bowling wicket-to-wicket and giving the batsmen nothing to hit in the Powerplay overs, Mascarenhas often bowls his overs straight through. On T20 finals day last year, his figures were 8-0-31-4.
Snape was drifting out of cricket when Twenty20 started; and there seemed no place in this new game for an offspinner. Snape, though, had other ideas, like his 'moon ball', landing at an inviting 40mph and deceiving greedy batsmen. He also scored runs at crucial times, such as with his 18-ball 34 in the 2004 final. Also, in a tight situation, who better to have in your side than a sports psychologist?
Somerset's recent near misses are no reflection on Alfonso the Great's efforts. His skilful yorkers and well-honed slower balls have earned Thomas 94 wickets in English T20 cricket and a deserved reputation as one of the world's best death bowlers.
The share price of left-arm seamers in T20 cricket is high, and Sidebottom has been the best around the domestic circuit. His ability to locate his yorker under pressure and seamless adjustment between bowling over and around the wicket has made Sidebottom a supreme operator at the start and end of innings.