Specsavers Championship September 23, 2016

The moments that made the season - Part One

From spin surprises to tail-end onslaughts, ESPNcricinfo rounds up the memorable moments from the 2016 County Championship, from No.20 to 11 ...

The new toss regulations aided Jack Leach who in turn spun Somerset to crucial victories © Getty Images

20 The return of the spinners

The County Championship season began in historic fashion with new regulations which allowed the visiting captain to bowl first if he wanted to, or toss if he didn't. Never has the first toss (or non-toss) of the season drawn so much interest. By no means universally welcomed in April, by September there was evidence to suggest that the chief aim - to bring spinners back into the game - had been achieved.

19 Tino's relegation prediction

Tino Best inspired a Hampshire win against Nottinghamshire in late May and pronounced that they could escape relegation in inimitable style. One of the brighter voice grabs of the season. "We got a guy call Tino Best. We got a guy called Mason Crane. We got a guy called Michael Carberry. We got a brilliant allrounder named Sean Ervine. We got a smashing captain called Mr Vince. We got a grafter by the name of Will Smith - he's got the same name as my favourite actor. I think our chances are brilliant."

18 Rob Jones' maiden century celebration

It was mid-September, Middlesex were gunning for the title and Lancashire's season was turning sour. Step forward Rob Jones, a 20-year-old makeshift opener from Warrington who not only made his maiden Championship hundred, but brought it up with a six over long-on off Ollie Rayner and went on to bat through the innings: the first Lancastrian to do that since Cyril Washbrook in the 1930s. His emotional celebration at reaching his hundred was reason enough for him to enter the Top 20.

17 Jack Shantry's astounding century

The international summer had just begun, leaving this Division Two encounter between Worcestershire and Gloucestershire at New Road one of those Championship matches that gains little attention. But Jack Shantry's hundred from No. 10 delighted those who saw it, his second fifty coming in 14 balls, a load of fun for one of the characters of the county circuit.

16 Ben Stokes keeps Durham up

Ben Stokes doesn't get many opportunities to play for Durham these days but his pride in his county remains unstinting. Durham's fear of relegation was apparent in their penultimate game when Surrey began the final session at Chester-le-Street with victory in their sights. Stokes, at that point, had scored 24 and 0 and was wicketless, but he stirred himself to take 4 for 54 in 21 second-innings overs as Surrey fell 21 runs short.

'We got a grafter by the name of Will Smith - he's got the same name as my favourite actor. I think our chances are brilliant'
Tino Best on Hampshire's survival prospects

15 Rob Keogh's nine-for

Bringing spinners back into the game was a priority for the Championship in 2016, but Rob Keogh - with 36 victims in 44 first-class appearances - would be the first to admit that nobody had him in mind. However, his 9 for 52 was the sixth-best return in Northamptonshire's history - "three-for was my best before so it wasn't expected," he said - and an entertaining hundred by Ben Duckett, the player of the season, rounded the day off in style. As their NatWest Blast success also proved, Northants had a penchant for the unexpected.

14 Gareth Batty's road rage

Gareth Batty sensed Surrey's season was on the turn after they won a gruelling match against Hampshire on an Ageas Bowl road late on the final day. But Batty also offered some tart - and apt - observations about Hampshire's treatment of their young legspinner, Mason Crane, who bowled a record 51 overs in Surrey's first innings. "I thought he bowled really, really well. But you hear Warney talk a lot about how spinners are used and I thought he was thrown under the car, to be honest," Batty said. "For a young fella to be bowling 50-odd overs and senior bowlers only bowling 20... that wouldn't be happening under my watch. "

13 Roland-Jones and Murtagh make Yorkshire seasick

The final-day Championship shootout between Middlesex and Yorkshire can all be tracked back to a remarkable Middlesex win against Yorkshire by the seaside in July. Middlesex led by 64 at the start of the final day in Scarborough with only two wickets remaining … whereupon Toby Roland-Jones and Tim Murtagh thrashed 107 in 9.4 overs to change the game as Yorkshire lost by an innings for the first time at North Marine Road. Middlesex went top, and remained there to the final day of the season ...

12 Marcus Trescothick equals Harold Gimblett's record

Marcus Trescothick took his place alongside Harold Gimblett as Somerset's most prolific century-maker in first-class cricket when he struck a hundred against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in July. The West Country celebrated a batsman who, at the age of 40 and after 24 seasons at Somerset, had come to symbolise staunchness and goodness in the shires.

11 17 minutes, five wickets, Somerset win

That Somerset's season was changing became apparent in 17 minutes at Taunton in early August when they took Durham's last five wickets to win by 39 runs in a match where all four innings fell below 200. From that point, Taunton pitches turned and Jack Leach, a one-time rounder-up of supermarket trolleys, began to collect wickets instead.

The top ten moments will follow at the completion of the season ...

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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