County cricket 2014 September 29, 2014

'Angry Jack' Shantry and relay catch madness

Alfonso Thomas's four in four, carelessness from Gloucestershire and a forgetful Graeme Smith all feature in our alternative review of the 2014 county season

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The County Show: Heartbreak for Lancashire

Liam Neeson of the Season - Jack Shantry v Surrey
Dubbed "Angry Jack" by his team-mates (presumably for constantly getting off on the wrong foot), Shrewsbury's maddest man was stirring. After taking 6 for 87 as Surrey scored 406, for a first-innings lead of 134, Shantry had little time to rest up, coming back to the middle with his side 171 for 7 - just 37 ahead. From somewhere, he summoned a maiden century, extending Worcestershire's lead to 217. Then, in true one-man army fashion, he took 4 for 44 in the second innings - becoming the first No. 9 batsmen or lower to take 10 wickets and score a century in the same match - as Worcestershire sealed promotion to rapturous glee. Shantry said it was one of the best days of his life, beating the time he went to Silverstone and shook Jackie Stewart's hand.

Ambivalence of the Season - Adam Lyth & Adil Rashid's sixth wicket stand v Lancashire
As you have probably realised in the last couple of weeks, Yorkshiremen like to go on about things. No one knows that better than Lancastrians. Perhaps that is why when Adam Lyth and Adil Rashid beat an 88-year-old sixth-wicket record for a Roses match, the PA at Old Trafford, having been informed of the accomplishment, chose the moment to inform the crowd of a blocked car in the car park. Licence plate number "D1CK13", presumably.

Clubbie of the Season - Richard Oliver
When Oliver moved down to leafy Reigate in Surrey, he did so to focus on a new life; cricket had been good to him, but not good enough. While playing for local Premier League outfit Reigate Priory, the Shropshire captain received a call from Worcestershire, who had a number of batsmen on their injury list and were seeking a short-term fix. After impressing in the 2nd XI, he was given an hour's notice before he made his full debut against Durham in the T20 Blast, scoring 43 off 31 balls. A match-winning 77 against Northamptonshire in the same competition led to Worcestershire turning his trial into something more substantial, as he signed on until the end of the 2015 season. A month later, he recorded his maiden Championship century against Gloucestershire. He is a shining example of the merits of club and minor counties cricket.

Jack of all trades of the Season - Arun Harinath
From gritty opener, to gritty No. 3, back to gritty opener, to one-day dasher to one-day finisher, "The Baron" added strike bowler to his list of roles against Glamorgan at Colwyn Bay at the beginning of July. Desperate for a win to keep their promotion hopes alive, Surrey captain Gary Wilson turned to Harinath with the hosts coasting on 357 for 6 and time running out on the fourth day. In a spell of bowling that one observer described as "the finest display of medium-pace bowling you are ever likely to witness on a Wednesday afternoon, in Wales", Harinath took two in an over to open up the tail and then finished unbeaten on 19 to see Surrey home to an improbable victory.

Sloppiness of the Season - Gloucestershire
As Oscar Wilde would have said if he spent more time at the County Ground and less time thinking of sassy comebacks to custom officers: "To lose one Gidman may be regarded as misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."

Partnership of the Season - Adam Lyth & Aaron Finch
Lyth and Finch sounds like an accountancy firm but, for now, they'll just be dealing in outrageous catches. The assisted boundary grab is a thing of gawping beauty, and Yorkshire's answer to Torvill and Dean managed two in a summer. Lyth reckons that while the one against Lancashire looked the best, the second against Leicestershire, with Finch diving one-handed to claim the secondary catch, was the hardest. Either way, they were both rather epic.

Foursome of the Season - Alfonso Thomas v Sussex
"Will they name it after me now?" asked Thomas, of the Marcus Trescothick Stand. It was towards this stand that Thomas celebrated "like a nutcase", after becoming the first Somerset bowler in first-class cricket to take four wickets in four balls. After removing Sussex nightwatchman James Anyon, he removed Rory Hamilton-Brown and then Ed Joyce for his hat trick. Then, with the first ball of his next over, he profited off a loose drive by Matt Machan to emulate a feat last performed in county cricket by Gary Butcher 14 years ago.

Teacher of the season - Saeed Ajmal
One difficulty for the subcontinental overseas player in county cricket is the language barrier. New Road import Ajmal was no different. Wary that those behind the stumps might be undone by his quicker ball, Ajmal felt he needed a suitable code to warn them of its incoming. Instead of trusting his English, the offspinner decided it would be best to hide behind the standing umpire and wave his keeper and slip fielders back. "We had to change it," said Ben Cox, who was one of a number players to be taught some Urdu, as Ajmal discovered that his word was slightly less decipherable than his actions.

Commuter of the Season - Luke Wright
In essence, Wright wins this for falling foul of the greater London traffic yet managing to harness his rage into something worthwhile. In the last round of the NatWest Blast group matches, the Sussex squad found themselves stationary on the M25 for an away tie at Essex. When they eventually reached Chelmsford, just 30 minutes before the scheduled start, they lost the toss and conceded 225. Reduced to 0 for 1 in the first over, Wright then blitzed a 66-ball 153 - an English T20 record - to see Sussex home with nine balls to spare.

Forgetfulness of the Season - Graeme Smith
We have all done it: you rock up to a game on a Saturday, only to find that you've left your whites on the drying rack. It turns out it happens to some of the best, too. When former South Africa captain Graeme Smith arrived for the opening day of Surrey's season opener against Glamorgan, he realised that he hadn't packed his cricket trousers. Luckily for Smith, the ever-reliable office at The Oval had some spares.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sportswriter for ESPNcricinfo, the Guardian, All Out Cricket and Yahoo Sport

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